Taking Care of Business: Act Three

25th April 2021

Nicholas Young (Elvis) & Martin O’Shea (the Colonel). Original Berlin cast

ACT THREE

     Elvis appears. He goes over to the TV’s and repeats his movements from Act One, but without any enthusiasm. Finally, he goes to a chair and slumps down. On a table he sees an old pizza box, with some left-overs. He picks one piece and eats, but mechanically, his jaws moving in a uniform rhythm, also without enthusiasm or pleasure. There is more debris in the room and rubbish on the floor. After his food, Elvis just sits staring vacantly into space.

     Enter Colonel, slowly, with a sideways glance, a look of pity and confusion rather than disgust.    

Col: Well, I’m still here. I was re-instated in my post. For the sake of peace and quiet, I apologised and promised not to do it again, a promise I have every intention of keeping, I might add … my back was aching for days afterwards. I left my girlfriend or at least tried to … she wanted to break up with me. Something about me not being so much fun anymore, no sense of adventure. Work’s the same. I no longer bother to speak about what’s going on in my life … I merely listen to others drone on. I’ve developed a whole series of gestures and non-committal phrases like these …

(demonstrates various movements of head and body to match his words)

You don’t say; no, really ? Well, whatdoyaknow ? How do YOU feel about that ? What do YOU want to happen …Thanks for coming, hope to see you again, real soon … When I come home … it’s this. The work has dried up and so has he. No-one seems to want an Elvis, anymore. I felt in some way responsible for his depression. I tried to cheer him up by doing things like this …

(to Elvis)

Hey, Elvis, I put some flyers around town and some adds in papers, how about leaving Graceland for a while and going back on the road ? You know your public needs you.

(addresses audience)

we got a little response … we were put on a short list for a walk-on part in a TV add … Elvis likes TV, but they chose to go with a George Michael look- a-like in the end.

Elv: Won’t they get a surprise when they go to the can !

Col: Right ! Who needs it ? Walk-on parts ! Opening shops selling any old tack.

Elv: You know, I think you’re right there, boy. I shouldn’t be limiting myself to small commerce. I have a higher calling. Doggone right, you know, I’ve got it, I know what I have to do … call the Limo, Colonel, we’re off to … the Reichtstag ! (1)

Col: Say what ?

Elv: Yeah, I’m gonna offer my services to the state, hell knows they could use them. What do those politicians know about real life ? C’mon let’s go see ol’ man … er, who’s the big boss man, these days ? Is that big mother still there ? (2)

Col: No, there’s a new kid on the block. And that kid’s a woman.

Elv: Hilary ? Man, she’s cute. Love that hair-band thing.

Col: No, not Hilary. Not cute, either.

Elv: But a woman ?

Col: More or less. Give or take, though you’d probably want to take more than give. Name’s Merkel.

Elv: “Urkel” ? Oh, well, I be damned if I’ll go then. Wait till they get a President worth clambaking … can’t have a man like me wasting photo-ops with a two-bit cow-faced in-bred hillbilly.

Col: (To audience) Then I had an idea and bear in mind that I’m getting increasingly desperate. This is something I tried a few weeks back.

(To Elvis)

Hey, Elvis, Paul McCartney’s outside, he wants so much to meet you. Can you find the time to give him an audience ?

(A mere nod from Elvis. Colonel goes off stage and returns presently, dressed as a Beatle, dark suit and Beatle wig. Throughout, he speaks with an exaggerated Liverpool accent.)

Col: All right there, Mister Presley, honour to meet ya, like, it really is, fab, gear and groovy. Me and the lads got all your records, we really love you, we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you, like every time we write a song, we think, “how would it sound if Elvis sang it ?”

Elv: Better.

Col: Hey, you could be right there, Cock.

Elv: Bet your arse I’m right.

Col: So, which one of us is your favorite … everyone has a favorite Beatle ? Is it me ?

Elv: None of you.

Col: Oh, ‘ey, ain’t you a one, hey, a right Bobby Dazzler. Is it me ? It’s normally me. All the girls like me.

Elv: Boy, you sure as hell look like a girl. Whoa … I like the drummer … Bongo. He’s all right. ‘Course, he’s not the best drummer in the world.

Col: “In the world” ? He’s not even the best drummer in The Beatles. Ta-da ! An oldie but goldie. But can I ask you, where does your talent come from. People ask me all the time to …

Elv: Stop talking ?

Col: Oh, you do like a laugh, oh, ‘ey, fab, like, gear, WWHHHHOOOOOHHHHHHHHH

Elv : No, boy, I mean … stop talking ! You can get a signed photo on your way out. It’s my time to commune with the higher power now. An’ if you wanna know where my gift comes from, well, I suggest you get your skinny, white arse down to the local Baptist church. Randy Scouse git !

