“Toujours Provence: Music for Stage and Screen” by William Perry – CD review by Lorraine Dmitrovic

“Toujours Provence: Music for Stage and Screen” by William Perry
CD review by Lorraine Dmitrovic

Tracks 1- 4, written in 2018
Track 1 – “Part One: A Brief History” is a silky, idyllic introduction to this 4-piece  Provençal suite. Beginning glimmering notes awaken your mind’s eye to a gentle musical sunrise, and being Provence, one is misted by the heady scent of lavender fields in high summer bloom. It eases you into the mood for the grand eloquence and then the jazzy, brashy brass coin flip of the remaining tracks. Piano solo merriment. You begin to look over your shoulder and back through history. Conductor Paul Phillips sweeps all the orchestral elements together in a crisp flourish of music that highlights France’s centuries past of glory days .

In the CD liner notes, Douglas Bruce states that the opening piece is a “‘Welcome to Provence’ theme. It calls forth the spirit and beauty of Provence from the earliest days of settlement…‘The Arrival of the Romans’….” then onto “moves to the High Middle Ages” and a ”period of ‘courtly love’” ….”The last bit of history comes with piccolo trumpet presenting ‘La Carmagnole,’ widely sung and danced during the French Revolution.

Track 2 – Part Two: Lavender Fields and Vineyards
A tranquil pace and dusty paths usher you to discover village and fields; instrumentals mid-point are like wind and rain waving the fields at first playfully and lightly, and oboe d’amores intertwine like the necks of courting geese, and then – a mid-day temptest begins chaotically whipping and swirling snippets of lavender blossoms into the darkening vortex suggested by the piano arpeggios. Soon those darker musical clouds part, revealing a sunny peaceful day once again.

Bruce in the liner notes relates about the musical suggestion of stormy weather that indeed, “the countryside is interrupted by the arrival of the Mistral, the strong, sometimes violent, wind that roars down the Rhône River Valley and, as [author of books about the region] Peter Mayle put it, ‘can blow the ears off a donkey.’”

William Perry himself has said about the origins of his Toujours Provence CD that “I had long considered writing a suite about Provence, and it all came together with the encouragement of the late Peter Mayle (1939–2018), author of ‘A Year in Provence’ … His spirit inhabits every note … Musically, I describe the piece as being for Orchestra and Piano. It’s not quite a concerto, but the piano does have a prominent role representing modern-day Provence. The four movements are linked by a solo clarinet who serves as our guide. I’ve incorporated some less usual symphonic instruments including an alto saxophone, a pair of oboe d’amores (also playable on regular oboes) and a long Provençal drum sometimes called a tambourin.”

As to how and why specifically the Provence region in France inspired Perry to compose the first four tracks, he explains, “Like the author Peter Mayle (‘A Year in Provence’) I was an advertising executive for some fifteen years (actually one of the original Mad Men), and I treasured the times I could stretch my creative legs and travel abroad. I fell in love with Provence, its people, its traditions, its sheer natural beauty and, admittedly, its wines. I vowed one day to write a piece that would express my affection and admiration, and this opportunity came along when planning the present CD. And Peter Mayle was kind enough to loan me the title of his subsequent best-seller, ‘Toujours Provence.’”

Too, numerous memorable occasions and amazing co-incidences with colleagues and musicians arose while working on Toujours Provence. Recalls Perry, “Composing and then recording new music is always a challenge but, if the gods are smiling, the process can be very rewarding. In this particular instance we were combining recorded material from the 1980’s with music being performed and recorded for the first time. The orchestra, the wonderful Slovak Philharmonic, had a new set of musicians but a tradition of sound, especially in the strings, that had been maintained for decades. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that one of the cellists was a young man sitting in the same chair his father had occupied 30 years previous. He was quite pleased that he and his dad were appearing together on the same CD! Our producer, Marek Piaĉek, discovered that the microphones we had employed in the 1980’s were still in their storeroom and using them in the same concert hall and with an identical seating arrangement, he was able to blend the earlier and present sessions seamlessly. Credit, too, goes to conductor Paul Phillips who maintained orchestral balances that duplicated perfectly. All in all, an unusual undertaking, but I think a major achievement.

Track 3- Part Three: Café Terrace at Night
Inhibitions fall like silk stockings around ankles in the carefree, a little-tipsy waltz that is embellished with the burnished golden highlights of piano treble glissandos. Do the last dancers in the cafe pause and turn on the rests and stops in the soulful melody and the bluish Van Gogh night emotion so expertly imbued by pianist Michael Chertock? Perhaps the dance music lingers yet in that timeless cafe.

As Bruce records in the liner notes: “In September of 1888, Vincent van Gogh, then living in Arles, painted his Café Terrace at Night, an atmospheric depiction of nightlife in Provence and the first instance where Van Gogh presented his iconic starry sky.”

Track 4 – Part Four: Market Day
The journey musically in Toujours Provence culminates in the final movement. Every tourist in countryside France is compelled to visit an authentic village market, to feast on regional fare, who will inevitably be absorbed and caught up by the sights and sounds. In the early quiet of morning, vendors in huge white aprons are setting up their tables and wares. A goose girl is penning her prize flock. A farmer taps his piglets to their spot. Slowly, buyers fill the market. Wine sellers call out their vintages. Ponies clop with ribbons streaming from manes. Young men and ladies dally and jig. The music is a tactile to and fro experience and serves to records such memories of the market surroundings and happenings.

As with other Perry compositions featuring crowd “scenes”, the market song is rife with trumpets and horns, and it’s easy to imagine the locals in ethnic garb spontaneously twirling to dance routines handed down by centuries of ancestors. Perry has mentioned that he was inspired by the music “Kalenda Maya,” written by the troubadour Raimbaut de Vaqueiras very early in the 1200s.

Composer Perry is currently preparing projections that can specifically accompany the Toujours Provence Suite, tracks 1 to 4, in performance if an orchestra should so wish.

To read more about William Perry during the planning stages of his Toujours Provence CD, see “The Empress Interview: In discussion with William Perry about his Music for Silent Film, Film and Television, and the Stage”: http://www.empressbooks.com/newsletter/Wm_Perry_2016/interview.html

Track 5, written in 2016
Track 5 – Fiona
Perry’s composition “Fiona” is a touching tribute to pianist Fiona Albek. She and twin sister Ambra, who played violin and viola, comprised the Albek Duo, who Perry had collaborated with numerous times, and also engaged them for his “Gemini Concerto,” appearing on his 2011 Naxos CD release, “Music for Great Films of The Silent Era.” For me, “Fiona” has the gentle warmth of a sunlit park bench under a wise oak tree where friends have sat and chatted, throwing bits of bread to brave squirrels, sharing old postcards or perhaps phonograph records with smiles and laughter, streams of sunshine dappling good times and memories.

