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Michael Winner (1935 - )

Related: UK - British cinema - American cinema

Death Wish (1974) - Michael Winner [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Biography

Michael Winner (born October 30, 1935, in London, England) is a British film director and producer.

Early Life
He was born into a rich Jewish family - his father was in property, his mother, a compulsive gambler who lost an estimated 8m - and was educated at a Quaker school and Downing College, Cambridge, where he edited the student magazine Varsity.

Films
He learnt his cinematographic skills during early work for the BBC and B-movie features. However he soon shot to prominence as a "hip, young" director in the 1960s best known for his direction of movies such as The System (1964) and I'll Never Forget What's 'Isname (1967), depicting Swinging London. In the 70s, he took on American projects such as the Westerns Lawman (1971) and Chato's Land (1972), and Charles Bronson crime dramas The Mechanic (1972), The Stone Killer (1973) and Death Wish (1974), the latter causing a storm of controversy over its depiction of vigilante justice but was hugely successful at the box-office. Winner has unashamedly pursued commercial projects and as a result, his later films are usually greeted with critical scorn. Perhaps the critics are reminded that in I'll Never Forget What's 'Isname Winner's alter ego in the film (an advertising executive played by Oliver Reed) questions the idea of pursuing commerce in art, and the film stands as the director's most personal work. Winner may also be remembered for directing Marlon Brando in The Nightcomers (1972), a reworking of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. His 1978 remake of The Big Sleep, starring Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe, is also interesting for following Howard Hawks's original cut of the movie rather than the released version, before the original cut became better known. Winner has worked repeatedly with some of the cinema's best-known actors, among them Michael Crawford, Roger Moore and Charles Bronson.

Winner has also written and produced (or co-produced) the majority of his films, and has also (as "Arnold J. Crust") edited them. This has given Winner a greater degree of control over his work, and also a higher financial return on his more successful films.

Love life
Winner is renowned for his many relationships, enjoying the company of some of the world's most beautiful women, including Joan Collins and Sophia Loren; he also had a six-and-half-year relationship with the actress Jenny Seagrove, who ended the relationship after catching him with another woman. He is, as of June 2005, dating Paula Lombard who is 30 years his junior.

Later life
For some years his work has been seen to be in decline. However, he remains prominent in British public life, well-known for his work as a restaurant critic for UK newspapers and his regular appearances on television shows and advertisements, in particular a series of advertisements for insurance company, Esure, which he directed and starred in (often in multiple roles). He now seems to have been replaced by a cartoon mouse who has a New York accent and lives inside a computer mouse. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Winner [Nov 2005]

The Nightcomers (1972) - Michael Winner

The Nightcomers (1972) - Michael Winner [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Death Wish (1974) - Michael Winner

Death Wish (1974; director: Michael Winner) treats the theme of vigilantism and law and order in the context of the crime-ridden urban centers of the United States in the latter 20th century. One commentator noted that the film "encapsulates an American era the early 1970s, when many urban Americans started to feel they couldn't walk outside without fear of being attacked."

Set in New York, Death Wish is an R-rated 93-minute film starring Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey, an architect who stands as a sort of New Yorker Everyman when his "bleeding-heart liberal" attitude toward crime turns into revenge-driven vigilantism by attacks on his wife, Joanna (played by Hope Lange), who is murdered, and daughter, who is raped (played by Kathleen Tolan). The protagonist's punk-killing crime spree is framed to elicit audience sympathies, but the film also dramatizes the conflict between Kersey and the city police, who disapprove of his actions.

Jeff Goldblum had his screen debut in Death Wish, playing one of the young thugs who assault Kersey's wife. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_Wish [May 2005]

Amazon review
This controversial, 1974 drama exploits urban paranoia and presents vigilantism as cathartic release. But it is also a captivating, Everyman-ish story of a New Yorker who goes through a sea change after crime depletes his family, and who runs afoul of the law while taking it into his own hands. Charles Bronson stars as the vengeance-seeking urban warrior who goes on a punk-killing spree after his wife and daughter are attacked by intruders. Director Michael Winner (The Wicked Lady) shamelessly builds upon audience identification with Bronson's rage, but he also makes an interesting story out of the latter's tug-of-war with disapproving police. It's an unpleasant film all around, but not nearly as bad as its horrifying, numerous sequels. Watch for a very young Jeff Goldblum--in this, his second movie--as one of the assailants of Bronson's loved ones. --Tom Keogh , amazon.com

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