Brian Jones of Rolling Stones

Lies and More Lies

DATELINE: Murder Won’t Out

 

A new documentary on the fate of one of the founders of the Rolling Stones legend has been produced, written and directed by Danny Garcia. This is surely one of the ultimate acts of a groupie of the first order. His paeon to Brian is truly sad.

Jones was another of those rock stars who died at age 27, resulting from a self-destructive lifestyle of drugs and drinking. By the end, one month after he was pushed out of the group by Mick Jagger, he was dead.

Jones was actually the one who put an ad out in 1962 to form a jazz band. Mick Jagger and Keith Richard came to see him and were blown away by his musical talent and brilliant mind. He was the original leader of the group, but his sensitivity led to a hasty downfall.

Keith wanted to sing an occasional song, but there was no way to supplant Mick Jagger. By the time of “Satisfaction,” Brian was mostly dissatisfied with the direction and tone of the group.

His drinking and unreliability made him anathema to the others, and they plotted his removal because he was so unable to show steadiness in a rock field of people out of control.

Jones was thrown out of his home by parents who did not want him to give up classical music, and he was a three time father of illegitimate children by age 19. He was excessive in a world of excess.

Jones was friends with bob Dylan and John Lennon who were more sympathetic than Mick Jagger, but Scotland Yard set-ups of the rock scene were growing. Fake drug busts enhanced any drug usage, and Jones was victim. He was shocked at the hostility and fell apart, even according to his father Lewis.

Was Jones murdered? Evidence suggests that police were not forthcoming about the possibility. Jones had only the equivalent of three pints of beer in his system—and prescribed drugs. He was involved in a fight with a thug contractor who was repairing his Sussex home—and to whom Jones owed him much money.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richard refused to participate in the biography made 50 years after Brian’s death.

A fictionalized movie called Stoned seemed to follow this theory.

 

 

One Last Trip to Greece

DATELINE: Literary Road Trips

 Steve Coogan with Rob Brydon.

With great sadness we are saying goodbye to the highly intelligent, witty, charming series of movies with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Their last is The Trip to Greece,all four civilized comedies were directed by Michael Winterbottom.

These have been four rarities of the modern age: witty as Noel Coward, beautifully locations, with amusing company. And they aren’t even gay. Two performers whose competition extends to out-imitating the other are sent on a fictional outing. Their job as journalists is to visit fine restaurants and write reviews.

The actors sort of play themselves in Brydon and Coogan (notable Oscar nominee for Stan and Ollie, as he was Stan). You often cannot tell where the fiction starts, as they play versions of themselves blending over into plot contrivance. Their litany of impersonations (Brando, Hoffman, Olivier, Caine, Pacino, Jagger) makes for a variety of dinner companions.

Four films feature hilarious riffs and impersonations over dinner and while driving around luscious countryside in Greece. Brydon sings the tune from Grease, and he crunches it to fit the country. Coogan is dutifully appalled.

They transform imitations of Laurel and Hardy over lunch into breath-taking jokes: Oliver Hardy morphs into Tom Hardy.

These little forays to gourmet restaurants have a price in this film (350 Euros).

The bittersweet last entry in the series showcases the performers to their greatest wish: Brydon becomes the epitome of the light comedian—and Coogan, as he likes, becomes the tragic actor of Shakespearean levels.

Their frictions and battles are nothing short of delightful wordplay. You don’t see that much anywhere in movies nowadays.

After visits to England, Italy, and Spain, this lap around the Aegean ends with a whimper. Brilliantly done, and hopefully there will be one more trip.

 

 

Love, Cecil: Move Over, Truman, Noel, and Andy!

DATELINE: Save the Queen!

Bright young Beaton Bright Young Beaton!

It’s pronounced Seh-sill, not Sea-sill.

He rose from humble middle-class British life to starring role in every art scene of the 20th century. He was an inveterate snob.

Cecil Beaton was a force to be reckoned with in life—usurping the gay flighty worlds of Warhol and Truman Capote. Though he loathed Noel Coward, he matched them every step of the way down the gay runway.

Billed as the tastemaker of the 20th century, his vast collection of films, photos, designs, and assorted images, make up the compendium. He also gave many interviews. Yet, he still comes across as a social climber and proto-gay libber.