As Bruce relates in the liner notes: “A subsequent Suite for Viola and Piano was nearly complete when Fiona fell critically ill and passed away at far too early an age. Perry arranged one of the movements of the Suite for full orchestra and dedicated it as a tribute to Fiona. Solo piano, Fiona’s instrument, is featured throughout, and the viola theme that would have been a solo for Ambra is here played by ten orchestral violas. The principal melody of this piece is one that Perry had originally written as title music for the silent film Irene (1926). It will now be forever associated with Fiona.”
Tracks 6 – 16, written in 2018
Wind in the Willows: Ballet Suite Commentary by Douglas Bruce in the Toujours Provence liner notes:
“Just before Christmas in 1985, following an earlier sold-out run in Washington, D.C., a new musical version of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, The Wind in the Willows, opened on Broadway. The author of the musical version was Jane Iredale, William Perry composed the music, Roger McGough and William Perry provided the lyrics and Nathan Lane had his first Broadway starring role as Toad …. In 2018 Perry completed a long-held wish of turning the stage score into a ballet, arranged and orchestrated for full symphony.

Here is the cast and the scenario:
The ballet principals include Mole (a ballerina) and Rat, Toad and the Chief Weasel. Subsidiary soloists include Mother and Father Rabbit and the Jailer’s Daughter. Members of the corps de ballet portray the Chief Weasel’s gang, Bystanders, Can-Can Dancers, Policemen and most especially Rabbits (and Bunny Rabbits) of all shapes and sizes.”

“Wind in the Willows” poster design © 2018: Marina Perry

My brief impressions of the ballet suite tracks 6-16:
6 The Overture has upbeat tiptoe whimsy and hinted homages to historic Broadway productions, with various dance steps and instruments encouraging the action.

7 Mole’s Waltz
Having existed previously only in dim underground, the Mole now irresistibly waltzes with sweet joy of newly discovering her world is filled with sunshine. Accordingly the orchestra supplies Mole with the perfect lightness and glee for her “happy dance.”

8 Gasoline Can-Can
This number begins with a sense of trepidation then exits stage left and returns “on stage” with comedy and clowning characters. The energy is chipper, the feel of the music is as if Wagner has met Looney Tunes – perfectly cartoonish for the goings-on in this dream scene of sorts. Toad in a pedal-car thinks he has won a Grand Prix and of course is danced around by Can-Can girls as part of the celebration, and then suddenly a man with two policemen in tow accuses Toad of stealing his car. Toad’s arrested and escorted off stage, with the Can-Can dancers waving him off. The song perfectly suggests the humorous chaos.

9 Along the River (Pas de Deux)
True love knows no boundaries. Regarding Ms. Mole and Rat, their shyness of meeting and growing attraction is reflected musically in crescendos and increasingly a rising intensity – including a clashing cymbal – in the romantic piano solo played on this track by Donald Sosin.

10 Evil Weasel
To the sound of a bluesy saxophone and red hot horns, the villainous Chief Weasel exerts his padrone dominance over his gang. All rivals are dispersed from his territory, and in true boss fashion the Chief is adored by his molls, who to the gutsy, smokey music must surely be swooning and teetering in their weasel-size high heels.

11 Toad’s Dance
Toad soon tangos right out of jail in this track, after the Jailer’s daughter appears with food. To the sensual heartbeat of a habanera, Toad disguises himself. Like the scene in Puccini’s opera “Tosca” in which the character Angelotti escapes from a chapel in his sister’s garments, Toad escapes from jail in some of the daughter’s clothes.

12 March of the Rabbits
The march is perfectly suited to the image of a regiment of rabbits armed with giant carrots on their way to rescue Toad Hall from usurping weasels who had taken over Toad’s ancestral haunts. A fitting touch of humour for a triumphant finale with a sprightly hop and a skip, especially if uniformed rabbits are playing in an accompanying marching band.

13 Wind in the Willows (Pas de Deux)
With Mole and Rat in the woods searching for Toad, the magical “Wind in the Willows” is heard, given voice by a wordless choir, sprinkling a touch of wonder to their pas de deux. Pan, the god who watches over all animals, appears upstage in a mysterious orb of light, and Toad returns and is reunited with his friends. The nostalgic orchestra and vocals are filled to the brim with happiness. Disney couldn’t have presented the reunion premise and score with any more sentimentality.

14 Weasel Gavotte
The track starts out with elegant chamber music on the harpsichord, with the Chief Weasel dangling tempting tidbits to keep their ways changed. The true Capone colours of the gangland weasels, however, prevail. The gang again grows raucous, as does the music, and the Chief if-you-can’t-beat-’em joins them.
From Douglas Bruce’s liner notes:
“A quote from a Haydn sonata sets the stage for the Weasels’ occupancy of Toad Hall. They are now attired in elegant costumes, or as elegant as a Weasel can get. The Chief asks them to show some couthe and promises that there’ll be:

“Croquet on the lawn, a gentle breeze, as many strawberries as we please.
Silken hankies when we sneeze, silver peaspoons for our peas.
An aristocratic life of ease
Where money grows on family trees.”
15 The Fight
To the strains of a full-orchestra, huge, jazzy dance number, The Weasels are congratulating each other when, Bruce relates, “suddenly Toad, Mole and Rat burst in along with the rabbits swinging their huge carrots like cudgels. Toad and the Chief face off, and Toad is quickly flattened. On his knees, Toad pretends to beg for mercy, and while the Chief is striking a victor’s pose, Toad springs up and delivers a decisive punch. He has won the day.”

There is a little buffa in the music, and a busyness in the phrasing, which peak together to echo victory in the story. The imaginative voice of the “wind in the willows” had been given strong underlying bones as well.

16 Finale
The early calm music of the finale and the boisterous finale fini grand moments, brings together all the characters, all their scenes, to a positive conclusion in an altered nature world. Another beauty to all these songs composed by Perry is their adaptability from Broadway tunes into modern Ballet numbers. Who says that toads and weasels can’t dance? All it takes is a bit of music fantasia, a composer with a sense of magic delight, and the listener to seize that enchantment for a brief moment.

Track 17, written in 2017
Swordplay! (concert overture fashioned by Perry from his two scores written for the Douglas Fairbanks Sr. silent films, “The Three Musketeers” (1921) and the part-talkie though usually screened as a silent, “The Iron Mask” (1929). Perry’s overture is upbeat and adventurous, romantic, a “swordplay” of orchestral instruments that takes a victory lap to the fini.  What inspired Perry to fashion a concert overture from the two separate scores he wrote for Fairbanks Sr’s The Three Musketeers and The Iron Mask?

