9 771745 916048 Issue 47
May/Jun ’ 13
Truth & Movies
Man Of Steel
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“What does the ‘S' stand for?"
ack To Front He reinvented the comicbook movie. He filmed the unfilmable. Now he’s made the biggest movie of 2013. But Man Of Steel's director just can’t get no respect. It’s time to take a serious look at Zack Snyder. Words by David Jenkins
rop a cat out of a window and chances are it’ll land on its feet. Drop a piece of toast on the floor and it’ll probably land butterside down. Now hold that thought for a second. Man Of Steel director Zack Snyder is an American filmmaker who, as house director to Warner Bros, has been handed his own key to the Hollywood toybox. Yet Snyder doesn’t churn out the kind of demographic-tooled “product” that's usually the financial lifeblood of a major Hollywood studio. It’s clear from his films that he’s a man with interests and passions. Someone, somewhere, likes Zack Snyder. Commercially, he’s a cat. You can drop him from insane heights and he’ll saunter from the scene without so much as an insouciant lick of a crumpled paw. Critically though – and there’s no nice way of putting this – Snyder is toast. You only need to place a few frames of film on the lightbox to neatly encapsulate Snyder’s cinematic world. It all comes back to the iconic sequence in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull in which De Niro’s Jake LaMotta is on the ropes, having his face pummelled in slow motion by Johnny Barnes’ Sugar Ray Robinson. There's a direct homage to the moment in the opening scenes of Watchmen as down-at-heel avenger The Comedian is similarly beaten about the head by a masked assailant. But it’s not just the choreography of the shot which suffuses Snyder’s work: it’s the horrific arcs of gore and suppurating wounds presented in microscopic detail; it’s the physicality and dance-like qualities of hand-to-hand combat; it's switching between immense, complex panoramas and near-imperceptible moments of suffering. The maximal and the minimal existing in the same space at the same time.
mythology by boldly re-imagining an American atomic era shaped by violent masked vigilantes. Purportedly “unfilmmable”, it had stumped six studios and four directors for 20 years. But not Snyder. The ornamental blood-letting was eliminated (albeit not entirely) for his detour into kiddie town with anthropomorphic 3D animation Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga’Hoole. Finally he gave the destructive, washboard-stomached machismo of 300 a female-fronted opposite in 2011's upskirt insanity aria Sucker Punch. It was pitched as “Alice In Wonderland with machine guns” and flouted Warner’s rumoured “no female leads” policy.
After commercials (Budweiser, Miller Lite) and music videos (Morrissey, My Chemical Romance), Snyder cut his directorial teeth on the fleshy neck of a classic horror remake, delivering a digitally enhanced riff on George A Romero's zombie-based takedown of blind consumerism, Dawn Of The Dead. His historical siege movie 300 marked the point where Snyder became a paid-up member of the blockbuster fraternity. He was then entrusted with an unfathomably risky property in the form of Watchmen, Alan Moore's late'80s graphic novel which deconstructed superhero
framing simple actions. We flip between a POV shot inside a car with a bloodied windscreen to a panoramic bird’s-eye view of the road. We watch from above as a car spectacularly careens into a barn. Snyder is a director of extreme tendencies. Visually, there’s no middle ground. In 300, it’s either a breathtaking scene in which a fleet of galleons sway precariously on troubled tides or the path of a broadsword as it pierces enemy flesh. In Sucker Punch, it’s either the airship-scattered amphitheatre of some fantasy steampunk blitzkrieg or the snowflake that melts on Emily Browning’s eyelash.
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Having been given what to unkind eyes may look like a set of directorial training wheels – in the form of Warner’s own Dark Knight Christopher Nolan, acting as producer – Man Of Steel looks to be both a soulful and emotionally sophisticated spin on Superman’s origin story. The odds are stacked very much in favour of this being Snyder’s magnum opus. Whatever your thoughts on Snyder, the release of a film which has every possibility of strongarming its way into the upper echelons of box office glory demands we look closer at the director’s body of work. The single narrative motif which links his five features is the idea of the few banding together to defeat the many. On paper, Dawn Of The Dead and 300 actually tell the exact same story: a small group of people – newly minted soldiers of fortune – are warned of encroaching hoards and then wade into a messy and usually futile showdown. Politically, one might even read Snyder's work as espousing Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism, in which the self-interests of a minority are placed above the needs of the masses. From the brilliant opening scenes of Dawn Of The Dead, in which actress Sarah Polley escapes her suburban hamlet as it’s ravaged by the livingimpaired (amusingly, they're never called zombies), it’s obvious how much Snyder enjoys stylising and
Entire worlds are built from scratch in Snyder’s cinema and these worlds usually carry as much dramatic heft as the human protagonists. The mind’s eye skirmishes of Sucker Punch – extraordinary visions of Japanese battlebots, dragon mothers and clockwork German stormtroopers – act as a self-referential nod to the director’s love of constructing rich, immersive landscapes. Beyond the human cliques which receive a special focus, Snyder also like to paint with people. In 300 and Dawn Of The Dead, he marshals epic, swirling masses of bodies into the cramped frame. These stylistic precedents hark back to the silent era, to Griffith, De Mille and von Stroheim. Snyder’s maximal sensibility plus the way he naturally gravitates towards the grotesque also recall the quasi-surreal frescoes of Brueghel and Hieronymus Bosch.
Had Snyder not been so cosily diplomatic in the assessment of his films, there's every chance 300 may have escaped its trial by fire. Paul Verhoeven knew exactly how to overcome the lefty naysayers when he released Starship Troopers in 1997. Instead of taking the fascistic tone of the source material at face value, Verhoeven delivered the film as an ironic takedown of cultural imperialism and the triumphalism of warfare. If Snyder had transferred his energies to thinking about what he was saying rather than how he was going to say it, 300 may have stood as a sharp and bombastically stylised treatise on race-hate and masculinity through the ages. Alongside directors such as Michael Bay, Neveldine & Taylor and Tony Scott, Snyder could be termed a “vulgar auteur”, someone who retains an aesthetic continuity across an identifiable canon of work, but
Examining the manner in which Snyder sells his own films is a business for which face-palming was invented. In reaction to the accusations that 300 operated as neo-fascistic propaganda, Snyder simply shrugged off all who deigned to extract subtext from this worryingly ornate war opus. Critic Mark Cousins described it as “feral and Rumsfeldian”, combining the corporeal monstrosity of Tod Browning’s Freaks with the gaudy psychosexual overtones of William Friedkin’s Cruising. The Italian fascist party
who makes genre films aimed at a mass audience. “The sun’s always on the horizon, no matter what time of day it is,” he says of his stylised realities. Does Snyder project himself into his own characters? It would be unfair to see him as plucky Barn Owl Soren from Legend Of The Guardians, who slowly learns to fly and finally defeats an enclave of evil slaveholding owls. Maybe he’s Babydoll from Sucker Punch, living in the paradise of his own dreams? No, Snyder is Dr Manhattan. He’s the melancholy, blue-skinned deity from Watchmen who holds the fate of humanity in his hands. His audience doesn't know whether to love him or hate him, can’t decide if he’s God or the Devil. He’s the embodiment of immense power and this power feeds his imagination. It’s his gift. His curse
Alleanza Nazionale even co-opted the film's imagery in their marketing materials.Conversely, Slovenian pop philosopher Slavoj Žižek argued that the peculiar nature of this battle made it impossible to draw contemporary parallels. But according to Snyder, it was just “a bunch of guys stomping the snot out of each other” - a rare case of a filmmaker actually attempting to suppress the subtexts of his own work.
Man Of Steel is released on 14 June and will be reviewed at littlewhitelies.co.uk
$tudio $upermen Big budgets. Bigger box-office. Discover why Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder are Warner Brosâ€™ golden boys.
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Following(70 mins) Memento(113 mins) Insomnia(118 mins)
Coin In 60 Seconds
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Dawn Of The Dead(100 mins)
Batman Begins(141 mins) The Prestige(130 mins)
How much cash have Nolan and Snyderâ€™s films made per minute of running time?
The Dark Knight(152 mins) $1,140,000
Inception(148 mins) $1,440,000
Legend Of The Guardians(97 mins) Sucker Punch(128 mins)
The Dark Knight Rises(165 mins) Box-office per minute of runtime
The all-powerful other half of Man Of Steel's creative identity, producer Christopher Nolan hopes â€“ like Kal-El himself â€“ to give us the best of both worlds.
F E AT U R E
F E AT U R E
e is both British and American. He makes cutting-edge films using oldfashioned techniques. He loves using IMAX cameras but doesn't like using mobile phones. He kills the wives of his heroes yet keeps his own by his side. He's left handed, his brother is right handed. He makes comic-book blockbusters with serious adult themes. He tells stories inside a single man's mind but leaps across giant canvases of time and space. He blows huge Hollywood budgets on complex arthouse psychothrillers. He wears a suit to work but he likes to get his hands dirty... To our best film critics, it's starting to make sense. As far back as his surreal 1997 short Doodlebug — man chases an insect around a flat, kills it with his shoe, discovers that it's a miniature of himself – Christopher Nolan's films have been fascinated with this idea of double identity. Now, in Man Of Steel's story of a Smallville farmboy who's also an alien god, we have fresh evidence of the fascinating contradictions that have powered Nolan's own amazing vertical ascent.
Nolan takes his boyhood obsessions and makes them vibrate with adult resonances
With an English father (an advertising copywriter) and an American mother (a flight attendant), Nolan is a dual citizen who split his childhood between London and Chicago. "It does give you a slightly schizophrenic perspective growing up," admitted his younger brother Jonathan, who co-wrote The Prestige and both Dark Knight sequels. But this bricolage – the twinning of opposite ideas – has been the secret of his success. And what success. When he sent a runaway train ploughing out of the dreamscape into a crowded city street during Inception, it was impossible not to think of Orson Welles famously dubbing Hollywood "the biggest electric train set a boy ever had."
Yet perhaps more than any filmmaker in Tinseltown history, Nolan has soared clear of Wellesian tragedy to achieve the perfect storm of mega-budget Hollywood
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studio backing and total creative control. Steven Soderbergh, who got his fellow director the job at Warner Bros, taught Nolan how to handle big studios: do be communicative, don't fight all the time. Was it that simple? Not to begin with. The Brit film industry offered Nolan little beyond a "stack of rejection letters" and the use of Working Title's photocopier ("Which is not to be underestimated"). But in Hollywood, he simply... took off. After five films, Nolan has returned a total of $3.3 billion at the global box-office. More powerful than a locomotive, indeed. As a seven year old, Nolan didn't have a train set. He began making sci-fi films using his toy action figures and his father's Super-8 camera. "I was just excited by photographing things and screening them," he recalled in an interview. "That's how I still feel."
As intelligently considered by critic Joseph Bevan in the August 2012 issue of Sight & Sound magazine, Nolan's films can be seen as a toybox of cops, killers, superheroes, secret agents and magicians brought to life by child actors – Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale, Joseph Gordon-Levitt – now grown into slick masculinity. But Nolan takes his boyhood obsessions and makes them vibrate with adult resonances. On the one hand, The Dark Knight Rises is about a man dressed as a bat racing against a ticking bomb. On the other, it's about terrorism, torture and financial inequities. Or is it? What really drives Nolan and his films? For a man with everything in his power, the answer is kind of ironic. His microbudget debut, Following, was influenced by the experience of having his London flat broken into. Memento, Insomnia and Inception are waking nightmares about losing grip on reality. The Dark Knight trilogy is about the bleak sacrifices necessary to stop, as The Joker puts it, "civilised people from eating each other". "It's definitely something that I have a fear of – not being in control of your own life," Nolan has said. Again, as Bevan noted in Sight & Sound, Nolan's anti-heroes only survive by learning to fictionalise
themselves into something more than reality. Memento's Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) deliberately uses his amnesia to trick himself into forgetting the truth. Both the rival magicians in The Prestige choose to live a costly double life. In Inception, Cobb's choice is between one lie and what could be another lie. The closing line of The Dark Knight finally spells out Nolan's cinema: "Sometimes the truth isn't good enough. Sometimes people deserve more."
