And so it begins, yes it’s already that time of year again so a polite warning – material may contain peril and pathos;
I do like these US focused Sleepy Skunk efforts, they are well constructed, and I’m sure Criterion will shortly be issuing their world cinema riposte….
Premature, or quite cannily throwing their proverbial hats into the ring before the annual maelstrom of ‘Best Of Year’ lists begin in earnest? Well to be fair I think S&S always promote their December issue in this way aligned with the French contingent, in any case it’s a fascinating little synopsis with some terrific commentary – the full print issue should arrive through my letterbox tomorrow. I saw The Act Of Killing last night and am still processing that uniquely disturbing piece of work, here’s the trailer;
As you may gather it’s not just the horrific unrepentance of the murderers which is incomprehensible, it’s the melding of the historical horror and the reconstructions by the perpetrators which is just….well. Herzog and Errol Morris have heralded it as a masterpiece, and the final scene emits a mystery that may never be solved. Nevertheless my list has remained concrete for a good few weeks now, just today I’ve finalised my list for submission to the similarly titled Sound On Sight, and yes there are a few alignments between competing strands although our Canadian cousins won’t publish for another fortnight or so. I particularly loved S&S editor Nick James assertion that Zero Dark Thirty ‘made the pathetic charade of Homeland impossible to watch’ and its immensely pleasing to see Upstream Colour getting the accolades it fragmentary deserves. I may try to reel-in Leviathan this weekend although I’ve already got a Gothic double bill scheduled for Sunday, I’ve been hearing great things about that fishing ‘documentary’ since it cruised the festival circuit back in 2012. Check this out;
Just a quick post as I have other priorities but I finally tracked this down, and whilst I’m instinctively opposed to his politics he’s an overlooked guy of the second golden Hollywood era, and if he hadn’t stormed the Ivory towers of the studios as their seventy year grip disintegrated into ashes the American cinema landscape could have been very different. The gangs all here, reminiscing on how they followed through the portal that he opened to begin their own careers whilst offering their fascinating cinephile anecdotes – Scorsese, Spielberg, Coppola, Lucas, Murch, Dreyfuss, Mann, Schrader, an almost animated Harrison Ford etc etc. – so obviously it’s essential Menagerie;
Did you know that Milius, along with Malick, wrote a certain urban drama which enshrined this little ditty?;
I haven’t seen that for a long time, I kinda like how Clint is less perturbed by the carnage than he is about the sacrilegious blood on his clothes. Red Dawn has entered the 1980′s lexicon but it’s actually a pretty bad movie even if you push the reactive jingoism aside, but still a fun to watch if you’re in a retro-fun mood;
Be sure to send the remake to a remote Siberian gulag, at least the original was howlingly entertaining – Wolverines!! Let’s keep this short so you can enjoy the documentary on your own terms – just like the man would prefer – and I know I should finish with the scene that will be etched on his tombstone but early on Steven finally puts some rumors to rest – yes John barked a ten page speech over the phone almost by instinct, but Robert Shaw cut it down to five pages and made movie history;
You may recall that some time back I remarked that I would be attending a wedding – well, I was getting a little ahead of myself as before we meet that iconic electro haired mannequin we must turn my Universal Monsters series to more intangible matters, and identify the manically screeching Claude Rains as the blink and you’ll miss him The Invisible Man. Now just as a reminder we are following the core texts of this Blu-Ray investment rather than the officially recognised canon as frankly I’ll be in my grave long before I manage to craft reviews of all seventy-odd films in the series, but who knows how many of those other creatures which go bump in the night might be covered through alternate programmes and initiatives in the mist drenched decades to come? In any case I was anxious to get this series up to 1933 so it could dovetail nicely into a big screen event which is part of the BFI’s imminent Gothic season, including a special guest whom hopefully won’t be rising from beyond the grave. But before that let’s get our claws on the next slippery sucubi of this severely serrated series;
In terms of a synopsis I don’t think we need to devote too much time, in an archetypical chilly and winterswept village a gauze garbed stranger arrives at the local Inn and demands a room with complete privacy and to broker no interruptions. Barking order to the frightened locals he doesn’t exactly inherit their sympathy, and the local law enforcement become suspicious that this interloper may be up to no good.The bandage slathered lunatic is Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains), a chemical genius who has unearthed the miracle compound monocane which when injected into animal turned them insane, as revealed by his compatriot Dr. Cranley (Henry Travers) and Dr. Kemp (William Harrigan) through a rather clumsy cutaway scene. The elixir does produce a rather impressive side-effect however as it renders the subjects partially invisible, and Cranley has further reasons to swiftly unveil the whereabouts of his companion and colleague as his daughter Flora (Gloria Stuart) happens to be madly in love with Griffin, so the race is on to save the newly anointed megalomaniac from himself and scupper his grandiose plans to clandestinely take over the world…..
The Invisible Man hasn’t quite been etched into popular culture like Frankenstein or Dracula of course perhaps in part due to his inherently intangible nature, but I have very fond memories of seeing this for the first time when these movies were aired in the early evening on BBC2 here in the UK. It’s almost impossible to comprehend but back in those primitive media days there was only four TV channels in the entire country (maybe three if it was pre-1982) and schedules starved of material would populate airtime with movies from across the early Hollywood era as well as Harold Lloyd and Laurel & Hardy shorts, it’s a resource of film history the likes of which is simply incomprehensible these days when we can repeat old game shows, soaps and lifestyle enhancement nonsense – it makes me wanna take over the world. In any case The Invisible Man does have its champions and I kinda like it from a historical perspective, tyrants boasting of their inherent mental and genetic superiority obviously had quite a resonance in 1933, and as a mystery story its one of the better arranged films of the era, setting up an initial question and then skirting around the narrative in a perpendicular fashion - there is one skilfully arranged montage of the terrorized locals which deftly moves throughout the space as our incorporeal anti-hero prowls through the village, lumbering from smashed windows to petrified children, from glum boozehounds to steadfast law officials, in quite freeing and canny fashion in the era of locked down cameras and restrictive sound recording equipment.
