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Topic Summary

Posted by: Iain Fisher
« on: January 06, 2009, 12:29:29 PM »

I've started a new thread with articles from 2009.
Posted by: Iain Fisher
« on: December 30, 2008, 05:13:36 PM »

Nothing by Ken today
Posted by: Iain Fisher
« on: December 24, 2008, 12:44:25 PM »

Ken in The Times, 23 Dec 2008

Ken talks of his new film "…my latest biographical romp, Bravetart vs the Loch Ness Monster, began filming last Sunday at the stately Walhampton School, a couple of miles up the road from my home in Lymington.”

Ken then talks of his early days in television, “…drama-documentaries on the lives of famous dancers such as Isadora Duncan, painters such as John Everett Millais, poets such as Wordsworth and composers such as Debussy. I made almost 50 biographies in all — mostly for the BBC arts programme Monitor, with a film crew of half a dozen or so. There were also a handful of feature films on arty biographical subjects, with crews of about 50.”  An interesting choice Ken selected rather than the more obvious Elgar and Delius.

And talking of his Gorsewood films says “…I like to stretch the parameters of expectations — and flirt a little with the edges of bad taste. All in all, I aim for “dangerous beauty”, and I know it when I see it. “

On Bravetart she is “a sassy Scottish prostitute who is played by my (Jill-of-all-trades) wife Elise and is pure invention, with a nod to Mel Gibson. The monsters — both the man (played by myself) and his amphibious ally or “familiar” — are based on real-life characters. The world-famous denizen of the deep is in actuality Nessie, that serpentine creature of myth and legend come to life. For the extravagant claim that she actually exists, I have the word of my one-time cameraman Dick Bush, who saw the monster from a hilltop overlooking the famous loch. Before he had time to reload his camera, the enormous beast had dived beneath the billows. Still, I believe him— Bush was, as they say, a “God-fearing man”.

It turns out the Loch Ness Monster of the title is "that evil master of black magic, Aleister Crowley— who at one time lived in a sinister castle on the very shores of Loch Ness itself"

Filming is at Hatchet Pond in the New Forest, and the medieval walls of Southampton stand in for Edinburgh Castle. Ken says Bravetart will be ready by Easter 2009.
Posted by: Iain Fisher
« on: December 20, 2008, 02:23:02 AM »

Ken in The Times 16 Dec 2008.  He is covering old ground, looking at books and films

"l I keep a huge pile of books ready to hand for diving into as I rock, feet up, in my living room chair... Right now I've got in the pile The Quest for God by Paul Johnson; Remember Me... by Melvyn Bragg; The C.S. Lewis Chronicles by Colin Duriez; Hell-Raisers: The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole and Oliver Reed by Robert Sellers; and 1,000 Tattoos, ed. Hen Schiffmacher. Next week it will be another diverse pile."

He goes on "Literature has played a big part in my life from the days when I followed Laurel and Hardy in the weekly comic Film Fun to my latest good read, Boudica's Last Stand: Britain's Revolt against Rome AD 60-61 by John Waite. Strange bedfellows? Not a bit of it. Most of my reading habits have a common link - the movies. For instance, I've just finished making a green-screen epic called Boudica Bites Back."

Other books Ken wants to make into films:
- For Want of a Nail by Melvyn Bragg
- Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley
- The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino

On Billion Dolllar Brain "Harry Salzmann asked me to launch my feature film career with a wide-screen epic featuring Michael Caine... I particularly liked Billion Dollar Brain, which I made, because with the Cold War shown as a battle between the US and the USSR, it's the Yankees who get blown away by the Commies. Bizarrely, it was financed by an American company"

Posted by: Iain Fisher
« on: December 09, 2008, 09:46:25 PM »

My Times went missing today.  I checked the on-line Times but there doesn't seem to be a new Ken article, though the on-line version is not always reliable.
Posted by: Iain Fisher
« on: December 03, 2008, 12:57:52 AM »

Nothing by Ken today (well it is yesterday now) in The Times
Posted by: Iain Fisher
« on: November 25, 2008, 07:29:09 PM »

Ken in The Times today, 25 Nov 2008.

