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Issue Seven. March/April 2010
0 4 | Spotlight
Mamma Mia!: Cinema's most maniacal movie matriarchs
1 4 | Art & Film
Jersey Boy: Painter, artist and poet Michael Medina
24 | Widescreen
Absent Presence: The synagogue as cinema by photographer Wojciech Wilczyk
3 0 | 1000 Words
Lionel Stander: One actor's bold stand against the horror of the Hollywood Blacklist
Cast your vote now for one of the following classic films:
cover image the manchurian candidate (courtesy park circus ltd.)
0 4 | Reel World
Calamity Jane Desperately Seeking Susan Electric Dreams Sexy Beast Theatre of Blood Zelig
Voting closes March 31st Results and screening details posted 1st April
‘It's a terrible thing to hate your mother. But I didn't always hate her. When I was a child, I only kind of disliked her.' Raymond Shaw
1 8 | One Sheet
Don't Look Back
3 4 | On Location
3 8 | Screengem
Anton's bolt gun
4 2 | Parting Shot
4 4 | Competition
4 6 | Listings
Back on the big screen
The Big Picture ISSN 1759-0922 © 2010 intellect Ltd. Published by Intellect Ltd. The Mill, Parnall Road. Bristol BS16 3JG / www.intellectbooks.com Editorial office Tel. 0117 9589910 / E: firstname.lastname@example.org Publisher Masoud Yazdani Senior Editor & Design Gabriel Solomons Editor Scott Jordan Harris Contributors Jez Conolly, Nicholas Page, Emma Simmonds, Daniel Steadman, Scott Jordan Harris, Tony Nourmand, Alison Elangasinghe, Gabriel Solomons Special thanks to John Letham, Sara Carlsson and all at Park Circus, Jelena Stanovnik, Michael Pierce at Curzon Cinemas and Gabriel Swartland at City Screen Please send all email enquiries to: email@example.com / www.thebigpicturemagazine.com l The Big Picture magazine is published six times a year
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f i l m b e yo n d t h e b o r d e r s o f t h e s c r e e n
GooGle 'a manchurian candidate'.
manchurian c a n d i d at e ? m a n c h u r i a n
wa s si rh an si rh an a
No film title has become a more evocative phrase, or a more emotive insult, than the term ‘Manchurian candidate’. scot t jordan harris examines its continued usage.
is barack obama a
Disconcertingly, the second result (beneath the film) is an article by hard-line lunatic David Kupelian characterizing the 2008 US presidential election as ‘a choice between a genuine war hero and a genuine Manchurian candidate’. (‘Obama was programmed for years by his atheist, Muslim father [sic], by the communist sex pervert Frank Marshall Davis, by con man Tony Rezko, by domestic terrorist Bill Ayers… by black liberation theology screamer Jeremiah Wright.’) As evidence
that such insane accusations are evenly spread across the political spectrum, Google’s second suggested search – after ‘Barack Obama Manchurian candidate’ – is ‘John McCain Manchurian candidate’. As Eric D. Snider of Film.com writes (in an article which Google ranks higher than Kupelian’s entry) ‘just about everyone who has run for president has at some point been called a “Manchurian candidate”’.
Similarly, almost every assassin since the 1960s (Sirhan Sirhan, slayer of Robert F. Kennedy, most famously) has also, at some point, been described as ‘a Manchurian candidate’. But what does the term mean? Does the title of John Frankenheimer’s film (and, of course, Richard Condon’s source novel) refer to the character of Raymond Shaw, who is programmed in Manchuria to return to
the US and murder in order to advance the communist cause, but who never stands for office, or to Senator Iselin, the vice-presidential candidate who benefits from Shaw’s unconscious killings but never visits Manchuria and is never brainwashed? ‘A Manchurian candidate’ is one of the most fascinating phrases ever to leak from film into international English: use it and everyone will know what you mean, but very few could write a decent definition. [tbp]
d i d at e ? can
c i n e m a ' s m a n i a c a l m at r i a r c h s
left angela lansbury and laurence harvey below frank sinatra and laurence harvey
The Manchurian candidaTe (1962)
Dir. John Frankenheimer
John Frankenheimer’s superlative thriller is a riveting medley of dastardly political machinations, romance, betrayal and brainwashing. Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) returns from battle in Korea with a Medal of Honour. With demonic conviction, Angela Lansbury plays Shaw’s mother, Mrs Iselin, a woman with ‘a tendency to refer to anyone who disagrees with anything she says as a communist’. The power behind her senator husband, Mrs Iselin is an arch manipulator and shrewd political mover and shaker. When Raymond’s war comrades – including Major Ben Marco (Frank Sinatra) – are plagued by identical nightmares it transpires that Raymond’s heroics are but a planted memory, which conceals a far more disturbing truth. In one of the great cinematic reveals, it is dear mother who steps out from behind the curtain to announce herself as the most formidable force in the film: a mother willing to use her son to dispatch the opponents to her ideology. The Manchurian Candidate is back in UK cinemas from 16 April.
cover feature Y
Images courtesy of Park Circus Limited
Whether control freaks, political players, nymphomaniacs or even the ungrateful dead, these memorable movie mothers exert unholy influence over their offspring. emma simmonds surveys cinema’s most maniacal matriarchs.
a superlative thriller that's a rivetinG medley of dastardly political machinations, romance, betrayal & brainwashinG.
spotliGht mamma mia!