Col:

(To audience, as he removes his Beatle garb)

I gave it my best shot, what do you expect ? It got to the point where I was past caring, I thought I’d just let him rot, what’s it to me ? If he couldn’t pay his rent, I’d sling his fat arse out of the joint. ‘Course, I might need some help, someone with a JCB, maybe, but then … something happened. I was at work, drying glasses, when this guy comes in. He orders a beer and we strike up a conversation, you know, I’m thinking about the tips, well, this guy, he’s talking about his house and he’s got some light switch, which, I dunno, either it worked, or only sometimes, doesn’t matter … this guy’s talking to me … about light switches ! I don’t know the guy and he’s not drunk, he just goes on and on and on, he presses the switch one way, on comes the light, then when he tries it the opposite way, the light stays on, that kinda thing … and I’m LISTENING TO HIM ! I’m trying to follow him, see where he’s going with this … then it struck me … OK, the Ku’Damm (3) is hardly the road to Damascus, but this night, could I honestly say that my flatmate was any crazier than this guy, Mr Off-Switch ? Or any of the others in that sad and sorry place ? The guy playing video games all day long ? The girl who puts all her hope in computer-dating ? Anyone who’s ever gone to a Karaoke bar ? Maybe he had the answer … he felt that his life simply wasn’t good enough so he did something about it … little extreme for some tastes, I grant you, but … he did something. He was happy … was … so who was I to judge ? He made people laugh and, for a time, forget their own lives, their own problems. You know, I think people envied him. Really. He had the balls to be what they wanted to be. HE’S NOT ELVIS … he knows that. Did I have any better solutions, any answers, any … thing ? The next day, a letter arrived which gave me an idea. It was actually a bill for 46 Euro that’s 45 for the pizza and 1 for the stamp. I phoned and put a little proposition to them. They could have Elvis eat there every night for a week. I got him a booking …                   

Elv: What’s that you say, boy ?

Col: Elvis, you listen and listen good. 

(Speaks in a heavy, Southern accent)

I’m an old army man and I’m used to discipline. Now I’ve been good to you, almost too good, lettin’ you enjoy the fruits of your labour, an’ all. But heavens to Murgatroyd, they want you ! Your public’s crying out … they’ll be banging on the doors… Elvis, you’ve got to throw a little bone once in a while. I’ve got you booked into a week’s residency and by golly, you’re gonna do it.

Elv: A gig ?

Col: You betcha a gig.

Elv: Enough to keep us here, safe in Graceland ?

Col: More pizza than even you can imagine … but ya gotta get back into shape, son, back into motion.

Elv: Yeah, I have to … warm up a bit, that’s all. Why I can hear the crowd now … faint but expectant … murmuring. I can feel the excitement mounting … the lights, the make-up people running around, the choir doing their scales, musicians tuning. I gather my children around me for a little prayer, the audience getting louder and louder, sweat beginning to pour. I’m calm, gotta keep my people under control, but my heart’s pounding. I owe so much. People living their humble, God-fearing lives, have this one night to get a taste of, a glimpse of … something … higher. They need me … they need me to show them the way, to give them hope, belief, happiness … they need my love … they deserve … my love.

(Colonel slowly exits during Elvis’ speech. As Elvis reaches the end, ‘If I Can Dream’ comes on so that he can go immediately into his routine. He mimes along to the entire song. There should be no parody in the performance. Elvis can give out towels or flowers to women and as the music ends, the play finishes and lights go down.)

Notes

(1) Reichtstag – the German Parliament building.

(2) A reference to former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl

(3) Ku’Damm the main shopping road in west Berlin

Takin’ Care of Business: Act Two

24th April 2021

No photo description available.
Nicholas Young as ‘Elvis,’ with Jason Daly
No photo description available.

ACT TWO

It is seventeen weeks later. The room is even more tacky, with junk food wrappers and various Americana and kitsch items strewn around. As the Act begins, both are sitting on the chairs. Colonel tries to read but is put off by noises and mumblings coming from Elvis. He stares at Elvis, who seems oblivious. After some moments of silence :

Col: So then … what’s your favourite Elvis song ?

(slight pause)

Elv: All of them.

(slight pause)

Col: What’s your schedule this week ? I said …oh, what’s the use ? Think I’ll go and see Cordelia.

Elv: (suddenly appearing animated ) Oh yeah, the little lady. You take good care of that sweet lil’ bundle of honey – loving.

Col: What would you suggest ? Man of your experience.

Elv: (deep in thought) Uh … women. Boy. Whewww.