Perry responds, “I grew up in Elmira, New York, a small city but one that treasured the few cultural activities it could afford. One of these was the visit each year of a full symphony orchestra, most likely from Minneapolis, Cleveland or Rochester. At that time, the invariable program format consisted of an overture and concerto in the first half, a popular symphony in the second. It was exciting to hear the Grieg Piano Concerto or the Franck D Minor Symphony, but I equally enjoyed the tuneful overtures that opened the evening: Zampa, Poet and Peasant, Merry Wives of Windsor, etc. This is a format that no longer exists, the overture part of the program having given way to a de rigueur contemporary piece, often quite angular and dissonant, but a good deed in our modern musical world. Contrarily and with more than a bit of nostalgia, I decided to write an overture that might have had some popularity under the old format. The hustle and swashbuckle of my Three Musketeers film scores, with always an outrageously romantic love theme, seemed just right for my objective. At least it made me smile.”

Track 18, written in 1982
Shopping in Paris
When you’re Mark Twain, a day in Paris is bound to be a vigorous gambol, and Perry has impressed the sense of fast-paced, non-stop activity through busy strings and also stylish orchestral tango and dances moves. Perry also has a great fondness for Mark Twain and his times.

As to whether Perry updated the three Mark Twain-related tracks on Toujours Provence originally composed by him in 1971, 1982 and 1983, he explains more about them, saying “Sometimes when I record, if time permits, I lay down miscellaneous tracks that are not part of that particular project but which I hope will find a home on some future release. That’s the case with the Soliloquy for harmonica and orchestra that had to wait 36 years before coming to the surface. Alas, the brilliant soloist, Richard Hayman, is no longer with us to enjoy the fruits of his performance. Two other pieces, Shopping in Paris and the Graduation March were designed for stage and screen use, the first in the film The Innocents Abroad and the second in the Mark Twain stage musical. They now have an independent existence on this CD.”
Douglas Bruce, Toujours Provence liner notes:
“In his lifetime, Mark Twain’s best-selling book was The Innocents Abroad (1869). Immensely entertaining, it chronicled his adventures and observations in the company of American travellers making a ‘Great Pleasure Excursion’ to Europe and the Holy Land. In 1983, William Perry produced with his score a film version of the book starring Craig Wasson, Brooke Adams, David Ogden Stiers, and, playing the universal guide they named ‘Ferguson’, the Italian star, Gigi Proietti. In a scene in Paris, when Twain and his companions ask Ferguson to take them to the Louvre, he steers them instead to an assemblage of silk stores where he has arranged to get a cut of the sales. The music of Shopping in Paris, with its very Parisian orchestration, accompanies their whirlwind tour of the stores.”
Track 19, written 1983
Soliloquy is based on a song composed by William Perry (also co-writing the lyrics) for Act Two of the Broadway musical, “The Wind in the Willows.” Separate from the Windballet suite preceding on Toujours Provence, this number is relaxed and soulful, with the harmonica solo by the late Richard Hayman fitting perfectly with the ballroom grand nature of the song. Perry once again steers us down a gentle path, with strings soaring harmoniously with the harmonica line.

Track 20, written in 1971
Graduation March
The song, also a “graduate” of “Mark Twain: The Musical,” Douglas Bruce shares in the liner notes that the large production had a successful run for ten summers in Elmira, NY and Hartford, CT, and was employed in the play to accompany Twain and his co-recipients as they walked the aisle to receive their college degrees. Bruce further states that, “Interestingly, it is now becoming used by other colleges for their present-day Commencement ceremonies. When composer Perry received an honorary degree, he reminded his audience of Twain’s advice: ‘Let us endeavour so to live that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry’.”

In conclusion, William Perry who wrote the updated scores for many silent films for PBS and other media companies, has an intrinsic understanding of the relationship between the visual and the faithful to the era audio in silent film. Perry shines in writing scores to match the visual action, feeling and emotion. Cresting glissandos of the piano and gliding horns are bolstered by the faithful swashbuckling melody in the string section. Add a touch of romance to the strings and the silent stage is set for instrumental song to dance like scintillating stars while heroic images of derring-do flicker on the silver screen. Such soundtracks eventually become inseparable from their films, and soon immediately identifiable. “That’s from that Douglas Fairbanks film, or that Chaplin short,” we say. Perry, in the style of the greatest film composers, has accomplished this musically with his silent film accompaniments many times over.

The Toujours Provence CD is a combination pleasure, with its Provençal and Broadway-ballet themes, a cohesive mix of surprise and familiarity. It’s a perfect inducement to bringing back delightful memories of traipsing across Southern France – leisurely strolls, evocative, taking that inviting chair at the little cafe table and sipping a dark roast brew, or something glinting purple-red with a bite of Roquefort Bleu and crusty rustic village bread. It’s a Broadway night out at the ballet, too. An homage to silent film, to the arts, to Mark Twain in Paris. Internationally we are all tourists, who may well stop in Paris one day along the way. Of course our travels any and everywhere are a toujours thing, encompassing all things toujours of yesterday – and right now. The CD encourages visitations and revisiting. Tea and cakes, or a bottle of fine Napoleon brandy, sit invitingly on the French-tatted lace doily on the table between two comfy wingbacks. Take out those family photo and wedding album memories, in solitary or good company. Your own reminiscing may not have all the flavours of Provence, but will have all the elements of Toujours as you listen – always.
To view other articles about William Perry’s composing music for and producing Mark Twain-related stories for television and CD/DVD release:
http://www.empressbooks.com/newsletter/Wm_Perry_2016/two_reviews.html

For more information about/to purchase William Perry’s Toujours Provence CD:
https://www.amazon.com/Perry-Toujours-Provence-Music-Screen/dp/B07W5CDB4H/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=William+Perry+Toujours+Provence+CD&qid=1575146221&sr=8-1

Copyright © November 2019: Lorraine Dmitrovic

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PURSUED IN BARBICAN! by Lorraine Dmitrovic – stills short film assignment

PURSUED IN BARBICAN! by Lorraine Dmitrovic – stills short film assignment Sept 2018

Edited by Lorraine Dmitrovic. Text, photo arrangement, all photo special effects and music are Copyright © August 2018: Lorraine Dmitrovic-Giampieri.

“I thought to create an experimental soundtrack that would complement the surreal nature of the story. You can pause at any frame to fully read a caption; humans and space beings likely never move at the same speed. ;)” ~ Lorraine

Original, experimental instrumental soundtrack composed and performed by Lorraine on instruments including; maracas, sticks, accordion, guitar (complete song originally performed at a grade 9 high school performance), tuning pitch pipe, violin (with a pretty well shredded bow and a totally gone “G” string on violin)

Pursued in Barbican! video editing and sound editing: Lorraine Dmitrovic

PURSUED IN BARBICAN! short film assignment for FutureLearn course, “Explore Filmmaking: from script to screen” (hosted by Nik Powell, director of the British National Film and Television School). The course was developed by the National Film and Television School (NFTS), with support from the British Film Institute (BFI), through the Film Academy programme. Standard unedited photos for FutureLearn course Explore Filmmaking assignment “Pursued” used by permission of developer and publisher The English and Media Centre. Technical work by Ice Candy, London.

