Tag Archives: film

“EIGHT DAYS A WEEK”; Impressions of Ron Howard’s Beatles Film

I just saw the new Beatles film, “Eight Days a Week” and these are some of my impressions. I didn’t think I would actually like it that much. The Beatlemania years, frankly, don’t interest me as much as their more interesting Liverpool and Hamburg beginnings or their more creative period in the studio. The usual story is that, most of the time, they were just going through the motions, unable to hear themselves play, with all the screaming fans’ madness (especially near the end of their “Touring Years”, as the movie’s subtitle is called).

I thought director Ron (“Happy Days”) Howard might only cover the nice parts of Beatlemania. He does in the first half of the film and captures the pure energy of their early performances. He has assembled some not usually-seen footage and photos of their early concerts and appearances in Liverpool and Europe. These sometimes black and white images give it an almost old newsreel and historical feel. The film does seem primarily aimed at the North American market though.  There were only a couple Liverpool interviewees included in the theatre version, except for some trusted Beatles-insiders like roadie and later Apple director, Neil Aspinall (although I understand the later-to-be-released Deluxe 2 DVD version will  include more of these and lots more).

Howard also puts the Beatles Invasion into context with the tumultuous events the U.S.A. was going through in the mid-60’s with the Vietman War, Civil Rights demonstrations, and the assassination of JFK, which had only happened a few months before. The American people, especially its teenagers, were certainly ready for something to lift them out of their depression.  Along come these 4 English lads with the funny Liverpool accents and humor and it’s just the right medicine.  The Fab Four did so with its own version of the, ironically, America’s export, rock and roll, and the simple but catchy words and rhythms of their early original songs.  But what struck me again, upon seeing the film, is just how young and mainly female so many of their fans were.  For by this time, The Beatles themselves were already grown men in their early 20’s, playing to some only half their age.  Some of the most interesting and humorous moments for the movie audience, I was with anyway, was seeing again the complete hysteria they created in their fans (remember early attendees to their performances in the Cavern and Hamburg, evidently, didn’t originally scream).

But by ’66 and for most of the rest of the film, the whole atmosphere begins to change around The Beatles and they themselves could do little to contain it. Of course, there was the infamous “we’re more popular than Jesus” Lennon remark and the reaction it caused.  But it wasn’t only in America that they began to feel a backlash; there were death threats in Japan and, in the Philippines, they barely escaped when its First Lady Imelda Marcos felt snubbed. Howard has said in interviews promoting the film, that he didn’t want to go intodark corners.  But I have to give him credit for also not shying away from this part of their story too. For it seemed the once innocent teen hysteria had indeed turned into a far more dangerous form of madness. Howard includes excerpts from John and George’s recorded comments and also present day interviews with Paul and Ringo on both, the good and bad, aspects of this period.

The pall of these later more disturbing times toward the end of their touring years, which somewhat descends on the last half of the movie, is fortunately broken by his choice to also include their famous last public appearance on their Apple company’s rooftop in 1969.  What this reveals once again, is that even to the end (which they would also demonstrate on their last recorded album, Abbey Road) these were first and foremost musicians and original songwriters. Once they decided to finally get off the road because of the mounting pressures they were feeling, it would also allow them more time to spend in the studio and become more and more creative artists and not just entertainers.

Also shown in the movie theater after, was a half-hour film of their ’65 Shea Stadium concert. With improved color footage and remixed sound for this project by George Martin’s son, Gilles (although some in the particular theater I was in, said the sound wasn’t that good-but it may be fine in the movie and DVD itself), it shows just how good of performers they could be, even in often chaotic conditions. Ringo says that they really did try to always give their best-all four of them.  You can tell by their on-stage jokes that they are still having fun-most of the time. In the Shae Stadium show, Paul does one of his best, but perhaps underrated  rockers, “I’m Down”, with which they often ended their concerts, but for some reason was never released on a regular Beatles album(it was the B-side of the “Help” single).  John seems to be his old self, mugging and delivering gobbledigook asides and Paul is always the consummate showman. George is the musician, making sure he doesn’t miss a single guitar note and Ringo is driving the beat and shaking his hair. They alone were in the eye of the hurricane, but the film does seem to capture what it must have been like.  Howard’s title for his film is appropriate, for it really was “8 Days a Week.” As I said, the DVD will be released later this fall with some interesting extras.  But I would recommend, if you can, going to see this film still in the movie theater, and getting that feeling of enjoying it with other fans, which is what the best of Beatlemania was all about.

Top Five, new film by Chris Rock, some have called the black Annie Hall

CHRIS ROCK’S TOP FIVE FILM: TODAY’S ANNIE HALL

CHRIS ROCK’S TOP FIVE FILM: TODAY’S ANNIE HALL  

By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them).

Over New Years, I saw Chris Rock’s new film, Top Five. Some critics have called it a black Woody Allen film and have compared it to Allen’s classic film, Annie Hall, from 1977.   If Woody Allen had been black instead of white and Jewish, and was making a statement about our 2014/15 world, he might have made a similar film such as this one.  Like Allen’s, it also uses the streets of New York City as it’s backdrop.  But it’s both a romantic-comedy and a satire of our current media and celebrity–obsessed world.

