- David Parkinson
Parky At the Pictures (25/6/2021)
(Reviews The Reason I Jump; Love Child; Bank Job; Sparkling: The Story of Champagne; King Otto; and Diana At 60)
Cinemas are open again, then. But not everyone is going to want to sit in the dark being distracted by the prospect of whether everyone else in the auditorium is following the social distancing guidelines as strictly as they are.
Consequently, the streaming platforms who have done rather well out of lockdown are going to keep up their good work for the time being at least. Therefore, in addition to subscription sites like Curzon Home Cinema. MUBI, Netflix and the BFI Player, the likes of iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin, Microsoft, Vimeo, Google Play, Rakuten, BT and Playstation will be staying open for business. Whatever choice you make, stay safe.
THE REASON I JUMP.
Documentarist Jerry Rothwell has always been a good storyteller. Having charted the ill-fated voyage of yachtsman Donald Crowhurst in Deep Water (2006), he switched his attention to a punk band with learning disabilities in Heavy Load (2008). Two years later, in Donor Unknown, he joined a group of American twentysomethings in their bid to find their sperm donor father, while he focused on a couple of Ethiopian girls with ambitions to become athletes in Town of Runners (2012).
He slightly missed his step in exploring the origins of Greenpeace in How to Change the World (2015), but bounced back in fine style in conjunction with Reuben Atlas to expose a scandalous case of wine fraud in Sour Grapes (2016). Subsequently, Rothwell travelled to a remote village in Bengal to see how the Internet could transform education in The School in the Cloud (2018). Now, he has devoted seven years to sets himself the task of replicating the audiovisual experience of five young people on the autistic spectrum in The Reason I Jump, a project seven years in the making that takes its title and inspiration from the 2007 bestseller that was written by Naoki Higashida (with his mother as amanuensis) when he was just 13 years old to recount his life with non-verbal autism.
Over evocative images of a young autistic boy (Jim Fujiwara), Rothwell has Jordan O'Donegan read extracts from the text that was co-translated by Keiko Yoshida and her husband, David Mitchell, the author of Cloud Atlas, whose son also has non-verbal autism. These insights also complement the experiences of five young people on the spectrum: Amrit from the planned Indian city of Noida.
Living with her mother, Aarthi Khurana, Amrit struggled to make friends at school. But she channelled her frustrations into vivid, colourful drawings that we see being prepared for an exhibition. As Aarthi tearfully admits that she had stifled her daughter's efforts to express herself, as she had felt it was the best thing to do. However, Amrit has now turned to pottery and has found an outlet for her observations and emotions.
As Naoki explains in the text, he tends to see small details rather than bigger pictures and has to build up a wider impression through finding connections in his memory and assimilating them. Mitchell is grateful to Naoki for being able to describe the sensations he experiences, as his words have enabled him to gain a greater understanding of how his son views the world they share.
In Broadstairs in Kent, we meet Joss, who lives with his parents, Jeremy Dear and Stevie Lee, who are among the film's producers. As he has always been drawn to water and light, they have striven to provide him with things to stimulate his mind. He is also fascinated with green electricity boxes and compares their buzzing to music.
Intercutting home movies of Joss's childhood with new footage, Rothwell uses Naoki's words to consider how time can often seem achronological and how events that happened years ago can feel immediate. Even the sensations connected to them can come rushing back. Yet, despite these intense powers of recall, Naoki and Joss also share a sense of anxiety about a future they can't always fathom, as when Joss becomes convinced that Jeremy won't be able to find him a pizza.
Unfortunately, the rages associated with these panic attacks became so hard to contain that Stevie and Jeremy took the agonising decision to send Joss to a residential school. Here, we see him blowing bubbles and bouncing on a trampoline, as we hear Naoki state that he likes jumping because he feels freed from his shackles and imagines being able to flap his wings and fly somewhere safe. As Mitchell avers, the ability to convey such ideas with clarity and lyricism makes Naoki's book all the more remarkable and he is grateful for the insights it has provided into the autistic experience.
Over in Arlington, Virginia, Ben and Emma play on a local ice hockey team. Mother Bertra McGann recalls how locked in Ben was until she discovered speech therapist Elizabeth Vosseller and the letter-boards she uses to help those with non-verbal autism to communicate. Donna Budway also recognises the importance of allowing Emma to express her feelings and she is delighted that she has been friends with Ben for so long.
He is a placid type and Emma jokes that he has to put up with her incessant noisiness. But they click and drive each other on in lessons with Vosseller. Indeed, Ben taps out that their civil rights have been denied by those who refused to take them seriously and ask what they needed.
