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Nicolas Roeg

Started by Smeraldina Rima, May 21, 2022, 10:50:36 PM

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Quote from: Smeraldina Rima on May 21, 2022, 04:30:18 PMWent to see five Nicolas Roeg films from 1970-80 at the cinema: Don't Look Now, Walkabout, Bad Timing, Performance (on 35mm) and The Man Who Fell to Earth. I'd only seen Don't Look Now (and The Witches) before. Looking forward to watching The Masque of the Red Death, Glastonbury Fayre and Who Saw Her Die?, a giallo set in Venice that came out a year before Don't Look Now.

This should have been a new thread in case anyone else wants to write about films Roeg directed or filmed. I haven't got clear thoughts about them to start a conversation. There could be stuff to say - hopefully people here have personal interpretations of things in some of the films. Bad Timing is the least well regarded on average but it's a marmite film that some people love and I was pleased to see with the others. I liked the colours in the messy/clean flat and thought Theresa Russell was very good in it but would like to hear from anyone who is a bigger fan of the film overall.

I'm currently listening to Low for the first time after Bowie made a big impression on me and after reading in a half-hearted clickbait article that the second half of the album might have been music made for The Man Who Fell to Earth that Roeg didn't think would work. That may be a false rumour but "Warszawa" and "Art Decade" remind me of Twin Peaks' music and the first half of the film reminded me a lot of Twin Peaks and some David Lynch films. The actual soundtrack was very well chosen though. Was Lynch a fan of Roeg/TMWFTE?

I'll carry on talking about that film for now as it's the freshest in my head. The looking out the window at God scene, mainly for Candy Clark and David Bowie's acting and the way the scene looked, and the contact lens fixing scene, more for the way that Bowie delivers his line, were the most moving parts for me. Some people were laughing at the alien effects but it was a Friday night. I'm surprised it's not quite considered a true classic like I think three of the others are - possibly because there are certain genre expectations that weren't met, and if concentrating on the beautiful visuals, that slows down a bit around the third quarter I thought. I don't know if there is any point going back to check the films and other things that the multiple televisions were showing but I'm interested in what was chosen. His televisions are like the youtube front page where you can hover over small screens without completely committing to clicking a ten minute motivational video. We're now attaining the aliens' attention and intelligence from 1976.

Happy to shift attention to the other films or get recommendations for the less well-known films Roeg worked on.

zomgmouse

Bad Timing was the first Roeg film I saw and made quite the impression on me, and inspired me to watch more of his stuff. I subsequently would enjoy other of his films more (Don't Look Now predictably a favourite) but I found Bad Timing startling in the best of ways.

Apart from those you mention above (of his directorial rather than cinematographic roles) the only other one I've seen of his is The Witches which has its moments but is not a fantastic film.

How old were you when you saw Bad Timing and The Witches? Bad Timing is probably the film I would get most out of rewatching, because it was the most confusing one. I loved The Witches when I was a child, but perhaps it's best left until the wonder years of my next life roll around.

Dr Rock

I like em all, Performance is my fave, and I think Insignificance gets overlooked.

chutnut

Been meaning to watch bad timing, eureka and insignificance since I got the jim o'rourke albums named after them. It's been about 18 years and I still haven't got around to it, maybe one day!

zomgmouse

Quote from: Smeraldina Rima on May 22, 2022, 08:17:05 AMHow old were you when you saw Bad Timing and The Witches? Bad Timing is probably the film I would get most out of rewatching, because it was the most confusing one. I loved The Witches when I was a child, but perhaps it's best left until the wonder years of my next life roll around.

i was probably late teens with Bad Timing - similar time period actually for The Witches, though admittedly I saw it in subpar conditions: on tv while babysitting the neighbours' grandchildren. in fact i may have even seen that one first. i can't quite remember

sevendaughters

I recently watched Eureka. Apparently MGM just fuckin HATED that thing and basically suppressed it on release. It's a bit of a curate's egg but I think I like it. Gene Hackman plays a Yukon prospector who strikes in rich in act one and then for the rest of the film, in the ostensible present, is rich and lazy while people he is close to are trying to usurp and screw him over. The film also contains an absolutely insane final act that feels weirdly bolted on. I won't spoil it, but Rutger Hauer is a very good evil second banana in this.

Telling the story is, of course, only part of it with Roeg. There's lots of strange reverse zooms and mad bits of experimental montage. Clearly audiences just hate that sort of thing but Roeg keeps them in here. There's a scene in the first act where Hackman happens on the corpse of a suicide that is just so...brilliant? Weird? Alienating? Idiosyncratic for sure (although I get the feeling he is a Godard fan, and Godard did something similar two years earlier in Every Man for Himself).

I've got a £40 bluray of Walkabout that I haven't found the right moment to sit and relax with. Love the film. Probably the film that has travelled the furthest from 'ok that was fine' to 'actually that might have been brilliant' without me having seen it a second time. I think this film is saying something brutal and true about colonialism and humanity but I can't quite articulate it. It is a difficult truth.

