Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Ken Russell Conference, Kingston University July 2017

A fascinating time was had at a beautifully organised conference in Kingston University this week, where Russell scholars from Britain (a good many of them from Aberdeen, obviously a stronghold for Culture), Serbia, Japan and Germany joined fans from Austria and England to watch and listen to presentations by me and others. The highlight of highlights, excepting my clips from Cinerama Holiday to explain Russell's use of 3D space, was Murray Melvin holding forth with a fat bloke in a nice linen jacket. Among the other highlights was UEA's Richard Farmer screening the Black Magic commercial Ken Russell made in 1965 for more money per foot than Dr. No. Filmed in an Italian castle, it looked like a cross between Mario Bava and Women in Love.
The downside was too many speakers having no knowledge of Ken's 35mm film work pre-Women in Love, and too much quoting of duff articles by duff 'critics' in duff publications.

Murray Melvin discusses his starring role in Ken Russell's Diary of a Nobody (1964) with Paul Sutton at Kingston University, July 2017

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

I'm pleased to say that I'll be making one of the keynote presentations at the 3-day Ken Russell conference at Kingston University, near London, this coming weekend, July 14th-16th . The conference has delegates arriving from Germany, Hungary, Japan, the United States and, possibly, Wales. As well as several favourite Russell scholars from England, including Brian Hoyle and Linda Ruth Williams.
I'll also be interviewing on stage the very wonderful Dr. Murray Melvin. Actually that's Dr. Dr. Murray Melvin for he has two honorary doctorates for being one of England's finest men.
The conference has been put together by Dr. Matt Melia, who hails from the wrong side of Liverpool, but you will have heard how good he is on the blu-ray commentary for Lair of the White Worm, one of the fascinating B-movies Ken made on a budget that was lower than Howard Hawks' The Thing.

Here's the abstract for my talk, though it doesn't really do it justice. Amongst other things I'll be explaining The Russell Trinity, one of the techniques he pioneered to advance the grammar of film (clue, it involves using sculptured props as a narrative device in the symbolic tranformation of a man into The Everyman and Christ) and I'll be showing some surprising film clips, such as the train ride from Cinerama Holiday (what's that got to do with Ken Russell? Nothing, but...)

Paul Sutton analyses examples of three categories of three-dimensional art, a) photographic space, b) sculpture, and c) dance, that span the breadth of Russell’s career, to show that three-dimensional art is a constant and a defining characteristic of the Ken Russell film style. He shows how Russell’s use of space, dance, statuary, figurines and sculptured props goes beyond interlude and set dressing to shape performances, and to add subtext, authority, metaphor, autobiography and humour to Russell’s attempts to realise his stated main aim of pure cinema: “that instantaneous encapsulating of someone’s entire life, or so many crucial years, in images.” (Russell talking to Ric Gentry, Post Script v2:3 Summer 83)

Here's a screengrab of the incredible sculptured prop made by Christopher Hobbs for Ken Russell's The Devils:

The Christ statue in a still-banned scene from The Devils

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Charlie Ellis and the Day Trip to Mars is now on sale

It has only taken me about fifteen years, but I'm pleased to be able to say that my novel, Charlie Ellis and the Day Trip to Mars is now on sale.

The inspiration to writing it came when I was in Poland in 2002 visiting the filmmaker, Marek Piwowski, who features in my first book 'Lindsay Anderson, The Diaries' (published by Methuen). On route to Warsaw to take Marek a copy of my book of the Anderson Diaries, I read in the inflight magazine, the simply wonderful true story of the Polish polar explorer Marek KamiƄski, who had walked to both ends of the Earth with a teenage boy, Jan Mela, who had lost an arm and a leg. I wondered what would happen if a British explorer did something so bold and remarkable. Would the British press, public and politicians over-react in that very British way and destroy them?
And I got reading Jules Verne, and saw that he was attempting to include all of man's knowledge into his books and then to advance on that knowledge. I decided to take a similar approach with Charlie Ellis, to go beyond man's current understanding of Science and to interweave into that a connoisseur's guide to the arts and Pop Culture. So Charlie and his engineer, Steve Atherton, are Elvis Presley fans  (the police are named after Tony Alva and Jay Adams, the famous skateboarders from Dogtown). Charlie and Steve attempt to remake Charles Eames's film Powers of Ten, and they start their every adventure with a playing of their favourite song, Elvis Presley singing 'Life'. When things get rough, they decide to go out like The King himself.
In honour of Kaminski and Mela, the first book of the Charlie Ellis series ends with our adventurers on the ice of the planet of Pluto.

