Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Lovers (1982)

Chances are you haven't seen the film 'Summer Lovers'––but it's more than likely you'd enjoy aspects of it, if you did. This is a surprisingly good movie with fine elements. The best part of watching the film is you'll feel like you've taken a mini-vacation to Greece. The cinematography is unexpectedly lush, the setting is gorgeous––and the actors are as easy on the eyes as the location.
The sight of Daryl Hannah and Peter Gallagher, looking young and in love, looks eerily reminiscent of Hannah's real-life romance with John F. Kennedy, Jr. in the 80's. I found myself particularly partial to Daryl Hannah's sporty, preppy casual vacation wardrobe.

The story involves a ménage à trois between the couple and a lovely French woman (Valerie Quennessen) who is an archeologist staying nearby the vacationing couple. Well, it isn't exactly a ménage à trois––it's more like Peter Gallagher with two ladies. I suppose it's a male fantasy. The women are not as involved with each other as they are with him. The threesome becomes a type of family unit as they spend more and more time together.
'Summer Lovers' is a harmless movie, and in many ways it's very enjoyable. I live in San Francisco, so I enjoy watching films that provide a warm, vacation-like atmosphere. The typically cold and foggy climate here can leave much to be desired in the summer.
One dubious element that pops up is when Daryl Hannah's character's mother turns up, out of nowhere (with her best friend in tow) to 'surprise' her daughter and boyfriend during their vacation. The only purpose for that to happen within the story is to have someone outside of the three principal characters' experience show their react to it. A mild reaction, nonetheless –– so it's altogether a fairly useless plot point.
One amusing element is the ending. I did not expect to see a 'sad' montage to Chicago's 'Hard To Say I'm Sorry' suddenly rear its head; there is no prior indication that it could happen based on the music that precedes it. The couple has lost their girlfriend, who has decided to stay away because it's too difficult to say goodbye to them. But then it becomes a happy ending, as the threesome stays on –– together in Greece. Hurray! It all makes for light and pleasant entertainment from the summer of 1982. A perfect getaway.
Enjoy the trailer!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Video Surprise––You'll Never Guess Who This Girl Is, 'Captain of Her Heart' Video; 1986 (Denise Richards, Or Still A Mystery?)

These photos are screen shots of a young woman who appears in the video for the song 'Captain of Her Heart'  (by the Swiss group, Double) from 1986. A while ago, I used some footage from that video for one I made to go with Spandau Ballet's 'Gold'. And this tremendously chic punk girl appears at the very beginning.
So here's the surprise. I have a knack for recognizing faces and I still would never have guessed this one, it is so tricky and utterly shocking. Lo and behold, who was this bleached blond beauty? Supposedly, and there is not a shred of photographic evidence otherwise, this is Denise Richards. Of course, this is according to Wikipedia (on both Denise Richards' page and Double's page.) But it has never been confirmed.
(Supposedly) Denise Richards
If this is not Denise Richards, how did this rumor even begin? If this is her, she would have been 15 years old here.
(Could be) Denise Richards
(Might be) Denise Richards in Double's 'Captain Of Her Heart' video
Here is the elegant but cheesy video featuring a bevy of beauties. The lovely young woman who is supposedly Denise Richards appears at 0:30. Note the stunningly gorgeous gray-haired lady at 1:10.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Surprising Video Element –– Belinda Carlisle's 'Mad About You' (1986)

Belinda Carlisle's song 'Mad About You' is an 80's summer classic, and I discovered recently that the video for the hit song has a certain life of its own that lends well to the song's ultra romantic feel.
It's been well-documented in interviews, and in her memoir 'Lips Unsealed', that Belinda Carlisle has had her share of obsessive-compulsive addictions –– from drugs, to food, and any other number of dangerous leanings. Back when she led the Go-Go's to super stardom, the press was terribly unkind to the lovely Belinda about her weight. Although she is a phenomenally gorgeous woman, no matter what, she understandably felt disenchanted by the Hollywood image roller-coaster into which she was firmly planted. 
Carlisle has stated in interviews that when she made the video for 'Mad About You', she celebrated a newly slim, mature appearance. She's explained that she had never felt so beautiful before. This was right after she had kicked her massive addiction to cocaine for the first time. But the most interesting (and romantic) thing about the video is that it features her husband, Morgan Mason, son of the great actor James Mason. Carlisle and Mason were newly married and she attributes her desire to clean up her act to his love and support.
So when you see this video within that context and frame of reference, it takes on a whole new meaning. She says, 'I'm mad about you, you're mad about me, babe...' and it is clear how much they are in love. 
There is a sense of newfound freedom in it, evidence that he loves her unconditionally, whatever her weaknesses or frailties and that together they've created a solid foundation for their future. It is also charming that they seemed to have been such very different personalities –– he being the more subdued and quiet of the two, Belinda Carlisle clearly the wild-child rock star learning to grow up.
And they are still married, incidentally. It's always fun to discover a romantic story like that. See the video for yourself, below.