It’s the story of a former stand-up comedian and comic actor, Andre Allen, played by Chris Rock, who wants to make more serious social statements in his work (he has become famous and successful dressed as “Hammy the Bear” in a series of mindless popular movies).   Andre has just made a political film about the Haitian Revolution, but his fans and the media are more interested in his light comedies. On top of this, he’s also about to marry a reality-TV star, Erica (Gabrielle Union), which his managers say will be good for his career.

But in order to publicize his serious film, he meets beautiful New York Times reporter, Chelsea Brown, (Rosario Dawson) and gradually all his and his handler’s plans begin to fall apart, at this turning point in his career and life. Reminiscent of Woody Allen’s films again (Chris Rock not only acts in but also wrote and directed Top Five), there are long shots of the two walking around New York having interesting conversations, as they are gradually attracted to each other. But like Allen, he doesn’t make relationships seem easy.   It’s to Rock’s credit that he has also made both main characters flawed as well; they both have some hidden baggage that has to be confronted if their romance is to continue.

Chris Rock & Rosario Dawson in Top Five could be the black Woody Allen and Diane Keaton

Chris Rock & Rosario Dawson in Rock’s film, Top Five, could be the new black Woody Allen and Diane Keaton

Top Five though could only have been made by a cutting-edge and black comic like Chris Rock.  For that’s where the similarities with white comedians and films ends.  Whereas, Woody Allen’s and Jerry Seinfeld’s cerebral and upper and middle–class character comedies and Adam Sandler’s frat –boy humor (both Seinfeld and Sandler make cameo appearances) examine sex and white guilt and hang-ups, Rock’s probes his own black working-class roots.  He takes on directly black culture and stereotypes, even to question their own hang-ups and icons.  He has roles played by several black entertainers from former fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus Tracy Morgan , Cedric the Entertainer,  Kevin Hart, to Whoopi Goldberg.   In fact, Rock pulls no punches even when satirizing his own community- which took a lot of bravery.  He even dares to comment on Oprah’s “noble” black stereotype (Cosby has criticized Rock before for using the word  “nigger” extensively, but we now know Cosby’s own reality)) and Tyler Perry’s  films (in one scene, people are lining up to see Perry’s populist films, but ignoring Rock’s serious Haitian Revolution one).

Also there are several uncompromising sex scenes and language which, frankly, some white audiences won’t probably appreciate or understand. This is not a film with politically-correct language and politically-correct attitudes, which is rare for liberal Hollywood. This film might be an indication that Rock could well be the inheritor of Richard Pryor’s take-no-prisoners mantle. But it only makes Top Five more authentic.  Instead of making it just a romantic-comedy (which it is partly), he has made it real and better in the process.

There’s no doubt, that like Woody Allen’s films, it’s also largely autobiographical. For Rock, like his character, is at a turning point in his own career and life (just recently Rock announced that he’s divorcing his wife of almost 19 years) and is moving ahead to be a creative writer and a director. Rock says that as a child his parents had him bused out of his poor black neighborhood to attend a mainly white school, but he said it only made him a target for white abuse.  The film could perhaps be somewhat of an homage to Woody Allen (the main character is named Allen). Critics have been giving it good reviews and it’s been nominated for awards and is doing well at the U.S. box office. Rotten Tomatoes gives it an 8.5 rating.

Actually, it also reminds me of two of my other favorite films as well.  Sullivan’s Travels is a classic 1942 film by Preston Sturges staring all-American, Joel McCrea, like Chris Rock’s character, a successful Hollywood director who wants to make socially-relevant films rather than light comedies, until he meets sexy, street-smart Veronica Lake and of another Woody Allen movie besides Annie Hall, 1980’s Stardust Memories.  In that one, Woody plays an again successful film maker who wants to also make more “meaningful” films.  At the end of it, he meets some aliens who, when Allen typically comments about the ‘uselessness of existence’, The aliens , much as Sullivan learned in the ’42 film, advise him to “just make funnier movies” and that that is the best thing he can do for the world.

Stardust Memories, Woody Allen's 1980 film, examines some of same themes , romance and att and society, as Chris Rock's new film, top Five

Stardust Memories, 1980 Woody Allen movie, examines some of same themes (romance, art, and society) as Chris Rock’s new film, Top Five

Sullivan's Travels, 1941 classic film, tcoved some of same thenmes as chris Rock's new film, Top Five

Sullivan’s Travels, 1941 film classic by Preston Sturges, has similar basic plot as Chris Rock’s Top Five film

It’s clear, that Chris Rock was very influenced by these above classic films in subject, plot and characterization.  Like all good artists, which this movie shows he has the potential of becoming, as well as an entertainer, Rock has learned from those who’ve gone before him, but has made it into something new again while commenting on our current society and current relationships.  While some of the scenes and humor will make sense especially to his community, like Woody Allen, he’s also tapped into some very universal human experiences with which we can all relate and that’s why Top Five is so strongly recommended.