The Uninvited Guest – by Lorraine Dmitrovic

Assignment for my Explore Filmmaking course (Week 5: Lesson 5.11 – Transitions)

The party scene:
“The Uninvited Guest”

An out-of-focus shot that gradually focusses medium long shot on a lone male sitting on a couch, eyes half-open and bloodshot. People are milling about in groups drinking and laughing

Male, taking a long sip of a tequila martini, then says with a drunken slur: Why tonight?

He looks over to a bunch of girls, tittering. Camera zooms in quickly on his ex-girlfriend of that evening, who points to him and laughs.

Male, camera medium close.
Male: You never loved me, did you?

Camera shifts to girls, who giggle more loudly.

Male slams his martini glass on the table hard enough that the ice cubes jump up out of the glass onto the table and slide off the edge. The male shrugs, looks to the ice cubes now on the floor as does the camera. He kicks them clear across the room toward the still laughing girls. They scatter with the camera on them long shot.

Then camera close-up to the male. There are tears in his eyes.
Male: Just like everything else in my life.

The camera follows the host of the party as he brings the male another drink with ice cubes.

Camera on host.
Host: Word is you and your sheila have broken up. For good this time?

Camera on male. Male takes the offered drink, nods his thanks.
Male: She seems to think so.

Camera on both host and male, in profile.
Host: You’ve got other fish to fry, you know …. See? That girl, just moved into the building last week. No boyfriend.

Male, eyes the girl thoughtfully over the rim of his drink.
Male: You’re sure? She’s pretty enough.

Camera on male. Male searches the room to see if his ex-girlfriend is hanging around.

Camera back to host and male in profile again.
Host: I think she left for the evening, along with her friends. She wasn’t any good for you anyway. Here … I’ll leave another drink for the new girl in case she walks your way.

Male: Thanks, bud. We’ve been tight since grade school, eh?

Host: Got your back always.

Male: Now f*** off so I can …

Host: Got it. But be warned. She lives with her 6 foot-ten brother.

Male, rolls eyes: Now you tell me ….

Host and male fist-bump, and the host goes to small-talk with his other guests.

Male, camera close-up on his face as he looks around the room and zeroes in on the new girl. Quick camera cut to new girl, and back to male. He catches her eye and winks.

Camera now on medium long shot on girl and she looks around to see who he’s winking at.  She points to herself, mouthes: Me?

Male, smiling, nods, lifts up the drink the host left for her. He waves her over. The camera watches him watching her walk over to the sofa. He waves his hand for her to be seated.

Close up on face of girl.
Girl: Didn’t you come to the party with a girl? You’re not trying to make anyone jealous, are you?

Medium camera shot on the sofa. The male laughs, spitting out some of his drink.
Male: Yes. And no.

Camera on girl.
Girl: Okayyyy … is this for me?
Girl picks up drink.

Camera on girl and male in profile.
Male: Hope you like – whatever it is.

Girl, sips and smiles: My favourite. Vodka and lemon-lime soda. Cheers.

Girl downs the drink, and the male’s eyes widen.

Male, calls out to his host friend: Hey dude, bring us a whole tray!

The girl shakes her head in the negative: I don’t really drink. We don’t need –

Camera follows action of male. The male places his hand on the girl’s stocking-ed leg. Male: Oh yes we do. Drink ’til dawn and then ….

Camera on girl, then moves quickly back and forth between girl and male. Girl: No. You’ve got it wrong! Please –

Girl moves away from him on the sofa. He leans over, trying to take hold of her leg again.

Girl, almost panicking: You’re drunk! Get away from me!

Camera zooms away into a long shot, sofa with two people behind it seen with only a portion of them from chest to waist. Suddenly, one of them pours large decanters of mixed cocktails over the male and the girl on the sofa.

Male, looking up, camera close-up on his horrified face: Sophie! What are you … Why did you …?

Camera close-up on girl. The girl gasps.

Camera follows two large male hands grasp the male by the shoulders and lift him forcibly up from the sofa.

Camera to girl.
Girl: Tim! Don’t! I’m sorry, my brother ….

Camera to male.
Male: My ex! Sophie!

Camera swings up to view his ex looming.
Sophie: You got that right –

Camera front on male and Sophie, angled.
Male: No, you’ve got it wrong! We made up – remember?

Sophie laughs.
Sophie: That was 2 weeks ago, then I met this girl’s brother. You and I are off again. His sister is underage, untouchable, so you’ve got everything wrong.

Camera on girl’s brother.
Girl’s brother: Should we call the police on him? Serving booze to a minor with intention –

Camera on male.
Male: Go ‘way with you – is this a set up?

Medium shot on Sophie and girl’s brother. Sophie and the brother laugh.
Girl’s brother: No, just a nice send-off.

Camera on the brother as he takes the girl’s hand and takes her from the couch. She’s escorted away by Sophie.

Camera medium close-up to male.
Male, resigned: This is going to hurt, isn’t it?

Male looks around for his buddy. No sign of him.

Camera on girl’s brother.
Girl’s brother: A hard lesson to learn. You should quit drinking. Then maybe you’ll stop picking up girls already taken or off limits.

Camera on male.
Male: Sophie told you about my bad habit?

Camera on the male and girl’s brother. The girl’s brother, a foot taller than the male, wraps his fingers into the male’s collar, lifts him from the sofa. He’s about to give the male a punch in the face when a hand grips his bicep. The brother pauses.

Camera cuts quickly to host as he starts talking.
Host: Take it out to the hall. No blood on the furniture. It’s not paid for yet.

Camera slightly shaky following as the brother begins to push the male through the room toward the front door. An anonymous guest opens the door for them. As they pass through the door into the hall, all the guests in various states of drunkenness in the room raise their glasses.

Camera pans the crowd of guests. The guests, simultaneously: CHEERS!

Sound of the door slamming, and party noises slowly resume.

The Uninvited Guest
Copyright © July 18, 2018: Lorraine Dmitrovic-Giampieri

“Maybe I Shouldn’t Live Alone” by Lorraine Dmitrovic

Assignment for my Explore Filmmaking course (Week 5: Lesson 5.3)

“Maybe I Shouldn’t Live Alone.”

The camera follows closely as a little old lady shuffles into the kitchen in worn slippers and housecoat, yawning, sets her table for breakfast and then turns on the kettle for coffee. She goes to the fridge, takes out a carton of eggs and wax-paper wrapped homestyle bacon. She reaches for the milk and finds barely enough for half a glassful in the carton. She pours the almost empty carton down the sink after looking at the best-before date. Close-up on the date. She grabs her change purse from the counter, and walks out the side door to go to the corner convenience store, still in her housecoat and slippers.

Cut to her (medium shot) entering the milk store. A jarring bell announces her. She waves without saying good morning to the clerk and walks toward the back of the store.

Cut to her close-up studying a cooler stocked with dairy and juice cartons. She squints, quickly searches her pocket for glasses and comes up empty. She squints more closely at the glass door, then opens the door of the cooler, grabbing a litre size carton.

