- David Parkinson
Parky at the Pictures - In Cinemas (8/11/2019)
Updated: Nov 18, 2019
Reviews of After the Wedding; Il Grande Spirito; Framing John DeLorean; Driven; Polar Squad; Meeting Gorbachev; Busby; and Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound
AFTER THE WEDDING.
Not that long ago, it was common for American producers to remake hit European films because their pre-sold status made them a less risky commercial prospect than an original screenplay. In fact, comparatively few Euro retools scored at the US box office and almost all were unfavourably compared to their sources by the critics. Yet, the practice continues, with Bart Freundlich's After the Wedding being a pale imitation of Susanne Bier's 2006 Danish drama, in spite of the gender flip designed to shift the focus on to the director's wife, Julianne Moore, who is gracing her second remake in the space of a few months, having taken the title role in Sebastián Lelio's Gloria Bell, a reworking of his own 2013 Chilean saga, Gloria.
Forever barefoot, the free-spirited Isabel (Michelle Williams) runs an orphanage in Kolkata with the help of the devoted Preena (Anjula Bedi). Things are tight and Isabel is relieved when an American benefactor makes contact out of the blue with an offer of $2 million that will secure the institution's long-term future. However, Theresa Young (Julianne Moore) insists on Isabel coming to New York for a face-to-face meeting that means she will miss the birthday of her favourite charge, Jai (Vir Pachisia).
On arriving Stateside for the first time in two decades, Isabel is amazed by how much things have changed. However, she is even more perplexed by the behaviour of Theresa - a media placement tycoon with a shoe fetish and a snappish disdain for her assistant, Gwen (Susan Blackwell) - who has attached some conditions to her bequest. She insists on Isabel attending the upcoming nuptials of her daughter, Grace (Abby Quinn), and one of her ambitious employees, Jonathan (Alex Esola). The moment she claps eyes on the father of the bride, however, Isabel realises that she has been set up, as Theresa's husband is sculptor Oscar Carlson (Billy Crudup), who was the love of her life before they broke up in the aftermath of a cheap affair.
But more shocking revelations emerge when Grace gives her speech, in which she recalls how had virtually selected her stepmother as a one year-old baby by pointing her out while Oscar was carrying her along a SoHo street. It dawns on Isabel that she is Grace's biological mother, as she had fled the hospital after giving birth at 18 and had no idea that Oscar had reneged on their agreement to put the child up for adoption. The news that the mother she had been told was dead is still alive shakes Grace, who feels betrayed by the father she had trusted so implicitly. But, rather than provide spousal support, Jonathan kvetches that he isn't prepared to put up with Grace's sudden psychological change and they begin to drift apart.
Wishing to secure the donation and return to India as soon as possible, Isabel meets with the increasingly erratic Theresa on the back of a stressful telephone conversation with Jai, who is dismayed that Isabel had broken her promise to return for his party. Theresa announces that she is seeking to sell her company and is willing to set up a $20 million foundation if Isabel abandons the orphanage and remains in the United States. She explains that she is dying of cancer and wants Isabel to care for Grace, Oscar and their twin sons (Tre Ryder and Azhy Robertson) because she needs to know that her loved ones will be in good hands after she's gone.
Naturally, this disclosure puts Isabel in an invidious position. She is furious with Oscar for having deprived her of 20 years of Grace's life and is hurt by her daughter's confused resentment. But she knows that the sum will transform the orphanage and ensure that it will be able to rescue hundreds more foundlings like eight year-old Jai (who is the same age as the Carlson twins). Flying back to Kolkata, Isabel informs Preena that she has no choice but to accept Theresa's terms and she is cut to the quick when Jai opts to remain with his `family' than uproot himself for an even more uncertain future with Isabel in New York.
The film ends with the Carlsons scattering Theresa's ashes in the woods behind their upstate mansion. A drone shot contrasts the locale with that of the orphanage, as Isabel is left to deal with the ramifications of her sacrifice. But such `white saviour' sentiments leave as bad a taste in the mouth as Freundlich's rather sordid efforts to humanise a haut bourgeois clan whose sense of entitlement is almost as nauseating as the picture's patronising approach to poverty.
These problems were built in to Bier's scenario, which proves as resistible to being transplanted as Brothers (2004) had done when Jim Sheridan recruited Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal for his disappointing 2009 transfer. But Freundlich's gender tweaking serves only to expose the calculated nature of the storyline, especially where it relates to Isabel's sluggishness in recognising Grace as her own child and in realising that Theresa has ulterior motives for stage-managing the entire situation. Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams are fine actresses, but even they struggle to prevent this mawkish melodrama from lapsing into the kind of glossy soap operatics one associates with such small-screen stalwarts as Susan Lucci and Valerie Bertinelli.
Their cause isn't helped by Mychael Danna's sucrose score or the timidly pedestrian direction of Freundlich, who had previously paired Moore and Crudup in World Traveler (2001) and Trust the Man (2005). This badly misjudged tearjerker is also Freundlich's second Danish makeover, as he had previously based Catch That Kid (2004) on Hans Fabian Wullenweber's 2002 kidpic, The Climbing Girl. But he gets nowhere near replicating the ethical complexity of Bier's Dogme-inflected, Oscar-nominated study of privilege and philanthropy, which had cast Mads Mikkelsen and Rolf Lassgård in the Williams and Moore roles. Indeed, this is as insufferable as it is implausible and it's hard to see why anyone thought it was worth all the trouble and expense, when they could have simply donated the entire budget to charity.
IL GRANDE SPIRITO.
As a boy, Italian actor-director Sergio Rubini was fascinated by the Native Americans he saw in Westerns. His father, however, pointed out that cinema did the First Tribes a gross disservice, as they were not the bloodthirsty marauders depicted in Hollywood frontier films, but cultured peoples with a highly developed sense of spirituality that prompted them to live as one with Nature. Those childhood preoccupations resurface in Rubini's latest feature, Il Grande Spirito/The Great Spirit, a droll salvation comedy set in `the City of Two Seas' that is showing at the Regent Street Cinema in London under the auspices of CinemaItaliaUK.
In a backwater corner of Taranto, Tonino (Sergio Rubini) waits in a car with Benedetto (Geno Dianna) and Radek (Fabio Scaravilli) for Leucchio (Nicola Valenzano) to leave the apartment he shares with his mother (Antonia Basta). The plan is to burgle the premises while Leucchio is having dialysis, but Tonino is unable to warn his confrères when their target makes an unexpected return from the corner store. Creeping through the front door, Tonino hears a gunshot and uses a metal saint statue to bludgeon Leucchio over the head, while his bound-and-gagged mother trying to warn him. Seeing that Radek is wrapped up in bandaging Benedetto's bleeding ear, Tonino grabs the bag of loot and scarpers out of the window and across the neighbouring rooftops.
Scrambling to gain a vantage point so he can see the pursuing Radek, Tonino calls girlfriend Milena (Bianca Guaccero) and informs her that he has €500,000 in swag and promises that they can take their long-planned trip to Sharm El-Sheikh. Unfortunately, Radek and Grossone (Cosimo Attanasio) are still hot on his heels and he is forced to take sanctuary in an old washhouse, where he is hidden in a cupboard by Renato (Rocco Papaleo). He lends Tonino some binoculars so that he can spy on Benedetto and taunt him over the phone before he is attacked by motorbike assassins dispatched by their ruthless boss, Pescatore (Ivan Dario Buono).
Beside himself when the cops show up, Tonino ignores Renato's suggestion that he should stay because he is Mr Destiny and makes his way along a narrow ledge. Unfortunately, a plank gives way and he not only hurts his leg, but also has to watch as three construction vehicles bury the bag under tons of gravel. He is plucked from the depths by Renato, who uses a wheelbarrow and a block and tackle to haul him back to his rooftop eyrie, with the nearby steel works belching flame and smoke into the night sky.
Sporting a red headband, Renato tells Tonino that he has been saved by the Great Spirit and further reveals that he is a member of the Sioux tribe named Black Deer. He brews him some herbs to help him sleep and removes the splinters from his gashed shin. The next morning, Renato explains that he lives on the roof to stop the Yankees who built the plant from stealing ancient Sioux lands where bison used to roam. Tonino thinks he's nuts, especially after he nearly gives him away to Enzo (Pierluigi Corallo), a kindly friend who brings Renato groceries and tries to talk him into moving to the Happy Smile Home. But Tonino realises that he can manipulate Renato by treating him as a tribal brother until Pescatore's men give up the search and he can make his getaway with Milena.
Convincing Renato that he has hidden a bag of treasure to help the Iroquois resist the US Cavalry, Tonino sends him to retrieve the bag from the gravel. He curses Renato for bringing him a phone charger when he doesn't have any electricity and shakes his head as he watches the neighbourhood kids pull down Renato's trousers when they goad him into doing a tribal dance. No sooner has Tonino finished mooching around the washhouse, however, than Teresa (Ivana Lotito) enters and uses the bed to service a client. He fails to pay her the agreed price and Tonino spies on her through the binoculars as she is beaten by her shiftless husband (Totò Onnis) for cheating him.