The special effects for the period must have been akin to the Avatar of their era, boasting a similar ‘Holy fucking Jesus Christ in a sidecar, how did they do that?’ reaction among impressionable viewers who were hitting their adolescence such as Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen when this invaded screens, not to mention disarming a whole new generation of wide-eyed viewers when these films went into rotation on network TV in the 1950’s, formulating a fascination with the irrational and fantastique in the minds of your Spielberg’s, Zemeicks, Lucas, Landis and Dante’s. It’s obviously primitive in the light of todays CGI hallucinations but those optical printing techniques are envelope pushing for their time, with some imaginative deployment of wire work and other camera tricky, they have really stood the test of time until the 1990′s when of course these effects would be manufactured in a computer rather than manipulating a group of celluloid strips back in the beaker bubbling lab;
There is something captured in popular psychology linking back to Homer of a man invisible being divorced from the rules of society, of becoming in his mind a virtual omnipotent god with access to the secrets places and facts of the world, with access to forbidden . In the film – quite prescient now given recently developments – Rains roars on his ability to pull down the existing power structures, of revealing the clandestine deals and operations conducted by the elites, even of re-distributing wealth and of levelling the social pecking order – clearly this prototype Assange / Snowden is absolutely insane? It’s something Verhoeven also flirted with in his underrated Hollow Man of 2000, turning his good scientist bad when unshackled from the chains of societal constraints, although that film did have to resort to textbook pyrotechnics in its final act rather than plunder the provocative premise. They sure didn’t trust scientists in those days eh? Those pretenders and plundering of gods plateau, manipulating the levers of physics and reality and reaping a biblical whirlwind in response, it’s a contrast to the studious presentation of science in the nuclear nightmare of the 1950’s where they solemn intone back story with exposition laced dialogue, cradling a smouldering pipe and bringing a rational, neutral idiom to the nightmares they have unleashed.
In terms of Hollywood lore you may recognise Dr. Cranley as Clarence the Angel from It’s a Wonderful Life, and Claude Rains only secured the part due to numerous other actors turning it down because of course, yup you guessed it – they would barely be seen on-screen. Nevertheless it boosted Rain’s profile through his persuasive vocal tones, and one imagines his immortality is assured in the annals of screen supremacy given his significant role in a certain North African wartime romance. Also look out for Gloria Stewart which some of you may recognise from some modest disaster movie of 1997, but who cares about that sunken stinker? This film ultimately dissolves into a farce with a Keystone Cops rejoinder, rather than pure sanity shredding terror which might be one of the reasons it doesn’t lurk as effectively as reanimated boltnecked cadavers or aristocratic blood swilling vermin, but it was another hit for Universal as these films were pretty much the lifeline to solvency during the depression, as audiences flocked to the opulent escapism epics of MGM they also loved gazing into the darker recesses of society and psyche. Naturally Universal stripmined the premise for as many sequels as possible, including The Invisible Man Returns, inevitably The Invisible Woman, grappling with the Nazi scourge in The Invisible Agent before claiming vengeance in, erm, The Invisible Man’s Revenge. Now hark, I do hear the sound of ominous distant wedding bells, so let me blow the cobwebs off my tuxedo and pin a decaying boutonnière to my mouldering frame as you are cordially invited to a special BFI hosted union of The Bride and Frankenstein….
After growing increasingly perplexed by my review of The Game I thought I’d take a break and check out an all too rare event these days, a BBC commissioned documentary related to Hollywood. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a red blooded hetrosexual disliker of musicals as much as the next man, but there are a few of them from the golden era which are essential viewing, and as an insight into early Hollywood holography this was insightful amusement. The fact that in a certain bona fide classic about Hollywood duplicity the Debbie Reynolds part was also shadowed as she surrogates a silent star makes me smile;
Aaah, they don’t make them like that anymore. I wonder if in twenty years filmmakers will be producing romantic inclined films about those crazy days of shooting pictures on film, rather than ocular mounted, hard drive driven vipers?