Ma Mere (2005)
Dir. Ken Russell
The result of an extraordinary collaboration between incendiary filmmaker Ken Russell and rock group The Who, the hallucinogenic ‘rock opera’ Tommy tells the story of a boy rendered deaf, dumb and blind after witnessing his fighter-pilot father being murdered by his mother’s new lover (Oliver Reed). As played by Roger Daltrey, Tommy grows into an unlikely pinball champion (in a world where such a skill is highly lucrative). Blazing at the centre of this dizzying spectacle is Hollywood siren Ann-Margret, who gives a superbly unhinged and impressively unself-conscious performance as Tommy’s tragedienne mother, belting out her lines and attacking her role with demented relish. We see her grief-stricken, guilt-ridden, recklessly incompetent, deranged and cavorting in baked beans, before her ultimate reinvention as an entrepreneurial Virgin Mary figure. Like the rest of this barking mad musical, Margret’s performance exists primarily in the higher register.
helene is an icy, extreme libertarian: a damaGed and deeply troubled husk of a human beinG.
Dir. Christophe Honoré
Pierre (Louis Garrel) is a sullen, awkward teenager who has been raised by his grandmother. As the film opens, he is visiting his parents at their Canary Islands villa, where a tense and possibly even violent marital situation is apparent. The almost immediate death of his father conspicuously attracts little fanfare or emotional reaction. Instead, it leads his mother – who refers to him ominously as her ‘young lover’ – to take him out to the local nightspot, where she begins to unfurl her true, reckless and sexually uninhibited nature. Hélène is an icy, extreme libertarian: a damaged and deeply troubled husk of a human being, partial to gnomic pronouncements and hedonistic excess. Once her chilling character has been revealed, we watch scene after unsettling scene. She manipulates her son, and her young female friends, into taboo sexual situations featuring prostitution, sadomasochism and, eventually, an unsurprisingly destructive act of incest.
left louis garrel & isabelle huppert top right ann-margret, roger daltrey & oliver reed
c i n e m a ' s m a n i a c a l m at r i a r c h s
c i n e m a ' s m a n i a c a l m at r i a r c h s
Dir. Peter Jackson
Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme) is a young man drowning in an abundance of maternal attention. Despite a veneer of respectability, his mum, Vera (Elizabeth Moody), is a tyrant in a twinset and keeps her only child in virtual servitude. This being early Peter Jackson, Lionel’s circuitous route to freedom comes when a poisonous rat-monkey takes a chunk out of his mother’s arm whilst she’s spying on his tentative courtship with the charming Paquita (Diana Perñalver). Although the infection ultimately proves fatal, Vera is unsurprisingly made of steelier stuff than the average mortal: for her, death is paltry opposition. As the infection spreads throughout the town, Lionel and Paquita are soon battling hoards of the undead. During the incomparably gruesome finale, Vera morphs spectacularly into a mutant monolith matriarch; as Lionel slides inexorably toward her giant swollen belly (back from whence he came!) she informs him, with twisted satisfaction, ‘No one will ever love you like your mother’.
durinG the incomparably Gruesome finale, vera morphs spectacularly into a mutant monolith matriarch.
this adaptation doesn’t so much tarnish Joan crawford’s reputation as take a sledGehammer and smash it.
MoMMie dearesT (1981)
Dir. Frank Perry
According to her adopted daughter, Christina, having Joan Crawford as a mother made for a joyless, chaotic ordeal of a childhood. This picture, based on Christina’s book of the same name, paints Crawford as a compulsive cleaner, demented perfectionist, alcoholic, maneater and, most damningly, a cruel, brittle and occasionally violent mother. Faye Dunaway wears those famous eyebrows with aplomb, impressively capturing Crawford’s trademark zeal wrapped in a straitjacket of composure. The sequence in which Joan finds a lone wire hanger in Christina’s rack of dresses and, ranting and hissing, beats her savagely with it is one of the most infamously awful scenes in cinema. The book and film’s legacy are such that the expression ‘mommie dearest’ has become an ironic synonym for a callous mother. This adaptation doesn’t so much tarnish Joan Crawford’s reputation as take a sledgehammer and smash it.
above left mara hobel & faye dunaway opposite diana perÑalver as paquita
c i n e m a ' s m a n i a c a l m at r i a r c h s
Dir. Alfred Hitchcock
Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) lives by the motto ‘a boy’s best friend is his mother’. The mother in question is first heard as she barks at her son with an almost supernatural gusto, ostensibly from the family home which overlooks the Bates Motel. Yet it is almost as if it were a voice from the ether, a voice of damnation, not so much heard as felt. She is the domineering moral custodian to Norman’s peeping Tom. It seems that, whilst Norman merely looks, Mrs Bates strikes out, both punishing and figuratively enacting Norman’s sexual desires. Of course, it is subsequently revealed that Norman’s mother has been dead for years, murdered by her jealous son as she lay alongside her lover. Unable to stay parted from her, Norman plunders the grave, reinstating her corpse in the family home and resurrecting her character in his mind. The psychiatrist who examines Norman concludes sadly, ‘He tried to be his mother and now he is.’ [tbp]
left the unknown threat
it seems that, whilst norman merely looks, mrs bates strikes out, both punishinG and fiGuratively enactinG norman’s sexual desires.