Interestingly the paper version of the article is titled Love, hate, envy, esteem- it's all in the game while the on line version has a different title, using a quote from the text Most directors get into bed with their actors, metaphorically speaking

Ken talks of Valentino, then shifts to writers.  On Valentino, with star Rudolf Nureyev "…Rudolf … much worse was the massive backhander that nearly knocked the lovely Michelle Phillips off her feet when she attempted to offer him some advice. That was the moment when he lost the respect of the entire crew."

Then on the writer of Altered States: "…Chayefsky had a finger in every pie from sets to script, which I simply had to tolerate. But when he walked on to the set of what was meant to be a boozy party in an Italian restaurant on our first day of shooting and told the cast to stop acting so drunk... I'm very patient until I'm not at all. Not only did he alienate the actors but also the production company, which sent him 3,000 miles back to New York."

On long time collaborator Melvyn Bragg: "But Chayefsky is the exception that proves the rule. Generally speaking, I get on well with writers and have from the early 1960s to the present day. I'm thinking of Melvyn Bragg…. I last saw him a few nights ago at a preview of my present off-Broadway play, Mindgame, when I told him I'd give my eyeteeth to direct his masterpiece new novel Remember Me.  …But enough of the past, what of the future? Well, someone I've never met but would certainly like to meet and who I actually envy is Danny Boyle. I loved the baby crawling on the ceiling in Trainspotting, join his children in wondering how on earth he made London a deserted ghost city in 28 Days Later, plunged into the sun in Sunshine and was blown away by his new powerhouse Slumdog Millionaire. He's a rebel after my own heart! "
Posted by: BoyScoutKevin
« on: November 22, 2008, 10:49:16 PM »

I'm not surprised that Busby Berkeley was one of Russell's influences. What did surprise me was that when Russell mentioned Berkeley, he did not mention "Lisztomania." When I see one of Ken's films, that's the one that I associate with Berkeley.

As for the differences between stage and film . . .

In film, the director--seemingly--seems be able to direct where the viewer looks through the use of the camera. In stage, while the director can somewhat direct where the viewer looks, the viewer can look here and there, and not necessarily where the director wants the viewer to look.
Posted by: Iain Fisher
« on: November 19, 2008, 01:46:06 PM »

Nothing by Ken in The Times yesterday 18 Nov 2008.
Posted by: Iain Fisher
« on: November 11, 2008, 04:44:44 PM »

Ken writes in The Times today, 11 Nov 2008 about his 10 influences.  Usually when Ken does something like this it seems arbitrary, but this time it is well thought out and sincere, especially the last one.  The influences are

The Movies

“…Mum was a real film fan, taking me along with her to the cinema at least three times a week till it was time to start school…”

The Conker Tree
“…the big conker (horse chestnut) tree at the end of the garden, which became a galleon if I'd just seen The Black Pirate, Sherwood Forest after Robin Hood, or a cathedral after a screening of The Hunchback of Notre Dame…"

Busby Berkeley

“…I was mesmerised by the magnificent movies of Busby Berkeley: 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, et al. Art deco in dance of a high order, unashamedly inspiring several numbers in my screen version of The Boyfriend. ..”

Jean Cocteau

“La Belle et la Bête, which had my daughter Molly, then 6, and myself in tears the last time I saw it”.  Ken includes a quote from  Cocteau  “An artist cannot speak about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture.”

Amelia and the Angel

Ken mentions La Belle et la Bête which inspired his early home movie Amelia and the Angel.

Sir Huw Wheldon

As always Ken mentions Huw of the BBC Monitor films as a major influence in his career.