Roland and Mary Penn-Timity from Freetown in Sierra Leone grew so tired of their community dismissing daughter Jestina as someone who had been possessed that they founded their own educational facility. They are proud of how she has flourished and how others have started to fulfil their potential. Moreover, they are honoured to have provided help to those who have actively chosen not to abandon their babies in the bush and have embraced the stigma of supposedly rearing `a devil child'.
In lamenting the historical treatment of people with autism, Mitchell notes how neurotypicals are rubbish at comprehending worlds they cannot readily understand. Naoki even denounces humanity for failing to connect with Nature in the way that many people on the spectrum do and suggests that following their lead would be a positive ecological step.
As he and Emma prepare to move into their own apartment, Ben asks that the conversation about autism is expanded to include those who have it. Amrit looks on at the opening of her exhibition, while Jestina beams from the back of her new classroom and the little boy stands beneath the towering arches of a viaduct as a train rumbles overhead.
Having watched Joss revel in a trip to a colour tunnel, Jeremy hopes that society will have woken up sufficiently to ensure that he will be okay when they are no longer there to protect him. Naoki also feels optimistic and anyone who sees this remarkable film should be able to add their own voice to the clamour for things to change and quickly.
Taking cues from Gary Tarn's Black Sun (2005) and Paul Middleton and James Spinney's Notes on Blindness (2016), Rothwell has done an admirable job of approximating the perspective of both Naoki Higashida and the five young people striving to life to the fullest. Ruben Woodin Dechamps's colour-saturated camerawork brings a vibrant kineticism to the visuals, while Nick Ryan's alert sound design creates its own audio cocoon to afford the audience the unique sensory experience of discovering a setting from close-ups out to establishing shots rather than from the other way round.
This is particularly effective in marrying Jordan O'Donegan's reading of the book's gentle wisdom and young Jim Fujiwara's sense of wonder at everything he sees. But Rothwell also captures the contrasting ambiences of Noida, Broadstairs, Arlington and Freetown. Moreover, he also salutes the levels of commitment and dedication required of the parents of neurodivergent children, although it might have been interesting to have learnt whether Amrit, Joss, Ben, Emma or Jasenta have any siblings and how they interact. But this is a minor quibble about a major achievement.
Hassan Fazili showed in Midnight Traveller (2019) how the relentless anguish of seeking asylum could be relieved by fleeting moments of joy. In Love Child, Danish documentarist Eva Mulhad takes much the same approach in chronicling the struggle of an Iranian couple and their toddler son to find a home in Turkey. Shot over six years with an assured sense of place, political acuity and character insight, this is a textbook example of actuality storytelling.
Having fled Tehran in 2012 because they face the death penalty under Sharia law for having committed adultery, Sahand and Leila arrive in Istanbul with their young son, Mani. Leila reveals during a therapy session with psychologist Ebru Salcioglu that she had endured an arranged marriage to an abusive drug addict who had been unwilling to consummate the union. She had fallen for married teacher Sahand and convinced her husband that he was the father of her child. But the fear of being caught with Sahand and the desire to give Mani a decent life had prompted her to flee.
Struggling to cope with the news that Sahand is not his uncle, Mani finds it difficult to be away from home and curses his father during tearful tantrums. But a montage shows him becoming acclimatised, as he chases pigeons and swims in the Bosporus. Shahand relates his background to the therapist and reveals that he was forced to spy for the secret police after being arrested as a student. When they ordered him to recruit Leila, he became scared and realised they had to leave, as he had seen women being stoned to death.
To celebrate a successful paternity test, Sahand buys Leila a bicycle and she is overjoyed, as she has never had such a nice surprise. He works hard to provide for the family and their flat in the Yalova municipality gradually becomes more comfortable. But two years have passed and the UN has yet to make a decision on their application. Mani starts school and the head is so impressed by Leila speaking to him in English that he offers her a teaching job. She secures a position for Sahand and they make some friends and begin to settle in.
Leila misses her mother and phones her frequently. She is devoted to Sahand, but they bicker occasionally and he jokes that Iranian women really rule the household after they argue about Mani's birthday decorations. After confessing to her therapist that she feels hollow inside and loathes the idea of being stateless, Leila tells Sahand that she regrets leaving her parents to deal with the scandal surrounding their flight, especially as her brother has disowned her. He tries to remind her of the trouble they would have faced if they had remained, but she dismisses his claim that no one got hurt and feels guilty that his wife now has to suffer the ignominy of divorce.