Some further good news this week which should have minstrels of the macabre writhing in ecstatic adoration, as I just received notification that I’ve secured tickets to not one, not two but all three special events which jumped out at me from the BFI’s imminent Gothic season – back of the blood-stained net. Although I’m minded to keep these activities veiled with a shroud of mystery I’m too excited to keep schtum, but before we get into that the final press release schedule for the LFF has also been circulated today which provides some further fantastic news. Well, unfortunately due to my other commitments I’m afraid both the Brelliat and Jarmusch are simply not feasible, but the weekend schedule does mean I will be able to programme in the new Coen picture and a certain slice of lesbian art house controversy, pending confirmation of press tickets to public screenings of some other material which may be more difficult to secure – we should see. In any case I should be able to commit to more material than anticipated as I’ve been simply unable to book time off for any of the press screenings which started a couple of weeks ago, but this does mean we’re looking at a couple of weekends of back to back gorging which should make for a modest, but still successful spread. Then we move eeriely into a BFI celebration of chills, beginning with a screening of perhaps the most influential zombie movie ever made;
Pretty tasty I think you’ll agree, an early nightmare of all those mindless, groaning, perpetual consumers…..So yes the godfather of ghouls is over for a Q&A which is a brilliant coup, it may seem like a frivolous waste of funds to see Night at the cinema given that it long since lapsed into the public domain and can be seen for free just about anywhere (hence why it frequently crops as homage in other horror movies – there are no trademark fees to pay) but I think its only fitting to celebrate his appearance with a devouring of one of the most imitated and influential midnight movies ever made. And then we have this;
Italian horror comes in all severed shapes and behemoth sizes, The Beyond is a leftfield favourite of mine which should be quite challenging to cover from a research perspective, so I can really get into the guts of Fulci’s increasingly adored oeuvre. Speaking of the Italians;
I’m not the worlds biggest Argento fan but my only regret in not attending Frightfest this year was an appearance of the grim grandaddy of giallo, by all accounts though he was an irritable and stroppy sort and the Q&A didn’t exactly go down well. Maybe he’ll be a little more forthcoming when discussing his greatest film, a phantasmagoric nightmare which I’m positive will be quite an experience on the big screen. Then we look to Poe, and a fantastic companion piece to my faintly popular The Masque Of The Red Death post from a few years back;
To my mind there are three figures of the horror genre still drawing breath whom I would sell my soul to see. The first of course of John Carpenter who alas has not been netted by the BFI candy much to my disappointment, maybe one day I’ll finally catch up with one of my most influential inspirations but not this year. Then there is Christopher Lee whom I’m similarly glum in not seeing on the murderous roster, the BFI must have approached him given the restorations they’ve financed on some of the early Hammer classics which bloodied his career, maybe his health is such that he’s not up to public appearances anymore – a shame. They have however netted another titan and I literally shouted YES when I saw this on the schedule – Roger Fucking Corman is coming to London town;
This might be the film event of the year from a genre perspective, just to be crass for a moment this may also be his final visit to the UK given his venerable constitution, and completing this trio of guests should make for quite a roster. Of course there are many other films on the schedule which I’m simply dying to see – some other Hammers, a few more constricting items, some Universal golden age cadaveours which would dovetail perfectly into my long mouldering season – but I’ll have to play these by ear as I may just have some other horrendous news on the day job front – we shall see. It’s kind of a shame I’m working at all as I could seriously butcher this season and surpass my 22 Hitchcock articles personal best, but alas one isn’t independently wealthy and I have to keep a roof over my coffin somehow….but then again, this is just what’s on offer for October and November and the season stretches out through January 2014 so who knows where we might find ourselves;
A mere year after’s its LFF UK premiere, Zizek’s fantastic companion piece to The Perverts Guide To Cinema finally gets its wide release this weekend;
I never bothered to finish my review, after twenty odd reviews last year I simply ran out of steam. In any case its a extraordinarily entertaining piece, with some fine insights delivered in his idiosyncratic style;
Raise your virgin blooded sickles to the light of a waning moon if you remember my commitment to celebrating all the Universal horror movies as an ongoing blog season during 2013? Well, I haven’t, and whilst my latest Invisible Man post has admittedly been languishing in a torturous limbo whilst I was distracted with foreign treasures the latest BFI programme has just slithered through my portal, and the final spectacle of the long waited Gothic season has seriously got my blood pumping;
I’m not shedding any commitments yet as I’m rhesus A+ positive that some of the screenings will be satanically popular, so let me just say that there are three infernal guests on the table with associated screenings which I’ll sell my soul to see – and we’re not just channeling the fabulous new Hammer prints they’ve already exhumed. After TiFF and the LFF it seems there is indeed no rest for the wicked….(cue booming spectral laugh)….
You can almost smell the stench of recycled copy from here – yes it appears that after Match Point, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight In Paris, To Rome With Love and just about every film released over the past decade that once again that oft quoted phrase ‘a return to form’ is being heaped on Woody Allen’s latest effort;
Well I disliked all of those films so I’m simply not going to fall for it this time – sometimes a man has taken too much, and frankly the Jasmine of the title looks like another in a long parade of horrible narcissists whom one doesn’t want to spend two hours of their life with. What’s odd about this is I was actually a Woody Allen fan in my youth, and I’m not just talking about the ‘earlier, funnier ones’ – no, I’m talking about Deconstructing Harry, Mighty Aphrodite, Radio Days, Crimes & Misdemeanors, Husbands & Wives, Hannah & Her Sisters, and others, I just can’t stomach the self-involved style, the upper middle class cultural references to Borges, or Satre or Hemingway or Strindberg, it just has to stop. I will take a look on Blu, but that’s enough – here’s an idea of earlier, better times;
Anyway in other news I finally finished the terrific The Big Screen which contains a scattering of diamond class insight into the movies, even if Thompson does have this rather tedious habit of making irrelevant asides to the personal lives of movie figures past and present;
Now I’m not saying that a directors, actors, screenwriters, composers etc. socio-economic background, their education, the country in which they were raised, their racial pedigree, religious upbringing or sexual orientation, their family dynamics and history, all these things and dozens more illuminate and enhance our understanding of the work and careers of say Ernst Lubitsch or Meryl Streep, but do we really need to remark that Clint Eastwood has ‘seven children by five women’ and this is pertinent because? Anyway, it’s a small gripe (I’m being particularly critical today) and I only mentioned it as it’s quite jarring within the flow and purpose of the rest of his writing, as overall this was an A grade oversight of the movies from he first undercranked wheeze of a projector to the 21st century, with insights of such quality as CE3K is ‘a film about the movies themselves and the wonder that light casts on a watching face’ and (let me paraphrase) that Scorsese’s Casino ’has a central riddle, that Vegas promises an adventure in hell for a few days for tourists, yet the characters in the film have a helpless sense of heaven there’ – great stuff….