(Elvis doesn’t seems as if he’s going to add anymore.)

Col: Thank you, that was very helpful.

Elv: Shoes.

Col: Excuse me ?

Elv: Yeah, shoes. They love shoes. Buying shoes, trying  shoes, choosing shoes, they never wear them. Then take them out. A show, something that women like.

Col: Such as ?

Elv: That play they’re all clucking about … what’s it called ? Something … The Monotonous Vagina, that’s it.

Col: OK. Actually, I’m gonna break up with her. I don’t think it’s working out.

Elv: Attaboy ! Send her back to the farmyard where she belongs. Then when you come back we’ll go cruising on beaver patrol. I’ll show you why they call me ‘The Pelvis’. This rooster’s gonna rustle a few feathers, t’nite !

(He gets up and rubs his back, making slight moaning sounds)

Hold that thought, boy, not sure the King’s back could take it. Couldn’t you just pick up a pair of cuteys ? Use my name. That’ll work.

Col: Well I wasn’t planning on going down Hackershe Mackt (1) way. Listen, why don’t you use those phone numbers … satisfaction guaranteed, all for local rates.

Elv: And they’ll come here ?

Col: No !

Elv: Then …. ?

Col: You know … you know.

Elv: Yeah … what ? I dunno … what ? Oh….OH ! No, listen, I’ve been meaning to have a little chat with you … now seems a good time, what with you breaking up with Corolla.

Col: Cordelia.

Elv: See ! There you go, again. You always have to disagree with me … anything for an argument. When I think of what I gave, what I give to you, shucks, I don’t like to say, but doggone it, people would be falling over themselves to have your job. I don’t ask much, I’m just a simple country boy at heart, don’t let these luxury surroundings tell you otherwise. You have to admit, your work isn’t backbreaking, twenty-four hour a day hard manual labor. Hell, boy, it ain’t hardly work at all. I thought you liked looking after me … me who, well, me who gives so much pleasure to millions … don’t you think …

Col: Whoa, there, Tiger, time-out, time bloody out ! Enough is enough … what was the first record you bought ? What were the names of your pets  ? What’s the ingredients of your favorite peanut-butter and banana sandwich ? I have to say that your knowledge of trivia is disarmingly poor. I’m ashamed of you ! What happened last week ? Opening that dry cleaners ?                     

Elv: “Star Cleaners … feel like a star.”

Col: And that little kid comes up, asking where you were born… and you said “Dortmund”.

Elv: Well it was that Monroe look-a-like … she put me off … I couldn’t concentrate.

Col: So you may have been looking at the stars, but your mind was in the gutter.

Elv: Hey, there’ s a pal, get her number could you ? Tell her I’ve got a seven year itch she’s welcome to scratch. You know, I didn’t like the way Charlie Chaplin was looking at her. No values that man. Ah, she’s too old for him. He liked them young, barely out of their school uniforms …

Col: It’s no good knowing trivia about others … why don’t you read up ?

Elv: Why don’t you shut up, boy ? You can’t speak to me like that ! I made you what you are ! I took you out of that bar and gave you a firm foundation in life, set you up, away from that bedrock of sin and vice and nurtured you in an atmosphere of warmth and love and spiritual guidance. Now ! Get me Monroe’s number … I can’t get her tits out of my mind !

(Elvis gets up and prances around, fiddling with the TV’s, looking restless and generally lost as Colonel speaks. Halfway through the monologue, he sits down)

Col: I don’t know what to do with him. It was a joke at first, went on a bit long, but there was a line. As you can see, said line has been crossed, yes sir, and the truck is gonna keep on a-truckin’. He now refuses to believe that he’s not Elvis. He sits around all day, in the costume, same costume, watching TV’s, eatin’ junk and shouting out, “My boy, my boy.” Maybe it’s like a sleepwalker, you know, you’re not supposed to wake them. Imagine the shock he’d get when he realizes that he thought he was Elvis all these months. On the other hand, what if Elvis, his Elvis that is, suddenly realizes that’s he’s not who he thought he was, but he’s actually a bloke from Dortmund. You see where I’m going with this ? There’s one for the deconstructionists in the audience. Oh, I still work in that bar, for the time being. The boss told me to stop speaking to the customers about living with an Elvis impersonator. Apparently it’s depressing them and I have to survive on the tips. But why do all Elvis impersonators have to choose the 70’s Elvis ? Surely, if you’re gonna impersonate someone, you’d want to capture them at their best ? Why does no-one go with … the … ahhh … I have an idea. I won’t lie to you…it’s not without risk. There is, as you see, no safety net. Anything can happen and I cannot be held responsible. But I think it’s the only choice. You have been warned !