Trailer for Chris Rock’s Top Five Film:

http://youtu.be/wJ0Qhbm3Xj8

EL TOPO by Alejandro Jodorowsky was a unique film experiece

EL TOPO: THE MOST AMAZING FILM YOU’VE PROBABLY NEVER SEEN

EL TOPO: THE MOST AMAZING FILM YOU’VE PROBABLY NEVER SEEN!

By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them).

My hero, John Lennon, said El Topo was the best film he’d seen, so of course, I had to check it out.  It contains everything I usually don’t like in films: bloody violence, gratuitous sex, heavy symbolism, etc. The first time I saw it, half the audience walked out; the rest gave it a standing ovation-my kind of movie!  By the end of the film, I found myself weeping. I didn’t know just what I had just seen, but I knew it was great.

El Topo is an American-Mexican film written, directed, and acted by  Alejandro Jodorowsky, a Chilean avant-garde theatre director who studied mime and it was originally released in 1970.  It’s hard to describe really-perhaps Fellini meets The Good, Bad, and The Ugly.  Some have called it an Eastern-Western. It’s basically the story of a violent, leather-clad gunman who has to meet and defeat several “masters” while on a journey to enlightenment. El Topo is loosely based on a South American allegory: El Topo (The Mole, in Spanish) spends its life underground and when it finally reaches the surface, it is blinded by the sun.

El Topo's main character, played by Alejandro Jodorowsky, himself, is a violent gunfighter who must defeat several

EL TOPO’s main character, played by Alejandro Jodorowsky, himself, is a violent gunfighter who must defeat several “masters”

Along the way, Jodorowsky skewers every Western icon and adds in eastern spiritual influences. He juxtaposes the most brutal images of our civilization with, somehow at the same time, the most touching human images (the visuals are stunning), and with biting, satirical humor.  The first time I saw it I didn’t really understand its many layers, but gradually after more viewings over the years, I began to realize it all did fit together like a clockwork.  El Topo became a cult film and instigated the concept of special regular Midnight Screenings in New York and in cities around the world. I first saw it in Montreal and it was shown  Saturday midnights for several years after.

EL Topo's main character goes through many changes and appearances on his journey to

El Topo’s main character goes through many changes and appearances on his journey to “enlightenment”

John and Yoko attended that first New York screening in New York and championed it, arranging for the Beatles’ manager at the time, Allen Klein, to take over its distribution and release its soundtrack (Jodorowsky also wrote the music). An experience, I suppose, is the best way to describe the film.  Some, as I say, will like it and others will be revolted.  But it was loved by Lennon (an equivalent, perhaps, to his surrealist songs, I am The Walrus and Strawberry Fields Forever) and by George Harrison and Bob Dylan, and had an influence on many other artists, musicians, and directors from David Lynch, Dennis Hopper, to Marilyn Manson. Peter Gabriel says it inspired the Genesis album, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.

El topo's violent gunfighter by the end of El Topo is transfomed into a peaceful monk, also played by Alejandro Jodorowsky

By the end of the El Topo film, the violent gunfighter is transformed into a peace-loving monk, also played by Alejandro Jodorowsky

Jodorowsky would make a sequel of sorts, The Holy Mountain in 1973 (in which he even includes a character satirizing Allen Klein, his producer) and Klein would later sue Jodorowsky, preventing him from making more films for years.  But recently, there was a documentary about a proposed project where Jodorowsky was to make a film of the Frank Herbert classic Sci-Fi book, Dune, which never got off the ground. El Topo then is a unique cinematic experience; some will love; some will hate, like all great art.  But for those without weak stomachs, but yet for those with strong minds, it’s highly recommended, checking out at least.  By the end of the film, as happened with me, you might even find yourself crying at humanities’ both ugliness and beauty.

El Topo along with The Holy Mountain and some of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s other work was finally released in 2007 on DVD.

 Alejandro Jodorowsky’s, El Topo trailer:

http://youtu.be/FjKcuh8pZtE

THE INTERVIEW film became "cause celeb" when Sont Pictures pulled release originally because of alleged North Korean hacking

THE INTERVIEW: A JUVENILE DICTATOR & A JUVENILE MOVIE

THE INTERVIEW:  A JUVENILE DICTATOR & A JUVENILE MOVIE

By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them).

Everyone all around, in this whole The Interview movie brouhaha, has acted like big children.  Of course, first the tin-pot dictator of North Korea, of whom the movie makes fun. Then Sony Pictures, for first pulling the film and, now under pressure, releasing it to select theatres and on the internet.

All the conservative flag wavers got up in arms about how they weren’t going to let a foreign power tell Americans what film they could watch. Then the liberals joined in and yelled, “censorship”. Even President Obama weighed in, saying Sony should have called him first. The FBI laid the attack at North Korea’s door, supposedly.  At least, Obama didn’t characterize it, as some conservatives did, as an act of war, but instead called it “cyber vandalism” and said the U.S. would act proportionally. Then suddenly North Korea’s own internet was hacked, (likely by the U.S.)  North Korea, evidently doesn’t have much internet access anyway.  But the whole thing could have been right out of a Marx Bros. movie.