But here come the contradictions again: even as he conjures extraordinary visions of cities folding like origami, reality remains the anchor. "I think there's a vague sense out there that movies are becoming more and more unreal," claims Nolan. "I know I've felt it." Inception, an epic action thriller spinning inside the limitless architecture of the human mind, had just 500 visual effects shots. Most Hollywood dazzlers use around 2,000. Because the 42-year-old director does practically everything incamera: air-cannons shattered the Parisian cafĂŠ around DiCaprio and Ellen Page; he built Escher's famous 'Penrose steps' optical illusion for real; he constructed an entire hotel bar that tilted at an angle; then he went yet further with a 100ft revolving corridor held inside eight 30ft rings that rotated like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey, that film that blew his mind as a chid. You can only wonder what Kubrick would have thought. Nolan edited Following using old-fashioned flatbed splicing instead of software editing. He continues to shun digital agility in favour of the might and beauty of IMAX cameras. He shoots without shot lists or storyboards. How does he keep track of everything? "In my head," he revealed after making Inception. "I can lie there at night and cut the film, one shot at a time, all the way through the whole thing." That's where Nolan's blockbusting thrillers take place: in the head. But what's remarkable is how his films combine plunging psychological focus with
great chronological and geographical leaps. It's a seemingly impossible yoking of opposite forces. Likewise, his movies take the cogs of Hollywood dynamics and structure them like arthouse experiments: memory collapse, magicians' notebooks, controlled dreaming. Bevan notes how Following's story about a writer in search of stories was devised to juggle four timelines so that if money ran out there would still be, well, a story. Memento splits two timelines and plays one in reverse ("Right, I'm chasing this guy. No... he's chasing me!"). Dizzyingly, The Prestige â€“ mimicking a magic trick: the 'pledge', the 'turn' and the 'prestige' â€“ sees one character reading another's notebook in which the writer reports reading the first character's notebook. And most spectacularly, Inception's multi-story climax intercuts four embedded plots while framing them all inside a fifth arc (the plane trip in the present). It's audacious cinematic storytelling that evaporates the wall between populist entertainment and cerebral cinema. When someone compared Inception to Last Year In Marienbad, Nolan replied, "We have way more explosions." Uniquely, even as the size of his canvases has expanded, Nolan's noirish obsessions and technical invention have held fast. From Memento to Man Of Steel, Nolan has followed a lonely man haunted by the loss of his loved ones and his own identity crisis. But why choose when you can have both? "The audience knows the truth: the world is simple," reveals Hugh Jackman in The Prestige. "It's miserable, solid all the way through. But if you could fool them, even for a second, then you can make them wonder. Then you get to see something really special... It was the look on their faces." The magic of Nolan is that, just like his mysterious protagonists, he can be two things at once. That's some trick to pull. And look around: there's still only one Christopher Nolan. This is an amended version of the article that originally appeared in LWLies 47. With apologies to Joseph Bevan and Sight & Sound.
Two Scoops: The Finished Film After months of creative collaboration, the new Robert Rodriguez film Two Scoops is finally available to watch in its entirety on BlackBerry’s Keep Moving Project website. Rodriguez invited members of the public to contribute to the film by tweeting suggestions for fantastical weapons, drawing gruesome monsters, acting key scenes or even appearing on ‘Missing Persons’ posters. Hundreds of people got involved from all over the world and the finished film is a candy-coloured melting pot of creativity. The film had its premiere at LWLies’ event space 71a; and included a creative masterclass in Illustration For Beginners and, of course, plenty of ice cream! Robert Rodriguez also participated in a Q&A via a live BBM Video link. See the finished film at keepmoving.blackberry.com
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f e a t u r e s C O N TE N TS PAGE 20 Amazing Adventures: Siegel, Shuster, Kavalier and Clay
PAGE 26 Is It A Bird? Is It A Plane?: no, it's Moses in his underwear
PAGE 30 No More Mr Nice Guy: outrageous Superman comics
PAGE 32 Woman Of Steel: you need to meet the real Lois Lane
PAGE 36 How Superman Defeated The Ku Klux Klan: the true story of a secret hero
PAGE 40 Earth's Real Supermen: harder, better, faster, stronger
PAGE 44 Bored To Tears: five great reinventions of Kal-El
Amazing Adventures Two boys invented Americaâ€™s greatest superhero. But America stole him from them. So two imaginary boys invented him all over again... Words by Ceri Thomas Illustration by Adrian Johnson
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already been thinking of writing a story set in the middle years of the 20th century – his Brooklynborn dad had filled his head with tales of the era’s movies, radio shows, books and music since he was a child – but as he breathed in the old comics he realised that what he wanted to do most of all was combine the two. Cram in the period detail, yes, but marry it to the story of two young men trying to make their way in the rough-and-tumble early years of American comics. For inspiration, Chabon looked to the real lives of the men who created so many of his favourite characters. Men like merica is between Gulf Wars, Bill Jack ‘The King’ Kirby, Stan Lee Clinton is in the White House, and Will Eisner. But most of all Tony Blair is still dreaming to the writer and artist team of Number 10 and superhero responsible for creating (“In blockbusters that don’t have a bat Cleveland on this one hot night in them are box-office cyanide. in 1936,” as Chabon put it) the It’s the mid-’90s and 32-year-old greatest American superhero of American writer Michael Chabon them all: Superman. (pronounced, as he says, “Shea as The story of Jerry Siegel and Joe in Shea Stadium, Bon as in Jovi”) Shuster is the most inspiring and publishes his second novel, Wonder most depressing in the history Boys. While his tale of a college of the comic-book industry. professor with writer’s block They were 16-year-old students becomes a critically successful when they met in 1930 and each movie, Chabon begins the hunt for instantly recognised a soul mate ideas for his next book. It’s a (“When Joe and I first met, it was search that takes him into his own like the right chemicals coming past, and the past of one of his together,” said Siegel years childhood heroes, as something long-forgotten catches his eye. later). Almost immediately, they began batting around comic-book “I had a box left over from my ideas, dreaming up characters childhood,” remembers Chabon. like supernatural crimefighter “It was taped shut and it just Dr Occult and swashbuckling went with me from place to place. adventurer Henri Duvall. I untaped it and the smell of old comic books wafted out. It just triggered something.” As a child, Chabon was a comicBy the mid-’30s, their work was book geek. His grandfather had regularly being featured in been a typographer at a plant publications like New Fun and where comic-books were printed and little Michael inherited bags Detective Comics, but the pair of them. At age 10, he had decided struggled to find a home for one to establish a comic-book club, of their most cherished creations renting a room for $25 and placing – a blue-and-red-clad alien with advertisements in newspapers. Only super-strength and the ability to one kid showed up. But now, it leap tall buildings in a single all came back to him. Chabon had bound. They had been honing the
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“Superman” idea for a few years, but no one would take it. Finally, a year before Hitler marched into Poland to give the world its great supervillain, National Allied Publications (later to become DC Comics) made Superman the cover story in issue one of their new Action Comics. For Kal-El, it was up, up and away. For Siegel and Shuster, it was the start of a long and bitter war.
In order to get the character published, they had signed a 10year contract to provide Superman stories for National Allied. But to get that contract, they had also agreed to sell the rights to the character. The sum they were given for a property soon to be worth billions? A mere $130. Nearing the end of their deal and bitterly unhappy about the tiny crumb of the vast Superman pie they’d been given, Siegel and Shuster sued National Allied over the rights. They eventually lost the court case, only gaining $94,000 from National Allied by agreeing not to pursue the matter further. In the aftermath, the comic-book company removed Siegel and Shuster’s byline from their comics. No longer would they be identified as the creators of Superman. They’d been written out of comic-book history. For the next 30 years, Siegel odd-jobbed his way around the comic-book industry as a writer for hire, while Shuster’s deteriorating eyesight eventually forced him out of illustrating and into a life of near destitution. It was only in the late ’70s, with the release of the first Superman film starring Christopher Reeve looming, that their names were reinstated on the comics after Siegel launched a publicity campaign openly shaming DC Comics for the way he and Shuster had been treated.
By the time Chabon opened that box of comics and inhaled, Siegel would be just months away from his last breath and Shuster was already dead. But the more Chabon read about them, the more their story lived on with him. “It just all came together," he recalled. "I said, ‘I’m going to write a novel about two Golden Age comic-book creators.’ [Siegel and Shuster] created this character who, 70 years later, is still very much with us and yet they saw very little of its success themselves. It was the combination of wild imagination, male partnership, popular art and commercial failure that resonated and got me started.” In the spectacular opening chapters of Chabon's epic book, The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay, 19-year-old artist Josef Kavalier smuggles himself out of Nazi-occupied Prague in 1939 and ends up “slumped like a question mark against the door frame” in the Brooklyn bedroom of his cousin Sam Clay. Together they invent a Houdini-like superhero called The Escapist who “vows to free all who toil in chains.” While their superhero batters Hitler in their pages, Joe desperately struggles to rescue his family from Fascism and Sam discovers his own shackles. Gently inspired by the triumph and tragedy of Siegel and Shuster, it begins with the basic tale of two comic creators squeezed out of the rights to their creation, but spins into the worlds of stage magic and Judaism, sexuality and survivor’s guilt, art and money, Salvador Dalí and Orson Welles, love and redemption, history and fiction. It might have been an unholy mess. But Chabon’s novel is gloriously well-written, afraid to spin pages-long yarns inside parentheses or slalom the reader down breathtakingly constructed
sentences that never throw us off. “I discovered strengths I had hoped that I possessed – the ability to pull off multiple points of view, historical settings, the passage of years – but which had never been tested before,” said Chabon. It was, as promised, amazing. When The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay was published in 2000, the reviews flooded in like love letters. It won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Bret Easton Ellis declared the novel “one of the three great books of my generation.” And it has gone on to become one of the most read and most loved of modern American novels.
pops out.” Development rumbled on, with first Sydney Pollack and then Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close director Stephen Daldry in the frame to direct. Jude Law’s name was stapled to it for a while in 2005 as casting rumours started to buzz. Tobey Maguire as Sam Clay. Jamie Bell as Joe Kavalier. Natalie Portman as Rosa Saks. Andrew Garfield, Ryan Gosling, Ben Whishaw, Jason Schwartzman. “It buzzed very seriously for about 11 minutes,” said Chabon. “Then it went away.” The project continued in development for another 18 months after that, with Rudin even commissioning testreels illustrating how The Escapist’s comic-book battles
“One of the three great books of my generation" Bret Easton Ellis on The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay In a postmodern twist, there have even been comics starring The Escapist. But there’s one obstacle that Chabon and his magnum opus haven’t managed to leap in a single bound: turning the book into a film. Not for want of trying. The rights were sold before the novel had even been published, with Wonder Boys producer Scott Rudin snapping them up for Paramount Pictures. He hired Chabon to write the script, a process of chopping, condensing and brow-furrowing that by 2002 had seen the author plough through eight drafts in 16 months. In a weird reversal, as Chabon tried to snip scenes from his 600page novel, Rudin tried to put them back in. “It’s like those arcade games where a gopher head pops out,” said Chabon at the time. “I fix this and then another head
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could be integrated with live action (Google: ‘Rudin Kavalier and Clay test’). But in 2006, the studio put the project into turnaround. Paramount may simply have decided what many commentators had long claimed: that the book was unfilmable. Chabon once said that the biggest connection between Kavalier and Clay’s fictional adventures and the real-life story of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster was that both were ultimately stories of “success followed by failure." But hope hasn’t quite died completely. A year ago, Daldry openly discussed the idea of an HBO miniseries. And when Benedict Cumberbatch was recently asked what his dream project would be, he answered immediately: “There’s a very good book called Kavalier & Clay...”
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No... It’s Moses in his underpants. LWLies looks behind the cape to expose Superman’s true identity... Words by Jonathan Crocker
Supes’ creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were both Jewish (the surname Kent was a common Americanisation of “Cohen”) and their Kryptonian son certainly borrows from the Old Testament. Superman’s name “Kal-El” resembles the Hebrew phrase meaning “voice of God” and, like Moses’ parents, Kal-El’s mother and father floated him off in a vessel to adoptive parents in an alien culture to save him from impending doom.
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JOHN CARTER OF MARS
In 1945, some seven years after he had been illustrating Superman, Shuster met him on the street. The square-jawed young Jewish man looked exactly like Shuster had always imagined his creation. What did he do? Of course, he asked the man if he could draw him – although Shuster’s pencil sketches of 24-year-old New Yorker Stanley Weiss would be largely unseen for the next 70 years. Weiss, an accountant, thought they were “amusing but not a big deal.”
“The movies were the greatest influence on our imagination: especially the films of Douglas Fairbanks Sr,” said Shuster. While they borrowed “Clark” from Clark Gable, Fairbanks’ role as Robin Hood was a massive inspiration, with Shuster even basing Superman’s stance on scenes from the 1922 movie. The cinema nods don’t stop there Superman’s adoptive city of Metropolis was named after Fritz Lang’s iconic sci-fi silent, a movie since ripped off by everyone from George Lucas to Madonna.
Along with mythic powerlifters Samson and Hercules, pulp ’30s sci-fi heroes like Hugo Danner, Doc Savage and John Carter had similar abilities and were clear forefathers of Supes. “Carter was able to leap great distances because the planet Mars was smaller than the planet Earth and he had great strength,” said Siegel. “I visualised the planet Krypton as a huge planet, much larger than Earth.”
There are yet more clues in Supes’ Kryptonian name, KalEl. The suffix “el”, meaning “(of) God”, is also found in the name of many angels, who are flying humanoid agents of good with superhuman powers. Superman has even been seen as an analogy for Johnny Christ himself, another powerful son sent from the heavens to become the saviour of humanity. Albeit with a slightly more modest dress sense
No More Mr Nice Guy! Outrageous vintage comic-book covers prove that when youâ€™re Superman, you can do what the hell you like...