 (Exit)

Elv: Where you off to, boy ? Too ashamed by your behavior ? Well, I don’t hold grudges. You’ll be out of the ol’ doghouse soon and we’ll carry on as …

(Opening melody of ‘Are you lonesome tonight’ is heard, played by a toy xylophone. Elvis looks down at the landline phone and picks it up, slowly, with trepidation.)

Ahhhh … er, yeah, what, say, hello ? Yes, you are speaking to … The King … yes, say what, boy ? Burger Bar ? Yeah, I think it’s my God-given duty to open your Burger Bar … I’m a great patron of the arts. My fee …? er, well, hold the line … Colonel … COLONEL … Colonel ? Ah, heck, right, I’ll take 40,000 dollars cash and a bucket of burgers for the … hello ? Hello ? Damn Yankees ! Where’s the Colonel ? How dare he leave me before I sacked him. Kick his arse for sure. Skinny runt. Thinks he can talk like that to me … me ! The King …THE KING ! 

(attempts some moves but has to stop and rub his back)

Ohh, maybe it’s time I eased into my ballad period. Get the Colonel to hire some doo-wop backing chicks … short skirts, religious like. Oh, the …What in tarnation … ?

(The Colonel appears dressed in tight jeans with quiffed hair and carrying a guitar around his neck. He goes into a routine, singing and playing ‘Hound Dog’. The routine should start off quite serious and impressive until Colonel gets self conscious or loses his confidence and it becomes more of a parody. During this performance, Elvis gets increasingly irritated. First he is perplexed, then offended and finally angry. He tries to obstruct the Colonel, who is too nimble and quick. For the first time Elvis appears at least aware that there is an audience, as he tries to block the view and stop them seeing the ‘upstart’. Colonel then exits, singing and playing as he leaves. He gives one final turn and performs a series of pelvic-thrusts, then blows kisses. Elvis remains standing, breathing hard and heavy and mumbling to himself, though a few words may be intoned clearly. He seems to come to, breathes more calmly, then storms off stage. There are muffled sounds of Elvis screaming and cursing then some banging and thumping. Elvis reappears, dragging Colonel by the ear.)

Elv: I have never … never …

Col: (A la Gilbert & Sullivan) What never ? Or hardly ever ? Arrgghhh !

Elv: Ever seen such a hootenannying display of vulgarity. Boy ! My stomach is a turning over. I’m sick, sick, that a man could … and me … and … and… there’s nothing else for it. I’ve been carrying you for too long and this is how you say thank you, King. To think I was ever you ! The army didn’t come a moment too soon, doing my duty to God, serving in this fair country, comforting those little frauleins, all in the spirit of brotherhood and … and why weren’t you here ? Burger … burger … or whatever phoned … they had a gig for me … I don’t know how to speak to money people … my message is to the hearts, not the wallets. I only asked for 40,000 …see, they knew it’s too little, they must have thought they’d got hold of a crank. I HAD A GIG !  WHERE WERE YOU ? All this has cost me work … not to mention the insult, the … I’m trying, Lord, but … I can’t … I can’t. Some things are unforgivable. You have 24 hours to leave Graceland … and may the Lord have mercy on your soul.

(Exits)

Col: OK, so maybe I overdid it. I didn’t know he’d take it so hard. Disgraced in Graceland. Run out of town. Been given the boot. I’m no longer the pretend manager of a pretend Elvis. Maybe I could get a job as pretend Brian Epstein and pretend to manage pretend Beatles. What am I saying ? It’s getting to me … I have to leave, get back to normal people, have normal conversations, return to reality. Somebody around here has to. I don’t think it’s going to be him.

      END OF ACT TWO

Notes

(1) Hackershe Mackt an area in central Berlin where ladies of the night ply their trade.

Hooray for Harold Lloyd

28th June 2020

Harold Lloyd: Jazz Age Daredevil

In the early 1990s, I inherited an 8mm Bell & Howell cine camera and, with my flatmate Martin O’Shea as actor, began making short films in the East End of London.

Pacific Rim Camera Catalog
8mm cine camera late 1950s / early 1960s

We had a two-bedroom flat near Mile End Tube Station (which we could somehow afford on a student grant), walking distance to Bethnal Green, Brick Lane and Limehouse, areas synonymous with names such as Hawksmoore (the architect), The Kray Twins (local crime lords) and Jack the Ripper (local ripper).

St George in the East - Wikipedia
St George in the East, a Hawksmoore church

The area is incredibly historic, and well worth a walk for local historians, psychogeographists, or anyone with a passing interest in this less salubrious quarter of London.