It doesn’t take long does it, to return from a holiday and get back into the grove of everyday life, it’s all bit like going from the starstruck purlieus of a Sofia Coppola picture into the stark tedium of a Mike Leigh drama – welcome back to local government. Still, at least my staff have made some strides with some projects in my absence, and I get to ask Boris for £7 million squid for a scheme I’m leading on next week, the chaotically coiffeured cretin. Until then movie visits are looking sparse so tonight’s entertainment will be of the home variety;
The phrase ‘amongst the best Russian action films ever made’ doesn’t get bandied around a lot, but I’ve good things about this evocative tale of a ghostly German tank which haunted the Western front back in 1944 – something a little different, comrade.
Then I figure it’s time to revisit an old friend, partially inspired by that BBC4 Soundtrack series I thought it was time to take a wander down to an early Scorsese joint, a film I haven’t seen in years. it’s been pretty slow trailer and news wise over the past week or so hasn’t it, but I guess I should link to the full preview for one of the best of the year – we shall speak no more of this until the end of the year.
Having just got back to the UK I’m too shattered to offer much at the moment, but I have made a start on a aftermath post which should hopefully wrap things up and highlight my top five – so here’s the final montage from TiFF to close the circle until the weekend;
Monday morning, and like a man possessed of the protestant work spirit I awoke at an ungodly hour and managed to get down to the media centre and crank out another review – the way I figure it only one a day is remotely feasible, and I can catch up with some of the flotsam and jetsam when I get back home. I then had the pleasure of Bullock & Cuaron’s company;
The more I think about Gravity, the more I like it, I;m definitely enlisting fora IMAX revisit back in London. Now I know everyones going crazy about 12 Years A Slave but believe me this opinion is not shared in every quarter – some colleagues I have been speaking to (and believe me you can’t grab a cup of coffee or a slice of pizza in this town without getting caught up in a debate, its great!) have outlined some concerns which at face value sound quite valid, I doubt I’ll make it to the last press screening given other priorities so I guess I’ll just wait until the LFF. Anyway, then it was time for another documentary, the contemporarily anticipated Known Unknowns by the mighty Errol Morris;
It was good, he never completely nails his quarry but of course Morris likes to give his subjects enough rope and let them construct their own noose, but Rumsfeld is one slippery bastard – Its quite a weary ride through the last decades still reverberating war crimes. Now since there is no trailer yet here is some footage from Venice;
The strongest indie’ film (whatever constitutes indie these days is a whole other article but I digress) of the festival so far, a packed screening of Reichardt’s Night Moves which was one of my most anticipated films of the whole schedule. I can’t do it justice here but if you like Meeks Cutoff or Wendy & Lucy then you’ll like this – she hasn’t ‘sold out’ by employing Fanning and Eisenberg who are both very good. Tomorrow we see if I can get Under The Skin;
I can′t think of a better way to start this Canadian endeavour than a press conference with David Cronenberg so that′s exactly what I did after collecting my press credentials bright and early this morning, it′s quite dry to start with but once he gets talking he’s quite an amusing chap;
Interesting use of social media methinks - my new symbiosis told me to say that. After that was a screening of a near four-hour holocaust documentary which I’ve just submitted, suffice to say after that gruelling experience I enlisted the aid of a few ales to get through those 900 words. As promised here’s the first video round-up;
Not wanting to plunge into Heat alike shallow waters but I thought it might be kind of amusing to keep a tab of celebrity captures, with the proviso that my definition of a ′celebrity′ may oxymoronically be wider and more specialised than most folks – thus I′m including fellow critics, industry figures and general film culture sorts as prey alongside the Clooney′s and Scarlett′s of this world – Day One includes Godfrey Koyaanisqatsi Reggio, David Cronenberg of course and Peter Travers, Rolling Stone′s senior critic for many, many years – I can hear your jealous gasps across the oceans….
Well the anticipation is certainly building now, as my email account starts to get swamped with invitations to conferences and interview opportunities begin to cascade the Toronto Film Festival is incrementally gaining traction. This leaves me with a quite staggeringly final busy weekend of errand running so I thought it best to make an early start on my proposed schedule, I’ve combed through the programme and identified three lists representing different tiers of interest and excitement, culled from the 300 films which are on offer over the ten days. This is my top-tier, the dozen films which represent a combined mixture of genre and cult movie anticipation alongside the potential breakthrough award courting material – the Argo’s and Silver Lining Playbooks of the industry if you will – with a brisk sentence or two to outline my interest in the sake of brevity – hopefully the trailer will speak for itself. So let’s begin in no particular order with an obvious big-hitter;
Twelve Years A Slave - After the spare economies of Hunger and Shame it should be fascinating to see what the remarkable Steve McQueen does with his first film from existing material, that trailer looks a little gong friendly though so I hope he retains some of his unusual predilections and this doesn’t get diluted to Academy Award cat-nip.
Like Father, Like Son - Kore-Eda is arguably one of the most accomplished directors to emerge from the Asian peninsula in the new millennium, and after charming Cannes with this Jury Prize winner this looks like essential viewing to me.
Blue Is The Warmest Colour - Again, keeping with the opening theme of high-profile world cinema this is another unavoidable acquisition, especially after its straight out of the blue Cannes winning shock.
