Monthly Archives: November 2011
By Josephine Grahl
I dreamed of impossible things… ‘but how could they be impossible, since I was dreaming them?’ asks the mime Baptiste. It’s a line which captures the essence of Les Enfants du Paradis, a film which circles around the opposition between dreaming and life, illusion and reality.
The idea of making the film may have originally seemed an impossible dream: a film involving a cast of thousands of extras, a mile-long set representing nineteenth century Paris, with various cast and crew members who were Jewish or fighting in the Résistance, to be made in German-occupied France in 1943. Film stock was rationed, and shooting was repeatedly delayed – Carné later claimed this was so that the film would not be released until after France had been liberated. The deceptions, self-deceptions and betrayals of life under occupation are reflected in the uncertainties and shifting loyalties of the characters in the film.
The film begins with an extended shot of a closed theatre curtain, over which the credits play; finally the curtain rises, but it is a deception: a velvet curtain painted on to a canvas. It rises to reveal not a stage, but the Boulevard du Temple, itself a space for performance: acrobats, jugglers and performing monkeys vie for trade along the street packed with theatres and sideshows and filled with bustling, vigorous, raucous crowds.
by Philip Concannon
How does cinema react to a tragedy as enormous as the earthquake that struck Japan on March 11th this year? Director Koichi Omiya reacted to the disaster in the simplest way possible; he visited Tohoku and pointed his camera at a town destroyed. The Sketch of Mujo is a 75-minute documentary that captures the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, as piles of wreckage sit where houses once stood and families begin the arduous process of rebuilding their lives. He holds his camera steady on scenes of utter devastation and allows us time to pick out resonant details – an upturned car on the roof of a two-storey house, a child’s toy amid the rubble of a former nursery – and he speaks to residents who discuss their woes with philosophical outlook, and a staunch resilience. “A belief in mujo is at the centre of Japanese life,” a Buddhist priest tells us, mujo being the Japanese word for transience or impermanence, and The Sketch of Mujo successfully evokes the way this entire region was altered in an instant, both on a widespread and personal level.
Part one of a four-part piece, by Ricky Young
Starting on 11th January 1983, and running over 15 weeks, BBC2 ran a branded season of sci-fi films on Tuesday evenings – crucially, for those who were 10 years old at the time, in that all-important between-tea-and-bedtime slot. Alerted to this by my father, who was always on the lookout for great films in front of which he could fall asleep, I sat on the floor and exposed my brain to far more strange and dangerous cosmic rays than could possibly have been good for me.
It was quite the grab-bag of movies, ranging from early-50’s schlock, late-50’s nuclear hand-wringing, psychedelic 60s romps, 70s paranoia and masses more besides. I watched them all. Little of their importance (or lack of) or legacy (ditto) meant anything to me at the time, but the joy contained in that long string of Tuesday nights still resonated in the back of my brain as an indistinct blur of space-ships, laser-beams and sudden stabs of orchestral menace. I’m not going to get all Nick Hornby on you here, but if I had to track down what kick-started my love for the genre, chances are I’d find it in a four-month excuse for a bunch of cheap repeats.
So when the subject came up in conversation recently, with similarly vague-yet-enthusiastic recollections, I felt it my duty to MostlyFilm – Europe’s Best Website – to revisit some of these half-remembered gems and bring them into sharp and unforgiving 1080p focus. And, I’ll warn you now, take the piss a bit.
24/11/11 On video art and pants or video art on pants – Pipilotti Rist’s Eyeball Massage at the Hayward Gallery
by Ann Jones
I like video art. I’ve bored enough people by talking about art to know that lots of people don’t, but I do. And I like artists’ film. And I like art that challenges expectations and art that questions traditional use of the gallery space. Bring them all together in the right way and the result can be genuinely exciting – think Antony McCall’s solid light works (which I wrote about when MostlyFilm first started), or Banks Violette’s as yet untitled (TriStar Horse) projection onto water vapour which will stay with me a long time – so I fully expected to love Eyeball Massage, Pipilotti Rist’s exhibition at the Hayward Gallery.
Things get off to a pretty good start. The first thing on view in the gallery is a chandelier of pants, onto and into which video is projected. What’s not to like? Pants. Art. That’s the sort of ridiculous combination I can get behind, especially when the pants in question aren’t the frilly lacy ones designed for show but sturdy sensible ones we’d rather stayed well hidden. And the rest of the room – a small, vulnerable looking model of a suburban house (which looked somehow American to me but is apparently the ideal home of Swiss suburbia) with wall sized projections around it – initially has me hooked. It’s as I give this work more time that things start to change. A video in the house shows a family at the dining table. They eat their dinner from plates that are on fire. At this point the word “kooky” creeps into my head and doubts start to set in. I confess that at this point – far too early in the show for it to be a reasonable response – I also start to browse rather than really looking. There is a video here that requires attention. I should read the subtitles but my mind keeps wandering and I move on. I stroll up the ramp to the back gallery where I enjoy the stuffed clothes-shaped cushions inviting me to lounge on some trousers or a T-shirt (when I say I enjoy them I mean they make me smile, they look too mean as cushions to persuade me to brave the inevitable pins and needles associated with lounging about on the gallery floor; in my book, it takes at least a bean bag for that indignity to be worth considering). The work here seems less narrative; images float in the space catching the hanging screens of diaphanous fabric, breaking up the images and creating an abstracted wonderland that is genuinely quite beautiful.