KIM JONG-UN , real life dictator could have come out of a Marx Bros. movie, if he wasn't a sad joke and bully

KIM JONG-UN, the North Korean dictator, is already a sad joke and big bully

Of course, Hollywood couldn’t have dreamed up a better publicity stunt to get people into the theatres for one of their lesser efforts.  For now, not only conservative flag wavers and but liberals too, (plus all those who just want be part of the latest thing, like the latest Apple product) are lining up.  It’s the perfect storm for marketing an otherwise, with both critics and Rotten Tomatoes giving mixed reviews at best, for basically a mediocre slacker comedy.  We have people going to see it not for entertainment, but for principle! We live in a very politically–correct society these days and it leads to some often-strange reactions.  Hollywood, primarily liberals, despite their making plenty of violent films, says we’ve got to protect our rights to produce “art”, even if that stretches the concept far indeed.

Most Korean experts say, the peculiar dictator or whoever is actually running the place, just really want the world’s attention, and that’s why they perhaps try these often-ridiculous stunts.  But it seems to me, he or they are just like a big schoolyard bully, and should be dealt with the same basic way.  Of course, a bully should not be allowed to continue his little power games, but he should be answered appropriately. Yet we should not over-react either and think just by attending a facile movie, it’s going to “show” them or by yelling “free speech” coming out of a movie theatre and or by making it into the latest ” cause celeb”.

Sony and many other companies and organizations should have been aware of cyber attackers, whether they be foreign or individuals, and have had better protections of their data in place (some of their own employees are now suing them over this).  Edward Snowden revealed to the public just how many governments, including the U.S., government on it’s own people, are doing this too.

But all the uproar and over-reaction seem to be almost as juvenile as the instigators’ childish attempts and for such a juvenile movie.  Dumb and Dumber indeed!

http://youtu.be/Ed2kSuKqfz0

Original "War Is Over" Peace poster campaign, 1969

J & Y’S “WAR IS OVER” PEACE CAMPAIGN (INSPIRED BY “HUNGER GAMES-LIKE” FILM’S DIRECTOR

JOHN & YOKO’S “WAR IS OVER” PEACE CAMPAIGN,

(INSPIRED BY 1960’s “HUNGER GAMES-LIKE” FILM’S DIRECTOR LETTER)

By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them).

A letter from British director, Peter Watkins, first known for his controversial anti-nuclear war 1965 docudrama, War Games, was the catalyst for John Lennon and Yoko Ono to start their Bed Peace and War is Over (If you want it)campaigns in 1969.  John said a letter from the film’s director had first challenged them. The letter said: ‘People in your position have a responsibility to use the media for world peace’.  And we sat on the letter for about three weeks thinking, ‘Well, we’re doing our best, all you need is love, man’.  That letter just sort of sparked it all off.  It was like getting your induction papers for peace.”

John and Yoko staged their Bed-ins for peace, originally in Amsterdam, and famously later in Montreal, Canada, for a week in May.’69 and on June 1st recorded in their hotel room with several attendees, their peace anthem, “Give Peace a Chance”.

On Dec. 1, 1971 they released their single, “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” ,and posted billboards in major cities of around the world. The song has now become a timeless holiday favorite.  Yoko has announced that she has re-launched the “War is Over” Campaign and poster and is asking fans to re-send the poster as holiday cards.  Also she’d like people to join together in singing ,Imagine”, for this coming New Years.

But it was that letter by Watkins and his film, War Games, which had been banned by the BBC for its realistic depictions of nuclear war, during the Vietnam War, which had been the impetus for John and Yoko to come up with their concepts to draw the world’s attentions about war and violence.

Watkins also made another thought proving film, PRIVILEGE in 1967.  It’s the story of a rock star who becomes so popular that he becomes controlled by the government and the Church to do their bidding.   It stars a real pop star of the time, Paul Jones of British band, Manfred Mann, as the main character, Steven Shorter. The female lead was played by,”Face of the 60’s”, supermodel, Jean ShrimptonThe film raises some very intriguing questions about pop music and culture and mass media’s effect on society. It was very prophetic in its awareness.  At that time, mass pop music was in its beginnings and didn’t have the power that we have now come to take for granted, but the film foretold what was about to happen in 60’s and which continues to this day.  As I said, the powers that be, in the film, soon see the commercial (and political) potential and how they can manipulate the population and situation. It’s a satire and cautionary statement at the same time, a mixture of Orwell’s 1984, and documentary of pop culture’s and media’s growing domination.  It’s actually, partly influenced by a documentary on 50’s pop idol and his screaming fans, Canadian-born, Paul Anka (“Diana”, “Puppy Love” and who wrote “My Way” for Frank Sinatra), called Lonely Boy.

