Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Twilight Time - I COULD GO ON SINGING and EUREKA on Blu-ray ""

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Twilight Time - I COULD GO ON SINGING and EUREKA on Blu-ray

I COULD GO ON SINGING (1963; Ronald Neame)
A lot of folks will most likely remember director Ronald Neame for THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, but he made a lot of great character-based films as well as the disaster movie classic we all know and love. In 1958 and 1960, he did two excellent movies with Alec Guinness. My personal favorite of the two is THE HORSE'S MOUTH, a dramedy about broke and ornery old painter who is trying to find the right canvas (see also: wall) for his masterpiece. It's a delightful film and one of my favorite Guinness roles ever. After that, Neame and Guinness made TUNES OF GLORY, a Scottish military drama that is also quite good. Soon after that, he directed Judy Garland in I COULD GO ON SINGING, which was to be her final film role. My first contact with this film was seeing that Quentin Tarantino had purchased it on Laserdisc from the video store I used to work at many years ago. As a point of interest, I was immediately curious about any movie that he bought there. There were many that I'd never heard of at all and this Garland film was one of them. Of course, I never got to ask the man about why he bought it, but I can certainly assume that it might have had something to do with it being Judy's last film and perhaps that QT was a Ronald Neame fan. Regardless, I owe him for putting this movie on my radar. Despite it having a listing in Danny Peary's Guide for the Film Fanatic, I had totally never heard of it.
From the opening shot of Judy Garland, there is an immediate vulnerability that she brings with her. This being her conclusion as a movie actor, she shows signs of having aged a bit if you are more accustomed to seeing her in her cinematic prime. Her eyes are still the same, but her face and her hair somehow give hints that she has lived a more taxing life than most people have at her age. She was about forty-one at the time and would be gone only six years later. She's still lovely and carries with her the rare radiance that only the true movie stars are able to convey, but she looks tired. Her eyes and the lines on her face show fatigue. Judy herself must have been feeling it, but it works quite perfectly for the character - an aging singer named Jenny Bowman. Garland sings in this movie and apparently, she hadn't sung in a movie since A STAR IS BORN in 1954 (and this is part of the logic behind the title of the film).
Jenny Bowman finds herself performing in London and seeks out a former flame who she had a child with fourteen years prior. She looks to reconnect with both her former lover (played by Dirk Bogarde) and also with her son, who she has been estranged from for many many years as she left him to be raised by his father. After begging him to see the boy, they come to an arrangement that she will meet him briefly and go on her way. That doesn't happen though and the visit gets a little extended. I've always enjoyed films where the characters are making up for lost time and doing their best to enjoy the fleeting moments they have, especially when their is an undercurrent of melancholy tied to the affair. This movie has a mother connecting with her son for the first time really and it is hard not to feel the emotion within that setup alone. When you add in that the boy doesn't know that he is her son and that the father isn't really thrilled with her spending a lot of time with him, you know things can end possibly end less than happily. There's a tension there, intertwined with the joy that it's clear that the mother is feeling. It's makes for a much more intensely affecting experience overall. And seeing Judy Garland later in her life, playing this character who clearly has some regrets that she is struggling with is very powerful. And the fact that we get get to witness her performing on stage a few times in the movie makes everything even more poignant. It's a pretty excellent swan song for such a great actor.

Special Features:
-Audio Commentary with Producer Lawrence Turman, and Film Historians Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman.
-Audio Commentary with Film Historians David Del Valle and Steven Peros.
-Isolated Score Track (with some effects).

I COULD GO ON SINGING can be purchased from Twilight Time here:

EUREKA (1983; Nicolas Roeg)
Nic Roeg is one of those filmmakers that was kind of made for a cult audience. His films have a dreamy and surreal nature whilst often going to dark places in the human psyche. Imagine if the end of 2001 or the beginning of CITIZEN KANE was something that cropped up regularly in other movies and you get some idea of how Roeg works from time to time. There are certain impressionistic touches that he employs regularly and it really makes his films and his style quite momentous to behold. The movies feel like they exist in some kind of alternate reality - where we can see a lot of things that we can relate to the world as we know it, but there are also elements that are strange and unexplained. I like that he operates this way. He also has a remarkable eye for composing shots - which no doubt comes from his beginnings as a cinematographer. He also utilizes an editing style that can run counter to mainstream expectations. Time is very fluid and frequently nonlinear with Roeg. The combination of his often challenging approach to storytelling and the way he shoots his films makes them incredibly cinematic and pretty unique. They are not the kind of thing you can put on in the background. Roeg demands you pay attention as he weaves these mysterious cinematic puzzles. Look away for a moment and you could miss some key clue to a character's inner workings or their psychological scars. While he uses dialogue, I have often found that his stuff is much less about what people are saying than what he is showing you. It's a really nice antidote to the big Hollywood tentpole trend of today. When you sit down to watch a Nic Roeg movie, you are immediately reminded that he will not spoon feed you. It can be jarring after having watched a lot of kids movies and other crap that I have been subjecting myself to on a regular basis of late. I would compare Roeg slightly to a guy like David Lynch in that they both regularly bring in elements of magical realism but in a dark way. Like a Lynch film, Roeg cinema will wash over you and leave you pondering for some time. Roeg is also like Kubrick in that he clearly has a vision for his movies that makes more sense to him while he is in the process of making them. Not to say he would necessarily require sixty takes from his actors, but rather it must be a tricky thing to communicate what's in his head sometimes as it can take several viewings of his films to get a handle on them. EUREKA opens in a way that it makes me feel like maybe P.T. Anderson looked at it prior to making THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Instead of oil, EUREKA has gold as its currency of soul corrupting power. The whole movie could be seen as slightly parallel to TWBB in a few other ways as well and that is fascinating. It's easy to see why P.T. would be drawn to Roeg and to EUREKA. The ensemble here is quite stellar and includes the likes of Gene Hackman, Theresa Rusell, Rutger Hauer, Mickey Rourke, Joe Pesci, Joe Spinell, Ed Lauter and Helena Kallianiotes. As with another P.T. favorite director - Robert Altman - Roeg really makes great uses of a fine group of actors. This movie is one of the most ambitious, in terms of scale, that Roeg ever made. Usually he was working with two or three big actors and stories that were a bit smaller than this one. You might say that it's like his HEAVEN'S GATE, but not in any kind of negative way. Despite the scope of the story, he still manages to make it feel pretty intimate, which is perhaps just his way of handling things.

Special Features:
-Isolated Music & Effects Track (with Partial Isolated Score). 

-Q&A Audio Commentary with Director Nicolas Roeg at the World Premiere (104 minutes). 
-Writer Paul Mayersberg on EUREKA.
-Producer Jeremy Thomas on EUREKA.
-Editor Tony Lawson on EUREKA. 
EUREKA can be purchased on Blu-ray from Twilight Time here:

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