Pity only goes so far, however, as Tonino steals the cash from the box that Teresa has hidden in an alcove behind Renato's map of North America. He also eats the lunch that Enzo had brought for his friend. But Tonino loses his temper when Renato returns empty handed because the Great Spirit told him not to touch the bag. Incapable of climbing the parapet to do the job himself, Tonino skulks back inside and spends the night getting drunk on the sambuca that Renato procures from one of the residents (Pinuccio Tota), who used to be a friend of his father's. Proudly, Renato shows Tonino a photograph and explains that his father got red skin from working in the steel mill and taught him all about tribal life. But it was the Great Spirit who gave him the name Red Deer after he visited the psychiatric ward where he was living and told him to trust in the world around him.
Having shown Renato how to reconnect the power, Tonino is dismayed to discover that the building site is closed for the weekend. But he has more to worry about when Teresa comes on to the roof to hang her washing and remembers seeing Tonino on the day of the robbery. She threatens to shop him unless he gives her half of the loot, but settles for the return of her stolen nest egg and the gold watch that Tonino had taken out of the bag. He realises that Renato has a crush on Teresa and keeps urging her to run away with him to Milk River in Canada, but she merely order him to give her a kiss and teases him for living in dreamland.
With his leg feeling stronger, Tonino is eager to make his escape. But Pescatore's oppos are still keeping watch in the street below and he asks Renato to have another go at digging for the bag. He refuses, however, and declares that he no longer willing to show Tonino the secret passage that would take him to the waterfront. Using an umbrella as a stick, Tonino descends to the gravel mounds. But he fails to find the bag and returns to the washhouse to find Enzo and Colella (Antonio Andrisani) attempting to pressurise Renato into signing committal forms for the Happy Smile House. As Colella has picked up Tonino's phone by accident, he mugs him on the staircase after hearing Enzo thank him for helping him get rid of Renato so he can close a deal with a property developer. The neighbours hear Colella fall down the stairs, however, and Teresa has to pull Tonino into her flat to prevent him from being caught.
Once the coast is clear, he returns upstairs and tears up the document that Renato had signed. In return, he demands to see the secret passageway and they steal a parked car in order to drive to the farm where Tonino's son, Tommy (Alessandro Giallocosta), lives. He hasn't forgiven his father for landing him a two-year stretch and shows him the damage that Pescatore's thugs have done to his property. But Tonino wangles his way inside and steals the gun hidden in a shoebox under Tommy's bed. They drive to Milena's shop, where Tonino is dismayed to discover that she is in cahoots with Benedetto and is more than ready to lure him into an ambush.
Driving to a quiet spot by the sea to clear his head, Tonino recalls the bungled bank raid that landed Tommy in jail and earned him the detested nickname `Poodle'. He grabs the gun and pulls the trigger, only to find that Renato has removed the bullets. Smiling in resignation, he wishes his life was as simple as Renato's. But he soon loses his temper again, when Renato reveals that he has hidden the holdall, as the Sioux disapprove of theft. Threatening to shoot him unless he hands it over, Tonino escorts Renato back to the washhouse, where he hands over the bag.
As Tonino counts his ill-gotten gains, however, Benedetto arrives at the building after being tipped off by Colella and a gun battle breaks out on the roof between the rival gang members chasing Tonino. Much to his astonishment, Renato appears on the roof wearing war paint and a feather in his headband. He attacks one of the crooks with his tomahawk and fires an arrow into Benedetto's back when he corners Tonino. The pair struggle after Benedetto fires at Renato, who collapses. Tonino hurls Benedetto over the ledge and rushes up to check on Renato. He is content to be dying as a warrior and points the antlered deer behind them and Tonino is humbled to behold the Great Spirit.
Covering Renato with his cape, Tonino makes a dash for the port and slips away on a boat. A few days later, Enzo instructs Teresa to clear out the washhouse and she is thrilled to discover that Tonino had left her a bundle of notes and some jewellery she could sell to take her daughters away from their brute of a father and start afresh in Canada.
It's easy to see why Sergio Rubini regretted having to let someone else play the part of Renato, as Rocco Papaleo romps away with this engaging odd couple saga. Rubini proves once again what a fine Richard III he would make, as Tonino seethes and schemes in striving to break Renato's Sioux code of honour. But Barboncino and Cervo Nero have more in common than they could possibly have envisaged when they meet in the most peculiar of circumstances. Riffing on the tried and trusted traits of the comedy double act, the pair bounce off the dialogue concocted by Rubini and co-scenarists Carla Cavalluzzi and Angelo Pasquini, although they often say much with an expression or gesture as they kindle each other's inner fires.
Ivana Lotito and Bianca Guaccero provide solid support as Teresa and Milena, but the emphasis is firmly on the cowboy and his Indian and on the Taranto skyline that is evocatively photographed by Michele D'Attanasio, whose use of the red-striped chimney stacks of the Ilva steel plant recalls the lingering pillow shots in Yasujiro Ozu's An Autumn Afternoon (1962), as Rubini seeks to draw parallels between the spoliation of the Old West by the Yankees and their railroads and the pollution spread by the industrial plants owned by globalising conglomerates. Rubini's camera placement during the rooftop sequences prove equally key, as does the rolling piano motif composed by Ludovico Einaudi to accompany Renato's limber jaunts up and down the various ladders and drainpipes.
FRAMING JOHN DELOREAN
Earlier this year, Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce's Framing John DeLorean was released on download after failing to secure a cinema spot. Now comes Nick Hamm's Driven, a dramatised account of the motor tycoon's fall from grace. As there is so much overlap between the two films, it makes sense to review them together, especially as the documentary is still available online and is far more revealing about the man and his myth.
Argott and Joyce's profile begins with footage of John DeLorean taking a polygraph test. Producers Steve Lee Jones, David Permut and Nick Spicer and screenwriters Alex Holmes and Adam Mazer proceed to muse upon their unrealised DeLorean movies, along with Bob Gale, the co-writer of Robert Zemeckis's Back to the Future (1985), which turned DeLorean's most famous vehicle into a time machine. We also see Alec Baldwin in make-up being turned into DeLorean for the dramatic reconstructions being used in this film. He says it's important to play DeLorean as he saw himself and not as he was perceived, as the man who had it all and threw it all away.
Biographer Hillel Levin recalls DeLorean's background, along with J. Patrick Wright, the author of On a Clear Day You Can See GM, and Car and Driver journalist Don Sherman, who recalls DeLorean's stints at Packard and Chrysler before he joined General Motors as a talented engineer and designer. GM historian Tamir Ardon explains how DeLorean took on Pontiac and engineer Bill Collins concurs that it was the uncoolest division in the company in the late 1950s. But - as we see in a reconstruction with Josh Charles as Collins - DeLorean revived its fortunes by putting a big motor into the 1964 Tempest and calling it the GTO (from the Italian `Gran Turismo Omologato').
Moreover, he bypassed the management objections by saying that he was modifying an existing make rather than creating a new model. Sales director Frank Bridge was sceptical and limited the run to 5000, as he felt the Pontiac was an old people's car. But it caught on with the emerging youth market and, with the `tiger in the hood' marketing campaign, it sold 45,000 in the first year.
While rehearsing the scene in which DeLorean is busted doing a drug deal, Baldwin speculates on why risk takers often decide to gamble outside their specialist sphere and invariably fall flat on their faces. As he moved to Chevrolet and hit more home runs, DeLorean began body-building and had plastic surgery on his jawline. He divorced wife Elizabeth Higgins and married 19 year-old actress Kelly Harmon and, when she became disillusioned, he married supermodel Cristina Ferrare. This worried the GM management, as they preferred low profiles on the executive floor, but they also loved their bonus cheques because DeLorean's sales numbers were unprecedented.
When GM refused to react to the import of smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, DeLorean criticised executives like Roger Kyes for being complacent. When his Greenbriar speech was censored by the board in 1973, DeLorean leaked the original to the press to show the public that GM was trying to gag him, while resisting reform. But the gambit backfired and he was dismissed.
Typically, he span the exit to his own advantage and began working on an `ethical' stainless steel sports car that would last 25 years. It was a dream-cum-revenge project, but starting a car company from the ground up is difficult and Walter P. Chrysler had been the last to do so in the 1930s, and he had gone bankrupt. But DeLorean got Collins to defect from GM and brought in engineer Bob Manion, who concurs with DeLorean's secretary, Colleen Booth, that Collins was the modest genius who consistently made his boss look good.
As we see a corporate video for the DeLorean Motor Company, special projects manager Jerry Williamson admits they were taking a risk in starting from scratch. Following a re-enactment of the launch of the DMC-12, at which DeLorean sings Collins's praises, we meet his adopted son Zach and sister Kathryn, who agree that their father was their best friend while growing up. Indeed, they echo Cristina Ferrare in a TV interview in disclosing that the private man differed dramatically from the public persona. Actress Morena Baccarin, who is playing Cristina, examines her personality and opines that she was perky and composed, Yet, she was never entirely in control and seemed to be dauntingly aware that she only seemed to have it all, as her dolce vita could all come crashing down at any moment.