Moebius - Now that’s enough of the chin stroking , what we want now is some genuine preconception challenging material, and this notorious sounding piece from Korean provocateur Kim ki-Duk might just be the film which prompts the most walk outs from the little I’ve heard of its transgressive plot and gruelling imagery. it looks like that trailer is playing it safe for now, but with that eternally looping name I’m already detecting Irreversible connections.
Why Don’t You Play In Hell - Looks like a crimson soaked laugh-riot, complete with The Bride from Kill Bill references unless my eyes are deceiving me. I’m not sure quite what we’ll be in for with a Sion Sono ‘comedy’, but I’m jolly excited to find out.
Gravity – Well this just got its world premiere in Venice and from the very little I’ve seen – I’m even avoiding those alternate trailers at this point – I think we’re on target for some something quite special here.
Visitors - Reggio’s experimental poems have had their ups and downs since the mesmerizing Koyaanisqatsi, I hope he can get back on track with another non-verbal, narrative defying epoch of our times.
Under The Skin - Also premiering at Venice Jonathan’s Glazer’s long-awaited follow-up to Birth - the opening to which you can see above – is guaranteed to be one of the hot tickets. Apparently with Scarlett Johanson as a flesh seeking alien in human form it might be better than Species III: The Specieing.
REAL - Another one of the more personal choices, I adore Kiyoshia Kurosawa who like Glazer has been absent from the world stage for far too long – welcome back with a compelling looking blend of Inception and Brainstorm.
Last of The Unjust - Time to get serious for a second, as this loose follow-up to Shoah from holocaust chronicler Claude Lanzman is said to be another devastating account of one of the most incomprehensible and terrible crimes of human civilisation.
Only Lovers Left Alive - Jim Jarmusch is a rarefied taste for some, I’ve avoided any reviews so I’m not entirely sure how this has gone down at Cannes, but with a cast like that I can’t wait to get my teeth into this one.
The Fifth Estate - Given wikileaks constant gyrating presence in the news this is sure to generate a whirlwind of interest, as the opening gala film of the festival I thought this apt to conclude my first list. Next up, the second tier oddities and curios to give me occupied…..
This powerful but rather muddled documentary hit London in a limited run over the weekend, my review here;
Also, some further Tiff announcements here, only a few weeks now, and the new Miyazaki has got a lot of folks excited;
A little twee for my tastes, but given his popularity I’ll try to take it for a spin. Now, lets see, now that I have your attention can someone please explain to me how the living fuck I’ve only just realised that the Channel 4 series Southcliffe which just finished airing here in the UK is in fact the very same Southcliffe that was announced as Sean Durkin’s directorial follow-up to Marthy Marcy May Marlene? Jesus Christ in a sidecar, I’d best get on the case with that then eh?
The announcements for this years London Film Festival are startling to trickle through, including the revelation of the opening night gala presentation;
…which has been accompanied by another Tom Hanks starring vehicle for the closing night gala – I’m really not so sure about this;
Hmm, I have to say I’m harbouring some reservations this year, apart from the fact I’m not sure I could negotiate the time off to attend some of the screenings the principle of paying £30 for a press pass really rankled me, as of course I don’t get paid for the reviews I craft and the prospect of paying for the privilege of writing twenty odd reviews for nothing is faintly insulting. I don’t blame the BFI specifically, they are trying their best to stay afloat after another brushing round of austerity cuts, but after five years of hard work I can’t help but feel a little aggrieved, and I’m not alone. There’s also the possibility of catching most of the new stuff at Tiff anyway given the avalanche of announcements emanating from across the pond, so I’m gonna have to seriously mull this one over….
The first festival trailer has finally dropped, just as the Midnight Madness strand of programming was announced this morning UK time;
I’ve thrown together a Midnight Madness overview which I’ll link here shortly, it just needs a final polish. In the midst of a pretty mental day of errands I also just managed to catch Francis Ha, it’s was s’lright – review tomorrow. EDIT – OK, here’s the link – new Sion Sono? Count me in….and I should probably also point you to this;
The feverish anticipation is over, as the Toronto Film Festival team unvielied their 2013 programme this morning including the opening film The Fifth Estate, and closing film Life of Crime which I can’t even find on IMDb – what a professional eh? Perhaps more exciting for this reviewer are new films from Atom Egoyan, Steve McQueen, Jason Reitman, Don McKellar, Paul Greengrass, Jonathan Glazer, Stephen Frears, Kelly Reichardt, Kiyoshia Kurosawa, Jim Jarmusch and, erm, Ron Howard;
Plus the Cannes winning lesbian flick, and oh yeah, the North American premiere of Gravity which I’ve been waiting three years for. The genre festival strain of Midnight Madness isn’t announced until July 30th so there is more to come. I’m putting together a more detailed overview for Sound On Sight, so watch this space….
