A few months ago I caught Jackie (2016) which for a prolonged scene/montage we saw Jacqueline Kennedy beginning to grieve, preparing for her late husbands funeral. Playing throughout the scene and on the soundtrack is the stage version of Camelot as performed by Richard Burton. We learn later on that JFK saw himself as Camelot, clearly inspiration for him politically and ideology. The track – Camelot stayed with me for sometime after I came out of the cinema. I had to download it to satisfy the ear-worm that was now taking up residence in my head. It’s been about 6 months since I saw both the film and first listened again to the track. It’s been on a number of times in the car. Listening to the track out of context of the musical which I knew still nothing about. I find myself singing along to the track, picking up odd lines, still not ready to take it to karaoke yet – I will be one day. Listening to the lyrics I began to understand part of what the world that Richard Burton was trying to paint to his Guenevere, as if he was selling her his form of paradise. The climate in the kingdom of Camelot is ideal throughout the year. It’s all in decree by the king himself, making sure its all orderly, very British, allowing us to get one with the more important things – like afternoon tea.
Translating this back to the later film I have already got a better understanding of the film and the short-lived presidency of JFK, who dreamed of a utopian new America, which a large number bought into during the cold war, that’s ignoring his many critics who would rather him be out off office. Still that leads into the realm of conspiracies which I’m not going into/entertain. Anyway moving away from the more recent film connection, I first attempted to watch this musical over a year ago. It didn’t go well if I’m honest, it lasted less than 5 minutes before I gave up. The idea of Richard Harris singing it didn’t sit with me beyond the description in the listings. Then somewhere down the line I saw Paint Your Wagon (1969) where again I found actors who aren’t really suited to this world of the all singing and dancing numbers. But I stayed with it due to my curiosity for the film. Both Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood would never have claimed to be singers. They were passable with a lot of training to put it politely, they were having a ball making the film. The much can be said for Camelot, a cast that is not really known for their singing abilities.
I think this time around with Camelot (1967), with the later film and the curiosity again I actually told myself to sit through it, plus wanting to see Camelot and sing along to the number above. It’s not really a song that on the surface is too hard to sing (not suggesting training went into the performance) however it has that William Shatner sound of talking the words which he aced with his rendition of Rocket Man. Could this be a speaking musical – if such a term exists? The main casting of this film is rather unusual yet I stuck with it. I found Harris to be a decent King Arthur without chewing up the set. Vanessa Redgrave‘s Guenevere wasn’t such as easy fit, more suited to drama’s I guess this was a finding her style role, seeing if she could, which to a certain extent she does. The musical numbers aren’t the grandest songs in musical history.
I did find myself still drawn to the Jackie connection, how did the Kennedy’s connect to the musical? For me it was the idea of uniting all the counties, each fighting among themselves. Arthur decides to unite the fighting knights to fight for right. Inviting all the knights of the realm/country to join him, lay down their arms and join him around the famous round table. One that I saw a recreation in Winchester a few years ago, hanging up and looking like a precursor to a dart board. Flyers go out across the country and before too long we see men riding in full armour towards the kingdom. Thats not before one of the flyers reaches France into the hands of Lancelot Du Lac (Franco Nero) yes a french knight played by an Italian whose not even trying to do the accent, probably because it would have sounded worse. I for one was constantly thinking about him dragging a coffin through a town in Django (1966). He just was poorly cast for a Frenchmen, probably seen as way to boost his international profile Hollywood. Better working with Sergio Corbucci, the role would have been better served by Omar Sharif in terms of accent – maybe. However Nero did bring an air of mystery, the practically unknown to everyone until Arthur remembers what Merlin Laurence Naismith predicted that he would sit with him around a table (not knowing it was round). This is naughty love interest for Guenevere that soon takes hold as she starts to pit others against him in hopes of driving him away or to prove to herself if he’s worthy of her affections, that were too quickly won by Arthur and his selling of paradise.
It’s this idea of paradise that he wants to spread across the country, the start of modern Britain, lawmakers and government not just by one monarch which is essentially a dictatorship without the advisors. Bringing all these knights likes Senators of the 50 states of America together in Washington for greater good than they’d been doing before obviously inspired. Was JFK essentially dreaming of a better world that was now entering the 2nd decade of the Cold War. He oversaw the Cuban missile crisis, encouraged the space programme among other things. Now the use of Camelot in Jackie makes a lot more sense, enriching the film in terms of the relationship that’s now being grieved for. It’s a reminder of what’s essentially a reminder, a memento of stage production, and inspiration for a man. I come away with all of this after a film that is definitely watchable, lots if a fun and songs you don’t really need to have a great voice to have fun with.
One of those films that has been sitting on my shelf for a few months but never really got around to watch until last night. I was made aware of this by one of my lecturers at art school during a crit-group of another students work, which saw a portrait being blown up gradually to the point that there is only an abstract image that only a photocopier would ever produce, picking up the detail. Blow-Up (1966) was the natural film interpretation to make really when you think about it that sees a photographer Thomas (David Hemmings) who witnesses more than he had ever considered after being caught photographing a couple in the park.
What starts out as just another successful photographer in up and coming London, it’s not the image of the swinging sixties that footage today shows us. There’s an edge of something more sinister at play on the streets as a group of mine artists run riot through the city. Before focusing on an arrogant young photographer Thomas (Hemmings) who expects more from his models that they know they can give. He a typical example of the affluence of a new generation who are breaking through in the decade. Spending his money on antiques and photographing factory workers to couples in the park, constantly inspired, not held back by social restrictions, a free spirit with the confidence of the day.
Yet it’s that couple in the park which catches his attention, mainly that of Jane (Vanessa Redgrave) a siren in the park with a much older man, seemingly free to enjoy each others company, until they realise they are being photographed by a stranger who dodges about in comic book style from tree to tree, gauging those angles and shots that will complete his work. A confrontation is not enough to hand over the negatives, something that he will later wish he had done.
Later on she finds him after he has drive around London in his open-top Rolls-Royce, a symbol of the power that he has. Jane will not leave until she has her film so no one can see the photos. Something that Thomas won’t allow, knowing his way around women he believes he can fool her and still have his way. An element in the film that at times can feel frivolous, which comes in handy later on in the film.
When left alone the film really hits its peak when the creative energy and investigative energies are unleashed when Thomas starts to develop the photographs, to reveal something more than just a couple in the park. More dark tones are revealed in the images. He is transfixed to them, wanting to find out more. Studying them scrupulously with intense detail and time. Blowing up sections to reveal more than he had first captured through a small lens of a professional camera. A simple image can reveal more when you start to study it in great detail. Opening up new aspects of the world that he never knew existed, away from the sex and drugs that fill his, lays a darker one where lives are at stake. And he has the power to reveal all, start with a camera and an enlarging machine that can reveal more than before.
Technology that is used to capture beautiful images of live can also capture the darker sides, an image can have many interpretations as our photographer learns. The power to capture a simple image, to the hidden truths that lurk in the shadows. Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni who lets the camera just roll, capturing live just as it happens at times. With minimal dialogue it replicates the sometimes emptiness of our day, allowing us to process the information and images. To enjoy and think more than anything, something which I enjoyed previously with The Passenger (1975) and find here again on the streets of London where we are left thinking that our creative passions can lead us into trouble when we let ourselves loose seeing where they lead us. Creating an intense thriller that takes us where the average guy would never dream of finding himself.