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The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies (2014) Trailer #1

I suppose given that Comic-Con has just wrapped I shouldn’t be surprised to see this burgle my internet feeds, but I wasn’t expecting the first trailer so soon. After my growing dissatisfaction with The Desolation of Smaug here’s hoping Jackson can rescue this series and find another sprinkling of the LOTR magic;

First impressions? I really, really, really think that bringing Legolas and by osmosis the Elves into this trilogy to such a degree may have severely fucked it up, and although the call back to Pippin’s song in ROTK connects the franchise arcs I fucking hated that song the first time around. This does not bode well……

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) Trailer

It’s been a long time coming this, it wrapped shooting in 2012 and still isn’t due out until next summer. Thankfully what sounds like a chaotic shoot has resulted in something which looks pretty mental;

In other news yes, True Detective is outstanding, and Cohle may be my new hero. I actually had to conduct a round of applause at this which I knew was coming, absolutely sublime, tense storytelling;

True Detective S1 E4 Final Shot from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

Young Ones (2014) Trailer

Mad Max with madman Michael Shannon? And not a single glimpse of (p)Rick, Vivian, Mike or Neil in sight;

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)

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Monkey see and monkey do, making sequels, eating food. Well, actually,  that’s not biologically accurate as the hirsute protagonists of this newly evolving franchise are apes not monkeys, a clear genealogical split which our Simian siblings would not be happy to accept. The original film Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was an unexpected blockbuster treat of 2011, arriving with little fanfare or beating of chests it’s stylish blend of CGI, re-imagining of popular SF metaphors and action beat histrionics marked it as one of the more homo superior blockbusters of recent lineage, its critical and commercial success guaranteeing a new installment which has finally swung into theatres. The original film series ran from the late 1960’s to the mid-1970’s (Famously the first one won best make-up over 2001 as Academy members allegedly thought Kubrick had trained real apes for his movie) and has been approached from a number of angles, it’s been analysed as a metaphor of the upheaving social change of the 1960’s, the emergence of the counterculture movement, the birth  of civil rights and the growing dissatisfaction with the status quo and class consciousness. Both of the recent films in this second cycle (nope, I don’t care what you say, this never happened) strike me as less ideologically charged and more scientifically minded, with two entries now expressing a sheathed commentary on todays ominous environmental concerns, the tampering in the realm of god through genetic manipulation, the lack of due diligence on science run amok and subsequent catastrophic  impacts, and a ruthless scramble for dwindling  & scarce resources. Seeing the first one was a memorable cinema experience as I caught it with a deeply enthusiastic audience at the Sky Superscreen during the Empire Film Festival, the second didn’t quite induce the same effects,  it’s an above average blockbuster but claims of this being among the ‘movies of the year’  indicate that some critics are going native…..

daw4 A decade  after the apocalyptic outbreak of simian flu mankind has been decimated with only 1 in 500 resisting the terminal syndrome, society disintegrating into chaos and anarchy, a wretched state of affairs all communicated through a rather restrained post-credits montage. In scenes reminiscent of recent console smash The Last Of Us  a creepingly quiet nature has slowly reclaimed our crumbling urban centres and swamped our early sigils of civilisation, while intelligent ape Caesar (mo-cap marvel Andy Serkis) and his pack of simian brethren have established their own antediluvian society in the remote San Francisco hills they dissolved into at the climax of the last film. Now the undisputed leader of his tribe Caesar has overseen a period of progression, peace and taken a mate whom has sired him two sons, with the belligerent Koba (Toby Kebbell) as his second in command at his side, his unyielding hatred of humans culled from years as a surgical specimen before Caesar freed him in the last movie. Although man has not seen for a decade a small pocket of survivors has recently returned to San Francisco, desperate for electrical power  to boost their communication efforts to reach out to other potential groups Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and his crones identify a dormant resource in the nearby abandoned dam, which just so happens to squat uncomfortably in dangerous ape territory.  An initial  mutual antipathy and suspicion of alternate motives gradually cools between expedition leader Malcolm (Jason Clarke,) his doctor girlfriend Ellie (Keri Russell) and Malcom’s son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Caesar being presumed by some of his kin as dangerously trusting of the humans due to his upbringing among the treacherous species whom have destroyed the planet. Inevitably the unquenchable thirst for resources and itchy trigger fingers on both sides of the DNA  Rubicon results in disaster, and both human and ape face-off for the future of global domination……