Needing backing for his enterprise, DeLorean travelled to Belfast, which seemed to be a good bet because Northern Ireland was going through the Troubles and investment in jobs was desperately needed, As director of purchasing Barrie Wills recalls, it was a no-brainer for a Labour government needing to help a problem area. But there was no history of motor manufacturing in Ulster and Lotus founder Colin Chapman came on board to help get the ball rolling.
Collins became a casualty of this arrangement, as Chapman was used to doing things his own way and we see a phone call between Lotus HQ in Norwich and DMC in New York, as DeLorean ducks the responsibility of telling his friend that he was out of a job, even though Lotus engineer Colin Spooner confirms that Collins knew when the contracts with Lotus were being drawn up. We see Collins looking at the DMC-12 in his garage and he is still proud of it, as he reads his resignation letter and various talking heads agree that he was shafted.
Documentarists DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus remember working with the moto-maverick on their 1981 profile, DeLorean, and factory workers George Crane, Dick Mullholland and Alan Hayward confide that they kind of knew that things were going to end in tears. But it was an exciting time and represented a major socio-political step forward, as there was no segregation on the shop floor. They built a plant and 3500 gull-winged cars inside two years and Wills has no hesitation in branding this a success story in October 1981.
Mistakes were made, however, and things started to fall apart very quickly. DMC president Gene Cafiero admitted there were qualify issues, but also laments that they got a bad press at the very time that the US economy was experiencing a ruinous slowdown. In hindsight, Ardon recognises that the sensible move would have been to slow production and iron out the problems with the car. But DeLorean steamed ahead and doubled production in order to exploit a contract loophole about increased government subsidies for raised staffing levels. Unfortunately, Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan had been replaced by Margaret Thatcher and Northern Ireland Secretary James Prior recalls being detailed to keep DeLorean under control.
Eventually, however, the Conservatives decided that they couldn't keep pouring taxpayers' money into a bottomless pit. As a result, by 1982, DeLorean was scouting for private investment and government receiver Chris Hughes remembers him seeming bullish, even though direct contact was sporadic. On 19 October, Cristina received a call that her husband had been busted by the US Drug Enforcement Administration for trying to raise cash with a huge cocaine deal. For the workers in Belfast, this development meant instant redundancy and an uncertain future, as DeLorean pleaded not guilty and accused the White House of entrapment. Defence attorney Howard Weitzman called it `the trial of the century for 1984' and prosecutor Robert Perry admits that it turned into quite a show.
Perry recalls a dealer-turned-snitch named James Hoffman (Michael Rispoli) getting in touch with undercover DEA agent John Valestra (Dean Winters) because he had heard that DeLorean needed a quick injection of cash. As President Ronald Reagan had just launched the War on Drugs, Hoffman realised that he could make big bucks by shopping famous crooks. Valestra told him to meet DeLorean and the reconstruction shows the car manufacturer responding phlegmatically to the news that the investors Hoffman had in mind were Colombians in coffee, `or something like that'.
A taped conversation in a Washington hotel was played in court, but the defence claimed that DeLorean had merely listened to Hoffman outlining his proposals for landing a multi-million dollar deal. Zach remembers how fraught family life was at this time and how reluctant his father was to talk to them about his problems. As Valestra didn't think he had enough evidence to snare DeLorean, DEA agent Benedict Tisa (Dana Ashbrook) posed as a crooked banker at the Eureka Federal Savings and Loan in San Carlos and proposed selling stock to cocaine pilot Morgan Hetrick. Needing funds desperately and convinced he could bury this without a trail leading to drugs, DeLorean agreed to meet him. He also consented to meeting Valestra posing as a mob character, who reminds DeLorean that there's no such thing as a free lunch.
We see grainy surveillance footage showing DeLorean trying to play smart, while Hoffman is out to make fast cash and the DEA agents are hoping for a big-name bust that will make them look good. Weitzman compares the situation to a set up in a movie, as DeLorean gave them worthless stock in a defunct private company with no assets. He clearly thought he had switched the con. But Tisa called him to the Sheraton in Los Angeles to collect $10 million in person and, on being shown a suitcase full of cocaine, he remarks that it's better than gold because it's a lot lighter.
As that moment, FBI agent Jerry West (Jason Jones) enters to arrest DeLorean and Weitzman insists that Valestra producing the case on camera was showmanship to con the jury into thinking that this was central to the deal when it was only part of the sting. Despite the odds being stacked against him, DeLorean was found not guilty on all eight counts and Perry admits being shocked that the jury fell for the entrapment defence, as he didn't think it was credible.
DeLorean didn't get away scot free, however, as Cristina left him a few days after his acquittal and tried to rebuild the modelling career that had collapsed on her marriage. Zach takes the crew to the crummy apartment he shares with two dogs and reveals that the scandal hit the family hard and he still can't see the iconic car without feeling a wrench. Ironically (given what we are about to review), he is glad that nobody has made a film drama about the episode, as it would inevitably end with a verdict that was anything but a triumph. Kathryn shows a school art project, in which she turned the initials `DMC' into `Destroyed My Childhood' on the car bumper.
Meanwhile, forensic accountant Jay Alix is brought in to examine the DeLorean books. He discovers that he had raised $17.65 million for the development of the car from investors in the US before the UK government had given him the grant. Thus, he appeared to have siphoned off this cash to cut a deal in Geneva with Chapman and a shady company called GPD Services. This was supposed to be offering engineering expertise, but it was merely a shell company that existed only as PO Box 33 in a Geneva post office. By all accounts, Chapman took the cash and laundered it through European banks and he and DeLorean split it.
Phil Donohue gave DeLorean a rough ride on his show, as he accused him of risking his family's welfare and being a shyster. But DeLorean pleads innocence and declares that the truth will out. With Chapman dying of a heart attack at 54, DeLorean had a chance to pitch his word against Alix. But Cristina offered to testify that she had seen her husband ageing backdated documents with a sunlamp to suggest that GPD had loaned him the money and DeLorean was forced to pay it back in order to avoid prosecution. Ardon avers that the victim persona that DeLorean had adopted during the legal proceedings was exposed as a sham and that he had started to come across as ruthless and grasping after mistakenly hatching the belief that cold hard cash could have saved the company in Belfast and spared him the ignominy of the drug trial.
Cutting away from the sordid reality of DeLorean's predicament, screenwriter Bob Gale explains that time machine in the first draft of Back to the Future was a refrigerator. But director Robert Zemeckis came up with using the DMC-12 and, in the process, he immortalised it. Willis reckons it's a shame they couldn't have kept going for another couple of years, as the film would have saved the firm, as it presented it with such priceless publicity. DeLorean wrote to the film-makers to thank them for keeping his project alive in such a positive way. Baldwin also recalls DeLorean phoning to ask if he would play him in one of the movie projects being mooted in the mid-1980s and he recalls being flattered. He acknowledges that DeLorean did bad things, but avers that he was corrupted by a dream.
Ardon wraps up the last 20 years by saying DeLorean found God, married Sally Baldwin late in life and only came to lose his estate when he was declared bankrupt in 2000. He spent the last five years of his life in a one-bedroom apartment in Morristown, New Jersey. Kathryn recalls taking her father to motor shows so that he could see how revered he was for the DMC-12. But she admits that he remained John DeLorean until the end, as he was trying to get the DMC 2 floated when he had a fatal heart attack on 19 March 2005. Zach jokes he would be fine with the documentary ending with God pulling the plug on him, as he has clearly not forgotten or forgiven in the same way as his sister.
Well, there are the `facts'. But how many of them survive in Driven, which sees screenwriters Colin Bateman and Alejandro Carpio shift the emphasis to focus on Jim Hoffman rather than John DeLorean?
In a bustling opening sequence, Special Agent Benedict Tisa (Corey Stoll) is giving Jim Hoffman (Jason Sudeikis) some last-minute coaching, as they enter the courtroom where John DeLorean (Lee Pace) will be tried for drug dealing. A flashback reveals that Tisa first came across Hoffman several years earlier when he was a pilot with a reputation for carrying back any packages entrusted to him on his flights from Thailand and Bolivia. However, one family holiday goes spectacularly wrong and wife Ellen (Judy Greer) is surprised when Hoffman is spared prison and installed in a luxurious home in an estate in the Pauma Valley district of San Diego County, California.
Of course, such lodgings aren't handed out without a good reason and we realise that Hoffman has been set up as an FBI informer. His principal target is Morgan Hetrick (Michael Cudlitz), the bigwig who had funded the transaction that had landed Hoffman in clink. But Hoffman finds himself moving in more elevated circles when he discovers DeLorean and his model wife Cristina (Isabel Arraiza) living across the street. Having recently departed from General Motors, DeLorean is looking for investment to launch his wing-doored DMC-12 model and the car-mad Hoffman is so in awe that he offers to keep his neighbour's pool clean while he's away on business.
