Home GRASP GRASP/China Riots in Paris after police shoot Chinese man dead

Riots in Paris after police shoot Chinese man dead

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NewsHubThough there were no film acting roles on George Michael’s CV, the late singer could still claim to have worked with Lindsay Anderson , the legendary Free Cinema pioneer and director of the influential and incendiary 1968 film If… (not to mention former film critic of this parish).
Both men’s obituary writers tended to overlook this unlikely collaboration but then that’s scarcely surprising given that it never really saw the light of day – at least not in the form that Anderson intended.
He was at an odd stage of his career in the early 1980s. He had been on both sides of the critical divide, having made a rare acting appearance in 1981 in the widely-adored, Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire before then facing critical opprobrium and public indifference in 1982 for his savage state-of-the-nation satire Britannia Hospital , which used the ailing institution of the title as a metaphor for the country.
He turned down another acting role, as the Emperor in Return of the Jedi , and was having his usual difficulty getting a movie off the ground when he was offered the chance to return to his documentary roots by shooting a film about the first western pop group to play in China. That group was Wham!
Anderson, who was then almost 62-years-old, was reluctant at first, as he so often was. “Have I the energy? The curiosity? The conviction?” he wrote in his diary after being offered the job in March 1985. “How on earth have two (lower) middle class boys from Watford managed to transform themselves into these vibrant figures of pop myth…? It’s a complete mystery.”
Still, he pressed on, and had lunch with George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. “I have really nothing to say to them: confident, bright, uninteresting, respectable, of the Eighties . .. I get the impression they will be reasonably cooperative. Certainly not inspiring.”
The trip was not, all things considered, a huge success. Anderson suffered some medical setbacks. He had rheumatism so severe that he had to use the fingers on his left hand to prise open the ones on his right. Then he tore a ligament while shooting at the Great Wall of China.
He learned that Michael didn’t like being photographed and so the film became more of a portrait of the Chinese people and the gentle culture clash that occurred with Wham! in their midst.
In 1986, Anderson admitted that he had accepted the commission “in a spirit of curiosity. Curiosity about China and curiosity about the odd confrontation of China and Wham! – and even a certain curiosity, not very great, about the phenomenon of Wham! itself.”
But during shooting it dawned on him that he was “not engaged to direct a film of Wham! in China – I was engaged to occupy the position of director .”
A rough cut, titled If You Were There , was viewed by the band’s managers, Simon Napier-Bell and Jazz Summers, in October 1985. Though it was incomplete, suggestions and criticisms were put to Anderson, who responded by writing personally to Michael:
“[Y]ou know that when people who don’t really understand the creative process – whether it is film or music – start formulating criticisms and making demands on a work in progress, it is only too easy for the whole enterprise to founder. .. Jazz and Simon both seem terrified of you – which may be useful sometimes but at other times can be dangerous. I certainly have enough respect for your creative verve and intelligence not to be scared to show you the work, and of course, to be interested in your feelings about it.”
Michael never replied to the letter (though he did see Wham! in China! , as it was now called, at a screening which Anderson said “went extremely well”). The director heard in November that the film was being taken off him and recut.
The finished film moved Wham! to the forefront and China to the background. In the course of researching a Radio 4 documentary about Anderson in 2008, the journalist John Harris saw Anderson’s cut and called it , “a rich, poetic, panoramic portrait of China’s strangeness to the eyes of outsiders…”
Its defining flaw, according to Michael, was that it hadn’t felt “modern” enough.
Anderson died in 1994. His archive is at the University of Stirling and letters held there reveal his fury at the butchering of his film. He called Michael, “a shivering aspirant plucked out of the street, who turns almost overnight into a tyrant of fabulous wealth, whose every command his minions must dash to execute” and “a young millionaire with an inflated ego. . [whose] vision only extends to the top 10 . .. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s any limit to his reckless autocracy.”
Michael apparently blocked a proposed screening at Stirling of Anderson’s version. Andy Stephens, the singer’s then-manager called it “a dreadful film”. But Anderson told his diary: “I do think that between them the Whammies have destroyed, or suppressed, an enjoyable, informative, entertaining and at times even beautiful film.”
The original cut is available to view privately at Stirling. Whether Michael’s death means that it will now be made more widely available (as with, say, Stanley Kubrick and A Clockwork Orange ) is another matter. For now it will have to carry on being the answer to a pub quiz question as well as a jigsaw piece, out-of-reach if not exactly missing, for completists of singer and filmmaker alike.
Doon was doing nothing, just killing time, while he waited for his mam to finish at meeting. Once she went down the steps into the basement he got out of there. The hour was too long to wait and he did not like seeing the others. There was always one freshly dire specimen hanging around outside, wrung-eyed and jitter-limbed and making a pitiable hames of trying to light up a cigarette. Sometimes he recognised the parent of some kid out of his class. He didn’t want to see the parents and he didn’t want them to see him. The meetings were another world. His mam went down there and an hour later she came back out.
He did laps of the town with his hoodie up. The drawstrings of his hoodie had little laminate tubes at the end that flailed as he walked. It was autumn, blond and ochre and umber leaves matted together and turning to slick mush underfoot. He was wearing dark olive combat boots laced tight, the ends of his combat trousers crimped into the tops of the boots. Passing an apartment block he saw something on the blue wooden slats of a bench seat. It was a wallet. He commended himself for noticing it and kept right on walking. As he walked he clenched his stomach muscles, an isometric exercise to promote definition and also a means of keeping warm.
He browsed a Men’s Fitness magazine in a newsagents, reread three times an article detailing the correct techniques for executing power cleans and deadlifts off the rack, and bought a large raspberry slushie. He’d loved slushies as a kid. Every six months or so, usually in one of the small newsagents still scattered around the town, he’d notice the plastic rotors mesmerically churning the blue- and blood-coloured ice in their transparent bins, and would buy one. Only after tasting it would he remember how nauseating they were. Three strawfuls in and there was already the sickly sensation of the syrup turning in his stomach and a bout of brainfreeze running through his head like static.
He went a few doors down, into the lobby of the Western Range Hotel. Still stubbornly sucking on the slushie, he strolled into the hotel bar. The bar was a spacious rectangle of smoked glass, carved teak and piped muzak, and went back a long way. Four men in suits were stalled by the counter, luggage cases on wheels poised beside them like immaculately behaved pets. A pair of them bid goodbye to the others, and headed towards the lobby. Doon watched the automated doors, the way they seemed to flinch before smoothly and decisively giving way. To escape the chatter of the remaining men he went and stood at the far end of the room. A recessed bank of floor-to-ceiling windows yielded a direct view on to the town’s main street, already streaming with Saturday morning shoppers. He watched the flow of bodies, the pockets of arrest within the flow. Directly across the street was the gated rear entrance to the county district court. The gating was innocuous, black bars without identifying signage, and if you did not know it led into the court, you would not have been able to tell. The gate was ajar, a concrete step leading down into the narrow mouth of an alley. In the alley a tall redheaded woman in a suit jacket was urgently conferring with a rough unit on one crutch. The man’s smashed-and-resmashed-looking face, the colour of baked clay, was tilted towards the sky. It was impossible to tell his age. He was leaning on his crutch and staring into the blazing nullity of the sky as the woman attempted to direct his attention to something in the heavy-looking black ledger she was holding tucked against her diaphragm. A page lifted up, levitated free of the ledger and fluttered down the street. The woman cursed, slammed closed the ledger, and stooped after the page as it curlicued along at shin level.

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