The Look – A Self-Portrait Through Others

Charlotte Rampling in The Look

Charlotte Rampling in The Look

One of the greatest film critics of all time, André Bazin, posed the question in the title of one of his books, ‘Qu’est-ce que le cinéma ?’ – ‘What is cinema?’ I believe that this question can be furthered in relation to an evergreen star of cinema; ‘What is cinema without actors like Charlotte Rampling?’

The actress in question may not be the greatest or most recognised over her period yet cinema would be a far less interesting place without her presence and uniqueness.

With that in mind, it brings great excitement to see the upcoming DVD release of Angelina Maccarone’s biopic, The Look. This is an extraordinary work which was warmly received at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and will be out on DVD release in the UK on Monday 30 April.

It centres on the aforementioned Charlotte Rampling, an actress the French label as La Légende. Now 65, this Essex-born actress remains an intriguing and fascinating on-screen presence, the most recent example being in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. It is Rampling’s evocative facial expression that has influenced the documentary’s title; The Look – a term originally coined in reference to Rampling by two-time co-star, Dirk Bogarde.

Bogarde was once quoted as saying, “I have seen the Look under many different circumstances…the glowing emerald eyes turn to steel within a second, [and] fade gently to the softest, tenderist, most doe-eyed bracken-brown”. The duality of Rampling’s gaze, seen over several decades now, has been one of the great cinematic looks to appear on-screen.

The Look is not the most conventional of biographical documentaries, in part mainly due to Rampling’s influence and final say over all aspects of the project. The structure of the work is separated by eight themes chosen by the director and subject (Rampling): Exposure, Age, Resonance, Taboo, Desire, Demons, Death and Love.

Each section sees Rampling discuss an individual theme with people such as photographer Peter Lindbergh and author Paul Auster. Rampling travels the globe in search of friends and colleagues, going from London to New York to Paris, stopping off in cafés, hotel rooms and a houseboat.

She has clearly led an interesting life, much of which stems from her father’s decision (an army colonel who worked abroad) to place his two daughters in a French school when Rampling was only nine years old. The obvious language barrier made this experience a lonely one where it took her nine months before she could communicate with her fellow pupils.

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A Night To Remember – The Titanic Centenary

Park Circus is re-releasing the esteemed ITV Studios classic, A Night To Remember this week, on 13 April, and you can expect to see Roy Ward Baker’s masterpiece at several key locations that make up part of the rich history of the Titanic, which sank 100 years ago in 1912.

We aim to be at the forefront of digitally restoring classic films and A Night To Remember is just one example of the many films we now have available on DCP. Having already received a warm reception at the Glasgow Film Festival earlier this year, A Night To Remember will also be showing at the TCM Classic Film Festival which kick starts later this month (not the only Park Circus title on show either).

One example of the film's restoration process

Following successful screenings at QFT Belfast earlier this month (where the ship was built), Park Circus has licensed screenings along the Titanic route:

– FACT Liverpool: 15 April (where the ship was registered)

– Harbour Lights Picturehouse, Southampton: 12 to 15 April (where the Titanic set off)

– Rome Capitol Theatre, New York: 21 April (where the survivors were later taken)

We spoke to the team at the Harbour Lights Picturehouse in Southampton to see why the history of the Titanic and Baker’s film adaptation is so important to their city’s history:

Get ready for another Titanic première

“Harbour Lights is proud to be showing the digitally re-mastered version of A NIGHT TO REMEMBER on the centenary of the tragic loss of the White Star vessel. Harbour Lights is the only cinema with a direct view to the actual berth from which the Titanic sailed and is close to the original White Star offices. The sinking of the Titanic still has a tremendous resonance with the people of Southampton due to the number of families that were directly affected by it. Of the 800 plus crew, over 600 came from the City and 549 of them never came back…We show this film in tribute to its brave crew and their families, to give Southampton a night in which to remember.”