A quiet weekend pushing forward two small screen director seasons – I’m currently revisiting the lesser known works of Walter Hill and Jacques Tourneur with mixed results - has been accompanied with some further research into Toronto and the wider phenomenon of Canadian cinema. Often eclipsed by the behemoth cultural production centres of New York and Hollywood the county has nevertheless bred its own idiosyncratic voices, many of whom are in operation on the world cinema stage in this challenging new millennium for the art form. Sure like many filmmakers and talents around the world any emerging talent tends to get sucked into the Hollywood maelstrom once they have made their mark with an attention grabbing picture, bled dry by the forces of corporate production and subsequently thrown to the wolves should they not acquiesce to the demands of the all-powerful cultural cartel. But some directors, actors and associated talents have carved successful careers within their own creative and subjective demands, as well as hosting the worlds second largest film festival after Cannes. So in terms of Canadian figures of note let’s begin with the obvious;
Can someone please remind me why I’m going to the same country that this lunatic lives in again? I think creepy David has been slightly off the boil recently following the disappointments of A Dangerous Method and Cosmopolis , but like many filmmakers with forty years under his belt the critical and commercial attention tends to ebb and flow, with those early inventive and deeply subversive body horrors being accompanied by the likes of The Fly, Dead Ringers, Crash, Videodrome and The History Of Violence as the nodal points of his continually fascinating career. It’s quite a ‘body’ of ‘work’ don’t you think?
Atom Egoyan gravitates more to the art-house crowd than the blood thirsty sickos, but he’s also not afraid to get under the skin in less literal ways, with his meditative, chilly psychosexual dramas and thrillers which provoke a rather bleak vision of modern man and woman at the mercy of animal instincts neutered within society. He gained international attention with the astonishing The Sweet Hereafter which propelled him beyond admiration of the cinephile circles, and also the calmly measured Exotica which I must revisit before September. I quite liked his recent movie Chloe which you can get a taste of above, as another psychological mediation on love, sex and lust he’s certainty fond of a rhythm method.
I’ve never quite come to grips with Guy Maddin. His personal, essay films are quite striking and compellingly made, but I just don’t tend to connect with them on an empathic level, despite the artistry and heartfelt love he pours into his works. He’s a major figure in world cinema given his genre bending documentaries / essays / historical reflections / love stories, I’m in no doubt that the failings lie with me and not his skills.
Denys Arcand is the French Canadian favourite among the intelligentsia, probably best known for 1989′s Jesus Of Montreal which brought this specific strain of subtitled cinema to international recognition. The best I can synopsise the handful of films I’ve seen is he’s like a slightly more frosty Almodóvar with his sexually charged, lightly frivolous examinations of middle class foibles and hypocrisies, above is his best critically regarded film The Barbarian Invasions which I first caught a few years back.
One of the nasty little secrets of Canadian cinema is that they harbour a mouldering skeleton in the closet, as it was Bob Clark’s 1974 Black Christmas which hesitantly followed 1960′s Psycho and a number of Italian giallo atrocities, paving the way for the modern American slasher with John Carpenters franchise formulating Halloween escaping from the asylum another four years later to carve a place in cinema history. Actually there are a number of fondly regarded horror pics of this era which many assume are American when in fact they were bloodily birthed north of the border, including both the original Prom Night and My Bloody Valentine.
Whilst we’re on genre cinema I do like to keep a close eye on the career of Vincenzo Natali, sure he’s never quite made a ‘great’ film but his CV boasts genre favoured episodes such as Splice and Cube which project deeper potential promise, and it seems that his Neuromancer project is slowly being streamed to the next crucial stage of production. Mark my words, if they fuck up the translations of these formative books of my youth along with that suspicious sounding Winters Tale adaptation I won’t be held responsible for my actions. In any case his new film Haunted hit SXSW back in March to mixed reviews, and given his heritage I’m assuming it will get a slot in the wildly popular Midnight Madness strand of Tiff.
And finally something a little more contemporary, an incredible sequence from the immensely powerful Incencdies which you may recall garnered a best foreign language Oscar nomination a few years back. So here we are, a few potential obstacles have been eradicated which gives me carte blanche to book my flights next week, more importantly the inaugural press conference launch is on Tuesday which I will be following due to the magic of the Internet, I’m jolly excited to see what this years programme contains and will be posting a synopsis of the top dozen or so must sees toward the end of the week….
It’s getting hot out there ain’t it? For a Monday I’m having a pretty good day, the office is in good banter and I even picked up a copy of Nichols Winding Refn’s first American film Fear X for the princely sum of £1 from the local Sutton budget shop – perfect as context filler for the approaching Only God Forgives. So I thought I might quickly throw together a miscellaneous post to keep the tempo going after a relatively quiet weekend, it appears I’m very much in the minority with regard to my tepid reaction to Pacific Rim, but as Groucho Marx once said ‘stick it up your ass you nerdfuck assholes’. At least, I think that was Groucho. So before the onslaught continues with The Worlds End next weekend and with Elysium landing soon after I have made a start on David Fincher’s TV Executive Produced series House Of Cards, a Washington transplant of the acclaimed 1980′s BBC political murder drama. I distinctly remember watching that as it aired with the great Ian Richardson in the central role, and I think I even read the novelisation of the series, this adaption then had quite big shoes to fill – not dissimilar to the challenge in successfully adaptation Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy now that I think of it, but with Fincher you’re in safe hands as this was superb;
A real slow burn, it’s clearly taking its time to build the characters and Machiavellian plots, both Spacey and Robin Wright Penn are excellent, and its also taking thecare to build its side and supporting characters - I may have fallen for the ambitious young journalist and her slithering ways. For obvious reasons the media analysis of the shift of a traditional, dinosaur print newspaper into the 21st century of blogging, twitter and lolcats is also fascinating to me, I’m six episodes in and looking forward to the rest. After a couple of imminent hectic days holding consultation events tomorrow and briefing MP’s on Wednesday morning I figured I could do with a quiet evening, so I thought I’d check out a screening of this;
London psychocartographer Iain Sinclair is turning 70 this year and has selected 70 films to screen around town as part of the celebrations, movies which have influenced and been inspired by his work. The inaugural event is at the Hackney Picturehouse which is a bus ride away, I’ve seen the film which isn’t fantastic but I like the sound of the context of this screening, plus graphic novel genius Alan Moore is also in attendance so it should be fun seeing him in the flesh again – a long story I’ll save for the review. Given that this was publicised in the weekends Guardian I’m kinda surprised this wasn’t sold out, I found out about it via twitter, which just goes to show something, although I don’t know or indeed care what that thing may be. Or do I? Ah, time will tell. Or will it? Hmmmph.
