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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

My mother was afraid I'd end up a projectionist: revisiting a Kevin Brownlow masterpiece

Kevin Brownlow‘s best known for his work as a historian and restorer of movies like Napoleon, but he made two features as a young man, including the brute period marvel, Winstanley, set in the era of the English Civil War, and the what-if-the-Nazis-had-won no-budget eight-years-to-make dystopic gem It Happened Here, presently reissued in the UK, and which he began work when he was but 18. In the Independent, Neil Norman talks with Brownlow about the course of time. brownlow-ithappenedhere24956.jpg “It is one of the most striking scenes in British cinema: Nazi stormtroopers marching through Parliament Square. Clearly designed to alarm and provoke, it is an image that could have been ripped from a WWII Nazi propaganda film. [But] it is a scene from [1964’s] It Happened Here… [I]t tells of partisan resistance to the Vichy-like state, and how survival and compromise can easily slide into collaboration. Shot in black and white, in 16mm and 35mm, in the manner of a documentary, it has the jackbooted kick of authenticity… “I wanted to be the next Orson Welles… But I never even put on the weight. And I am hopeless at raising money… My mother was afraid I’d end up as a projectionist… She encouraged me to be creative and bought me a camera.” … It is hard to reconcile the massive chutzpah this must have taken with the endearingly diffident, quietly spoken 67 year-old man sitting opposite me. But the evidence is on film for all to see… Brownlow retired from the fray of feature directing to concentrate on film restoration, documentaries and his books. Even now, one senses that his directorial career was nipped in the bud…. “If we hadn’t made this film it is possible I might be making feature pictures today… [W]e made a film for what most filmmakers spend on their main titles. An iconoclast does not gain entry into the cathedral. Second, it made no money, apparently. Third, I got a reputation for being anti-Semitic, which didn’t help. Finally, one thing I’ve found as an historian is that, if you are going to ask for a great deal of money on a risk, you have to give reassurance to a producer. Directors need to look like Alan Parker, Orson Welles, Victor Fleming. A scrawny, bespectacled individual does not inspire confidence.”

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“I think [technology has[ its made my life faster, it’s made the ability to succeed easier. But has that made my life better? Is it better now than it was in the eighties or seventies? I don’t think we are happier. Maybe because I’m 55, I really am asking these questions… I really want to do meaningful things! This is also the time that I really want to focus on directing. I think that I will act less and less. I’ve been doing it for 52 years. It’s a long time to do one thing and I feel like there are a lot of stories that I got out of my system that I don’t need to tell anymore. I don’t need to ever do The Accused again! That is never going to happen again! You hit these milestones as an actor, and then you say, ‘Now what? Now what do I have to say?'”
~ Jodie Foster

“If there’s one rule Hollywood has metaphysically proven in its century of experimentation, it’s that there’s no amount of money you can’t squander in the quest for hits.

“Netflix has spent the past couple years attempting to brute-force jailbreak this law. Its counter-theory has seemed to be, sure, a billion dollars doesn’t guarantee quality but how about three billion dollars? How about five billion dollars? Seven?

“This week’s latest cinematic opus to run across no-man’s-land into the machine-gun emplacements has been the Jared Leto yakuza movie ‘The Outsider.’ Once again, debuting on Netflix, another thing called a movie that at one glance doesn’t look like any kind of movie anyone has ever seen before, outside of off-prime time screenings at the AFM.

“If you’re working at a normal studio, you have one or two of these total misfires in a year and people start calling for your head. How many is Netflix going on? Fifteen? Twenty? This quarter? Any normal company would be getting murdered over results like that.”
~ Richard Rushfield