The Ragged School Museum - East London - Britain's Decays Urbex
Ragged School Museum, Mile End

Walk is what we did, one Saturday night, up to Victoria Park, down to the street markets of Brick Lane and back home via the city farm at Stepney and a visit to St Dunstan and All Saints Church, where we had a lovely chat with the vicar. He was in his working outfit, white, pressed and clean … us, none of the above.

This was where we decided to film what was, I believe, our first film together, ‘A Day Well Spent’, and I think this would be Spring 1992.

St Dunstan and All Saints Church, Stepney, East London

Now the technical side. 8mm film lasted four minutes in total. The film had to be thread, in a figure 8 shape, in the camera, then reversed after 2 minutes. This meant keeping careful time, and not shooting anything vital in the dying seconds before the film ran out.

The film was silent and the camera, I believe, had no zoom and no auto-aperture; the light had to be set manually. Basically, it was a ‘point and shoot’ affair. Close-ups had to be physically close, long-shots, far away.

So, we had four minutes to tell a story, beginning, middle and end. Martin plays a tramp, a happy-go-lucky, Chaplinesque character. He awakes, on a rubbish heap, scratches himself, looks around and gets up. He wanders through the City farm at Stepney

Farmer's Paradise: an inside look at Stepney City Farm | City farm ...
Stepney City Farm
Stepney City Farm (London, England) - Đánh giá - Tripadvisor

Naturally, he’s hungry and seeing the chickens gives him an idea; he has to ‘procure’ an egg for breakfast, without being detected or suffering an avian assault. With his cunning and agility, he is successful, and celebrates his victory by holding his prize aloft as he runs past St Dunstan’s.

However, when he searches his pockets, he only has a fork with twisted prongs … not a suitable implement to eat his breakfast. Disappointed, he throws the egg away, and decides to go back to sleep.

We also had a recurring event, namely a visit from the rozzers (London slang for police). One burly boy in blue was curious what we ne’re-do-wells were up to in his manor. To see a young guy, in trenchcoat, asleep on a rubbish tip alerted his instincts. And we had a recurring escape, namely I showed my camera and all became clear … “Oh, they’re making art,” heavy irony on the pronunciation of ‘art’, and that sarcasm has repeated through the years.

Or maybe, like most people of my generation, he would have seen some short compilation films on BBC1 after 5.30 pm and before the 6.00 pm News. This was how so many of my friends were introduced to the world of Harold Lloyd.

Harold Lloyd - Wikipedia

Everyone knew Chaplin, most people had heard of Buster Keaton, but Mr Harold Lloyd was totally unknown. That all changed with a series of 20-minute programs featuring scenes from his silent films … and all my school-friends were knocked out by them. You would even hear people shout out as they left school, “Don’t forget to watch Harold Lloyd.”

Harold Lloyd | Biography, Movies, & Facts | Britannica
HAROLD LLOYD and JOHN AASEN in WHY WORRY? -1923-. Photograph by Album

Harold Lloyd, referred to as ‘The Third Genius’ was, and remains, a major influence, especially in how to tell a story by images alone and how comedy works. This photo from ‘Safety Last’ (1924) is iconic … and even more amazing when you know that Lloyd lost a thumb and finger in an accident on a film set.

His films and many clips are available on YouTube. I used to show them during break time to my Kindergarten class, and they loved him … I was able to silence 15 hyper-active kids with a silent movie star.

Happy Thanksgiving! Harold Lloyd in Hot Water (1924) | Nitrate Diva
Hot Water (1924): Harold Lloyd versus the Turkey on Make a GIF

Meanwhile, Mr O’Shea is busy in Berlin with a massive project: to put all our 8mm and Super 8 films onto computer, add commentaries and upload them on social media. Wish him luck, and take some time to watch Harold Lloyd … you won’t be disappointed

Seahorse Productions: ‘Shadow Sonata’ 2014

8th June 2020

‘Shadow Sonata’ was my first film shot in London since the early 1990s, and how things have changed. I started with a Bell & Howell 8mm cine camera, splicing film by hand and playing back on a projector; now I was working on a pocket digital camera and cutting on computer.

The title is a reference to the short story collection ‘Shadows of a Sound’ by the Korean writer Hwang Sun-woo, an author mentioned in the Korean film ‘My Sassy Girl,’ and the book plays a key part in the film. The influence of Asia and Asian culture should be discernible throughout.

Hwang Sun-won Whois
Hwang Sun-woo
Shadows of a Sound by Hwang Sun-won (1990, Hardcover) for sale ...
The short story collection

‘Shadow Sonata’ is a non-linear story of a man living in London, obsessed by an old love affair, while dreaming his way out of his depression. The topography of London helps the viewer place the action in the past, the present, and what could be the future, or pure imagination.