Harold & Maude (1971)
pa i n t i n g i n s p i r e d b y c i n e m a
(over) after the last party’s over (1999) (left) untitled 2 (1998)
ready to collapse. A visit to the hospital determined that my trip to see Titanic was the likely cause of what was found to be my meningitis. I was 22, and convinced I was dying. Heavily medicated, I lay bedridden in a deep and kaleidoscopic dream. Colours rushed and images shuffled in my mind. I didn’t come out of that near coma until the next afternoon – but when I did visions and verses welled inside me. My first creation: an abstract Mother Theresalike figure, loosened from her chains, with a bevy of fallen daisies at her feet. A lyrical explanation of the composition was included. I became an instant painter/poet that day. Nevertheless, as a lover of film, I saw (and still see myself) as a director of pigment and wordplay. One of your most striking pictures was inspired by Spike Lee’s famous remark that racism is as integral to America as baseball or apple pie. Talk me through the creation, and the composition, of that painting. After the Last Party’s Over, a painting I created in 1999, was a response to a comment director Spike Lee had made in a 1993 political documentary called The Last Party. He said, ‘When you’re talking about America, you’re talking about baseball, apple pie, and racism’. The harsh parallels he was drawing, led me into a biblical parallel between the institutionalized racism Lee described, and the system which existed when Jesus faced the paranoid government of Rome. Fearing a Jewish revolt, the Romans made Jesus an ➜
i met michael medina online. Having learnt The Big Picture was searching for artists whose work responded to cinema, he contacted me and modestly proposed I might want to read his poetry. I apologized: as a visually-focused magazine, there was little we could do with a poet. ‘No problem,’ said Michael: ‘he was also a painter.’ Here’s an introduction to the evocative, and occasionally controversial, visions of Michael Medina.
'a visit to the hospital determined that my Titanic trip was the likely cause of what was found to be my meningitis. i was 22, and convinced i was dying. '
Michael Medina is a painter, poet and teacher – but his Twitter name is @FillmBuffDude. scot t jordan harris spoke with an artist whose every work is informed by film. paintings photographed by Jeff leifer. ➜
Most people reading this will be able to recall seeing Titanic in a crowded cinema in 1997, but I doubt it had the effect on many of them that it had on you. Tell us what happened. My fellow cinemagoers were coughing and sneezing throughout the picture. I didn’t enjoy the spread of their germs, or the film. The following days saw my body break down. Breathing was difficult. I was
art&film michael medina
A fellow student, who was also a film buff, began to discuss what he felt should be our nation’s response to the attacks. Somehow, Michael Moore’s name entered into our conversation, and the student mentioned that Moore had been working on a documentary about Columbine and the fascination that Americans have with guns. I told him that any attempts Moore was to make at a cautionary tale about what had already happened would just be pointless. I was in the process of painting, so I added a hieroglyphic depiction of the Columbine shooting with a tribute to Christian martyr, Rachel Joy Scott. At that point, I began filling the painting with any images that referred to time and prophesy. From there, I added subliminal comments on everything from Kenneth Anger’s ties to the Ordo Templi Orientis, to the parables of Christ towards the Pharisees. The Russian director Sergei Parajanov came to mind, as his work pays tribute to past decades while, simultaneously, touches of contemporary filmmaking technique link the past and present in a single moment. The Time Travelers speaks of the passage of time and filmmaking converging: the concept of film as a series of still photographs is the central focus of the work. Everything is painted to seem ‘frozen in time’, while even the series of glowing green lines running off the edge of the interior and into space offer a literal ‘timeline’ of sorts. They also remind the viewer that, like time, film is a moving series of frozen moments. What influence has Parajanov had on your work in general? To any artist who is lucky ➜ enough to discover his genius, Parajanov can only serve as an inspiration. What impresses me most is his hands-on approach in presenting a personal vision on screen. Not only did he direct and write his stunningly potent film Color of Pomegranates, but he also served as art director, editor, and even choreographer. Parajanov’s love of his art is a phenomenon with which any artist can identify. Refusing to succumb to the tyranny of Russian socialism, his imprisonment in the 1970s freed his spirit; he continued to create, making wonderful, spiritually-rich collage works that are as visually striking as anything he put on celluloid. As a Christian, I’ve become aware that some of the themes in my own work have, at times, been misunderstood by many, but Parajanov has taught me a valuable truth: in order to create art that is respectable, you must stay within the confines of your familiarities. To stray from what you know and who you are is to lose your dignity as an artist. Aside from painting, you also write poetry – and that, too, is heavily influenced by film. Why is it that your passion for movies has pushed you, not to make films, but to make other works influenced by them? I’ll bet my house any filmlover has entertained some daydream of directing their favourite picture, or one based on their own unsung screenplay. This has always been a dream of mine as well, but, since it’s still a dream, I have only a growing appreciation for others who have given their life to film. They’re truly risk-takers, since not only are they not guaranteed success, but even when they achieve it, they can take what critics label ‘a wrong turn’, resulting in irrevocable damage to their reputation. Perhaps, if I ever have the means, I’ll make a turkey or two. Until then, I’ll remain in awe of those amazing risktakers. [tbp] This interview will continue on The Big Picture website.
