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Una serie de articulos que he recopilado y que  forman este post ( hoy en Inglés) un poco “barroco”;  Nicolas Roeg es – Junto a Donald Camell del cual reproduzco aqui su ultima entrevista- el director de “Performance” la pelicula de culto de 1970 que protagonizó Mick Jagger y de “The man Who fell to earth” otra gran pelicula de culto que protaginizó Bowie en 1976. Cecil Beaton es uno de los fotografos mas importantes del siglo XX con un portafolio de trabajo que abarca desde Greta Garbo a Marilyn Monroe…. y  fotografió a Jagger en el set de “Performance”, Una exposición de Beaton sobre el rodaje y una retrospectiva… Todo se aguanta con alfileres en mi post de hoy. De todo esto y un poco mas hablo hoy aqui…

 

Mainman Industries os da la Bienvenida al “Hombre Mecánico Blog“. Pedro Marín.

Technological, intelectual, physical. EMOTIONAL;

“The only performance that makes it…that really makes it…that makes it all the way…is the one that achieves madness.” Performance (1970)

Jagger en “Performance”:

mick-jagger-performance

The Del Valle Archive and the Drkrm. Gallery are proud to present a collection of rare images from two contemporary masterpieces of cinema created by the late Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg. Performanceand The Man Who Fell to EarthPerformance is at once a collaboration by two filmmakers {Donald worked with the actors from his original script while Roeg worked his magic with the camera as well as blocking the scenes} both inexperienced at directing yet, what was referred to at the time as “the worlds most expensive home movie,” has become over the last three decades one of the most influential “cult” films ever made. Performance is not an easy film to comprehend the first time around unless you understand how well it captures the specific time in which it was made. The underbelly of crime in London represented by the Kray brothers, brutal and violent as it was, is morphed half way through the film into a druggy sub-culture represented by The Rolling Stones with the participation of their lead singer Mick Jagger who plays his role of “Turner” with an effete narcissism that seems to channel Brian Jones more or less.

Beaton Sir Cecil Mick Jagger and Cecil Beaton C Cecil Beaton Studio Archive Sotheby s LondonCecil Beaton fotografía a Jagger, a Anita Pallenberg y a si mismo en el set de “Performance”. 1968.

Performance
 is an overtly intellectual film that is layered with violence visually hallucinogenic wildly experimental as only a film whose influences were Kenneth Anger, William Burroughs and Jorge Luis Borges could be. Many have taken the stunning musical sequence “Memo from Turner” to be the first “rock video.” Yet that honor still belongs to Kenneth Anger and his short films of two decades earlier. However the sequence is groundbreaking in its strong undercurrent of homosexuality. Cammell, a former painter himself, used Francis Bacon for inspiration in creating the final image which serves to connect vice and versa of the two worlds with cunning aplomb.

JAGMIK13

During the last few years of Donald Cammell’s life we got to know each other and I conducted what was to be his  last print interview. We had planned to do a whole hour long career piece on video and I nearly got Donald into the studio. However, the night before we were to shoot he called and cancelled because of his fear of jinxing his then current project with Marlon Brando. My print interview was published a few months after his death. I had been given an opportunity to make negatives of the famous Cecil Beaton on-set portraits of Mick Jagger.

Jagger by Cecil Beaton

These photographs and others given to me over the years by Donald from his early films The Touchables and Duffy, {both films have images that foreshadow what was to come} along with stills from the underrated Demon Seed and my own collection of Performance material, form the core of this exhibit honoring a wildly original talent who left us far to soon.

cecil beaton mick jagger

It is only fitting that we include Nicolas Roeg’s individual masterwork with David Bowie, The Man Who Fell to Earth in this exhibit since both films share common themes of transformative sexuality and the displacement of time. Nicolas Roeg has enjoyed an amazing career since Performance creating such individual projects like the visually stunning WalkaboutDon’t Look Now and Bad Timing. His place is secure as one of the great filmmakers and deserves reappraisal as the unique talent he has always been.

M jagger por Cecil Beaton

In The Man Who Fell to Earth, David Bowie is the stranger in a strange land and once having seen his performance it is hard to believe they first offered the role to Peter O’Toole. David Bowie was at this stage in his life adjusting to being a superstar and came to the film very wired on coke which suited his character of Thomas Jerome Newton in more ways than one. Bowie, with his “Berlin period” in front of him, was on the verge of great creativity. However it was Candy Clark in the role of Mary Lou that brings the film its pathos and much of its underlying humor. She is nothing short of magnificent and should have won every acting honor that year if not for the fact that, like Performance, the film was taken away from Roeg and recut with more than 40 minutes removed. The film lost not only the fragile performance of Clark, but much of Roeg’s vision was lost as well.

david-bowie-Nicholas Roeg The man who fell to earth

During the film’s early release in Westwood I got to see the “directors cut” for the first and only time until the recent restoration on DVD. A couple of years later I would meet Candy Clark who was still living with Nicolas Roeg in West Hollywood. Roeg was at that time prepping a big budget remake of Flash Gordon. Candy was taken with the dedication with which I was collecting photographs and invited me over to their apartment to select some stills and slides from The Man Who Fell to Earth. The product of this and my on-going search for material from great films is now on display for the first time at the Drkrm Gallery.

David Del Valle
Beverly Hills, December 2006

ALIEN SEX 

Donald Cammell thought Mick Jagger to be a more provocative rock star than Elvis Presley because Jagger was willing to experiment with his masculinity. Elvis, although extraordinarily erotic to a generation of young women, never did. What this difference suggests, among other things, is that Mick Jagger’s appeal is not Elvis’s—and never was. Critic Greil Marcus has argued that what Elvis did was to purge the Sunday morning sobriety from folk and country music and to purge the dread from blues; in doing so, he transformed a regional music into a national music, and invented party music. Elvis popularized an amalgam of musical forms and styles into “rock ‘n’ roll,” a black American euphemism for sexual intercourse. What the Rolling Stones did to rock music, some years after Elvis made sex an integral part of its appeal, was to infuse rock with a bohemian theatricality, at first through Brian Jones, who was the first British pop star to cultivate actively a flamboyant, androgynous image. For a time, Brian even found his female double in Anita Pallenberg. Brian Jones and the Stones thus re-introduced into rock music its erotic allure, and hence made it threatening (again).

