Some idle ramblings about David Bowie

#bowie #davebowie #graffiti #southall

I’ve barely come to terms with Lemmy’s passing… and now this. It’s hard to comprehend how ingrained in my growing up Bowie’s music was. He was one of those few artists who spanned my listening from as early as I remember – I guess that’s why it feels weird. I have memories of talking about him at school the day after a TOTP appearance. I was nine or ten, I remember talking about Bowie and The Sweet and T-Rex at school.

I heard about Bowie’s death when I got up this morning. I didn’t play any Bowie until this afternoon. I needed time. With Lemmy it was different, I went straight to the records.

David Bowie - Low, RCA PL-12030, 1977

I played Life on Mars first, I’d picked it a few years back as one of my top 6 from my childhood. Later on Radio 2 Rick Wakeman played it on a piano – that was surprisingly affecting.

The internet today has made it clear that this is the way so many people feel. That people are emotionally affected by this isn’t weird… it’s beautiful. It’s not hysteria, it’s how music works, how it should work. I saw a tweet from some journalist suggesting that we should all grow up, it made me sad that someone could feel so detached and such a lack of empathy.

There’s a picture of my granny sitting on a bench in Glasgow with a pink haired young woman holding a copy of Scary Monsters and Super Creeps – wish I could find that photo – it always made me smile.

I never saw him live… he was playing stadiums when I was going to pubs and clubs for my music. I don’t have regrets… that’s not what Bowie meant to me.

When asked I’d always answer Low – I do love Low, but if I was being honest I’d have to say Hunky Dory.

I didn’t finish my post about Lemmy… it was harder to write because of the different relationship I had with him.

Films I watched in 2015

I rate most films I watch… it’s meaningless – numbers are affected by mood and environment – and how can you genuinely allow films to be ranked alongside each other… nevertheless I do it – here’s how 2015 went:

Three films were rated 10:

Gregory’s Girl (1981)

Cosmic Voyage (1936)
Tell England (1931)
Score Films rated
10 3
9 8
8 28
7 43
6 41
5 49
4 28
3 11
2 8
1 2
Total 221*
* actually there were 222 in my list but one was impossible to rate!
How I’ve rated films over the last four years

Hitch #10: Blackmail (1929) – Knives is not right

Hitch and Anny on the sound stage of Blackmail

Blackmail was Hitch’s last silent and first sound film – we watched both.

I first saw the silent Blackmail when it was restored and shown at the BFI in 2012 – it was a revelation – Hitch made the film’s lack of sound work brilliantly – and joy of silent film is that the non-silence of it (the music) becomes such an important part of watching the film – and the person making the music is not only an accompanist but also part of the creative process of making the film… so the film is almost still a work in progress – here’s a lengthy article by Neil Brand on scoring Blackmail.

The silent film is splendid – it builds suspense and Anny makes Alice looks truly scared and scarred by things.

The sound film is pretty good too – it has some bits of genius of course, famously the brilliant “… blah blah blah blah knife blah blah blah KNIFE …” scene – but it more often suffers from its sound – most noticeably the ridiculous live dubbing of Anny Ondra.

SOUND
Watched: 2015-09-27
Source: DVD
Rating: 7/10

SILENT
Watched: 2015-10-
Source: DVD
Rating: 8/10

Hitch #9: The Manxman (1929)


The first time I saw The Manxman was as the archive premier at the 2012 London Film Festival it was on the huge screen and spacious surrounds of the Empire Leicester Square, it was a beautifully restored print, it had a lovely score played by a small folk ensemble, there was a small bar of Green & Blacks chocolate on every seat (and there were seats without people so … bonus choc) and the film was a sweet and sad tale of love – all of this and Hitch’s long, lingering close-ups of Anny Ondra, conspired to make me love the film to pieces.

Sitting in my living room, on a DVD (that was actually not bad a print), and without chocolate and the shine was slightly burnished. The story, that had been charming and sad, seemed a little (actually quite a lot) insubstantial. I still rather liked the film but the lovely shots (both of the Cornish (not Manx) coutryside) and the aforementioned Ms Ondra, were not enough to make this seem any more than a half-hearted and slightly laboured yarn.

Sweet Anny
Surprised Anny
Enraptured Anny
Heartbroken Anny
Accused Anny

… you get the idea with that.

Far from classic Hitch, and one I’m not in a hurry to watch again… and besides … we get long, lingering shots of Anny Ondra in the next one too!

Watched: 2015-08
Source: DVD
Rating: 6/10

Hitch #8: Champagne (1928)

Oh poor, long-neglected, Everything’s Swirling – time to breathe a little life into you.

I haven’t checked but can’t believe that no one has reviewed Hitch’s 1928 comedy Champagne by comparing it to it’s alcoholic namesake. But I’ll do it all the same. It’s light, and fizzy (in places) but ultimately unsatisfying. We first watched it when it was streamed over the Internet back in 2012 (so long ago – I remember being quite excited by getting to see a Hitch rarity streamed online).

I enjoyed the film a bit more this time. The story is pretty awful, but Betty is charming and Gordon Harker as her father is a treat – Hazel thinks his casting “seems particularly daft” but I thought he pulled it off rather well – the man can use that same face in any role from farmhand to Wall Street executive.

Champagne at The Hitchcock Zone
Champagne at BFI Screenonline

Watched: 2015-07-04
Source: DVD
Rating: 5/10

Hitch #7: The Farmer’s Wife

The Farmer’s Wife is a gently paced and sweetly realised comedy. Hitch takes a play and turns it into a perfectly passable silent film. There is no twist, when the widowed farmer draws up a list of prospective wives near the start of the film and leaves off his long-serving and long-suffering maid (Lillian Hall Davis), it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this is an oversight that will ultimately be rectified. The comedy that happens along the way is predictable but fun.

The Farmer’s Wife at The Hitchcock Zone
The Farmer’s Wife at BFI Screenonline

Watched: 2015-03-28
Source: DVD
Rating: 6/10