untitled 1 (1998)
example of what could happen to those opposed to their authority. Hence: the crown of thorns and the cross in the painting. This piece proved prophetic when The Passion of the Christ became the subject of passionate debate over Mel Gibson’s alleged anti-Semitism. The themes in the work came full circle when, later that year, Gibson’s sentiments about the content of his movie mirrored another infamous Spike Lee statement, about the depiction of Jewish people in film: ‘There’s an unwritten law that you cannot have a Jewish character in a film who isn’t 100 per cent perfect, or you’re
labeled anti-Semitic’. You’ve stated that The Time Travelers is influenced by Kenneth Anger, Tim Burton, and Sergei Parajanov, and also contains a reference to Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine. Tell us how. This piece was created a week after September 11, 2001. It was painted on the top floor of the Art building at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, where wall-to-wall windows provided a clear view of the still-smoking aftermath of the attacks. We, as art students, naturally tried to internalize what we had witnessed just a week beforehand from that same room.
'The Time Travelers speaks of the passage of time and filmmaking converging; the concept of film as a series of still photographs is the central focus of the work.'
(above) the time travellers (2001)
[fILMMakEr ] Sergei Parajanov [fILM ] Color of Pomegranates
deconstructing film posters
h o l ly w o o d h as a lways liked the classic good-guyversus-bad-guy tale. The bad guys invariably embody the greatest socio or political fears of the day, from the drug lords of the 1920s and the Mafia bosses of the 1930s, to the Nazis of the 1940s. In the 1950s and 1960s the bad guy embodied the threat to democracy posed by the cold war. This was an altogether murkier and harder enemy to pin down and one that hid behind layers of conspiracy, secrets and lies. Against such a political backdrop, the spy thriller was box-office gold. Alongside the more straightforward narratives of the Bond films or Our Man Flint (1966), there were also more complex and intelligent films coming out of this genre. The most celebrated of these remains The Ipcress File (1965). The Ipcress File was a fresh examination of espionage. In place of a debonair, Oxbridge-
Paranoia isn’t pretty – unless it’s represented on one of these classic movie posters. tony nourmand , of the Reel Poster Gallery, examines the images used to advertise four first-rate paranoia thrillers.
educated man of mystery, Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer was a truculent, unglamorous hero. The use of Harry’s glasses as a framing device in the film, and on this stunning rare British poster, serve to emphasize both this fresh take on the genre and also the themes of paranoia, and of being constantly watched, which pervade the film. ➜
the ipcress file (1965) original british / art by angelo cesselon ➜
www.reelposter.com [arTIST ] Zdenêk Vlach [arTIST ] Jerzy flisak
The threat to american society was no longer coming from the cold war enemy to the east, but from within america’s own government and leading institutions.
the parallax view / pohled spolecnosti parallax (1974) original czechoslovakian / art by zdenek vlach all the president’s men (1976) original us / artist unknown
ten years l ater , and back across the Atlantic, the thriller genre had taken a darker turn. The 1970s saw the birth of a sub-genre of subversive and Orwellian ‘paranoia thrillers’. The threat to American society was no longer coming from the cold war enemy to the East, but from within America’s own government and leading institutions. These themes were a reflection of an American society reeling from Vietnam, Watergate and various corporate scandals.
The Parallax View (1974) and All the President’s Men (1976) are parts two and three of Alan J. Pakula’s ‘paranoia trilogy’ (which began with Klute in 1971), and two of the standout films in the sub-genre. Zdenêk Vlach (1942–1999) was one of the leading Czech poster artists of his generation, designing over 200 film posters between 1963 and 1989 and winning several awards for his work; his startling poster for The Parallax View depicts the faceless corporation that is the enemy in the film. Although much more traditional in style, one interesting design
feature of the American poster for All the President’s Men is the dense newspaper print running behind the image of Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford. It is a fitting touch, as the story of the two Washington Post journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal remains not only one of the greatest paranoia thrillers, but also one of the greatest journalism films ever made. Released in the same year as The Parallax View, Francis Ford
Coppola’s The Conversation was another paranoid parable, swimming in conspiracy theories and uncertainties. The film was a comment on the erosion of privacy within American society and this striking Polish poster is an apt reflection of this. Famous for his satirical cartoons, Jerzy Flisak (b. 1930) was a perfect choice: he is a respected graphic artist who has designed several book and magazine covers and won a number of awards. His work has been exhibited worldwide. [tbp] march/april 2010
the conversation / rozmowa (1974) original polish / art by Jerzy flisak
AfricAn / nigeriAn AmericAn – Hollywood AmericAn – independent directory of ArAb AustrAlAsiAn britisH cAnAdiAn cHinese eAst europeAn frencH‘Japanese filmmakers have constantly been at the forefront of international cinema, delivering distinctive films across a wide germAn range of genres; the Directory of World Cinema: Japan is intended to complement their cinematic achievements by providing an informed insight into a national cinema that is as irAniAn culturally representative as it is socially revealing.’ – John Berra indiAn itAliAn JApAnese russiAn swedisH Visit the website and explore the volume for free turkisH spAnisH / portuguese soutH AmericAn / brAziliAn rest of tHe world (including isrAel, www . worldcinemadirectory. org koreA, denmArk, fin lAnd, norwAy And icelAnd,
The Directory of World Cinema: Japan provides an insight into the cinema of Japan through reviews of significant titles and case studies of leading directors, alongside explorations of the cultural and industrial origins of key genres. The cinematic lineage of samurai warriors, yakuza enforcers and atomic monsters take their place alongside the politically charged works of the Japanese new wave, making this a truly unique volume. A printed version of the Directory is now available, please visit www.intellectbooks.com to find out more.
