Showing posts with label Performance (1970). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Performance (1970). Show all posts

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Frank Mazzola, 1935 - 2015

Frank with his daughter Francesca
It grieves me to report the sad news that my friend Frank Mazzola, who became one of the most influential film editors of his generation by virtue of his re-edit of Donald Cammell and Nic Roeg's PERFORMANCE (1970), died on January 13, 2015, at the age of 79. The following obituary was written by Catherine Mazzola. It is a wonderful tribute to a great man.

Frank was born and raised in the heart of Hollywood surrounded by the film business, his father being the first contract player at Fox Studios. Frank worked as a child actor, appearing in such films as The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) starring Charles Laughton, Always in My Heart (1942) with Walter Huston, Casablanca (1942), and Joseph Losey's The Boy with Green Hair (1948). Frank went on to study acting with Stella Adler and Jeff Corey and did theater at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. He was cast in a part of a high school student in Elia Kazan's East of Eden (1955) before being accepted into the University of Oregon on an athletic scholarship. Frank left Hollywood behind but only briefly.

On a school break, he auditioned for a role and was cast as "Crunch" in Rebel Without A Cause (1955), directed by Nicholas Ray and starring then-unknown James Dean. Because of his reputation from his days in the Hollywood High club, The Athenians, Frank was approached by Nick Ray and David Weisbart, Rebel's producer, to help recreate a reality about rebellious teens from middle class families. Frank was given an office at Warner Brothers, and according to Rolling Stone magazine, "he ended up helping director Nick Ray and screenwriter Stewart Stern shape Rebel into an accurate piece of 1955 sociology." Frank was instrumental in selecting Jimmy's '49 Merc and his famous red jacket, which was not unlike the original Athenian club jackets; and one of the Nick Ray biographies quotes, "...the knife duel between Jim and Buzz (Corey Allen) was staged with the aid of Frank Mazzola." Nick summed it up by signing a Rebel poster with a personal note of thanks, "For Frank Mazzola who helped so much to make the texture of Rebel into a living reality."

Having participated in the creative aspects of production on Rebel, Frank decided to pursue his love of film from behind the camera. Inspired by Nick Ray and David Weisbart, who had edited A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Frank chose editing to learn the process of filmmaking. As an assistant at Universal Studios, he was involved with Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus (1960). Following, he assisted at Fox Studios and The Mirish Corp., learning some of his most valuable lessons from working with Ralph E. Winters as the first assistant on Blake Edwards' The Party (1968). After creating artistically beautiful and complicated montages that received excellent reviews, Frank began his career as an editor on films such as Macho Callahan (1970), Stiletto (1969), and a re-edit of La Piscine (1969).

Frank was then sought out by film director Donald Cammell to create montages and re-edit Performance (1970), a film that was sitting on the shelf at Warner Brothers. Frank's work with Donald on Performance (1970) led to the film's release. It went on to receive cult classic status and according to The British Film Institute, "Performance is one of the most extraordinary British films, and arguably the greatest."

Frank's career as an editor excelled from this point forward with films such as Peter Fonda's directorial debut, The Hired Hand (1971), Donald Cammell's Demon Seed (1977), and A Woman Called Moses (1978) starring Cicely Tyson with narration by Orson Welles. The Second Coming of Suzanne (1974), which Frank co-produced and edited, won three of the top ten awards at The Atlanta Film Festival including the gold medal for editing.

Frank loved the artistry and creativity of filmmaking. As Rex Reed wrote in The New York Daily News, "Frank Mazzola, the excellent film editor, has attempted to do something different with film." Stanley Kauffman of The New Republic wrote, "Mazzola has used almost the whole contemporary editing vocabulary." Other reviewers have written that Frank is, "a master craftsman at film editing," he "creates a perfect sense of pacing," and his "montage sequences rate spontaneous audience applause." As quoted from the Stratford Film Festival: "The exhilarating beauty of the color cinematography and visual wizardry of the many montage sequences establish cinematographer Isadore Mankofsky and editor/montage artist Frank Mazzola as two of the world’s finest artists in their respective fields."

