Tuesday, May 17, 2016

R.I.P.: Simon Newby

11 April 1961 (Long Eaton, Derbyshire, England)
13 May 2016 (Berlin, Germany)
Here I am on sunny Mallorca, and the delayed news has arrived that an old pal of mine, Simon Newby, has died. The news is not surprising, as his eventual death was general knowledge to friends and family since last summer when he threw a big party in Berlin to see everyone he knew at least one last time: Simon, who had one of the most comfortable, deep, and attractive British voices I've ever known, had terminal esophageal cancer.
Simon was among the first people I met here in Berlin when I came on vacation 30 years ago (never to leave), and our paths crossed again and again and again during projects, at parties, on the street or in the subway, at art openings in my gallery, at other friend's places, in my Schräbergarten, everywhere. We generally even had each other's current telephone number, but he was more a long time pal than a truly close friend. As with most people he knew, our friendship had its ups and downs, but unlike some it was retained all through the years despite the various phases our lives went through and an occassional disagreement; despite his often unbearable Britishness and my annoying Americanism, we usually enjoyed each other's company. Enough so that I, for one, always made the point of catching his attention if our paths crossed somewhere. (Something that only sounds notable if you live in a place like Berlin, where not seeing each other in plain sight is a well-practiced and highly refined art form.) Thirty years is a long time, and thirty years is how long we knew each other. In Berlin, he leaves behind a big, strapping son named Jake, his significant other Ute, and a lot of friends.
Wherever you are, Simon, I hope you aren't resting in peace as much as you are having a damn good time. I am among many people who will miss you.
A selection of his past projects. Most parts were relatively small, and there are surely projects that I overlooked. TV shows are not included.

A Father's Revenge
(1988, dir. John Herzfeld)
Plot "After their daughter is kidnapped by a terrorist group a family are left to wrangle with the criminals for her release whilst she is used as a pawn in their political game. As the time ticks by, her father must take matters into his own hands..."

Die Millennium-Katastrophe —
Computer-Crash 2000
(1999, dir. Anders Engström)
Aka Apocalypse.com. A movie with Jürgen Prochnow, so probably perfect for a "Bad Movie" night; Desmond Llewelyn's last film appearance before his death (he was the original Q of the Bond the films).

Der Tanz mit dem Teufel —
Die Entführung des Richard Oetker
(2001, dir. Peter Keglevic)
Aka Dance with the Devil. Simon played a "British Police Officer". Based on the real-life kidnapping of the Richard Oettker, the current CEO of Dr. Oetker. 
To quote Wikipedia: "On 14 December 1976, the 25-year-old student [Oetker] was kidnapped by 34-year-old Dieter Zlof, a Slovene-born mechanic who locked him into a crate and linked his feet and wrists to manacles that gave electric shocks if he screamed or tried to break out. While Oetker was 1.94 m tall, the crate was 1.45 m long and 70 cm wide. In the early hours of 15 December, a loud noise sparked a near fatal shock that broke Oetker's thighs and two of his ribs as he thumped against the crate. His screams prolonged the shocks by ten seconds, and the pain was such that he briefly longed for death. He was freed for DM21 million, the highest ransom then paid in Germany. The abduction had lasted 47 hours by the time he was found [...] on 16 December. Zlof was arrested on 30 January 1979 on circumstantial evidence. Though he pleaded not guilty, he received the maximum penalty, fifteen years in prison, on 9 June 1980. In May 1997, Zlof, who had buried the ransom in a forest around 30 km southeast of Munich, went to England to swap mouldy banknotes worth DM12.5 million for usable money. The rest had mouldered away in its cache. He was re-arrested, served out a two-year sentence, and confessed to the kidnapping in a 1997 autobiography which was written by his barrister’s wife. [...] The 2001 film Dance with the Devil is centred on Oetker's ransom. It stars Sebastian Koch as Richard Oetker, Tobias Moretti as investigator Helmut Bauer (in the film he is named Georg Kufbach), and Christoph Waltz as Dieter Cilov. Zlof's name was altered for legal reasons."

