Monthly Archives: August 2012
Indy Datta reviews Berberian Sound Studio
On paper, Peter Strickland’s second feature looks like a departure from his first, Katalin Varga, which he made on a shoestring budget funded by a family inheritance, after a lifetime of being ignored by the film business. Where Katalin Varga roamed the mountains and villages of Transylvania to tell the story of its title character’s quest for revenge against the man who once raped her, Berberian Sound Studio takes place entirely within the confines of the titular (and fictional) Italian studio, where Toby Jones’s sheltered British sound effects man Gilderoy has arrived in the 70’s to work on a lurid (and, sadly, fictional) giallo movie, The Equestrian Vortex. But what is striking, in the end, is how clearly the two films share the same voice, and how distinctive that voice is.
Ann Jones reviews a summer of documentaries about artists
It’s not all that often that a documentary about an artist gets a cinema release so for there to be not one, not two but three films about artists doing the (albeit limited) rounds this summer, albeit on very limited releases, seems sufficiently unusual to be noteworthy. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present and Eames: the Architect and the Painter are very different films about very different artists but there are plenty of common threads and each raises interesting questions about the nature of art practice and the role of the artist.
There is, of course, nothing inherently interesting or unusual about the lives of artists, though Ai Weiwei and Marina Abramović are perhaps exceptions – with their life and work being inseparable – and Charles and Ray Eames arguably played a major role in defining the look of post-war domestic spaces, so that their work is tied to our lives before one even starts to unpick their relationship. But though in all cases there are aspects of the artists’ lives that could easily hold our attention, all three films rightly concentrate on the work to a greater or lesser extent, albeit in very different ways.
by Philip Concannon
When he was four years old, Orson Welles’ mother gave him the gift of a magic set, and the precocious boy quickly learned to delight adults with his confident performances. Later, Orson’s father took him to see a number of magic shows, and he was once taken backstage to meet Harry Houdini, for whom he performed a handkerchief trick he was very proud of (he was told by the great Houdini to go away and perfect it). There’s no doubt that magic had always been an integral part of Welles’ life, and perhaps that partly explains the pleasure he took from filmmaking. He famously described it as the biggest train set a boy ever had, but he could have just as easily described it as the ultimate magic trick.
Clare Dean takes on Mexican cinema, and wins
MexFest, which took place earlier this month, was a spillover from the cultural events accompanying the Olympics this summer: a 3 day festival of film, music and visual arts at London’s Rich Mix arts centre in Shoreditch , organised by the British Council, along with the Mexican National Council for Culture and Arts.
Partnered by the Moreila International Film Festival, Ambulante Documentary Film Festival and CANANA (the production company founded by Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna and producer Pablo Cruz), the hectic programme included recent features and documentaries, shorts and 4 Mexican sci-fi classics on 35mm.
The recent fiction features strand showed some great contemporary Mexican cinema from the last 6 years, including Abel, We Are What We Are, Deficit, I’m Gonna Explode and Revolución. All good films, but I wanted to see something I hadn’t seen before. So I stuck with the short films, and the rare 1960s sci-fi screenings -and yes, I couldn’t help myself, the exhibition of photo portraits of Mexican wrestlers from the 1980s to the present day.
by Susan Patterson
The Bourne Legacy, the fourth film in the increasingly inaccurately named ‘Bourne Trilogy’, had a difficult birth. The Bourne Ultimatum, with its opening sequence featuring the assassination of a fictional Guardian reporter in Waterloo Station, filmed amongst the real life public, came out in 2007. Paul Greengrass, who directed Ultimatum, and The Bourne Supremacy (2004) (taking over from Doug Liman who directed The Bourne Identity (2002)), parted company with the franchise in 2009, citing creative differences with the studio, Universal, after they had commissioned two scripts for the next film without consulting him. Matt Damon followed him out of the door. Universal then hired Tony Gilroy who had written all three of the previous films, to write and direct Legacy.
by Indy Datta
Ron Fricke was the cinematographer of Godfrey Reggio’s 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi, and also one of its writers and editors. Reggio’s film, which takes as its title a Hopi phrase meaning “life out of balance”, is a non-verbal visual documentary essay about the impact of humanity on the planet (set to 90 minutes of parping Philip Glass). The title provides a clue to interpreting the images, should you need it, but it’s not as if Koyaanisqatsi is big on ambiguity or nuance – every human intervention into the natural world and every aspect of modern industrial society is depicted with the heaviest of hands as destructive and hubristic.
Fricke was not credited on Reggio’s sequels to Koyaanisqatsi , which progressively moved away from the documentary aspects of the first film – 2002’s (unfuckingwatchable) Nagoyqatsi featuring computer graphics as much as documentary footage, and with that documentary footage often heavily treated to play up its abstract qualities. Instead, Fricke has made three films somewhat in the mode of Koyaanisqatsi – the IMAX feature Chronos (1985), Baraka (1992) and now Samsara - which are so similar to each other that they are more like variations on a theme than separate films.
There’s something very special about a great character actor. I don’t mean the Steve Buscemis or Phillip Seymour Hoffmans of this world, ugly film stars who coast along on mere talent and charisma, I mean the people playing third henchman in a DTV knock-off of Heat starring Andrew McCarthy in a rabbit mask (this is an actual film I once saw on a coach in Indonesia, and the guy who played Mr Pig was pretty good). I’m talking about Martin Kove, who parlayed appearing in the credits of Cagney and Lacey into an IMDB page listing 175 films including “War Wolves”, “Savage” and “Ballistica” – all in 2009.
So here is MostlyFilm’s tribute to the grunts in the trenches of cinema.
Niall Anderson pleads for people to lighten up about spoilers
The first recorded use of the term SPOILER ALERT is from 8 June 1982. It occurred in a Usenet film group (net.movies) and related to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which had been released the previous Friday. A group member called Hamilton from the University of Chicago employs the term as a warning to other users before speculating [SPOILER ALERT!] on whether Spock is genuinely dead or if he could be brought back for the sequel.
It feels strange to see a meme so fully formed a good twenty years before it hits the mainstream. But it’s all basically here, including the tendency of spoiler etiquette to skew towards cultish material. Look further in the Usenet archives and you’ll see the term being adopted as a simple matter of course and courtesy. A spoiler hierarchy also develops. Minor plot points are preceded by a throat-clearing SPOILER ALERT, while complex or major plot points tend to be translated into a substitution cypher like ROT13 (which replaces a letter with the one thirteen places after it in the alphabet). This way, you couldn’t be spoiled inadvertently.
It’s all nice and civilised, in other words, and it seems to have developed within Usenet without friction: that is to say from a commonsense recognition that not everybody who’s reading will have seen the film that you’ve seen, and would just like to know whether you thought it was good or not. The Usenet archive isn’t exhaustive or particularly easy to navigate, but of the 300 uses of the word “spoiler” I was able to find from the 1980s, none was preceded by a complaint, a tantrum, or a threat of excommunication from the community for apparently saying something too revealing. The anger and the aggression surrounding spoiler etiquette in the Net age simply aren’t there. I don’t often wish I was living in the past, but for this one topic I do.
Open a TV or film discussion thread on just about any online forum these days and the following things will happen. Someone will cry firsties, someone will call foul on the firstie, someone will propose an alternative firstie that makes an oblique jokey reference to something that happened in the thing under review. At which point someone else will appear threatening to kill you and your children if you even think of spoiling the plot. A dozen similar messages will appear at intervals until your scrollwheel goes elastic from the effort and your eyebrows knot themselves into a permanent V at the sheer bad-tempered entitledness of these people. The unintended consequence being that I now read more complaints about spoilers than I do actual spoilers.
Continue reading this article ›
Continue reading this article ›
Recently I became a fan of the Westish Harpooners. They are a college baseball team and they don’t exist. Those seem like two extremely good reasons not to care what the Westish Harpooners get up to but as I got to a part in Chad Harbarch’s novel The Art of Fielding where the legendary Mike Schwartz, catcher and leader of the Harpooners, is crouched in the batter’s box with the game on his shoulders, I could not have been more emotionally invested if Schwartz was about to take his best swing at my undefended testicles. I love sport; I even love it when somebody makes it up.
Ann Jones looks at Richard Wilson’s Italian-Job-inspired artwork
I can’t remember when I first saw The Italian Job or what I thought of it with any degree of accuracy but I put the vague affection I have for it down to the Minis – I’ve only owned three cars and two of them were Minis (one white, one blue: by rights I should now be driving a red Mini rather than a black VW). Well, that and not remembering much about it; I have a sneaking suspicion that that might help. But even I remember a few key things and chief amongst those (apart from quite how beautiful Michael Caine was then) is the cliff-hanger ending and the red, white and blueness of both Minis and coach. This is a flag-waving film, with the coach – precariously balancing half on and half off the cliff at the end – as the flag. And of course it’s a 1960s film, and – caution: ridiculous generalisation approaching – the sixties were all about London. So in this year of London-centred flag-waving, there’s a certain logic to taking another, playful look at The Italian Job. In Bexhill-on-Sea. In the form of an art installation.