* Learn more about the project and the rest of the series * Comment on any of the reviews * Write your own film or director reviews * Offer to edit a volume of the directory
Forthcoming volumes include: American Independent | Australia & New Zealand
film in a wider context
wolsztyn, synagogue poznanska street 17
It’s not often that a movie theatre’s actual physicality comes into question, but, as these images by Polish photographer wojciech wilczyk testify, there are some places in which cinema never belonged. introduction and interview by gabriel solomons. ➜
Following the h olocaust and the near-annihilation of Poland’s Jewish population during World War II, much of the religious landscape of the country was transformed forever. Synagogues and prayer houses – the cornerstones of Jewish religious and cultural life – were either destroyed or else ‘converted’ to suit other purposes, becoming garages, fire stations, warehouses or – in the best circumstances – libraries and cultural centres. Occasionally though, and in what could be seen as an attempt on the part of the Polish authorities to raise spirits following the devastating German occupation, a few synagogues were converted into cinemas. Polish photographer Wojciech Wilczyk was intrigued enough by this example of ‘architectural reclamation’ to search out and document the current state of every remaining synagogue and prayer house dotted around his country – the result of which is the stunning book, and accompanying exhibition, There’s No Such Thing as an Innocent Eye. Aided by Eleonora Bergman and Jan Jagielski’s catalogue Preserved Synagogues and Prayer Houses of Poland (published by the Jewish Historical Institute in 1996), Wilczyk was able to locate and photograph each site methodically, often encountering local people with surprising and – on occasion – shocking views about his project. The final collection of photographs – stark, unstylized images that treat the subject honestly and with respect – is a timely reminder of how important it is not just to remember the past, but also to act responsibly in the present. ➜
(top) obrzycko synagogue krupicka street 5 (above) pszczyna synagogue bramkowa street
widescreen absent presence
(left) slomniki synagogue krakowska street 23 (below) lasczow beit hamidrash
'i didn’t shoot the interiors, even though i tried on more than one occasion. all the synagogues, Beyt ha-Midrash and houses of prayer were destroyed after september 1939 (they were burnt, devastated or stripped) and their interiors suffered the most damage.'
What was the reasoning behind the title of the book/ exhibition – There's No Such Thing as an Innocent Eye? I took the project’s name from the title of the review by the Polish art critic Bogusław Deptuła, who reviewed the 2006 ‘New Documentary’ group exhibition which included some of my work. In his text he accused the artists who took part of a ‘lack of social engagement’ – a comment that I treated as a personal challenge. The title refers to an understanding of ‘realism’ in painting at the end of the eighteenth century that was concerned with the limitations of objective representations of reality. Of course, one can read the title quite literally and in a way put the blame on the observer. Frankly, I’ve chosen a deliberately ambiguous title. There were some surprising remarks and comments made by people that you encountered and which appear at the end of your book. Did any of these remarks – especially the anti-Semitic ones – shock you in any way? Did they reaffirm current resentments against the Jews that you knew existed, or did travelling into some of these more remote Polish outposts offer any new insights? I was shocked indeed that all these anti-Semitic stereotypes still persist to this extent, especially as there are hardly any Jews still living in Poland. I would not say that I have learned anything new – my experience rather confirmed what I had already known. All of the photographs are exterior shots. Did you document the interiors in any way and, if not, was there the urge to do so? I didn’t shoot the interiors, even though I tried on more than one occasion. All the synagogues, Beyt Ha-Midrash and houses of prayer were destroyed after September 1939 (they were burnt, devastated or stripped) and their interiors suffered the
widescreen absent presence
most damage. I eventually decided that every building would be represented in the book with only one photo, as including photos of the interiors would have made the project incoherent. Were many of the residents you encountered aware of the buildings’ histories? Did any of these encounters affect the work you were doing? A lot of the residents were aware of the buildings’ histories, but unpleasant situations, and sometimes even hostility from the locals, only spurred me on to continue with the project. Do you have any personal feelings about the way that these synagogues have been transformed? In other words: do you feel they have been 'desecrated' in any way by the nature of their ongoing modifications? I’m aware that in Western Europe many church buildings are sold or converted for different functions. However, the situation with former Polish synagogues is quite different, as the people who conducted prayers in them were brutally exterminated by the Nazis. The Poles – taking into account the memory of Polish Jews, our former neighbours – should treat these buildings with respect and should care for them, because they are ‘natural’ monuments to the millions murdered. I’m an atheist, but felt uncomfortable