The cultivated androgyny and transvestitism of 1960s pop stars such as Mick Jagger and David Bowie destabilized and subverted stable categories of the self and sexual identity, which is why as cultural practices they were perceived by some as so threatening and so subversive to genteel, bourgeois culture. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, rock music had become synonymous with decadence. Hence, upon its release in 1970, Performance was either demonized and denounced (by the conservative press) or traduced (by the liberal press). It conformed to neither a conservative nor a liberal simulacrum of the world—nor does it now. The same critical reception greeted The Man Who Fell to Earth upon its release in the United States in 1976. As an alien, Thomas Jerome Newton was similar to the Michael Rennie character (Klaatu, aka “Mr. Carpenter”) in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) by virtue of his possessing advanced technology. He was utterly unlike the Rennie character, however, in that his alien sexuality was foregrounded; it was essential to defining his difference. Moreover, he was possibly a bisexual being as well. Yet in addition to the androgynous figure of David Bowie, there was Candy Clark, no longer the winsome Sandra Dee-like figure she had portrayed in American Graffiti (and nothing, say, like Patricia Neal in Day the Earth Stood Still, either) but a single, unattached girl who liked to party, pretty and with a kind heart, going nowhere, but with a strong work ethic—who dared to have sex with an alien. There has been much emphasis in critical discussion of The Man Who Fell to Earth on David Bowie’s ambiguous sexuality, the effect of which has obscured the extraordinary performance of Candy Clark, who was willing to allow her slow moral corruption, like Dorian Gray’s, to be signaled by her increasingly unattractive, de-glamorized body. Her performance represents one of the great subversions of science fiction cinema by suggesting that not only was she, as a woman, willing to experiment sexually, but eventually leave Thomas Jerome Newton because of sexual incompatibility. The Man Who Fell to Earth actualized, in a rather perverse way, the romance that was repressed in (among other science fiction films) The Day the Earth Stood Still. In addition, while the perceived threat to civil order in these films resided in part because they broke aesthetic taboos, time has also revealed something else that is compelling about them: they are both spiritual allegories, albeit unorthodox ones. The Man Who Fell to Earth enacts the Gnostic, or at least Neo-Platonic, journey of the human soul, fallen to earth, the material and hence evil world, from which it strives to free itself and return home, to heaven. But this is a world of corruption, deception, and betrayal; the devil wears many guises, and the path home is very, very hard to find. (Interestingly, when asked what he thought the allegorical dimension of The Man Who Fell to Earth was, the novel’s author, Walter Tevis, himself an alcoholic, said “alcoholism.”)

Donald Cammell said his goal in making Performance was to make a “transcendent” movie in which death is seen not as an end but as the beginning of a new existence—suggesting the way that Performance is also Neo-Platonic in its underlying (and unorthodox) religious premises. One of Donald Cammell’s favorite films, a film which truly fascinated him, was Jean Cocteau’s Le Sang d’un poète (Blood of a Poet, 1930), in which the poet-martyr, or artist, commits successive suicides in order to find his true form, ultimately achieving immortality, paradoxically, only through death. In Cocteau’s own discussion of the films comprising his “Orphic Trilogy” (Le Sang d’un poete, Orphée, and The Testament of Orpheus) he identified one particular theme that would have strongly appealed to Donald Cammell: “The successive deaths through which a poet must pass before he becomes, in that admirable line from Mallarmé, tel qu’en lui-même enfin l’éternité le change—changed into himself at last by eternity.” The mystery and allure of these films is traced in the provocative images on display here, a testament to the sustained imaginative power of these two remarkable films directed by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg.

––Sam Umland is the Co-author, with Rebecca Umland, of Donald Cammell: A Life on the Wild Side(FAB Press 2006) and a Professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

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Interview with Donald Cammell Part 1
by David Del Valle

DANGEROUS TIMES PRODUCE DANGEROUS ARTThe cinema of the late 1960’s reflected a wild and dangerous mood that was best crystallized inPerformance, a witches’ brew of crime, decadence, and drug-induced hallucinations. This film of “Vice… and Versa” was the work of two directors: Nicolas Roeg supervised the cinematography, while Donald Cammell wrote the screenplay, directed the actors and supervised the editing. It took nearly two years for Warner Bros. To distribute Performance in the United States, where after it immediately assumed cult status throughout the counterculture.

In the wake of Performance, Roeg directed a number of acclaimed motion pictures, while Cammell’s appeared to stall. The common assumption that Roeg’s success resulted in feelings of envy and sour grapes is unfounded: no ill feeling existed between the two directors. I emphasize this because, in the interview you are about to read, Cammell makes certain comments tht might be mistaken for a kind of animosity that simply was not in his nature. If they were rivals, it was only as siblings would be. When he heard that VIDEO WATCHDOG was planning to print the following statement about Cammell, Roeg said, “I feel like a part of me has been taken away. He was like a brother.”

Anyone familiar with Cammell’s work habits knew that he liked the collaborative mode and the communal environment of filmmaking. He took everyone’s suggestions, never subscribing to the auteur theory. It wasn’t the way Hollywood pictures are made, but no one ever accused Cammell of making a Hollywood picture. In 1978, when his directorial solo Demon Seed was being produced, Cammell envisioned it as a comedy. He found that the idea that technology would lead to sexual reproduction between woman kind and a machine, hysterically funny. The studio, Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, wasn’t laughing.