Despite recognising the gulf in class between the pair, DeLorean begins to realise that Hoffman could be useful in putting him in touch with wheeler-dealers with oodles of ready cash. However, Hoffman is on the verge of implosion after Ellen catches him wearing a wire and he is forced to tell her everything about his double life. He is also backed into inviting Hetrick and his girlfriend Katy Connors (Erin Moriarty) to a party hosted by DeLorean.
Disregarding the doubts of acolytes Bill (Jamey Sheridan), Molly (Tara Summers) and Roy (Iddo Goldberg), DeLorean is so blinkered by his determination to keep his new Belfast premises operational that it doesn't seem to bother him that he is taking a reckless and patently criminous risk in dealing with a known druglord like Hetrick. So, when Hoffman mentions that DeLorean is sounding him out about raising $30 million on a large consignment of cocaine, Tisa realises that he is on the verge of the biggest bust of his entire career. Consequently, he considers Hoffman's request to have his record expunged and to receive a 10% cut of the deal as a golden handshake.
Donning a wig to cover his bald pate, Tisa poses as a banker named James Davro to legitimise the deal between Hetrick and DeLorean, with the latter guaranteeing Hoffman's trustworthiness to act as a go-between. Moreover, when DeLorean fails to raise the $2 million to buy the shipment, Davro steps in to lend him the sum. As they head for the exchange, Bill calls DeLorean to inform him that they have a legitimate deal to save the company, but he rejects it because he is determined to remain his own boss and not become a figurehead.
This brings us back to the court case, which Bateman and Carpio weave through the flashbacks, as defence attorney Howard Weitzman (Justin Bartha) seeks to discredit those accusing his client and prove that they set out to entrap DeLorean on the orders of the DEA and the FBI. As has already been revealed in Argott and Joyce's actuality, the Feds failed to nail their man and DeLorean walked free. But Hamm takes things at such a clip that it's impossible not to be swept along by action that is edited to within the skin of its teeth by Brett M. Reed in imitation of David O. Russell's American Hustle (2013).
Fernando Carrion's production design and Julia Michelle Santiago's costumes are also noteworthy, as they do as much to establish the look and feel of the late 1970s as the disco jukebox selections that complements Geronimo Mercado's glam/prog guitar score. Such nudging winks at the excesses of the decade that taste forgot occasionally come close to tipping the tone into the parodic. But Hamm (who remarkably kept the project on track while shooting in Puerto Rico in the face of Hurricane Maria) manages to keep things on the caper side of comedy and he is ably abetted in this regard by Lee Pace and Jason Sudeikis, whose bushy moustache and ill-fittingly tight shirts gives him the look of a seedy Burt Reynolds. He is allowed to be more cartoonish in his portrayal than Pace, who ably suggests that the outer affability hides both the neediness and the ruthlessness that makes DeLorean such a compelling, if hardly empathetic character.
While the leads spark well enough, they never quite succeed in convincing in the way that Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney did in The Journey (2016), in which Bangor's Bateman and the Belfast-born Hamm imagined a conversation between Democratic Unionist Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness during a key moment in the Northern Ireland peace talks in 2006. Given his antipathy towards any movie reconstruction, it would interesting to hear what Zach DeLorean thinks of their efforts. He might just see the funny side.
When it all boils down to it, the movie business is primarily about figures in ledgers and Aaron Woodley's Polar Squad (aka Arctic Dogs) has just set an unwanted record. On opening in 2844 cinemas across North America, this animated treatise on climate change amassed a mere $2.9 million, which represents the worst opening by any picture on this many screens in the history of the medium. Doubtless, Lawrence Sher will be relieved that his Owen Wilson-Ed Helms road movie, Father Figures (2017), has shed this unwanted footnote. But it's not much of a recommendation and grown-ups who also sat through Woodley's equally uninspired Spark: A Space Tail (2016) are hardly going to be rushing their little ones into the nearest multiplex, even if it offers this well-meaning misfire in a double bill with Trevor Wall's Norm of the North (2016).
The frozen town of Taigasville is so heavily dependent upon the Arctic Blast Delivery Service that the three huskies who pull the mail sledges, Duke (Michael Madsen), Dakota (Laurie Holden) and Dusty (Donny Falsetti), are local celebrities. Swifty the Arctic fox (Jeremy Renner) is so in awe of the trio that he dreams of becoming a `Top Dog' and doing his bit for his remote community. The only trouble is, Swifty is far too small to haul a fully laden sledge. Moreover, his white fur offers such effective camouflage in the snowy conditions that he's often invisible, even to friends like PB the polar bear (Alec Baldwin), Lemmy the wacky albatross (James Franco) and Jade (Heidi Klum), the red fox on whom Swifty has an unspoken crush.
Having been hired by Magda (Anjelica Huston), the Russian caribou boss of ABDS, Swifty is disappointed to find himself operating a conveyor belt in the sorting office alongside a bunch of Italian beavers rather than staking his claim to be a Top Dog. But, when Jade misses a collection for a parcel that she needs sending to Otto Van Walrus (John Cleese), Swifty volunteers to take it for her. He has trouble pulling the wooden sledge, but he makes it across the frozen wastes to the mysterious lair in which Otto resides with an army of puffin minions. Reliant on robotic spider legs to get around, Otto cuts a sinister figure and Swifty is concerned that Jade should be placing her engineering talents at his disposal. But he is too tongue-tied to say anything to her and she is disappointed that he is so fixated on his career ambitions to notice that she has feelings for him.
Swifty becomes even more job-focussed when Magda gets a note from Duke, Dakota and Dusty announcing that they have quit and she has to rely on the little fox to make the deliveries of vital medical supplies and foodstuffs to the animals of Taigaville. Magda even entrusts Swifty with a ballpoint pen and he is too excited at having realised his dream to notice that Jade has added another parcel for Otto to his load. Indeed, it's only as he is about to complete his round (with the odd comic mishap along the way) that he realises he will have to revisit the walrus's isolated hideout.
When Otto keeps hold of the pen that Swifty had given him to sign the docket, the fox sneaks into the bunker and discovers that Otto is planning to drill into the rock beneath Taigaville to release a noxious gas that will cause the polar ice cap to melt and precipitate a flood that would enable him to become master of the world. Suddenly realising that Otto's drilling would explain the recent earth tremors and the noticeable rise in temperature, Swifty beats a hasty retreat and reports his findings to Leopold and Bertha (Omar Sy and Heidi Klum), a pair of otters dressed as French Resistance agents, who have been monitoring Otto's activities. But, while they believe his story, PB and Lemmy are more sceptical and Swifty allows his eye to be taken off the ball when Magda throws a party in his honour for completing his first delivery round.
Jade is disappointed by Swifty's sudden display of egotism and leaves the celebration early. Unfortunately, she is abducted by a gang of puffins (as the Top Dogs had been before her) and Swifty only notices her absence when he visits her workshop the next morning. He is shocked to find a note from Otto thanking her for her contribution to his enterprise and learns from Leopold and Bertha that the walrus has exploited Jade in his bid to turn Biolipadium, Aradithic and Dipsodium into a BAD gas. Having spied on Otto conducting a test of his equipment, the trio report their findings to the staff at ABDS, where Magda reveals that Otto had once been a model employee before he went rogue.
An armoured assault on Otto's HQ goes horribly wrong and the pals find themselves in suspended cages alongside Jade and the Top Dogs. Swifty is disappointed to learn that Duke, Dakota and Dusty are bored with their jobs and can't wait to retire to a sun-kissed beach. But, before Otto can lower the cages into boiling water, Jade picks the locks and frees the friends so that they can stop Otto's iceberg-camouflaged drilling rig from doing its dastardly deed and plunging the planet into disaster. Jade curses when the remote control fail-safe she had built into the keypad fails to work and urges Swifty to be careful when he risks his life to disarm the drill manually.
It goes without saying that he saves the day, gets the girl and learns that the most important thing after environmental consciousness is to be true to yourself. He also lands his dream job, as the Top Dogs get their retirement wish and Otto is parcelled off to jail after being abandoned by the puffin hordes. But there will be few punching the air in triumph, as Swifty is a highly resistible hero, whose self-centred aspiration is socked across with little charisma by Jeremy Renner.
Indeed, the voicework is pretty humdrum throughout, with James Franco and Alec Baldwin being given next to nothing to do as an albatross with a fear of flying and the palooka polar bear sidekick. Curiously, Heidi Klum doubles as both Jade and Bertha, without making much impression in either role, even though the former is depicted as slightly more than an conventional damsel in distress. Anjelica Huston has more fun as the Russian caribou, while John Cleese revels in the few funny lines in the entire screenplay. Moreover, he is also the subject of a `Glass Onion' gag that will make Beatles fans smile.