dawn2An initial slight exasperation and disappointment with the film has softened to a mild appreciation over the past 72 hours, maybe it’s the juxtaposition with the nauseating and deeply depressing news emerging from Gaza and Eastern Europe over the weekend, but in contrast to some blockbusters of summer season Dawn is slowly evolving into a film of its time. It’s not just the darkness evident in the film – and I mean that visually as well as figuratively as the movie unfolds against a consistently overcast and charcoal smudged sky, with muted landscapes and color palettes emphasising ink dense blacks, searing fire scorched oranges and bloodthirsty reds – it’s like The Road  but without the laughs. The film mournfully positis the inevitably of conflict and carnage even in the midst of intelligent and thoughtful leadership, with fringe elements falling prey to fear and intolerance, suspicion and hatred.  In the struggle for natural resources the concept of sharing is sacrificed for the sake of one species survival, regardless of how close the DNA strands may intertwine. It’s therefore a little jarring when this incredibly solemn film lumbers in an uneasy gait  to the rather unnecessary Hollywood set-pieces and action sequences, the mirroring of fathers and son’s relationship mirrored across the races somewhat smothered by the digital rendered combat bruising the screen, although one widely acclaimed 360 degree APC mounted action amelioration has already got the genre nerds beating their chests in appreciation. This tonal discord is further emphasised by all the human character being undeveloped and poorly written, their personalities barely breaking the surface of the most perfunctory stock characterisation – noble, leader, sneaky coward, nurturing female, inquisitive adolescent. Perhaps this was a conscious decision to shadow the humans with the stunningly rendered apes, Weta have again shattered the illusory glass ceiling of the uncanny valley and this achievement is the films  clear highpoint, while  Michael Giacchino’s  score provides a pleasing aural link back to the original series afrobeat shrieking and grunting.

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So despite these construction issues the film feels very contemporary and speaks truth to power, it’s Stateside roaring success has daubed the warpaint on director Matt Reeves and franchise screenwriters / producers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver whom have already enlisted for the next step in franchise evolution, I do hope they actually get round to weaving in with the original and undisputed classic of SF with the Icarus mission setting the whole Moebius strip timescale into motion. So far the first two films in this 21st century incarnation have roughly mapped to the original cycle entries of Escape From The Planet Of The Apes and Battle For The Planet Of The Apes, so how can they potentially leap to a presumed distant future? Well I think I read somewhere that one of the Easter Eggs buried in Rise was a background broadcast announcing the astronaut mission of someone called Taylor which suggests they are cunningly setting the franchise up for a long-ball, although Dawn doesn’t have the mischevious genre inversions of this wonderful little moment. I’ve been hearing tales of scattered laughter and disbelief at some screenings due to the apes humanlike activities and behaviours, so the film does occasionally falter when attempting a highwire walk between pathos and absurdity – this is a film where apes wield machine guns and associated ordinance,  chat to each other in a rudimentary vocabulary and have seemingly mastered equestrian mounted warfare – but it just about manages to traverse its circus act and actually tugs at the heartstrings in places as once again Serkis proves himself as the undisputed master of the performance capture method, his heroic Caesar shining with empathy through his CGI soaked carapace. If you devolve your expectations and swing into this seeking only a flawed yet entertaining ride then you should be happy, a worthy but flawed franchise continuation with visual effects of revolution  mated with topical evolution;  