Donald Cammell was an extremely bizarre and eccentric artist. His views were very personal and he refused to conform, not in Europe, and certainly not in Hollywood, to what was commercial or politically correct. This previously unpublished interview was conducted in June 1988. At the time, Cammell had just completed White of the Eye (1987), a billiant, mesmerizing odyssey through the mind of a serial killer (David Keith) and his loving wife (Cathy Moriarty). It anticipated films like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and The Silence of the Lambs, and at the same time, went light years beyond them. It was critically acclaimed, even publicly endorsed by Marlon Brando, yet it was too potent and unique a work to attract a popular audience. Ironically, I was trying to get in touch with Donald a couple of weeks before his suicide to urge him to appear at The American Cinematheque for a screening of Performance. However, days before the screening, Donald phoned to beg off. He apologized, saying that it was “bad karma” to look to the past. For him, nostalgia was a waste of time. He lived life in the present tense, preferring to leave the explanations to people like myself. He ended our conversation by saying if he ever consented to another interview, he would give it to me. Well, Donald, it seems to have worked out that way after all. –David Del Valle

Was Duffy your first major screen credit as a writer?
I think so… yes, Duffy must have been. I saw it long ago. It’s based on an adventure that really happened to a mate of mine, or maybe it was all my lovely group-Susie York, James Mason, James Coburn, and Willie (James) Fox. It’s not a serious movie, more of a bon bon, very carefree. Not worth discussing.
James Fox played a far more important role in your next, Performance.
Indeed! It changed his life, mine… everybody connected with it, actually, Performance is a landmark and a swan song for the era of Swinging London, not a success when it came out. Warner Bros. wanted none of it.
To what extent did Warners want it changed?
When they saw my rough cut, they were appalled that Jagger was not onscreen until maybe an hour into the film. So, in a vain attempt to keep it from being shelved permanently, I tried to rescue the work. I mean, I completely re-edited it three times, compressing it more and more. By then, Nick Roeg was completely absorbed in filming Walkabout, so he blissfully wasn’t involved in any of this.
What did Roeg say when he saw the re-edited cut?
He wanted his name removed, because he felt that too many liberties had been taken with the continuity. You have to realize, it was a collaborative effort, yet it was my screenplay, my concept. I directed the actors and Nick did what Nick does best, which is the director of photography.
Did it bother you that Roeg got the lion’s share of credit for Performance?
I don’t really want to discuss Nick, but I will say this: Nick went on to several features on the strength of Performance, and when you realize that the whole project was based on my friendship with Jagger, and the fact that Jagger trusted me, it does aggravate an already open wound. Enough said.
How did you get the idea to combine the gangster world with that of a faded rock star?
Well, in Britain, the underworld was typified by the Krays. The Krays were very macho, very dangerous and rather glamorous. This I saw as sort of a parallel with the rock world and, particularly, The Rolling Stones. Originally, my script was called The Performers because each of the characters is a performer, in one sense or another.
You seem to have a healthy disrespect for Hollywood storytelling.
I have a very healthy disrespect for Hollywood altogether! One of the reasons I think Warners hated the film so much is because it forces an audience to consider the construction of their own fragmented selves, the various aspects of sexuality, which is something people never question. Nick loves to tell the story of one Warner executive who observed, “Even the bath water is dirty in this film,” referring to the menage a trios in Turner’s bath. Nick could only say, “Well the water looks that way because they just took a bath!”
I’ve always been impressed with the film’s opening shots. They seem unrelated at first, a rocket taking off, an overhead view of a Rolls Royce moving through the countryside, a couple making violent love with mirrors. What was you concept here?
It’s to emphasize the sense of transition, of change, of continual mobility. Some of it is subliminal and Nick loved to intercut. (Laughs)
The cinematography seems to me to be from the school of Psychedelic Expressionism.
(Laughs) Well, perhaps the whole film is Psychedelic Expressionism! Yes, I like that very much. Can I use it?
Seriously…I showed John Clark, our art director, several examples of artists like Aubrey Beardsley and Francis Bacon. We deliberately wanted [to reflect] an artist’s vision. Every film I’ve been allowed to make owes a very heavy debt to art because, after all, I’m basically a painter.
The editing technique, in my opinion, was a cross between someone like Alain Resnais and Aram Avakian.
Are you sure you’re not with Cahiers du cinéma? (Laughs) If you mean that seriously, yes. Quite so. It ha s a precision and formality which could be like a Resnais film, and yet it’s very flashy and glamorous in the manner of Avakian. However, that technique is nowadays referred to as “Nicolas Roeg.”
At one point, Turner says, “Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.”
The line comes from Nietzsche. Performance is about the trans-valuation of all values. Perhaps the film is Nietzschean in the sense that I believe in living one’s life that way. The film brings the Neanderthal gangster and the effete yellow book world of the rock star into one demonic fusion. The gangster is really more bisexual and in touch with his feminine side; once again, the fragmented self. It’s really a provocative love story. The margin between love and hate is exceedingly narrow and I’ve made an effort to show that, where violence exists, it’s as indicative of love as much as hatred.*
What was Mick Jagger like to work with?
Well, Jagger is Jagger. His life is his art. Turner is Jagger-ish is something Mick really didn’t want to deal with, as he was trying very hard to make that transition from rock star to movie star. At the time, Mick and the Stones had been offered A Clockwork Orange, but Jagger wanted something a bit more solo. Something apart from the Rolling Stones. But Mick is not acting in Performance. That is Mick to the teeth. He even wore the Turner makeup on the street. He tried to look like that for years. The relationship between Mick and Anita (Pallenberg) was real. They became lovers, even though she was Keith Richards’ lady. I’ll never forget Keith Richards’ Rolls Royce parked across the street from the location, keeping an eye on his paramour. Jagger simply took Anita under the house for sex. Keith would come on the set looking for hanky-panky, not realizing that he was standing about three feet above the action!