Cut to her medium close-up paying at the cash register at the front of the store, and leaving with the carton in a bag.

Medium close-up cut to her kitchen counter. She leaves the bag and quick cuts to making scrambled eggs and bacon, spooning coffee into a single size filter, the kettle starts whistling. She pours water into the filter, it steeps into a large ceramic cup.

Cut to breakfast close-up ready on the plate. Coffee is ready and she goes to the sideboard, opens the bag and pulls out the carton. She squints, camera very close, quickly grabs her glasses off the counter and her eyes widen.

“Mango juice!!??” she yells. Close-up on her face. She looks to the coffee and shrugs, and pours the juice into the coffee. “Hmmmmmm, it needs a little more sugar,” she says medium close-up – as she picks up the pepper and begins to shake it into her cup!!

Copyright © July 2018: Lorraine Dmitrovic-Giampieri

The legendary “Perfect Man” – Sandow – my Review of Sandow (2018) – by Lorraine Dmitrovic

Some men are born heroes. Others become living legends over time. Some, like “strongmen,” journey through eras as heroes and legends and are remembered that way forever. Extraordinary strongman Eugen Sandow, today regarded as the “Father of Modern Bodybuilding,” truly once wrestled a lion and was also a mentoring force to future real-life Olympian, Launceston Elliot.

Sandow (2018) suggests how their paths crossed for fame, money, respect, and of course the love of sport. Each attained worldwide recognition because of their achievements. Sandow became a pop star of sorts, worshipped for his physical prowess and perfect physique; Elliot won an Olympic gold medal yet was never elevated to superstar status.

Sandow teaser trailer, 2017

To view my review on Yeahflix:
https://yeahflix.com/sandow-review/

 

Official trailer for Sandow (2018), starring
Timo Kervinen as the legendary strongman

In the opening credits, “via stock footage” filmmaker Alexander Cooper showcases Sandow going fist to claw with a lion in a poetic ballet danced to music that cleverly merges into a modern day panorma (filmed by drone) of the Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece.

We become acquainted first with an aged Launceston on a cemetery stroll with a newspaperman. His memories, his tales of Sandow, begin. To understand the impact the strongman would have on Elliot’s life as a young weightlifter, the filmmaker invites us to understand the many-faceted Sandow. Even with the man’s many faults, Elliot viewed his mentor somewhat as a god whose imperfections could be justified or overlooked because he considered him to be a key to his own success.

Likewise, Sandow didn’t experience instant success, he had to climb for it, training intensely to forge his skills. As with struggling musicians and artists, his first audiences were rapt around smaller stages cheering on the strongman in bloody wresting matches or while weightlifting beauties balanced on each end of a barbell. As word of Sandow’s impressive feats spread his popularity rose quickly in the world spotlight.

Still, it had been a long journey to become “Sandow” – overcoming being bullied through young adulthood by his friends, and by his father as well, who constantly belittled him and told him he would never be honoured with the statue he longed for. His turning point  came with his association with the illustrious showman and starmaker Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. (wonderfully played by Olivier Maigniez). Strongman Sandow also soon became a businessman, investing in any and everything related to health and/or strength.


Olivier Maigniez, who played Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.
(photo  ©: David Meyers)

The Great War (World War I (WWI), 1914-1918) devastated Sandow’s business ventures such as international spas and clinics, and publication of a magazine was ceased. He became an inspiration to returning WWI soldiers, visiting convalescing men in hospital, one of whom had lost his sight. Where strength was needed in body and spirit of others, Sandow often personally strove to fit the bill.

The film is as much about relationships – whom to love, trust, control, betray, impress and challenge – as it is about the rise-to-fame stories of Sandow and Elliot.

Timo Kervinen as Eugen Sandow on the strongman-wrestling circuit in Sandow (2018)

The necessary re-casting of the lead role with Finnish actor Timo Kervinen as Sandow is a bonus. Timo is totally convincing in a believable performance with his natural physique of a Victorian strongman. He skillfully conveys bravery, sometimes tinged with narcissistic macho, and contrasts Sandow’s sincerity and invincible confidence all without any braggadocioWhile his Sandow is a magnificent public figure and perfect specimen of a man in a life filled with superhuman milestones, Timo also makes the strongman down-to-earth human, subject to the same fears, insecurities and sad occasions experienced by the everyday man . Timo expresses all this with amazing creative balance, and he has the audience on his side quickly, and faithfully, throughout the movie.

Sandow - Timo Kervinen and Tiffany E Robinson during the filming of Sandow (2018) (503x900)

Timo Kervinen and Tiffany-Ellen Robinson on location during the filming of
Sandow (2018) (photo courtesy of Timo Kervinen)

Sandow - Timo in training in a London gym, 2016 (720x900)

Born in Finland, Thor-like actor Timo Kervinen in training in a London gym, 2016
(photo courtesy of Timo Kervinen)

The production design authentically captures the opulent Victorian Era in costumes, with scenes often revealing the pretense of public decorum against the clashing realities of private life. Skilled, artful camerawork and an excellent script give this lean-budgeted movie a far more impressive look and feel. A carefully chosen contemporary soundtrack refreshingly enhances the Victorian feast. Add picturesque locations, inventive action sequences and unexpected emotional outbursts, and Alexander Cooper’s Sandow is undeniably a winner. Albeit, had closer attention to sound editing been possible, the movie would’ve spilled over with even more shining moments.

Cooper gives us a first class room with a view, encourages us to follow the dreams that Sandow and Elliot are chasing. He doesn’t overlook the tiniest details in an era when cocaine was legal and the opportunity Sandow has to make moving pictures with Thomas Edison.


Timo Kervinen as Eugen Sandow and Tiffany-Ellen Robinson as the strongman’s wife

Sandow’s wife, Blanche Brookes Sandow played by Tiffany-Ellen Robinson, and perhaps more than one mistress (such as singer-actress Lillian Russell portrayed by Jane Nerissa Broadhead), were not fans or cheerleaders. They loved him the way real women love real men; indeed, because of his wife’s love he would be denied the final symbol of legend, denying him what most men, famous or unknown, have always been bestowed with at the very end – what Sandow had wanted above all since childhood. To him, it was a “symbol” of conquering power over weakness and insignificance. And something he knew would have impressed his father. You’ll understand when you watch the final scenes. The real people in his life didn’t love the legend, they loved the real man.

Sandow (Timo Kervinen) and Lillian Russell (Jane Nerissa Broadhead), production still

Interview with filmmaker Alexander Cooper for Sandow (2018)

Lorraine:
How did you first become aware of real-life strongman Eugen Sandow? What particular things about his life encouraged you to present him and his story for a feature film?