visiting Liverpool two years ago (while taking part in the photographic project Cities on the Edge curated by John Davies) because a former church had been converted into a climbing centre. So why were these synagogues converted into cinemas? The majority of synagogues have a big open space, used as a prayer room, suitable not only for cinemas, but also for garages, fire stations, warehouses, or – in the best scenario – for libraries or cultural institutions. After World War II, the communists nationalized all the former private synagogues, Beyt HaMidrash or houses of prayer. Why Polish people didn’t object to converting these buildings, or to their further destruction, is a very good question. It is also a great disgrace of our nation. There are recurring themes of death, decay, transformation, abandonment, religion and memory in your photographic work. What is it that fascinates you about these subjects? For a long time I was interested in contemporary motifs of vanitas (emptiness) that can be seen and experienced in our surrounding reality – most probably because I’m a bit of a pessimist. At present, though, I’m more drawn to socially engaged, ‘interventionist’ themes. My most recent project, which I’m currently working on, is of graffiti by Polish football fans with all the accompanying racist symbols and slogans. Have you received good feedback to the book and exhibition? As far as I know people have reacted really positively to the project. It’s been good to receive recognition and understanding, not only from professionals specializing in the history of Polish Jewry or synagogue architecture, but also from contemporary art curators, critics and artists. Are there any plans to bring the exhibition to the UK? Unfortunately, for now there are no exhibition plans for the UK. After Chemnitz (Germany), the exhibition will move to Bucharest, then in the autumn to Paris and by the end of this year to the USA. [tbp] There's No Such Thing as an Innocent Eye is available from select bookstores. See more at: www.wilczykphoto.com
bydgoszcz-fordon synagogue 21 stycznia street 22
'The Poles – taking into account the memory of Polish Jews, our former neighbours – should treat these buildings with respect and should care for them, because they are ‘natural’ monuments to the millions murdered.'
(top) lipno old synagogue mickiewicza street 33 (above) nowy targ synagogue Jana kazimierza street 17
See more of Wojciech Wilczyk's project work at www.wilczykphoto.com
m o m e n t s t h at c h a n g e d c i n e m a f o r e v e r
(right) lionel stander attends the house of unamerican commitee hearings (1953)
The horror of The hollywood BlacklisT changed noT only american film, BuT also american socieTy, forever.
Jez Connolly takes a look at one actor who made a stand against it. lionel stander ➜
to a Generation of tv viewers he was instantly recognizable as Max, craggy chauffeur to Jonathan and Jennifer in the super-cheesy 1980s’ series Hart to Hart. When not grooming the family dog, Freeway, Max was to be heard declaring of his employers: ‘When they met – it was moider!’ But over 30 years earlier Lionel Stander’s career had taken a sudden left turn, and this resulted in a fateful appointment before the members of the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The HUAC was a congressional committee that held hearings on the film and entertainment industries on numerous occasions between 1938 and 1958. One product of this McCarthy-era ministry was the now infamous Hollywood Blacklist (born on 25 November 1947 when ten writers and directors, soon to become known as ‘the Hollywood Ten’, were cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions ➜
put to them by HUAC members). Propelled by rampant and hysterical fears about communism’s increasing influence in Hollywood, over 300 industry personnel were denied employment because of their suspected political beliefs and/or social associations. Stander was certainly active in leftist politics, but never officially a member of the communist party. Among his many extra-curricular activities, he was an organizer of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), a member of the Hollywood Anti-Fascist League and a supporter of the activist Conference of Studio Unions (CSU) in its fight against the Mafia-controlled International Alliance of Stage Employees. Stander had felt the heat from the HUAC as early as 1940, when he began to have difficulty finding work because of his outspoken views. Prior to this he had enjoyed a successful early career, working with the likes of Frank Capra and Preston Sturges. The HUAC’s struggle to present concrete examples of subversion was illustrated by their citing of Stander whistling the ‘Internationale’ while waiting for an elevator in No Time to Marry (Harry Lachman, 1938). After three years without work he took the opportunity to make ten films between 1943 and 1946, when the HUAC was inactive because of the war, but its resurgence, and establishment of the blacklist, brought Stander back into radar range of the committee. In a hearing dated 21 March 1951, the actor Larry Parks, one of the committee’s so-called ‘friendly witnesses’, gave Stander’s name under questioning. Although no further accusation was made against him during the hearing, Stander, who had worked consistently on television shows in the months before Parks’ testimony, again fell from favour within the industry.
'here was a man prepared to display courage and no small measure of theatrical ability in his disparaging of the committee.'