*Cammell is mistaken here. This celebrated line appears in William Burroughs novel Naked Lunch, where it is atributed to Hassan i Sabbah, the Old Man of the Mountain, leader of the 11th century Ismailli sect known as the Assassins. Turner mentions Hassan in the film and the quote latter served as an epigraph in David Cronenberg’s film adaptation of Naked Lunch.

continue to Part 2

Interview with Donald Cammell Part 2
by David Del Valle

What has become of Anita Pallenberg? I read that she was involved in witchcraft and was very overweight.
That’s all rubbish. Anita’s doing just fine. I look in on her whenever I’m on the East Coast. She’s dropped a lof of weight and I think she is writing. Anita is a survivor and a great lady. I love her.
What was James Fox like on the film?
Willie, his nickname, was a great observer and was learning his craft. He had already made some films and fell into this one with great gusto. He literally became a gangster in the name of research. He spent eventings in the company of London’s most notorious thugs, to the extent that he actually frightened people. Now imagine this very macho, violent behaviour being shattered, once again, under Jagger’s influence. It was perhaps a tragedy that Willie became so traumatized by Jagger’s sexuality that he succumbed to it and ultimately quit acting altogether and went to India. It took him forever to snap out of it.
Jagger does make a rather late enterance, a rather grand entrance, like Rita Hayworth in Gilda.
Well, perhaps more like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. That’s how I gave Jagger the line, “Why don’t you go to a hotel?” when Fox tries to rent the flat. It’s the sort of remark an aging bitch would say to a lesser mortal.
At the end of the film, after Chas (Fox) shoots Turner (Jagger) in the head, it’s Jagger that we see leaving the house with his old gangster cronies-presumbably to be murdered by them. You meant to indicate that Chas had absorbed Turner’s persona?
In a sense, yes. I was thinking of Jorge Luis Borges and the Sanish bullfighter El Cordobes, who kisses the bull between the eyes before placing his sword therein. Jagger is very much that bullfighter. In terms of painting, if you look at the “Memo from Turner” number, Jagger’s character has already assumed the Harry Flowers persona (in terms of Chas’ perception). So this further absorption seems natural. The “Memo from Turner” sequence, by the way is probably the first rock video. You may not know it, but I’ve directed several rock videos in the last few years. In point of fact, I did a bit of editing on Gimme Shelter for the Maysles Brothers.
Why did it take you so long to mak another feature?
If you only knew how many unrealized projects are littered between 1970 and Demon Seed, you wouldn’t ask. One of those projects that caused a bit of a stir on the Riviera was a “caper” screenplay entitled Avec Avec, which was made much later by my old mate James Coburn. This was the kind of luck I had up until Demon Seed.
What was the Demon Seed experience like for you?
Well, it was a very unhappy experience. It was a pretty frustrationg experience. My personality just does not gel with these studuio people. And MGM was no different than Warner Bros.. was with Performance. I was the reason they got Julie Christie, who was red hot at the time, and an Oscar winner to boot. The front office loved everything until they got their hands on my rough cut. It could hve been a great film, but even though it got bloody repectable notices, it wasn’t my vision. As I’ve said before, I am a painter who happens to make films. But enough of that! Would you mind if we go on the film you just saw, which I’m very proud of.
White of the Eye. 
Yes, around 1985, after God knows how many unrealized projects (including one reuniting me with Jagger, believe it or not, which was to be calledIshtar, but don’t get me started on that…) I was prepping this film for EMI, which was shelved when the company got taken over by Cannnon. So as a sort of compensation, I was offered this strange little novel by Margaret Tracy called Mrs. White, which my wife and I adapted into White of the Eye. Basically, her novel explored this woman’s feelings as she discovers that her husband is insane and yet she is completely dominated by him. Well, I rethought all that and decided it was more interesting to have her deeply in love, so that when she discovers he’s a serial killer, she has to make that decision to leave him or confront him and continue to love him. Even to the point where he degenerates into bestiality. It really seemed to be an extremely powerful and moving idea. In fact, in the final reel, I tried to create the sound and fury of madness and take you into a world of transcendent horror.
You certainly made Arizona seem very surreal.
Well, I’m European, and Arizona looks very exotic and a little surreal when I’m confronted by it. The Indians have tremendous karma and glamour. I could easily see Picasso on a reservation. The location was a real trip. My main set piece is a run-down mining town called Globe, which is on the edge of an Apache reservation, where a crumbling civilization has this uneasy coexistence with violence-pagan violence. It had been the second largest copper mine in Arizona and then became this relic, this kind of scarred, extraordinary landscape. I vividly remember shooting the final scene in a kind of stepped, zig-zagged structure, like an inverted Assyrian temple.
Once again, your painter’s eye seems to be at work here.
Well yes, I painted it as best I can, and if art is to be involved at all, you hope that some kind of energy or sincerity will result in some kind of revelation.
I see it as a portrait of a schizophrenic who views the suburban sexuality of his victims as a kind of waste.
That’s your opinion. I didn’t try and diagnose or make a judgement on the reasons for serial murder. I suppose I’m really asking if we really know the people we love. Do we really understand their motives? I mean this bedroom community of Globe, Arizona is full of waste and boredom. The killer has a painter’s eye, which I suppose is mine.
My favorite line in the film occurs when the homicide detective says to his assistant, “Did you ever look at a Picasso, Lucas?” referring to the crime scene as resembling a work of art.This serial killer happens to be a psychotic with an aesthetic imagination. I like the concept of murders being arranged as art. But my favorite line is on the poster art. “The only difference between a hunter and a killer is his prey.”
I heard that White of the Eye was going to receive an X rating, but it received an R. What happened?
What happened was Marlon Brando. He sent a letter to the MPAA, a brilliant letter, analyzing sequences in the film in great detail, and praising it for it originality and artistry. I mean, you wouldn’t have believed this letter! Eventually they passed the film with a couple of nominal cuts. About 90% of what I wanted is on the screen.
That was a beautiful thing for Brando to do.
Brando is a phenomenal human being. And I am pleased to say that he’s going to be my partner on my next film, which he has written. At the moment its called Jericho and I have really good feelings this time around. But let’s not jinx it! You’ll be the first to know when I have something concrete to show. •

Video Watchdog Magazine © 1998 All Rights Reserved

THE MICK JAGGER/CECIL BEATON PORTRAITS



In the late 1980’s, David Del Valle conducted what was to be the last interview with filmmaker/painter/ poet Donald Cammell. Cammell’s career was often marred by studio tampering and misrepresented allegiances. It was Donald’s fervent wish that his most famous and controversial film Performance be remembered as the groundbreaking classic it has become. Luckily, he lived long enough to be lionized by his peers and Performance is now considered to be one of the ten greatest films ever to be made in Great Britain.