When Leila finally has her claim accepted by the UN, she is given leave to move to the United States. However, the DNA test doesn't give Sahand the right to go with them and he loses his temper on the street when he hears the news that he will have to wait because his political past clouds his issue. The exchange hurtful insults during a row about Sahand getting her mother's hopes up about them going to America, but all is forgotten when he throws her a surprise birthday party and writes her a special poem.
Unfortunately, Sahand is denied asylum and given 30 days to appeal. During an interview at the UNHCR in Ankara, he is questioned about being an informant and his insistence that only one person was tortured as a result of his testimony is doubted. Fearing that his case is weak, Sahand's lawyer suggests that he marries Leila, as the authorities dislike breaking up families. They nervously visit the Iranian consulate to have errors rectified in their divorce papers, but are able to wed without any hindrance. She is proud of the fact that have made something forbidden legal.
When we next see them in 2015, Leila is furious with Sahand for making her speak online to the secret service handler who can help his case for asylum. She accuses him of being naive and fears that her family will be persecuted as a consequence. On visiting her therapist, Leila breaks down while discussing how her brother might react to the news that Sahand is Mani's father and wishes he could be happy for her. Her mood improves in 2016, however, when Sahand learns that his application has been approved and they can finally start making plans for the future.
Donald Trump's 2017 Muslim ban makes things difficult, however, and, as Mani seems happy. Sahand wonders if they're not better off staying as teachers in Istanbul. As they celebrate Mani''s 2018 birthday with their new friends, captions inform us that the Mosalis are no longer eligible for transit to a safe country. They have filed two complaints against the UNHCR for the way in which their case was conducted, but these have yet to be acknowledged.
Bravely allowing their trials and tribulations to be filmed, Leila and Sahand are an estimable twosome who deserve to be left alone in peace. Mulvad tells their tale with sensitivity and makes adept use of montage sequences that show the pair coaxing Mani into accepting his new circumstances. Having captured his chest-heaving distress on hearing the truth about his father, however, Mulvad discreetly retreats and the boy is only ever shown with his parents to avoid unsettling him.
Once he has come to terms with his situation, Mani actually blossoms and not only picks up Turkish, but also makes some friends at school. Sahand and Leila are more circumspect, but they also form a social circle and overcome their suspicions that the Turks are merely waiting for the opportunity to whisk them back across the border.
They are not spared the odd intrusion, however, as the camera eavesdrops on their sometimes bitter rows. Mulvad and editor Adam Nielsen clearly intend to show honestly how the predicament places Sahand and Leila's deep love under intense strain. But most viewers will be uncomfortable at having a ringside seat and feel sympathy with the already powerless couple for having to perform whenever Mulvad and her crew showed up. Such intimacy and instability give this poignant vérité study its heart. But it might have been interesting to have placed the Morsalis in a wider context by contrasting their plight with that of a fugitive family from the Syrian civil war.
Having shown himself to be a disarmingly deft director and a subversively resourceful business operator in his debut feature, How to Re-establish a Vodka Empire (2012), documentarist Daniel Edelstyn renews his partnership with artist Hilary Powell to expose the inequalities of the monetary system in Bank Job. With Powell more of an on-screen presence than in their previous collaboration, this similarly makes a virtue of seeming to be the work of well-meaning amateurs. But Edelstyn and Powell know exactly what they are doing, even if not all of their gambits pay off.
In staging a monochrome re-enactment of a 2014 meeting with the bank manager who refuses to support a film-maker whose previous project had made a loss, Edelstyn reveals how he got the idea to focus on debt and the ways in which ordinary people can fight back against the fiscal machine that is geared towards luring them into taking out loans at ever more ruinous rates of interest. He flies to America to meet Andrew Ross, the author of Creditocracy, and Laura Hanna, the organiser of Strike Debt - Rolling Jubilee. Together, they had raised $750,000 to buy millions of dollars of medical debts and eradicate them. Returning to Blighty, Edelstyn tells Powell he has a plan.
The evolution of the enterprise is told through cod police interviews with the pair, which serve only to show that neither is a particularly adept actor. However, Powell and Edelstyn turn out to be astute activists and they hit upon the idea of selling homemade bank notes in order to raise a sufficient sum to donate to the participating bodies in their Walthamstow neighbourhood and to buy chunks of secondary debt that they can write off.