Those good folks at Starburst, Britain's best science fiction magazine, have reviewed the book here.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

New Paperback Edition of The Gary Numan Annotated Scrapbook

The paperback edition of the Gary Numan Scrapbook by Paul Sutton

I'm pleased that there is now a paperback version of my lovely big book about Gary Numan. Unlike the original hardback version, which was printed using traditional methods (hence the cost!), the paperback is digitally printed (which isn't as good) and is being distributed only through Amazon and the cowboy companies who list through Amazon.
In some ways it's better than the original edition. I've managed to find a few new things, such as a splendid article from Argentina which I've translated. To keep costs down I've had to reduce the size of several full-size pictures, and trim out a few things, but it does give a good account of the press of the early years of Gary Numan's career.

Here's a link:



Thursday, 11 May 2017

'Understanding Gary Numan' New and Expanded Paperback

Understanding Gary Numan
I'm really pleased to announce that there is a new and expanded version of my popular little book about Gary Numan that I released last year and which quickly sold out its (small) print run. The new trade paperback has more than 50 pages of new material, and is a more satisfying read. It's orderable through bookshops around the world, and is also available on Amazon where you can preview it here (including the new introduction):

and Amazon USA

The hardback edition has the text of the old version and hasn't been updated.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Thinking about Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds in Sergio Corbucci's 100 Rifles

Burt Reynolds Autobiography - But Enough About Me

I’ve enjoyed reading Burt Reynolds’s memoir. It helped me to fill in a big gap in my understanding of Seventies cinema. The gap was that I didn’t really see why Reynolds was so popular. For much of the decade he dominated the list of the top box-office stars. I’d seen four or five of his biggest hits (only one with an audience, the rest of them on TV) and thought they were nothing more than tele-style enertainments. This was in contrast with my appreciation of the films of Clint Eastwood, the box-office rival he often beat (by the early 80’s I’d seen half-a-dozen major Eastwood films on 35mm). I could see the art in Eastwood.
Of course, I had seen Burt Reynolds in the mighty Deliverance, a true Film of the Decade (though sporting small picky flaws in its hat-on-hat-off continuity and technical flaws in its day-for-night processing) and, like all film fans who didn’t really know then how films got made, I’d pinned the colours for the whole success of Deliverance to John Boorman’s chest.
I was talking about Burt Reynold’s book with an actress friend of mine, who is of Burt’s generation. She cooed immediately when I mentioned his name, and she said: “He is a lovely man.” 
She explained to me that she was close friends with Reynolds’ English lover, an actress still famous in England (probably unknown in America) and alas now dead. Reynold’s English actress-lover is not mentioned in his book, so I won’t mention her name here.
My friend said: “She fell in love with him because he was so different to all the other film stars. He had a sense of fun. He lived for fun.”
And that seemed to give me an introduction to an understanding of Burt Reynolds. Having a ‘sense of fun’ is a rare quality indeed. In fact, among my admittedly not particularly wide circle of friends and acquaintances (all of them older than myself), I don’t know anyone who has a genuine ‘sense of fun’ (doubtless I’m the most miserable of the lot). And that’s probably true for most people. Most people are not ‘fun’. Looking at it like that, the natural rareness of ‘fun’ makes it exotic and appealing. People like Burt Reynolds because he is fun. He is fun in his art and fun in his life.
But fun in itself is not enough to be America’s top box office star. There’s more to Burt Reynolds and his films than fun.
In the book, Reynolds takes the alternative autobiographical path of writing mostly about other folk, people he grew up with, lived with, worked with, loved and met. It works beautifully. It gives us a fully-rounded picture of the man himself, a man whose creed contains the full compliment of Southern virtues - independence, generosity, courtesy, modesty, grace and toughness - and those very attractive non-PC virtues of never saying a bad thing about a woman, and always standing strong to tackle prejudice at its source, with a fist if necessary. To those virtues is added a full measure of the virtues of good humour. Reynolds’s sense of humour extends to the ability to laugh at himself - he’s not one of those personalty-free drones who boast of their charity work when collecting Golden Globe awards - his shoulders are broad enough for him to make himself the fall guy in his some of his own stories. This works best in the punchline to an account of a very exclusive dinner party at the New York apartment of the playwright, William Inge, where the very young Burt’s lust gets the better of his intellect and leads him to a punchline (a name) that is as dazzling as it is hilarious, and which achieves with truth what Peter Cook strove for in a famous fantasy monologue, which is all I can say without ruining it.
Interwoven within these stories are incisive character portraits of Frank Sinatra, Roy Rogers (and Trigger), Johhny Carson, Jim Brown, Dinah Shore, Clint Eastwood and many others, but this is not a name-drop memoir. The stories and portraits are shaped to give us too a portrait of times. For example, Burt Reynolds writes of the night when he and Jim Brown jump the rope to get a close night look at the Lincoln Memorial and are jumped on by the police. Jim Brown gets it harder because of the colour of his skin, and is saved from futher difficulty only because of his celebrity.
But perhaps the most striking story to me, because of it speaks of lost values from a lost time, the values of common sense and decency and fairness, is when the teenage Burt Reynolds tells his father of a local boy, his own age, who is being neglected: 