In 1999 Frank completed production on restoring and editing a Donald Cammell short, The Argument (1999). Video Watchdog wrote "the film is a surreal gem...abandoned, once lost, now found, The Argument, like the Phoenix, has been reborn." The screening of the short became the catalyst for Tartan Films and London's Channel 4, to join forces with Frank on the restoration of The Director's Cut of Donald Cammell's Wild Side (2000). Following the Wild Side premiere at The Edinburgh International Film Festival, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian wrote: "Perhaps the most remarkable event of the festival has been Wild Side, the last film by the late Donald Cammell, presented in a radically new director's cut, lovingly prepared by editor and long-time associate Frank Mazzola...Under Mazzola's microsurgery, it emerges as classic cinema..."

In addition to Frank's behind the camera career, he has appeared in numerous documentaries about Donald Cammell and James Dean, most notably Donald Cammell: The Ultimate Performance, the American Masters series, James Dean: Sense Memories and as a special guest on Larry King Live.

Throughout his life and career, Frank remained committed to the dedication of his time and creative energy as an independent force in maintaining film as an art form.

Services will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 31st at Blessed Sacrament Church in Hollywood. In lieu of flowers, a memorial donation fund has been set up by Frank's oldest daughter at IndiegogoLife/FrankMazzola Memorial Fund. 

https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/frank-mazzola-memorial-fund

With Affection,
Catherine and Francesca

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Circus

As a consequence of last night’s extremely rare screening on TCM of Donald Cammell and Nic Roeg’s Performance (1970) starring Mick Jagger, I awoke this morning thinking about the Rolling Stones. I realized that today’s date, 12 December, serendipitously was the date the Stones finished the filming of The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus, filmed 11-12 December 1968 (frequent delays on the 11th caused the filming to continue on into the wee hours of 12 December). A true museum piece, the show was designed as a made-for-TV special intended for airing on the BBC as a Christmas special in order to promote the release of the Stones’ album Beggars Banquet, which had been released in the UK a few days earlier, on 6 December. Featuring appearances by Jethro Tull, The Who, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Taj Mahal, Marianne Faithful, and Eric Clapton, Rock And Roll Circus was to have been the first appearance of the Stones after an absence of several months, a consequence of Mick Jagger making Performance. With most of its featured performers dressed as clowns, and Mick Jagger, improbably, serving as the Ring Master, the outcome was so ludicrously silly that it was deemed unreleasable, and remained so for 28 years, until 1996. Additionally, legend has it that the Stones felt they had been upstaged by The Who. Bootlegged Rolling Stones tracks from the soundtrack appeared in the years after, but Rock and Roll Circus is perhaps more significant as the last time the original Stones—with Brian Jones—performed together. He was fired soon after.

When the show was eventually released on home video in 1996, the music the Stones played on the show was shown not to be as terrible as rumor had it, but the show’s concept—an extravaganza produced and starring the Rolling Stones—simply didn’t fit the Stones’ image. In contrast, the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour (1967) concept—in which the Beatles, along with a large number of their friends, drove around the British countryside zonked out of their minds playing psychedelic music—had a certain commercial potential based on its novelty. Critics, however, excoriated it, even if it roughly conformed to the Beatles’ image, given the picaresque films they’d made previously with Richard Lester. The Stones, however, had made no such movies, and simply weren’t convincing as fun-loving hippies, especially when dressed up as clowns. As a joke, it wasn’t funny, or rather, it was painfully funny. The trouble is, the Rolling Stones never made convincing hippies. Bohemians they were, hippies they were not. What Performance would reveal—which had finished filming a few weeks earlier, in mid-October, but would not be released until August 1970—was the threat and danger of Mick Jagger’s persona. I find Rock And Roll Circus a curious misfire, a true oddity in the history of rock, significant only because it represents Brian Jones’s last “live” appearance with the Stones. And for Mick Jagger’s first performance after Performance.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Performance Screening Tonight

I highly recommend you tune in, or set your recorder, to Turner Classic Movies (TCM) tonight as there is a rare screening of Donald Cammell and Nic Roeg's classic Performance (1970) beginning at roughly 2:00 a.m. Eastern (technically, Saturday morning). The film rarely shows on American television, so if you haven't seen it, or don't have a copy of it, tonight is the opportunity to see it. Additionally, Richard Harland Smith's essay on the film is available here on the TCM website. Put your tie on!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Man From Moog

Donald Cammell and Nic Roeg’s Performance (filmed 1968; released 1970), starring Mick Jagger, James Fox, and Anita Pallenberg, is the first—and so far as I know, only—feature film in which a Moog synthesizer makes an appearance. A synthesizer named TONTO appeared in Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise (1974) but its sounds were not actually heard in the film.