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Woman Of Steel Sheâ€™s the inspiration for Lois Lane and one of the most fascinating women of the 20th century. But you donâ€™t know her name. Words by Jonathan Crocker
er body belongs to a Hungarian model. Her brain belongs to a motormouth movie character. But popculture’s most iconic female journalist owes her guts and heart to the 20th century’s most groundbreaking female journalist. Lois Lane is the reason he sticks around. She’s the one who reminds him why the world is worth saving. Let’s get this straight: without Lois, there would be no Superman. But who are the women behind the woman behind the man? In 1935, Joanne Kovacs was a highschool student when she took out a small newspaper ad titled: “ARTIST MODEL: No Experience.” One of the responses came from a young comicbook illustrator named Joe Shuster, who was taking art lessons and needed someone to pose for him. Kovacs draped herself across a chair so Shuster could see how a woman would look if she was being carried in the arms of someone flying through the air. Writer Jerry Siegel posed as Superman. A decade later, they would be married.
We can also find Lois Lane on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. Her name is Glenda Farrell and she was faster than a speeding bullet. A former child actress, Farrell came to Hollywood towards the end of the silent era but when cinema began to talk, she became a script-spitting Gatling gun. She was once clocked tearing through dialogue at a head-spinning 390 words per minute (most people speak at 120-150 wpm). Nailing roles in Edward G Robinson’s gangster classic Little Caesar and Busby Berkeley’s mad musical Gold Diggers Of 1937, she so personified the wise-cracking blonde of the early talkies that Warner Bros handed
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Farrell her own series. In a saga way ahead of its time, she played fasttalking tough-grrrl reporter Torchy Blane in seven films. Siegel saw her, loved her and poached her for The Daily Planet. But few people today recognise the real Lois Lane. Just 100 years ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to find any American who didn’t. By the age of 25, pioneering US reporter Nellie Bly had beaten Phileas Fogg with a record-breaking trip around the world and faked insanity to expose a brutal mental institution and become the world’s most daring female journalist. Born on 5 May 1864, penniless labourer’s daughter Elizabeth Jane Cochran landed a job after writing a blazing reply to a misogynistic column in her local Pittsburgh newspaper. The editor was so impressed that he asked the man who wrote the letter to join the paper. When he learned the man was a teenage girl, he refused to give her the job. She quickly talked him round. It was one of her gifts - the people she interviewed seemed to trust her, giving her details that other reporters couldn’t get. Under the pseudonym “Nellie Bly”, she wrote regular investigative articles on the plight of female factory workers. But after being pushed to the so-called “women’s pages” to cover fashion, society and gardening, she travelled to Mexico to serve as a foreign correspondent. Still only 21, she protested the imprisonment of a local journalist for criticising the Mexican government and was duly forced to flee the country. She returned just long enough to leave a note for her editors: “I am off for New York. Look out for me. BLY.” Arriving in NYC, she talked her way into the offices of Joseph Pulitzer’s newspaper, the New York World, and into an immensely daring assignment: to feign insanity and
investigate reports of brutality at a women’s lunatic asylum. After a night of practicing deranged expressions in front of a mirror, the 23 year old was examined by four expert doctors who all declared her to be “positively demented”. Committed to the asylum, Bly experienced its conditions first-hand. Gruel, spoiled food and undrinkably filthy water. Patients tied together with ropes. Rats crawling everywhere. Abusers wearing nurse uniforms. “My teeth chattered and my limbs were goose-fleshed and blue with cold,” she wrote. “Suddenly I got, one after the other, three buckets of water over my head — ice-cold water, too, into my eyes, my ears, my nose, and my mouth. I think I experienced some of the sensations of a drowning person as they dragged me, gasping, shivering, and quaking, from the tub. For once I did look insane...” After 10 days, Bly was pulled from the asylum by the newspaper’s lawyer. Her report, later published in book form as Ten Days In A Mad-House, caused a sensation. Suddenly, she was famous. But that was just the start. In 1888, Bly suggested to her editor that she attempt to take on the challenge in Jules Verne’s novel Around The World In Eighty Days. The paper’s business manager commented that it would be better to send a man. Bly shot back: “Very well. Start the man and I’ll start the same day for some other newspaper and beat him.” A year later, at 9:40am, she boarded a steamer and began her 24,899-mile journey. She brought with her only the dress she was wearing, a sturdy overcoat and a small travel bag carrying her toiletry essentials and a small bag of money tied around her neck. While in France, she met Jules Verne and his wife – who liked Bly immediately. “She is trim, energetic, and strong,” Honorine told her
husband. “I believe, Jules, that she will make your heroes look foolish.” Verne agreed with a laugh. Seventy-two days, six hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds after her departure, Bly was back in New York. Her journey was a world record, beating any man (both imagined and real) in history. She crossed into fiction once again thanks to a cameo in The Great Gatsby, with author F Scott Fitzgerald claiming that he based character Dan Cody, who takes the young Jay Gatsby under his wing, on “the mysterious yatchsman (sic) whose mistress was Nellie Bly.”
Back in reporting, Bly continued to expose corruption, the injustice of poverty and the mistreatment of women. She covered the Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913 under the headline “Suffragists Are Men’s Superiors” but rightly predicted that it would be 1920 before women won the vote. When the First World War broke, she reported from the front-lines of Europe — the first woman to do so — and sent back startling news stories: “One motionless creature had his cap on his head... Great black circles were around his sunken eyes. Black hollows were around his nose and his ears were black. Near him, completely covered by his coat was a form. Occasionally it shivered convulsively. Human creatures they were, lying there in a manner our health authorities would prohibit for hogs or the meanest beasts.” And all that without once being rescued by a man in a cape. More than a decade before Lois first met Clark in the pages of Action Comics #1, Bly died of pneumonia in 1922 at the age of 57. In the obituary, her old newspaper the World wrote: “Nellie Bly was THE BEST REPORTER IN AMERICA and that is saying a good deal.”
How Supe Defeated The Klan The true story of a hero with a secret identity who battled a gang of masked villains... Words by Adam Woodward Illustration by Anna Dunn
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n a glade casting weird shadows over the nearby hills and lighting the sky above burns a huge wooden cross. Before it kneel half a hundred men clothed in long robes. Pointed hoods slit only at the eyes cover their heads and faces, and a low guttural chant issues harshly from their hidden lips...” This evocative image was beamed into the minds of millions of young Americans on the evening of 11 June 1946. It was a night that a hero with a secret identity and enduring quest for “truth, justice and the American way” struck an unforgettable blow against a secret army of masked villains. This was the summer that Superman defeated the Ku Klux Klan. But the Man Of Steel isn’t the real hero of this story. By the mid-’40s, Klan membership was in freefall. Lynchings and public demonstrations had become increasingly rare occurrences, but hardline segregation and hate speech remained a frightening reality for non-white residents across the Southern States. Stetson Kennedy grew up in the South and always hated the KKK. He began a crusade against what he called “homegrown racial terrorists” during World War Two after a back injury prevented him from fighting Fascism on the frontline. As a journalist, Kennedy exposed numerous cases of social prejudice in his native Florida, infiltrating white supremacist groups and leaking information to the police and press. Top of his hit list was still the Ku Klux Klan. “It occurred to me that someone needed to do a number on them,” recalled Kennedy in a 2005 interview. After the end of World War Two, he decided that someone was him. Posing as an encyclopaedia salesman and adopting the name of a deceased uncle who had himself been a Klan member, Kennedy started frequenting guys who had, he wrote,
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“the frustrated cruel look of the Klan to them”. He played a lot of pool and drank a lot of beer, until finally he was invited into a Georgia fraternity headed by former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Dr Samuel Green. Donning the infamous white robe, Kennedy started attending weekly meetings where he learned the Klan’s passwords and secret names. Which turned out to follow an embarrassingly simple pattern: they would simply add the letters ‘KL’ to the front of words. The meeting place was called the klavern. Two Klansmen would hold a klonversation. He learned the Klan handshake, in which you would limply grip left hands and wiggle them a few times. He learned that they charged you $15 for a robe, which was really just a sheet with a hood.
Determined to demystify the Klan and undermine their vast network of Kleagles (recruitment officers), Kennedy took extensive notes of their closely guarded rituals and planned acts of violence. Snatching evidence from the wastepaper basket of the Grand Dragon — another leading Klan official — he helped the Internal Revenue Service hit the Klan with a $685,000 outstanding tax bill. But fearing the Klan’s connections to the government and law enforcement agencies, Kennedy needed a more creative way to unmask them. Walking down the street one day, he saw some kids playing cops and robbers. They were exchanging secret passwords, just like the Klan did at their meetings. Suddenly, the idea hit him like a locomotive. The biggest hero in the public imagination was Superman. Not just in comic books but in The Adventures Of Superman, the hugely popular radio show that was broadcast every night. What if Kal-El could take on the Klan? Looking for fresh ideas and new villains to boost ratings, the radio
show’s writers agreed to meet with Kennedy after he contacted them with a sensational storyline. The result was a 16-part mini-series called Clan Of The Fiery Cross, a thrilling tale of baseball and bigotry that used real Klan secrets leaked by Kennedy to expose and ridicule their rituals. At the first KKK meeting after the show, the hooded men lost their rags. “I came home from work the other night and my kid and all these other kids had these towels tied around their necks like capes,” exclaimed one dismayed member. “Some of them had pillow cases over their heads and the ones with the capes were chasing the ones with pillow cases. When I asked them what they were doing, they said they were playing this new game of cops and robbers called ‘Superman Against The Klan’. I never felt so ridiculous in all my life. Suppose my own kid finds my Klan robe?’”
until 1951 when he blew his cover by testifying against the Klan before a federal grand jury investigating bomb attacks aimed at black, Catholic and Jewish centres. He remained scared “nonstop, to date”, revealing the shooting of his dog and frequent attempts to burn his home, but capped his courageous exploits with a book called I Rode With The Ku Klux Klan (later renamed The Klan Unmasked), which revealed the odious machinations of the KKK from the perspective of a hardboiled undercover detective. There were those who wondered whether Kennedy had embellished his achievements – he acknowledged some of the material came from another unnamed man who also infiltrated the Klan – but Freakonomics authors Stephen J Dubner and Steven Levitt eventually hailed him as “the greatest single contributor to the weakening of the Ku Klux Klan.”
The biggest hero in the public imagination was Superman. But what if Kal-El could take on the Klan? Pretty klembarrassing. With Kennedy feeding the Klan’s secret codes and plans to The Adventures Of Superman’s 4.5 million listeners in 1946, the show’s huge popularity dealt a crushing blow to the Klan’s prospects in America. At the climax to four weeks of Superman’s triumphant battles against the hateful forces of the Grand Dragon, it’s revealed that the Klan is really just a moneymaking scheme to get suckers to buy robes. Kennedy became Klan Enemy No 1, with reallife Klan leader Samuel Green offering a reward for his capture: “Kennedy’s ass is worth $1,000 a pound!” Despite the best efforts of the Klan to discover their mole, Kennedy escaped detection
A descendant of the maker of the cowboy hat, Stetson Kennedy’s lineage can be traced right back to two signers of the Declaration Of Independence and his crusade against backyard terrorism became a life’s work. He worked with giants of the 20th century including Simone de Beauvoir and Woody Guthrie. “If the Bush brothers really think that women and minorities are getting preferential treatment,” Kennedy said in 2004, “they should get themselves a sex change, paint themselves black and check it out.” He authored 10 books, married seven times and was still marching for farmworkers’ rights in the 10th decade of his life. In hospice care a few months before his death at the age of 94, a doctor checked his mental facilities: “Where are you from?” asked his physician. Kennedy replied, “Planet Earth.”
Earth’s Real Supermen FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLET! Usain Bolt accelerates to 27mph For a few moments, as he blurred between the 60and 80-metre mark of his 100m world record run (9.58 secs), Jamaican superman Usain Bolt hit an unheard-of speed of 27.78mph. No man has ever moved faster. But scientists say the human frame is theoretically built to go even quicker, to handle running speeds up to 40mph. So what’s stopping us? It isn’t the brute force we’d need to push off the ground, but how fast our muscle fibres can contract
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to ramp up that force. “If you just find a way to rev up those contractile fibres for the muscle, everything else from human biology and gait would allow us to be that fast,” said physiologist Peter Weyand of Southern Methodist University. Bolt generates almost a ton of force in his leg in the less-than-a-tenth-of-a-second his foot is on the ground. Slightly soberingly, he still can’t outrun a horse, a dog or a kangaroo.
They didn’t fall to Earth, they were born here. But they’ve touched the outer limits of human ability... Words by Jonathan Crocker
MORE POWERFUL THAN A LOCOMOTIVE! Paul Anderson lifts 2,840kg That green car heroically clean-and-jerked by Superman in the famous cover of Action Comics #1 would have weighed roughly 1,000kg (give or take a wheel). Next to that, Hossein ‘The Iranian Hercules’ Rezazadeh’s current world record of 263.5kg looks pretty puny. But American weightlifting powerhouse Paul Anderson was at one time listed in the Guinness Book Of World Records for a backlift of 4,535kg. However, like many of his feats of strength, it wasn’t accomplished under rigorous enough conditions to remain official. The stories, though, are great.