In addition to the above locations, A Night To Remember will be screening elsewhere around the world:

– BFI Southbank, London: 13 to 26 April

– National Australian Maritime Museum, Sydney: 15 April

– The Monarch Theatre, Alberta, Canada: 14 April

– Swedish Film Institute, Stockholm: 16 to 25 April

We also have some fantastic archival materials of events tied to the film, courtesy of ITV Studios, on our Facebook page, including costume designs and a sophisticated menu for those who found the time to dine:

http://www.facebook.com/parkcircusfilms

In the mean time, check out this clip from the film. Intense, gripping, dramatic and a beautiful restoration. This is the Titanic film to see this year:

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How Boudu Can Save Us All From Drowning

Poster Artwork for Boudu Saved From Drowning

Whatever you’ve heard about the French cinema’s New Wave, the truth is that the real Golden Age of French cinema was a period between 1929 and 1939. It was bookended by the advent of sound at the cinema and the outbreak of World War II. The men (for they were always men) who heralded this age were Jean Vigo, Marcel Carné and Jean Renoir whose magnificent 1937 war satire La Grande Illusion is out this year for its 75th anniversary (one month before ITV/Park Circus’ timely rerelease of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, its closest British equivalent). But for every pompous general there should always be an anarchic tramp and for Renoir, this benighted incarnation came years before in his remarkable 1932 class war comedy Boudu Saved From Drowning.

Set in and around Paris, Boudu Saved From Drowning tells the story of a Parisian tramp Boudu (played by the physically gifted Michel Simon), who is pulled out of the Seine by a bourgeois bookseller Edouard Lestingois (Charles Granval) after a suicidal plunge. Boudu is brought into Lestingois’ home, a rambling maze-like Left Bank apartment, which overlooks the river. Lestingois, his wife and maid/mistress (Séverine) adopt Boudu as their underprivileged pet in an attempt to reform him from his scruffiness and social ineptitude. However, his gratitude for this sees him shake the household to its foundations, challenging their meaningless principles from conventional society and then seducing both women with his anarchic charm.

Boudu is a defiant farce, one driven by the ferocity of Simon’s characterisation and Renoir’s mise-en-scène. Simon was given free reign for his character’s portrayal and the result is pure chaos. Boudu is someone who does not belong in the city, especially not within the confines of a book-filled apartment (one scene portrays Boudu spitting into a book by legendary French novelist Balzac, epitomising the difference between his values and those of the bourgeois Lestingois – this was also a previously lost scene restored in Park Circus’ DVD and Blu-ray issue). Renoir’s skills lie best in his eye for detail and depth of field when using the camera. There are scenes within scenes here and a layering that engrosses you as a spectator and in this case, brilliantly demonstrates Boudu’s claustrophobia as someone who should be out in the open.

There is a great contrast in the way Renoir films his central character in Lestingois’ narrow apartment or in the bustling streets of Paris to when Boudu traipses around parks and the countryside seemingly freer and more content. Similarly to the recently praised Le Quattro Volte (2010), this is a spiritual film about a man more at ease surrounded by water, pastures and animals, not humans and an ironically disruptive city atmosphere.

There can be little doubt that Renoir was influenced by his impressionist painter father Pierre-Auguste in creating films where actors and objects were placed with precision. In a film with such a vivacious actor as Michel Simon, the blend of this measured approach to one that is unpredictable marries fantastically well.

Much copied but never bettered Boudu Saved From Drowning remains an early gem from Renoir’s esteemed oeuvre and offers light relief to his other more dramatic works from the period (Renoir did though always maintain a tone of optimism in his films). On its 80th anniversary, this is one title worth storing in your collection or one to watch out for in cinemas near you this year.

Boudu Saved From Drowning is now available to download from iTunes and is available on both DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.

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Jean Vigo – A Passion for Life Undimmed

“Jean Vigo opened my eyes to the cinema. In telling my version of his story, I hope in some way to repay my debt to him, and encourage others to find inspiration in his films.” – Julian Temple

James Frain as Jean Vigo

Cinema’s current climate is undoubtedly at the mercy of new and exciting technologies, yet the international success of The Artist and Hugo bears witness to a dynamic nostalgia in audiences and filmmakers. Fascination with the magic found in early cinema is nothing new and there is no one more magical than Jean Vigo. His 1934 masterwork L’Atalante has just been re-released by the British Film Institute. Having made a grand total of four films, any self- respecting cineaste knows that Vigo is still, and always will be, one of greatest filmmakers of all time, with both L’Atalante and Zéro de conduite, in particular, standing out as exceptional examples of the craft. It wasn’t for nothing that legendary film preservationist and archivist Henri Langlois went on record to state: ‘Vigo is cinema incarnate in one man.’