Fritz Lang Season – Die Nibelungen (1925)

dnlang1You can you stick your Game Of Thrones  up the perilous pit of Ungmar the Unameable, the real fans of high medieval fantasy know the real action is going down way back in Berlin’s UFA studios during the equidistant pre and post war year of 1925. The movie industry was a very different beast back then, when tyrannical movie directors would muster bloated, hugely expensive studio-bound epics which seemed to run for days rather than hours, where the cult of celebrity had establishing itself as the central marketing hook to spear the attention of the depression and austerity starved masses and give them a few hours respite from the economic terror of their day-to-day lives, of industrial technique and visual dazzle entrancing the senses at the sacrifice of emotional or political nuance, a cinema of sensation anxiously awaiting the new enrapture of an auditory sense which would become the industrial standard in just a few years – the coming of sound. So yes, the cinema of the 1920’s was completely different to current contemporary standards, and producers of all nationalities and geographic birth certainly didn’t have their avarice rich eyes on lucrative emerging markets beyond their borders as the Tinseltown executives are hypnotizing today. I offer this all as proof that the more things change the more they seem to stay the same, like developments and trends in any industry the market seems to ebb and flow in a cylindrical fashion, so although I am ostentatiously going to be looking at a German filmed and financed, silent  five-hour epic from 1925 in this piece I’ll try to weave in some present day echoes,  before we begin in earnest I have to say this review has been a long time coming, I purchased and first saw the film back in March of this year but the day job and new release priorities have interfered with this fitfully stuttering season. I must admit that the prospect of collecting my thoughts on a film of such density from a period I’m not  exactly and expert within (despite studying German Expressionist cinema back in my Academic hey-day) I do think it’s good to set yourself challenges and goals, so once more into the breach dear friends…..

dnlang2Over the years I have seen and even (briefly) academically studied some  of Lang’s expansive, technologically paradigm busting  and genre hopping optical oeuvre but this is the first time I’ve seen this particularly  lengthy ‘lost’ classic, whilst many of his other films of the period such as the Mabuse series and Metropolis have received a wealth of attention and discourse, mostly related to the former’s eerie pre-shadowing of the Third Reich and the German slide into genocidal fascism  and the latters long robotic shadow that is cast upon the then embryonic SF genre. At first glance Die Nibelungen  can be filed away with many of the other expansive cinema epics of the same relative period, Griffith’s Intolerance, Abel Gance’s Napoleon and the early biblical epics of Cecil DeMille immediately spring to mind, as certain visionary riding crop wielding tyrants struggled to elevate the medium into what was then regarded as ‘art’.  They all share common DNA in the studio-bound industrial production techniques which were at the apex of their time, this project being all the more mysteriously fascinating as it was not crafted on the glittering Western coast of America which was the pulsing global centre of film production of the era, whereas Germany was still a bruised and economically subdued empire looking internally to heal its wounds and embrace an uncertain and financially fractured future. Split over two disks and moving through two significant story arcs Die Nibelungen wails through various cantos rather than following a traditional scene juxtaposition, cleaving the heroic story of   Siegfried (Paul Richter,) the son of King Siegmund of Xanten, enticed to the kingdom of Burgundy and entranced by her beautiful princess Kriemhild. Through guile and enemy subterfuge Seigried is despatched to traverse the eerie  Wood of Woden, a trick that deflects him from reaching Burgundy and taking his beloved’s hand in marriage, trapping him in mortal combat with the magical creatures inhabiting the wood, including a powerful smoke belching dragon. This is just the first part of an odyssey which maps to  the epic poem Nibelungenlied whose genealogy has been traced to around 1200 AD, a battle-cry charge into Götterdämmerung rather than Dungeons & Dragons;

The Tolkien allusions are as clear as a Nargothrond stream in a Melian weaved moonlight, and indeed John Ronald Reuel drew heavy inspiration from the poem as he did from other medieval texts such as Beowulf. Film-wise one assume this is one of the first fantasy movies in the vein of the LOTR saga, or The Beastmaster, Krull or  Hawk The Slayer, it’s hearty companions being the Douglas Fairbanks derring-do of  The Thief of Bagdad  which was similarly born in the cradle of  Méliès phantasmorophs, a cinema of heroic scale and mythical landscapes and creatures, rendered by technological innovation, prosthetic designs and camera tricky. Partitioned around title cards and animation asides the film constructs a fantastical infrastructure of abstraction, reminiscent of early Disney and specifically Fantasia,with a much more adult themed musing on sacrifice and slaughter, a melding of the mythic with the metaphoric.