At a further hearing in April 1951, actor and known communist sympathizer Marc Lawrence named Stander as a member of his Hollywood communist cell, testifying that Stander ‘was the guy who introduced me to the party line’. Upon hearing of this, Stander sued Lawrence for slander, and contacted HUAC chairman John S. Wood to request an opportunity to appear before the committee and swear under oath that he was not a communist. Over two years later, on 6 May 1953, Stander finally had his moment in front of the committee. His appearance marked a turning point in the hearings: here was a man ➜ march/april 2010
1000 words lionel stander
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[Book] Tender Comrades, a Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist [TV SHoW] Heart to Heart
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prepared to display courage and no small measure of theatrical ability to disparage the committee. He began by pledging his full support in the fight against ‘subversive’ activities and went on to tell his inquisitors: 'I know of a group of fanatics who are desperately trying to undermine the Constitution of the United States by depriving artists and others of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness without process of law … and these people are engaged in the conspiracy, outside all the legal processes, to undermine our very fundamental American concepts upon which our entire system of jurisprudence exists.' Stander was, of course, referring to the HUAC itself. In an interview (for Tender Comrades: A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist, by Patrick McGilligan and Paul Buhle) conducted just before his death in 1994, Stander explained why he took the brave decision to come out fighting: 'I decided that when I appeared before the Committee I would expose them as being the un-Americans … I defied the Committee, using every constitutional amendment there was to keep them from shutting me up … I attacked them as being part of a conspiracy to impose censorship on American theater and film, because as soon as you tell people who they can’t and won’t hire, you also tell them what they can and can’t present. That was my line, and I got away with it.'
After the hearing, Stander was mobbed by reporters and the next day he was on the front page of every major US newspaper. He was a hero to many people for his courageous stand, but anti-communists hated him all the more. He may have made an impact that day, but to say he ‘got away with it’ is far from the case. His screenacting career went into free fall. For the rest of the decade he worked as a stockbroker on Wall Street, a journeyman stage actor, a corporate spokesman, even a New Orleans Mardi Gras king. He didn't return to Broadway until 1961 and to film until 1963, in Larry Moyer’s low-budget beatnik picture The Moving Finger. Around this time he struck up a working relationship with Tony Richardson, for whom he provided numerous stage performances. In 1966 Roman Polanski cast Stander in his only starring role, as the thug Dickie in Cul-de-sac, opposite Françoise Dorléac and Donald Pleasence. Stander stayed in Europe and eventually settled in Rome, where he appeared in many spaghetti westerns, most notably playing a bartender named Max in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). While in Rome Stander befriended Robert Wagner, and it was this acquaintance that led to the TV role with which Stander became most associated: a role that marked his return to the American mainstream. [tbp]
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t h e p l a c e s t h at m a k e s t h e m o v i e s
below James stewart
In the looming shadow of the White House, dreams are made and broken. nichol as page steps tentatively into Washington State, Hollywood’s most treacherous arena of political intrigue. all images: kobal collection
Mr. sMiTh Goes To WashinGTon (1939)
Dir. Frank Capra USA, 129 minutes Starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains
Not only his last film for Columbia Pictures, but also perhaps his most successful, Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington stars a fresh-faced James Stewart as Jefferson Smith, an innocent country kid who becomes embroiled in the dangerous game of politics. It is a role that, while not necessarily written for Stewart, later became a somewhat archetypal one in the late actor’s long and sparkling career. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington also marks a turning point in Capra’s career as a director, for it is in this film that Capra sheds the optimism that so defined his earlier work.
t h e p l a c e s t h at m a k e s t h e m o v i e s
opposite ruth roman right dustin hoffman, robert redford and company
sTranGers on a Train (1951)
Dir. Alfred Hitchcock USA, 101 minutes Starring Robert Walker, Farley Granger, Ruth Roman
Less political than some of his other work, and indeed most of the other films on this list, Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train was released in 1951 and marked the great director’s return to form after a string of commercial failures. Coadapted by famed noir-writer Raymond Chandler from a novel by Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train follows two young men as they ‘exchange murders’. The film explores one of Hitchcock’s favourite themes: the evil lurking in even the most ordinary of lives.
below kevin costner
all The PresidenT’s Men (1976)
Dir. Alan J. Pakula USA, 138 minutes Starring Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden
Concerning Woodward and Bernstein (the two Washington Post journalists whose tireless investigation of the Watergate scandal essentially ended the Nixon presidency), Alan J. Pakula’s All the President’s Men is the classic political thriller. Released almost five years after the scandal had gripped America, and a couple years after the resignation of President Richard Nixon, All the President’s Men was very well-received when released in 1976: riding the star power of lead duo Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford to commercial and critical success.
Dir. Oliver Stone USA, 189 minutes Starring Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones
Oliver Stone’s account of the Kennedy assassination provoked much criticism when it was released due to its controversial nature and glaring factual inconsistencies. Despite raising some public awareness as to what really happened in Dealey Plaza on 22 November 1963, as well as pushing the government to hand over secret files related to the event, JFK was a mixed bag for Stone, with Hollywood both rewarding and scalding the director for tackling such a controversial subject. march/april 2010
The More the Merrier (1943) / Born Yesterday (1950) / In the Line of fire (1993)
e vo c at i v e o b j e c t s o n s c r e e n
A slaughterhouse gadget put to alarmingly inappropriate use, the bolt pistol employed by No Country For Old Men’s emotionless assassin perfectly complements its owner’s discreet malice. daniel steadman examines the ultimate rustic murder weapon.