Classical music
“…The day I heard Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto on the radio, while vegetating at home after being invalided out of the Merchant Navy, was the day that led me to the discovery of classical music, which changed my life...”  This is the piece that Richard Chamberlaine plays in the concert scene of The Music Lovers.
The Roman Catholic Church
“…one of my greatest influences of all - the Catholic Church… I went for instruction from the Poor Clares in Portobello Road and after six months' Bible-bashing, I was sent to a local priest for baptism. “Have you anything to say before you take this enormous step?” he asked as I faced him across the font. “Well, to tell you the truth, Father,” I stammered, “there are times when I just don't believe.” “Join the club,” he replied. I did, and I never looked back…”

Skiddaw mountain

“…Skiddaw, Coleridge's “God made manifest”, as he called his favourite mountain in the Lake District. Perched above Keswick like a mighty bird of prey with a five-mile wingspread, it seems poised, ready at any moment to take wing, fly down Derwentwater, up the Borrowdale Valley, over Castle Crag and into infinity, drawing the whole world up into its wake…”

The Other

And finally he mentions Elise his wife “…who pervades my every thought and deed. Everything I do, to quote Ludwig van Beethoven, is “für Elise”. If love is a tree, I live in its shade"

Posted by: Iain Fisher
« on: November 04, 2008, 11:53:28 AM »

Ken in today's Times (4 Nov 2008) writes of Mindgame, about to open.

"The long process of rehearsing and reshaping my off-Broadway production is over - now bring in the audience... all is going well, even tricky bits - from the brutal stabbing of Nurse Plimpton (Kathleen McNenney) with three types of fake blood, permanent, washable and edible, to the ever-shrinking psychiatrist's study designed by the crafty genius of Beowulf Boritt.  This shrinking scenery, linked to an intricate series of wires and gears offstage, is masterminded by Eric Parillo, the understudy. There is a giant wheel in the wings, which he turns slowly every eight minutes throughout the show. We have all heard of Chinese water torture. Well, this must be the Mindgame torture.

Added - a baby skeleton in the fireplace, incidental music from Delius and Stravinsky, vents in the straitjacket (thick as rhinoceros hide) to keep Lee from suffocating under the lights. A resounding slap is rehearsed over and over."

Ken talks about directing films and plays
"… To tell the truth, both stage directing and film directing have their pluses and minuses.
For the stage, you have the bonus of rehearsing the story as it happens, from revelation to reversals to conclusion, whereas in movies you have to make an inspired guess as to how your characters would behave in any given moment. This is because, for reasons of finance, films are generally shot out of sequence. If all the scenes were shot in order, a film unit of 60 technicians would be dashing off to a different location every day at great expense, whereas if the entire unit stays put until like scenes are completed, it certainly helps the budget.

With a stage play, you can change your mind right up to the first night. But at least with films you don't have to suffer the boredom of endless run-throughs. On the stage a director sits through every last word every livelong day for a month, by which time you can be close to script schizophrenia. I can only imagine what the actors go through, permeating themselves with the language and actions till their original self is erased for the run of the play.…"

Posted by: Iain Fisher
« on: October 28, 2008, 09:49:59 PM »

Ken in The Times today (28 Oct 2008) writes about one of my favourite playwrights, Tennessee Williams.  The reason is a season of films of his plays at the BFI in November.

"He wrote into being some of the most power-mad, sexually rampant or repressed, emotionally fragile and downright desperate characters yet seen. Chekhov, D. H. Lawrence and Hart Crane were his inspirations, he said, but it was well known that his own life was his material.  His sexy scripts launched or improved the careers of Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Paul Newman, Geraldine Page, Rip Torn, Elizabeth Taylor, Maureen Stapleton, Katharine Hepburn, Anna Magnani, Warren Beatty and other actors of the 1950s and 1960s...

...His plots circle evasively around lust and homosexuality in a style that seems coy today. The film studios of his time, however, coerced his scripts into happier endings and censored homosexual references. Part of the intrigue of watching a Williams movie is deciphering the allusive code that remains"

The films in the season:

Suddenly, Last Summer

“...The brilliant acting of the cast makes this twaddle watchable, even riveting."