Beyond the Limits
(2003, dir. Olaf Ittenbach)
Simon is super fun — and gay — as Mortimer in this Ittenbach bloodbath; we only ever saw the first tale of the two, one night at Simon's after too much wine and smoke. We enjoyed it greatly. Simon's on the poster below at the right.

Rated as "Of Some Interest" over at The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre, Zev Toledano says: "A graveyard caretaker tells a reporter two connected tales of violence that revolve around a mysterious heart. The nonsensical first takes place in modern times and involves some organized criminals, assassins, drugs, money and a brutal home invasion where an insane killer [Mortimer / Newby] slices, hammers, chops, shoots, amputates and carves all the house guests. The second takes place in medieval times and involves an inquisitor who is trying to make use of the heart with the aid of some manuscripts and the torture and death of faithful innocents. The body parts and splatter fly again, the swords and axes making mince-meat of a dozen characters. Bottom line: the plot is too thin, the acting is pretty bad, the cinematography and direction are good, the gore effects are superb. Ittenbach has lost his disquieting rough-edges and has made a sleek looking bad movie with gore."

V for Vendetta
(2005, dir. James McTeigue)
Simon plays a "Tube Station News Poppet", and, in real life, didn't have an affair with Natalie Portman. Quick Reviews says: "Often compelling, highly topical 1984-inspired sci-fi thriller truly excels for nearly 75% of running time before succumbing to mildly derivative climax. Natalie Portman, free of Star Wars universe, displays impressive range opposite Hugo Weaving's charming masked enigma. Provocative political commentary (occasionally verging on anti-American) raises thought-provoking questions about government power and control by fear. Imperfections aside, an intellectually and emotionally satisfying action movie."

Blackout Journey
(2004, dir. Siegfried Kamml)
Simon plays a "British Music Producer". The plot, as given austrianfilms.com: "Schwechat Airport, Vienna 1985. Mio and Valentin's parents are killed in a terrorist attack. The brothers are separated and raised in different foster families — in 2004, reunited by fate, they attempt to cope their childhood trauma." The trailer reflects the plot as explained. (Not!)

Die Hitlerkantate
(2005, dir. Jutta Brückner)
Simon plays a "British General". Title translates into The Hitler Cantata. The plot, as given at Amazon: "Ursula (Lena Lauzemis) is obsessed with Hitler, who for her is a lover, father and god. She uses the relationship with her fiancé in the orchestra and becomes an assistant to the well-known composer Hanns Broch (Hilmar Thate), a former communist. Broch is given the honour of writing a cantata for Hitler's 50th birthday. In the loneliness of a Finnish countryside, Broch gets nearer to Ursula until Broch's Jewish lover turns up."

Final Contract: Death on Delivery
(2006, dir. Axel Sand)
Simon in another unnamed extra role in a film generally seen as a turkey. The plot, from Beyond Hollywood: "[...] There isn't a whole lot of story to Final Contract. To wit: American delivery hunk David (Drew Fuller) is in Berlin, Germany working at his Uncle's business. He has a crush on college-bound co-worker Jenny (Tanja Wenzel), but can't bring himself to tell her, even though she feels the same way and is just waiting for him to make the first move. David gets into all sorts of nutty trouble when he picks up undercover cop Lara (Alison King) during a wacky car chase. [...] Except it turns out that Lara is not a cop after all, but a notorious contract killer who is in Berlin to off three government witnesses to something-or-rather. She has already dispatched two unfortunate souls, and has conveniently framed the second body on David, who had gone to bed with Lara the night before and is seen carrying the tools of Lara's trade. Now the cops, led by the unfathomably dense Hillman (Ken Bones), are after our hero, believing him to be the culprit, and the only person who can help David is — Jenny?"