Following a brief crash course in why and how banks keep customers in debt, Edelstyn and Powell meet the locals they intend helping and whose images will appear on the notes: Gary Nash of the Eat or Heat Foodbank; Farooq and Saira Mir of the PI84U Al-Suffa soup kitchen; Steve Barnabis and Josh Jardine of the Soul Project; and Tracey Griffiths, the head of Barncroft School.
While Powell links with Steve Seddon to design the notes, project co-ordinator Nicky Petto discovers that some former Co-operative Bank premises are available nearby and they renovate them to become the Hoe Street Central Bank (HSCB, geddit?). Green-visored volunteers are sought to screen print the notes under the initial supervision of Spike Gascoigne and the bank becomes a hive of activity, as Edelstyn seeks out reformed debt buyer Roland Roberts to handle the £1.2 million debt portfolio that the project seeks to eradicate.
Boosted by media interest, sales begin to grow and the message behind the campaign starts to spread. Customers explain why they felt moved to help, as anthropologist David Graeber hopes that exercises to question the morality of debt will cause the system to collapse and be replaced by something fairer. The excitement felt by the recipients when they get their cut of the £20,000 raised suggests that this would be as popular as it is desirable an outcome. Academic Johnna Montgomerie and Ann Pettifor's strategies for debt abolition would also get many votes.
The remaining £20k was used to cancel £1.2m debt in the Walthamstow area. It's taken five years of hard work and dedication, but the ends have more than justified the means. But Powell and Edelstyn aren't finished just yet. They feel the need to paint a transit van gold and blow it to smithereens across the river from the City. Clearly, Big Bang 2 is a cornball stunt (complete with jokes about The Italian Job), but the duo have since minted coins from the shredded vehicle to swell the coffers of the ongoing project. Good on them and long may their initiative prosper and inspire.
The film will hopefully produce a raft of domino schemes that will further pull back the curtain behind which the Wizard of Capitalism is lurking and holding the world to ransom. In places, Edelstyn and Powell overdo the shamateurism and an occasional whiff of self-satisfaction overpowers the self-deprecation that pervades proceedings. But why shouldn't it? What they have achieved may not be original, but it's audacious and effective and the intrepid twosome deserve enormous credit for their commitment over a prolonged period to what sometimes must have seemed a risky business.
Reflecting the tendency to indulge in the occasional tonal lurch, the closing sequence couldn't be cheesier, as Powell dashes downstairs, charges through the kitchen and races across the lawn to burst into the garden studio and inform Edelstyn that she's got a brilliant wheeze. Who knows whether that will evolve into the couple's third picture or when we will get to see the results. But it's good to know that they are still out there being urbanely mad as hell and refusing to take it any more.
SPARKING: THE STORY OF CHAMPAGNE.
According to legend, when Dom Pérignon produced the first Champagne at the Benedictine abbey of Saint Pierre at Hautvillers, he called to his fellow monks that he was `tasting the stars'. This is one of the bubbles that gets burst in feature first-timer Frank Mannion's delightful documentary, Sparkling: The Story of Champagne.
Champagne was a still wine before Dom Pérignon made his discovery. But Gilles de la Bassetière from De Venoge explains that the sparkling variety only became commercially available after a law was passed permitting the corking of bottles on 25 May 1728. As so many bottles of `the devil wine' kept exploding, the wine was expensive and its association with the upper echelons was confirmed by Jean-François de Troy's `The Oyster Dinner'. which was commissioned by Louis XV for a minor apartment at Versailles in 1735 and is considered to be the first painting to include a Champagne bottle.
The drink gained in popularity under Napoleon Bonaparte, who was a regular visitor at the inn that is now the Royal Champagne Hotel and Spa. Don and Petie Kladstrup, the authors of Wine & War and Champagne, explain how the emperor sought to export his favourite tipple through conquest and it reached Russia as a result of his ill-fated 1812 campaign. Tsar Alexander II favoured Louis Roederer's Champagne and Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon reveals that his fear of assassination prompted the company to produce the famous clear Cristal bottle so that he could see that the wine had not been tampered with.
Hayrton Brunaud takes Mannion into the cellars at Veuve Clicquot to describe how Madame Barbe-Nicole Clicquot took over her husband's wine company when she was 27 and confounded those who believed that women had no head for business. He also takes us through the double fermentation process and how Veuve Clicquot discovered how to reduce sediment by turning the bottles during the second phase.