(Before his death Mr. Cammell loaned Mr. Del Valle one of his most precious possessions: eleven double weight prints of Mick Jagger taken by the legendary Cecil Beaton on the set of Performance. Under the supervision of the late John Kobal, 8 x 10 negatives were created to preserve the integrity and magnificence of these original images.

The Drkrm. gallery will display prints by Master printer John Matkowsky made from these negatives of Beaton’s exotic vision of rock icon Mick Jagger as part of an exhibition of the works of Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg showcasing two seminal works of motion picture history, Performance and The Man Who Fell To Earth.)

CECIL BEATON | THE RANDY DANDY OF PHOTOGRAPHY & FASHION

APRIL 18, 2009
Cecil Beaton David Hockney
Cecil Beaton y David Hockney.

Cecil Beaton will always be remembered for his huge influence on the world of photography and fashion. His incredible works personified elegance and grace– but his personal behavior was at times, anything but. He was not known to be a loyal friend, a humble talent or a genuine soul of any sort. In fact, his persona and image was a self-creation– fabricated with great calculation to gain him access to the world that was just beyond his reach.

When obsessive vanity, insecurity and posturing are the guiding forces that propel you forward, it can be anything but attractive.

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Cecil Beaton

Cecil Beaton– behind the camera

From The Times–

Everybody loved Cecil, the photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe, who worked for Harper’s Bazaar, told me. “He was such a naughty man. You had to laugh at all the awful things he said about everybody, especially the people at Vogue.” In fact, this most preciously balanced man laughed at everybody except himself – for whom he reserved his deep wells of compassion and self-pity. As the man described by his on-off friend Truman Capote as a “total self-creation”, he knew that the business of being Cecil was no laughing matter, but something that needed serious application for the success he had always craved.

And the proof of that success is the influence he has had over so many younger photographers since his death 29 years ago. Mario Testino, who has captured modern society and fashion as variously as Beaton did, speaks for many when he says: “He marked his period as if he were the only photographer around.”Another of today’s most celebrated fashion photographers, Nick Knight, praises his work “for its grace and elegance. From the touching and funny pictures of his sisters and the delicately fragile poses of his photographs of society beauties, as if they were made of porcelain, to the memorable wartime images, he was always sensitive and poetic.”

Cecil Beaton photographing Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones

Cecil Beaton photographing Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones

So, what was the essence of Beatonism? He was a born outsider; posh but not quite posh enough – his family’s wealth was based on trade. Well educated – but at Harrow, not Eton. Cambridge, not Oxford. Clever but not intellectual. Good-looking but not quite handsome. He just failed to make the grade in those things that he considered mattered. Vain – he had his clothes made one size too small to flatter his already slim figure – but never glamorous, despite an international lifestyle that brought him into contact with everyone who “mattered” for more than 50 years.

But he had a burning desire to leap the fence and browse the green fields of aristocratic privilege, still going strong in the Twenties and Thirties. Beaton was what was known at the time as a pansy. With eyes trained on the British upper classes and American plutocrats, his tendencies could have been a disadvantage, but he capitalised on them by aiming not at the men, but at their wives.

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Mick Jagger– Cecil Beaton

And the tool this most vulnerable of men, described by Cocteau as “Malice in Wonderland”, used for unlocking the doors of privilege was portrait photography. He quickly learnt that portraiture was all about flattery. He made horse-faced duchesses from the shires and granite-jawed daughters of railroad tycoons look younger, more beautiful and refined. As Dahl-Wolfe said: “Cecil was very bold. He thought nothing of slicing inches off a sitter’s waist if he thought it would please and lead to other commissions. He told me he had realised at the very beginning that this was the way to make the grade. But I think he was unfair to himself. He was a very good photographer but he was always too keen to flatter and please.” Then, having flattered their bodies, he flattered their egos by placing them in settings reflecting the latest artistic movements.

His studio was kept busy working on the photographic plates – lifting droopy eyelids, tightening sagging jaws and whittling down figures until they looked like those of girls. And none of his sitters ever complained, any more than the men who paid the bills. And why should they? Beaton was a very clever photographer whose early portraits reflected continental art movements in his use of mirrors, torn paper, fragments of classical sculpture and even Cellophane to create a surreal fantasy that would automatically make his sitters look much more interesting than they usually were. They were as flattered culturally as they were physically, even if they had no idea that the original ideas were taken from the work of Cocteau, Bakst or Dalí.

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Cecil Beaton photograhing Audrey Hepburn for My Fair Lady, for which he was also the costume designer.

The next step in the carefully crafted ascent of Cecil was to enter the fashion world, an easy task for a man who knew everybody in London society. He had started young, making connections through his sister, who had done the season as a debutante. Like other men of his type – Quentin Crisp, for example – Beaton had a natural affinity for fashion and could spot by a glance at the cut of a shoulder which Paris fashion house a garment had come from. In time, Beaton became a world expert on fashion history and aesthetics. When he persuaded the V&A to mount the world’s first fashion exhibition in a major museum, he could call on favours to such an extent that the clothes he was given became the basis of the V&A’s permanent collection – one of the best in the world.

