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April 17, 2011

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The Siren

I recognized this right away! The movie had an amazingly swinging look to it. Love these caps. Disappointing not very funny for me in most parts, though; talk about dated humor. That climax (so to speak) with Rita Tushingham could really make you understand why she so bugged Manny Farber.

haice

God bless Richard Lester.
To quote Julie Christie in TONIGHT LET'S ALL MAKE LOVE IN LONDON: "...a dolly girl does what she likes...dresses how she feels..has a wonderful time..no one cares.."

Glenn Kenny

@ Haice: Amen.

@ The Siren: It's true, it's not all that funny, at least not funny ha-ha, and I think that of course has to do with the humor being dated, but also with it being humor of a particular sort...its specific dryness and absurdity reminds me of a lot of the Goon stuff that I just didn't "get," whereas I got, and STILL get, ALL of Python, say. There's a lot of similar humor in Lester's "The Bed-Sitting Room." I think it' a testament to Lester's versatility that he was equally adept at this sort of thing as he was with more American yuck-producing. "The Knack" still gets by on sheer visuals; not just the people and the clothes and the framing and all that, but the precision of the cutting, which is exquisitely judged and timed. Mr. Soderbergh reckons it as one of Lester's three masterpieces (the other two being, in his estimation, "A Hard Day's Night," of course, and "Petulia," which latter was a profound influence on Soderbergh's "The You're-Probably-Sick-Of-Me-Bringing-It-Up Experience"), and I can understand why/

The Siren

@Glenn - Completely agree that the rhythm of the cutting in Lester's movies is brilliant.

That Fuzzy Bastard

Tushingham is kind of perfect for THE KNACK, though. A more expressive actress would have clarified what the fuck is going on in the climax, and it's important to the film's weird integrity that it's absolutely impossible to figure that out. A lot of Lester's early work depends on actors who are fundamentally inexpressive (including the various Beatles, who are incredibly charming but not exactly revealing)---there's a high-modernist two-dimensionality to his black-and-white movies that requires the characters to be as mechanical as the figures in a Futurist painting.

The Siren

I don't have any trouble understanding what's going on in the scene in the park and afterward, I just don't like it. But I don't really blame Tushingham, despite my joke. I blame the script.

Lord Henry

I read the Soderbergh book on Lester recently, and so watched THE KNACK, which I had somehow overlooked. I think it is intermittently amusing, but dated. I agree PETULIA is a masterpiece, and has major resonance, particularly in regard to Nic Roeg. (I think Scott firing the biscuits at Shirley Knight's back is one of the most shocking acts of violence in American cinema.)

Can I suggest JUGGERNAUT as a replacement for THE KNACK in the third masterpiece category? Beautifully performed and written, and genuinely tense.

haice

In a vintage featurette on the DVD of PETULIA one can glimpse Nic Roeg's incredibly suave use of the light meter in regards to the opposite sex.

christian

The only problem with THE KNACK is the skewed sexual politics. The play was written by a woman and the movie by a man, so the proto-rape-reversal is played glibly and like the sexual politics of the day.

It's my favorite Lester though, and the scene with Toland whipping at Tushingham and Crawford is one of the best scenes of the era. She's absolutely lovely in the film. And of course, Barry's best non-Bond score of the 60'.

Larry Aydlette

I'm with Lord Henry on the virtues of JUGGERNAUT. Just another example of his range.

nrh

The Bed Sitting Room! Yes!That movie is absolutely amazing, and thank god its on Blu-Ray now...

Brian

Gorgeous screen-caps, although I concur with the Siren that the humor doesn't always work for me (no fault of the cast, though, who are superb). Can I suggest HELP! as being really underrated? I saw it as a Beatles-obsessed teen and loved it, and it still holds up as a dizzy pop art delight. I also love that Soderbergh book about Lester, if only for the footnotes.

Brian

I was also surprised how much I enjoyed ROYAL FLASH when I caught up with it-- it's hardly ever spoken of, but its tongue-in-cheek tone and McDowell's performance worked for me.

Stephen Winer

I enjoyed ROYAL FLASH as well, and the film sent me to the wonderful George McDonald Fraser "Flashman" books, from which it derived, and for that I'm doubly grateful.
THE GOON SHOW worked for me so I also have a great affection for THE BED SITTING ROOM, but does anyone here share my love for ROBIN AND MARIAN? I think it's one of the most romantic movies ever made with splendid performances by Connery and Hepburn. Pure magic.

Owain Wilson

A British comedian named Harry Enfield did a rather amusing pastiche of these Swinging 60s movies on his 1990s TV show, and I wonder if you might enjoy it. It starts 48 seconds in.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4yFJO6MvlI

D Cairns

I'm hugely uncritical when it comes to Lester, so I'd like to suggest that the discomfort provoked by the sexual politics of The Knack is entirely intentional and intended to provoke thought. That's maybe harder to read nowadays now that things have thankfully moved on at least somewhat.