Chain Reaction
(2006, dir. Olaf Ittenbach)
Aka Olaf Ittenbach’s House of Blood, Chain Reaction, House of Horrors, Zombie Onslaught. Simon in another Ittenbach film, playing "Arthur Palmer" — the Lionsgate release was cut to get an R-rating, as would be expected of an Ittenbach film. 
Plot, from Terror Hook: "Dr. Douglas Madsen (Christopher Kriesa) is on his way home from work one day when his car collides with a prison bus, setting off a horrific chain of events. The four surviving prisoners, one of whom is severely injured, take the doctor hostage and flee into Canada. There, the group finds refuge in a mysterious, isolated house inhabited by a very strange family..."
Still of Simon from Severed Cinema.

(2006, dir. Oskar Roehler)
Simon plays "Hammet" somewhere in this screen adaptation of Michel Houellebecq's novel Atomised aka The Elementary Particles. A serious film.
At imdb, fippi2000 explains that the "movie focuses on Michael (Christian Ulmen) and Bruno (Moritz Bleibtreu), two very different half-brothers and their disturbed sexuality. After a chaotic childhood with a hippie mother only caring for her affairs, Michael, a molecular biologist, is more interested in genes than women, while Bruno is obsessed with his sexual desires, but mostly finds his satisfaction with prostitutes. His pitiful life changes when he gets to know the experienced Christiane (Martina Gedeck). In the meantime, Michael meets Annabelle (Franka Potente), the love of his youth, again..."

Tatort: Liebe macht blind 
(2006, dir. Peter Fratzscher)
Tatort Intro:
Simon has a tiny speaking role as an American tourist alongside a common friend of ours Priscilla Bergey, as the female fellow tourist. This TV movie is an episode of the German television tradition Tatort, a weekly crime movie with revolving main characters that has been broadcast since 1970. The intro sequence above has remained the same since the first broadcast. This episode featured the Berlin team of Stark (Boris Aljinovic) and Ritter (Dominic Raacke) — that's them above — and I've rather forgotten the plot... but then, the Berlin episodes were never all that exciting. (Sorry, Boris.)
The title here translates, literally, into Loves Makes Blind, tho were I to translate it I would probably go for Blinded by Love or Love Is Blind, depending what the (forgotten) plot is.

 (2008, dir. Sven Unterwaldt Jr.)
Simon plays a "Pilot" somewhere in this comedy starring one of Germany's favorite and least funny comedians, Atze Schröder.
Plot, at imdb, from the American FilmMarket: "It is the year 1944 and World War II is not over yet. The Germans want to send their last available submarine, the U-900, on a secret mission from Toulon to Warnemuende. Atze pretends to be the legendary Lieutenant Commander Roenberg. But the crew gets suspicious when their commander starts issuing unconventional orders."

 (2009, dir. Kai Wessel)
Simon plays a US military policeman somewhere in the background of this movie, a bio pic about Hildegard Knef, "one of Germany's biggest post-war stars". (See: Die Mörder sind unter uns [1946].)

Ein Dorf schweigt
(2009, dir. Martin Enlen)
Simon plays a "Sergeant" — I'd say that's a side view of him in the photo above (copyright Katherine Böhm). The title more or less translates into A Village Keeps Silent.

Look 4 Them
(2013, dir. Tom Dokoupil & Otmar Hitzelberger)
Simon plays "Barent" — going by the trailer, he's either the bad guy or the mistaken innocent. The plot, as give at imdb and on the poster: "How far can you go, when you fight for the right cause? Does the perspective of the greater good justify kidnapping, violence or even murder? Four naive eco-activists are drawn into a cascade of increasing violence when trying to save the coast of Normandy from a nuclear pollution hazard. "

World of Leem
(2015, dir. Maren Courage)
First Impressions of the World of Leem:
Simon plays "Jeff Cornell, M.D." in this movie about which I could find nothing, other than that it features someone I knew in the past here in Berlin, John Keough, whom I don't think Simon knew (beforehand) and is totally all over the trailer above. Simon pops up at 2:29.

Goodbye, Simon.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting this together, what a great way to remember Simon.
Xx Claire

Anonymous said...

I am no close friend of Simon just a former colleague, and I am very sorry that I never met him again for his farewell gathering. For some reason tonight I remembered and just wanted to know and googled him and then found your post. Thank you for that. Rest in Peace Simon. XBetty

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