Sam Fuller's 'White Dog' (1982)


'White Dog' was Sam Fuller's final film and it was terribly misunderstood at the time of its release. It wasn't given an adequate reception here in the U.S., although the film did quite well in Europe, especially in France. Groups like the NAACP mistook its very anti-racism meaning for something aligned with racism itself. That's most unfortunate, since Sam Fuller was known for being a great champion of civil rights. Imagine how difficult that must have been for Fuller––for his last (and arguably greatest) film to be so profoundly misinterpreted. 
After the wonderful Criterion Collection gave 'White Dog' a proper DVD release, niche audiences were finally able to embrace Fuller's captivating movie that deals with racism in a very touching way –– through the eyes of a dog trained to hate black people. 
So 'White Dog' went into my Netflix queue and I anticipated seeing this unusual movie. 

Oddly, and very sadly, I happened to be watching 'White Dog' on May 27th when I got word that one of my personal heroes Gil Scott Heron had passed away that afternoon. It was strange to absorb the terrible news in the midst of this film. Unlike many who discovered the greatness of Gil Scott Heron that day, I had been a passionate devotee (along with my husband) of Gil Scott Heron and his music for the past decade. Incidentally, I first started hearing his music frequently on French radio years before when I worked for a fashion design label in New York, so it's strange that France would have to introduce me to this incredibly gifted American performer. My husband and I saw Gil Scott Heron perform live twice in the past couple of years, once for my birthday. I even had a chance to talk to him, thank him for his music and shake his hand. I told him how much I admired him. For me, Gil Scott Heron's sudden absence from this world was deeply sad. I felt like I'd lost a troubled hero and friend. But at least I had appreciated him––his incredible mind, his wit and his musical style, great JAZZ artist that he was––as fervently as I had while he lived among us. I will cherish the pictures and a video I have of one of his final performances.
The character of Keys attempts to cure the dog
But back to 'White Dog'. There are a great many reviews and blog posts now dedicated to this touching movie. What I can add is that this movie is still probably not for everyone. It has a distinctively early 80's feel, which I love about it, and the direction in some ways reminded me of the great DePalma films of the 70's. 

'White Dog' is very filmic and beautiful. The story is immensely moving because there is a certain urgency to it. You hope beyond hope that this dog can be cured of his terrible, human-imposed affliction. But you know that this will probably end badly for the poor, innocent creature. 

Anyone who loves animals, as these characters also do, will feel tremendous sadness and empathy for the dog. And if they ever handed out awards for movie animal trainers, the ones behind this film are most deserving... I honestly never saw a performance by a dog (there were several white dogs acting in the role) that was this intense and realistic. The dog's performance here is truly astounding.
This dog gives a powerful performance
Another fascinating insight to 'White Dog' is that it is based on Romain Gary's novel, 'Chien Blanc', originally published as a short story in 1970. 
Romain Gary with his wife, Jean Seberg
Incredibly, the story was inspired by real-life events. Romain Gary was married to the beautiful Jean Seberg at one time (both tragically committed suicide years later; Gary, within a year of Seberg.) 
Jean Seberg, Romain Gary
Jean Seberg, Romain Gary
He and Seberg actually found and adopted a 'white dog', not realizing at the time that the dog had been trained to attack black people. They were shocked and dismayed at the terrible discovery. And from there the story was born. 
Romain Gary was friends with Sam Fuller and when the story was to be adapted to film, Sam Fuller and Curtis Hanson wrote the screenplay together. 'White Dog' was indeed a collaboration of the highest order and still is. 'White Dog''s lavish and sadly delayed acclaim would have made all of those involved (Sam Fuller, in particular) glad for their well-intentioned efforts.  
Kristy McNichol as the actress who finds and hopes to save the dog
Here are two clips from the movie... The first is a touching moment between the dog and his newfound adopter. 
The second clip features a wonderfully earnest performance by Kristy McNichol when she encounters the abominable racist responsible for training her ill-fated white dog, (but what follows the clip is a fan video which incorporates an oddly upbeat song.)