The Man starts by meeting his blonde girlfriend by an old museum in Walthamstow, north-east London. From the sunny exterior we move to the inside of his small London bedsit, decorated with Asian posters, and full of books by Asian writers.

Walthamstow Village - Wikipedia
Old Walthamstow

He walks around London, alone, the city appearing grey, cold, emotionless. He keeps seeing a beautiful Asian lady and feels very attracted to her … if only he could meet her.

I shot this film over two days on my Samsung W200, a camera that cost me around 80 UKP. It lasted until 2017 when it just died on me but anyway, mobile phones now have better cameras (I currently use an iPhone 6s).

Samsung W200 Full HD Waterproof Pocket Camcorder: Amazon.co.uk ...

Furthermore, I was very lucky with the weather; I had bright sun for the flashback sequence and dull wet grey rain for the present.

The was for the old love affair was played on an instrument I encountered in Sweden, a nyckleharpa:

Nyckelangelo

The dream or future sequence uses ‘Oriental’ from Granados’ ‘Spanish Dances’, while the melancholic ending is a late String Quartet by Beethoven. These small scale pieces fascinate me, especially considering they followed the epic 9th Symphony … but that is possibly a theme for another blog or film.

As always, thanks so much to the actors who gave their time for free:

Mr Martin O’Shea, Ms Michelene P. Heine, Mr Stephen Grey, Mr Alex Loveridge, Ms Angie and introducing Ms Emily Yue.

And now

LIGHTS

CAMERAS

ACTION !

The link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_e3DOCT36o

Seahorse Productions: ‘Inferno’ 2007

25th May 2020

From medieval Florence to modern-day Berlin, a film shot on both Super 8 and digital video, with a professional actor and professional sound engineer / cameraman. And all on no budget, as usual.

This is a retelling of ‘Inferno’ or Hell, an epic poem by Dante.

Dante Alighieri – Wikipedia tiếng Việt

Dante Alighieri born around 1265 in Florence during a turbulent time of political infighting. He studied to be a pharmacist, and books actually were sold in pharmacies at this time.

Florence Walking Tours: Half Day Tour Florence
Modern – day Florence with the incredible architecture

Dante is most famous for his Divine Comedy, a three-part poem, starting in Hell, Part 2 in Purgatory and finally Part 3 in Paradise. Of these, ‘Inferno’ is by far the most widely-read.

The Divine Comedy: Volume 1: Inferno (Pt. 1) (English and Italian ...
A recent edition of ‘Inferno’.

The poem starts with Dante in a dark wood, having ‘lost his way’. The poem is full of allegory and symbolism, the dark wood representing uncertainty and danger, as he has stepped off the path to God and salvation. He meets the Roman poet, Virgil (70 BC – 19 BC), who acts as a guide. Virgil will help to get Dante back ‘on the right path’ but this will mean going through the Inferno.

What follows is a journey where Dante sees the souls or ‘shades’ of the dead who are being eternally punished, in appropriate ways, for their sins on Earth. The Inferno is arranged in nine circles, the ninth being reserved for Lucifer.

Dante's Inferno - Live Score by Maurizio Guarini (GOBLIN ...
Virgil guides Dante through the Inferno

As the two poets descend, the crimes, and the punishments get worse, until, finally, in the lowest circle, Dante sees the Devil.

This poem is a major work of European and World art, inspiring countless artists, including the German Gustav Dore, who etched these pictures.

Dante's Satan - Wikipedia
The Devil in Inferno, by Gustav Dore

Dante had an idealised love, a young lady called Beatrice, and her purity gives Dante the courage to continue his horrific quest.

In the film, I have a young lady (Katerina) who reads by a small river holding a lily (the symbol of Florence). A man sees her and goes to speak to her, but she goes, leaving a book behind – the book is the Aenid by Virgil.

The Man then walks through modern day Berlin, to reach his salvation.

I used the new dome of the German Parliament building, the Reichstag, to represent the circular arrangement of Dante’s Inferno, and the Man walks over, or by, several rivers, symbolising the rivers of Hell.

Visiting the Reichstag Dome – Amazing Berlin views and history
The Reichstag dome

For the crimes against nature, I updated the book to mean environmental issues; the Man walks against a skyline criss-crossed with electric wires and factory smokestacks, like Blake’s ‘dark Satanic mills’.

We also filmed at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, which is in north Berlin, to represent the unspeakable horrors of genocide, all genocide perpetrated by any nation against any person due to race, religion, sexuality or politics.

Sachsenhausen | The Holocaust Encyclopedia
Sachsenhausen Memorial (ex concentration camp) Free Tour - Berlin ...