It’s also interesting because, while touring America in 1965, John Lennon himself, had stirred up controversy, when he was quoted as saying, “We’re more popular than Jesus Christ”.  DJ’s and some fans, mainly in the conservative U.S. South, had reacted by condemning him and holding “Burn Beatles’ records” rallies. Lennon, under pressure, had to somewhat apologize for his remarks, even though he was just expressing his own experience as part of a massively popular cultural phenomenon.  Of course, what he said was a very perceptive comment on his own experience and observation. There’s a scene in the film, Privilege, where, the singer, Steve Shorter, has to perform in stadiums and almost like a fundamentalist faith-healer touch and “cure” audience members with disabilities and afflictions. Lennon said, at Beatles’ concerts, they would place the disabled in wheelchairs at the front and sometimes, on stage in those big stadiums, most all the Beatles themselves could see from the stage, were these unfortunate people and after the concert, they would be brought backstage to meet the band. On those gruelling tours, they were the few fans they often got to see up close. There’s a scene in Privilege, where Paul Jones as rock star, sings the song,” SET ME FREE”, from behind jail bars erected on stage, as the audience screams hysterically.  Patti Smith would later record the song for her album, Easter, in 1978, and that scene from the movie, Privilege, still says a lot about the way we, perhaps, today with our pervasive mass media, even more, worship pop celebrity.  Privilege, the 1967 film, was ahead of its time, long before current films like the Hunger Games and covered of these same themes, and it’s recommended you check it out.

Lennon became quite aware of the strange circumstances pop idols often found themselves in, with all the adoration and mass hysteria.  As he sang later “Christ, the way things are going they’re going to crucify me”.  And sadly, ironically, as we all know, he was killed by a deranged fan on Dec. 8, 1980.  George Harrison had also been stabbed over 40 times by an intruder in his home just a couple years, before, which didn’t help his health certainly, and he would pass away of cancer on Nov. 29, 2001.  Some of the issues raised in Watkins’ films, Privilege, and War Games, were to have influence on future events and John and Yoko’s efforts for peace, which Yoko is still asking us to carry on, in John’s name and ideals.  Privilege, the 1967 film, was ahead of its time, long before current films like The Hunger Games covered some of these same themes, and it’s recommended you check it out.

PRIVILEGE, a Hunger Games-Like film, ahead of it's time, 1967

PRIVILEGE film poster, 1967, about rock star, being controlled by government and religious leaders

See below trailer for 1967 film, Privilege:

http://youtu.be/v_dZEky0KAw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_dZEky0KAw

See below John Lennon talking common sense about peace and

violence:

Link to YOKO ONO’S WEBSITE, where you can download and send updated  “WAR IS OVER” POSTERS:  

Original

Original “War Is Over”, Happy Xmas poster, 1969

YOKO

YOKO’S updated “War Is Over” Poster

Dear Friends
Go to http://imaginepeace.com/warisover/
Download, print & display these multilingual ‘WAR IS OVER!’ posters in your window, school, workplace, car and elsewhere.
Post them on your Social Media feeds and use the hashtag #WARISOVER.
Send them as postcards to your friends.
We say it in so many ways, but we are one.
I love you!
 

 

THE GRADUATE, directed by Mike Nichols spoke for the 60's generation

MIKE NICHOL’S THE GRADUATE: A SOCIETY REBELLION/LOVE STORY

MIKE NICHOL’S THE GRADUATE

By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them).

Mike Nichols & Elaine May, classic comedy team before Nichols became a director

Classic 1950’s & 60’s comedy duo: Elaine May & Mike Nichols (later director” The Graduate”).

Iconic photo from The Graduate, with Benjamin shot through Mrs. Robinson's legs.

The Graduate’s iconic scene, Benjamin seen through Mrs. Robinson’s legs

 A SOCIETY REBELLION/LOVE STORY

Mike Nichols just passed away.  He was an accomplished director in both film and theatre.  He’s directed such films as Who’s  Afraid of Virgina Woolf, Catch-22, Carnal Knowledge, Working Girl, etc. as well as several plays on Broadway.  But he’s probably most known for his film, The Graduate, in 1967.

Like in music, there are certain generation-defining films and The Graduate was that, and like Easy Rider later in’69, The Graduate expressed the feelings of the 60’s generation.  For the main character, Benjamin (played by Dustin Hoffman in his breakthrough role) represented the questioning of society which many young people at the time were going through. It was the height of the Vietnam War and there were demonstrations on campuses and many college students were challenging the values of their parents’ generation.

The most well-known scene is, of course, the seduction scene, where Benjamin is seduced by Mrs. Robinson (sexily played by Anne Bancroft). It was director Mike Nichol’s idea to film Benjamin framed through Mrs. Robinson’s legs.  It became an iconic photo which perfectly represented the film and also the temptation to go along with the “Establishment”.  Traditional values still offered those carrots to middle-class students-get a university degree, serve in the army, get married, and have a secure career.  Another famous scene expressed this too, the scene where Benjamin’s uncle tells him he should get a career in “plastics”. There was a conflict which was going on in American society, between the past and the future, and the film perfectly captured that.

