Alex Cox's dream festival: Coppola, Fellini, Herzog and the 1972 gang

Alex Cox
·4-min read
<span>Photograph: COR/AFP</span>
Photograph: COR/AFP

The Rt Hon Lord Mayor, Liverpool
1 January 1972
Re Proposed Film Festival

Your Excellency,

I’m pleased to outline for your consideration this plan for a film festival, based on the feature films which I understand will be ready for release this year. It is an international selection, whose only unifying element is their date: so I propose to call our enterprise the “1972” Film Festival.

I propose that the festival take place this midsummer, in all the various cinemas operating in Liverpool: the Futurist, the Scala, the Jacey, the Tatler, the ABC, the Odeon, the 051, and the Abbey Cinerama. In addition, I propose the refurbishment of the Palais Deluxe – the only inactive cinema on Lime Street – as the festival headquarters and hospitality centre.

I further propose screening 25 new films over a period of four days. The director and principal actors of each film shall be invited, and the festival will offer a substantial stipend to our guests. Film directors and actors are not wealthy people, and financial renumeration will ensure that our invitees attend.

Day one – Thursday

The opening night’s film is Aguirre, the Wrath of God, the new film by Werner Herzog (we should insist on a world premiere as it’s supposed to be pretty good), followed by simultaneous screenings of The Godfather and Fellini’s Roma. A round table between Mr Herzog, Francis Ford Coppola, Federico Fellini and their principal cast members will be most stimulating. The day concludes with a midnight screening of an American musical, Cabaret.

Day two – Friday

Premiere ... Tarkovsky&#x002019;s Solaris. Photograph: Ronald Grant
Premiere ... Tarkovsky’s Solaris. Photograph: Ronald Grant Photograph: Ronald Grant

A panel featuring Ken Russell, John Boorman, Helen Mirren and Burt Reynolds will discuss their new films Savage Messiah and Deliverance. Mike Hodges will screen his comic thriller, Pulp, and interview John Huston about Fat City.

In a “Kung Fu” sidebar likely to be one of the more popular aspects of the festival, Messrs Bruce Lee and Lo Lieh will introduce Return of the Dragon and King Boxer, aka Five Fingers of Death. They will be joined by Klaus Kinski, star of Aguirre, for a screening of Shanghai Joe and a discussion. (Propose Scouseology award for Mr Kinski.)

The evening’s premiere is Solaris, a Russian science fiction film. Supposed to be excellent! After a discussion between its director, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Jummy Cliff, the star of the next film, a midnight screening of the Jamaican feature, The Harder They Come.

Day three – Saturday

We open with Robert Altman’s new film – Images – and a discussion with its stars, Susannah York and René Auberjonois. Then a tragic double-bill: The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, and Lady Sings the Blues. Panel featuring the controversial directors Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Sidney J Furie, and their stars, Diana Ross, Hanna Schygulla, Eva Mattes, and Richard Pryor.

(Mr Kinski has proposed that he remains an extra day to perform his Second Coming of Christ in the Anglican Cathedral. The laity are all in favour. He has offered to reduce his bonification for the third day, in return for a share of the gate.)

That evening we pay homage to Francesco Rosi and the great actor, Gian Maria Volontè, with the world premiere of The Mattei Affair. The Kane-like tale of an Italian petrol magnate, this is destined to be the two men’s most popular and enduring collaboration. (Propose lifetime achievement award for Mr Volontè, and keys to the city to Mr Rosi and Ms Ross.)

State of Siege and a panel discussion with Rosi, Volontè, Costa-Gavras and Yves Montand to follow, in the ballroom of the Adelphi, avec champagne. Midnight screening: Fritz the Cat.

Day four – Sunday

(Mr Kinski has also suggested that on Sunday morning he might reprise his Second Coming in the Catholic Cathedral. We have not yet broached this with the Bishop.)

A double bill from the director of Targets, Peter Bogdanovich: What’s Up Doc? and The Last Picture Show. A screening of a new Australian film by Bruce Beresford, The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, followed by a colloquy between the actor, Spike Milligan, and the director, Luis Buñuel. Lastly our closing-night feature: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (rumoured to be quite the rib-tickler, we should get an exclusive of this as well).

And in a marvellous confluence of cinema and reality, our guests will emerge from the cinemas into 1972, where, though it’s still daylight, all the pubs and restaurants are closed. Like Buñuel’s characters they will wander gamely through the streets, trying to remember the location of the hospitality centre, or the name of their hotel ...

Here’s to an epic 1972 festival! Onward, to ’73!

Alex Cox