PHOEBE: So in this clip, Paul mentions Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal, and Jean Luc Godard’s One Plus One. He talks about his love of films, especially experimental films, and basically being a student of film in the mid 60s.
We also know from his 1997 biography, Many Years From Now, that in the mid 60s, particularly in that ‘66 through ‘68 era, he screened a few indie films at his house in London. I know that he had a screening of Scorpio Rising by Kenneth Anger, and another of Andy Warhol’s, Empire. And in the Michael Braun book, Love Me Do from 1964, Paul mentions the Trial (Orson Welles movie), and 8 ½.
So we’ve a pretty good sense of Paul’s movie background in 1967 going into the making of Magical Mystery Tour. He’s mentioned Bergman, Godard, Fellini, Truffaut, Orson Welles, Andy Warhol and also Dick Lester and British comedy, such as Morecambe and Wise. And Nat Jackley (the comedian that John loved who got into the movie).
And we know that Paul been making his own short films for a while by the time that he conceived of the Magical Mystery Tour project. So he’s made short films and he knew enough basic filmmaking, like he knew how to rewind the film and expose it again. He liked making double exposures and fun stuff that was becoming more popular in the 60s; artsy little tricks.
KRISTEN: Well, you know, what I think is interesting about Paul’s influences that you mentioned, like these great European art cinema directors like Bergman and Fellini…and then you’ve got the new wave directors, the experimental. And even the American director that you mentioned, Orson Welles isn’t, like, run of the mill American director, like he’s the artsy one, right?
But what I think is really interesting is that in the 60s, that was a pretty standard mix for people who are really into film culture, like new wave and European art cinema directors. I’m surprised he doesn’t throw Kurosawa in there, because that’s kind of in the mix, right? Or Buñuel. But that group of directors, art cinema directors from the 1950s and then the new wave, specifically the French New Wave directors from the 50s and 60s, were so a part of film culture at the time, in the 1960s. Like all of the 20-somethings, you know, the people Paul’s age, were definitely really getting into film culture at this time.
You had cine clubs, movie clubs popping up all over the world. They were really, really important in France, but in England too, they would have been really popular. And definitely like, college campuses in the US, college-age students would get together and they would watch the latest -or not even the latest, but they would watch The Seventh Seal or they would watch, Rashomon or whatever, and then they would discuss it. And it would be, sort of this thing where, like in France, these cine clubs were supported by the government. I mean, it was a sanctioned thing.
PHOEBE: They still are (in France)!
KRISTEN: Right, right. And so, you know, it was really, really popular.
And then experimental films were thrown into the mix too. And so you had these kind of pop-up theaters or movie clubs, independent theaters and college campuses. You had this real film culture in the post war era, and really coalescing in the 1960s with college age people and Paul – even though he’s not a college student – he’s in that kind of spot, that sweet spot, age-wise.
So it absolutely makes sense that he’s doing this and it’s not even, like, super unique or unusual. This is something that a lot of (especially 20-something) artists and intellectuals were absolutely doing.
And you know the fact that he’s showing Kenneth Anger and Andy Warhol, like he’s definitely showing the cutting edge sort of pop culture, experimental filmmakers, which is pretty cool. You know, he’s not showing like, Stan Brakhage or Maya Deren- like, maybe he is? But he’s not showing the ones that are maybe a little bit more challenging. He’s showing the ones that are a little bit more accessible, which is great, though! Like those are, they’re fantastic, like Kenneth Anger is amazing.
I think that he’s just so a part of that moment, that late-60s sort of film culture, experimental film culture moment. And it’s just starting to seep into Hollywood at this time. And this sort of counterculture interest in experimental and new wave and art house filmmaking is about to completely change Hollywood and give us new Hollywood. And so, you know, he’s right on track at this time, as far as youth film culture, which I think is really cool.
Full episode here