The next step of the tour takes us to Piper-Heidsieck, where Benoît Collard tells Mannion how German cloth merchant Florens-Louis Heidsieck moved into winemaking in order to support his new wife and presented his first bottle to Queen Marie Antoinette in 1788. As the Kladstrups point out, his nephew, Charles Camille Heidsieck, took Champagne to the United States and earned the nickname `Champagne Charlie'.
At the next stop, Étienne Bizot relates how his great-aunt, Lily Bollinger, followed in the footsteps of Madame Clicquot by taking over her late husband's business. Another widow who held the fort was Louise Pommery, who sold off his struggling wool concern to focus on the production of Champagne. Benedicte Lemkecher notes the UK connection with the Reims domain, as Scottish castles influenced its architecture, while the British palate led to the introduction of a drier `brut' wine.
Kladstrup next tells the story of Pierre-Charles Taittinger, the chair of the municipal council of Paris during the Nazi Occupation, who persuaded military governor Dietrich von Choltitz to disobey Adolf Hitler's order to raze the city to the ground. Taittinger had acquired the Forest-Fourneaux company in 1931 and Valérie Taittinger is proud of the fact that her family name is now appended to the third-oldest Champagne house in France.
Winston Churchill once called the Avenue de Champagne in Épernay `the most drinkable street in the world'. With millions of bottles in cellars along its length, it's also the most expensively insured street in the world. Churchill was reputed to have consumed 40,000 bottles of Pol Roger and Laurent D'Harcourt is happy to go along with the legend. However, he is more concerned with the friendship between Churchill and Odette Pol-Roger, as not only did the Prime Minister name a winning horse after the firm during Coronation Year, but they also returned the compliment by launching Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill in 1984.
Grandson Sir Nicholas Soames recalls his grandfather's friendship with Odette and how the families continue to have close ties. But we move swiftly on so that Paul Beavis can tell us about the Lanson house that dates back to 1760 and which retains the royal warrant to supply Buckingham Palace. The company also has a 42-year connection with Wimbledon and Mannion meets its owner Bruno Paillard, who gives him a taste of a Paillard rosé.
Having completed a round of the major players, Mannion doubles back to consider how the drink has been marketed over the centuries. De Venoge created the first illustrated bottle label in 1838 and they are not shy today in seeking celebrity endorsements, as every bit of good publicity boosts the brand.
Jean-Jacques Cattier recalls how Jay-Z became involved with the Ace of Spades brand produced under Cattier's Armand de Brignac label, while Benedicte Lemkecher recalls the success of Pommery's Great Gatsby party in New York. Benoît Collard tops these stories, however, by revealing that Marilyn Monroe was a huge fan of Piper-Heidsieck and completes her famous quote: `I go to bed every night with Chanel No.5 behind my ears, and wake up every morning with a glass of Piper-Heidsieck because it warms my body.' Moreover, he declares that the first bottle of Champagne to be seen on screen appeared in William A. Seiter's Laurel and Hardy classic, Sons of the Desert (1933).
The brand is now linked with Cannes and the Oscars, although BAFTA opts to patronise Taittinger. James Bond, however, prefers Bollinger and Étienne Bizot remembers how his family forged a link with producer Cubby Broccoli. But several interviewees recoil at the reference to American Champagne, as the California growers have culturally appropriated the name and the traditions that have been associated with the Champagne region of France for centuries. Paillard explains how Spain created the `Cava' brand to avoid clashing with French producers and he hopes that English makers will similarly find their own name.
Local boy Tony Laithwaite has made a success of the Windsor Great Park Vineyard and claims that people form emotional attachments to brands. Suitably, Mannion declares it fit for a queen before moving on to a wine tasting at the Royal Horticultural Hall, where Oz Clarke celebrates the fact that British labels like Greyfriars, Balfour and Wiston.
Dermot Sugrue from the latter takes Mannion to the estate for the first day of the grape harvest. He notes that the climate has an impact on yields and quality, but suggests that this gives UK sparkling wines their unpredictable character. Simon Robinson and Emma Rice boost the Hattingley Valley brand, while Richard and Leslie Balfour-Lynn speak up for the Hush Heath Estate and Henry Warde does likewise for SquerryesWinery. Sam Lintner does her bit for the Bolney Wine Estate before we head off to see her win an award at the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships
Pommery has taken the bold step of planting vineyards in Hampshire because of the effects of global warming, while Taittinger has a terroir in Kent. As they sample a glass of Pommery's England brand, Mannion raises the prospect that the English might have discovered sparkling wine before the French. Lemkecher shruggingly concedes that evidence exists, but the Kladstrup are adamant that Champagne invented itself and Dom Pérignon was merely the first to notice it and put it in corked bottles.
