9 Dec 2012

Justine 1976

Amongst the more obscure films the BFI have funded was Tanya's cinematic debut. Playing the part of the servant girl Rosalie, Tanya delivers a long speech in the 1976 adaptation of Justine directed by Stewart Mackinnon. This should not be confused with the 1977 version starring Koo Stark or anything by Jess Franco.

The Naked Truth by Rosalie DeMeric
From Time Out Film Guide:
Who nowadays reads de Sade? His precise, logical catalogues of moral and sexual behaviour belong to a vanished time with a vanished language. If de Sade lives, it's through his present-day interpreters: de Beauvoir, Barthes, Pasolini. And the Film Work Group, whose Justine is an isolated and very honourable attempt to bring an important strain in contemporary European thinking into British consciousness. The film comprises a series of non-dramatic tableaux, representing incidents from the first third of the book: although the period trappings are all there, there's no attempt to 'involve' the audience by creating a 'plausible' historical reality. Instead, the visual tableaux and long speeches set out to present de Sade's book in a form that modern viewers can broach and try to come to terms with. No one could pretend that it's a complete success, but its challenge is real.

The film's director Stewart Mackinnon is a very interesting artist who started as an illustrator and got noticed for his work in 60's magazines such as Oz whilst still a student. 

No clips, stills or copies are available (I've asked) but I am a reliable witness because this production was also graced with a small cameo by myself as a servant boy. The role entailed me being fitted for a 18th century frock coat, buckle shoes and a white horsehair wig in a very cold public school (I think it was) being used for the interior locations. I had to stand still and look at a point just beside the camera and give reactions to action then off-screen which editing would place me within. I don't recall if any teachers asked her "what did you do in your summer holidays?" but I can imagine the reaction if she had said "I made a movie about the Marquis de Sade..." Tanya worked hard at memorising her speech, so much I could recite it too, but she admitted she cringed when she realised how precisely the microphone emphasised that she couldn't pronounce her 'r's; so she sounded weally, weally posh. We worked on different days and I was away for its première so I've never seen it.

Alison Hughes - The Wicker Man
The title role in Justine was played by Alison Hughes who later pops up in Coronation Street but her previous role in the cult classic The Wicker Man must give Tanya (and I) a low 'Bacon Number' to practically any British actor.

Stewart Mackinnon is still working in films, most recently he was the producer of Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut "Quartet" produced for the BBC. It's nice to see first-timers still getting a chance.

Other glimpses of Tanya, myself and other members of our family can be seen in the 1973 educational film Medieval Society directed by W. Hugh Baddley which explains the structure of society and the occupations of people in Medieval Europe about the year 1350. We also appear in another Gateway Production:  'Understanding Shakespeare: His sources' which was filmed 1971 in West Stow, Suffolk, at several National Trust properties, Laycock and a Globe Theatre recreated inside St. George's Church Tufnell Park long before Sam Wanamaker did it. This film was also directed by W. Hugh Baddley and George Murcell. Tanya recalled to me she didn't escape being recognised when these films were screened in her school.

Later on Tanya got behind the camera as a dogsbody/driver/craft service on the all-woman production The Gold Diggers.

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