Review: Lambert & Stamp

lambertstamp

 

DIR: James D. Cooper • PRO: James D. Cooper, Douglas Graves, Loretta Harms • DOP: James D. Cooper • ED: Christopher Tellefsen • MUS: The Who • CAST: Chris Stamp, Kit Lambert, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Terence Stamp, Irish Jack

 

Frequently hailed as one of the most influential rock bands of the twentieth century, The Who embodied many of the radical socio-cultural and political changes that swept across Britain when they first emerged during the Swinging Sixties. While the idiosyncratic personas of the band and their contribution to popular culture has been well-documented over the decades (not least in dramatized form in the 1979 film Quadrophenia), perhaps less familiar are the two men Roger Daltrey christened the fifth and sixth members of the band. As The Who celebrate fifty years in the music industry and to coincide with this milestone, cinematographer-turned-director James D. Cooper debuts an exhaustive and highly entertaining account of the lives of aspiring filmmakers Kit Lambert and Christ Stamp, who, in 1964, stumbled upon an unknown mod band in a grimy London club and turned them into enduring, incendiary rock gods.

 

Kit Lambert was an ostentatious Oxford-educated homosexual (still illegal at the time of meeting The Who) and son of renowned composer Constant Lambert, while Stamp was an unpolished East End lad, son of a Thames tugboat captain and brother of actor Terence. Having met as assistant directors in Shepperton Studios, the incongruous pair harboured ambitions to become film directors. Seemingly an insurmountable challenge the traditional route, Lambert proposed they make their own film about a burgeoning rock band and track their rise within the British rock scene. After trawling many a squalid club, they eventually stumbled upon the High Numbers and despite having no industry experience but plenty of swagger and tenacity, they became their managers and transformed the unvarnished High Numbers into notorious rockers, The Who, credited with affecting the band’s auto-destructive guitar-smashing act, Maximum R&B music, sonic explorations and signature target T-shirt.

 

Employing an abundance of archive stills and film footage and fusing interviews, commentaries and musical performances from the past to present day, Cooper’s cinematic scrapbook captures a relentless whirlwind of explosive rock history, in which a non-linear narrative and slick cinematography rollicks furiously through the decades, rooting the audience directly in the band’s volcanic timeline. As the only surviving members of the band, it is left to Townsend and Daltrey to cut sharply through their recollections of the hallucinatory ’60s, the rocking ’70s, the sobering ’80s to the present day and not only does Cooper extract some of the most emotive and disclosing interviews from his subjects but he also gets his hands on some of the most invaluable rock archive material to underpin the cyclone of chaos that suffocated their tempestuous rock reign.

 

Townsend is an unsparingly honest and philosophical interviewee and while he gives genuine due credit to his managers for their contribution to the band’s success, it is evident that the subsequent pitfalls at the height of their 60s fame (bankruptcy, addictions and tensions with the 1967 film Tommy, which led to their eventual parting in 1975) were owing to the duo’s mismanagement rather than any complexities within the band itself. Daltrey is equally giving if not marginally more guarded, seemingly unrecovered from Lambert’s mentoring of Townsend and remaining somewhat wounded to this day by the rivalry between Townsend, the artistic genius and Daltrey, the choreographed showman.

 

The real narrative coup in the film however, is Chris Stamp, who, despite suffering from advanced colorectal cancer during the final stages of filming, provides a highly animated and detailed recollection on behalf of Lambert and himself, who died in 1981 (Stamp died in 2012). A loquacious, sharp, hyperactive, no-holds-barred East Ender, with an abundance of charm, wit and warmth, Stamp’s high-spirited memories are so palpable and vividly illustrated, there hardly seems need at times for the wealth of archive material flamboyantly fuelling the frenetic narrative.

 

When probed about their highly discernible relationship, Stamp acknowledges it was as a result of such creative and commercial distinctions that made them so artistically compatible, doubting The Who would have succeeded had they more in common. It was equally their rebellious and anarchistic attitude, which stood in blatant opposition to the established, saccharine British pop scene of the mid-1960s and was an extension of the band’s own fractious, egocentric personalities that allowed them to tap into the zeitgeist and encapsulate the counter-cultural ideas that seeped through the decade. It was a penetration of new musical and cultural philosophies within the industry that transcended their contemporaries, namely The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, which in accordance with the counter-cultural ethos of the decade did not conform to society’s rules, but rather made them. With mischievous imperiousness, Stamp scoffs both Lambert and he did not yet know who the band was upon meeting the High Numbers but they unequivocally knew who they did not want them to be.

 

If slight nitpicking is to be done in Lambert & Stamp, it is Cooper’s tendency to be overly sentimental. While Lambert, Moon and Entwistle are all dead and evidently their versions can only be relayed through historic material and memories, theirs is a rock biography in which excessive substance abuse and melancholic dispositions played a significant role in the band’s overall life story. Cooper tentatively sketches over these actualities and veers towards a more nostalgic conclusion, with Stamp poignantly visiting Lambert’s grave, recalling the more positive aspects of his character rather than deliberate on the more tortured facets of his history. But nitpicking it is and James D. Cooper must be credited with creating a comprehensively energetic and highly intriguing portrait of two men whose wildly tangible differences gelled to create a formidable rock partnership and differences that certainly can be attributed to the enduring success of The Who to this day.