Mannion goes to the Royal Society in London, where Keith Moore shows Benoît Collard a document written by Christopher Merrett in 1662 that refers to the use of sugar and molasses to put some sparkle into wine. Fourteen years later, playwright George Etheridge mentions `sparkling Champaigne' in The Man of Mode and Stephen Fry is recruited to deliver the lines spoken by Sir Fopling Flutter. However, he points out that the wine to which Etherege refers has to be French because it's called `Champaigne' and Fry echoes Gallic contentions that the chief English role in the process was the production of the sturdy glass used to make suitably robust bottles.
According to Collard, the anonymity of the actual inventor of Champagne adds to its mystery and magic. But the final word is given to the UK upstarts, who insist that the future will belong to them, as the Prosecco generation moves away from the traditional brands and discovers the innovative varieties being produced southern England. They may be right, but they have to find a trendy name to break out from their niche.
Let's raise a glass to Frank Mannion for producing one of the most enjoyable films of 2021 to date. The opening section on the origins of the major French houses is particularly engrossing and a bit more Champagnoux history and a tad less Anglo puffery might have made the second half feel less like a commercial for the English wine industry. Nevertheless, Mannion (who is Irish, after all) is entitled to build up the UK brand as a preamble to his grand reveals about Merrett and Etherege and it's very sporting of him to keep in the clip of Stephen Fry sounding the QI klaxon and shooting down his claims about the English popping Dom Pérignon's cork.
Mannion himself makes a genial guide and he clearly takes his sampling duties seriously. Shooting much of the picture during lockdown, he benefited from the fact that Champagne production was deemed an essential trade. He is also fortunate in his choice of talking heads, as the majority avoid relating their anecdotes in corporate-speak. Consequently, the film is full of fascinating facts, with the focus on the veuve trio deflecting from the fact that the industry on both sides of the Channel is dominated by white men.
Switching between aerial views of vineyards and evocative glides through the crayère chalk cellars, Mannion and editor Charles Emseis capture the atmosphere of the different estates, while James Jones's score provides some jaunty accompaniment. There might have been room for a few bars from `The Night They Invented Champagne' from Vincente Minnelli's Oscar-winning adaptation of Gigi (1958), but this is a lively and informative debut that is worthy to stand alongside Jonathan Nossiter's Mondovino (2004). What's more, Mannion manages to get through the entire 88 minutes without once mentioning Brexit.
As Euro 2020 reaches the knockout stage, documentarist Christopher André Marks invites us to reflect upon the biggest shock in the history of the European Championships. No, not the Danish win in 1992, but the triumph of the Greeks in 2004, when no one gave them an earthly. Well, one man did and he is the subject of King Otto.
Born into a coal-mining family in Essen in the Ruhr Valley, Otto Rehhagel was five when the Second World War broke out and his town had been reduced to rubble by its end. Football quickly seemed the best way to escape drudgery and he joined the colliery team TuS Helene Altenessen in 1948. Moving on to Rot-Weiss Essen, he made his name in the nascent Bundesliga as a tough-tackling defender before being transferred to Kaiserslautern in 1965.
Rehhagel is too modest to dwell on these achievements in the interviewee's chair, but Marks spares him a mention of the fact that he earned the nickname `Torhagel' (which means `hailstorm') after his Borussia Dortmund side lost 12-0 to Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1978. That said, Marks might have said something about his managerial stints at Kickers Offenbach and Fortuna Düsseldorf (where he won the DFB-Pokal cup in 1980) before he embarked upon a 14-year tenure at Werder Bremen.
He transformed the club from making up the numbers to attaining European glory, as he won the Bundesliga in 1988 and 1993, as well as two DFBs and the Cup Winners' Cup (in beating Monaco 2-0) in 1992. However, it seems inconceivable that Marks should overlook Rehhagel's calamitous season in charge of Bayern Munich, which could be filmed as the German equivalent to Tom Hooper's The Damned United (2009). Regarded as something of a rural oik by the Bavarian sophisticates, Rehhagel clashed notably with new signing Jürgen Klinsmann and was replaced by club legend Franz Beckenbauer just four days before the final against Bordeaux.
Forced to watch from a distance as his former charges won 5-1 on aggregate, Rehhagel returned to Kaiserslautern, who had just been relegated, despite winning the cup. In another echo of Brian Clough, Rehhagel followed promotion with a sensational championship season in 1998, as Kaiserslauten became the only newcomers to take the Bundesliga title. The following season, he guided them to the quarter finals of the Champions League, but internal wranglings led to his resignation in 2000, just as Greek FA president Vassilis Gagatsis was looking for a replacement for Vassilis Daniil.
