Monday, December 16, 2013


       ...from a photographer's notebook

  Carluccio's restaurant in Kensington was the destination for a cinematic pilgrimage in November   

I like for my photographic shooting – especially when traveling – to be as spontaneous and guided by opportunity as possible.

But sometimes, I’ll give myself an “assignment” or two, often occasioned by cinematic moments I have enjoyed. During two nights of my November trip to London, I enjoyed – amidst the unplanned discoveries – carrying out two of these (admittedly quirky) assignments.

Common link: Michael Caine. Well at least two of my favorites of his films. Films that have seen me through countless movie-enhanced dinners. See, when a movie gets on my A-list, two things happen: I must buy a copy and I am likely to watch it repeatedly.

The following evening, I went off in search of a spot filmed in the Frederick Forsyth espionage adventure “The Fourth Protocol,” which the author and Caine co-produced in 1987.

In it, Caine plays a Special Air Services-trained MI5 intelligence agent named John Preston, who is on the trail of a deep cover Soviet operative named Valeri Petrovsky (Pierce Brosnan). Petrovsky has been assigned to construct and detonate a small but devastating thermonuclear device near an American air base. He is to carry out this nefarious assignment with individual, mainly innocuous looking, components, brought into the UK by various Soviet couriers.

The film was shot in many locations within and outside London.

It’s a chilling story, made all the more so by its plausibility – i.e., components of the bomb being smuggled into England, piece by piece, and all put together inside the perpetrator’s flat, as well as the fact that a nuclear detonation would leave no traces of the operation.

Ah, but this story is not intended to chill, but merely to relate a delightful night in Kensington with a camera and a well-stoked appetite…

So, back to “The Fourth Protocol”…

Before Preston becomes aware of that plot to build an atomic bomb, he is investigating British government official George Berenson (Anton Rodgers), who is suspected of leaking Top Secret NATO documents to an agent within the South African diplomatic corps. Preston  breaks into Berenson’s flat and blows up his safe just as Big Ben is ringing in the New Year (a favorite Michael Caine moment: his grinning “Happy New Year” upon doing the deed). In the safe is a briefcase containing some of those classified documents.

With the approval of a higher-up (Ian Richardson), Preston sets up 24-hour surveillance of Berenson’s telephone conversations and his movements, including his delivery of those documents to his contact. In an engrossing sequence, very well supported by Lalo Schifrin’s edgy score, the furtive Berenson is shadowed every step of the way, from his flat in Chesham Court, off Lyall Street in Belgravia, through the London Underground, finally emerging at Kensington High Street Station, continuing on foot to an inviting looking pizza restaurant.

Berenson arrives at The Palms Pizzeria, carrying NATO documents for his contact. ("The Fourth Protocol")

One of the operatives who has been shadowing Berenson is seen – in the shadows – on a street corner advising Preston and his team by radio, in Forsythian baritone, “Chummy [Berenson] has gone to ground – Pizzeria(r)onPhillimoreWalk.” 

"Chummy has  gone to ground - PizzeriaronPhillimoreWalk."
And across the street, we see the venue at which “Chummy” has arrived, a place called “Palms.”

Chummy has  gone to ground – PizzeriaronPhillimoreWalk…

Call me strange, but I just l-o-v-e the sound of that construction, at least in that particular context. It’s that “r” that some Brits will use to connect words ending in a soft vowel with words beginning with one. I’ve since learned it is called the “intrusive r” and it is inserted by some speakers to eliminate a “hiatus,” or break in the flow.

But who cares – it just sounds so plummy, if spoken in the right kind of voice.

Go ahead, say it with me – you know you want to…PizzeriaronPhillimoreWalk.

So, yes, being the filmic creature that I am, I had to search out that setting in my “Fourth Protocol Pilgrimage,” and capture it with a camera.

With the invaluable help of a web site called (proving, perhaps that I’m not all that strange, or at least that I have company??) it was possible to track down this and other locations used in the film.

Turns out, the “PizzeriaronPhillimoreWalk” is now actually the Kensington location of Carluccio’s, a London group of Italian restaurants. I actually recalled a most pleasant dining experience at another Carluccio’s, while spending an afternoon at St Pancras International Station two Novembers earlier, so naturally, dinner at their restaurant at the corner of Campden Hill Road and Phillimore Walk would be on the evening's  agenda.

Incidentally, while I’d not drawn the connection at the time, St Pancras station was yet another location used in “The Fourth Protocol.” Guess where I shall return next time in London…

So, Circle Line train from Paddington Station for the eight minute journey to High Street Kensington and a nice revelation, recognizing I was standing in yet another “Fourth Protocol” location. Feeling perhaps just a smidgeon Anton Rodgers-ish, I traversed the elegant indoor arcade of shops, stopping to capture the ambiance from several points.

Once on Kensington High Street, I sought out the nearby intersection of Campden Hill Road, and quickly saw my “target” on the street level of an attractive building called Phillimore Court.

Ah, but didn’t that operative tracking Berenson say “PizzeriaronPhillimoreWalk?”

 Phillimore Walk is at the corner, running parallel to Kensington High Street, but that wasn’t immediately apparent. The street signs I’d been observing, in Westminster at least, were low on the sides of buildings or on walls leading into mews. But, certainly, if I was going to document my filmic trail, a sign saying Phillimore Walk was de rigeur

I did find such a sign about a block away and shot it, as well as one highly placed on a townhouse at the corner of Campden Hill Road and Phillimore Walk, just across from Palms, err, Carluccio’s.

I'm liking the neighborhood already!

Turns out, I should have been looking upwards immediately, for there, just above Carluccio’s corner window was the Phillimore Walk street sign.

Photography accomplished, it was now time to indulge myself on this chilly November night with (what better!) a hot bowl of Pasta e fagioli, accompanied by some tasty bread sticks wrapped in prosciutto, onward to main course, with an inviting cold-night-friendly red wine, and (no surprise here) a sinful dessert…

All with a contented cinephile’s view of…Phillimore Walk.

©2013 Steve Ember

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