During the Cold War, Anderson travelled to the USSR and stunned his Soviet foes by lifting the heaviest weight hoisted overhead in history at that time. At the 1960 Olympics, Ukrainian monster Yury Vlasov beat Paul Anderson’s records – only for Anderson to lift the same weight as the Russian three times in quick succession to demonstrate his unbelievable strength. And one record stands: Anderon’s 2,840kg backlift – the weight raised slightly off its trestles – is still listed as the greatest weight ever lifted by a human being. 041
ABLE TO LEAP TALL BUILDINGS IN A SINGLE BOUND! Michael ‘Wild Thing’ Wilson jumps 55 inches Want to learn something about yourself? Standing flat on your feet, stretch up and mark how high you can reach. Now jump as high as you can and mark how high you touched. The difference between the two is your net gain in vertical reach. Not much, is it? Superman’s net gain would take him into another dimension. Earth’s official worldrecord holder for the vertical jump is held by Michael ‘Wild Thing’ Wilson of the Harlem
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Globetrotters, who has a 55-inch leap (he also once dunked on a 12ft hoop, another record). Some sources say that 5ft 11-inch Frenchman Kadour Ziani holds the record for a standing vertical jump at 60 inches, but the ‘Zianimal’ says it’s more like 56 inches. Cuban volleyball star Leonel Marshall reportedly has a 50-inch vertical leap from standing. All of them make for amazing YouTube videos
Bored To Tears some say SUPERMAN is, frankly, superboring. but here's how five brilliant reinventions turned ennui into emotion... Words by Jonathan Crocker
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1. Murder his friends “People complain about Superman’s invulnerability,” said Babylon 5 writer J Michael Straczynski. “Well, it’s true that you can’t pierce his skin, but you can pierce his heart. That’s why I think Alan Moore’s Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow? is the greatest Superman story ever told.” When he heard DC wanted to bring the curtain down on Kal-El before John Byrne relaunched the character, Watchmen author Moore jokingly grabbed editor Julius Schwartz by the neck and said, “If you let anyone but me write that story, I’ll kill you.” He and legendary artist Curt Swan duly delivered an exciting, touching, tragic farewell that, for many, really is the end of Siegel and Shuster’s character.
2. Land him in Russia What if an infant Superman had crashlanded in the USSR instead of the US? Kal-El becomes a Soviet supersoldier. Russia wins the Cold War. America’s great scientist Lex Luthor plots to defeat him. “The idea is a Superman that stands for Stalin, international Marxism and the Glorious Five-Year Plan instead of Truth, Justice and the American Way,” says Mark Millar, author of Superman: Red Son. “He’s got a hammer and sickle on his chest and he’s made communism work, capitalism collapse and America break up into 50 warring states.” Jaggedly illustrated in striking Soviet style, it’s one of the smartest reimaginings of Superman you’ll see.
3. Make him angry Supes won’t take a life. But what if he has to? Grimly, gorgeously inked like a candle-lit tapestry by illustrator Alex Ross and writer Mark Waid, Kingdom Come’s tale of redemption at the brink of apocalypse sees an ageing Kal-El emerge from a 10-year retirement to discover his old-fashioned ideals – along with those of Batman and Wonder Woman – now have catastrophic results. “This, I think, is my all-time favourite Superman story,” says Mark Millar. “It’s about an old Superman who’s given up on a world that no longer needs him and has embraced violent new superheroes like Wolverine. It’s a masterpiece.”
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4. Let Lex Luthor kill him “He was created in the Depression to be a champion to the oppressed,” says Grant Morrison. “We’re in a different kind of depression now and I think we want to put Superman back in that place.” Possibly the greatest Superman series published to date, Morrison and Frank Quietly’s two-volume All-Star Superman brims over with thrills and affection as it puts Kal-El through '12 Labours' that range from answering the “Unanswerable Question” to saving the Sun itself. Pretty much everything you ever wanted to know about Superman - and then some.
5. Get him drunk Michael Mann wanted to direct it. Matthew Vaughn thought it was one of the best things he’d ever read. Written by Vincent Ngo in 1996, the script for Tonight, He Comes wowed everyone who saw it. Sadly, Hollywood turned it into Peter Berg’s Hancock. A clever, dark and intense twist on Superman, Ngo’s original story focused on a tormented superhero – the only one of his kind – who smokes, drinks heavily, picks up prostitutes and yearns to be free of his burden as humanity’s saviour. Hancock, intriguingly, wants to be saved. Seek out the script online
Reviews Contents 50-51 I'm So Excited 52-53 Feture: Almodóvar's Early, Funny Ones 54 Populaire 56 Like Someone In Love 57 Our Children 58 The Company You Keep 60-61 Feature: Tomorrow's World Today 62 Much Ado About Nothing / The Iceman 63 The Seasoning House / Deadfall 64 Something In The Air 65 Interview: Olivier Assayas 66 Before Midnight 67 Journey To Italy 68 In The Fog 70-71 Feature: Exit Strategies 72 Everybody Has A Plan 74-75 It's Such A Beautiful Day 76 Mud 77 Interview: Jeff Nichols 78 Village At The End Of The World 80-81 The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone 82-83 Cover To Cover 84 Byzantium 85 A Hijacking 86-87 Feature: The Fast And The Furiouses 88 Beware Of Mr Baker 90 The Stoker / The King Of Marvin Gardens 91 Thérèse / Honour 92 Ex-Rent Hell Presents: Leonard Part VI
I’m So Excited
Directed by Pedr o Almodóvar Starring Javier Cámara, Lol a Dueñas, Cecilia R oth Released 3 May
n his flamboyant bad-taste punk debut Pepi, Luci, Bom from 1980, Pedro Almodóvar had his characters indulge in comic raperevenge, enforced water sports and kinky outdoor penis-measuring competitions. The film was intended as an affront to authority, arriving in Spanish cinemas soon after the fall of the Franco regime and the puritanical conservatism and stringent media censorship that came with it. Flash forward 33 years and Almodóvar is up to his old tricks. But while I’m So Excited might seem quaint when compared to the kind of cum-splashed, shit-flecked gross-out that makes it on to cinema screens these days, this triumphant return to the realm of the risqué feels like Almodóvar’s pointed attempt to combat a certain cosy sobriety that has infected his work of late. I’m So Excited is deceptively disposable, a lewd existential comedy cabaret set on a doomed passenger jet that’s circling above Toledo awaiting clearance for an emergency landing. With fiery death an imminent possibility, the eccentric coterie of business class passengers (economy have been chemically sedated, natch) decide that this would be the time to ritually unburden themselves of their intimate, sexual longings. All the while, three swaggering gay flight attendants ply the unusually composed flyers with Valencia Cocktail (orange juice, Champagne, bitters) that’s been laced with mescaline. They also lip-synch wonderfully to the eponymous Pointer Sisters ditty to help ease the psychological suffering. If Broken Embraces was Almodóvar’s paean to the pursed romanticism of Douglas Sirk and The Skin I Live In his take on Georges Franju’s fixation with identity and masks, then I’m So Excited continues this run of cine-monuments to classic-era filmmakers. The inspiration here appears to be Frank Tashlin, the director who began his career as a Disney animator and then went on to make jocular, innovative comedies with Jerry Lewis (The Geisha Boy) and Bob
Hope (Son Of Paleface) alongside ribald pop culture satires Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and The Girl Can’t Help It. Tashlin’s vibrant aesthetic, dogged mischievousness, his sense of coiled cynicism and his wicked way with a song-and-dance number suffuse every frame of I’m So Excited. It also suggests that while it may look like there’s a nincompoop piloting this metal coffin, the decisions Almodóvar makes are bolstered with a sly intelligence. The film also taps into the current vogue for burlesque and performance art, with the wipeclean interior of the cabin acting as an suitably mockable stage for the salty confessional that follows. Even a little sortie out of the cabin, following a middle-aged actor (Guillermo Toledo) wanting to prevent his deranged girlfriend (Paz Vega) from suicide, appears to offer a subtly barbed depiction of primped bourgeois lifestyles, presenting a sun-splashed Madrid peopled with tattooed hipsters on push bikes and strange serendipitous meetings made possible via shiny smartphones. One issue with the film is that it’s acidly amusing more than down-and-out funny and often some of the purportedly outrageous situations come across as tame or outmoded. The two pilots are closet homosexuals, which is apparently hilarious in and of itself. The family-man captain is furtively embroiled in a love affair with Javier Cámara’s head trolleydolly and predictable gags about blowjobs and restroom bunk-ups aim for squarely for broad laughs. Plus, the director’s ususally scintillating dialogue comes up far short of stellar, with the crutch of potty-mouthed sex chat desperately bundled in to secure any cheap rise going. Occasionally, the humour even tips over into the potentially distasteful: Lola Dueñas nutty psychic Bruna is upset that she’s set to die a virgin and so attempts to court the sexual attentions of her fraught co-passengers. Her blanket rejection then leads her to skulk into coach class, where she opts to have her wicked way with a quasi050
anesthetised hunk. It’s hard to judge how this ‘joke’ is supposed to be taken: as straight-up provocation; as a comment on death anxiety and the depravity it invokes; or a light-hearted encounter in which no party suffers any physical harm. Either way, the ambiguity of tone makes it tougher to enjoy the film on its most basic terms. Photographically, Almodóvar does his best in this extremely confined and bland space, but the assiduous classical compositions and fluid camera movements of yore are mostly a no-show. There’s even something of a light sitcom vibe to the look of the film, and corny as that often is, it does make for a neat fit with the knowningly trashy material. And then from nowhere, Almodóvar mounts a sensational, atmospheric montage of an empty airport to work as a visual shorthand for the landing of the plane (which is not shown on screen). This curt montage offers a bracing counterpoint to the pastel-hued, mile-high larks. Yet come the final reel, Almodóvar reveals the film’s dark heart. It’s hard to expound any further without spoiling the plot, but suffice to say all the events in the film are deliciously inverted in one swift flick of the wrist. The final shot sees a crew member rolling around in a carpet of churning, pearly-white foam. How appropriate. David Jenkins
Anticipation . Almodóvar is and always will be a friend of LWLies. Enjoyment. A return to the director’s early, funny ones. For better and for worse. Retr o spect. An odd, gaudy comedy that’s great fun, but certainly one to file under ‘short haul ’.
Almod var’s Early Years
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As the king of Spanish cinema returns to his comic roots with I’m So Excited, we look back at Pedro’s early, funny ones.
Words by matt thr i f t
1. Pepi, Luci, Bom (1980) Shot on weekends over the course of 18 months, Almodóvar’s first commercially released feature (after the Super8-shot Folle… Folle… Fólleme Tim!) is a scuzzy, lo-fi exercise in filmmaking on the run. As indebted to the punk sensibilities of Madrid’s underground arts movement La Movida as it is to the early films of Paul Morrissey and John Waters, the formal qualities which would come to define his later works are essentially non-existent. As bawdy and vulgar as it is freewheeling in its approach to narrative, thematic preoccupations take early root in its examinations of identity and sexuality.
2. Labyrinth Of Passion (1982)
3. Dark Habits (1983) Almodóvar has always insisted on his innocence whenever the label ‘provocateur’ is thrown his way, but his punk attitude towards the establishment showed little sign of abating with this third film. Sure, the nuns around whom the story revolves may have a penchant for the odd line or needle fix, but Almodóvar remains interested in individual lives and foibles above any collective or symbolic anti-clericalist position. His first toe-dip into melodrama, it was initially written as a vehicle for actress Cristina S Pascual (after her husband provided funding). Presumably not wanting his preferred leading lady upstaged, Almodóvar accessorises Carmen Maura with a pet tiger.
4. What Have I Done To Deserve This? (1984)
7. Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown (1988)
Carmen Maura’s housewife walks through a film crew in the opening shot as her son reels off a list of writers to his grandmother, asking which of them are realists and which are romantics. Almodóvar may describe What Have I Done To Deserve This? as his social realist picture, but those early scenes alone indicate a greater interest in the way representations of reality can facilitate his genre-bending predilections. With more than a nod to Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman (the pulsing neon light outside the cramped apartment, the muted colour scheme), Almodóvar’s filmmaking comes together here in a way hitherto unseen, demonstrating a handle on the film’s tonal shifts that would elude him elsewhere.
As his biggest mainstream success, it’s unsurprising that Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown is considered the quintessential Almodóvar film, one he would return to 20 years later as inspiration for the film-within-a-film segments of Broken Embraces. An expertly stage-managed farce, it’s certainly the director’s most theatrical undertaking. Steeped in cinephilia (count the Hitchcock references), it wears its artifice proudly, drawing these elements together for a scene in which actress Pepa (Maura) dubs Joan Crawford’s performance in Johnny Guitar, addressing her lines to a screen bearing Sterling Hayden’s image but her lover’s voice. It’s hard not to get swept along by its candy-coated design, even as kitsch threatens to overwhelm. It also features Almodóvar’s best fake TV adverts yet.
5. Matador (1986) Providing a breakthrough role for Antonio Banderas after his first appearance for the director in Labyrinth Of Passion, Almodóvar turns his attention to the male gaze (the audacious opening shows Torero Nacho Martínez masturbating to a gruesome Jesús Franco gore flick) in this his investigation into masculinity, sex and death. An examination of gender roles and identity wrapped up as a noirish sex thriller, the marriage of its themes to its narrative occasionally shows its seams. Taking the slasher movie as its rarely referred-to template, Matador is at its best during moments of pitch-black satire, deconstructing both violent machismo and victimhood by turning both on their heads.
