Category Archives: Directors
‘Oh, the film is never as good as the book’ – how many times have you heard that? How many times have you said that? Well, we at MostlyFilm have taken that bull by the horns; contemplating the films we’d really like to see, matching directors to novels and novels to directors to get the perfect mix and, just maybe, make a film to beat the book…
Tags: A Confederacy of Dunces, American Tabloid, Bong Joon Ho, Bryan Singer, Duncan Jones, Lars von Trier, Martin Scorsese, Mockingbird, Olivier Assayas, Peter Jackson, Roger Corman, The Ballad of Halo Jones, The Neverending Story, The Night Circus, The Stars My Destination, The White Hotel, tim burton, Transition
We’re not ones for obituaries here, but when news of Michael Winner’s death broke earlier this week, there was a bit more reminiscing than usual on the MostlyFilm forum. I can’t explain why it felt right to do so, but we decided to give a send off to this most eccentric of English directors. A man remembered for his notoriety as a restaurant critic, as the director of exploitative, violent trash like Death Wish or Dirty Weekend and, most damningly, for those bloody insurance commercials, Winner was also a director with great verve and wit. The below-discussed I’ll Never Forget What’s'isname, for example, is an overlooked gem, standing out from the wigged-out wallpaper of drearily off-the-wall Swinging Sixties films (yeah, Blow Up, I mean you), and, quite apart from his frequent collaborations with Oliver Reed and Charles Bronson, this is a man who has worked with some incredible names; Orson Welles, Sophia Loren, Anthony Hopkins, Joan Collins, Alain Delon and Lauren Bacall to name only a fraction. Clearly he did something right.
After the jump – as the cool kids call it, right? – we have contributions from our own Neil Hargreaves and a guest contribution from blogger and film-maker David Cairns. As David said in his note to me, it’s not the obituary he would’ve wanted. But, to me, it’s better than reducing him to a catchphrase (unless, perverse to the end, that would be exactly what he would want).
By Viv Wilby
Some years ago, the National Film Theatre (as it was then) asked members to nominate a little-seen film for a Christmas-showing. The winner was Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 romantic comedy, Trouble in Paradise. Co-written with Lubitsch’s regular collaborator, Samson ‘The Jazz Singer’ Raphaelson, Trouble in Paradise takes full advantage of the permissiveness that abounded before the enforcement of censor Will Hays’ Motion Picture Production Code in 1934. The script, which is heavy with sexual innuendo and irony, was considered too racy during the code era and re-issues were refused. The film wasn’t discovered again until the late 1960s.
Like a lot of early Hollywood comedies, the setting is old Europe: chic, cultured, decadent, gloriously wealthy. But Lubitsch doesn’t waste any time in making a central point (and a good visual gag). The garbageman we see in the very first shot is also an aria-singing gondolier, punting a heap of festering rubbish down the Grand Canal. Glamour, romance and escapism goes hand-in-hand with rottenness and filth.
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by Spank the Monkey
About a quarter of a century ago, I saw my first film featuring Chinese people flying through the air waving swords about, and it blew my goddamn mind. Zu: Warriors From The Magic Mountain was made by Tsui Hark in 1982, and was as wild an introduction to the delights of Hong Kong cinema as you could wish for. As I leapt onto every subsequent film from the territory that the Scala cinema could throw at me, I’d tell anyone who’d listen just how incomprehensible HK movies sometimes seemed to a Western viewer.
After a few years, I’d seen enough of them to realise that I was being unfair. It wasn’t that all HK movies were incomprehensible: if I was honest about it, it was really just Tsui Hark’s. And thirty years after Zu, his latest film Flying Swords Of Dragon Gate shows he can still provide that unique combination of eye-buggering visual spectacle and fantastically garbled storytelling. All that’s changed in the interim is the scale.
Ben Wheatley’s eagerly anticipated new film, Sightseers, is a black comedy about a couple on a caravanning holiday across England who start a killing spree. Written by its two stars, Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, the film is receiving regular comparisons to Mike Leigh and Natural Born Killers. What’s interesting is that, although he did not originate the project, the film is so clearly the work of the man who last directed Kill List.
In September, Mostly Film’s Gareth Negus attended a press conference with Ben Wheatley, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, who talked about the creation of the film, its production and their choice of eccentric tourist spots.