Gagatsis avers that the Greek national team was something of a `travelling circus' at the time and didn't even have a central training facility. The country had enjoyed the odd moment success at club level, but had only qualified for one Euros (1980) and one World Cup (1994), without winning a single game. Squad members Giorgos Karagounis, Traianos Dellas, Takis Fyssas, Giourkas Seitaridis and Antonios Nikopolidis concur that the situation was desperate and Gagatsis explains that he hired Rehhagel to bring some German organisation and discipline into a chaotic situation.
As he didn't speak a word of Greek, things got off to an awkward start and his outsider status was reinforced when his first game - a World Cup qualifier against Finland in September 2001 - ended in an ignominious 5-1 defeat in Helsinki. The media called for his head, but Gagatsis stuck by his man and allowed him to bring in Ioannis Topalidis as his assistant. His knowledge of German and Greek cultures enabled him to sugar-coat some of the coach's starker criticisms, but a connection was made with the players, who nearly caused a sensation by beating England at Old Trafford in a 2001 World Cup qualifier.
David Beckham had bailed out Sven-Göran Ericksson's team of superstars, but Rehhagel had seen enough in the performance to suggest that Greece had a chance of qualifying for the 2004 European Championships. Not that the public cared, as it had lost faith since the dismal showing in the USA in 1994. Diego Maradona had scored his last goal in the 4-0 loss to Argentina, while Bulgaria had rattled in another four before Nigeria ended the campaign with a 2-0 defeat.
But, even though he refused to live in the country, Rehhagel saw possibilities in his squad and followed Topalidis's suggestion to change his approach to man management and use Greek mythology and history to inspire spirit and passion in his players. They responded by adopting a more positive mindset and they lost only twice in topping a group containing Spain, Ukraine, Northern Ireland and Armenia. However, no one tipped them to squeeze past hosts Portugal, Spain and Russia at the tournament itself.
The players were unhappy with their Porto hotel. But Rehhagel used this to sharpen their sense of being underdogs and they fed off the excitement of the opening ceremony to win 2-1. It was their first win in tournament football and a 1-1 draw with Spain put them within touching distance of the quarter finals. Back home, the mood was becoming more positive and Rehhagel had to guard against his team regarding victory against Russia as a formality.
Sixty-seven seconds into the game, however, Greece were 0-1 down to the fastest goal in Euros history (by Dmitri Kirichenko). They could have been three down before they pulled things back to 1-2 and were fortunate to go through after Spain failed to beat Portugal. For many, this was success enough, as the France of Zinedine Zidane was deemed too big a hurdle to overcome. Manager Jacques Santini certainly thought so and an insufferably arrogant Thierry Henry believed the reigning champions only had to turn up to win.
Even Fyssas admits that many of the squad had packed their bags because they had weddings to attend back in Greece. But Rehhagel had a plan to have
Seitaridis man mark Henry and hit the French on the counter-attack. It worked and Angelos Charisteas headed the goal that humbled Les Bleus. Henry grumbled that no team should win with only one attempt on target and the media followed his lead in condemning Greece's negative tactics. But Rehhagel revelled in them doing things their own way and being the Maria Callas of the tournament.
As the players recall, they felt a bit more Germanic in their style of play, but they also saw Rehhagel become more passionate, as the tournament progressed. Standing in the way of an unprecedented final was a Czech Republic side that had Pavel Nedved in its ranks and hadn't lost a competitive fixture in three years. But Otto's boys came good again and won with a Dellas golden goal in injury time at the end of the first half of extra time.
Three weeks after the opening game, Portugal awaited Greece in the final, intent on winning their first tournament in front of their own fans. Boasting Luis Figo, Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo in their side, the hosts looked nailed on against the 100/1 long shots at the Stadium of Light in Lisbon. But the Greek fans packing one end and those in Athens and diasporic communities worldwide had faith and Charisteas repaid them with the winning header after 57 minutes.
As Ronaldo sobbed, skipper Theodoros Zagarakis lifted the Henri Delaunay Trophy as ITV commentator Clive Tyldesley declared that Greece had some new gods to worship. They were welcomed home as conquering heroes, with the coach passing through hundreds of thousands on the streets before a reception was held at the Panathenaic Stadium, where the first Modern Olympic Games had been held in 1896.