Alexander:
I first became aware that there was a real-life circus strongman who was the founding father of bodybuilding, when I read an article about him on a website called “Forgotten Newsmakers.” Images of travelling circus strongmen began to fill my head and I started to imagine what life might have been like for these travelling circus ‘rock stars’ before rock and roll existed. Also being a big fan of Stallone and Schwarzenegger films when growing up, I was able to put into the film, what I wanted to see. The real life Sandow travelled a lot; my father was away much of the time on business trips when I was a boy, and I’d often wonder where he was. This film was not intended as a biopic per se, although it was inspired by real characters. It’s very much fictionalized and draws on many of my own life experiences.

Lorraine:
How closely did you work with your Director of Photography (DoP) and film editor on Sandow?

Alexander:
Very. Richard Bertenshaw is an extremely talented DoP with a bright future. We worked very closely on the shoot although he wasn’t involved in post production. His input into the film was immense, and he produced some amazing cinematography including some very impressive drone footage. Later on in post production, I instructed the editor from afar, since Birdie Sawyer was based in Maine, USA. I had started with a local editor in the UK, but as has happened before, I was let down; she decided to travel abroad for months on end, and with no response from her, I had to find a replacement. Birdie Sawyer edited the footage, but he didn’t sync all the sound together, which caused me further difficulties in getting the film completed.

Lorraine:
Your screenwriting resulted in a good, tight script mixing then-present and childhood flashbacks with many highlights of Sandow’s professional life. Knowing his history, how were you inspired to choose which elements?

Alexander:
The story was developed by a French writer Gerard Maurez, who had initially created a script that had included many other elements I liked but were never filmed owing to time and budgetary constraints. The final draft, which featured the Elliot character telling the story, was created by me. My brother had also thought of other elements, such as Sandow visiting the blind soldier in hospital. Other elements came together from very strong improvisation by the actors. One that comes to mind is the dinner scene which follows Elliot’s training montage in the garden, and also Elliot’s training in the river; these were never planned as such since Elliot was going to be running on an athletics track, which was a difficult location to pin down. 

Lorraine:
Did your shooting script have any major changes during filming, say because of new information about Sandow come to light? Were any of Sandow’s descendants involved in any way in the production?

Alexander:
Quite a number of scenes in the script were cut due to time and budgetary constraints. No descendants of Sandow were involved in the shoot.

Lorraine:
The film opens through the point of view of a now older Launceston Elliot, Sandow’s once young fan-friend, giving a special outside-looking-in insight. The strongman became the young man’s mentor. How did you decide to use this approach?

Alexander:
My father. He wasn’t a bodybuilder, but he was certainly a great builder. He built a large country house for me from which I receive a rental income. My father was my mentor really, and he taught me many things. He was an excellent driver and I remember him taking me out on driving lessons, for example. He would always easily beat me in squash – he played at semi-pro level against a Dutch champion in the 1970s.

Lorraine:
What lessons can a man like Sandow impress upon us? His father seemed to not have much faith in him. Do you feel Sandow’s motivation to succeed came from having a true mentor early on while with the circus? 

Alexander:
I think that having a mentor is an incredible thing. A trainer. A father-son type relationship is very special. My father once told me how he liked to take things apart to see how they worked, and then try to put them back together. My grandfather was not very encouraging about this – he would say ‘there he goes, Richard is breaking things again!” So, with my own son I remember how encouraging and loving my father was with me, so that means our bond is closer. In the old days of my father and grandfather, father-son relations could be quite strained and “stiff upper lip” about things.

Lorraine:
Do you think Sandow’s circus experience and training are what ultimately changed his life for the better, physically and inwardly?

Alexander:
I think these are catalysts for growth, but Sandow above all was determined to prove his father wrong, that he could create something special that would outlast him.

Lorraine:
After a last bullying incident, he became even more determined. Ten long years later he took to the stage as a strongman Prussian wrestler and was soon “discovered” by Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., who offered Sandow fame and fortune and top-billing. Do you feel Sandow believed his own strongman “publicity” to the point he thought he was invincible?

Alexander:
Shortly after my father died in 2014, I was at a very low point and one evening I was attacked in London and badly beaten, sustaining a black eye, scarring on my chin and severely broken teeth. I was beaten much more severely than the character in the film and I required months of extensive dental treatment. My teeth were never the same and I was now changed as a person. I was also involved in a car crash near Peterborough while driving back from London. Around that time I truly felt I’d reached rock bottom in my life. So, no – I don’t believe Sandow in the film thought he was invincible. It was a show – an act – and I made it a point that we see the humanity and reality of the man behind the facade.

Lorraine:
The wrestling/boxing match scenes were very believable. Are you a fan of the sports? Sandow’s dialogue post-fight in one scene reveals the price he had to pay – “This was not a show, this is real blood.”

Alexander:
I was particularly a fan of the Rocky movies when I was a boy. It’s a pity that Elliot’s Olympics wrestling match was not filmed, that would’ve been a lot of fun for me. Yes, I believe the characters had much in common regarding their huge will to win. Whereas Elliot wanted a gold medal in the Olympics, Sandow was more seeking the adulation of his fans and especially, in the film, the female ones.

Lorraine:
As shown in the film, Sandow’s career changes included touring with Elliot, creating “Sandow clinics” for training athletes and the general public, and plans with Ziegfeld Jr. to produce a “Sandow Protein Powder.” Negative personal life changes suggest drug use and infidelity. Do you think Sandow had taken on too much to maintain his reputation as a strongman at the cost of his personal life?

Alexander:
Well yes, in the film he’s seen snorting cocaine. As a larger than life figure, as a lot of bodybuilders used steroids, growth hormones and so on, the Sandow character had a tendency to take things to excess in the film. It’s ironic that he urges moderation in Elliot, just as his mentor Atilla had taught him, since it seems impossible for him to put that into practice himself. Is moderation even possible to achieve in life? Someone will always think we’re doing some things too much, or other things too little. My father always urged moderation with regard to my alcohol consumption, but for a long time I struggled with it. “Moderation in all things,” he would tell me, yet I never thought his lengthy commutes driving several hours to and from work by car could be described as moderate.

Lorraine:
How long did you weight-train for the role of Elliot before filming the 1896 Athens Olympics scenes?

Timo as Sandow and Cooper as Elliot during Olympic training in Sandow (2018)

Alexander:
I did preparation for the role in the months building up to the shoot, but as you can probably tell my physique was not ‘enhanced’ by steroids. This was intentional since I wanted a natural look that might have been seen in Victorian times.

Filmmaker Alexander Cooper as Launceston Elliot in the 1896 Olympic weightlifting  competition in Sandow (2018)

Lorraine:
On the production design side, many of the interior and exterior locations are evocative and picturesque. How were they decided on?

Alexander:
Thank you. Filming took place in London at Putney Vale, various mews/streets in SW1 not far from where I used to live, and in the basement of the Mostart Centre in Stoke Newington where we built the sets we needed for some key scenes. Other scenes, including Sandow’s house and the snooker room scene were filmed in and around Haddlesey House in Selby, West Yorkshire and Wharfedale Viaduct at Arthington.