Beaton was born to work for Vogue and most of his life as a fashion photographer was spent shuttling between its American and British editions, photographing socialites, stars and celebrities; shooting fashion stories; and writing and illustrating reports of fashion shows, social events and royal occasions. Although his writing was often a mannered mix of the precious and the breathlessly snobby, his drawings often had a subversive wit to them, proving that, like many outsiders on the make, he was not nearly as enamoured of the people with whom he mixed as he pretended in public. In George Weidenfeld’s comment – worthy of Beaton himself – “he would happily have witnessed their execution as long as he was given a good enough seat.”

Marilyn Monroe Cecil Beaton

Cecil Beaton’s iconic, and often imitated, portrait of Marilyn Monroe

By the mid 1930s, Beaton had arrived. His work was in great demand and although not especially technically adept, had begun to build up a portfolio that stands today as a sophisticated and elegant record of the interwar years. He was always more at ease photographing women – possibly because many men, including the dukes of Gloucester and Edinburgh, found his effeminacy and make-up difficult to take. He was happy though when his lens was trained on the actors, musicians and authors such as Gielgud, Walton and Huxley, whom he so admired. His greatest failure, in his own eyes, was not capturing Churchill – of whom he was clearly terrified – during the war years.

Although no Brassai or Cartier-Bresson, Beaton’s flattering, even fawning, determination to make women look romantic brought him to the attention of the Palace at the time of the Abdication crisis, when the Royal Family realised that it needed a public relations exercise. The new King, George VI, stammered and was ill at ease in public. It was obvious that public focus would have to be on the Queen. Who better to direct it than Cecil Beaton?

Pablo Picasso-- Cecil Beaton

Pablo Picasso– Cecil Beaton

It wasn’t easy. Wallis Simpson was an internationally renowned fashion figure. Beaton had photographed her wedding to the Duke of Windsor for American Vogue. He appeared to be a friend of both, although that did not stop him saying of the Duchess after the Duke’s death: “What will happen to her is of no interest. She should live at the Ritz, deaf and a bit gaga.” No sentiment with Cecil once people had outgrown their usefulness.

The new Queen, later Queen Elizabeth,the Queen Mother, was not an elegant, let alone internationally fashionable, figure. Simpson, when asked after the Abdication what the new Queen could do to help British fashion, had apparently replied “Stay at home”. It was Beaton’s job, along with the royal couturier Norman Hartnell, to change this perception. The Thirties fashion mood was one of brittle sophistication. The figure was that of a boy. The Queen, although not fat, was not pin-thin. The solution was to turn her into a Christmas-tree fairy Gloriana – a look given its first outing during the state visit to France in 1939. Beaton’s photographs of her looking regal, romantic and pretty were a triumph.

Greta Garbo-- Cecil Beaton

Greta Garbo– Cecil Beaton

He was made. The final brick was in place and he found that the edifice he had built for himself enabled him to do whatever he wished, including in his later diaries biting the hand that had fed him for 30-odd years.

The Queen Mother, who used to dine with him at his own home – a rare honour – he described once as“so naturally affected” as she came “mincing into a room”, a classic kettle and pot comment. The Queen fared little better: “She would make an extremely good hospital nurse or nanny.” Princess Anne? “A bossy, unattractive, gallumphing girl.” Princess Margaret wore her hair “scraped back like a seaside landlady.” These are cruel comments by any standards, especially since the Royal Family had been so helpful to his ascent. The young pansy had, only too clearly, become the vitriolic old queen, who found it difficult to acknowledge loyalty or allegiance to anyone.

Cecil Beaton

The late, great Cecil Beaton

For the last 30 years before his death in 1980 he was at the centre of the creative world: royal photographer, designer of sets and costumes from Oscar Wilde’s comedies to My Fair Lady, a chronicler of showbiz from Audrey Hepburn to Mick Jagger (for whose looks Beaton had a passion). Cyril Connolly dubbed him “Rip-van-With-it”. And he kept his diaries, noting down everything and revealing the true Cecil Beaton, a mixture of insight, petulance and snobbery, much like the world in which he lived, which will make them compulsive reading for sociologists and historians for many years ahead. Above all, they reveal the other thing that I suspect in his innermost heart he never forgot: those who are born outsiders must always remain outsiders, where they can see things most clearly.

Until you are reminded by the photographs you sometimes forget what a fantastic auteur Cecil Beaton was.

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Cecil Beaton. 'Greta Garbo, Plaza Hotel, New York, April 1946' 1946

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Cecil Beaton
‘Greta Garbo, Plaza Hotel, New York, April 1946′
1946

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Cecil Beaton. 'Greta Garbo, Plaza Hotel, New York, April 1946' 1946

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Cecil Beaton
‘Greta Garbo, Plaza Hotel, New York, April 1946′
1946

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Cecil Beaton. 'Audrey Hepburn' 1960

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Cecil Beaton
‘Audrey Hepburn’
1960

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Cecil Beaton. 'Barbara Hutton in Tangier, Morocco' 1961

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Cecil Beaton
‘Barbara Hutton in Tangier, Morocco’
1961

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Cecil Beaton. 'Charles James Gowns by Cecil Beaton, Vogue, June 1948' 1948

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Cecil Beaton
‘Charles James Gowns by Cecil Beaton, Vogue, June 1948′
1948

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“A stunning exhibition of nearly 50 portraits by Cecil Beaton, one of the most famous photographers of the 20th century, captures the glamour and excitement of some of the world’s greatest celebrities.

‘Cecil Beaton: Portraits’ 26 June – 31 August 2009 brilliantly reflects the astonishing talents of the photographer who was also a writer, artist, designer, actor, caricaturist, illustrator and diarist.

He photographed a dazzling array of superstars and leading personalities ranging from the Queen to Mick Jagger, Marilyn Monroe to Audrey Hepburn and Winston Churchill to Lucian Freud.

Beaton (1904 – 1980) was himself a charismatic character who could charm and cajole, amuse and flirt, electrify and calm. He was known for his elegant sartorial style which exactly matched and reflected the circles he moved in.
His long career covered an era of great change from the Roaring Twenties to the dawn of the New Romantics.