Many thanks to my team who all worked and contributed their time and talents for free:

Mr Martin O’Shea, Mr Philipp Pressmann, Ms Manuela Fresard & Ms Katarina Worner.

All the technical, digital camera-work and editing was done by Herr F.T. Pen, and the incredible foley artist Herr Max Bauer.

LIGHTS

CAMERAS

ACTION

The link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ari5zGIpwA

Seahorse Productions: Steppenwolf, Berlin 2014

15th May 2020

Historic photos of City Life of Berlin during the interwar period ...

This film, finished in 2014, was shot in 2008 while I was living in Berlin and I attempted to give it a 1920s feel. It’s based on the famous novel by Hermann Hesse:

Quote HERMANN HESSE – MAGGIE EXPLAINS THE WORLD

The novel, which was published in 1927, is a book within a book … a young man finds a diary written by an older man and it is this diary which forms the bulk of the story. As readers, we are free to choose how much to believe of the ‘diary’; is it all true, all fiction, a combination of truth, half-truths and wishes ?

The book certainly has a surreal quality to it, moving from realistic descriptions to a final sequence which seems to resemble a dream or fantasy.

The main character, Harry Haller, refers to himself as a steppenwolf, that is someone who craves human companionship yet is painfully introverted and uncomfortable around people. This dichotomy is central to the book.

Steppenwolf' Hermann Hesse | Cover: Detail of a painting by… | Flickr
A paperback edition of the novel

For the film, I choose areas of Berlin that were more historic and evocative of the 1920s, as well as selecting some ‘modern’ classical composers who were contemporaneous (Martinu from Czech Republic, Hindemith from Germany), along with W.F. Bach (who is mentioned in the book). The film plays out with a melancholy solo guitar piece by the incredible gypsy-guitarist Django Rheinhardt.

I also used colour filters towards the end of the film, as in some silent classics, indicating that the sequences may or may not be ‘real’ … it is up to the viewer to decide.

The film style was heavily influenced by German expressionist cinema of the inter-war years, directors such as Fritz Lang, G.W. Pabst and mostly F.W. Murnau.

Mr Molnar Levente, a Hungarian actor, was in the highly successful ‘Son of Saul’ film, while Mr Martin O’Shea has appeared with Kenneth Branagh and Bill Nighy in the Tom Cruise film ‘Valkarie’.

Ms Willow de la Roche gave, I feel, an amazing performance. I’m so sorry it took so long for the film to finally be cut.

Technical details: I shot the film entirely on Super 8, then had to transfer onto a compatible disk for cutting on a Windows-based laptop. At the time I was moving between Berlin, London and Sweden and furthermore, I had to learn computer editing from scratch.

And now:

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The link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaPT0X-J2EY

Seahorse Productions: ‘Bad Faith’, Berlin, GERMANY 2005

6th May 2020

Filmed in Berlin, yet our story starts in Paris …

Existentialism, rebirth, personas and inner truth

Magda Champs Elysées *** - The Paris bouquinistes: discover the ...

Walking along the iconic bookstalls of Paris, by the historic Seine, I found a copy of this book:

Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology ...

The philosophy by Jean-Paul Sartre was the inspiration behind my 2005 film, ‘Bad Faith’.

Jean-Paul Sartre (Author of Nausea)

To encapsulate a weighty, heavy-going and often impenetrable book (at least to me) in a succinct sentence or two, Sartre discusses the concept of bad faith (mauvaise foi) whereby people adopt a false persona or identity, become affected, fake, inauthentic and, as a consequence, loose their freedom.

Freedom was a major issue in the writings of Sartre, so please use the internet to discover more if this interests you.

The story of ‘Bad Faith’ takes place over one single day, in Berlin. An English man, Alan Francis (Russell Shaw) has arrived early in the morning, planning to pay a surprise visit to an old friend, an actress named Julie Retore (Natasha Kepsi). They haven’t met for a long time, but Alan has an offer for her … he is about to make a film and wants Julie to play the female lead.

They meet and discuss old times, and how their lives have changed. However, when Alan offers her the film, Natasha senses their may be more to his offer than would appear on the surface.

The film can be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4ogP5mfuUw

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The film contains a number of French references, the work of author Marcel Proust, the films of Jean-Luc Godard and the soundtrack features Francis Poulenc. Julie is seen drinking in a French-style cafe, while we hear actress Julie Delpy singing (in French) in the background. Julie also speaks a few words of French to a young student who has forgotten his book (the French poet Rimbaud). The area where the two protagonists meets features a large French church, and Julie’s surname comes from a character in the French-language film ‘Messidor’ (1979).