I chose to film in places wherever there were satisfactory locations and resources. Funding this myself I have had to be extremely cost conscious to keep spending under control. Therefore sometimes the locations I chose were sub-optimal. There’s always a trade-off. I had always intended that Sandow would be a big budget lavish production, but funding it on my own I had to use what was available at the time to get it done.

Lorraine:
Do you think Elliot remained somewhat in awe of Sandow, owing him his very life, especially regarding his mentor’s physical strength? What inspired this to be part of their relationship?

Alexander:
My father put up a brave battle with blood cancer for 7 years, but ultimately after three rounds of chemotherapy the inevitable happened, and we had to say goodbye. I did, and do, still remain somewhat in awe of my father, from the time I fell in a bed of nettles when I was four years old and he chopped them all down with a spade. This memory inspired Sandow’s lifting the car in the movie which saved Elliot’s life after their car crash – something any loving father would attempt to save his son. Also how my father persisted and completed the house he spent the best part of ten years building. Losses are inevitable for us all, just as my own father lost his mother in a car crash. Just like Sandow and Elliot, we both have had our strengths and weaknesses, and I have dedicated this film in my father’s memory – “until I see you again.” The dedication in the end credits is a message from me to my father: “This film is dedicated to the enduring memory of Richard Vaughn Cooper.” After his death in 2014 I would meet him sometimes in my dreams, he would either be in a garden in the height of summer or in the lobby of a luxury hotel smiling at me and talking to me about moderation as he used to. I really hope we meet again some day in the next world.

Lorraine:
What stadium is featured during opening credits? In a later scene, what’s the name and location of the long arched bridge?

Alexander:
The stadium footage is drone footage of the Olympic Stadium, Athens Greece, in present day. The long arched bridge you refer to and I mentioned earlier is Wharfedale Viaduct at Arthington. It can also be seen in the British TV series, Emmerdale. I may have mentioned I love this location, which I’d never planned to use; I was made aware of it by a crew member while we were on the Sandow house location in Yorkshire.

Sandow - Timo standing in from of the arched bridge on Sandow (2018)

Timo Kervinen in costume as Sandow during the filming of Sandow (2018)
(photo courtesy of Timo Kervinen)

Lorraine:
Did you immediately know you would cast Timo Kervinen as Sandow? What do you feel he brought to the role of the legendary strongman?
 Sandow - Timo looking in mirror as Sandow in Sandow (2018)

Timo Kervinen in the title role in an introspective moment in Sandow (2018)
(photo courtesy of Timo Kervinen)

Alexander:
Not right away. Actor-model Andrei Lenart was originally cast in the role, and he was filmed in the fundraiser trailer I made, which unfortunately failed to raise money for the film. It was only later when we couldn’t agree to the salary terms for his acting contract that I had to find a replacement. And yes, pretty soon after finding Timo, I decided the role was his. He had already played Arnold Schwarzenegger’s  character in The Terminator stage show in Japan, so he ticked many boxes.

Sandow - film festival poster Sandow 2018

Copyright © June 2018: Lorraine Dmitrovic
All photos copyright © June 2018: Sandow (2018)/Alexander Cooper/Timo Kervinen

 

Living Room Coffin (2018) – The “elephant in the room” is never one that you invite in – but Iris inadvertently does! review by Lorraine Dmitrovic

Jennifer Prediger and Blake Berris in Living Room Coffin (2018)

Blake Berris as former boyfriend, Seth, and Jennifer Prediger
as Iris Hawthorn in Living Room Coffin (2018)

To view my review on Yeahflix:
https://yeahflix.com/watch-living-room-coffin-fearless/

Living Room Coffin definitely one-ups the elephant. What exactly can you do – or shouldn’t do – in this situation? In this 2018 comedy-drama, the elephant is a coffin that police dispatcher-911 operator Iris Hawthorn didn’t order, gets delivered to her front door – and it’s put right on display in her living room. She needed a coffee table, true, yet she wonders if it’s a goodbye present from a former boyfriend. Or maybe someone’s playing a cruel joke? The delivery men can’t take it back, so she’s stuck with it.

Living Room Coffin (2018), official trailer

This is the dilemma for Iris, which starts her on the journey to trace the bizarre gift to its sender. She doesn’t find the answers all in one place, but picks up insight and a few bread crumbs while stopping in at a haunted house, a funeral parlour, and a church. Along the way, we wonder if fate or karma is at work. Undoubtedly both are, as she has a sick yet feisty granny.

Living Room Coffin (2018) - Irene Roseen as the grandmother and Jennifer Prediger as Iris Hawthorn

Iris (Jennifer Prediger) checks Grandma Edith (Irene Roseen) for a temperature

Other “gifts” associated with a coffin begin to arrive. Confiding in friend Patricia who works at the same police job, Iris only ends up with more questions. To further complicate the search, she’s also distracted by missing romance in her mundane existence, and then her former boyfriend reappears. Otherwise the most exciting thing in her life is comparing with Patricia who has the more outrageous day on the job. Iris definitely wins out, now that she has the uninvited guest on a plexiglass stand dominating her living room.

Jennifer Prediger and Rémy Bennett in Living Room Coffin (2018)

Rémy Bennett as co-worker, Patricia,  and Jennifer Prediger
as Iris Hawthorn in Living Room Coffin (2018)

Iris, wonderfully played by actress-filmmaker Jennifer Prediger, aims to solve the origin mystery, and first knocks back on wine and listening for other spirits. She then manages a sensible, calm approach during her search. One thing leads her closer to another during this horror hopscotch, until she discovers the peculiar truth of why she received the coffin.

Jennifer Prediger in Living Room Coffin (2018)

Actress-filmmaker Jennifer Prediger as Iris “tries out” the mysterious coffin

Part philosophical, part dark comedy and borderline absurd, Living Room Coffin
certainly encourages you to contemplate life as to how none of us can avoid the inevitable last big sleep which fortunately comes much later rather than sooner for most of us.

Writer and first time director, Michael Sarrow, laced his highly original story with a few “usual suspects” – many of which are red herrings, of course. His take on life and passing on becomes food for thought, relating it to some provoking life and death choices people make. Choices that may or may not be fully thought through, and then reneged on when one or more poor souls are involved ….

Living Room Coffin benefits from great, sincere and often humorous performances from characters even in smaller roles. The nonchalant delivery men, for example, played by Linas Phillips and Johnny Pemberton, provide comic relief while leaving Iris to deal with the heavy duty coffin situation alone.

The film could have swerved off in many different directions; Sarrow chose to stick to solving this profound mystery clearly and simply. Geared up for resolution, Living Room Coffin inspires us to realize that some things, many things, like relationships, end eventually. What does one see in a cut flower? Remnants of beauty and time passing. All parts of a mystery that can astonishingly unfold bit by bit – should you ever find an elephant, or a coffin, in your living room.