die4One of the strengths and specific merits of silent cinema is the devotion to the image, to the fusions in time and space between edits which infer relation and drive a story forward, a tale as localised as a dog rescuing a child ballooning out to a legendary mythos of fantastical beasts and titanic deeds communicated to a diverse collection of individuals sitting and watching in the dark.  When it comes to some of these venerable epics the sheer scope of the enterprise are genuinely majestic, of knowing that hundreds of extras were marshalled by furiously barking assistant directors through primitive communication techniques, that vertigo inducing edifices were precariously erected in the physical world and not in squeezed out of a computer, that one take was literally one take when all the complex components marshalled in one shot were subject to the forces of entropy and accidental destiny. Whilst Lang’s framing is rather static and theatrically toned (no different from his contemporaries, still haunted by the dimensions of the stage and its slow transition to screen with wide shots exposing all the action set back to where an approximate theatre goer would sit) he permits resources to enter into the frame from non-diagetic origin points, punctuating these staged-bound dimensions by plunging his camera into the space at key periods to build momentum and a sense of dramatic intensity. From a mere operative and technological perspective these effects were difficult to achieve back in the 1920’s, the camera rigs and lightning infrastructure being the equivalent of the boisterous industrial clanging of a Betamax player compared to the digital purr of a top-range Blu-Ray today, the technology of narrative method and mode moulded by the storytelling medium, a restriction  that was only shattered by Lang and the  likes of Murnau, Chaplin and Keaton at their innovative best.

die5This being Lang the attention to production design is crucial and key, even in these medieval trappings an angular attention to detail is anvil hammers home the visual cues of the characters internal psychology, in a period where spendthrift producers would have balked at the cost of constructing  roofs in interiors which could be shot around to save money and still maintain the suspension to disbelief. By closing and framing characters in angular lines on a 2D canvas  Lang (a draftsman and architect by trade) instinctively grasped the importance of these subtle details and flourishes, understanding that the human relationship to its environment can be a rich seam of metaphorical and subconscious persuasion. On a more general level the sequence of the burning of Etzel castle is bombastically impressive, with tangible and physical sets genuinely torched and destroyed, again a concrete immediacy adding to the films’ aged sense of awe and danger. Cinephiles can also  wallow in the instructive primitive (or should that be lyrical?) forms of film grammar that were common for the period, most deliciously the iris valve instructing the audience what to contemplate in the frame before oscillating the image out to reveal the full panorama, a communication method which now seems to rest in the edit of the cut, breaking scenes and spaces into more digestible portions of information. When it comes to the auditory functions of the film a recent comment from the great film director and scholar Peter Bogdanovich rang a historical chord with me, his affirming that films were never ‘silent’ and were usually consumed with a rowdy, disruptive and raucous audience hurling commentary at the screen or engaging in rather excited discourse with their companions. As the art form evolved in-house and live performed musical accompaniment was added to the sensual mix, instructing the audience when to feel  trepidation, to swoon with romance or yelp in excited glee, so although the screen itself was silent the cosseted environment of the theatre was anything but. Now of course we have Dolby 5.1 earfucking Supra-ATMOS throbbing in the multiplexes, chorused with the charming cacophonous din of patrons chatting, of repetitive cell phones pings and associated light pollution – the more things change…..

dnlang3In a rather primitive form the film does remind one of Jackson, a big broad canvass and an affinity to legendary and mystical beasts, as you can’t help but think of Smaug when that German wyrm starts smoking and smouldering on-screen. Taken in context the scale and dimensions of the film are fairly impressive for its time, it’s also fairly violent with the mythic plucking of the eye of the beast provoking its discharge of acidic venom, it also in a curious non-denominational way brought Aronosky’s  Noah  to mind, if only for the grandiose pre-historic bombastic exuberance of the project. Lang loves his angular compositions, the foreground frame positioned carefully to juxtapose against various axis of arrangement, with carefully considered production design and lighting patterns embedded in the accruing fields, in that sense I’d argue he’s a pathfinder precursor to Ridley Scott and Chris Nolan who are amongst his most transparent heirs apparent, as their strengths also rest in a formulation of design and artistic technique rather than dialogue or finely honed screen performances. Some of the villains are somewhat problematic when viewed through the lens of history, any film, particular one made in Weimar Germany with hook nosed moneylenders will immediately read  as archaic and disgusting (although it didn’t stop Mel did it?), so its worth noting that Lang was part-Jewish but his screenwriter wife at the time Thea Von Harbeau embraced the National Socialist movement as it emerged in the coming years, and remained as a central figure in Goebbels propaganda machine after Lang has fled for Europe. Whilst we’re on the subject it has always amused me (if that’s the right word) that history’s most notorious dictators are enormous movie fans, from Stalin to Hitler to Kim Dong Un they all revelled in private regular screenings as one of their primary entertainment activities after a hard day at the office executing dissidents, signing genocide decrees, constructing  death camps and systematically starving their citizens. In cinemas defence one assumes that they’d be equally adoring of TV had they been born a generation later as a far more pervasive and insidious conduit of propaganda and (it lives in your house after all), and don’t get me started on the suppressive possibilities of the Internet…..