Benjamin likes Elaine, Mrs. Robinson’s beautiful, but innocent daughter (played by Katharine Ross), but when she finds out about his affair with her mother, she rejects him.  Benjamin after he becomes “tainted” by Mrs. Robinson’s temptations, for a while even becomes callous towards Elaine, whom he embarrasses by taking her to a strip club.  Benjamin, eventually repents and tries to win Elaine back again.  The Graduate then becomes a great love story and, against all odds and society, fights his way back to her heart.  There are some of the most harrowing scenes as he drives by Elaine’s house, hoping to reach her, while on the soundtrack is playing Simon and Garfunkel’s sad song, “April Comes She Will”.  Simon and Garfunkel’s songs, of course, make up the famous soundtrack, especially “Mrs. Robinson” (it wasn’t made specifically for the film, but was called, “Mrs. Roosevelt” originally) and exposed their music considerably.  Nichols picked the perfect music to go along with the film.

The Graduate became symbolically, the battle between the system and rebellion against society, which many young people were actually facing at that time and, thus became massively popular with youth.  At the end of the film, like all heroic characters, Benjamin rushes in, just in time to save his damsel, Elaine (who realizes herself finally, Benjamin’s essential goodness and love for her).  The audience cheers the heroic couple as they escape the corrupt Robinsons and the Establishment life they had been offered.  The classic morality tale is up-dated for the times.

But what is most intriguing is the very last scene on the bus they’ve boarded to get away:  Benjamin and Elaine look curiously perplexed for a couple who have just fought society and won.  They each stare straight ahead and not at each other, a look of panic, even on their faces. Why?  What was director, Nichols saying?  I noticed this when I first saw The Graduate in 1967.  But I wondered then and now, if most young people even noticed at the time. That last scene to me has always been the most fascinating one in the movie.  For perhaps Nichols is hinting that for maybe Benjamin and Elaine (and perhaps symbolically, the 60’s generation), it may not be so black and white and simple a choice as youth thought their “freedom” might be.  I still wonder all these years later what Nichols meant to say.  But that is also why Nichols’ films like The Graduate still stand up- he always had a subtlety and psychological layers in his work.  Something he perhaps  learned as an actor himself, at one time, in improvisational theatre in Chicago and later as part of the influential comedy team Elaine May & Mike Nichols.  Nichols was later married to TV journalist, Diane Sawyer. The Graduate is still ranked #17 of top American films by the American Film Institute and #21 on the highest grossing films in North America.

I have my own personal story, related to The Graduate.   In 1967, I was attending a Midwestern U.S. university and questioning my own place in society.  I had transferred the year before from another U.S. university where I was taking pharmacy, but had decided to change my major to political science and history, partly because I also began to question the Vietnam War and the direction society was heading in the 60’s.  That same year, 1967, was the “Summer of Love” and The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers’ had been released and it too would become a generation-defining icon and symbol of youth and the changes taking place. I was a big Beatles’ fan and these two cultural events, Sgt. Peppers and The Graduate were to have a large effect on many of my generation and on me personally.

When I had transferred to this new university, I had been required to take a foreign language and I took French.  But I was not very good at languages and the only thing that kept me going to the class was a pretty girl in my French course.  So I asked her out.  But it turned out to be a disastrous first date. For I was now an older 3rd year student because of my two years at the previous university, and this girl, a first year student, I arrogantly found to be too young and innocent (much like the character, Elaine, in The Graduate).    A year later though, still required to take another course in French, which I was still terrible at it, we had to take our French final in a large auditorium.  It was a stressful time because if I failed that oral final (which counted 50% of my grade), I would likely fail the course. I knew with the blaring speakers of the auditorium where it was given and with my worst aspect, being the oral part, that I was likely doomed.

I exited the auditorium, dejected. But whom do I run into there, but the same girl from that first French class and disastrous date the year before.  And surprisingly, she’s quite friendly.  For some reason, out of the blue,(I figured what had I to lose after the day I’d been having!), I asked her out that night to a movie.  And to my astonishment, she said, “Yes”.

We decided to go to a new movie in town that weekend, of which we knew little about.  Well, it was The Graduate.  We had no idea then that it would, as I say, become a generation-defining film.  But we both loved it and we got along well after the film.  This girl was now, to my now less-arrogant eyes, even more beautiful (she even looked like Katharine Ross, who played Elaine in the film), than I had remembered.  We became close for the rest of my university days.

But unfortunately, those days were soon to become to an end.  For with the  failure of that French course and some others (school courses seemed pretty irrelevant any more, with all the changes going on in society and my growing  opposition to the Vietnam War), I dropped out of university and now faced the American draft.  Finally, when there were few choices left (Vietnam or jail), I decided to flee to Canada.  And when I did finally have to leave, I asked this girl if there was anything I could give her for all her support, she said there was a special antique chair in my room that she had long admired, and I carried it in the snow to her place and said goodbye to her for the last time.  So I will always associate The Graduate with this girl and the experiences we had and the bittersweet moment of having to leave her behind and face my own choices about society.  And they were to help determine my own future, much like the characters, Benjamin and Elaine in the film, and ironically, reminded me of that haunting bittersweet look on their faces in that last scene of  Mike Nichol’s The Graduate.