Jessica Feather, Walker curator, says:

“Cecil Beaton had a remarkable gift of bringing out the personalities and flair of his sitters so that he created some of the great iconic images of the age. The portraits still cast a spell with their timeless appeal, giving deep insights into the extraordinary people who came before his camera.”

Beaton’s career as a photographer began with his earliest portraits of his sister Baba taken in 1922, when he was a teenager.

After Cambridge, his early photographs were published in society magazines The Sketch, Tatler and Eve from 1925 onwards. In 1927, 23-year-old Beaton secured a contract with Vogue to provide portraits, caricatures and social commentary. His career – with the exception of two short breaks – continued with Vogue for the rest of his life.

In the 1930s he published books packed with glamorous portraits and artwork and photographed the wedding of the Prince of Wales to Wallis Simpson. Beaton also took a striking series of romantic studies of Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother).

His work took on a grittier aspect during the war and post-war years when he worked for the Ministry of Information and as an official war photographer.

Beaton reached the height of his powers in the 1950s and 60s when he became a household name. As well as creating great portraits of a new generation of film actresses such as Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, he won Oscars for his design work in the blockbuster films Gigi and My Fair Lady.

Knighted in 1972, Beaton had a stroke in 1974 but returned to photography three years later. Among his subjects in his final years were fashion designers and international celebrities.”

Press release from the Walker Art Gallery website

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Cecil Beaton. 'Francis Bacon' 1951

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Cecil Beaton
‘Francis Bacon’
1951

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Cecil Beaton. 'Marilyn Monroe, New York, Febraury 22, 1956' 1956

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Cecil Beaton
‘Marilyn Monroe, New York, Febraury 22, 1956′
1956

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Cecil Beaton. 'Maria Callas' 1957

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Cecil Beaton
‘Maria Callas’
1957

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Cecil Beaton. 'Kyra Nijinsky' 1935

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Cecil Beaton
‘Kyra Nijinsky’
1935

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“This major restrospective exhibition brings together captivating images from Cecil Beaton, one of the most celebrated photographers of the 20th century. Renowned for his images of elegance, glamour and style, Beaton’s work has inspired many famous photographers including David Bailey and Mario Testino.

The exhibition reflects the astonishing talents of the photographer who was also a writer, artist, designer, actor, caricaturist, illustrator and diarist. There are four sections in the exhibition covering Beaton’s career and capturing 50 years of fashion, art and celebrity:

The Early Years: London to Hollywood, 1920s and 1930s

Photographs of Hollywood stars such as Marlene Dietrich and Fred Astaire and artists including John (Rex) Whistler, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.

The Years Between: The War and Post-War Arts, 1940s

Featuring Greta Garbo, Vivian Leigh and Laurence Olivier as well as Princess Elizabeth and Sir Winston Churchill.

The Strenuous Years: Picturing the Arts, 1950s

Portraits of Queen Elizabeth II, Francis Bacon, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Lucian Freud and Marilyn Monroe.

Partying and the Partying Years: Apotheosis and Retrospection, 1960s and 1970s

Includes images of Audrey Hepburn, Prince Charles, Harold Pinter, Katherine Hepburn, Mick Jagger, Barbara Streisand
and Elizabeth Taylor.”

Text from the Walker Art Gallery website

The Man Who Fell to Earth:
Loving the Alien

By Graham Fuller

Science-fiction drama, western, love story, metaphysical mystery, satire of modern America—The Man Who Fell to Earth is the most beguiling of the films that, in a dozen years embracing the 1970s, established Nicolas Roeg as a mainstream heir to such 1960s experimentalists as Alain Resnais, Jean-Luc Godard, and Chris Marker. With its fragmented narrative, its genre hopping, its strategic crosscutting, and its dense tapestry of disassociative visual and musical allusions, the film was an enigma for many of the British critics who warily reviewed it in April 1976, and no less so for their American counterparts when it was released in the United States, minus twenty crucial minutes, two months later.

Indeed, it was a puzzle to many of those involved in bringing it to the screen. David Bowie, who claimed he never read the script, experienced it primarily as a love story. Buck Henry thought it might be a metaphor for the misunderstood artist. Donald Rugoff, who paid $800,000 to acquire the U.S. distribution rights to the $4 million project and then oversaw its butchering after taking advice from a psychiatry professor and college students, among others, admitted that he didn’t understand it and felt “it was one of the weirdest films I’ve ever seen.”

David Bowie in Nicholas Roeg´s l-the-man-who-fell-to-earth-screenshot

The premise is simple enough. Thomas Jerome Newton, a clairvoyant alien, played with gentleness and reserve by Bowie, falls to Earth in New Mexico. Carrying a British passport and nine lucrative electronics patents, he makes his way to Manhattan and pays a business call on Farnsworth (Henry), a patent lawyer, whom he hires to establish and run a global communications corporation that will generate massive wealth through its technological innovations (which include a precursor to digital photography). Newton becomes deeply involved with two other earthlings: Mary-Lou (Candy Clark), the blowsy, garrulous hotel maid who becomes his lover, and Dr. Bryce (Rip Torn), a cynical, disillusioned Chicago chemistry professor who renounces his life as a campus womanizer to become Newton’s chief scientific consultant.

David Bowie in Nicholas Roeg´s l-the-man-who-fell-to-earth-screenshot

Newton’s mission, stated more explicitly in Walter Tevis’s 1963 source novel than in Roeg and screenwriter Paul Mayersberg’s adaptation, is to develop sources of energy and then a space program, with which he seeks to deliver his planet’s few survivors. These include his wife and two kids, who carry, in tubes wrapped around their bodies, what little water remains to them. Successive nuclear wars have inflicted droughts on the planet, the book tells us.