die6Films such as Die Nibelungin  breathe animated life into Orson Welles’ famous assertion that a movie set is ‘the biggest electric train set any boy ever had’, with almost unlimited stage bound resources at  their disposal the major directors of the day could indulge in every one of their most profligate whims – recruiting another thousand extras for a more densely populated wide-shot scene,  conjuring up elemental typhoons and tsunami’s to prod the audience into gasp induced wonder, the most exotic wildlife displaced from remote continents to suggest a seething, primordial physicality that seems to sexually lurk in the pre-code star system and swwon inducing content of the period. It’s worth stressing that the vast majority of films were studio bound in Europe during this period and it was only Hollywood that actually had the vision ti investigate shooting on location, one of the numerous attractions and coalescing factions of California as the birth of Hollywood was its distance (both physical and legal) from the early copyright cartels of the East Coast. As the restless vagabonds stumbled across the serene orange groves and hills they discovered brush and plainland that could easily stand-in for the mythical frontier for early cinema genre champion the Western, one of those amazing conflagrations of space, location, weather and production styles which birthed the golden age of Hollywood. Where does this film slot into the auteur evidence of Lang’s debonair career? Well apart from the steely Teutonic rigour of the design and vastly ambitious visual scope (like I said you can trace him to Jackson, Scott  and Nolan in numerous ways) there are the psychological attuned elements, a central protagonist directed by his  desires and dreams as opposed to more corporeal conerns or sense of muscular morality, a flagrant flaunting of the rule of law and the social restraints of civilisation, men mesmerisied by ambition and moral absolution.

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The film transfer is stunningly rich and textured and the boffins have done a fine job with scrubbing clean the usual glitches and frame damage you’d normally endure from films of this vintage, with the tarnished tinted sickly gold providing an apt visual metaphor for the damaging desire for  wealth and prestige. As you’d expect from a label so dedicated to film connoisseur this is the fullest version of the film assembled since its debut almost a century ago, lovingly embroidered with extant scenes from the best surviving negatives across numerous foreign markets, so like the recently assembled  Metropolis it’s something of a Frankenstein monster which provides the most faithful recreation of Lang’s original vision. Speaking of that SF landmark I did also acquire the new Blu-Ray but I’m going to kick my review of that into the long grass as it’s screening as part of the BFI’s interstellar SF season at the end of the year, I’d much prefer finally catching the full restoration on the big screen to fully inform my commentary. Until then there’s plenty to keep us distracted so I think we’ll jump forward a decade or so to another challenging picture to get my teeth into - M. Lang’s first sound film is widely regarded as the first sound masterpiece, its international impact provided his calling card to Hollywood as he fled the Nazi scourge in the late 1930’s, but until we get our ears around that here’s a final look at an early example of Fritz’s fascination with dreams, the submerged unconscious and its divining power over our waking lives, still present in the distant purlieus of medieval mysticism;

BFI – Days Of Fear & Wonder

Now doesn’t this look fantastic, jolly excited and can’t wait until blinkin’ October;

A more specific breakdown of the breathtaking programme of events and screenings on offer is here. Speaking of SF I’ll be going Ape tomorrow, after revisiting Rise this evening on TV….