The issue of Bad Faith is exemplified by the contradictory characters. Alan appears confident, indeed, over-confident, optimist, yet admits to being terrified (in a moment of relatable honesty). Julie, by contrast, appears natural and content as she deals with the minor annoyances of her daily life. Her modest demeanor serves to highlight the affected manner of Alan’s ‘performance’. As Julie points out, it’s “Not enough for you to be a director, you have to look like one, too,” to which Alan admits is “Just an image.” We, like Julie, question this … is it a just image ?

What is apparent is that Alan and Julie had some kind of relationship in the past, when they worked together in tiny theatres, performing for tiny audiences. I deliberately left the extent of the relationship open … I want the audience to decide (just friends, boyfriend & girlfriend, one-night stand, one in love, the other wanting a platonic relationship, etc).

During the script readings, I allowed the actors to invent their own back story and NOT to tell me … so even I don’t know their history.

As the day comes to an end, Alan has to be honest about what he wants, and the scene becomes somewhat embarrassing to watch. We see that Julie is open and honest, she doesn’t want to pretend or hide behind personas anymore. Tellingly, Alan doesn’t seem to understand … or want to understand.

A final ‘clue’ is when Julie returns to her work (and eagle-eyes viewers may spot a tiny photo of Julie Delpy at the front of the desk). We see a copy of Alan’s script upon which Julie places a copy of Proust, a book whose title has been approximately translated as ‘Remembrance of Things Past’.

So which one is really free ? We hear that Alan has to work under producers and acquiesce to their decisions. Julie is alone, but she seems to have choice over what work she does or doesn’t do. Is she happy ? Does she regret her choice ? Will Alan’s film be a success ? All of these are left unanswered. The crux of the film is the interaction of the two leads. If Alan had been less over-bearing and demonstrated humility, would the outcome have been different ? I will let you decide.

CREDITS

Natascha Kepsi

Russell Shaw

David Graber

Steffi Muller

Bjorn Langhans // Christine Muller and Philipp Pressmann

Harri Ansorge, Russell Shaw & Paul Pacifico

Cameras and Edit: Harri Ansorge

Foley Artist: Max Bauer

A film by Paul Pacifico

Seahorse Productions & IRRAH

BERLIN 2005

Buying lunch at a Kina Imbiss (small Chinese restaurant) Alexamderplatz Station, Berlin.
Photo by Russell Shaw

Seahorse Productions: ảo tưởng (Dreams) 2020

30th April 2020

This is my most recent film, ảo tưởng, which translates as ‘dreams’ but with a sense of disillusion.

Filming took a number of years, as I had to juggle the availability of my lead actress, not to mention trying to find the time and energy myself after working full-time at various schools and language centres.

Another big challenge was getting around; I don’t have a motorbike and Sai Gon has no subway system. I’ve not even mentioned the heat; I’m used to filming in north Europe, not the tropics.

Additionally, I had a series of camera problems. I intended to use my pocket Samsung camera W200. The first shots were ‘in the can’ ( the university scene) only for me to accidentally delete them. Soon after the camera, which had filmed in London and came with me to Thailand, Cambodia & Viet Nam, died.

Next I borrowed a Samsung Galaxy 5 phone, only to discover it has no ‘steadycam’, so when I played the recordings back, I was shocked at how shaky there were.

After that, I had a great LG phone, with manual options for focus, light, filters etc … but that phone also died. I next used my iPhone 5 but, as related in an earlier blog, that was caught in the monsoon of Sai Gon’s rainy season. I got the dreaded red screen, and that phone died.

Finally, I was able to finish the film on my new iPhone 6S.

I could have shot some more cutaway shots (scenes of the city, without any of the actors) but i thought it was time to finish the film.

In Vietnam, where I’m currently based, I have an Apple Mac Book (though it’s approaching the end of days, I fear), but in London I have a Samsung laptop using Windows, and has Movie Maker. During a recent trip, I cut the film in two days (with a lot of very un-British shouting cursing and cussing; I have NO computer skills or patience to deal with the fact that I have no computer skills).

Finally, I posted it to YouTube … and now it is available for everyone.

I’m not going to explain the film here, I’d much prefer viewer to watch it and make their own decisions or explanations, although I’d be happy to discuss any points people may wish to raise.

Heartfelt thanks to: Ms Quynh, Ms Mi, Ms Hoang, Ms Phuong & Ms Hang and the wonderful music of Mr Richard Lewis and the experimental aural soundscape of Herr Harald Ansorge and the encouragement of Ms Lorna ‘Ace’ Le Bredonchel & Mr Martin O’Shea

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZQvWlknJpc