Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Oban at Night. Seaport Colours and McCaig's Tower. Bioshock. The Real Elizabeth?
After our visit to Luing and Easdale in the last post we ended up in Oban. It was just getting dark when we arrived in this busy sea port town and I completely forgot how beautiful it is at night. Time has a habit of slipping away from you and it's many years and another lifetime ago since I used to wander around here on a regular basis. Elizabeth Taylor was still a major film star then in the late 1970s and her films were always on television, not so much now. I had a memorable outing with "Sarah" back then one evening, traversing right round the horseshoe of small semi wooded hills in the dark that Oban sprawls over, almost by touch at times as torches would attract too much attention, and the highlights of that evening came flashing right back to me now. I was determined to capture the very best of Oban at night. Great adventures don't have to be extreme ordeals all the time. Not for me anyway.
It was the turning on of the Christmas Lights in Oban and folk had come from miles away to see it.
I mentioned Elizabeth Taylor for a reason. A while ago I posted a tribute clip of Bioshock Infinite, a computer game that is easily the equal of most major films for artwork, story-line and epic scale. I've no interest in playing the game itself but the elaborate back story really intrigued me. It was such a well developed plot, world, and character that I thought it must have been inspired by someone real. Elizabeth? Could it really be as easy as that? Elizabeth Taylor in her prime was often regarded as one of the most beautiful women in the world and the last of the great screen goddesses from old style Hollywood.
It intrigued me that both Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us, two very successful modern games of the last few years which have won many awards had a distinct retro nostalgic feel. No computers, no mobile phones, limited old style technology in both. Probably a big reason why I liked them. Ellie in The Last of Us is very obviously Ellen Page down to her mannerisms and speech patterns but could Elizabeth be based on a real actress as well?
I like things that have hidden depths and meanings so this caught my attention. Taylor and other child stars under the old studio system were strictly controlled as bankable commodities and their every move was monitored closely. They were educated on set and rarely allowed off it while filming, which was most of the time. Although cosseted and pampered at times it was a type of prison and could be brutal. Taylor broke her foot during Lassie come Home and her back during National Velvet, falling from a horse, but continued filming. I'm not a particular fan but having watched all the classics years ago The A.I. character not only looks like Elizabeth Taylor (or possibly Vivien Leigh) but many facts from her own private life dovetail very neatly into the Bioshock back story. Too many to be mere coincidence? "Songbird" could easily fit the tight control the studio had over its young stars. Her own childhood had a strong religious element to it and many other similarities that match perfectly.
Another good but different tribute clip from the last one with many to choose from as this game really seems to have captured peoples affections online. I'm not into crosswords so this is more up my street. A visual mystery to be solved. A daughter given away as a baby to someone else pretending to be her parents who raise her? Another coincidence? Anyway, it may be just conjecture and may be of little interest to anyone else but myself but I think Bioshock Infinite is both a homage to old Hollywood and an interesting tribute to Elizabeth Taylor who died as it was being created. Ironically, Hollywood films themselves are in real danger these days from the plethora of other entertainment available, including games and the growth of an independent made for TV film industry. To a younger audience Taylor may be just a name of an old actress past her best with numerous health problems but if it is partly inspired by her its a worthy glimpse into her career and larger than life personality as a young, spirited and at times feisty women, partly trapped and sometimes manipulated by the system that made her famous. Like so many, once fame happened, goodbye childhood. She also appeared in The Bluebird, (of Happiness) another film, and another neat visual coincidence that appears in the above tribute clip.
The real clincher for me? Is it just another extraordinary coincidence that the film that made Taylor an international star at 12 just happens to feature the exact same dress at 46 seconds riding a horse in this clip that the A.I. character is wearing in the library when we first see her properly. Even down to the same colour of scarf, stockings and boots and the same matching blue eyes. She wears this dress walking around as well but couldn't find a clip of that, just old photos. In a world supposed to be set in 1912 but which looks far more like the 1930s to 1950s in fashion, dress sense and design. In 1912 women wore dresses then that were usually floor length and hid their ankles. Why 19 12? I'm convinced at least. I like a mystery to solve and I like placing hidden clues in posts and books myself on occasion just for the fun of it. Anyway, whatever the case it entertained me for a short while looking it up and was much more thought provoking and enjoyable throughout, watched as a film, just for the overall plot and general concept, than most of the over hyped but disappointing fare produced by the real mainstream Hollywood in the last year. Incidentally, if you look up most entertainment stars of any period a surprisingly large number of them burn out fast once they start to fade. Either they were always that way inclined and drawn like moths to a flame or fame itself then the sudden loss of it can often be a killer. A telling lesson that is repeatedly and routinely ignored decade after decade down the centuries by new recruits. Taylor died in 2011 just short of her 80th birthday despite a lifetime of injury, back pain, decades of operations and serious illness so I'd be surprised if it didn't occur to the makers of the game to at least borrow some inspiration from her own tenacity and colourful life-story in some way. The "magic machinery" of visual and spoken entertainment, in every form it occurs today, has been perfecting this craft for centuries now. Like a good whisky or any other spirit, strong male and female characters are a carefully distilled essence crafted from raw elemental gems into the final product. So why not get a leg up at the start by using a proven brand already popular with the public? "Shoulders of giants" and all that. I rest my case. In The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite the male character appears to be a variation of the Harrison Ford type in Indiana Jones mode so was not quite as interesting a puzzle as the female product, to me at least, although a good fit for the part. It also opened up a window into the underrated realm of male and female voice and dialogue art which is a tricky skill in itself to master, bringing flat A.I characters to life and breathing personality into them with some of the recent best in the games industry involved. So an enjoyable all round education for me.