God’s Pocket (2014) Trailer

Excellent, just managed to procure a ticket for a BFI preview of this early next month, with a Q&A with director John ‘Mad Men‘ Slattery. The fact that Christina Hendricks has just been announced as also attending the screening and Q&A in no way influenced this decision. No sir;

Mid-Summer Menagerie Madness….

fwwrSometimes it’s nice to feel wanted, isn’t it? Having your current client frantically fighting to retain your services beyond July after you drop the bombshell that a South London authority have made me an offer I can’t refuse? That’s the enviable position I found myself in this month, I would quite happily remain at Bucks given that I’ve finally got the programme I was hired to establish built and secured a handsome £44 million from Whitehall to take the various projects forward, but the prospect of a twelve month contract with a reduced commute equals a period of relative financial security which has stolen my affections – plus some consultancy firms I’ve been commissioning for various work packages are also sniffing at my doorstep with the possibility of branching out internationally. It’s shame as I have enjoyed my time in Aylesbury with a solid crew and learnt a great deal, given that no-one else in the country has defrayed such funding and designed programmes through the LEP’s following  the Coalitions white paper this has been quite a notch on the CV, and I was looking forward to meeting the Head of Pinewood studios who sits on the local LEP board. All this I’m sure is absolutely fascinating for you general reader but fret note there is a method to my madness, as naturally I’ve celebrated my new found popularity by spunking a severe amount of money on the audio-visual entertainment level, so let’s take a look at what the menagerie will be indulging in over the coming weeks and months;

I’ve seen this before and enjoyed it thoroughly, I’ve been tempted to go back and econnaissance the LZ as I recently read the book adaption which I picked up cheap at a local charity shop – something light for my long, now previously defunct commute.

I was a big fan of the first season given Spacey’s slithering performance and the Machiavellian intricacies of Washington politics, I hear that the second series is a re-election of similarly vaunted quality.

I’ve been oscillating with when I’d finally take down True Detective which I’m fairly sure I’ll love – a dark Southern Gothic crime odyssey being hailed as the best eight-hour noir movie of the last ten years? – although I’ve been a little hesitant and waited for the £35 quid price to drop. Still, life’s too short so fuck it, plus I’m tired of avoiding spoilers for months now so I’m willing to punt out the cash for ‘the best TV series since The Wire‘. Well, we shall see, I think I’ll marathon the lot in a single, gorge bloated sitting…..

Whilst I’ve seen and loved The Walking Dead my viewing of the decomposing dread has been patchy, I missed episodes here and there when it aired on UK terrestrial TV, and with the fourth season imminent I thought a revisit may be in order – £30 for the first three seasons is another pretty good bargain in my book. Of the dead. I do expect to be requiring psychiatric help by the end after 35 hours of apocalyptic depression, or just a few months of staring of into the distance whilst quietly weeping may be in order…

We’ve been here before, and I doubt I’ll power through all the episodes for another few years yet (I mounted a re-watch a few years ago) but Fire Walk With Me in HD and the numerous extras are enough justification to drop £50 on this little box that’s wrapped in plastic, those 90 minutes of scenes could even be charitably construed as a new Lynch movie.

Cinema fanatics wept with the joy with the news of this, no less than eighteen of Herzog’s movies upgraded to HD for the first time, all collected with the requisite extras and documentaries by the exalted BFI. There’s a few early oddities in the list which I haven’t seen yet, but more importantly it will prompt me to go back through the great man’s catalogue and partially make amends for my poor attendance at the BFI season last year.

Oh, and yeah, I’ve invested in a PS4 to watch all this on – look, I was going to upgrade the Blu-Ray player and then I thought to myself hang-on….this also looks fucking epic so why the hell not? How else am I going to entertain myself until the LFF in October? I’m not kidding, but some of the effects and animation in those next generation games had my jaw on the floor in amazement – we’ve come a long way huh……

Exodus (2014) Trailer

Hmm, this slipped out rather quietly, after Noah are we going to be subjected to another cycle of biblical guff? Still with Sir Ridders behind the viewfinder I’m sure it’ll be visually impressive, if nothing else;

