Thursday, 24 March 2011

JANE EYRE (1943)

English director Robert Stevenson's career divides neatly into three periods. The first making feature films in both England and America after which he spent almost ten years working in television before settling down as Walt Disney's in-house director responsible for such mega hits as MARY POPPINS and BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS. He was never a great stylist but he had what Disney wanted - the ability to get the job done and do it efficiently. JANE EYRE is probably the best film from the first phase of his career. Watching it with hindsight it is hard not to believe that Orson Welles who plays Edward Rochester didn't influence the style of the film but that tends to be said about any good film Welles lends his talent to even when there is little evidence to support it. The film is dark and moody and very gothic which, of course, applies to the novel as well and Janes journey to Thornfield might just as well be to Castle Dracula or, at least to Baskerville Hall. Joan Fontaine must have had a strong sense of deja vu having not long before starred in Hitchcock's REBECCA from Daphne DuMaurier's novel which was heavily influenced by Bronte. Visually the film is a treat and besides Fontaine and Welles there are fine performances by Agnes Moorhead, John Sutton and particularly by the great Henry Daniell. Of course, special mention must be made of the uncredited performance by the very young Elizabeth Taylor and Janes doomed school friend - ironically I watched the film on the day she died before having heard the sad news. There have been several good versions of JANE EYRE (and another on the way) but this remains my favourite. Rating ****

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


To be honest I'm not sure if this is the right place to be reviewing this. Does it qualify as a film? Does it qualify as a television movie? What was it? Well, you get an audience of 12,000 people to turn up (free tickets) dressed as wedding guests at the magnificent ruins of Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds, Yorkshire and then you stage a live production of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein complete with musical numbers and then you transmit it live on BBC3. Nah, it couldn't work - but against all odds it did. The plot remains faithful to the original novel - with a few justified twists. Frankenstein's dad is a nouveau rich, gruff, Yorkshire business man (Mark Williams) who is laying on a big society wedding for his scientist son Victor (Andrew Gower) and his bride (the lovely and talented Lacey Turner- a million miles from EASTENDERS) not knowing that Victor has a dark secret. With some atmospheric filmed flashbacks the production is both imaginative and enthralling. The only fault I could find is the inclusion of some truly mundane, unimaginative and indifferently performed musical numbers that really were not needed. I've saved the best for last and that is the ever excellent David Harewood as the Monster - both sympathetc and threatening at the same time. Now if only the National Theatre can be persuaded to release a DVD of it's FRANKENSTEIN with Benedict Cumberbatch - it's been recorded so why no DVD?

Kirkstall Abbey

Thursday, 17 March 2011


Michael Gough 1916 - 2011 R.I.P.

Sunday, 13 March 2011


Jean Vigo was 29 when he made L'ATALANTE and dying of tuberculosis. His total output consists of a surreal documentary, A PROPOS DE NICE, about the town of Nice, a short film about a French swimming champion, a medium length feature about school kids, ZERO DE CONDUIT. All his films have a veneer of reality but Vigo had the eye of a poet and he was able to dig beneath the surface to discover the surrealism inherent in everyday life. In L'ATALANTE Vigo retains his eye for surrealistic imagery but the real power of this beautiful film comes from what today we have come to call "magical realism. A young barge captain marries an inexperienced village girl and almost as soon as the wedding ceremony is over the couple set off on his barge towards Paris. Although the newly weds are obviously in love the girl is not prepared for her husband's initially rough ways and the harsh realities of life on a working barge. As the barge moves slowly up the river, through fog, the bleak industrial landscape the film becomes as much a journey through the couples developing relationship as a realistic voyage (it is not to far fetched to compare the symbolism of the journey with that used by Conrad in his far bleaker Heart of Darkness). The girl dreams of Paris and fashions and romance (personified by the lively seductive tinker) but reality proves darker. Vigo never lets the symbolism overpower the human story of people learning to live together and his characters are fully developed with all the failings and idiosyncrasies of real people. The couple are beautifully played and Michel Simon gives in Pere Jules one of the most memorable screen performances of all time - and it isn't just comedy relief as some have suggested. A wonderful film. How sad that all Vigo's films now fit on to one DVD.....but at least we have them.

You lucky Americans......