Sadly, however, there are few visual pleasures to be derived from either the heavily anthropomorphised critters or the frosty CGI setting. David Buckley's score contains equally few surprises, although we are spared the clutch of cornball songs that are so often shoehorned into animations aimed at younger viewers. Woodley (who also provides the voices of the puffins who have so obviously been modelled on the Despicable Me minions) clearly has the best intentions in seeking to direct impressionable minds toward eco issues and the coincidental timing of the UK release with the nationwide suspension of fracking couldn't be more fortuitous. But, for all its brash brio, this lacks the wit and charm to capture the imagination.
Werner Herzog has made documentaries throughout his 57-year career, but they seem to be his primary focus these days. Indeed, he has only made three fictional pictures in the last decade: Queen of the Desert (2015), Salt and Fire (2016) and Family Romance, LLC (2019). Centring on three exclusive interviews with Mikhail Gorbachev, Herzog's latest actuality promised to be one of his most intimate and significant. But Meeting Gorbachev (which he has co-directed with André Singer) never quite lives up to expectations, as a combination of translation pauses and the 88 year-old former Soviet premier's fragile health prevent the pair from establishing a revealing rapport.
On first meeting Mikhail Gorbachev, Werner Herzog presumes that the first Germans he had encountered were those invading the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa in 1941. But Gorbachev surprises Herzog by revealing that he got to know some Germans near the kolkhoz that his father had managed and had grown fond of them because they made such tasty gingerbread animals. Herzog is curious as to whether Gorbachev is simply being diplomatic, but he comes to realises during their six-month association that he is never anything less than sincere and that the delight on his face when Herzog and Singer present the diabetic octogenarian with a belated birthday present of a hamper of sugar-free chocolate is entirely genuine.
Mikhail Sergeivich Gorbachev was born into a peasant community on 2 March 1931 in the village of Privolnoye in the North Caucasus. Over shots of the cemetery in which his family is buried, Herzog explains how Gorbachev's father, Seregei, had been presumed killed during the Great Patriotic War, only to return and urge his son to adopt the mantra of fighting until he has no fight left. We see footage from Easter 2000 of Gorbachev laying flowers on the graves of his parents and grandparents, as Herzog reveals that three of his relatives starved to death during the 1930s famine and the young Mikhail recalls sleeping in a barn with the livestock. As his illiterate mother, Maria, had reluctantly married Sergei, she parcelled him off to her parents, who raised him with the tenderness he never received from his disciplinarian mother.
Herzog is amazed that one of the most important leaders of the 20th century should have emerged from such a godforsaken backwater. But Gorbachev is proud of his Stavropol roots and the role he played in helping his father drive a combine harvester during the first harvests after the war. This earned him the Order of the Red Banner of Labour. He also excelled at school, where he took up politics after joining the Communist Party prior to studying at Moscow State University. While reading law, Gorbachev participated in amateur dramatics and is seen in a clip satirising boogie-woogie. During one production, he met Ukrainian philosophy student, Raisa Titarenko, who would become the love of his life.
Despite having been the head of his student class, Gorbachev struggled to find a niche in the prosecutor's office in Stavropol and he transferred to the local Komsomol, where he became popular with the peasantry by visiting the remotest outposts during his tours of inspection, even if it meant having to spend several days on foot. In addition to introducing new mechanised methods of sheep shearing, Gorbachev also got to open the Great Stavropol Canal in 1974 (a project that had defeated Joseph Stalin) and was rewarded with the Order of the October Revolution in 1978 (although the caption says 1981), which was presented to him by a near-senile Leonid Brezhnev, who had to be reminded what he was doing.
In November 1978, Gorbachev became Secretary of the Central Committee and, with the USSR in steep decline, he travelled widely to see how other countries managed their economies. Among those he met were future Hungarian prime minister Miklos Nemeth, who was impressed by his inquisitive incorruptibility, as they toured the countryside so that Gorbachev could study yield patterns. By 1982, he had become the youngest member of the Politburo and his rise was beginning to divide Party stalwarts and reformers, as he clearly intended to do things differently. Yet, when Brezhnev died, he was succeeded by Gorbachev's mentor, Yuri Andropov, who had advised him to study foreign policy, as well as agriculture, to prepare for power.
The old guard sought to keep him at bay by appointing Konstantin Chernenko as General Secretary in 1984. But his frailty led to Gorbachev deputising for him at state occasions and his star rose over that of Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko after Margaret Thatcher announced that she could do business with him, following a visit to Britain in December 1984. When Chernenko lasted just 13 months, the Politburo realised that it needed to change tactics (Herzog and Singer's juxtaposition of the `fossil' funeral services with the Chopin march is almost cruelly satirical) and Gorbachev became the eighth and last leader of the Soviet Union in March 1985.
As Gorbachev tells Herzog, he knew he was going to implement Perestroika from the moment he entered the Kremlin, as the country was grinding to a standstill. However, while he wanted to introduce a greater element of democracy, he also wanted to enhance the socialist nature of the USSR, as he disapproves of grasping for profit. President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State, George P. Shultz claims that they recognised immediately that this change of style could lead to a thaw in the Cold War and, consequently, the United States did everything it could to support Gorbachev's Glasnost initiative.
Behind the Iron Curtain, however, the new broom was hailed for very different reasons, as former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa confides that Poles hoped that Gorbachev would weaken the Soviet grip on the satellite states and that they would be able to push for independence from Moscow. But it took the explosion within the No4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on 26 April 1986 to convince Gorbachev that the technology was too dangerous to hold the planet hostage. Consequently, he strove to outlaw nuclear weapons testing and, even though Mrs Thatcher disagreed, President Reagan backed the initiative and Gorbachev lets slip that it dismays him some world leaders are currently bent on re-escalating the nuclear arms race that should have been left buried in the 1980s.
Herzog visits the Höfði house where the Reykjavik Summit was held in October 1986 and reminds Gorbachev of the significance of the meeting. He recalls that Shultz had expressed his disappointment to the press, so he decided to put a positive spin on the talks and, because of the personal bond they had forged, Reagan concurred and the process to disarm could begin in earnest. When Herzog asks why governments have such an obsession with nuclear weapons, Gorbachev interjects that the treaties that effectively ended the Cold War removed a lot of short-range and intermediate missiles and he hopes that the current sabre-rattling will die down and common sense will again prevail because the damage that even one exchange could have would be calamitous for the entire planet.
Future Secretary of State James Baker and Helmut Kohl's National Security Adviser, Horst Teltschick, join Shultz in condemning the policies of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping and Gorbachev goes so far as to say that anyone who adopts a bellicose stand shouldn't be in politics. He laments, however, that they are very much present in important government posts and in the boardrooms of the defence contractors. Herzog asks Teltschick about NATO and he agrees that it nettles Putin, but warns that Russia faces more dangers from China, India, Pakistan and Iran than it does from Europe and the United States.
In the new spirit of co-operation, Gorbachev backed George H.W. Bush during the First Gulf War in 1990, but it still rankles that the US felt it had won the Cold War and allowed the success to go to its head. As Gorbachev gently affirms, it was a joint victory and his reluctance to spark conflict resulted in troops being withdrawn from East Germany to allow for peaceful reunification. Teltschick explains that Gorbachev is still revered in Germany for his delicate handling of the Berlin Wall coming down. Following footage of the human chain linking the peoples of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Nemeth remembers how Gorbachev had promised that there would be no repeat of the brutal suppression of the 1956 Uprising. He also tells Herzog about the symbolic wire-cutting at the border between Hungary and Austria, which was only the second story on the local news behind some advice on using beer to trap slugs.
While the Soviet Bloc began to crumble, there was no immediate clamour within West Germany for reunification. Herzog recalls that many had given u on the prospect and it took Kohl's Ten Point Programme to convince both sides that it could be achieved. Gorbachev reveals that Kohl compared him to Joseph Goebbels during one of their first meetings. But they overcame this shaky start to become firm friends and Herzog effuses in telling Gorbachev how much he and his compatriots love him for what he did for their divided nation. Teltschick considers it a phenomenal piece of diplomacy, but Gorbachev points out that Germany and Russia had much in common and that they had to find a way around past crises to secure a better future.
Amidst all the jubilation in Eastern Europe, however, the ripples were starting to cause waves in Moscow and Gorbachev admits that he would have preferred to give the republics that made up the Soviet Union greater autonomy to prevent them from breaking away. But people were in too great a hurry to push their own agendas, including Boris Yeltsin, and events began to move at such a rapid pace that it was impossible to keep a lid on them.
In August 1991, while Gorbachev was holidaying in Foros in the Crimea with his family, a coup was launched in Moscow by hard-line Communists and the KGB. Vice President Gennady Yenayev announced that Gorbachev was too sick to continue in office and he assumed all of his powers. Although Gorbachev recorded a message denying his incapacity, Muscovites resisted the military and Russian president Boris Yeltsin seized the opportunity to present himself as the champion of democracy. With the Baltic States and Georgia having already declared their independence, Yeltsin announced that Russia would secede from the USSR and become a separate state.
