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  • Peter Whitehead RIP

    The Guardian obituary

    https://www.theguardian.com/film/201...ehead-obituary

    Nick

  • #2
    R.I.P.

    A key filmmaker of the British counterculture of the 1960s, especially his work with The Rolling Stones. His credits: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0925718/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1.

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    • #3
      I was looking forward to the Blu-Ray releases of Tonite Let's All Make Love in London and The Fall. from Network but they never materialized.

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      • #4
        Telegraph 20/06/2019

        Peter Whitehead was an unsung hero of counterculture cinema whose films captured the shifting tides of the Swinging Sixties; he was best known for Charlie is my Darling, a grainy black and white documentary of a chaotic 1965 Rolling Stones tour of Ireland, and Tonight Let’s All Make Love in London, both of which became cult classics.

        Whitehead was rumoured to have had affairs with numerous beauties of the era, including Nico, Nathalie Delon, Niki de Saint Phalle and Bianca Jagger. He had eight children by various women, including four daughters from his marriage to Dido Goldsmith, daughter of Teddy Goldsmith and niece of Sir James. He claimed in a 2007 interview with The Sunday Telegraph to have been married “something like” four times, but it seems the actual tally was three...

        The son of a plumber, Peter Lorrimer Whitehead was born on January 8 1937 and brought up in poverty in the Lake District and in London. He was 13 when he was sent off to Ashville College, a public school in Harrogate, under a post-war Labour government scheme to give bright, disadvantaged children a leg up. There he captained the rugby team, became the school organist and ended up convinced that he could always get by but did not belong anywhere.

        After National Service in the Army, Whitehead went on a scholarship to Peterhouse, Cambridge, to read Natural Sciences, then won another scholarship, to the Slade School of Art. He was meant to study painting but instead became one of the first students in a new film department set up by Thorold Dickinson.

        In 1964 he got a job as a freelance cameraman for an Italian television company making documentary shorts and, left to his own devices, began to experiment, often shooting everything in a single take, cinema verité-style, with a hand-held camera.

        Though Whitehead was a classical music enthusiast, his work led to an invitation by Top of the Pops to film Jimi Hendrix, and then the recently formed Pink Floyd. He found their music “ghastly” but agreed, having already met their troubled lead singer, guitarist and songwriter, Syd Barrett, in Cambridge: “And then I met him again in London because I had an affair with his girlfriend,” he recalled. Barrett had been “too out of it to notice”.

        The following year he shot Wholly Communion, a film about a beat poet convention at the Royal Albert Hall now recognised as one of the great documents of 1960s London. It showed an audience ranging from bespectacled men in tweeds to flower children on acid being regaled by the likes of Allen Ginsberg, filmed drunkenly telling the auditorium: “I am that man trembling to die in vomit.”

        Whitehead got a phone call from Andrew Loog Oldham, the impresario who had discovered the Rolling Stones in a London club in 1963, who wanted him to film the band on a two-day tour of Ireland in September 1965. “I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d never listened to a Rolling Stones record in my life,” Whitehead recalled. “I was listening to Janacek and Bartok at the time.” A cheque for £2,000 persuaded him.

        The Beatles had made A Hard Day’s Night, and Loog Oldham regarded the commission as a trial run for a feature film starring the Stones, whose breakthrough hit (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction was about to reach No 1.

        Whitehead’s film captured the band running from fans across railway tracks and cutting gigs short following stage invasions. But the Rolling Stones were not the Beatles. They were new to the game, gauche and unguarded, before the era of drugs raids and battles against the establishment turned them into the bad boys of pop.

        There was no Beatles-style comic banter, just drunken singalongs and goofing around. The most naturally appealing character, reflected in Loog Oldham’s tongue-in-cheek title, Charlie is my Darling, was Charlie Watts, the drummer famous in later years for his aloofness and reticence, who was filmed wishing he could go home to be with his wife.