an assass i n ’s w e a p o n should be unobtrusive. It should be plain and easily concealed. A contraption comprising an orange, hose-like tube attached to a 2-foot-tall steel canister would appear not to fit this description – but reason does not apply to Anton Chigurh, the monstrous, mop-haired madman who stalks the lonely deserts of the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men. Few cinematic murder weapons are as malevolent, bizarre or effective as Chigurh’s customized bolt pistol. A brutal device intended to stun farm animals; the body is essentially a highly pressurized air canister, operated by a levered trigger mechanism. Releasing this concentrated gas (through a steel nozzle) perforates the skull whilst leaving a relatively clean wound – intended for preventing meat spoilage, but equally useful for dispatching the unfortunates on a hit man’s hit list. Chigurh is fully intended to be the devil himself: a chilling, one-man apocalypse. The trail of death he leaves behind is notable for its lack of fuss. There’s no attempt to make the life of an assassin seem courageous or even trivial: it’s just a gory, necessary job. Though Javier Bardem’s career-defining performance wrings much of the menace from the character, he’s only half of a pair of unforgettable killing machines. Both fascinate us: as an audience we’re transfixed by the majesty of this weapon, watching filled with horror and sickened intrigue. [tbp]
anton chiGurh's Y
chiGurh is fully intended to be the devil himself: a chillinG, oneman apocalypse.
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Worn by fans, film stars and – at the Kill Bill premiere – by Jonathon Ross, Bruce Lee’s Game of Death jumpsuit is perhaps cinema’s most influential outfit. s c o t t j o rdan harris tries it on.
21 Jump Suits
(below) taimak as leroy green the last dragon (bottom) uma thurman as beatrice kiddo kill bill (vol.1)
b r u c e l e e i s f i l m ’s m o st imitated idol. Aside from his renowned influence on fans, followers and reputable filmmakers, Lee's brilliant career and early death inspired the infamously atrocious Bruceploitation picture, a substandard sub-genre populated with impersonators with names like Bruce Le, Bruce Li, Bruce Lo and Lee Bruce. Whilst no one has ever recreated Lee’s onscreen skills, his onscreen apparel has proved easier to imitate. Both Lee and his famed yellow and black jumpsuit appeared in 1978’s Game of Death for only minutes: the film’s centrepiece pagoda sequence was filmed in 1972 (Lee died the following year) and the remainder of the movie was constructed around it, with Lee’s role played by an absurd series of interchangeable stand-ins. Nevertheless, the segment was so outstanding, and the international hunger for Lee so insatiable, that the jumpsuit became instantly iconic. It reappeared, on the back of the aforementioned mimic Bruce Le, in the ridiculous rip-off Enter the Game of Death (1980) and again in parodic American martial arts movie The Last Dragon (1985), in which it is worn by a young black kung-fu aficionado, nicknamed ‘Bruce Leroy’, who is forced to face ‘the Shogun of Harlem… Sho’nuff ’. No movie was ever more aware of the history of the kung-fu film than Kill Bill (2003/4). When, in its first volume, Uma Thurman’s Beatrice Kiddo arrives in Tokyo hunting Lucy Liu’s O-Ren Ishii, and fights her enemy’s entire private army, there was, of course, only one outfit Quentin Tarantino would allow her to wear. [tbp]
'in The last dragon the suit is worn by a young black kungfu aficionado, nicknamed ‘Bruce leroy’, who is forced to face ‘the shogun of harlem… sho’nuff’.
Enter the Game of Death (1980) / Bruce Lee: a Warrior's Journey (2000)
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Putting the movies back where they belong...
The Manchurian Candidate (1962) Dir. John frankenheimer Ma Mere (2005) Dir. Christophe Honoré
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Strangers on a Train (1951) Dir. alfred Hitchcock
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all the President's Men (1976) Dir. alan J. Pakula
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This edition of The Big Picture has been produced in partnership with Park Circus, who are committed to bringing classic films back to the big screen.
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Tommy (1975) Dir.kurt russell
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Jfk (1991) Dir. oliver Stone
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Mommie Dearest (1981) Dir. frank Perry
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No Country for old Men (2007) Dirs. Joel & Ethan Coen
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Braindead (1992) Dir. Peter Jackson
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Game of Death (1978) Dir. robert Clouse
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Psycho (1960) Dir. alfred Hitchcock
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The Last Dragon (1985) Dir. Michael Schultz
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Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939) Dir. frank Capra
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kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) Dir. Quentin Tarantino
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Looking for something less sugary after Easter indulgencies? John Frankenheimer's Award-winning 1962 cool cult classic The Manchurian Candidate will be back in cinemas this spring. With an all-star cast including Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury, this political suspense thriller centres on the mysterious behaviour of a US Army hero. The Manchurian Candidate is being rereleased from 16 April at BFI Southbank and selected cinemas around the country.
More details of cinema screenings of these and other classic movies from the Park Circus catalogue can be accessed via: www.backincinemas.com
In the next issue of The Big Picture, read more about Pandora And The Flying Dutchman, Albert Lewin's stylish 1950 masterpiece starring James Mason and Ava Gardner. The restored version of the film will be opening from 14 May at BFI Southbank and selected cinemas.
the big picture issue 8 available 10 may 2010
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