The Witches is childhood braintape. Probably my favourite kid's film. Can see in the scheme of things that it is lesser and commercial Roeg, but it's both faithful to the book (except for the happy ending) and maybe even more haunting. How things have changed.

Not seen Don't Look Now or Performance or the other ones Jim O'Rourke named records after.

Quote from: Dr Rock on May 22, 2022, 08:46:37 AMI like em all, Performance is my fave, and I think Insignificance gets overlooked.

Performance was the biggest surprise for me because the trailer and popular stills focus on Jagger and don't show much of the gangsters at the beginning of the film. And I was surprised to see that it was voted a long way ahead of Walkabout, as the seventh best British film, in a Time Out poll (Don't Look Now was first). It had passed me by until Noodle Lizard and SMBH were talking about it in the 60s films thread.

It was shown on 35mm film from back in the 1970s with damage which seemed to make green and purple circles on the screen. Does anyone know what causes circles like that? I couldn't tell if jittery cuts were also from damaged film or modern editing. Had seen Bad Timing a day or two before which had some similar looking small jump cuts and bits of speech/thought where the characters don't move their mouths so I put the unusual looking moments down to more of that kind of thing but it was all a bit uncanny and precarious. I don't know what the idea is behind hearing them voice the words before saying them out loud in that clip. Maybe that's them preparing to say a stock phrase in a predictable conversation, but with some trepidation. The projector also struggled to get the film to start and end smoothly and to keep it in the centre.

My favourite scene was the symphonic conversation with Harry Flowers (with the music conducted by Randy Newman). In the cinema, it got really loud when Harry asks for the music to be turned up. There seemed to be a lot of dynamic range exploited with music and other sound in all the films suddenly being much louder, but that clip doesn't make the same impact as I remembered.

I liked Turner's respect for jongleurs: 'Why not a jongleur, the third oldest profession, you're a performer of natural magic'. Don't really have any relationship with Jagger's music so it was like getting to know him here. There was a hollow affectionate laugh from most of the audience when Chas said Turner would look silly when he's 50. Some of the way the red flat is shot near the end seemed like it could have made a really grim horror film. I didn't understand the film.

They should remake Performance with Martin Freeman and Russell Brand.

Quote from: chutnut on May 22, 2022, 11:28:42 AMBeen meaning to watch bad timing, eureka and insignificance since I got the jim o'rourke albums named after them. It's been about 18 years and I still haven't got around to it, maybe one day!

Oh nice one I'll look up those albums. I'd like to find an interview with Roeg asking about music, more his tastes and his uses of it in the films than about casting musicians. The clip of Bad Timing linked above has some music from The Köln Concert by Keith Jarrett which is unlike most of the other music and makes everything all airy suddenly.

sevendaughters: I've not seen much Godard so like the idea of watching Every Man for Himself and Eureka.

In Walkabout it sounded a bit like walkabout, walkabouut, walkabout, walkaboot from the didgeridoo at the beginning. Found it very moving early on when the sister is keeping everything under for the sake of the brother, and they climb the mountain to see where to go next. The wiki summary summarises a scene near the end like this:

QuoteThe Aboriginal boy hunts down a water buffalo and is wrestling it to the ground when two white hunters appear in a truck and nearly run him over. He watches in shock as they wantonly shoot several buffalo with a rifle. The boy then returns to the farm, but passes by without speaking.

When watching the film I didn't think the hunters were in the same scene as the Aboriginal boy hunting the water buffalo but were shown together in the editing (suggesting his memory of an earlier incident caused by the buffalo charging). It's hard to tell how much of what happens next with the mating ritual was to do with the depression he comes back with from the hunting. Watched an interesting interview with Jenny Agutter where she talks about some of the meanings of the ending and the more explicit explanation in the book.

It confuses the emotions at the end with funny things like the watering can man and the incongruous reading of A Shropshire Lad. I liked that. Wonder how old the grown-up girl is meant to be then and what we're expected to think about her seemingly having an Australian partner.

There were some early shots that looked wobbly like they were seen through the eyes of people wandering in the desert. And a strange bit with flicks through text on paper between shots, didn't pick up what that text was. Wish I knew more about camera technique, what's a standard or unusual effect, what's easy or complicated to do.

I don't really know what it was saying about colonialism. Don't personally mind if your idea is inarticulate but can understand if you don't really want to post something about that without thinking more or watching it again.

I only realised when watching Bad Timing that Harvey Keitel was Sport in Taxi Driver. Had thought it was someone not famous who looked like Tommy Wiseau.

nw83

I love all his films up to Castaway, but Walkabout is my favourite. It's actually what got me into - what do we call it? - I don't want to say 'proper cinema' and sound like a snob, but yeah, that. I went from having no interest in films at all, at around age 15, to suddenly watching the Moviedrome picks, all those Channel 4 'foreign and controversial' seasons, whatever Artificial Eye VHSs I could find, New Hollywood films that my parents recommended, etc, etc. Changed my life in a way.