On the eve of the world premiere at the London Film Festival of his debut fiction feature Kelly + Victor – a raw and intimate romantic drama with a dark side, set in an evocatively captured contemporary Liverpool – Indy Datta interviews writer-director Kieran Evans.
On the genesis of Kelly + Victor
I came into film during the early days of acid house. I was studying fine art, and acid house had just sort of crash-landed, and in that kind of great way that the e culture made happen, you try something different, so I picked up a film camera and found myself enjoying that much more, so I became an art school dropout, and moved to London with the idea of making films rather than becoming an artist.
by Gareth Negus
Among the many things for which Tim Burton can be held responsible is the fact that I am writing for this website. His second feature, Beetle Juice (1988) was the one that, more than any other, ignited my interest in film. I’m not suggesting it’s the greatest film ever made (that would be Tremors, clearly), but it was among the most imaginative and unusual I had seen up to that point in my life. It introduced me to the idea that filmmakers could take a melange of influences and craft something new and personal from them, and sent me out into the street thinking: I want more like that. (It also introduced me to Winona Ryder, something else for which I remain grateful.)
Niall Anderson looks at Sergei Bondarchuk’s epic 1967 recreation of War and Peace, which is showing at London’s Renoir cinema on 7 October at 10am.
Like the novel it adapts, the single most extraordinary thing about Sergei Bondarchuk’s War and Peace is that anybody had the nerve, skill and patience to bring it off. Granted, Bondarchuk had a technically unlimited budget and the full coercive weight of the Soviet Ministry of Culture behind him (he could, and did, call in 15,000 mounted cavalry to restage the Battle of Borodino), but the politics of the film’s production don’t get close to explaining the surreal attention to detail of the resulting film – nor the fervour with which it tries to animate even the smallest of Tolstoy’s fancies.
Take, for instance, the bear. Readers of the novel will recall that one strand of the plot begins with a policeman being strapped to the back of a bear and thrown into the Neva River as part of a bohemian jape. It would have been easy for the film to just refer to this incident in passing, or to do away with the bear altogether (surely a drenched copper proves the point, whatever he’s strapped to). This is not Bondarchuk’s way. Tolstoy wrote that there was a bear, so there must be a bear. And indeed there he is, unremarked at a dining table during a loud party: one extra among a hundred.
A scene like this could easily be dismissed as a stunt, or – maybe worse – as evidence of a slightly crazed literalism. But there are too many such stunts across the film’s seven-and-a-half hours for that word to carry the necessary weight, and the literalism comes to seem like a shrewd recognition that an epic is really just the magnification of the intimate. So it was in Tolstoy’s hands, anyway, and Bondarchuk seems to have realised that to compromise on the small details would have been to compromise the whole Tolstoyan vision – and his own.
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by Philip Concannon
When Fritz Lang’s Dr Mabuse: The Gambler was released in 1922, one promotional poster carried the question “Who is Dr Mabuse?” alongside pictures of six very different-looking men. Of course, the truth is that all six men are Dr Mabuse, and the film opens with the title character turning over photographs like playing cards, as he ponders which of his many disguises to adopt. The question lingers on over the three films Lang made about Mabuse – who is he? The answer is he is many things at once. Mabuse was cinema’s first supervillain, he was a metaphor for the rot at the heart of Germany, he was an allegory for Nazi rule and he was the character who first helped to elevate Lang’s status as a director and a decade later provoked his flight from his homeland.
Indy Datta reviews the new film from Guy Maddin, Keyhole.
The avant-garde Canadian film maker Guy Maddin has worked a consistent seam – in his narrative film work and as an art film maker – since before his first feature, 1986’s Tales From the Gimli Hospital. Fans will know what to expect from Keyhole, his latest narrative feature, and their expectations will be met, as Maddin serves up an instantly identifiable brew of early film pastiche, wild cut-up surrealism and endearingly lowbrow comedy. And beyond the surfaces of his films, the personal nature of Maddin’s sensibility is also an identifiable thread running through his work, and one that is arguably getting stronger with time. Maddin’s last feature, the sly, wry cinematic memoir of his youth and hometown that was My Winnipeg, was probably his most accessible work to date, and Keyhole is in many ways another return to the film maker’s roots – a riff on Homer’s Odyssey (crossed with classic Hollywood gangster films) set entirely in a Winnipeg home very like the one Maddin grew up in.