A memorial service for Evening Standard film critic Alexander Walker was held last night at St Brides Church, Fleet Street in London. To mark the occasion, Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein sent the following tribute for Walker, who died suddenly in July aged 73:
"At the start of Alex's magnificent overview of the British film industry in the 1960s, Hollywood England, he quotes an encounter with Lindsay Anderson, outside a cinema in Cannes. "Well, did you like it'" Anderson barks - not just a query, notes Walker, more a challenge to declare where one stood.
If there's one phrase I'd say was appropriate in summing up Alex, it was declaring where he stood. In review after review, he came out loud and clear. You might not have agreed with every opinion he held, but you had to be knocked out by the elegance of his writing, the quality of his arguments, his incredible insights, and most of all, his absolute passion for cinema.
How could you not love any critic with a turn of phrase like his one about Quentin Tarantino and Pulp Fiction - "He's picked the lock of a movie genre and made merry with the conventions within, not desecrating them, but redecorating them."
He brilliantly summarised Michael Caine's performance in The Quiet American, writing that he "gives Fowler a resonant infirmity of purpose. He is a man with more lines on his weary face than by-lines over his sparse dispatches."
As many of us know who were on the receiving end of his harsher reviews, he could be cruel, too, but even then his wit frequently shone through. Of my brother Bob's film Dracula 2000 he noted, with reference to some rather obvious product placement "It comes, not from the grave, but apparently the Virgin Megastore".
But it was Alex's ability to say precisely what he thought, his declaration of exactly where he stood, that made him such a valuable critic for filmmakers. I am surely not the only movie producer who read his insightful reviews and took away lessons for the future, a sense of what worked and what didn't necessarily work which you could apply to upcoming projects. He might go off on some strange tangents - his obsessions about lottery funding and smoking being two that come immediately to mind to someone who has enjoyed both - but his common sense about what worked or didn't work in movies was in large part second to none.
In terms of specific relationships with filmmakers, his close friendship with Stanley Kubrick was surely a valuable two-way conversation for critic and director. Certainly Kubrick by all accounts enjoyed Alex's close counsel and commentary on his work. And their close relationship enabled us all to share in some memorable insights about Kubrick's art in Alex's books on the maestro, which could only have been written with such unfettered access.
And if there were ever any doubts about the impact a critic can have on the fortunes of a movie, they were crushed once and for all after Alex's early preview of Eyes Wide Shut, which at a stroke turned around the negative pre-publicity for the movie and made all of us want to run to the nearest cinema to see it.
I had first come across Alex's writing when, as a movie buff growing up in New York, I devoured his fabulous biographies of Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, Bette Davis, and Peter Sellers.
The more I read, the more I wanted to read, as he brought these amazing characters to life through both personal reminiscences and outstanding research - a quality of writing that would shame many professional screenwriters.
And for someone as passionate about British cinema as me, his two definitive studies of the industry in the 60s and 70s, Hollywood England and National Heroes, were like classroom primers. They remain invaluable accounts of an amazingly important era in British film-making.
When I started producing movies myself, Alex was always the first British critic I looked forward to reading, precisely because I knew his reviews would be informed by a real knowledge of the industry. And because I knew I'd always get a kick out of his straight shooting, whether I agreed with it or not.
So it won't surprise you to learn that, as a fan, I looked forward to meeting him in person. But while our paths crossed many times over the years at numerous industry events, I only got to know Alex well in recent years.
When the original release date for The Quiet American was delayed, Alex chastised me - I think at that point he still believed I was some kind of right wing Conservative censoring a film whose politics were too hot to handle. I seized the opportunity to ring him, knowing that I could put him straight on my own political credentials after working closely with both Bill Clinton and Al Gore, pointing out how the events of September 11 made it an impossible climate to release a powerful and provocative movie of this kind - but mostly just to have the time to discuss and debate the film with this mind I had so admired for so many years.
Alex couldn't have been more supportive in recognising the timing difficulties we faced with the film, and his championing of both the movie and, as you heard earlier, Michael Caine's great performance, made an enormous difference when it was released in Europe. And for that, I will always be grateful.
He was always generous in sharing his ideas with the people like me who made movies. Typical of that two-way conversation between critic and film-maker I talked about earlier, it was Alex who showed me Carol Reed's classic The Fallen Idol, suggesting a remake; when it happens, I'll be sure to dedicate the film to him.
One of his greatest qualities for me was the fact that he was a tireless champion of new and exciting talent - people thought he grew conservative as he got older, but, as his rave review of Pulp Fiction showed, he recognised a major director like Quentin from the start. I would always make a note of new talent I had yet to be aware of when Alex singled them out in that Thursday's column.
He was always there for the edgy and more challenging projects right up to the end - we benefited from that with his review for our Stephen Frears picture Dirty Pretty Things, which was one of the most illuminating and enthusiastic we received. "A movie with a social heartbeat that pumps new blood into our anaemic cinema", he wrote in yet another elegant turn of phrase.
I have a wonderful memory of him from this year's Cannes, holding forth with great passion and enthusiasm about two British films from absolutely opposite ends of the spectrum - the new Peter Greenaway, and Calendar Girls. Whether aimed at the arthouse or the mainstream, if the work was strong and clear, was not confused about its intentions, and matched Alex's own commitment, he'd trumpet it to the world.
All of us who work in films will miss his passion, his commitment, and ultimately, that resounding declaration of where, as a critic and writer, he unequivocally stood."