6. Law Of Desire (1987) Almodóvar opens the best film of his early period with his most confrontational scene to date (which we won’t spoil for you here), a fitting introduction to a work about the nature of control. A Hitchcockian melodrama that escalates to operatic proportions, Law Of Desire represents a summation of the director’s themes and tropes up to this point (and beyond). Sexual identity and familial roles are explored and slyly inverted (the casting of Carmen Maura and Bergman regular Bibi Andersson proving key) as religiosity is subtly needled, with his cast of regulars playing at the top of their game. 053
8. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990) While he would later cover similar thematic ground (much more successfully) with 2004’s Bad Education, Almodóvar’s first use of the filmmaking process as an examination in role playing and artifice appears in the enjoyable, if tonally uneven Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! Ennio Morricone’s score once again signals the Hitchcock touchstone, if this time once removed through the more apparent nods to Brian De Palma. If Banderas' character’s obsession with porn actress Victoria Abril brings to mind Body Double (1984), the film-within-afilm they’re shooting is straight out of Phantom Of The Paradise (1974). Familiar explorations into the family unit bubble underneath, but they’re tackled more acutely by the director elsewhere.
9. High Heels (1991) The low point of Almodóvar’s career thus far, High Heels is something of a disaster. His most explicit nod to the women’s pictures of Douglas Sirk, it represents a huge backwards step in terms of rhythmic control after the sharp plotting and pacing of Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown. If much of the humour fails to land, it’s the labyrinthine narrative that finally overwhelms, with much of what would usually be seen as Almodóvar old tricks (the bright, rigorous production design; the lipsynched musical interludes) here feeling more like strained affectations
F E AT U R E
A step up in terms of production values as well as structural complexity, Almodóvar’s second feature makes up in anarchic energy what it lacks in rhythmic finesse and narrative coherence. All the incest, nymphomania and banana-skin gags we might have expected on the evidence of his debut are present and correct in this, his first stab at screwball farce. If the drawing together of all its tangential plot threads at the close brings to mind the later Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown, the final shot of a plane taking off to the sound of its protagonists fucking signals much further ahead, to this year’s I’m So Excited. Best scene: Almodóvar’s impromptu performance of ‘Suck It To Me’ with drag act Fabio McNamara, after the programmed band fail to show up “due to problems with drugs, child trafficking, white slavery and a few other things.”
I l l u st ra t i o n by MVM
Populaire D i rected by R égi s R o i ns a rd Star r i n g Dé b o r a h F r a n çoi s, B é ré n i c e B e jo, R om a i n Du ri s Re l e a se d 3 1 M ay peed typing isn’t the best known of international sporting challenges. But during the ’50s – when waists were small, men were mad and cigarette smoke formed a chignon scarf in the air – competitively firing off a machine-gun racket of clattering typewriter keys was all the rage. Populaire is a beautifully constructed romantic comedy which weaves together the light wit of a classic screwball with the thrilling tension of a sports movie. The first time Louis (Romain Duris) sees the manic pace with which his soon-to-be secretary Rose (Déborah François) can type, he'ss whipped into an almost orgasmic frenzy and decides to start training her to be a world champion. Sexual attraction crackles between the pair from the off, but while Rose quickly falls for her charming but emotionally closed-off boss, Louis will not admit that his obsession with her is anything more than a coach’s passion for a star athlete. Best known as the scowling, angular hero of Jacques Audiard’s The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Duris is delightful here as a modern day Henry Higgins, constantly revealing glimpses of the vulnerability that lies beneath Louis’ tightly coiled nonchalance.
François’ Rose is equally endearing, combining comic klutziness with the spirited temper of a liberated Eliza Doolittle. The tension between them finally leads to an argument in which they are shaking with anger and desire. “What makes you think this would be my first time?” Rose challenges him. “It’s the 1950s – modern girls don’t wait for marriage anymore!” “Good,” Louis fires back. “That’s one less thing for me to have to teach you.” She slaps him, he slaps her back. They kiss. Writer/director Régis Roinsard’s debut feature is a remarkably assured piece of work. From the moment the stylishly drawn cartoon title sequence sashays across the screen you know that you’re in a pair of capable (fasttyping and beautifully manicured) hands. For those with no natural interest in any team or track-based competitions, the enjoyment of any sports film is a triumph of filmmaking over subject matter. Yet it’s still remarkable how, with deft and confident editing, Roinsard manages to make competitive typing into such a gripping spectator sport. And although the film follows the classic – and emotionally satisfying – structure 054
of so many other obstacle-filled romantic comedies, Roinsard manages to take enough small, unexpected detours that the narrative never feels tiresome or predictable. He gives enough time to the secondary characters – the excellent Shaun Benson and The Artist’s Bérénice Bejo – to make them and their relationship with Louis feel real and complex. With a joyfully good period soundtrack and a gorgeous sense of style, Populaire has the confidence of vintage Hollywood, but the mischievousness of a modern girl who doesn’t wait to do what she’s told. Jessica Lambert
Anticipation . Stylish, breezy comedy with a seductively swinging soundtrack. Enjoyment. Who knew that speed typing could be this sexy and gripping? Retr o spect. Almost never hits a false key. A delight.
ONE MAN BECAME A ROCK STAR, WITHOUT PLAYING A SINGLE NOTE. While Jack Daniel loved music, he had no musical talent of his own. So it’s a bit ironic that his whiskey became a mainstay at stadiums, clubs, garages, back alleys and rehearsal spaces around the world. If there was music being played, a bottle of Jack wasn’t far away. Then again, with Mr. Jack’s independent spirit and rebellious ways, it shouldn’t have come as a shock to any of us. See how we mix Jack and music at jackdaniels.com/music. J A C K D A N I E L’ S
Play with heart. Drink with care. ©2013 Jack Daniel’s. All rights reserved. JACK DANIEL’S and OLD NO. 7 are registered trademarks.
Like Someone In Love D i rected by A b b a s K i a r o sta m i Star r i n g R i n Ta ka n a s h i , Ta da s h i O ku n o, Ryo Ka s e Rel e a se d 21 Ju n e ith Like Someone In Love, Iranian maestro Abbas Kiarostami heads to Japan, shooting a Japaneselanguage film in and around Tokyo. Yet his thematic concerns and aesthetic methods have scarcely changed. As in his previous film, Certified Copy, the slipperiness of identity remains the central question, while his battletested process of focusing on people talking in isolated spaces – particularly cars – remains as operative as ever. But while his previous work occasionally took a look beyond the auto glass to explore the rich terrain of his settings (never more so than in his celebrated Koker Trilogy), in this new work Kiarostami presents Tokyo as a world seen in mediated snatches, a shimmering, digitally rendered landscape that’s always just out of reach. This sense of disembodiment is established in the first scene when a voice talking into a mobile phone at a café is given no discernible visual source. As we scan the screen to make out who is talking, we come up empty until Kiarostami cuts away to show the voice emanating from beyond the original frame of reference. The person talking is Akiko (Rin Takanashi), a student and prostitute explaining to her jealous boyfriend Noriaki (Ryo Kase) why she can’t see him that evening. In fact, Akiko
has a job which forces her to blow off not only her boyfriend but her visiting grandmother and take a cab ride an hour outside the city to entertain an elderly gentlemen client. That man turns out to be a retired professor named Takashi (Takashi Okuno), with whom Akiko doesn’t sleep, but who takes a kindly paternal interest in her, particularly the next day as he drives her to school only to encounter Noriaki lurking angrily outside. While Takashi waits in his car as Akiko takes an exam, Noriaki works his way into the vehicle, introducing himself as Akiko’s fiancé and taking the older man for her grandfather. Thus, Noriaki quickly establishes roles for each of the two in regards to Akiko, both of which are clearly false. As the film moves forward, as Noriaki and Akiko both ride along in Takashi’s car, the professor neither confirms nor denies his status as the young woman’s grandfather, leaving Noriaki to project his own assumptions onto the older man. Shot in beautiful, if patently artificial digital, confining its characters (and camera) to isolated spaces and allowing each figure to take on at least one fictional role, Kiarostami’s film presents a world in which people shut themselves off to genuine interaction, opting instead for theatre, whether it be in the form 056
of prostitution or simply the put-on public selves that they present to the world. This leads to moments of extreme disengagement, such as in the film’s saddest moment, with Akiko’s grandmother glimpsed waiting helplessly, vainly, in a city square through a taxicab window. But it still allows for, via the budding friendship between Takashi and Akiko, a chance for a more meaningful connection. Still, any such steps are tentative; in the isolating, simulated world of Like Someone In Love, no emotion proves to be more authentic than the unquenchable rage of a disturbed and deeply violent young man. Andrew Schenker
Anticipation . After taking on Tuscany, how will Kiarostami handle Japan? Enjoyment. Beautifully shot and filled with ominous tension, Like Someone In Love is compulsively watchable. Retr o spect. A major statement from one of the world’s greatest living filmmakers.
Our Children ime destroys everything” warned a title card in Gaspar Noé’s gruelling 2002 horroshow Irreversible. This bleak aphorism acted as a comment on both the immutability of fate and the film’s own brutally ironic structure which saw scenes of marital bliss and utopic forward planning savagely undercut by the spectator’s knowledge of how these lives are set to unfold. The same phrase comes to mind while watching Joachim LaFosse’s less lurid and formally tricksy but equally harrowing Our Children, a compassionate, if extraordinarily bleak fictionalisation of a real-life tragedy which shocked the citizens of Belgium in 2007. Our Children opens with a scene of family torment. We’re shown four tiny coffins being loaded onto a plane and distressed, hospitalbound mother Murielle (Émilie Dequenne) exhorting the father, Mounir (Tahar Rahim), to have them buried in Morocco, their “homeland.” We subsequently flash back to happier times when the pair (he a doctor, she a teacher) are high on the first pangs of a starryeyed romance. But the damage is done, the result of LaFosse’s sage gamble in foregrounding the central tragedy which then cloaks the ensuing drama in a shroud of foreboding, unease and terrible pathos.
LaFosse’s film – which unfolds over a period of roughly seven years – is clearly fuelled by a furious anger directed at two particular targets: entrenched patriarchy and a lingering, malignant colonial influence. Both characteristics are embodied by Dr Andre Pinget (a sensationally malevolent Niels Arestrup), the third prong in the dangerously triangulated central relationship. Pinget has housed and raised the Moroccan-born Mounir since childhood and has also married his sister in order to give her residency papers. Pinget’s presence intimidates and alienates Murielle and neuters Mounir, who is stripped of psychological and territorial independence. Such claustrophobia is intelligently accentuated by Jean François Hensgens’ cinematography which uses characters and objects to crowd the frame. Anne Falgueres’ production design, too, showcases the bland detritus of bourgeois sterility that becomes emblematic of Mounir and Murielle’s stasis. At the heart of the ensuing tragedy is Dequenne, whose Murielle transforms from a young woman full of life into a depressed, helpless cipher before our very eyes. It’s a truly stunning performance; Dequenne’s open, kind face gradually gives way to a chilling blankness, suggesting that individual nerves are being systematically flicked off like switches. 057
Deliberately paced and relentlessly oppressive, Our Children is an intensely difficult film to watch, but is nevertheless an important artistic response to the spittleflecked tabloid demonisation which so often accompanies such horrific – and purportedly inexplicable – cases of infanticide. Here, we’re left with more questions than answers, but LaFosse deserves immense credit for sensitively and unflinchingly exploring the conditions under which something so unspeakably awful might happen. Ashley Clark
Anticipation . The reteaming of A Prophet’s stars bodes well for this slow-burn, ripped-fromthe-headlines thriller. Enjoyment. It’s hard to describe as ‘enjoyable’, however impressive it may be. retr o spect. Fully committed, beautifully acted, well realised and genuinely unsettling.