A Streetcar Named Desire

"The most memorable thing about this film, directed by Elia Kazan, is Brando’s charisma and the title. Leigh (as the wounded slut-with-airs from the South) is too prim, but Brando, as usual, is nigh on faultless as the sexy rapist."

Baby Doll

“...Caroll Baker must be the oldest child-bride in screen history. The agreement with her husband (a boorish Karl Malden) that he will not take her virginity until her 18th birthday is also a tough nut to swallow... Once again, a trite situation is saved by immaculate acting.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

"...Clearly a story about a sex-starved woman (Taylor) in love with a homosexual (Newman), the plot undergoes a series of convoluted twists and turns to disguise a sexuality that was taboo in Movieland at the time"

The Fugitive Kind

“...The lingering close-ups of Brando have never been surpassed, nor have the legs of Joanne Woodward straddling a gear stick. But Brando as a small-town shoe salesman stretches the imagination.

The Night of the Iguana

“...If you can imagine the aristocratic Kerr as a penniless artist and the sexually available Gardner as an astute business woman, you will find much to enjoy in this rumble in the jungle, capably directed by the maverick John Huston."

Sweet Bird of Youth

“...Newman tears up the screen as a beautiful, seedy hustler... The play ends with Newman’s castration by Heavenly’s jealous brother, but the film-makers thought a smash across the face would be better for the box office.

The Tennessee Williams screenplays run at the BFI Southbank, London from 1-30 Nov

More good writing from Ken.
Posted by: BoyScoutKevin
« on: October 27, 2008, 06:42:18 PM »

As a pedesterian here in the U.S. you'd think Ken's biggest problem is to remember we drive on the right.
Posted by: Iain Fisher
« on: October 21, 2008, 07:33:30 PM »

Ken in The Times today (21 Oct 2008) writing about New York, where he is directing his play.

There is some good writing by Ken who attracts attention in New York:

"Back in New York to direct an off-Broadway play, I am reminded of the Big Apple's dynamism - even when I'm trying to get some rest.  On my 15-minute walk to rehearsal down Sullivan Street, I pass florists full of flowers that never fade, fruit that never rots, international newsstands and more open-air cafés than you would find in Montparnasse. Rounding the bend at Prince Street into “Fagin's Park”, I encounter happy nomads on park benches breakfasting on waxpapered sandwich rolls, shouting cheerfully at one another. One hobo glued to a stoop accosts me to admire my sartorial style: “I appreciate those suspenders, man. Thank you for brightening the city.”


"A bevy of nannies swap trade secrets about screaming children as they take over the sidewalk, pushing their charges in strollers before them. Traffic rules are approximate, not carved in stone. I'm learning to cross the street like a New Yorker, heart-in-mouth, dodging against the light through gaps in the stream of cars."


"Outside on Bleecker Street the road is alive with yellow cabs. No need to hail one; you simply have to fend them off"

Ken and Elise his wife go to the cinema for a break and see Appaloosa which Ken seems to hate.

And more good writing:

"Return to Bleecker Street, where it's “go, man, go!” Jazz clubs, bars, eateries, rock venues, drugstores, sidewalk vintage-jewellery-that-only-looks-good-at-night shops - past midnight and still vying for customers. The absinthe-drinking contest at the local danceteria sounds promising, but we opt instead for a table half in and out of an Italian restaurant, where I have the best lasagna bolognese ever and Elise has a peach “fuzzy-wuzzy” cocktail. The balmy night air is alive with the sound of a city celebrating. Celebrating what? Celebrating that they're New Yorkers, I guess. Kerb-dwellers, bums, punks, tattooed bohemians, extravagant outfits, fur collars indistinguishable from matted hair, people whose guitars knock your kneecaps as you pass them on pavements, people who talk to themselves if no one else is responding, a T-shirt reading “I just killed a clown” and another, “I'm American - Entertain me”.

Ken finishes with a quote by Thomas Wolfe “One belongs to New York instantly - as much in five minutes as in five years.”

Posted by: Iain Fisher
« on: October 15, 2008, 12:17:45 AM »

Nothing by Ken today.