 

 

   Dee O’Donoghue

 

117 minutes

Lambert & Stamp is released 15th May 2015

 

Lambert & Stamp  – Official Website

Share

The Art of Steal

The-Art-of-the-Steal

DIR: Jonathan Sobol • WRI: Jonathan Sobol • PRO: Nicholas Tabarrok  DOP: Adam Swica  DES: Matthew Davies • CAST: Kurt Russell, Jay Baruchel, Matt Dillon, Katheryn Winnick, Kenneth Welsh, Terence Stamp, Chris Diamantopoulos

Since taking on the role of Stuntman Mike in Quentin Tarantino’s contribution to 2007’s Grindhouse, Kurt Russell has been largely absent from the silver screen. He did make an appearance in stepdaughter Kate Hudson’s short drama Cutlass later that year, and also co-starred in the little-seen sports film Touchback, but by and large, the immensely popular Tombstone actor has been keeping a low profile.

The box-office failure of Grindhouse – the underwhelming ticket sales in the US ensured that Death Proof was released a stand-alone film on these shores – may have played its part in this regard, although he did turn down an opportunity to work with Tango & Cash cohort Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables.

However, it was only a matter before the Massachusetts native stepped back into the breach, and having first acted in a 1962 episode of Dennis the Menace, The Art of the Steal ensures that his extraordinary career has surpassed the 50 year mark.

Directed by Canadian helmer Jonathan Sobol – whose only previous feature-length effort was A Beginner’s Guide to Endings The Art of the Steal had earlier operated under the titles of The Black Marks and The Fix. Like many films in the genre, Sobol’s sophomore film kicks-off with a ‘heist gone wrong’, as well as the inevitable double-crossing for personal and/or financial gain.

Owing to his prowess on his prized motorbike, Russell’s Crunch Calhoun is the ‘wheel man’ on a crack team that includes his half-brother Nicky (Matt Dillon), master forger Guy de Cornet (Chris Diamantopulous) and veteran colleague ‘Uncle Paddy’ (Kenneth Welsh).

When a job in Warsaw turns sour, Dillon’s ‘Ideas Man’ is subsequently arrested, but following evidence he supplies to the authorities, Crunch finds himself on the receiving end of a seven-year sentence in a Wronki prison.

After gaining early release for good behaviour, Crunch becomes a third-rate motorcycle daredevil, with the help of his new girlfriend (Katheryn Winnick) and willing apprentice (Jay Baruchel), but is lured back into the game by his brother’s disgruntled former partner.

This forced him to, reluctantly, team up with Nicky once again, but the promise of a massive pay day for the capture of Gutenberg’s Gospel of James helps to aid their reconciliation. The appearance on the scene of a determined Interpol Agent and his informant sidekick (Terence Stamp) means that the reformed team need to be on their toes at all times, and always one step ahead.

With an impressive cast, and a director familiar with the surroundings of Quebec City and Niagara Falls, The Art of the Steal has the makings of a bonafide sleeper hit. Unfortunately, the end product is far too derivative, presenting the audience with scenarios and situations that have been explored in the past in a much more interesting fashion.

There is some pleasure to be had in the central performances, and there is plenty of spark between Russell and Dillon, who have always had the ability to elevate the most mundane of material to a greater level. Judd Apatow regular Baruchel does provide comic relief (especially in one moment that makes reference to Peter Weir’s Witness), and Stamp makes the most of relatively limited screentime.

Other members of the ensemble never quite register, however, with Winnick’s love interest marginalised for much of the action, while Welsh’s Irish accent seems to take a journey across several continents throughout the course of the drama.

In many ways, had Sobol opted to focus more on Crunch’s daredevil escapades (either partly or completely), this may well have been a more worthwhile exercise. As it is, The Art of the Steal is, at best, disposable fare, which comes complete with the standard final act plot twist/reveal.

With films like Fast & Furious 7, Tarantino’s upcoming The Hateful Eight, Bone Tomahawk and Road to Save Nome in the pipeline, as well as a possible Stargate sequel, Russell will continue to be a fixture in cinemas across the nation, and although the latest entry in his expansive body of work is a long way off being his best, his cult status remains very much intact.

 Daire Walsh

 

15A (See IFCO for details)
90 mins

Art of the Steal is released on 20th June 2014

Share

Cinema Review: Song for Marion

 

DIR/WRI: Paul Andrew Williams  •  PRO: Philip Moross  • DOP: Carlos Catalán • ED: Dan Farrell • DES: Sophie Becher • CAST: Gemma Arterton, Christopher Eccleston, Terence Stamp
 

The market for the ‘Grey Pound’, as the over 60s cinema goers are so delicately referred to as, has gained more attention from film marketers in recent years. With the film industry struggling to make revenues in the modern download era, any group that will attend the cinemas regularly are rapidly being catered for. This is good news for both older cinema goers who want to see issues they care about tackled on film and older actors who struggle to find meaty roles. Recent films The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Quartet are successful examples of this genre. Song for Marion certainly ticks all the boxes of a ‘Grey Pound’ film, with the majority of the cast in the over 60 age bracket. It tells the story of Marion (Vanessa Redgrave), an optimistic woman in the autumn of her life striving to live her last days with all the joy she can fit in.

Marion is a member of an unconventional choir who, guided by the young teacher Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton), enjoy performing alternative songs in their community hall. The more gripping story of this film is that of Marion’s husband Arthur (Terence Stamp) who is the opposite of his wife; a classic grumpy old man who belittles her choir and lively friends, while still caring for her in her illness with the sweetness of a life-long love. Arthur’s struggles are played with a deep emotional tenderness and strength by Terence Stamp, especially when we see his approach to the different relationships in his life.

Stamp and Redgrave’s acting capabilities make this film stand out and they bring a much needed touch of reality to the roles, which should attract all viewers to the film, not just the specific target market. Song for Marion is definitely on the sentimental side and wraps the ending up into a fairly neat and predictable package, but the strong acting of the leads ensures we care about these characters and their story.

 

Ailbhe O Reilly

PG (see IFCO website for details)
93mins
Song for Marion is released on 22nd February 2013

 

Share