It is with this in mind that Park Circus wishes to reintroduce you to Julien Temple’s 1998 biopic Vigo – Passion for Life. What makes Vigo’s frustratingly limited filmography intriguing is the tragic backdrop of his life. Temple’s passion for Vigo the man and his art shine through.

The film begins in a tuberculosis sanatorium surrounded by a beautiful mountainous landscape in the south of France. The son of a neglectful mother and a Catalan anarchist father (named Almereyda, an anagram of ‘y’a la merde’, literally meaning ‘there is shit’) Vigo’s lonely childhood is laid bare in Temple’s film as we witness the early stages of an illness that will become a fatal condition that ultimately affected his filmmaking. What follows is an intense, romantic and energetic account of Vigo and of those around him. From his brittle yet passionate relationship and marriage with the wonderfully named Lydu (pronounced lee-doo) to his collaborators Boris Kaufman (cinematographer who later won an Oscar for On the Waterfront and who is the brother of Dziga Vertov who made the influential Man with a Movie Camera) and composer Maurice Jaubert, the film’s evocation of the bohemian existence is both romantic, nostalgic and immensely fitting.

The magic behind the camera

Vigo’s life was fraught with the difficulties of containing and treating his disease yet during this film and his life there was an unerring passion that can only inspire cinephiles and filmmakers alike. Lindsay Anderson, Bernardo Bertolucci, François Truffaut and Jean Renoir (whose work Boudu Saved From Drowning (1932) stars the anarchic and effervescent Michel Simon that later starred in Vigo’s L’Atalante) have all been influenced by Jean Vigo. More precisely, Vigo was the main precursor to poetic realism and had a posthumous influence on France’s New Wave cinema, as themes of rebellion and youth were picked up again.

There are many reasons to fall in love with the cinema of Jean Vigo and ultimately it is his slim oeuvre that stands as his true testaments. Where Temple’s work succeeds is in his warm portrayal of the director and his life’s story and in his representation of the magic Vigo created behind the camera, and in the editing suite. Take one scene from Zéro de conduite, a film set in a boarding school where authority is challenged and youthful playfulness is wonderfully personified by children Vigo hand-picked from the streets of Paris. The scene has the boys start a pillow fight in their dormitory. Kaufman then plays back the film in order to create a dream-like sequence that stays with you forever. Composer Jaubert accentuates the trance-like scene by playing the music backwards at the same time. This fun, innovative and influential scene in cinema history is wisely represented by Temple in the film.

Jean Vigo died from rheumatic septicemia at the age of just 29 on 5 October 1934. He leaves a legacy of films that reflect a young imagination full of ideas and innovation. There are not many who managed to bring so much magic to the screen and through such a personal yet immediately relatable message. Vigo – Passion for Life stands as an excellent reminder of a very individual talent whose passion for the magic of cinema is what we at Park Circus remain dedicated to.

Vigo – Passion for Life is available to book theatrically and is available on DVD from Amazon.

The links in this article relate to titles available for theatrical booking through Park Circus.

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The Original Casablanca Press Notes

Our 70th Anniversary Casablanca Poster

Here’s a lovely retro treat for fans of Casablanca, the greatest love story ever told, which Park Circus is reissuing in selected cinemas from Friday 10 February 2012. What follows is an original press release for the imminent release of Casablanca back in January 1942. Written in a rich, highly charged style that signals urgency and a sense of just how important this film is going to be, these notes make fascinating reading. They certainly don’t write ’em like this anymore. We have not doctored this document, everything is as it would have looked back in those war-torn days, including a few typos. Enjoy and remember to revisit this great film at the cinema for Valentine’s Day this year.

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CAYNE DEXTER            DIRECTOR OF PUBLICITY

PAT O’CONNOR

REFUGEES ESCAPED FROM GESTAPO IN CASABLANCA AND BROUGHT ITS STORY TO SCREEN

Rush Release Ordered for Timely Warner Picture Throughout World. Dual

Premiere for “Casablanca” at Warner and Regal Theatres, London, Friday, January 15, 1942

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While Lisbon has always worn the dress-suit of international intrigue or the fairy godmother’s gossamer of escape, according to whether you’re a foreign agent doing a spot of dirty work or a Nazi-hunted fugitive seeking freedom overseas, the roundabout road to Lisbon is dotted with strange stopping-places.

Throughout three years of war many eyes in imprisoned Europe have turned towards that great embarkation point — the Needle’s Eye to the Americas; but not everybody could get to Lisbon directly. So a tortuous refugee trail sprang up: Paris to Marseille, across the Mediterranean to Oran, then by train, car or foot around the rim of North Africa to Casablanca in French Morocco. Here money, influence or luck secured exit permits for the fortunate ones who hurried on to Lisbon and from there to the new world. The others could only wait in Casablanca and hope.

Their numbers grew to thousands as the Axis strengthened its grip on Europe. Political fugitives, escapees from German concentration camps, members of the underground movements of all Occupied countries were dammed up. With the connivance of Vichy the Gestapo chose its prey.

Victims were surrendered and dragged back to Dachau or tossed into savage internment in the desert. A black market trafficked in forged visas at fantastic prices. Czechs, Dutch, Norwegians, anti-Nazis operated secretly to smuggle their leaders away and checkmate the Axis by counter-espionage. The psalm of life contained all the discords of danger, despair and double-cross, yet Casablanca held no more dramatic value than a thousand other border towns until a few fugitive artists wriggled through to the outside world.

Eventually they reached America. The international swarm of writers and players in Warner Bros. studios heard bits of their tale and word was passed along to Jack L. Warner and his associate producer Hal B. Wallis. They seized on the idea and location as something new. Action followed fast.

Three ace scenarists, Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch, who gathered the material and wrote the script for ”Sergeant York,” were assigned to track the story down. Michael Curtiz, who had just finished “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” was called in to direct. Then backing their judgement of screen values with the highest sum allocated for any production in 1942, Warner splurged on stars – Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre all in one cast.

That was last July. When production started Casablanca meant so little on the map that the first publicity stories had to explain where and what it was. Four months later Casablanca shot into the headlines of the world, and on the very day that the American Expeditionary Force marched in, the Hollywood laboratories were delivering to Warner Bros. the first prints of their latest picture — “Casablanca.”

Call it producer’s sixth sense, or call it his incredible good luck — it’s what makes show-business, just the same.

Because of its timeliness, release of “Casablanca” has been marked urgent in every country where Warner Bros. operate. Air-borne prints have gone throughout the world. In London it will have a simultaneous premiere at the Warner and Regal Theatres on Friday January 15 — the first time these two cinemas have played a picture concurrently. Provincial centres will follow immediately. But even without its added force of topicality, Warners still would have an outstanding picture in this drama of a hunted woman and six desperate men who keep a date with destiny in Casablanca.

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Park Circus Quiz: Answers Revealed

Some Like it Hot - The End Credits

We hope you all enjoyed taking part in our 2011 Park Circus Christmas Quiz. It was certainly fun making it and there were great numbers participating. With the winners to be announced, here are the answers as promised!

1) White Christmas (Michael Curtiz, 1954)

2) The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)

3) Dr No (Terence Young, 1962)

4) All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)

5) Dr Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)

6) Guns of Navarone (J. Lee Thomson, 1961)

7) The African Queen (John Huston, 1951)

8) Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)

9) From Here To Eternity (Fred Zinnemann, 1953)

10) The Red Shoes (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1948)

11) It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)

12) Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 1973)

13) For a Few Dollars More (Sergio Leone, 1967)

14) From Russia with Love (Terence Young, 1963)

15) Charade(Stanley Donen, 1963)

16) Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)

17) Black Narcissus (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1947)

18) Vampyr (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1932)

19) Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di Biciclette) (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)

20) The Bishop’s Wife (Henry Koster, 1947)

There we are, the wait is finally over! We hope you had a great year in 2011 and, with lots to look back on fondly, have a read of our Review of the Year on this very blog. We welcome your pick of these Park Circus releases, and in the mean time, happy 2012!

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Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012: Park Circus’ Year in Review

The African Queen

Park Circus had a fantastic year in 2011. Between the acclaim that greeted the cinematic returns of The African Queen and Taxi Driver and the ghoulish goings on in 1980s New York in Ghostbusters we just couldn’t stop putting classic gold back in cinemas. Before we move forward into what promises to be another killer year with the 70th anniversary re-release of Casablanca, the complete digital restoration of Powell and Pressburger’s wartime masterpiece The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and the original and best tragic cruiser movie, A Night to Remember – let us pause a moment to glance back.