        The group’s performance was unlikely to win new fans, and it convinced Loog Oldham that “the Stones were not to the celluloid manor born”. In October 1966 the documentary was given a premiere at the Mannheim Film Festival, where it was considered for the gold medal but lost out to Wholly Communion, but it was not released amid disputes over copyright, thereby acquiring a mythic reputation among fans. It was only in 2012, that the film, retitled Charlie is my Darling: Ireland 1965 and including other footage, was released.

        Whitehead went on to do shorts for half a dozen other Stones hits. For We Love You, released in 1967 when Mick Jagger and Keith Richard were waiting to appeal drugs convictions, Whitehead came up with the idea of recreating the Oscar Wilde trial, with Jagger as Wilde, Richards as the judge and Marianne Faithfull, in a tomboyish bob, as Bosie.

        Also in 1967 Peter Brook asked Whitehead to film a play he was improvising with Royal Shakespeare Company actors, claiming to reveal Britain’s tacit involvement with the US in the Vietnam War. The resulting film, Benefit of the Doubt (1967), along with Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London, a glossy portrait of the swinging metropolis, were shown at the New York film festival in a double bill. Tonite was the hit of the festival, but most of the audience walked out of Benefit of the Doubt, disgusted, Whitehead claimed, “at seeing the RSC challenging the waging of an ideological war by a military industrial complex in rural Buddhist Vietnam”.

        In 1968 Whitehead moved to New York, where he became involved in the civil rights movement, spent a day with Bobby Kennedy three weeks before his assassination, and made what some consider to be his masterpiece, The Fall, a film in part about a seven-day student sit-in at Columbia University and its break-up by armed police.

        But its debut at the 1969 Edinburgh Festival seems to have precipitated a mental crisis in its director, who ran out of the cinema and resolved to become a breeder of falcons, despite knowing nothing about the birds.

        After buying his first falcon for £8 from an advertisement in Exchange & Mart, Whitehead set off into the Moroccan desert, determined to be “restored into the bosom of nature”. For the next few years he smuggled falcon eggs back to England, hatching the birds at home in Kettering and then training them.

        He did not entirely give up films. In 1970 he chronicled a Led Zeppelin concert at the Royal Albert Hall; in 1974, with Niki de St Phalle, he made Daddy, an excruciating psychodrama featuring scenes of incest, and Fire in the Water (1977), a vehicle for his then partner, Nathalie Delon.

        In 1981 Whitehead was approached by Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, who invited him to set up a falcon-breeding programme in Saudi Arabia. He raised hatchlings to be imprinted on him: “The males would copulate on my head and then ejaculate into this specially made hat I wore to collect their semen.”

        The first Gulf War put an end to this operation and Whitehead fled with his falcons to Spain, later sold the birds and returned to England. By then he seems to have become convinced that he was living out the ancient Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris, even building a temple in his back yard, and he reincarnated himself as the author of self-published novels such as The Risen, a book he described as “the inner story of the falcon (another take on myself and my past)”.

        In 1998 Iain Sinclair and Chris Petit made a documentary called The Falconer, in which Whitehead was seen claiming to have “copulated with falcons” and relating how he took “a honeymoon” with one of his daughters, then eight years old. At first Whitehead seemed to like the film, but then he took umbrage, possibly as a result of a vitriolic attack by the radical feminist Caroline Coon, who objected to what she called its “bestiality and the abuse of children”, claiming he had been the victim of “a deliberate, calculated betrayal”.

        By the new century Whitehead had fallen into obscurity, but in 2007 the National Film Theatre showed a season of his work, with a new documentary by Paul Cronin, In the Beginning was the Image: Conversations with Peter Whitehead, to go with it. Encouraged by the attention, Whitehead took up his camera again and was reported to be “limbering up by shooting some footage of Pete Doherty”. He went on to make Terrorism Considered as One of the Fine Arts (2009), based on an earlier book whose themes included “the CIA’s influence on English culture”.

        The connection with the Libertines frontman proved ill-starred, however. In 2010 Whitehead’s 27-year-old daughter Robyn died of a heroin overdose in a Hackney flat where she had been filming Doherty and his friend Peter Wolfe, both of whom were subsequently sentenced to terms in jail for drug offences based on evidence filmed by the dead woman.

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