Of the films not mentioned -- A Hard Day's Night still seems to me entirely successful in its modest ambitions, agree wholeheartedly with the love for Juggernaut and Robin and Marian, obviously rate Petulia and to a lesser extent The Bed Sitting Room very highly indeed, like Royal Flash but wouldn't make great claims for it... would proffer The Three/Four Musketeers as a conjoined masterpiece anyday, the best swashbucklers since Flynn hung up his rapier, and with a scathing irony to the comedy which somehow doesn't spoil the heroics. Michael Powell rated them highly and wished his own Elusive Pimpernell had been half as good.

Among Lester's less celebrated accomplishments: giving Jim Carrey his first movie role.

John Keefer

Just a lovely warm feeling looking at these images, thank you sir.

Pinback

I'm not going to make a claim for it as a lost masterpiece, but I do feel Cuba is due for a reappraisal. There are many small pleasures to be had, many of them visual and quite a few brought on by the wonderfully oddball casting, but it has a feeling of something that just isn't quite there. Was there studio meddling involved?

Definitely agree with the love for the Musketeer films.

Glenn Kenny

Nice to see so many solid Lester fans chiming in. I'm one, and I love or strongly like all of the pictures cited above. As for "Cuba," from what I can infer from the Lester interviews in Mr. Soderbergh's book "Getting Away With It" (which really is a must for anyone interested in Lester), "Cuba" pretty much turned out as Lester wanted, to the extent of estranging Sean Connery from the director because, Lester says, "for the first time in his career he's playing somebody who is weak, ineffective, incompetent, helpless with women, and with a terrible toupee. And I can't imagine that he didn't know this from the beginning. In the ended he wanted to have a go at recutting it himself to make it into a love story. He tried and it didn't work."

Owain Wilson

I'd like to mention Lester's work on Superman II and Superman III. Having seen Richard Donner's 2006 cut of the former, I think Lester improved that film immeasurably. It's still massively entertaining and Terence Stamp is just magnificent with his almost-but-not-quite-ludicrous 'comic book villain' performance. The humour goes a bit too far, though.

Superman III is pretty weak, but still has plenty to like, not least Christopher Reeve clearly having a huge amount of fun playing an evil Superman. This section of the film, leading up to and including the scene where Clark Kent fights evil Superman is one of the series' strongest.

All of this is more than enough for this 80s kid to love Richard Lester forever.

BLH

The Musketeers films are pretty clear masterpieces to my mind. I also quite like Lester's Butch and Sundance sequel, which feels a little like Musketeers Go West.

James Keepnews

In re: the swinging 70's/80's, I adore Brooke Adams in any and everything: Kaufman's INVASION, KEY EXCHANGE, that freaking episode of "Moonlighting," and naturally including CUBA. The film itself did feel like a misfire when the young critic last watched when he was fourteen -- the complexity of the Cuban revolution felt glossed over (though effectively at times, e.g. the early "ballot stuffing") and the love story unconvincing. I guess I blame Sir Sean's editing.

Hell yes, Lester's a great director -- per Sir Sean, ROBIN AND MARIAN, anyone? It's amazing to me that he hasn't made a single film in twenty years.

D Cairns

According to many sources including Steven Bach's Final Cut, Cuba went into production before the script was done, and faced numerous production difficulties including losing the cooperation of the Spanish army due to an assassination on the other side of the country, a vintage plane vital to the plot crashing into a five-foot tree on take 1, a steam train exploding on take 1, and like that. UA at that time was a studio who famously did NOT interfere, but the fates assuredly did.

Lester traced the script problems to the challenge of balancing the political backstory with the foreground story of the protagonists, but he still likes the film.

Oh, no one's mentioned How I Won the War? I think it's better than Bed Sitting Room, a genuinely challenging, angry protest film. With pratfalls.

That Fuzzy Bastard

A HARD DAY'S NIGHT is like being injected with 20 cc's of pure joy, and reminds me of Dziga Vertov is some of its gloriously pure cinema. I'll also chime in on behalf of HOW I WON THE WAR---as deliberately alienating as THE BED SITTING ROOM, but full of visual delights and creepily effective devices.

christian

I think THE KNACK is confused by the ending with its rape/seduction theme, and lines like, "He raped me super!" are just too glib and redolent of the era. That's my nitpick with Lester, he's such a great director that his need to interrupt the story with pointless gags (the egg being uncracked in reverse in THE KNACK is the prime example). That's why PETULIA works best as a narrative.

But whenever I want to feel like what it must feel like to be young, British and swinging in the 60's, I watch THE KNACK.

Tony Dayoub

Strange timing to come to your site today (a day late), and see Jackie Bissett. Her former longtime companion, Michael Sarrazin, died yesterday, as I'm sure everyone has heard.

Robert Cashill

RIP Michael Sarrazin, a denizen of that swinging era and a longtime paramour of Bisset's (and her co-star in THE SWEET RIDE).

Helena

It was on a blue ray now. Nice movie.

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