THe curious last scene in tThe Graduate, wher Benjamin and Elaine, seem strangely not very happy despite their rebellion against their parents' world

The curious last scene in The Graduate, with our heroes looking strangely non-content

See Below Trailer For “The Graduate”:

http://youtu.be/hsdvhJTqLak

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsdvhJTqLak

Original Hamburg Beatles: John, Paul, George, Pete Best, Stu Sutcliffe

BACKBEAT FILM: HAMBURG BEATLES & INSIDE STORIES

BACKBEAT FILM: BEATLES IN HAMBURG & INSIDE STORIES

By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them).

BACKBEAT is a film that tells the story of The Beatles first playing in Hamburg Germany, in the early 60’s, before they were well-known. But until the film came out in 1993, the general public didn’t know that much about this crucial period in their development. George Harrison said Hamburg was where they learned to become a band.

The Beatles were first sent there by Allan Williams, owner of what was basically a strip club, where the early Beatles first played in Liverpool, before they became regulars at the Cavern and met manager, Brian Epstein. The Beatles, at that time, consisted of besides John, Paul, and George, drummer Pete Best (whose mother, Mona, also owned one of the first places they played, The Casbah in the basement of her house), and John’s close friend, Stu Sutcliffe, on bass.

While in Hamburg The Beatles performed in seedy bars in the “sin” part of  Hamburg, with prostitutes and drugs all around them. They lived in squalid conditions, once even in a tiny room behind a movie screen.  They played for hours and hours a night, with few breaks, speeded-up on pep pills, to keep up the grueling schedule.

Thus, this is a far cry from the later image of The Beatles as the clean-cut pop group in tailored suits which Brian Epstein would present to the world and for Beatlemania.

And this is the story that BACKBEAT, the film, reveals.  But it is also a love story. Because The Beatles were to meet in one of those sleazy bars one night, some  German arts students, especially Astrid Kirchherr.   Astrid and her friends were in a group of art students who called themselves “Exi’s” (existentialists). They dressed in black and copied the then unusual French swept-forward hair style. These German arts students were to have a profound effect on the still quite-young and impressionable Beatles.  Astrid took the first artistic, black and white photos of the Beatles.  And it was her that first convinced Stu and then the others to try out this new hairstyle, which would later be called the distinctive Beatles haircut.

Stu, a talented, promising painter and big artistic influence on John, fell in love with Astrid, and decided to leave the band.  He wasn’t very good on bass anyway and would often attempt to play, with his back to the audience; his main asset to the band being his cool James Dean look, with his dark sunglasses.

The film, BackBeat, tells these two stories then, the creative beginnings of The Beatles and the poignant love story between Stu and Astrid.  Poignant even more because their romance was tragically short-lived because Stu was to die shortly after, of a brain hemorrhage,  at the age of only 21 in 1960.   When Stu left the band it also necessitated McCartney moving over to bass, which would have a deep effect on The Beatles’ music with his melodic bass lines. The Beatles would soon after be discovered by Brian Epstein at the Cavern and the rest is history

But I’ve always thought this is the real story of The Beatles and BACKBEAT does a pretty good job of telling it.  It’s a bit stereotyped with John as the angry, sarcastic one and Paul the more people-pleasing pop singer (McCartney disputed that he wasn’t shown much as an also-rocker).  But Paul said he was astonished by the portrayal of Stu by actor Stephen Dorff.  The actress, Sheryl Lee, who portrays Astrid, looks like and captures the artistic photographer perfectly.  The director, Ian Softley, spent ten years interviewing Astrid and several others (Astrid was a consultant on the film), before he finally got it made.  Interestingly, real Beatles’ recordings weren’t used on the soundtrack, but instead several well-respected musicians, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters, etc., from alternative bands were used to re-create Beatles songs and it works. The movie captures the hyped-up energy and stamina required the forming Beatles learned in those trying circumstances, which would come in handy later for their screaming Beatlemania touring days.

As I said, I’ve always been most fascinated especially, with this early period of The Beatles. And I was to fortunately later meet several who were there at their beginnings.  For example I was with George Harrison’s sister, Louise, when she actually saw BACKBEAT film, for the first time. She was a guest at the 2nd Ottawa, Canada Beatles’ Convention I organized in ‘96.  I remember her saying as she sat next to me at the screening, “George would never have cussed like that”.  But of course,The Beatles did a lot more than cuss in Hamburg.  They were even “adopted” by some of the prostitutes and protected by some of the tough bouncers in the bars, where often thugs in the drunken audiences carried weapons.  As I say, a far cry from the cuddy Beatles-image later created.

I mentioned before in my recent blog (“Little-known Last Lennon and McCartney Recording Session in ’74) which  May Pang, Lennon’s girlfriend in L.A., recently revealed, that I met May and Cynthia Lennon as well as Paul McCartney’s step-mom at the Conn. Beatles Convention in ’94.