If records available at moogarchives.com are correct (and there's no reason to believe they are not), then the Rolling Stones did not purchase a Moog synthesizer until 3 September 1968, in other words, about five weeks prior to the end of the filming of Performance, and after the recording of Beggar’s Banquet (and therefore not, as one might have expected, immediately after the recording of 1967’s psychedelic Their Satanic Majesty Requests). And if Trevor Pinch and Frank Trocco, in their marvelous book Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer (Harvard University Press, 2002) are correct, then Jon Weiss, "the Man from Moog,” did not arrive in London with the Rolling Stones’ Moog synthesizer until late summer 1968, which jibes with the above date of 3 September 1968.

Apparently at the time the idea was that Mick was going to use the Moog synthesizer “as his instrument in the band” (303). At some point, soon after Jon Weiss’s arrival in London, Weiss and Jagger came up with the idea of using the synthesizer as a prop in Performance: “The Moog with its rows of knobs and dials would make a perfect addition” (303). Since, as Pinch and Trocco so astutely observe, the synthesizer was “part of the sixties apparatus for transgression, transcendence, and transformation” (305), the Moog was indeed an ideal prop for Performance, especially since its appearance coincides with Chas’s (James Fox’s) tripping on hallucinogenic mushrooms.

We first see the Moog synthesizer—which would have been an utterly unfamiliar piece of technology to the vast majority of viewers at the time—as it sits on the floor of Turner’s studio, a bewildering array of knobs and patch cables framed by fluorescent light bulbs. Turner sits on the floor before it.


According to Pinch and Trocco, the Moog used in Performance is a Moog Series III modular synthesizer. The above frame grab from the film conveniently shows the three modules characteristic of a "modular synthesizer." Each one of the modules is essentially self-contained; there were virtually no connections within each of the three modules. The purpose of the patch cords, each with a 1/4" phone plug at the end, was to link the modules together; nothing would happen otherwise. The purpose of the patch cords was to carry one of three types of information: signals, or what sound we ultimately would hear; control, a specific (low) voltage telling the modules what to do; and triggers, or electrical pulses, telling the modules what to do at the particular moment.

The special virtue of the Moog was its durability; there was no “right” or “wrong” way to use it—no particular grouping of patches, or combination of knob settings, could damage it. On the other hand, some patch combinations and knob settings would not yield any sound, so while there may have been no right or wrong way to play around with it, if you didn’t know what you were doing, nothing would happen. At the time, therefore, someone who knew how to use it—such as Jon Weiss, "the man from Moog”—was quite valuable.


A closer view shows that a rather simple patch, or connection made between the various modules, has been made. My guess, though, is that while there is the sinister drone characteristic of the Moog on the soundtrack when Chas enters Turner’s studio, that sound was not “live” on the set, but dubbed in later. (The Moog on the soundtrack was played by Bernie Krause, one half of the synthesizer team known as Beaver and Krause.) My guess is that while Mick is shown twiddling some knobs and feigning some adjustments, the synthesizer isn’t actually turned on at all.

What Mick seems to be doing with his left hand is fiddling with the knobs of a controller section, which appears to be a Moog 901A VCO (the "voltage control oscillator," the thin panel at the extreme left) combined with a series of Moog 901B oscillator controllers (each of the panels lined up next to it to the right). His left hand seems to be turning the lower knob of a 901B unit. Directly above his left hand is the 904 series of “filter modules,” the 904A “low pass filter" and the 904B “high pass filter," the electrical systems that in fact defined the Moog and for which Robert Moog had filed patents. The second module from the left, sitting between the 904A (far left) and 904B (right) is the 904C coupler that mixed the output of the two filter modules (it could also be turned off and hence not used). Mick’s head is partially covering the Moog 901 voltage controlled oscillator (VCO), while the larger unit of knobs in the left center of the module on the far right is the Moog 960 sequential controller, which could provide a series of controlled voltages. Only one of the eight stages was active at a time, indicated by the row of lights across the top (none of which are lit, nor does the sequencer appear to be used as a part of the patch).

A better view of the sequential controller can be seen in the following frame grab; other modules in view are various low frequency oscillators, input processors, and a Moog 911 envelope generator. Note that the placement of the patch cords are not the same between the earlier stills and the one below:


The rest of the story:

1) According to Pinch and Trocco (348) the patch that the man from Moog, Jon Weiss, had set up for Mick on the synthesizer used in Performance was used to create the soundtrack for Kenneth Anger’s short film Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969), which featured a soundtrack by Mick Jagger.