This BBC Omnibus documentary on the legendary Golan & Globus empire of Cannon films has been doing the rounds amongst the community, as a glimpse behind the curtain into the smoky world of cigar chomping moguls I’m told it’s good fun. Without these uncompromising artisans the world as we know it would never have been pleasured with Enter The Ninja, Missing In Action, Rappin’, Lifeforce, Cobra, Bloodsport, Cyborg, American Ninja III: Blood Hunt and of course the stone cold classic Breakdance 2: Electric Boogaloo. In centuries that are yet to pass these 20th century Euripides may well be looked upon as contemporary titans, as storytelling gods who captured the spirit of their age like no other, who now walk amongst the valoured halls of eternal cinema entertainment. Either that, or the guys responsible for this.
And finally tonight’s entertainment, Christian Mungiu’s long-awaited follow-up to the highly acclaimed Four Months, Three Weeks & Two Days. Just what you need for a summer Monday evening is a three-hour rumination on Romanian village life and religious indoctrination, this is one of these inevitable ‘movies of the year’ given the critical adoration it has spawned among the more serious cineliterate circles, I failed to catch this at the flicks so I’m correcting that oversight with a Blu-Ray tonight. By the same token it looks like I missed my chance with Before Midnight, I checked out the schedules over the weekend and we’re just not compatible, I’ll just have to let her go as my career has to come first, but I’ll always be thinking about her even if we just couldn’t work this damn thing out (sobs….)
Sometimes one can only feel really quite pathetic when comparing plans to delivery. Now don’t fret, I’m not strictly referring to the fascinating day-to-day frustrations of a freelance government programme manager (although six months of pulling teeth and crafting copy has finally yielded a bloody website), I am of course referring to my shameful coverage of a certain previously vocalised BFI season for which I loudly proclaimed some grand plans for – talk about a lesson in managing expectations. When I first registered that the BFI would be holding an exhaustive season of Werner Herzog’s phenomenal half century of fiction and non-fiction dreams and visions my mind danced will all sorts of complex coverage, from a mixture of the documentaries to fictional epics, from the various American and European phases of his career, even attempting some coverage of his truly unusual fare such as Even Dwarves Started Small – now that’s a genuine cult film. Plagued by realism I finally withdrew to a mere four films, including the suicide inducing Stroszek which I haven’t seen for years but have always been deeply unnerved by the final fifteen or so minutes, the epic fascism of Aguirre Wrath Of God, and the literally hypnotic Heart Of Glass. Well, schedules are clearly my nemesis as a combination of job interviews, competing special cinema events and general illness have convened to make all three of these viewings impossible, but we have had a minor miracle in finally seeing one of the most infamous of Herzog’s obsessional odyssey’s. I’m not going to tire you with any context setting prose on Herzog’s extraordinary cinematic reach and contours as that has already been conducted by the best piece that The Guardian has commissioned all year, so lets take our maiden voyage into the dark of heartness….
In the dense pantheon of Herzog’s dreamers and madmen, rogues and bandits the figure of failed rubber baron Fitzcarraldo stands tall in his resplendent white suit, his eyes titled to the heavens as the beauty of Caruso cascades into the antediluvian jungle canopy. In a sweltering early 20th century Brazil Fitzcarraldo (Klaus Kinski in a trademark role) has become obsessed with bringing the opera to the pulsating and putrid dense core of the jungle, as impossible a mission as only the dreamers and the driven figures of old can possibly embrace in order to drive civilisation forward, even as plans and schemes promise an icarus style plunge to failure. After his project to implement a majestic rail system across the Andes stalls the barking eyed obsessive convinces the local financiers of Bogota that he can circumnavigate the treacherous Ucayali River by traversing the neighbouring Pachitea waterway and decant his expedition to a parcel of unclaimed resources, an expedition which coincides with his insane notion to douse the wilds with the enlightening strains of Strauss, Puccini and Verdi. With seed funding (in perhaps two senses of the word) provided by the profits of his romantic and business partner Molly (Claudia Cardinale who is perhaps best known Once Upon A Time In The West) in a pique of inspirational chance Fitzcarraldo purchases and outfits a decrepit steamer and hires a motley crew of reprobates to accompany him on his aural odyssey – a half blind Dutch captain (Paul Hittscher) who promises he can circumnavigate the hallucinations of the jungle, a stoic Indian engineer Cholo (Miguel Ángel Fuentes) and the perpetually sozzled ships cook Huerequeque Enrique Bohórquez, both illusive figures in their only ever film appearances. Their task seems impossible folly, to pursue the treacherous waters where dark muttered threats of headhunters and cannibalism dwell, but if the gods are with them their improbable and impossible pilgrimage might just succeed.