In 2011 Park Circus was very proud to become Miramax Films international library distributor and also to extend our relationship with MGM to handle their catalogue internationally. We also put these amazing films back in cinemas, each one looking as good as ever:

The African Queen (John Huston, 1951)

Man of Aran (Robert Flaherty, 1934)

The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich, 1971)

Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

Cutter’s Way (Ivan Passer, 1981)

Gilda (Charles Vidor, 1946)

Kes (Ken Loach, 1969)

West Side Story (Robert Wise, 1961)

La Piscine (Jacques Deray, 1969)

Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984)

The Last Waltz (Martin Scorsese, 1978)

Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen, 1986)

Zelig (Woody Allen, 1983)

La Piscine

If that wasn’t enough the good folk at Park Circus Towers toiled night and day to bring you the very best classic cinema on DVD and Blu-ray. In 2011 Park Circus restored and reissued the following on DVD and Blu-ray:

The Pillow Book (Peter Greenaway, 1996)

Der Rosenkavalier (Paul Czinner, 1962)

Boudu Saved From Drowning (Jean Renoir, 1932)

Orphans (Peter Mullan, 1998)

Man of Aran (Robert Flaherty, 1934)

The Phantom of the Opera (Rupert Julian, 1925)

Taking Off (Milos Forman, 1971)

Charade (Stanley Donen, 1963)

Charlie Chaplin The Collection (Various, Various)

La Piscine (Jacques Deray, 1969)

Finally 2011 was also the year Park Circus launched this blog page to give exhibitors and fans of classic cinema a little bit extra. In 2012 we hope the Park Circus blog and website will grow and blossom into a thing of great beauty and usefulness. As a bit of fun we asked some of the contributors to the Park Circus blog in 2011 to list their favourite films of last year:

Jonathan Melville (Blog editor and writer from February-November 2011)

1. Deep End (BFI) Forgotten 1970 British drama from Jerzy Skolimowski resurfaced on Blu-ray in 2011.

2. Black Pirate (Park Circus) Douglas Fairbanks’ 1926 epic arrived on DVD and proved that action films don’t need 3D or CGI to entertain.

3. I Went Down (Touchstone) Set in Dublin’s seedy underworld, the real crime at the centre of Paddy Breathnach’s I Went Down is why it’s taken 14 years to arrive on DVD.

4. Harakiri (Masters of Cinema) Masaki Kobayashi’s 1962 film finds an ex-Samurai asking if he can commit suicide in the courtyard of a rich clan.

5. His Kind of Woman (Odeon) John Farrow’s 1951 feature is part film noir and part noir-spoof, and I’m still not sure which part I enjoyed most.

Matt Palmer (Screenwriter and curator of Psychotronic cinema events)

I’ve got a lot of films from late 2011 to catch up on. In terms of what I’ve seen I only have a Top 2.

1. Drive (Icon)

2. Cutter’s Way (Park Circus)

Eddie Harrison (Screenwriter, film critic and communications officer at the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival)

1. Drive (Icon)

2. Taxi Driver (Park Circus)

3. Bridesmaids (Universal)

4. Black Swan (20th Century Fox)

5. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Studio Canal)

Ian Hoey (Writer and critic)

1.    Drive (Icon)

2.    Hobo With A Shotgun (Momentum)

3.    Submarine (Optimum)

4.    Essential Killing (Artificial Eye)

5.    Taking Off (Park Circus)

Taxi Driver

Jack Bell (Park Circus multi-tasker, lover of all things French)

1. The Tree of Life (2oth Century Fox)

2. Midnight in Paris (Warner)

3. The Last Picture Show (Park Circus)

4. We Need to Talk About Kevin (Artificial Eye/Paramount)

5. La Piscine (Park Circus)

DVD and Blu-ray

1. Boudu Saved From Drowning / Boudu sauvé des eaux (Park Circus)

2. Chaplin: The Collection (Park Circus)

3. Of Gods and Men / Des hommes et des dieux (Artificial Eye)

4. Mammoth (Soda)

5. L’age d’or / Un chien andalou (BFI)

Paul Greenwood (Film critic)

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Warner)

2. NEDS (E1 Entertainment)

3. West Side Story (Park Circus)

4. Drive (Icon)

5. Tangled (Walt Disney)

So there you have it, at Park Circus we love great cinema and in 2012 we are going to carry on the good fight to share it with you, in cinemas, at home or on your computer. Stick with us kid – it’s a hill of beans out there otherwise…

Visit http://www.parkcircus.com/now-showing/ to find out what Park Circus films are showing where you are now.

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