Yeltsin had the parliament abolish the Communist Party and Gorbachev admits he should have been tougher with him. But he points out that reckless politicians are always difficult to deal with because they often have popular public support and he was powerless to stop the momentum. On 8 December 1991, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus agreed to dissolve the Soviet Union and the remaining states signed their approval 13 days later. Resisting entreaties to sign his resignation documents on live television, Gorbachev gave a farewell address with typical dignity.
Despite having presided over a bloodless dissolution, many accused him of treachery and Gorbachev admits he still bitterly regrets the break up of the USSR. He has cut a solitary figure since the loss of Raisa in 1999, but he speaks of her with such vivid affection that it's impossible not to be deeply moved when he confides that his life had been taken away from him when he lost her to leukaemia. His distress beside her open casket, as Putin paid his respects, represents a rare display of public emotion on behalf of such a powerful figure and the footage from Vitaly Mansky's Gorbachev: After Empire (2001) of him mooching around the old family home and reuniting with his Aunt Aleksandra is highly poignant.
Teltschick concurs with Herzog's verdict that Gorbachev is a tragic figure and notes that 1990's Charter of Paris for a New Europe planned for a Common Home for all citizens of the continent without a need for NATO or the Warsaw Pact. He also feels it sad that he wasn't able to retain power and prevent the rise of the oligarchs. But Gorbachev is proud of Perestroika and Glasnost and the hesitant steps they took the world towards peace and only regrets that he was prevented from finishing the job by dark forces who wanted power and wealth for themselves. Before signing off with a song whose lyrics by the 19th-century writer Mikhail Lermontov sound like a Russian version of `My Way', Gorbachev declares that he wouldn't be too unhappy if the words `We Tried' were inscribed on his tombstone.
Looking almost Churchillian in the final freeze frame at the end of his mumbled song, Gorbachev gets to state his case in this unashamedly adulatory profile. But Herzog's loquacious and unexpectedly obsequious interview style and the need for translations prevents the pair from having a conversation. Instead, Herzog makes declamatory statements that culminate in a leading question that either shapes Gorbachev's response or gives him an easy get out. Although he remains a consummate politician, to his credit, Gorbachev rarely takes advantage of the latter, even when discussing his political regrets and the grief he still keenly feels at being widowed. Yet, even when he offers frank insights, this always feels like something of a missed opportunity.
Editor Michael Ellis links the archive material cogently, but Herzog cuts a lot of corners in relating Gorbachev's history. Moreover, he spares his hero the tough questions on his inability to hold the Soviet Union together and the extent to which aspiring empire builder Vladimir Putin has undone so much of his domestic reform. In this regard, the film resembles Wim Wenders's Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (2018). It would certainly have been nice to hear more from Lech Walesa, whose views on the dismantling rather than the reforming of the Communist system are intriguing. Instead, we get a touch too much Teltschick and nothing at all from the survivors of the Thatcher cabinet, who might have been able to shed light on Gorbachev's relationship with the woman whose patronage possibly helped convince the Politburo that he was also a man they could do business with.
The very fact that the name of Matt Busby appears in the Beatle song `Dig It' reveals how crucial he was to the 1960s zeitgeist. As a Scouser, John Lennon might have opted to include Bill Shankly alongside BB King and Doris Day in his lyric. But the former Liverpool inside forward was in the headlines in 1968 having just won the European Cup with Manchester United and the obsession with lifting this trophy proves central to Joe Pearlman's documentary Busby.
This may seem an odd follow-up to the BAFTA-nominated Bros: After the Screaming Stops (2018). But producers Leo Pearlman and Heather Greenwood were also responsible for Benjamin and Gabe Turner's The Class of `92 (2013) and the fact the United's bitter rivals from along the East Lancs Road don't merit a single mention suggests that this profile has the tacit approval of the Old Trafford hierarchy.
The presence of Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Alex Ferguson in the title montage betrays what a corporate enterprise this is, as the point is rammed home that United remains a club entrenched in the Busby tradition. Those with keen ears will pick out the voice of Bill Shankly declaring Busby `the greatest manager who ever lived'. Yet, even though he and Jock Stein came from equally tough Scottish backgrounds, they are not referred to by name and such snubbing feels almost insulting, especially as Stein pipped Busby to becoming the first British manager to win the European Cup with Celtic in 1967.
Eager to get to the Salford docks, Pearlman rushes through Busby's childhood in the Lanarkshire mining village of Oribiston, where he was raised with his three sisters by his mother after his father was killed by a sniper at the Battle of Arras in 1917. In describing Nellie's influence in an old TV interview, the inference is that she struggled on alone. But she remarried in 1919 and Busby followed his stepfather into the pit before travelling south at the age of 18 for a trial with Manchester City in 1928.
Following interjections about Depression era poverty from future United charges John Aston, Jr, Pat Crerand and Eamon Dunphy, we see a few newsreel clips of Busby with his teammates and learn that full-back Phil McCloy had to talk him out of heading home because he had developed an inferiority complex. But, even though he went on to play in 204 matches over the next eight years, Busby's playing achievements at Maine Road are largely glossed over, while his 115-game stint at Anfield is reduced to a single, unlabelled monochrome shot of him in a Liverpool kit some time in the late 1930s.
There's not even a mention of the fact that Busby rejected a first-team coaching post at Liverpool because he wanted to be the boss and Manchester United afforded him the unprecedented opportunity to take training, pick the team and handle all transfers. Future secretary Ken Ramsden and journalists Patrick Barclay and Michael Crick agree that the club Busby inherited on leaving the Army Physical Training Corps in October 1945 was in something of a state, as Old Trafford had been hit during air raids on the nearby Salford docks. But, as the first tracksuit manager, Busby wasted no time in making changes and instilling an `all in this together' mentality, in tandem with assistant Jimmy Murphy, the West Bromwich Albion half-back who had lined up for Wales in Busby's sole international for Scotland in 1933.
The emphasis was on entertainment, as Busby used deft man-management ploys to bring the best out of individuals for the greater good of the team. Ironically, United were pipped to the first postwar title by Liverpool and finished second in three of the next four seasons, but such stats are glossed over. Instead, we cut to the victory over Blackpool in the 1948 FA Cup final and hear anecdotes about the transfer listing of star winger Johnny Morris and the dressing down of critical director Harold Hardman to show how Busby was anything but Father Christmas.
The team containing the likes of Johnny Carey. Jack Rowley and John Aston, Sr. went on to win the First Division title in 1952. But this landmark is skated over, as United mythology is woven around the remarkable, largely homegrown team that succeeded them and earned the nickname of `the Busby Babes'. Author Roy Cavanagh and Jimmy Murphy, Jr. put this down to the poverty of the club in an age of austerity, but Crick points out that Busby had consciously set out to mould players in the youngest squads to play a certain way, so that they would not be out of place in the first team.
Among the Babes highlighted are Duncan Edwards, Eddie Coleman, Wilf McGuinness, Bobby Charlton and Jeff Whitefoot and we hear Edric Connor's `Manchester United Calypso' over matchday footage and recollections of Busby the father figure encouraging the team to express themselves, while also never forgetting their working-class roots and the duty they owed to be role models for their community. It was unquestionably an outstanding side and the back-to-back titles in 1956 and 1957 were only denied the gloss of a double by Peter McParland's controversial shoulder charge on goalkeeper Ray Wood during the 2-1 Cup Final defeat to Aston Villa.
Yet United had a struggle to convince the Football League to let them enter the European Cup after Chelsea had been denied permission in case the midweek ties clashed with domestic fixtures. Interestingly, Charlton recalls that there was no television coverage of continental football and that teams like Real Madrid had a mystique that make European adventures so romantic. United lost the semi-final 5-3 on aggregate, but had an immediate opportunity to rectify the situation the following season.
Ominous shots of aeroplanes and recreations inside the last remaining Airspeed Ambassador 2 are intercut with footage of United's games against Dukla Prague and Red Star Belgrade, as Northern Irish goalkeeper Harry Gregg remembers the thrill of going behind the Iron Curtain and having to pack half a dozen hard-boiled eggs in his luggage in case the food was below par. The game ended 3-3, with United proceeding to the semi-finals 4-3 on aggregate. Charlton and Gregg recall the post-match banquet and showing up for the plane a bit the worse for wear. A combination of engine problems and poor weather conditions caused two attempted take-offs to be aborted. But, as Dunphy reveals, the threat of sanction for missing Saturday's league game prompted club officials to risk a third bid to leave Munich-Riem Airport.
The aftermath of the incident on 6 February 1958 are well known and Pearlman handles them with tact, as he cuts from images of the wreckage to TV interviews with Gregg and Bill Foulkes about their recollections. Twenty-three of the 44 passengers perished and Busby received the Last Sacrament on three separate occasions before he was removed from the critical list. Feeling responsible for the deaths of Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor, Billy Whelan and Duncan Edwards (who succumbed to his injuries after 15 days), Busby almost lost the will to live. But his wife, Jean, reminded him that the lost players would want him to carry on in their memory.