“My dad knew all about Jimmy’s situation, him being the police chief and it being a small town. “Yes, son, he can live here,” he said. “But we’ve got rules in this house, and you’ll both have to abide by them. Come upstairs.” He opened my closet, put his hands in the middle of the clothes, and went pffft, dividing them in half. “Jimmy, these are your clothes here, and those are Buddy’s over there,” he said.
Gee, I didn’t even get a chance to pick ‘em out or anything,
My parents legally adopted Jimmy and treated him like a son from then on... He became a high school football coach, and when my dad talked about the two of us, he considered Jimmy the bigger success.”

It’s a beautiful story. But it takes more than a few beautiful stories to make a box-office star. As the book reaches it conclusion, and Burt Reynolds has built a theatre, and is teaching, and is putting his money back into his profession and the community where he lived and grew, he lets us into the secret of his art. It’s two words, ‘Spencer Tracy’. He narrows this large words down to one Spencer Tracy film, A Father of the Bride. I watched the film and it was a revelantion. One sees in Tracy’s performance, the template for Burt Reynolds’ art. It’s all to do with the way Tracy and Reynolds hold the space and the pace and the camera. It’s a craft so rare and true and complex that, like all the best magic, it is almost invisible, and so easily missed.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

A Look Inside the book Gary Numan, An Annotated Scrapbook

Here's a low-resolution preview of a very few of the 300+ pages you will find inside my lovely big book, Gary Numan, An Annotated Scrapbook 

FOUR new books about Gary Numan

It was the biggest arts mystery for decades why there were so few books about Gary Numan, a pop artist of genuine stature who has an on-going career of almost four decades, so I rolled up my sleeves and duly added a couple of books to the marketplace - Gary Numan, An Annotated Scrapbook and Understanding Gary Numan. I'm now delighted to report that there are four more new books about or by Gary Numan.
First up is Remind Me To Smile by Martin Downham. This is a memoir of growing up during the seventies and eighties and puts Numan in context with the life and arts of the period for a young British boy.

It's available here:

The second book is by Gary Choppen, who has long been known and admired as a pillar of the Gary Numan fan community. His book is called Numan and M.E. Memories of a Numanoid and is available here:

The two other books are by Gary Numan himself but alas, priced out of most and my range. From his on-line store at you can order a 48-page book of photographs of his Splinter concert tour.

The other book contains a children's story he has written and is included in a collection called  Stories for Ways and Means