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Richard Lester will be honored by L.A. Film Critics Assn.

Richard Lester changed the cinematic language of the movie musical with his off-the-wall comic sensibilities and frenetic visual style in the Beatles' 1964's "A Hard Day's Night" and 1965's "Help!" even winning an MTV Music Award two decades later honoring him as the "father of music videos."

His swinging 1965 comedy "The Knack ... and How to Get It," with Michael Crawford, won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.


FOR THE RECORD:
Richard Lester: An article in the Jan. 10 Calendar section about director Richard Lester said his hometown is Pittsburgh. Lester was born in Philadelphia.


Lester also managed to avoid being typecast as a comedic director, showing a more sensitive dramatic side in the quirky 1968 romance "Petulia" with Julie Christie and George C. Scott. He even brought Audrey Hepburn out of retirement to appear with Sean Connery in the melancholic 1976 "Robin and Marian."

And he breathed new life into the Alexandre Dumas war horse "The Three Musketeers" in 1973 and 1974's "The Four Musketeers," imbuing those swashbucklers with a free-wheeling, irreverent spirit.

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Saturday evening, the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. is presenting its career achievement award to the 81-year-old Lester, a former child prodigy from Pittsburgh who settled in England in his early 20s.

Lester will not be attending the awards ceremony at the InterContinental Hotel in Century City but has taped an acceptance speech for the event.

LAFCA President Stephen Farber noted that the group tries to "call attention to people who are not necessarily forgotten, but not as highly regarded as they should be. It's been a long time since Lester has made any movies." (Lester's last narrative feature was 1989's "The Return of the Musketeers.")

Lester, said Farber, "really brought a cinematic energy to those early movies, especially the Beatles movies and 'The Knack' and going on to 'How I Won the War.' He was part of the experimental movement of the 1960s that penetrated into mainstream films."

To celebrate the award, Farber will be screening "The Three Musketeers" on Jan. 15 at the Landmark Theatre with star Richard Chamberlain on hand.

In an email interview, Lester reflected on his career.

Congrats on receiving the LAFCA honor.

I remember Alan Parker saying that he was especially thrilled to receive such an award as it coincided with the 20th anniversary of his first lifetime achievement award. But for me, having been able to live long enough to make a body of work which other professionals consider worthy is a special moment.

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Was your freewheeling visual style on "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!" influenced by certain filmmakers?                     

I came into the industry totally innocent of cinéastes, cinema and the greats of the past in film. Coming from live TV, I found film as a huge relief where you could correct some of your mistakes!  "Hard Day's Night" was made as it was because it seemed to be the best way of asking four non-actors to properly do justice to their personalities in an unfriendly medium.

You ventured to San Francisco during the "Summer of Love" of 1967 to make "Petulia." Why did you decide to return to the U.S. to make the drama?

I wanted to make a  film where I could examine the change in the 15 years since I had been in the U.S. We changed the location of the novel on which it was vaguely based from L.A. to San Francisco. As a city, it was experiencing such a thrilling upheaval. 

Is it true that the "Musketeers" movies were not originally intended to be divided into separate films?

"Musketeers" was to have been a three-hour roadshow movie with interval. It was to have been shot in Hungary, but I managed to get the producers to move the location to Spain, thus doubling the budget. The only way to proceed was to shoot the whole project as one and then release it as two.

Audrey Hepburn and Sean Connery were so touching together as the middle-age Robin Hood and Maid Marian in "Robin and Marian."

"Robin and Marian" is one of my favorites, although the week before shooting, I realized that I was shooting a script that had 63 pages of people talking under an oak tree and I panicked! Maybe that is why I managed to shoot the film in five and a half weeks. 

susan.king@latimes.com 

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'The Three Musketeers'

Where: Landmark Theatres, 10850 W. Pico at Westwood Blvd., West Los Angeles

When: 7 p.m. Wed.

Admission: $13.

Information: http://www.landmarktheatres.com

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