Well shortly after I returned from there, I received a call from Pauline Sutcliffe, sister of Stuart Sutcliffe, original Hamburg Beatle and painter and John’s friend,  described in the Backbeat film.  I’m not sure how she got my number, but suspect that it was given to her by Cynthia Lennon, whom I had just met at the Convention in ’94.  For there, I had presented Cynthia with what was then only a school fantasy-project for a proposal to put on a possibly more-artistic Beatles Convention.  Cynthia, an artist herself, evidently liked the idea and perhaps mentioned it to her friend, Pauline.   Anyway, I had hoped to bring some of Stu’s paintings over to Canada as part of our now hoped for 1st Ottawa Beatles Convention but alas, wasn’t able to because of insurance reasons.  But a few months later I found out, there would be an exhibition of Stu’s paintings at a gallery in Toronto. I arrived at the exhibit early and no one was there yet, when a woman came over and offered me a tea. This turned out to be Pauline Sutcliffe, the English woman I had talked to on the phone a few months earlier. She was kind and showed me some of Stu’s magnificent mainly-abstract paintings.  I also discovered some rare Beatles’ photos tucked away around the corner.

We did do our first Ottawa Beatles Convention in 1995, although I had hoped to have Cynthia as a guest, she couldn’t come, and we got original Beatles’ drummer, Pete Best.  He had been with them for two years in Hamburg and Liverpool, before being replaced by Ringo, who was also playing in Hamburg as part of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.  In fact, in keeping with Pete Best and his Liverpool band, as guests, we called our first Beatles’ Convention, “Cavern Days”.  Our poster for it featured a collage of images from photographer, Astrid Kirchherr of the original Hamburg Beatles, with Pete, and Stu Sutcliffe and even of Astrid.  I later wrote to Astrid in Germany and received a special signed postcard from her agent.

And in 1996, I was to meet some more from this period and the Beatles’ beginnings. I attended a Beatles’ dealer’s get-together in southern Ontario. The guests there included Allan Williams, the Beatles first “manager”, who had first booked them into Hamburg.  Williams had written one of the best books on the early Beatles books in 1975, The Man Who Gave Away the Beatles, called that because The Beatles, once in Germany, stiffed Williams of his booking fees and he dropped them.  Williams had advised future manager, Brian Epstein, “not to touch them with a F’ ing 10 foot barge pole!”

Williams was a real character, full of raunchy stories of the Beatles. In fact, he held up Paul McCartney’s actual leather pants (he said he had gotten from one of the other Liverpool groups as supposedly Paul had just left them at the Cavern) which Epstein had gotten them to change out of into the suits. He said he wanted to sell back to McCartney for $10,000!  That’s the kind of character he was:  I liked him and he signed my copy of his book.  With Williams was Beryl Wooler, Epstein’s assistant at his Liverpool record store, Nems, and later married to Bob Wooler, the Cavern D.J. who was one of their early supporters.   At that same get-together was a member of Lennon’s early Liverpool teenaged band, The Quarrymen, Len Garry.  He was very friendly and told of the story of the fated day John Lennon met Paul McCartney at a Liverpool church,  July 6, 1957. Garry knows because he was there.

He also described both Lennon and McCartney’s characters, when he said, Lennon didn’t want to share band leadership with Paul, but knew he needed him because Paul knew more chords and songs, but Lennon didn’t want to admit it.  Later, he had his childhood friend, Pete Shotten, approach McCartney.  And the way, Garry told it, the next time Shotten ran into Paul, he asked him to join the fledgling band, and Paul just nonchalantly replied, “OK”.  Also a part of that early Lennon-McCartney connection was that they had both lost their mothers as teens around the same time.  Lennon wrote about it for years after in several of his songs, but McCartney rarely did, except she’s the “ Mother Mary” in “Let It Be”, again revealing of their different characters.  Shotten, by the way, also wrote one of the best Beatles’ books, The Beatles, John Lennon and Me in ’84.  Pauline Sutcliffe with Alan Clayson, wrote Backbeat, Stuart Sutcliffe: The Lost Beatle in ’94.

Pauline and Astrid both approved of the Backbeat film and I also recommend you seeing it and read the above books, from people who actually were there at the Beatles’ beginnings and I was privileged to meet several of them and hear their personal stories first hand.

 

HAMBURG BEATLES AND “STU MEETS ASTRID”, BACKBEAT FILM, 1993:

 

http://youtu.be/JhJBk9YNhwo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhJBk9YNhwo

Photographer& designer Beatles' haircut, Astrid Kirchherr, Stu Sutcliffe

Self-portrait: Photographer, Astrid Kirchherr & Stu Sutcliffe

1st Ottawa Beatles Convention poster with Astrid Kirchherr's Hamburg Beatles' images

Poster from 1st Ottawa Beatles’ Convention, using Astrid Kirchherr’s images of original Hamburg Beatles

Pauline Sutcliffes signed card from brother Stu's painting exhibit , Toronto & Astrid Kirchherr's postcard

Pauline Sutcliffe signed card from brother, Stu’s Sutcliffe’s painting exhibit & postcard from Astrid Kirchherr, Beatles’ photographer and creator of Beatles’ haircut