2) As is well known, Mick Jagger did not take up the synthesizer—but, according to Pinch and Trocco, the Moog synthesizer originally purchased by the Stones lived on:

It was sold on to the Hansa by the Wall recording studio in Berlin, where in 1973 Christoph Franke of Tangerine Dream purchased it for $15,000. The Moog sequencer became the defining element of Tangerine Dream’s sound, and the Moog became an enduring influence on the many waves of German electronic music in the 1970s. This influence eventually provided renewed stimulus in the United States when Donna Summer’s I Feel Love (1977), produced by Giorgio Moroder in a Munich studio with the aid of a modular Moog, along with Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express (1977), were taken up in black dance culture.... (305-06)

If the Performance modular synth was indeed sold to Christoph Franke of Tangerine Dream in 1973, then the first album made by that group on which that particular Moog appeared was Phaedra, recorded late in 1973 and released early in 1974, an album that is now considered an essential album of electronic music, and a breakthrough in the use of synthesizer/sequencer technology.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Ballad of John and Yoko's Rolls

In yesterday's blog I mentioned John Lennon's Rolls-Royce Phantom V, the car that was later repainted in psychedelic fashion (for complete information on this particular Roller, go to the following website). I also said that Lennon didn’t acquire this particular Rolls-Royce until 3 June 1965, and that it was repainted in psychedelic fashion in April 1967. I encourage readers to visit the aforementioned website to verify all of this information.

I have brought up this issue because a couple of individuals have emailed me--including a third person whom we actually interviewed as part of our research--challenging my and Rebecca's assertion in our book, Donald Cammell: A Life on the Wild Side (2006), that the white Rolls-Royce used at the end of Performance (1970), the one in which Harry Flowers sits awaiting delivery of Chas ("Hello, Chas!"), and the Rolls in which Chas/Turner rides off in the film's final moments, was John Lennon's Phantom V. It was this same white Rolls, so we asserted, that was later used in the Apple Records promotional video, "The Ballad of John and Yoko" (1969). That could not be John Lennon's Rolls-Royce used in the film, we have been informed, because it was painted in psychedelic colors. The Rolls-Royce used at the end of Performance is white. I responded to these queries by saying that we did our research, and that indeed our information is correct.

It is true that three different Rollers were used in Performance: the black one, shown in the film's opening moments; the black Rolls in the garage with a "tasty finish," on which acid is poured, destroying the paint job (actually that Rolls was coated with a clear substance that reacted to the chemicals in the liquid dumped from the jug--that wasn't real acid poured on the Rolls!); and the white Rolls-Royce belonging to John Lennon used in the last sequence.

Since the issue has come up in the past, and since there may be others who haven't written me but who also think we are incorrect, I thought I'd address it, and settle the matter once and for all. I've included below a series of frame grabs from the final moments of Performance in order to fully reveal the identity of the Rolls-Royce used in the last sequence of the film.

The first still consists of a shot taken from Chas/Turner's subjective POV approaching the white Rolls...


Chas/Turner climbs in and the Rolls pulls away, revealing the front license plate, EUC 100C. Note the antenna on the roof toward the front, over the top of the windshield:


Following the 180 degree rule (editing on the axis), there is a cut to the rear of the Rolls-Royce as it pulls away from the curb and begins down the street. Again the shot reveals the license plate, EUC 100C:


The same white Rolls used in Performance, owned by John Lennon--certainly he was wealthy enough to own more than one such luxury car--was used a few months later in the Apple Records promotional video, "The Ballad of John and Yoko." Please forgive the poor quality of the image, but here's a screen grab taken from early in the video. Note the gull-wing antenna on the roof, near the front windshield:


Here's a shot of the Rolls toward the end of the video (again I apologize for the poor quality of the image). Note the license plate, EUC 100C:


I should also add that David Cammell, the film's Associate Producer, told us that it was John Lennon's car, so I hope that all of this is proof enough that our assertion in our book about the identity of the white Rolls-Royce is correct. The equipment in Turner's "studio" was also borrowed from the Beatles' Abbey Road studio, with the exception of the Moog Series III synthesizer, which was brought over by Jon Weiss, a representative of Moog at the time.