D i rected by Joac h i m L a fo s s e Star r i n g É m i li e Dequ en n e , N i e l s A re st ru p, Ta h a r R a h i m R e l e a se d 10 M ay
The Company You Keep REVIEWS
D i rected by R o b e rt R e d fo rd Sta r r i n g R o b e rt R e d fo r d, S h i a L a B eou f, Ju l i e C h ri st i e Re l e a se d 7 Ju n e rom the paranoid spills of Three Days Of The Condor to the satiric sideswipes of The Candidate and the procedural perfection of All The President’s Men, Robert Redford starred in some of the tightest leftleaning polemics of the ’70s. Now, after decades spent in tuxedos, Stetsons, comfy jumpers and increasingly soft focus, he’s yanked the corduroy out of the back of the wardrobe and dusted off his poli-sci textbooks for a film that attempts to recombine the political thrills and liberal discourse of his glory days. Redford plays Jim Grant, a former member of ’60s radical-left group the Weather Underground. Wanted for the killing of a security guard, Grant has been on the run for 30 years, hiding out under an assumed name as a smalltown lawyer in leafy upstate New York. When another former member is arrested in connection with the same killing, nervy, irritating newshound Shia LaBeouf starts poking around, almost immediately uncovering Grant’s true identity and setting in motion one of the most lethargic chase movies of recent times. So it is that decked out in his best leather bomber and stretch-waist Asda jeans, Redford huffs and puffs his way across country, catching up with various old muckers from back in the day in the eventual hope of tracking down the one person who can clear his name. It’s a decent premise, but though he’s clearly aiming for a
purposefully handled, solidly paced, resolutely plotted treatment, Redford fails in almost every department. The resulting film is dated, episodic and underwritten. As a thriller, it has no pulse. As a whodunnit, it has none of the requisite twists and turns. As a character study, it’s barely even two-dimensional. Redford simply lurches from one former compadre to another, indulging in a spot of frugal, insight-free smalltalk about The Old Days and picking up just enough information to get him on to the next. Nick Nolte is a gruff hardass. Richard Jenkins is an uptight professor with elbow patches. Best of all is Sam Elliott, who has become a satin-shirted, pony-tailed day trader. None of them share with Redford even the barest flicker of timeworn fellowship the film strains for. You can imagine every one of them (plus co-stars Susan Sarandon and Julie Christie) hunkered down in a Haight-Ashbury cellar circa ’69, toking and screwing and arguing, furiously planning Nixon’s downfall while an Aviatorshaded Redford is off in the bathroom, combing his moustache and practicing his best ‘Back off, Jack!’ scowl. Jag off! LaBeouf has other problems. If The Company You Keep was a TV show, his narrative arc would very much the ‘b-story’. After kicking off the plot, he’s relegated to microfiche libraries and newspaper archives to pore over police reports and badly Photoshopped surveillance snaps. Needless to say, being a Hollywood 058
journalist, he normally has a pencil between his teeth and is rude to everyone he meets. The climactic moments, when they finally trundle along, are genuinely embarrassing, with one character proclaiming that they’ll hand themself in to the cops when “all the corporations hand themselves in” and the wheezing Redford leading the FBI on a farcical low-speed footchase/nature trek through the woods. Switching between sophomoric and superannuated, these scenes perfectly encapsulate the whole dismal, inert enterprise. Adam Lee Davies
Anticipation . Looks more like Space Cowboys than The Wild Bunch, but LWLies is always up for an elegiac, star-studded swansong. Enjoyment. Imagine The Fugitive written by a fifth-former drunk on Diamond White and Das Kapital, and played by the Stannah Stairlift stunt team. Retr o spect. Take Redford’s industry muscle out of the equation and this project would probably have been chopped down into TV meat for an unmemorable episode of Justified or Burn Notice.
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The story of Google Glass and how Star Trek has inspired a next generation to make it so... of his research. Google Glass is often compared to the visor that gives heightened “sight” to the Enterprise’s blind engineer Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation, but Starner says the real inspiration is closer to Singhal’s analogy. Back in 1998, Starner was chatting with Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, when the three were still PhD students and before Google even existed. As had become his norm for the last five years, Starner wasn’t holding his computer, he was wearing it: a screen clipped to his glasses, a small computer slung around his shoulder and a palm-sized keyboard device. The three discussed how researchers’ lives would change if they had immediate access to answers as questions occurred to them. “Larry Page called this reducing the
“You see it in a Star Trek episode and then you say, ‘Hold it. What stops me from doing this?’” Thad Starner, Google Glass technical lead
time between intention to action,” remembers Starner. Twelve years later, Starner emailed Page and Brin. “You should really take a look at the wearable stuff again. I really think we’re ready. I think it’s time,” Starner recalls. The Google co-founders had been thinking the same thing – they’d already begun “Project Glass” a month earlier and invited Starner to join. As science-fiction writers grope for new visions of the future, they look for clues in the labs of scientists like Starner. Sci-fi author Vernor Vinge, for example, has subscribed to Starner’s wearable research mailing list since 1996. “What people don’t often know is the scientists and the science-fiction writers have a two-way conduit,” says Starner. “Sometimes I use what Vernor says in his stories to motivate my next grant proposal and, correspondingly, 061
he takes stuff coming out of the research world and tries to extrapolate it into a science fiction world.” Star Trek’s creator Gene Roddenberry and the show’s writers were part of that conduit. They created Star Trek amid the international obsession with the Cold War’s space race and wanted the show to be credible. Roddenberry consulted experts like physicist Harvey Lynn, a RAND Corporation researcher, to test the scientific plausibility and the original series' “bible” spells out details down to blue prints of the Enterprise. What the writers couldn’t have imagined was the impact their ideas would have on coming generations of scientists. “A lot of the coolest stuff happens when some science-fiction writer will posit some interesting idea, you see it in a Star Trek episode and then you say, ‘Hold it. What stops me from doing that?’” says Starner. “So you puzzle over it and you say, ‘Okay, here’s the law of physics that makes that particular thing impossible. But there are variants of this that are possible. Let me explore those ideas.’” Perhaps the biggest example is the Tricorder “X Prize”, which has attracted Scanadu and at least 100 other teams in a race to win a $10 million prize by creating a Star Trek-inspired device and change medicine forever — by next summer. But like Abrams, sci-fi writers in general now find themselves hitting against a wall where it’s becoming increasingly harder to predict the next level of technology. “Science fiction writers are constantly getting their stories shot out from under them by modern discoveries,” claims Vinge. “We live in a culture that’s 70 percent more advanced than what is depicted in Star Trek.” Vinge is of the men known for popularising the name for that wall: “The Singularity.” It’s a fearful, thrilling point in the near-future when humans and technology will converge to create a superior intelligence that will dominate and alter everyday life. Vinge believes the singularity could come by 2030. Starner believes differently. “The wearable computers we’re seeing, this idea of having on-body devices that are so interactive they’re part of your daily life from second to second,” says Starner says. “I’d argue we’re going through a singularity right now.” Star Trek: Into Darkness is released on 9 May and will be reviewed at littlewhitelies.co.uk.
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ust outside San Francisco, engineers at a company called Scanadu are reconfiguring smartphones to create a handheld device capable of scanning patients and diagnosing diseases. Kinda like Star Trek’s Tricorder. At the University of Toronto, researchers are using artificial intelligence techniques based on theories of how the brain spots patterns to create a program that could decode language. Kinda like Star Trek’s Universal Translator. At MIT, scientists are figuring out ways to “programme” individual atoms and molecules into any structure so they can create a ‘replicator’. Kinda like the machine that 24th-century Star Trek crews use to conjure hot drinks – and almost anything else – from thin air. As mankind boldly goes where no man has gone before, Star Trek’s influence has become impossible to ignore. The imagined future technology from the sci-fi franchise has shaped our present so much that when it came to his big-screen Hollywood reboot, director JJ Abrams discovered that the biggest challenge was envisioning a future that still seemed futuristic. “The fact that most of the tech that we use in our everyday lives seems modelled after — and actually more advanced than — the original series made it tricky to find a way to make our movie’s world far more advanced than where we currently are,” he admitted. Even researchers occasionally express astonishment at how quickly science is catching up to the science-fiction of Star Trek. Amit Singhal, the man who conducts Google’s orchestra of algorithms recently marvelled at what’s now possible on a desktop or smartphone. “It’s very much like the computer I dreamt about as a child growing up in India, glued to our black-and-white TV for every episode of Star Trek,” recalled Singhal. “I imagined a future where a starship computer would be able to answer any question I might ask, instantly. Today, we’re closer to that dream than I ever thought possible during my working life.” From his office at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Thad Starner balances teaching with his work as the technical lead for Google Glass. When LWLies rings, he picks up in James T Kirk style: “Okay Glass, answer call.” “Of course, I watched Star Trek as a kid,” says Starner, whose earlier PhD work at MIT’s ‘wearable computing’ lab invoked Trek-tech like Tricorders to help explain the implication
Much Ado About Nothing Dire cted by Jo ss Whedon S tar ring Al e xis Denis o f, Amy Ac ker , Fr an Kr a n z Re le ased 14 Jun e
hile Joss Whedon fanboys will be scouring the net for any snippets of information about the Avengers TV spin-off S.H.I.E.L.D., they would do better to turn their gaze towards his latest pet project: a nofi monochrome adaption of Shakespeare’s original rom-com. Shot in the surroundings of the director’s sun-drenched Santa Monica pad, this delicious micro feature is immediately awash with a sense of homeliness. A crew of small-name actors from Whedon’s past projects assemble, decked out in crisp-cut suits and lil’ black dresses, like friends going to a party at the weekend. The only difference here is that they’re bashing out their thees and thous, and doing so with palpable comic effect. Here the Bard’s words are stripped back to a level of high populism and they retain the
subtextual weight. Whedon does well to remove all traces of theatre-luvvie pomposity that might hang around those stale, productionline Branagh adaptations. What we’re left with is a witty, charming creation leaving us on the comfortable home turf of characterdriven comedy which comes as second nature to Whedon. It feels more like a teen drama than a highfalutin’ classical play. At times the script hangs in the wings, leaving you happy to watch the cast clowning around, openhandedly offering up the best jokes. This makes it the perfect palate cleanser to the smashing and bashing of Whedon’s big-budget endeavours. Whether it’s Alexis Denisof’s cocksure Benedick or Nathan Fillion’s puffed up, malapropic Dogberry, the effect is one of immediate surprise at the calibre of the performances. Whedon’s dexterous ability
to direct seems to inspire even the most humdrum of actors to shine. Most impressive of all is Amy Acker’s pithy performance, letting the Tudor tongue twisters fall from her mouth with grace and refinement, often licked with backhanded bite. Joseph Walsh
Anticipation . Joss Whedon adapting Shakespeare in 12 days is more than enough to raise an eyebrow. Enjoyment. Lays bare the Bard with comic grace and style. Retr o spect. If movies be the food of love, play on.
The Iceman Dire cted by Ar iel Vr om e n S tar ring Mich ael Sha n n on, Ray Liotta, C h r is Eva ns Re le ased 7 Jun e t’s hard to ignore the similarities between The Iceman and Martin Scorsese’s Mob movie touchstone GoodFellas. Both are based on true stories, both follow an episodic cautionary-tale narrative that upholds the age-old truism that crime doesn’t pay, and both are exceptionally violent, masculine films. Unlike Henry Hill, however, Richie Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) never wanted to be a gangster. A regular family life is all he ever desired, but when made crook Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta, who else?) offers him steady work as a contract killer Richie’s sociopathic nature takes hold. So begins Richie’s sharp rise from bluecollar schmo to gangland golden boy – his suits and goatee getting sharper with each reputation-enhancing hit. He woos the woman of his dreams (Winona Ryder) and for a short while everything is rosy. But greed and ego eventually get the better of him. After a string
of messy jobs put the heat on Roy and his loyal right-hand man Rosenthal (David Schwimmer, looking like an early Noughties David Seaman or a Scouse Ron Jeremy), Richie’s number is up. Shannon’s Richie is a fearsome anti-hero; a man of few words and capable of sudden acts of extreme brutality. He flinches only when his family are threatened, yet despite the occasional glimmer of vulnerability beneath the armour he is ultimately a difficult character to invest in. More engaging are Chris Evans, playing against type while upping the dodgy facial hair ante as ice-cream-truckdriving assassin Freezy, and James Franco in a memorable if all-too brief cameo. The real Richard Kuklinski died in prison in 2006 while serving multiple life sentences for crimes carried out on behalf of various East Coast crime families – estimated at somewhere between 100 and 250 victims – over 30 years. The Iceman would have benefited 062
from exploring the fractured psychology of America’s most notorious contract killer, but instead settles for being a hollow genre flick that fails to convey the complexity of its subject. Adam Woodward
Anticipation . Anything starring Michael Shannon is worth a look. Enjoyment. Feels more like a Mob movie pastiche than a dramatisation of the life of America’s most notorious hitman. Retr o spect. Suspect barnets aside, there’s not a lot to take away from this by-the-numbers genre piece.
The Seasoning House Direc ted by Paul Hy ett S tarring R o sie Day, S e a n P e rtw e e , Kevin Howarth Re leased 28 Jun e of either post-added slo-mo to affect a woozy, detached haze or juddery shaky-cam to bring action sequences to life, their repetition belies a singular lack of visual ideas. Too often resorting to meaningless canted angles and a floating POV that takes in empty corners, it often feels as though the camera itself is looking to escape from the film. The flat, digital photography proves an insurmountable problem, its TV sheen highlighting the distressed squalor of the production design by making it look exactly like a distressed set. Unsurprisingly, Hyett plays his ace card during one particularly nasty killing, the make-up effects being one area where visibility of craftsmanship proves welcome. If the awkwardness of the writing makes for a sluggish 45-minute build-up before the preposterously plotted finale kicks in, actress Rosie Day’s performance as the (selectively, it seems) deafmute Angel holds our attention, no doubt aided by her lack of ropey dialogue to utter.