I still find loads new in it - I didn't realise it begins with the French for 'place your bets,' and ends with 'no more bets' in text after the credits, until recently. It's full of little details like that. I've always wondered who reads 'A Shropshire Lad' at the end - could be Roeg himself? Although incongruous in the sense that it's about Shropshire not central Australia, the theme seems fitting - not being able to return to an (idealised?) past. The final shot of the school uniforms symbolising rejection of conformity / the establishment, but framed with the knowledge that such freedom turned out to be temporary (we've just seen her as an adult living an empty suburban life similar to what sent her father suicidal). There are only two films that completely overwhelm me with an entire spectrum of emotions - this, and Stroszek.

Re colonialism, I'd love to read a decent essay on it myself. I can see the threads, but not articulate it into much coherent. Obviously it's an indictment of white suburbia, the way that the girl uses the aborigine, then discards him, is a parable - and one shot of the sunset looks exactly like the Aboriginal flag.

I never really got into Performance. I think the first 30 minutes is incredible though.

zomgmouse

yeah the ending of Walkabout with Agutter in the kitchen cooking with a man embracing her and the sudden zoom out was just so effective in creating that shocking suffocation of never being able to go back. still remember that sensation. it was only a short burst of scenes at the end but such a fantastic touch

If I remember right the ascending backwards-sounding-bass at the beginning of Subterraneans off Low was originally going to be part of the Man who Fell soundtrack...but that was as far as Bowie got before he and Roeg decided he wasn't going to do the soundtrack, and it evolved quite a bit from there into the album version. Bowie doesn't quite work as a main character in anything for me- he was perfectly cast in the crazy-friend-of-the-main-character supporting role in Merry Xmas Mister Lawrence.

 

The Performance soundtrack is such a great record, especially the core tracks that are drums, Ry Cooder on slide guitar and synthesizer bass. You've got this absolute rocker in Randy Newman's Long Dead Train, the weird synth experiments of the title track and Turner's Murder, the Last Poets vitriolic, apocalyptic rap-poetry outburst, and Mick Jagger's Memo from Turner, its lyrics seemingly a William Burroughs pastiche that finds Jagger adopting a much queerer, more idiosyncratic and more more menacing persona than he ever did with the Stones.

zomgmouse

Quote from: Astronaut Omens on May 25, 2022, 01:06:22 AMIf I remember right the ascending backwards-sounding-bass at the beginning of Subterraneans off Low was originally going to be part of the Man who Fell soundtrack...but that was as far as Bowie got before he and Roeg decided he wasn't going to do the soundtrack, and it evolved quite a bit from there into the album version. Bowie doesn't quite work as a main character in anything for me- he was perfectly cast in the crazy-friend-of-the-main-character supporting role in Merry Xmas Mister Lawrence.


i think he was aptly chosen in the man who fell to earth. though apparently he was so coked out he does not remember filming it at all

sevendaughters

Quote from: nw83 on May 24, 2022, 02:26:24 PMI've always wondered who reads 'A Shropshire Lad' at the end - could be Roeg himself? Although incongruous in the sense that it's about Shropshire not central Australia, the theme seems fitting - not being able to return to an (idealised?) past.

Idealised is right: Housman was from Worcestershire and the Shropshire hills were just a visible blur from his childhood home that he idealised, but hardly ever visited.

I hadn't slept yesterday and it brought out giddy excess. Back to formality and caution today.

nw83: Lovely post, I wish I had got round to them earlier but had a similar epiphanic feeling about going to the cinema to see films. Must watch Stroszek one of these days. I noticed 'place your bets' at the beginning but read the end too literally, as 'nothing goes anymore' and didn't make the connection. Thought it was just a way of saying end of film, not knowing the idiom. Thanks for pointing out the detail. I'd also like to know who the uncredited reader of the poem is. To me it doesn't sound quite like Roeg but I can't be sure. I agree that the theme is fitting and incongruous, and can also see the sarcastic side of it.

Thanks for filling me in with the Bowie and Jagger details, Astronout Omens. I've been enjoying Low. You're right about the Performance soundtrack, I hadn't heard "Gone Dead Train" before and I was impressed by "Memo from Turner". Thinking about it again, it's not that difficult a film to follow but there might be some room for different interpretations of the ending. I agree with zomgmouse about you being wrong about TMWFTE, but Merry Xmas Mr Lawrence is another film I'll keep in mind. They actually showed it and Cruel Story of Youth at a local cinema recently but I didn't bother to go.

Possibly catching up to what's obvious, the place your bets introduction - which I had only thought of in terms of how you think things will work out, and then what you expect to happen with the boy's dance - also works well with the double-sidedness of the poem, concerning whose 'land of lost content' you're going to focus on during the reading - which visually and in the music emphasises the girl and her memory - or which personal or historical story you might take away from the film.