BFI In Conversation Event – Peter Fonda

fondaI’m becoming a little distraught with my beloved BFI gentle reader, as they have been rejecting my numerous advances concerning a few contemporary events. True enough they have treated me to the sight of Amélie in the flesh and an evening with Captain America that we’ll get into shortly but it’s the missed opportunities that really rankle, as I was always a glass half-empty kind of guy. Unbelievably they failed to notify me of a special preview of Linklaters Boyhood* with a directors Q&A last month which I would have loved to attend, it’s one of best films of the year and seeing the slacker himself in the flesh would have been, like, whatever man. More gruelling is my failure to secure tickets for a special preview of The Rover  which I’ve been excited about since its blistering screening at Cannes, the reviews since have veered across the road like a M4-Interceptor skidding on a discarded oil-slick but they have at least car-jacked quite a talent roster for the South Bank including Mike from Neighbours and some sparkily undead nonce alongside director David Michod whom is a talent I’m sure is going to go from strength to strength. Like any relationship though I suppose I must overlook these niggiling faults (there was also a planned preview of Grace Of Monaco with Kidman in attendance but given the mauling the film got I may have dodged a bullet) in advance of the expansive SF season constellation warping in at the turn of the year cycle, until then we’ll see other people and work out how we feel about each other in the longer term. In the meantime back to the matter at hand, counter-cultural cypher Peter Fonda in conversation whom of course is the immortal star of this, man;

Before I started this modest little blogging effort one of the more memorable evenings I attended at the BFI was a staggeringly rare appearance of the 20th century icon that is Jane Fonda, she was on a European tour to tout her autobiography at the time and her appearance was something akin to celluloid royalty – a real sense of a special occasion, and as you’d imagine she was quite the charismatic figure in the flesh. Brother Peter’s attendance was summoned as part of the Dennis Hopper season they are currently running in tandem with the Royal Academy Of Arts exhibition of Hoppers newly curated photographs, I must try to get along to see that as they do look fascinating – such a shame they never got Frank over for an interview as that would have been quite an experience…..

Jason Solomons, film critic of The Observer (and The Fail On Sunday but we don’t talk about that) compered proceedings with a skillful dexterity, even if Fonda seemed to think that some of his anecdotes and recollections were more pertinent and amusing than perhaps they were. He also has an amusing penchant for dropping in comments such as ‘that was far out’ and ‘yeah, that was a cool scene man’ which doesn’t feel deliberately manufactured, I’m sure he still genuinely speaks like that to his family and friends and isn’t constructing a public persona – but it’s still amusing. I must check out Ulee’s Gold again which if I remember correctly was a terrific little Sundance-lite character study, with an Academy Award nominated performance from Fonda for which he amusingly lost to his old buddy Jack for his turn in As Good As It Getsthe only thing memorable about that film was Jack’s great reassuring line to a friend who was struggling ‘Hey, don’t worry, you’ll be back on your knees in no time’.

Some of the discussion centred on the difference between producer, actor and director – especially when you’re performing all three tasks on the same project – which led to some material on a film which to my shame I don’t think I’ve seen, The Hired Hand. Maybe I’m getting it mixed up with some of those other late Sixties and early Seventies Westerns (The Missouri Breaks, Little Big Man, Soldier Blue, and some of those Eastwood pictures) so I think I’ll have to track it down and see what I’ve missed.  But of course most of the evening centred in on the film which guarantees Fonda and Hoppers footnote in the history books which is of course Easy Rider, to answer the perennial question yes the weed smoked below was real but no the coke wasn’t, despite Hoppers assurances that he’d score some primo Columbian flake at the start of production. Fonda trashed some of the allegations made in Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls but admitted that the narcotic vortex spinning around the film was accurate, but finished with the point that he brought a work-print in for roughly $250K which was astonishing even in that era, and of course the film went on to ignite a whole generation and opened the floodgates to a whole new generation of filmmakers – far out. So as usual an entertaining evening with another scion of Hollywood Royalty, I wonder if Bridget will ever come out of retirement so I can complete the triptych? And what else to close on but this classic, with a trio of genuinely wacked out of their gourds Hollywood legends – groovy;

Just to be perfectly clear and for the fucking record I thought I was being jolly smart and educational and everything by referencing Ozu in my review, having now just caught up with some articles after I wrote my piece I see that the always excellent John Patterson was on a similar wavelength. Just wanted to make that crystal clear…..EDIT and Bradshaw has only gone and nicked my Tarkovsky quote – fucking hacks…..

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