Despite being chosen last year to open FrightFest, the UK’s premier horror film festival, it serves only to offer further proof that the UK horror industry needs to up its game. Whatever Hyett’s stated intent, with its political backdrop mere window dressing, The Seasoning House leaves a sour aftertaste. Good intentions? The road to FrightFest is paved with them. Matt Thrift
her own ass. What it feels like is that Oscarwinning director Stefan Ruzowitzky (for 2007’s The Counterfeiters) was presented with a selection of scenes – a car crash, a snowmobile chase, a dinner table screaming session and a soft-focus sex session – and was given the task of daisy-chaining them together any old way he could. The result, quite understandably, feels like one flummoxed reach after another to get to the sanctury of that next set-piece. Obvious gripes aside, such as Bana’s seeming inability to sustain his southern American accent plus the masochistic focus on moments of extreme pain (Addison sterilises a nasty wound no less than three times in unnecessary close-up), this would-be thriller lacks any real sense of forward momentum or dramatic motivation. By the time of the cosy climactic Thanksgiving smackdown, Ruzowitzky wants
three separate dysfunctional families to come to terms with their long-term differences. One does, another doesn’t and the third… well, they’re just kinda forgotten about. David Jenkins
Anticipation . Ooh, this film comes with a Director’s Statement. Must be good, then? Enjoyment. Oh. Okay. But what about all that stuff you said? Retr o spect. If only the dialogue and camera work were as good as the make-up effects.
Deadfall Direc ted by Stefan R uz ow i tzky S tarring Er ic B ana, O li v i a W i ld e , Char l ie Hunnam Re leased 1 0 May promise that “no one would get get hurt” is swiftly and incomprehensibly broken by Eric Bana’s adorably psychotic casino heister Addison, when he smokes a police officer on a rural trail. He swiftly and incomprehensibly decides to make a dash into the forest with his sultry little sis Liza (Olivia Wilde) and then insists they walk off in opposite directions and meet up in a few days after the dust has settled. Their snowbound ordeal takes in fallen prizefighters, slack-jawed wife beaters, lone, knife-wielding native American lumberjacks and the defective swinging dicks of the local sheriff’s department. What it’s all supposed to lead to isn’t entirely clear, as we have no sympathy for Addison, who’s gone “native” with a pump-action shotgun, or Liza, who appears to be stringing along Charlie Hunnam’s crew-cutted lug to save
Anticipation . We’re still waiting to see the glorious Eric Bana of Chopper again. Could this be it? Enjoyment. Hell no. A halfcocked thriller with as many looseends as it has characters. Retr o spect. Low grade, unremarkable and – worst of all – unnecessarily violent.
is was the nose that won Nicole Kidman her Oscar for The Hours. Sadly, the feature debut of British make-up effects designer, Paul Hyett is a miserable affair. Against the 1996 backdrop of the Balkans conflict, local girls are kidnapped and sold to the eponymous brothel, their families murdered in front of them. Apparently determined not to make “an exploitative or titillating film”, Hyett goes on in his Director’s Statement to tell us that, “after extensive research, we tried to be as faithful to reality as possible, but we also wanted to make a thrilling, provocative film that in turn may bring attention to the terrible experiences some women continue to suffer during times of war.” It’s a good job he cleared that up for us, as there’s little evidence over the course of The Seasoning House’s 89 minutes to substantiate such honourable intent. Bad taste aside, Hyett is quick to fall headlong into the first feature cliché of ensuring his visibility as director. Taking the alternate forms
Something In The Air REVIEWS
D i rected by O l i v i e r A s s aya s Star r i n g C lé m e n t M étaye r, L o l a C réton, F e l i x A rm a n d Rel e a se d 24 M ay n films such as cinephile extravaganza Irma Vep, intimate addiction drama Clean and expansive terrorist biopic Carlos, the highly talented French director Olivier Assayas has shown himself to be quite as delightfully (and challengingly) adept at genre-hopping as those maestros the Coen brothers. Assayas’ latest film, inspired by his own 2002 book A Post-May Adolescence (Letter To Alice Debord), takes us back to the concerns and period of his earlier Cold Water. It dallies with autobiography as it evokes the political halflife of the “revolutionary” events in France of May 1968 and their effects on a young suburban Parisian student not entirely unlike the 58-year-old director himself. The movie’s a riot, both political and emotional. It’s set, initially, in a secondary school outside Paris in 1971 – itself a frenzy of agitprop meetings, insurrectionist scheming and planned RER daytrips to the city centre to do battle with the “fascist” special security squads. The film then floats off to Tuscany and London to follow the sentimental journey of 18-year-old artist and designer Gilles (Clément Métayer). This is Assayas’ portrait of the artist as a young filmmaker. The end of the journey – not to give anything away – sees Gilles taking up a job as a “gofer” on a creature feature filming at Pinewood. And, in the tradition of such portraits
(from those by Joyce to Dylan Thomas), it is as much a sorrowful ‘Goodbye To All That’ as a re-vivification of the look, sound and feel of personally significant times past, not to say some kind of confession of the folly, romantic and intellectual confusion and conflicting, heightened emotion of a young self. Such ambition, such balance, such forbearance. It’s highly laudable work from Assayas and it’s not surprising if, at times, the film can seem, superficially, either meandering or coldly distant. Let’s just say Gilles is indeed meandering and the movie is touchingly true to that. He’s also a mite taciturn – who isn’t at 18? – and Métayer downplays him so as not to upstage the rest of the cast, many of whom are non-professionals coached to perform just a little like Bresson’s ‘models’ in Four Nights Of A Dreamer. Arguably, too, Something In The Air is overdense: quotations abound, from the cinematic and historical to the social and philosophical, from Blaise Pascal to Captain Beefheart. Indeed the film’s progressive rock soundtrack plays first-among-equals in the film’s orchestra of elements. The extraordinary period recreation is a tribute to both the resourcefulness of production designer François-Renaud Labarthe, Assayas’ prodigious memory and photographic eye for detail, and the attuned fluidity of the director’s regular cinematographer Eric 064
Gautier. It provides set-piece after set-piece: raucous political meetings; sex beneath the ‘Spooky Tooth’ posters; theatrical light shows; dropping acid at bacchanalian parties. It takes your breath away by virtue of its combination of truthful ambience and accuracy of observation, covering every inch of the frame. The result is an exhilarating and demanding film that is as full of interesting conflicts and contradictions as its protagonist. The dialectic it describes, as befits a portrait of a child of Marx and Coca-Cola, is similar to that between the romanticism of memory and the cold light of reality. It could also be Assayas’ best, most revealing and – dare we say it — funniest film to date. Wally Hammond
Anticipation . Though occasionally hit and miss, Assayas remains one of French cinema’s most distinctive voices. Enjoyment. A breathless, meandering gem which covers the intellectual and emotional trials of youth. Retr o spect. This might just be Assayas’ masterpiece.
In Conversation With…
I l l u st ra t i o n by cajs a h o l ge r s s on
Wo rd s by Dav i d Je n kins
Olivier Assayas May 1968 was a hotbed of revolutionary zeal in Europe, but in his brilliant new film Something In The Air, Olivier Assayas asks: what really happened next? LWLies met him. Looking to my past
My first brush with politics “I was involved in high-school politics which had a connection with collective power. The Parisian riots in early 1971 were also very important to me. I knew that would be the starting point. I was 16. It was my last year in high school. It was some kind of high watermark in terms of teenage involvement in politics. It was something that wasn’t too manipulated. There was a general rebellion going on.”
My leftist politics “For me, as for everyone in my generation, political ideology comes very early. It comes in May ’68. I was 13 years old, so I was too young to be part of it. I was living in the countryside. I had no physical connection to it. I was too far from Paris so I couldn’t go and see what was happening. I could see the scars. There was a sense of something happening. It had to do with politics. Grown ups were on strike. They seemed scared by what was going on. Impressed even. All of a sudden there were no trains.
was British underground culture: the music, the free press, the events. French leftism certainly made an impression on me: I mean I lived in the middle of it. Still, what I cared about had to do with the counter-culture. Everything French at the time seemed dull, archaic, from another era. Artistically and in terms of my inspiration, I was much more influenced by what I was seeing in England. Even in terms of music. It has stayed with me. I’ve always felt really cut off from the French tastes in music. When I go to a record shop in England, all of a sudden I feel home. When I go to a record shop in Paris, I see all the stuff I don’t listen to.”
My first experience of cinema
My favourite films of the '70s “What meant the most to me was certainly post Easy Rider independent American filmmaking. The films of Bob Rafelson, Monte Hellman, Miloš Forman, all those hippy-influenced movies. Things like The Strawberry Statement and Medium Cool.”
Why England is better than France “French cinema was very cut off from the counter-culture. Luckily, like a lot of French students, I would go to England, learn the language, study. I got in contact with whatever
“We see the ’70s as a war that was going on. It was exciting, but ultimately, society has not changed. I remember my experience of being third assistant editor on Superman in Pinewood Studios and walking around the set and seeing what was going on. It was moviemaking from another era. The film I’m actually referencing in Something In The Air was one by British director Kevin Connor. He was making these wonderful B-movies. They were very sweet. I liked them at the time, I don’t know whether I’d like them now. They were childish. They were cartoonish. It was difficult not to feel the tension. Gilles is trying to find his way in the cinema. He realises this is not for him. The film ends when he goes to the Electric Cinema in Notting Hill and sees an experimental film. This is the resurrection of his lost love. Maybe in small-scale independent experimental filmmaking there is something for me that holds the secrets between cinema and its relationship with reality.”
F E AT U R E
“My first film about the ’70s was Cold Water which I made in the ’90s. So even then it took me a while to wrap my head around it. It’s been a while since I’ve wanted to make Something In The Air. But it was never the right time. The context was always wrong. It involves recreating the ’70s: sets, costumes, lots of travelling and with no stars. It’s really a deadly mix. Luckily after Carlos I had this opening. I could make it happen.”
You couldn’t get gas for your car. Teachers weren’t coming to school. It was a sense of confusion. It was a historical event. Society was fragile. All of a sudden, what seemed quite structured around you was exposed as something that could fall apart.”
Before Midnight REVIEWS
D i rected by R i c h a rd L i n k l at e r Star r i n g J u li e De lpy, Ethan H aw k e , At h i n a R ac h e l Ts a n g a ri Rel e a se d 21 Ju n e onitoring the real-time adventures of ultra-loquacious lovebirds Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) can sometimes be an unnerving business. So intimate are we with their combustible on/off romance on the back of 1995’s Before Sunrise and 2004’s Before Sunset, that revisiting them now as a married couple can only mean one thing: trouble’s a brewin’. Without spoiling any of the film’s whimsically articulate machinations, the minute-by-minute process of watching this third instalment – especially if you’re a fan of the first two – makes for knife-edge viewing. Celine even at one point fears that Jesse may have some life-threatening illness after he ominously admits he’s got something he wants to tell her. For a moment, it’s devastating. The pair are spending the summer season idling on the Peloponnese peninsula with their two tousle-haired (though surprisingly mute) twin daughters. The ancient ruins that litter the landscape act as a constant reminder of the passing of time and that the unmediated passions of youth must now make way for family obligations and responsibilities. Linklater demarcates the emotions via the light in the sky: with the sun comes humour and sarcasm and sex talk; with the moon comes bitterness and frustration. And more sex talk.