Thomas Pratchett marks the, er, 48th anniversary of Doctor Who with some personal reflections.
On an October evening in 1987 I wandered into our small brown living room, in which our aged, four-channel, push-button TV was on. It was past six o’clock, so cartoons were long gone for the day, and I was seven, so whatever was actually on at that time usually never interested me. But what I saw on screen that night was different. A man was being chased by a white robot. What cool craziness was this on during the boring TV hours? I remember little else about it, but this was my first exposure to Doctor Who.
by Emma Dibdin
Michael Shannon has officially become Hollywood’s go-to Man On The Edge. Ever since he literally drove Ashley Judd insane as a disturbed war veteran in William’s Friedkin’s paranoid skin-crawler Bug, he’s played an impressive range of notes on the scale of crazy. From his Oscar-nommed performance as Leo and Kate’s outspoken, fresh-from-the-asylum neighbour in Revolutionary Road to buttoned-down federal agent Nelson Van Alden in HBO’s mobster drama Boardwalk Empire, “intense” is too quaint a term for the brand of simmering, quasi-alien danger Shannon conveys: there’s a sense that any of his characters could snap at the drop of a hat.
What’s surprising about his bravura turn in Take Shelter, then, is how completely human and recognisable it is, how un-alien. Much of the Shannon canon has fascinated and repelled in equal measure – you wouldn’t be best pleased to run into Van Alden, or Bug‘s Peter Evans, down a dark alley. Running into Take Shelter‘s tortured blue-collar family man Curtis, on the other hand, you’d probably be fine with. You might even be inclined to offer him a pint and a sympathetic ear.
And God knows he could do with one. We’re introduced to Curtis in the midst of what appears to be an apocalyptic storm: ominously dark clouds gather, a harsh wind blows, and (in case you’re thinking that sounds like a pretty average British summer’s day) viscous brown oil begins to fall in the place of rain. And though he wakes up, this is no “it was all a dream” cop-out – the sense of impending dread lingers with us, and with Curtis, from those haunting opening shots onwards.
by Clare Dean
Pandemonium and chaos. When I arrive at the Odeon West End for the opening night of this year’s London Korean Film Festival, the queue is already around the block. The foyer is a mass of confusion, camera crews and big, burly security men and it appears that Kim Han-min’s new film, War of the Arrows is quite the hot ticket. So much so, that the boisterousness gives way to blagging, pleading and queue jumping.
As is often the case with festivals, the start is delayed a little. The audience slowly take their seats, filling screen 2. 15 minutes pass. Suddenly a wave of shrill screaming breaks out across the cinema. It takes me a few seconds to remember that K-Pop band, SHINee played earlier in the day – and the reason for the delays, crowds and screaming becomes clear. Every head in the room turns, cameras are out, people are standing on their seats. Three girls make a break for it and clamber on the stage. I stand up too, worried that I won’t know who to look at: but it’s obvious – five young Korean men with extravagant hair saunter down the aisle and coolly take their seats. The screaming continues, the burly security men look fraught. One even has his finger to his ear piece, (just like in the movies!).
Eventually, festival advisor Tony Rayns appears on stage to calm everyone down with a video introduction from Jonathan Ross and open the festival. Finally, we watch a film.
by Indy Datta
After what I feel was the resounding success of my public call for submissions for the London Film Festival, which led to some great writers writing for us for the first (but hopefully not the last) time, we’re doing it again as we look towards the end of the year, a time when most film blogs will be looking back at their favourite (and least favourite) films of the year.
This is what we’re going to do. For ten days in December, one writer will get the blog to themself each day to write about their favourite film (or, if you really prefer, TV programme, show, play, record, game, you know the kind of stuff we cover) of the year. You could be one of those writers.
by Ann Jones
Gerhard Richter is often described as the greatest living painter – certainly he is the most expensive – but it’s easy for such superlatives to get in the way of the work, especially work that poses questions and needs consideration and concentration rather than reverence. Gerhard Richter: Panorama at Tate Modern offers much more than a retrospective of his career – above all its about his exploration of paint both as his raw material and as a medium whose relevance has not always been accepted during his long career. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Richter exhibition I didn’t like but nonetheless I approached the Tate show with caution: I would hate to hate Richter, even mild disappointment at a show that couldn’t live up to expectations would hurt, and I’m usually not much of a fan of chronological arrangements.
In the end my first visit to the exhibition was brief; I walked through the show quickly after a screening of Corinna Belz’s fascinating documentary Gerhard Richter – Painting, a dialogue between the artist and his materials which offers real insight into Richter’s working methods, but also into his inability to articulate how he knows when a painting is finished (there seemed to me to be a certain generosity in allowing the camera access given that Richter seemed to find its presence intrusive, but the result is an interesting portrait). On that walkthrough, I’m pretty sure I exclaimed “Oh. I love that painting!” out loud a couple of times. When I saw the painting of Richter’s daughter, I may have added “Aah. Betty.” From that first quick look, I knew that many of Richter’s most familiar works were there (his painting of Jackie Kennedy perhaps the most notable omission for me) along with others I’d known about but only seen in reproduction. There were also surprises – both good and bad – the squeegee paintings of the 1980s reinforced the idea (brought to the fore by the worst excesses of design on show in the V&A’s Postmodernism: style and subversion 1970 – 1990) that that was a decade with a lot to answer for aesthetically, and what poor Betty had done to deserve being stuck in a room full of them I have no idea.