By John H. Foote
Academy Award nominated Best Director Alan Parker has passed at the age of 76. The talented Brit first came to the attention of North American audiences directing Bugsy Malone (1976) but it was his explosive film Midnight Express (1978) that truly brought him to the attention of North American film audiences and critics.
Fame (1980) was a major hit, Shoot the Moon (1982) remains one of the finest explorations of divorce, Birdy (1984) was a strange study of a bizarre connection between two young men who fought in Vietnam. In between he directed the rock and roll cult classic Pink Floyd – The Wall (1982), a bizarre film that inspired many a rock video with its startling images.
His second Oscar nomination for Best Director came for his powerful racial drama Mississippi Burning (1988), and then scored again – huge – with The Commitments (1991) about an Irish rock band put together by a bunch of angry Irish kids.
His epic musical Evita (1996) saw Madonna as Eva Person, and was a split decision with critics though Parker gave the film a grand epic sweep. His career and films faltered after Angela’s Ashes (1999), his gritty kitchen sink adaptation of the best seller.
His finest film in my opinion was the haunting drama Angel Heart (1987) with Robert De Niro as the Devil, and Mickey Rourke as a private eye in the forties battling unknown forces for possession of his soul. A master with actors and atmosphere, this was his finest work, with Rourke at his best and De Niro terrifying.
Parker is survived by his wife, five children and a bevy of grandchildren, whom he adored.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.