McGuinness missed the trip through injury, but was part of the plucky side led by Jimmy Murphy that completed the season following an emotional first match against Sheffield Wednesday, with Foulkes and Gregg in the line-up. At one home game, a message recorded by Busby from his hospital bed was played over the tannoy and he went to Wembley on a stick when United reached the Cup Final, only to lose 2-0 to Bolton Wanderers. However, Busby took some persuading to return to the dugout, as the changing room reminded him of the missing faces.
Following his father by joining the club in 1962, John Aston explains that Busby had become a rather remote figure, who rarely visited the training ground. This detachment led to a looser bond with some of the players who had been bought in to strengthen the side during the fallow years that followed. But it's still shocking to hear that he was branded `bollock chops' in a drawing that was passed around the coach. In 1963, United flirted with relegation en route to beating Leicester City 3-1 in the Cup Final. But, with Denis Law signed from Torino and Pat Crerand from Celtic alongside such oft-forgotten stalwarts as David Sadler, Shay Brennan and Nobby Stiles, United were soon vying for honours again. The missing piece in the jigsaw, however, was a teenager from Belfast.
Much of what happened next was adequately covered in Derek Gordon's George Best: All By Himself (2016). But Pearlman recalls the famous 1-5 thrashing of Benfica in 1965 that earned Best the nickname `El Beatle' and the sense that the dream had gone following semi-final defeat to underdogs Partizan Belgrade. He also reflects on the night of 29 May 1968 at Wembley when United beat Benfica 4-1 after extra-time. Of course, there's no mention of Brian Kidd, who scored the third goal on his 19th birthday, as he's currently part of Pep Guardiola's coaching staff at Manchester City and, therefore. not worthy of the same forgiveness accorded Denis Law, even though his backheel in laser blue relegated United in 1974, just six years after their greatest triumph.
The documentary doesn't go into much detail about Busby's role in United's decline. He had retired at the end of the 1968-69 season and been cajoled into returning in 1970 after Wilf McGuinness had been ignominiously dismissed after failing to live up to expectations (and seemingly making life hard for himself by trying to impose himself on the dressing room). When both Jock Stein and Don Revie (of Leeds United) turned down chairman Louis Edwards, the managerial post passed to Frank O'Farrell of Leicester City, who was swiftly followed by Tommy Docherty, Dave Sexton and Ron Atkinson before Alex Ferguson was recruited from Aberdeen.
In a cornball bid to show how the spirit of Sir Matt lived on five years after his death, Pearlman dwells on the late drama in the 1999 European Cup Final against Bayern Munich without mentioning that 31 years had passed since United had last conquered the continent. Nothing is said, either, about the shambles bequeathed by Ferguson and the Glazer family that David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal, José Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjær have been unable to address. Where better to hide, therefore, when things are going badly, than in a glorious past - as this Koppite critic knows all too well.
Neatly assembled by Emiliano Battista, this is as good a profile of Sir Matt Busby as we are likely to get. The rare footage is a real bonus and the sincerity of the effort to present Busby as a colossus who shaped Manchester United's destiny cannot be questioned. But the narrowness of focus frequently proves frustrating, as Pearlman gives no indication of the strength of the opposition at home or abroad during the Busby era and, consequently, it falsely gives the impression that United dominated domestic and continental football between 1946-69.
Given the similarities in their backgrounds, it's impossible not to compare this documentary with Mike Todd's Shankly: Nature's Fire (2017), which devoted considerably more time to the Liverpool boss's Scottish roots and his rapport with the fans. Nothing is mentioned here about Busby's relationship with the supporters and there's little depth to the discussion about his paternalistic attitude towards his players. Similarly, there's not enough on his footballing philosophy or his abilities as a tactician, while the significant departure from the hands-on managerial style following Munich is skipped over, along with any mistakes that prompted the slump that ended with the 1963 cup win.
Having rather classlessly hung McGuinness out to dry without a right of reply to the criticisms of his brief tenure, Pearlman also avoids considering Busby's mindset in retirement and the impact that his hegemony had on his successors, who very much operated in his shadow until Ferguson stamped his own authority. However, the makers are keen to draw parallels with the Fledglings and reinforce the myths surrounding the United brand. Thus, while this reprinting of the legend is vastly superior to dramatised accounts like James Strong's United (2011) and David Scheinmann's Believe (2013), in which Busby was respectively played by Dougray Scott and Brian Cox, its hagiographical and highly selective approach leaves sizeable parts of the story untold.
MAKING WAVES: THE ART OF CINEMATIC SOUND,
Midge Costin has been a sound editor in Hollywood for over two decades. She is also the Kay Rose Professor in the Art of Sound at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Few could be better placed, therefore, to make the documentary, Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound. Yet, for all the expertise and enthusiasm that Costin brings to this stellar study of a criminally under-appreciated art form, her focus on American productions makes this seem a tad parochial and more than a little back-slappingly smug.
The legendary Walter Murch begins by noting that we experience sound in the womb and suggests that it continues to affect us in a deeper way than image does for the rest of our lives. We see clips from the silent era and equivalents with sound to illustrate the difference that the acoustic accompaniment makes. Pat Jackson, who was the supervising sound editor on Anthony Minghella's The English Patient (1996), claims that sound is stealthy and creeps up on our consciousness as we watch a film.
Film-makers of the calibre of Sofia Coppola, Christopher Nolan, Ryan Coogler, Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, Ang Lee, David Lynch and George Lucas all concur that it's `sight and sound' when it comes to the movies and they are heavily dependent upon each other, even though we often talk about the look of a film or a director's vision. Steven Spielberg avers that `Our ears lead our eyes to where the story lives' and front-rank sound designer Gary Rydstrom uses Saving Private Ryan (1998) to demonstrate how the soundscape emphasises the scale of the D-Day invasion sequence, while the camera remains at soldier's eye level. Sound effects editor Teresa Eckton explains how the machine guns give the passage its rhythm, while Spielberg reveals both that a Normandy veteran had inspired him to include a moment of silence before one big explosion and that he had consciously decided to withhold John Williams's score until the opening 25-minute salvo had ended.
Long before Ben Burtt in George Lucas's Star Wars (1977) and Walter Murch in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979) came up with concept of aural immersion. sound design was a very different craft. We hark back to Thomas Alva Edison recording `Mary Had a Little Lamb' on a wax cylinder in 1877 and Burtt explains that the Wizard of Menlo Park had started working on a moving picture camera in order to complement the Phonograph. Synchronisation defeated trusted engineer William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, however, and audiences watching epics like William A. Wellman's Wings (1927) had to make do with live sound effects, which were produced either by itinerant backstage rumblers or by machines like the Allefex, which was essentially an effects version of a one-man band rig.
All this changed with Alan Crosland's Don Juan (1926), which boasted a synchronised music track and sound effects, and the same director's The Jazz Singer (1927), which was as much a sensation for the sound of Al Jolson's speaking voice as for his more familiar singing. Cinema was faced with abandoning its silent legacy and the techniques that had created it. Suddenly, scenes were filmed on controlled soundstages and we see the amusing microphone in the bush sequence from Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen's Singin' in the Rain (1952) to highlight the difficulties inherent in early sound recording.
We hear famous lines from Frizt Lang's M, James Whale's Frankenstein (both 1931) and Roben Mamoulian's Queen Christina (1933), as well as the sound effects in Lewis Milestone's All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), which added to the authenticity of the battle sequences. Over clips from Tod Browning's Dracula (1931), Murch and others explain that sound editors mixed effects on to the soundtrack to supplement the live dialogue recorded on set. It was with Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsach's King Kong (1933) that the term `sound design' came into its own, however, thanks largely to Murray Spivack, who invented the noises made by the dinosaur and Kong itself.
In archive footage, Spivak explains how he played lion and tiger roars at half speed and reversed them to get a unique sound and Bartt concedes that such techniques are still used today. During the Golden Age, however, such customised jobs were rare, as the studio bean counters preferred to use stock gunshot, punch and explosion effects and a slickly assembled montage shows how these were recycled across many different films. Here might have been the place, however, to have said something about the `Wilhelm Scream' that has been a staple of screen audio effects since it was created by Sheb Wooley for Raoul Walsh's 1951 Gary Cooper Western, Distant Drums.
When he came west to make Citizen Kane (1941), however, Orson Welles demanded more from cinematic sound after producing such epochal radio shows as War of the Worlds (1938). Murch explains how Welles used sonic space to match the depth of cinematographer Gregg Toland's image field. But until the 1960s, scores were often used to reinforce the emotion of a scene rather than sound effects, as was the case in such films as Victor Fleming's Gone With the Wind (1939) and Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1956). Murch suggests that such musical saturation dissipates tension and points to Alfred Hitchcock's music-less soundtrack for The Birds (1963), which ratcheted up the suspense solely through bird noises.