Beaton was always impressed with royalty, being one of those commoners from England. When he came to America, he instigated controversy everywhere: comparing British women to American.

However, he nearly destroyed his career with a careless and stupid anti-Semitic design in Vogue. He claimed to have been careless and thoughtless, as was his entire youth. Deep down, he was shallow.

The other key event in his life was becoming a war photographer during World War II. It redeemed his reputation.

His Hollywood ties include an infatuation with Garbo—asking her to join him in one of those arranged “friendship” marriages, as he preferred boys and she, girls.

By the 1950s and 1960s, he was taking pictures of all the most famous people: Marilyn, Warhol, Mick Jagger, and on and on. He was slight, epicene, and queenly, before it was considered stylish. If anything fit better, he was the natural heir to Oscar Wilde and Serge Diaghilev.

He also played a prominent role in Scotty Bowers’ documentary, Secret History of Hollywood. This Zircon is narrated by Rupert Everett.

 

Tripping Again with Coogan & Brydon

 DATELINE: Another Sequel, not Deja Vu

 tripping

No, you didn’t read this movie review last week here.

What more can you ask?  Beautiful scenery, lovely music, and witty conversation. Yes, those two British actors (one with 2 Oscar nominations) are back to delight us.

We have skipped the second trip to Italy for now and cut to the chase with Trip to Spain. These two marvelous performers can hit the road and still hit their marks. This is another followup to their British series, The Trip, condensed and made into a feature film. No, it’s not a mid-life crisis movie, despite what the New York Times claims.

They seem to make the films every three or four years, which is just about right. They are reality-based, as the stars play themselves, notable thespians and comedians on a journalistic journey for the New York Times as food critics, or culture commentators.

With each stop at a breathtaking locale, Steve Coogan foams at the mouth with his erudite knowledge. Heaven help you if you know more or have enough. Rob Brydon can match him every mile, and that makes them chemically compatible.

Each morsel is back-lit with some of the funniest conversations this side of reality. Coogan notes how sorry he feels for anyone who thinks this stuff is not scripted and fully ad-libbed. It’s likely a circle within a square is outlined and the two drop in their witticisms.

However, the impressions make all the difference over the meals. When they argue over who does the best Mick Jagger impression as he plays Hamlet, you have moments that will knock fans of Noel Coward into the aisle.

Coogan remains prickly, but Brydon manages to break him up several times this trip, which may not have been planned.

If Coogan reminds us of ourselves, then we have had a bittersweet lesson. Sheer delight awaits the viewer.

 

 

 

Jodorowsky’s Dune Beats Lynch’s Dune

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

 jodorowsky's dune

We can think of a couple of great movies that never made it to post-production: I, Claudius with Charles Laughton as the Roman Emperor, and Dune, the Jodorowsky version. Both were made later in an era better able to handle the themes and technical aspects.

Years before David Lynch made an abysmal version of Frank Herbert’s Dune, Alejandro Jodorowsky—one of the great experimental filmmakers and artists—put together pre-production for an original epic. Now comes the documentary telling how it failed to be filmed in Jodorowsky’s Dune.

Studios wouldn’t accept the director: he was a gaucho warrior from South America—and he’d likely be out of control. His previous two movies were staggering achievements outside the system. 

Now nearly 40 years after his greatest film project was denied him, he and his producer Michel Seydoux put together a documentary to tell the tale.

Jodorowsky’s film and artistic team would have blown away audiences—or chased them away. His ideas then went into dozens of 1980s movies from Alien up to Prometheus, from Flash Gordon to Star Wars. What could not be done with special effects in the 1970s was possible a few years later.

Jodorowsky had seduced great minds to join him in his endeavor. Orson Welles, Salvatore Dali, David Carradine, and Mick Jagger, were the cast.

Like a cult leader, Jodorowsky could charm everyone—and even as an old man, you can see his energy, his integrity, and his style, in this film about the unmaking of Dune.

What a crime it is for the true visionary to be refused the union card for Hollywood, but the great filmmaker could rise above it—and even took pleasure in the Lynch’s inability to translate Herbert.

Those who love movies and great art on film owe themselves a chance to see this intriguing story of what might have been.