Having not seen the film for many years and never being thoroughly gripped by previous viewings I can’t say I was thoroughly submerged in Kinski’s obsessional brilliance, but as a film of broad images and ideas it is quite a sulphuric achievement, an unswerving quest which slowly builds momentum over a languid near three-hour cruise. After the meandering tributaries of the staggered opening the film moves into faster flowing waters once the steamer is crewed and begins puttering into the dense emerald canopy, as Fitzcarraldo spares no quarter and mercilessly pursues his goal at the risk of not only his life but also his very soul. It’s slow and ponderous by contemporary standards but this is meant as praise rather than scorn, as Fitzcaralso’s quest blooms some quiet moments of poetic splendour, with mysteries of his inner, churning drives as scattered and diffused as a slowly digested, Amazon setting sun.
The dubbing on the film is vaguely distracting, I’m not sure if it is due to the usual sonic manipulation in order to make the print available to foreign markets (it’s a West German production, back before the Wall crumbled) but it certainly suffers from an uneasy mis-alignment of phrase which doesn’t marry with voice, the facial expressions and lip movements do not gel which suggests that the film must have been shot in different languages than the English But this is a small grumble for such an arresting piece, Kinski is his usual maniac self is utterly brilliant and magnetic, he anchors the entire film as our unswervingly driven hero, and you can’t help but get swept away in his zealous passion, His performance and the character is a meme for progress and humanities instinctual drive to multiply and conquer, as Fitzcarraldo encounters missionaries risking their immortal souls in order to bring Christ to the savages and clearly the primary motivating factor for the industrialists is the acquisition of wealth and power through expansion and colonization of new markets, new environments, but isn’t that an instinctive component of humanity Herzog seems to be suggesting, our intrinsic compulsion to navigate and explore, to master and tame this wild and unruly universe?
I think it’s fair to cement Herzog in the cinematic camp of ideas rather than a mere stylist, he clearly pours all his passion, his fascinations and curiosity into the world encompassing his narratives, motivations and drives, rather than being preoccupied with cinematic language, with crafting complex shot sequences and throwing a camera around a scene, his style arising organically from his characters, the subject matter dictating the form. You can see it in his marriage of documentary work and fiction work throughout his long career, his fiction films work as pseudo documentaries of non-fiction characters, whilst his bona-fide documentaries bio-pics of fantastical and larger than life subjects who have usually achieved incredible things. In either incarnation he has an unsurpassed eye for indigenous flora and fauna that nest throughout his films, there are very few directors who can so vividly evoke and populate such a tangible time and pungent place, and of course his trademark suspicion and hesitant truce with the implacable forces of climate and nature betray a man in constant Sisyphean battle with the menacing environment that surrounds our puny mortal shells. In one beautiful and absurdly poetic touch, Fitzcaraldo insists that his snorting long bellied pig will be given a crimson scrunched opera chair upon which to enjoy the arias, once his impossible mission is accomplished.
The experience of a dangerous journey upriver through the jungle with a rag-tag crew of expendables recalls Coppola’s earlier heart of darkness which was released only a couple of years prior to this films maiden voyage, and both pictures share a lucid incandescence of non-fictional excess, insanity and danger spilling over into the film world, or rather world of the film. The legendary tales of narcotics, conflict, cardiac arrests and cadavers sweating over Coppola’s searing symphony are similar to the same legends and darkly muttered myths which have coalesced around the production of Fitzcarraldo, they actually did haul a 300 tonne vessel across a mountain to another tributary using indigenous labour, a herculean feat which was physically accomplished and not photo-chemically enhanced through special FX or trick photography, an achievement which Herzog believes has crowned him as the ‘Conquistador of the Useless’. This melding of fiction and non-fiction of course elevates the film into a parallel dimension of appreciation and meaning, it’s certainly one thing for your leading protagonist to clearly adopt the persona of the director, it is quite another to repeat an incredibly dangerous and allegedly irresponsible engineering project although Herzog has always asserted that the highest pinnacles of safety were observed at all times. I suspect the nature spirits were just too terrified to incur the wrath of the Teutonic tyrant, as furiously obsessed and driven as Kinski’s ferocious avatar, although the battle was intense.
So, Herzogians will appreciate that there is a famous documentary Burden Of Dreams which excavates the making of the film which you can see a taster of here, and the legendary fits of rage that Kinski unleashed can be witnessed in this extract from the Herzog crafted My Best Fiend which is of course hilarious viewing, such material fondly reminds me of the superb comedy articles in the sadly defunct Hotdog movie magazine. Herzog has gained some real traction as film culture meme over the past decade given his lyrical idiosyncrasy and persona, the most recent of which would be his appearances on the popular Comedy Bang Bang comedy podcast, and his infrequent appearances on the Doug Loves Movles show, then of course there are the memes and the classics. For my sins with the exception of My Son, My Son What Have Ye Done I’ve actually covered all his releases since 2007 here on the blog, not bad going given his proliferate output, and its encouraging to see that according to IMDB he has another clutch of projects in development at the age of 70, including a bio-pic of Gertrude Bell and a TV series - is there nothing this titan of a man can’t do?
I’ve posted the preview version here before but the full dossier has finally been defrosted, here is the definitive 55 minute retrospective on the making of a horror masterpiece;
This is a terrific piece which walks you through the important history of the aspect ratio, pure unadulterated celluoild crank for all cinephiles;
There’s a few of these reports doing the rounds, given the subject matter you’d think someone would have invested in a stabilizer but here we are;
That’s probably the most exhaustive video out there, I’m not in any way a camera nerd but to see some of those technological artefacts that were used to film Lyndon, Odyssey, The Shining and others is quite exciting to see. This closes in LA today, and yes one is feverishly praying that some London museum steps in to host the next phase of the exhibition – given that Kubrick lived in the UK for almost forty years where many of these masterpieces were crafted is that too much to ask?