A while back I was bemoaning that Rex Ingram's THE MAGICIAN is not available on DVD. Well, it is now. Warners is releasing it, along with other silent treasures, through the online Warners Shop (click here for link) which is great news - unless you are English! They only ship to America.

Paul Wegener as Oliver Haddo, the Aleister Crowley inspired villain of Rex Ingram's film version of W.Somerset Maugham's novelette THE MAGICIAN.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Harold Lloyd 1893 - 1971)

My introduction to the works of Harold Lloyd came with a showing of his film SAFETY LAST at the Holloway School Film Society. The image of Lloyd suspended from the clock is surely one of the iconic images of film comedy. When I saw that film, circa 1960, I had no idea that little more than two years later I would shake hands with Harold Lloyd himself. Lloyd, being a better business man than many of the silent clowns had held on to the copyright of his films. In 1962 he was instrumental in putting together a compilation of clips from many of his films entitled HAROLD LLOYD'S WORLD OF COMEDY. Lloyd came to London for the launch of the film and visited the Columbia Pictures offices in Wardour Street, London. On a previous visit Harold had made the acquaintance of Bill Atherton, an elderly ex-music hall comedian who was working in Columbia's mailroom. I was sitting talking to Bill when Harold Lloyd came in to say hello. Bill kindly introduced me to the silent star and we shook hands. I wish I could say it was more than that but that was about it - a quick handshake - but dammit it was Harold Lloyd and I met him.

And if you are thinking that I've posted this on the wrong blog, you are wrong. Oddly I do not own any of Lloyd's films so he doesn't qualify for THE WEAVERMAN ARCHIVES. I hope to rectify that soon.

Sunday, 6 March 2011


Well, my list of film masterpieces is complete. Twenty-Five films which are, for me, about as good as it gets. The only limitation I felt while making my choices was, having allowed myself only one film per director, was which film to choose as many of the named directors have more than one masterpiece under their belt. Take, for instance, Powell and Pressburger's THE RED SHOES ? What made me pick it over the duo's THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP given that the latter is my favourite of their films. The truth is, I don't know, but I felt it best to go with a gut feeling on the day. Another day, another list. I'm happier with my choices than some seem to be but I think some have totally missed the point of the list. Director John Landis said in an interview that he had an appreciation of high art and low art - he could enjoy both Buster Keaton and Chaplin and still laugh his socks off at The Three Stooges and I think that is the correct attitude. Films can be enjoyed in many ways. My way may not be another person's. My blog is only intended to register my reaction to a movie and hopefully point out things I find interesting in those films. My purely personal view is that there is a natural order to things and some things are genuinely more valuable that others (but as John Landis said that does not mean that the lower orders cannot be entertaining) and the twenty-five films I have picked are, for me, extremely valuable. Feel free to disagree or send me your lists!


1. VAMPYR (Carl Dreyer 1931)
2. LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS (Marcel Carne 1945)
3. L'ATALANTE (Jean Vigo 1934)
4. THE RED SHOES (The Archers 1948)
5. NATTVARDSGASTERNA (Ingmar Bergman 1963)
6. L'ECLISSE (Michelangelo Antonioni 1962)
7. LE GRANDE ILLUSION (Jean Renoir 1937)
8. THE GODFATHER (Frances Coppola 1972)
9. IKIRU (Akira Kurosawa 1952)
10. THE GRAPES OF WRATH (John Ford 1939)
11. CITIZEN KANE (Orson Welles 1941)
12. VERTIGO (Alfred Hitchcock 1958)
13. METROPOLIS (Fritz Lang 1926)
14. LA BELLE ET LA BETE (Jean Cocteau 1946)
16. WINGS OF DESIRE (Wim Wenders 1987)
17. THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (Peter Bogdanovich 1971)
18. NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Charles Laughton 1957)
19. LE SALAIRE DE LA PEUR (Henri-Georges Clouzot 1953)
20. CITY LIGHT (Charles Chaplin 1931)
21. PINNOCHIO (Walt Disney 1940)
22. HIS GIRL FRIDAY (Howard Hawks 1940)
23. THE WIZARD OF OZ (Mervyn LeRoy 1939)
24. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (Stanley Donen 1952)
25. A STAR IS BORN (George Cukor 1954)