The A to Z of My lawyer Will Call Your Lawyer : B

An occasional series where Astrid & Nick go through their cinema alphabet


I think someone should hire me to come up with good ideas for someone else to realize. I often come up with great ideas, but then when it comes to actualizing them, I hit the rocks...For example, it was my idea to have an A to Z -series on this blog (and it was my idea some years ago to start the whole blog), but now I've been struggling with B for days. Nick got his B idea in a flash. I freeze with alphabets –anywhere they can be encountered – just like I freeze if I'm asked what kind of music I like...

So, annoyingly, my B is BEAUTY. It's a huge theme, but this is how it relates to cinema and my experience: 

Brigitte Bardot in And God Created Woman (1956)
Anna Karina in Pierrot Le Fou (1965)
Emily Watson in Breaking The Waves (1996)
Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits (1961)

I could do the whole post in pictures – you would get the point – but to make it more challenging to myself, I'll just say why I chose to have only women in these shots from films. Beauty can be so much more than a person in a film, it can be so much more than a certain kind of portrayal of femininity...yet, I love love love a film with beautiful women. And landscapes, men, clothes, photography, story, emotion...
But as I tend to voice my criticism of how women are treated badly in cinema, it is a due admission from me that I do watch movies for beauty. B is not just BB, it's all of the Bellas.

David Bowie
Yes, that Bowie, the chameleon kind. One could ponder on David Bowie's contribution to picture soundtracks (it's considerable) or the documentaries surrounding him (Pennbaker's farewell Ziggy Stardust show and BBC TV's 1970's  Cracked Actor are the notables). Far more interesting has been Bowie's work as an actor. A varied tablet for sure: some dire stuff, often ridiculous hair-do's, cameo a plenty and a couple of gems you will find amongst Bowie the Actor's resume. I'm not in the Labyrinth camp (?!) I'm afraid. Never rated it and that's one serious hair-do right there. The Hunger is faintly ludicrous and dated horror fair that probably works if you're into watching Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve cavorting in the buff (well, if you put it that way...ahem). Haven't seen Bowie in Christopher Nolan's The Prestige, so can't comment on that. Some pointless cameos in David Lynch's dire Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and the OK Into The Night . BBC's Bertolt Brecht adaptation Baal was OK (and a nifty DB EP to go with it).  Bowie is pretty good as Pontius Pilot in Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ but lets ignore the woeful Absolute Beginners, OK? David looked good in the slutty Just A Gigolo even if the film itself is rather pretentious.

Lets cut to the chase. If Bowie had only ever appeared in The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976), it would be enough. Nic Roeg's film still retains its status as one of the great films of the 1970's and certainly one of the most original. The clue: no one captured Bowie on film as well as Roeg did. There is a reason why stills from The Man Who Fell To Earth adorn the front covers of seminal Bowie albums such as Station To Station, Low, or my personal favorite, the 12ich cover of John I'm Only Dancing. But lets not take anything away from Bowie. His portrayal of prospecting alien Thomas Jerome Newton is as fine a performance by a rockstar in cinema as you'll ever see. The weirdness and mystic remains in The Man Who Fell To Earth. I'm still loving this alien (sorry for the pun).

Bowie in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence
The other choice of Bowie on screen I would pick is not so obvious. Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983) is a deeply flawed film, enlivened and salvaged first by the under valued Tom Conti and then by an excellent Bowie as Major Jack Selliers. It's a Japanese prisoner of war movie that certainly is not in the league of The  Bridge On The River Kwai. Bowie looks like he's walked straight off the set of his China Girl video (the movie is set during 1940's not 1982). Homoerotic tensions swirl when the prison camp's (!!) Captain, played by an unintelligible Yellow Magic Orchestra's Ryuichi Sakamoto (no, I'm not making this up) becomes sexually obsessed with our David. Bowie's character plays on this obsession to wage favor for the other prisoners. Bowie is the campest soldier in cinema history and surely the only one with blonde peroxide hair? Still, Japanese master Nagisha Oshima's Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is a strangely moving film and well worth a look. Bowie has over 30 appearances as an actor to date and a list of credits as a producer, writer and director. David Bowie has certainly not flirted with cinema. His defining role in The Man Who Fell To Earth may still provide us with our most iconic images of Bowie the musical innovator of the 1970's.


  1. Astrid - I am totally with you. Beauty can trump almost everything else in a film. Have you seen Central Station? Interesting example of middle-age beauty and a certain kind of transformation. And shot in such an amazing way.

    Nick - IMHO, his acting in the Prestige was spot on, and I was very excited just by the idea of Tesla being played by Bowie. It just made perfect sense. But his best role? You missed out Zoolander!

  2. Thanks Stephen.
    Yes, Zoolander is great, worthy of a mention.
    Must see the Prestige film, I'm a fan of Nolan's most of the time anyway.

  3. I'm following ur site to watch movies man. Very good site . keep'em coming.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts