Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight)

A curious adaptation of several of Shakespeare's historical plays aimed at giving Falstaff centre stage, Orson Welles's 'Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight)' is regarded by some as his masterpiece.  It certainly doesn't suffer from the troubled production it had and that so many of his later films fell prey to.  Also, given his lack of resources, it looks never less than stunning.  The frenetic pace in editing and staging he invests in some of his works, works very well here, and the whole film holds one's attention throughout.  Again it is a beautiful film, beautifully made as well as shot.  However, and not withstanding his iconic make-up, I never felt the love for the character that Welles so obviously did.  Sure, he's a lovable old rogue, but he never seems to be anything other than for himself (Stevenson's Long John Silver somehow manages this selfishness far better) and foolish along with it.  When at the coronation I should have been tearful, instead I was saying, 'What the hell are you doing, you old idiot!'  It may well have been my fault; though I am familiar with the plays, the Shakespearean dialogue often got the better of me.  Whatever it was, and wonderful though Welles' take on the character was, it just did not grab me.  Certainly a high point in his career though and essential viewing for film buffs.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Saint Joan...Up from the Ashes

For completion's sake, I have just finished watching Otto Preminger's 1957 film version of Shaw's 'Saint Joan'.  Adapted by Graham Greene, it has some changes, notably in the use of the epilogue to act as a frame for the tale, but the fundamentals are there.  I didn't have too much of a problem with Jean Seberg in the role.  She emphasised Joan's frailty far more than the strength that comes across in the play, but I don't doubt the sincerity of her interpretation.  I would have liked to see the more definitively Shavian Wendy Hiller in the role, but sadly that can never (and even in 1957 could never) be.  Richard Widmark may over play the buffoon as the King, but again, to be fair, the role calls for such a comical performance.  Generally it isn't a bad interpretation.  To Seberg's credit she showed me some of the more subtle possibilities of the role.  Hiller would have been perfect for it though.  Think of her in 'I Know Where I'm Going!'  And apparently Hiller originated the role of Catherine Sloper on Broadway in 'The Heiress' (playing opposite Basil Rathbone as her father! What a production that must have been).  She could do weak and strong.  Anyhow whatever about what might have been, Preminger's take is a good deal better than cinders.

Labels: , , ,

Visual Correspondence

Visual Correspondence - Historical Letters from a new perspective

Just in passing, if anyone has an interest in historical correspondence, I have created a web site devoted to that very topic.  Using basic information that is common to almost all letters, I try to map where historical figures were over their lives.  I also try to chart their social circles and provide a lot of different tools for seeing what they got up to, as letter writers that is (but actually not just as that).  The site is Visual Correspondence and it would just make me feel a bit better about wasting so much time on it if more than one or two people (mostly me) actually used it.  At present there are over 156,000 letters dealt with, featuring everyone from Karl Marx to Robert De Niro (I kid you not; do a search on the site).  And if you are aware of any online collections of correspondence that you think might be suitable for the site, please let me know.  So remember folks,

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Saint Joan

Shaw's account of the rise and fall of the curious saint, 'Saint Joan', is a peculiar beast.  It is a battle of two sides, each obsessed with religion, told by an atheist.  Shaw's dialogue is clear, angular, and a delight, but his characters never seem more than mouth pieces.  Don't read this play looking for an insight into the historical figure; Joan starts out a 'saint' and ends a 'saint' and experiences nothing by way of character development along the way.  This is very much a play of ideas, and not the worse for that.
I am always a little bemused by the amount of attention lavished on Wilde, O'Casey, Yeats, Beckett and all the other Irish greats, while Shaw seems to get just a perfunctory once off revival every now and again or a brief aside on how clever he was.  He wrote over 60 plays after all.  Shouldn't we see more of them?  Or maybe it's just I haven't devoted enough attention to him.  (I've spent more time inside his namesake pub than reading him, I will admit.)  Well, there's a New Year's resolution for me!

Labels: , ,

In the Heart of the Sea

Ron Howard's adaptation of Nathaniel Philbrick's 'In the Heart of the Sea', an account of the sinking of the whaling vessel, The Essex, the supposed basis for 'Moby-Dick', does what it says on the tin, I suppose.  We get some big whales, sailors in lifeboats and dubious cuisine.  However, we also get Chris Hemsworth doing Thor at sea and some fairly unconvincing visuals.  Perhaps Hemsworth himself is a CGI-generated being much like the other behemoths rolling through the fake oceans.  Anyhow remedying matters a little  is Brendan Gleeson playing one of the aged survivors; he is actually better than I've seen him in a while (and he's never too far off the boil anyhow).  The strange thing for me though is the story itself.  A rogue white whale attacking a ship and harrying its mariners!  It all makes better fiction than fact, and I don't quite buy it all.  Granted I came out of the cinema wanting to read the well-regarded book (to get a handle on just how reliable the whole plot is), but for the moment I'll stick with 'Moby-Dick'.

Labels: , ,