Yet, as George Lucas notes, the studios disliked the way in which directors like David Lean and Stanley Kubrick used sound because their methods were so expressionist and expensive. Murch was among the first to rebel against such corporate blandness after experimenting with reel-to-reel tape as a boy and coming to appreciate the musique concrète of Pierre Henry and Pierre Schaeffer. Loving the films of Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa, Murch went to study for a year in Paris in 1963 and came to admire the way in which Jean-Luc Godard broke the audiovisual rules in A Bout de Souffle (1960). Indeed, such iconoclasm prompted Murch to go to film school at USC, where he met George Lucas.
Unfortunately, Hollywood was in a creative trough c.1965, as people were more interested in The Beatles and television than cinema. Lucas got a scholarship to Warner Bros and worked with Francis Ford Coppola on Finian's Rainbow (1968). They hired Murch to do the sound on The Rain People (1969) and used the Nagra Portable Tape Recorder to record sound on the hoof. Realising that they didn't need to be in Hollywood, the trio formed American Zoetrope in San Francisco, where Lucas and Murch wrote the pioneering science-fiction flick, THX 1138 (1971). Its failure, however, led Warners to withdrew its development funding and bankrupt Zoetrope. As a result, Coppola had to accept a `sleazy gangster film' that 12 other directors had turned down: The Godfather (1972).
Murch explains how he borrowed the effects for the restaurant murder scene from John Cage. The film was released with a mono speaker behind the screen as Gone With the Wind had been and Murch laments that cinema sound had not progressed much, unlike music which had seized upon stereo. The Beatles and producer George Martin had pushed the limits with tracks like `Tomorrow Never Knows' from Revolver (1966) and `Revolution #9' from the White Album (1968). Eventually, cinema caught up by importing Dolby from the music industry in the mid-1970s and Streisand's decision to invest $1 million of her own money to ensure the team mixing the stereo soundtrack for Frank Pierson's A Star Is Born (1976) helped transform the industry in the nick of time for the blockbusters to come. That said, stereo was hardly new, as Costin fails to mention the song `Stereophonic Sound', which Fred Astaire and Janis Page had performed in Rouben Mamoulian's Silk Stockings (1957).
The recording of sound was also changing, with Jim Webb pioneering the use of multi-track on Robert Altman's Nashville (1975) and titles like Coppola's The Conversation (1974), Spielberg's Jaws (1975) and Alan J. Pakula's All the President's Men (1976) changed the way sound was used and heard in American films. Then came Ben Burtt, who started experimenting with sound after his father brought home a tape recorder while he was suffering a prolonged childhood illness. He became familiar with the sound styles of Warners and MGM from the movies he saw on television and used the clips he had collected in home movies like Yankee Squadron in the early 1960s.
At USC, Burtt palled up with Richard L. Anderson and their shared love of Hollywood trash led them to make Rod Flash Conquers Infinity. The snippets from this homemade movie are priceless (especially when someone gets eaten by a dinosaur). But the project gave Burtt the confidence to accept an invitation to concoct a Wookie sound for Star Wars, which he achieved by feeding bread to a bear in a zoo. Burtt spent the year that Lucas was shooting in England recording sounds that have become iconic, such as the rattle of Darth Vader's breathing and the swoosh of Luke Skywalker's lightsaber. The team had more trouble with R2D2, until they realised that he could make expressive sounds that could be refined using a keyboard.
Lucas hoped the film would do well enough to get him a concession table at a Star Trek convention. Of course, it was a box-office sensation and earned Burtt an Academy Award for his landmark effects. Moreover, it ushered in a golden age of screen sound to which David Lynch and Alan Splet contributed with Eraserhead (1977). But Apocalypse Now proved to be the benchmark movie. Its sound design was influenced by Isao Tomita's electronic recording of Gustav Holst's `The Planets', but neither Murch, Richard Beggs nor Mark Berger had worked outside mono before and they had to learn quickly how to exploit the six-track surroundsound system with which they had been presented.
Assistant Randy Thom was fascinated by the detail that went into the film's sound design and Berger recalls it took 18 months to edit the sound and nine more months to mix it, which were unprecedented statistics in Hollywood history. Pat Jackson recalls the intricacy of Murch's planning so that different editors were responsible for individual facets, like the section leads in an orchestra. This tactic pertains today, although 1986 saw the introduction of digital technology that changed the game again.
Pixar's John Lasseter was in the vanguard and his success owed much to Gary Rydstrom's sound work on Luxo Junior (1986). He has since worked on such Pixar classics as Toy Story (1999), while also doing things like Jurassic Park (1997) for Spielberg. Magnetic tape became a thing of the past and computer software packages were the new gizmos for the likes of Dane Davis on the Wachowskis' The Matrix (1999). But recording the human voice remained a critical element and Peter Weir points out the importance of vocal performance in creating character and the atmosphere of a scene. Barbra Streisand recalls singing live on William Wyler's Funny Girl (1968) because it felt right and production sound designer Peter Devlin extols the virtues of Patty Jenkins's Monster (2003).
Victoria Rose Simpson also flags up the importance of dialogue editing, which ensures that actors can be heard above the ambient sound and special audio effects. She is the daughter of Kay Rose, who was the first woman to win an Oscar for sound and they worked together on Robert Redford's Ordinary People (1980) to remove the `pops' that are accidentally caught by the microphones during the recording of a dialogue sequence.
Next, we learn about ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement), which allows lines to be `dubbed' or `looped' into the soundtrack and Jessica Gallavan and Bobbi Banks take us through the technique, with the latter referencing the `there's no crying in baseball' scene in Penny Marshall's A League of Their Own (1992). Erik Aadahl recalls shooting the crowd scenes for Ben Affleck's Argo (2012) as an example of `group ADR', while Banks and Greg Hedgepath doing likewise with the bridge scene in Ava DuVernay's Selma (2014).
Moving on to SFX, Cece Hall recalls working with George Watters on Tony Scott's Top Gun (1986) and how she had used animal noises to intensify the roar of the jets. A studio executive was sent to fire her for taking so long over the edit (`this is not about the sound'), but he had the grace to admit that it had been about the sound all along when she was nominated for an Academy Award. In alluding to the gender imbalance in the world of movie sound design, Anna Behlmer questions whether men should do the sound on action movies, as it's not as if they have any personal experience of war zones or alien invasions and colleague Lora Hirschberg agrees.
In the next segment, John Roesch and Alyson Dee Moore go in to bat for Foley artists, as they explain the sound effects they contribute to films (think along the lines of Peter Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio, 2012). They recall how Jack Foley saved Kubrick a fortune by using keys to make the Roman armour sound less like tin pots in Spartacus (1960). Then there are ambiences, the beds of sound that editors lay under everything else to ground them in reality and Sofia Coppola recalls the importance of ambient sound to Lost in Translation (2003).
Ai-Ling Lee recalls the different audio environments in Jean-Marc Vallée's Wild (2014) and Christopher Boyes remembers the water sounds on Robert Redford's A River Runs Through It (1992). Eugene Gearty reflects on the importance of the wind in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain (2005) before we are shown how Music provides a direct contact between the emotions felt by the characters and the audience, as Hans Zimmer ruminates on Christopher Nolan's Inception (2010) and Ryan Coogler recalls the work of Ludwig Göransson on Black Panther (2018).
Once these blocks are completed, it's down to the sound mixer to do their stuff and a faux fader demonstration shows how they are blended in Sam Mendes's Road to Perdition (2002). Skip Lievsay recalls working on Alfonso Cuarón's Roma (2018) and captions highlight the different elements feeding into the sound accompanying a dolly shot along a busy night-time street. Behlmer reveals that she only ever knows that she's got a sequence right when it gives her goosebumps. In conclusion, several contributors rejoice in their fortune at working in film sound, although it took a breakdown for Burtt to learn to enjoy his work. Murch declares that sound has helped humanity redefine its relationship with the cosmos and a montage of iconic moments proves a fitting finale to the Hollywood contribution to this process.
There's no question that viewers will pay more attention to and have a greater appreciation of film sound after watching this labour of love, which would make an admirable double bill with Matt Schrader's Score: A Film Music Documentary (2017). Yet, while cineastes will enjoy listening to A-list practitioners chronicling the history of screen sound, while also revealing the secrets of their trade, this 95-minute survey feels more like a base-touching overview than an in-depth analysis.
The absence of any discussion of sound design in the films of such world cinema titans as Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa and Andrei Tarkovsky leaves Costin's approach looking rather insular, as does the omission of any mention of the technologies that have been perfected in such countries as Japan and South Korea. Too little space is similarly devoted to the use of sound in animation and the effects that developments in video games have had on cinematic sound.
More might also have been made of how such sound is presented in movie theatres and the potential impact of the shift to digital viewing platforms like Netflix, which can be viewed on a range of devices whose sound systems are nowhere near as accommodating or sophisticated as those in fully wired auditoria. Nevertheless, Costin does her bit to promote the achievements of the sound sisterhood that is increasingly wresting this domain from its long-entrenched male domination. She owes a considerable debt to editor and sound mixer David J. Turner, who corrals the various screen grabs with some aplomb. Yet, they struggle to prevent the sprawling departmental section from feeling bitty and more than a smidge self-congratulatory.