Having become the first manager to lead a country other than his own to victory in an international tournament, Rehhagel drank in the scenes and decided to turn down the offer of the German job.
Marks doesn't go on to mention Rehhagel's failure to qualify for the 2006 World Cup or his group stage defeats at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. At the latter, however, the 71 year-old became the oldest manager in the tournament's history and he saw Greece finally score a goal on the world stage in a 2-1 win over Nigeria. The doomed bid to steer Hertha Berlin away from relegation in 2012 is also overlooked. But the New York-based debutant director has done Rehhagel proud in following up his opening quote from Homer's Odyssey: `Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide.'
Editors Chris Iverson and Yann Heckmann deserve praise for piecing the story together, while Andrés Soto's score underlines the sense of suspense and surprise at Greece's progress through the rounds. The players still seem shell-shocked 17 years on or are they still afraid of offending `Mr Rehhagel' by finding any negatives. But the German is the charismatic star of the show, with his brief rendition of the Greek national anthem and his emotional return to the Panathenaic with Topalidis sure to secure his place in Hellenic hearts.
DIANA AT 60.
For someone exactly a month older than Diana Spencer, it always felt as though she needed her mates to rally round, as we would never have allowed someone in our social circle to have been so exposed and let down. Easier said than done, of course, and the Sussex saga has shown what can happen when you listen to advice from people telling you what you want to hear rather than what you need to be told.
Robin Bextor's Diana At 60 includes a few of the princess's confidantes among its talking heads. But, for all their affection, they say little we've not heard before, either about Diana the person or the plight in which she found herself.
Nanny Mary Clarke, former West Heath headmistress Ruth Rudge and music teacher Penny Walker reminisce affably about her childhood attainments, while employer Mary Robertson coos about her qualities as a nanny. However, Bextor can't wait to sweep Diana out of Sloane obscurity into the tabloid spotlight and start rehashing the tittle-tattle about her marriage to Prince Charles.
The familiar news clips are dusted down (`whatever "in love" means') and accessory designer-turned-diplomat Lana Marks and Brazilian ambassador's wife Lucia Flecha De Lima testify to the depth of Diana's love for the Prince of Wales. Swiftly dispensing with the birth of the heir and the spare, Bextor hastens on to the cracks appearing in the public façade and that image of Diana along in front of the Taj Mahal before unleashing make-up artist Barbara Daly, hair stylist Sam McKnight, astrologer Debbie Frank, acupuncturist Oonagh Toffolo and the English National Ballet's Derek Deane to guide us through the painful divorce.
Camilla Parker Bowles gets a mention, but there's nothing about Hasnat Khan, James Hewitt or Dodi Fayed, in case the mere mention of Diana's romances would compromise her saintliness. Mercifully, we're spared Paul Burrell and Tiggy Legge-Bourke. But Bextor doesn't even bother to refer to her charity work and her pioneering efforts in relation to HIV/AIDS and land mines. Instead, he resorts to countless clips of Diana receiving flowers from small children.
Without saying a word against the media, lest he upsets guest paparazzo Arthur Edwards, Bextor next charges into the Alma underpass in Paris and starts recycling conspiracy theories before making the entirely spurious claims that Diana would have made a marvellous mother-in-law and grandmother had she lived. Moreover, he insists that she would have transformed the Royal Family from which she had been so unceremoniously turfed.
One should expect people to cash-in when major anniversaries come around. But the shoddiness of this enterprise by a director with such a solid track record leaves the viewer feeling shocked by the paucity of its insight and sullied by its naked opportunism. The use of an archive clip of Hillary Clinton extolling the People's Princess is perhaps the lowest point, as it confirms what a crass cut`n'paste job this is. Maybe the American market will lap it up?
Diana, Princess of Wales was clearly a decent woman who had the misfortune to make a wrong choice when she was still a teenager. She may have charmed millions, but she seems to have been poorly served by those around her, including the friends who desperately wanted to help, but were powerless to do so. A lot has been said and written about her in the 24 years since her death, some of which has chipped away at the fairytale speculation that the public has chosen to accept as incontrovertible fact. She deserved better in life and her memory certainly deserves better than a sketchy, slipshod and sycophantic tributes like this one.
That said, Jemma Chisnall's ITV feature, Diana (which also features Arthur Edwards, Debbie Frank and Derek Deane), is only marginally better and we still have the three-part series, Diana's Decades, to come. What with The Crown also shamelessly playing fast and loose with the facts in tossing in its four pennyworth, surely it's time for someone to say `Enough, already.'