The film offers us a few glimpses of Newton and his family plodding around the dunes of their dying planet, and what strikes us is the conventionality of these rote sci-fi images. Roeg is more interested in showing how life on Earth is stranger and more disconcerting than anything in outer space. An early shot of Newton lying on his back on a bench outside a bric-a-brac store and looking up at us—at our topsy-turvy world—sets a mood of abstruseness and disorientation that Roeg invites us to fall into. In a sense, Newton is Alice, and late twentieth-century America is a corrupt Wonderland defined by a government that orders Farnsworth’s execution; by television culture, which enslaves Newton; and by the panaceas of sex, which Bryce indulges in with his students, and alcohol and religion, which enable Mary-Lou to stave off self-awareness.

David Bowie in Nicholas Roeg´s l-the-man-who-fell-to-earth-screenshot.jpg

As both panorama and chamber piece, the film is beautiful to look at, and beautiful, too, in its mysteriousness, in the challenge it sets us as viewers. It is as kaleidoscopic as Roeg and codirector Donald Cammell’s Performance but painted on a much broader canvas, and so needs to be experienced in its full glory if comprehensibility is an object, which is why the cuts made to the original American release were especially moronic. Prompted by an effort to sanitize the movie, Rugoff cut the sequences of Bryce fooling around in bed with his students; the shot of Mary-Lou urinating from the shock of seeing Newton in his alien state; the crucial sex-and-guns sequence in which Newton, in captivity, destroys his relationship with Mary-Lou; and the scene of Bryce dressed absurdly as Santa Claus. These excised scenes are concerned with the characters’ ability to evolve, or not, through their interaction with Newton. Their absence leaves the characters’ stories incomplete.

David Bowie in Nicholas Roeg´s l-the-man-who-fell-to-earth-screenshot 0

Playing Newton as pale, gaunt, and tremulous, Bowie made his exquisite film acting debut inThe Man Who Fell to Earth, in a role that chimed iconographically with his androgynous, futuristic pop persona of the early seventies. Until his apparent genderlessness is revealed (and causes Mary-Lou’s accident), his most striking characteristic is his orange hair, a beacon that seems at times to confer an amber glow on the mise-en-scène. Shots of his head from behind underscore Newton’s vulnerability, presaging his eventual capture and brutal humanizing by the State Department, which moves to terminate his corporation’s destabilizing effect on the American economy, and fleetingly dips the movie’s toe into the political paranoia thriller.

Bowie The man who fell to earth nicolas roeg

As critic Tom Milne has suggested, this defenselessness is central to the exchanging of identities and the shifting of power dynamics between the characters in The Man Who Fell toEarth. This also occurs in PerformanceWalkaboutDon’t Look NowBad Timing, and Track 29, the other films on which Roeg’s reputation as an auteur is based. As Newton becomes progressively more human, he becomes susceptible to the same vices that taint his intimates: the aggrandizement of power and wealth (Farnsworth), alcoholism and emotional dependency (Mary-Lou), abusive sexual behavior (Bryce). They, in turn, in Milne’s words, “rediscover something of that vulnerability,” shedding their protective carapaces even as they variously let Newton down, because, as humans, that is what they are fated to do.

Alien or human or both, Newton is a fallen angel, in the old sense of an angel as messenger. (He has much in common with the visitor who masquerades as the long lost son of a fantasizing housewife in Track 29, based by Dennis Potter on one of his “angel” plays.) He is inscribed as Icarus in a shot of Brueghel’s painting and through W. H. Auden’s rueful poem about it (contained in a book Bryce sends to his daughter). Roeg presumably had in mind, too, William Blake’s satirical vision of Sir Isaac Newton, the English philosopher and scientist, as an angel of darkness who appeared as “a mighty spirit” leaping from the “land of Albion [England]” to awaken the dead to judgment. Also in the mix is Blake’s time-traveling Christlike alter ego, Los, “that Shadowy Prophet who Six Thousand Years ago / Fell from my station in the Eternal Bosom . . . I return! Both Time & Space obey my will.”

david_bowie_the_man_who_fell_to_earth_rialto-777x614

And time in the movie obeys Roeg and Mayersberg’s will. Their use of omissions and abrupt transitions in the structuring of the narrative, as it follows Newton’s stream of consciousness, causes time to become elastic: years, decades, centuries pass us by in a single cut, and without warning. A little history of man unfolds before us. Stuck on Earth, unable to save his people, unable even to age, Newton becomes a passive receptacle for everything that everyone in the film, and everyone watching, wants to bring to him—as well as a vehicle for the Englishman Roeg’s scathing critic of America’s materialistic culture.

david Bowie changes_still1

Newton, of course, is not only from the “ancient time” of Blake’s “Jerusalem”—which he sings distractedly in Mary-Lou’s church—but also from the future. His memories of his planet could certainly be of Earth centuries (or less) after the events depicted in the film. Thirty years after Roeg filmed The Man Who Fell to Earth, over six weeks in July and August 1975, mostly around Lake Fenton, in New Mexico, it seems eerily prophetic of Earth’s own fate should global warming remain unchecked. Should we seek “outside” help, as Newton does? Roeg has that base covered: when Bryce apologizes to Newton for the way he has been betrayed and corrupted on Earth, Newton says a visitor to his planet could have expected the same treatment. The idea that human nature is the same the universe over, even when it’s nonhuman, is a bitter cosmic joke. But the joke doubles back on itself, because Newton’s planet is our own.

Thomas-Newton-the-man-who-fell-to-earth-21351261-487-429

“How strange your trains are,” Newton says in one of his many reflective moments. They thread through the movie, connoting the passage of time, the kind of fulfilling future that Mary-Lou suspects is closed to her (as she walks toward the tracks after her first date with Newton), and the doomed future that Newton knows. One of the first things he sees on Earth is a decrepit locomotive that triggers a memory of the futuristic little engine he boarded as he set out on his journey to the “present.” It’s a train to now but ultimately to nowhere—the one, Roeg’s glittering film implies, we’re all on. And it’s already left the station.

Bowie Candy Clark

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