Living Room Coffin (2018) poster

Living Room Coffin (2018) poster

Copyright © May 2018: Lorraine Dmitrovic
All photos copyright © May 2018: Greenstep Productions/Leo Mark Studios

Review – Avengers: Infinity War – the best comic book I’ve ever watched! by Lorraine Dmitrovic

Avengers Infinity War (2018) posterOfficial poster for Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Marvel Studios

To view my review on Yeahflix:
https://yeahflix.com/avengers-infinity-war-5-star-review/

From shocking opening to even more shocking ending, the epic adventure Avengers: Infinity War (AIW) is what every superhero movie should aspire to be. It’s a dark joyride, a thrilling spinning wheel turning time and space on their sides. It’s also like compulsively reading one fabulous Marvel comic book after another because you need to find out more about what’s going on with your fave superheroes and villains. This is one movie you don’t want to end.

https://youtu.be/6ZfuNTqbHE8
Avengers: Infinity War – Official Marvel Universe trailer

It was once thought that too many ingredients – or characters – would spoil the broth, and while the storyline is propelled by 64 characters, each is given the time and attention they deserve. The result? AIW avoids the overblown, ongoing fireworks finale battle of Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). This latest installment climbs each step one by one, builds suspense and tension to the highest degrees and maxes to the enth single or joined-forces superhero confrontations with arch villain Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his delegated band of baddies. You’re wide-eyed and mouth agape as good clashes against evil and sonic booms vibrate throughout the universe.

Avengers infinity war thor close-up
Chris Hemsworth as Thor (Image: Marvel Studios)

Thanos clearly has a God-complex, with his directive maintaining his warped idea of mercy that half of every planet he conquers must perish in order to achieve peace. He launches a multi-front war on Earth that necessitates an unparalleled response from the good guy collective. Thanos’ team of assorted mercenaries and a Voldemort-type noseless wizard come up against the tried and true, plus new additions, of Marvel comic superheroes; even Spider-Man is “knighted” into Avengerhood. Thor is joined along the way by James Gunn’s own Guardians of the Galaxy team. The new collaboration is likeable and effective. Chris Pratt is all Star-Lord, although at one point with his hand motions you think he’s going to summon his “pet” velociraptor, Blue. Rocket Raccoon dishes out some of the best lines in the movie, and you’ll love his new “nickname” to boot.

Avengers Infinity War - Guardians of the galaxy sun reports movie had a whopping £400m budget
Avengers: Infinity War enlists the help of the Guardians
of the Galaxy
 team (Image: Marvel Studios)

Almost all the Avengers have assembled to hunt down Thanos, and among the long list are Vision, Wanda, Black Panther, the Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow and Dr. Strange. Creator of the Avengers comic characters, Stan Lee, has his customary funny cameo, although it’s a little on the brief side and wasn’t as hilarious as his zany caricature barber wearing coke-bottle eyeglasses and wielding scissors like cosmic weapons in Thor: Ragnorak (2017).

Avengers Infinity War - producer Kevin Feige and Stan LeeAvengers: Infinity War – producer Kevin Feige and Avengers
comic creator Stan Lee (Image: Marvel Studios)

Most questions from previous Avengers superheroes and Thor films are answered. Although Hela (Thor and Loki’s half-sister) doesn’t show up, you’ll discover that stormbreakers (with a dynamite vignette featuring Peter Dinklage) work best against the supreme enemy. It’ll be up to Infinity Wars II – and there will most assuredly be one – to resolve that completely.

Avengers Infinity War (2018) Black Panther Captain America Back Widow and team ready to battle
Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black
Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and team ready for battle (Image: Marvel Studios)

No one left the theatre when the end credits started to roll. Yes, there was an extra scene at the very end. It was every bit as numbing as the final scene before credits. No wonder people were meme-ing about it in stunned silence after getting up from their theatre seats.

What makes this film a true winner is the casting of all Avenger heroes as though in supporting roles, with none really standing out as “the stars.” Admittedly Loki, the perennial teen villain played by Tom Hiddleston, steals the first scene, and it also crosses your mind that he’s still in transition from “god of mischief” to superhero. Count him down in AIW, but not out, as according to old myth the great horn-helmeted god can only be permanently vanquished in one way. Genuine affection is seen between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki, and their relationship is perhaps “put on hold” until the next sequel. (More on that later.)

Avenger infinity war - loki close-upLoki (Tom Hiddleston) in the shocking opening scene (Image: Marvel Studios)

While AIW is “darker” than Thor: Ragnarok (2017), it shines more. The script was tweaked and polished to perfection, the best script yet in the series. It’s so good you don’t want to give away any bits and pieces. The comedy is sublimely timed and executed, and the bonds of love will make you cry, as will the backstory of Gamora and Thanos – whose pure devotion is to accomplish his warped evil by any means necessary. You eventually wonder if Thanos ever asked himself “Was it all worth it?” You realize the answer would be “yes” as all deranged alpha villains seem to view trouble, and the time to make it, as their middle names.

Avengers Infinity War - Josh Brolin as Thanos
Thanos (Josh Brolin) intends to conquer the universe
with the infinity gauntlet. Will he succeed? (Image: Marvel Studios)

The soundtrack is an impressive combo of majestic symphony and down-to-earth contemporary, and includes the classic pop tune Rubberband Man by The Spinners. AIW is stated as being the second-most-expensive film ever made, and it shows in the remarkable, well-worth-it production values, camera work and CGI. Chances are the next sequel will surpass that budget.

The AIW producers, including James Gunn, have been instrumental in pulling together and giving sense to a film that could have emerged as a puzzling mix-mox. A filmmaker since his youth, Gunn made his first big double-duty splash as writer and first-time director with Slither (2006) starring Nathan Fillion. Way back when, around the time Slither was released, Gunn belonged to the same Firefly (TV sci-fi series) community site I did.

CNET reports that there will be a sequel, known unofficially as Avengers 4, saying that “The film was shot back-to-back with Infinity War, beginning in August 2017 and with principal photography ending in January 2018. [Some] filming was done in the Atlanta area. According to the Scottish newspaper The Daily Record, more scenes will be filmed in Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland in July 2018, with reshoots coming later in the year.”

Numerous photos are known to have been taken during location shooting in Atlanta of major Avengers characters for that sequel.

All in all, Avengers: Infinity War will certainly garner a place in cinema history as one of the most awesomely entertaining, magical and witty sci-fi fantasy yarns ever spun onto the big screen. Sprinkled with the fairy dust of legend, like he-man swashbucklers and damsels standing equal to men and braver than brave, with monster villains and creatures of sweet nightmares and horrid dreams pulling open our eyelids, the Avengers will keep evolving and pulling us by the hand right along with them into future, wondrous journeys of imagination and adventure.

Copyright © May 2018: Lorraine Dmitrovic
All photos copyright © May 2018: Marvel Studios