In a subsequent blog I'll discuss what happened to the Moog synthesizer that was used in Performance.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

His Master's Voice

Although colloquially referred to as a “Leslie”, the Leslie Rotating Speaker System is actually a sound modification (deformation) device, not a standard speaker as such, in the sense of being an amplification and reproduction mechanism, one so accurate and so realistic in its sound that the reproduction could fool one’s faithful dog. The mythic origin of the relationship between the master, the master’s voice, and the faithful dog is ancient: it can be traced back to Homer’s Odyssey, with the relationship between Odysseus and his elderly dog, Argos. If you’ll remember, Odysseus has been gone from Ithaca for twenty years, and when he finally returns, he’s disguised as a beggar. Having landed back home after such a long absence, when Odysseus eventually speaks, even after all those long years, Argos, his old, dying dog—so miserably old that the only way the beast can stay warm is lay on a composting manure pile—instantly lifts up his head in excitement, having recognized his master’s voice. The presence of his master’s voice, of course, means to the dog that his master has finally returned. Thus Nipper, the name of the dog used as a model in the painting that eventually became RCA’s logo, is really misnamed. In honor of that miserably old dog that waited twenty years just to hear--once more before he died--his master’s voice, RCA’s mascot should be re-christened Argos.

The Leslie did not originate as a speaker the purpose of which was to reproduce “his master’s voice.” Although invented in the 1940s to augment the sound of the Hammond organ, in the 1960s the Leslie--named after its inventor, Donald J. Leslie (1911-2004)--began to be put to use by rock bands in an unexpected way. Michael Jarrett writes:

The overlapping waveforms produced by the Leslie’s two speakers—not unlike the effect derived by yelling into an electric fan—generate a sonic moiré pattern (a Doppler effect): the tremulant sound associated with Hammond organs. But other instruments have also been played through Leslie cabinets....To the psychedelic mind, the Leslie and LSD were homologous; both altered everyday perception. (140)

The lead guitar part on The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” was modified by a Leslie, while on “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” it was Ron Bushy’s drums. The Beatles’ vocals were modified by a Leslie on “Tomorrow Never Knows” (among others), as was Ozzy Osbourne’s on Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan.”

A Few Representative Recordings Featuring the Leslie:

The Beach Boys, “Pet Sounds,” Pet Sounds (1966)
The Beatles, “Tomorrow Never Knows,” Revolver (1966)
Procol Harum, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” Procol Harum (1967)
Steppenwolf, “Born to be Wild,” Steppenwolf (1968)
The Band, “Tears of Rage,” Music from Big Pink (1968)
Iron Butterfly, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968)
Black Sabbath, “Planet Caravan,” Paranoid (1970)

The Leslie was to LSD what the Moog synthesizer was to interstellar space travel. If the Leslie was light-hearted and benign, the Moog synthesizer was dark and forboding: the Leslie was incapable of creating the sinister drone of the Moog. However, both machines reveal that for sixties rock bands, sound made all the difference. According to Trevor Pinch and Frank Trocco, in Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer (Harvard University Press, 2002), Donald Cammell and Nic Roeg’s Performance (filmed 1968, released 1970) “is the only movie we know of where the Moog synthesizer [a Moog Series III] itself makes a cameo appearance.” (Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise [1974] featured the synthesizer TONTO, but not its sounds. Jon Weiss actually set up a patch for Mick Jagger on the Performance set.) Pinch and Trocco write:

In a key scene . . . Turner [Mick Jagger] for a moment is the mad captain at the controls of spaceship Moog. The Moog and its sounds are the perfect prop, part of the psychedelic paraphernalia, the magical means to transmigrate a fading rock star into something else. The Moog was a machine that empowered such transformations. The synthesizer for a short while in the sixties was not just another musical instrument; it was part of the sixties apparatus for transgression, transcendence, and transformation. No wonder the sixties rock stars loved their Moogs. (305)

The synthesizer’s key place in sixties rock began in June 1967. Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause (the recording duo of Beaver & Krause) set up a booth on the Monterey fairground as part of the Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967 in order to promote, and perhaps even sell, the Moog synthesizer. They actually sold several. According to Pinch and Trocco, “Monterey was the place where the subculture became mainstream” (117).

A Few Representative Recordings Featuring the Moog Synthesizer:

Mort Garson and Bernie Krause, The Zodiac Cosmic Sounds (1967)
Johnny Mandel, Point Blank (1967) (Film Score Monthly, 2002)
The Doors, Strange Days (1967)
Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause, The Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music (1968)
The Byrds, The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1968)
Walter [Wendy] Carlos, Switched-On Bach (1968)
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (1971)