As much as Before Midnight impresses as a kind of caustic bourgeois soap opera, it’s the cadence, inflection, intonation, rhythm and tone of words that are the film’s foremost pleasures. Delpy and Hawke have not merely learned their lines and barked them at one another, but have developed an elaborate catalogue of gesticulations and voices that blur the line between what is being said and what is being meant. Even though one suspects the characters of Jesse and Celine are just simple extensions of Hawke and Delpy, this feeling is never enough to shatter the illusion that the people we’re spending time with are impossibly fragile and sensitive and that their relationship runs deeper than the fiction of the film’s world. What’s also great about Before Midnight is that it never strays into the academic. Linklater, Delpy and Hawke have written the film in such a fastidiously loose way as to make the challenge of attaching a single umbrella meaning to all the walk-and-talk entirely futile. This isn’t a cold study in behavioural dynamics, but a warm, meandering collection of semantic odds and ends. It’s not about the difficulty of dealing with big problems, it’s about the ever-widening chasm between romance and mutual compatibility. It also deals with the depressing idea that it’s only when two people are truly in love that they are able to offload their most jagged barbs. 066
If there’s a problem with the film, it’s that it ends up only being about what it’s about. While we can happily read into the myriad nuances of Celine and Jesse’s interactions while seeing our own relationships refracted in their gloriously circuitous bicker sessions, the film lacks the playful cinematic dimension of Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy or the sublime miracles of Roberto Rossellini’s Journey To Italy (from which this lovingly cribs). Politically, though, it’s on far sturdier ground, containing as it does perhaps the most perceptive and trenchant discussion of how childbirth can prevent women from attaining the same professional satisfaction as men. Indeed, with this film, Linklater proves himself to be one of the greatest living sculpters of screen dialogue. David Jenkins
Anticipation . We love Linklater at any time of day, but his Before films are extra special. Enjoyment. Predictably, it’s just as great as the first two. Retr o spect. Perhaps lacking that cinematic sucker punch, but still an astonishing achievement. Part four? Why the hell not…
Journey To Italy (1954) D i rected by R o b e rto R o s s e l l i n i Star r i n g I n g r i d B e r g ma n, G eo r ge S a n d e r s, Pau l M ü l l e r R e l e a se d 10 M ay allowing the actors to find their characters in intuitive fashion (indeed, much of the film was improvised, a practice which Rossellini gravitated toward in the preceding years). Upon arrival, as Katherine and Alex nonchalantly acknowledge their gathering malaise, the two seem fated for strife and possible separation. They outwardly persevere, adhering to social mores even as they subtly disparage one another: him by flirting with mutual female friends; her by recounting her liaison with a former lover; both by renouncing any lingering feelings for each other. Their decision seems to have been made, their journey a symbolic rather than galvanising gesture. Rossellini illustrates Katherine and Alex’s individual attempts at mental and emotional reconciliation through disparate actions once they’ve physically removed themselves from each other’s company. George visits neighbouring cities, pursuing fleeting passions with a married woman before courting the possibility of paying for female accompaniment. Katherine, meanwhile, travels a more spiritual path, touring the volcanic countryside, desolate desert catacombs and, eventually, the ruins of Pompeii. Accompanied by Alex to the latter locale at the behest of a local acquaintance, the experience of viewing entombed bodies and drawing conclusions about their past lives ultimately proves too much for Katherine, 067
sending her careening between doubt and disdain. Appropriately, Rossellini stages his final flourish as an awakening: as the couple attempt to navigate throngs of people enraptured in a religious procession, the interpersonal gravity — as well as the universal inconsequentiality — of their impending decision manifests as a kind of divine intervention. As it does throughout, the physical intercession of reality into the constructed drama of the film reflects a latent philosophical and aesthetic instinct in Rossellini. Put simply, in both narrative and cinematic terms, what we’ve witnessed is a miracle. Jordan Cronk Anticipation . A film never really given its proper dues in the DVD age, Rossellini’s masterpiece feels ripe for rediscovery. Enjoyment. One of the pioneering films of modernist cinema feels as fresh and vital as ever. Retr o spect. An influence on everyone from Michelangelo Antonioni to Jacques Rivette, this brave work still stands as a watershed.
ften credited as the first work of the modern cinematic age, Roberto Rossellini’s 1954 film Journey To Italy pivoted on a spirit of emotional and artistic restlessness. It’s a spirit that its director — and soon, his medium — would work toward reconciling with that of a society on the brink of technological and ideological revolution. Like the characters it depicts, however, Rossellini’s masterpiece — playing in a restored print at London’s BFI Southbank — arrives at transcendence only by threatening a rupture in unity. Presented as a natural by-product of the neo-realist methodology Rossellini helped to coin, Journey To Italy is a film which treads this radical new path via a convergence of traditional melodrama, documentary-based intimacy and a streak of raw vulnerability prompted by the clandestine affair and eventual marriage of the film’s director and leading lady. It stars Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders as Katherine and Alex Joyce, an English couple in the throes of matrimonial discord as they travel through Naples to complete a real estate transaction. Finding tragedy in the mundane, the film idly stirs buried emotions as these two face up to the implications of an eightyear relationship that may have been built on feelings as tenuous as its narrative framework. Rossellini’s conceptual design remains patient, his camera operating at a remove,
In The Fog D i rected by S e r ge i L oz n i ts a Star r i n g N a d ezhda M a r k i n a , V l a d I va n ov, Ju l i ja P e re s i l d Rele a se d 26 Apri l ne of post-millennial festival filmmaking’s favourite locations is the forest. In addition to Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s arboreally obsessed work (Blissfully Yours, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives), there are movies as dissimilar as Lisandro Alonso’s Los Muertos, Carlos Reygadas’ Post Tenebras Lux, Miguel Gomes’ Our Beloved Month Of August and Gus Van Sant’s Last Days. The visual appeal is obvious, even as the setting approaches cliché: the hypnotic textures created by trees and leaves in constantly shifting light, tiny variants usually amplified via low, slow tracking shots. Sergei Loznitsa’s In The Fog takes as little joy in this setting as its characters, making this forest a bitter antidote to its previous uses. In World War Two occupied Belarussia (the film was shot in Latvia), partisan, anti-German resisters Burov (Vladislav Abashin) and Voitik (Sergei Kolesov) show up in the dead of chilly night at the rural house of former peasant comrade Sushenya (Vladimir Svirskiy). They’re certain he’s a collaborator who sold out friends to the Nazis, and so escort him to the woods, intent on executing and burying him. Military police appear out of nowhere, shooting Burov. Sushenya then sets out to prove his claimed
innocence by carrying the bleeding body of his would-be captor back to a safe military base. Two hours of trudging, In The Fog moves at the pace of its exhausted trio’s trek. Any Russian film with lots of wind is inevitably at least glancing at Tarkovsky, but this breeze isn’t sensual or exciting, just an irritating constant that can’t be escaped. The leaves are green but the overall colour palette is sepia, sapping the woods of sensual vibrance and creating an autumnal pallour even in springtime. Camera pans are coolly elegant and slow but resistant to overt aestheticisation. It’s grimly gripping, averse to hysteria or the overwrought. The World War Two setting isn’t new to Loznitsa, who reconstructed the Siege of St. Petersburg in his compilation documentary Blockade. In his first fiction feature, 2010’s My Joy, there’s a character named “Mute” whose father returned from World War Two, spoke of the civility of the Germans and was killed by angry villagers. Mute subsequently gets a gun and goes around killing people, dragging the war into the present day. This is Loznitsa’s unsubtle way of suggesting contemporary Russia is a battleground with equally clearly defined combatants — vile authorities on one side, peasant resisters on the other and very 068
little ground in between. In The Fog is almost certainly meant to have similar contemporary resonance. “He was a bastard before the Soviets, too,” it’s said of one collaborator officer who revels in his newfound authority. “His kind adapts to any regime,” like the former Kremlin nationalists now in charge of the country. (Grim irony: the film is a German co-production.) Rhythmically smoother than the lurchingly nihilistic My Joy, In The Fog finds Loznitsa pinning down an assured narrative groove. Infelicities are mostly symbolic, with not just the fog of war inevitably making an appearance but a bird in a cage flapping when a Nazi offers life in return for collaboration. Vadim Rizov
Anticipation . Received a kind, if hardly rousing reception from its Cannes premiere. Enjoyment. Heavy-handed metaphors hang in the thick fog. Retr o spect. Not quite there yet, but Sergei Loznitsa is on an upward curve.
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F E AT U R E
I llustration by Jonatha n Ca lug i
Wo rd s by MARK AN D REWS
What will Earth look like in 1,000 years? And will we still be here?
Unfolding some time after the year 3013, M Night Shyamalan and Will Smith’s sci-fi curio After Earth envisions nature gone nuclear: a lost world in which a violently unpredictable climate has given rise to an array of creatures evolved to kill. But where do scientists think Planet Earth will really be a millenium from today?
2. Overload At its current swell-rate, global population in 1,000 years would be 14 billion people. But that’s too much for the Earth to support. UK government chief scientific advisor Prof John Beddington warned that growing populations and food shortages would create a “perfect storm” as early as 2030. In fact, by the year 3000, the world’s population could easily have shrunk to 5 billion, the most our planet’s depleted resources can now keep alive.
3. ’Roid Rage On 15 February 2013, an asteroid the size of an Olympic swimming pool zipped past Earth at 17,450 mph at a distance of 17,200 miles. As near misses go, that’s scary-close. Any asteroid that comes within 195 million kilometres of our planet is dubbed a near-Earth object (NEO). If an NEO of 45m in diameter were to hit Earth, it would take 2,000 years for the impact zone to recover and 25-30m “city killers” enter our atmosphere on average every 200 years. Earth 3000 could have a few dents. Or worse...
Should the human race become extinct, our great achievement will begin to decay. Our largest structure – think Charlton Heston’s devastating ape-ocalyptic clue – have an estimated decay half-life of about 1,000 years. Although a few massive stone monuments like the pyramids may still survive after a million years.
Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry proposes that the human race will hit its physical peak by the year 3000, claiming the average human “will be 6½ft tall, have coffee-coloured skin and live for 120 years.” It gets better. “Men will have bigger penises and women’s breast will be more pert.” But wait – according to Curry, our reliance on technology will allow our genes to degenerate, resulting in a sub-race of dimwitted troll people.
5. Space It Out “We won’t survive another 1,000 years without escaping our fragile planet,” said Stephen Hawking earlier this year. “We must continue to go into space for humanity.” Hawking has long called for a new era in human space exploration, comparable to the European voyages to the New World more than 500 years ago.
7. Rise Of The Machines Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, once described as the “rightful heir to Thomas Edison”, predicts that artificial intelligence will soon surpass our own and that in order to compete with the machines of the future human beings will need to become more like the technology we create. Ray calls it “the singularity”, a time when technology will merge with those creating it.
8. Let’s Get Physics, Y’all Professor Hawking – him again – proposes that by the year 2600, technological growth would see 10 new theoretical physics papers published every 10 seconds. If Moore’s Law is right and computer complexity doubles every 18 months, then in 1,000 years, many of these studies may be the work of highly intelligent machines. And cinema, of course, has taught us we have nothing to fear from that...
9. Super Civilisation Astronomer Nikolai Kardashev devised a system to rate civilizations (Type-I to Type-IV) based on energy consumption. Physicists’ rate today’s civilization at Type 0.7, but with progress expected in nanotechnology and AI; some scientists believe we could approach Type-II by 3000: harnessing the energy in our own solar system, building space colonies and exploring nearby stars. How? See below...
10. Dyson, What Have Ye Done? We build a Dyson sphere for the first time and use it to harvest the Sun. This (currently hypothetical) megastructure, described by physicist Freeman Dyson, is a “biosphere” of orbiting solar-power satellites or space habitats that completely encompasses a star and captures its entire energy output. Dyson speculated that such structures would be the logical consequence of our long-term survival and escalating energy needs. With it, mankind could explore a region in space of nearly 1,000 light years in radius. Or about two percent of the total length of our galaxy After Earth is released on 7 June and will be reviewed at littlewhitelies.co.uk.
F E AT U R E
We’ve already signed Earth up for an irreversible sea-level rise of 1.1 metres by the year 3000AD, thanks to greenhouse gas emissions so far. Worst case? The global watermark could rise by a huge 6.8 metres according to a pioneering recent study by journal Environmental Research Letters. Buy your wetsuit now.
Everybody Has A Plan D i rected by A n a P i t e rb a r g Star r i n g V i g g o M o rte nse n, S o l e da d V i l l a m i l , Da n i e l Fa n ego Re l e a se d 24 M ay f a story in which Viggo Mortensen does his moody, soulful thing as a doctor keeping bees in the countryside sounds like a cross between Le Quattro Volte and perilneutral Russell Crowe yawner A Good Year, you may want to think again. Ana Piterbarg’s debut feature may be paced with seasonal graduality but it’s an impressive slow-burner that owes more to the likes of Blood Simple than stock rural romanticism. And fans of Viggo’s customary brooding will be doubly rewarded by his portrayal of twin brothers whose lifeswap is the McGuffin around which strange things start to unravel. Augustin is a Buenos Aires doctor with the kind of apparent comfort and contentment that, in movies, can only conceal a seething frustration. He has a beautiful wife/home/ career, but has, of late, lost all his mirth. He wants out. As luck would have it, he has a twin brother, bee-keeping wrong ’un Pedro, who is dying of cancer. Pedro’s unexpected appearance is the cue for Augustin to disappear, taking on his brother’s identity and returning to the backwoods river delta where the twins spent their youth. Their futures have been swapped: Augustin will die soon in Buenos Aires; Pedro will live with his bees in the boonies.
Only trouble is, Pedro’s activities go well beyond making honey. Out in the Tigre Delta, Augustin is now the owner of Pedro’s business, but he has also bought into the intrigues and vendettas endemic to what was once the playground of Argentine high society, now a backwater home to criminals and ne’er do wells; a veritable hive of scum and villainy. As it becomes clear that his brother was a key player in a kidnapping plot, Augustin begins to discover a darker side to his own placid nature and we start to wonder just how different the twins really are. Through this turn of events we’re introduced to Adrian, the chilling, Bible-quoting local kingpin, played with enjoyable relish by Daniel Fanego and a fine addition to the cinematic tradition of morally certain psychotic gangsters. That character’s main on-screen competition comes from the film’s setting itself, a river delta that is by turns lush and stark and shot with poetic nonchalance by DoP Lucio Bonelli. The watery, forested world provides a stage where civilisation is diminished in favour of Adrian’s “code” and where the assumptions –moral and legal – that underpinned Augustin’s old life hold no sway. Much has been made of how Mortensen came on board the film, 072
a chance meeting at a Buenos Aires health club, but this is still perfect casting. Even those who sometimes find his dour intensity wearing will have to admit that here, inhabiting his duel personas and speaking in the Spanish dialect with which he grew up, his performance is the riveting fulcrum that holds together a stately narrative and turns an intriguing premise into an impressively gripping fable. Paul Fairclough
Anticipation . Argentina produces some great crime movies but Viggo can get mightily downbeat. Enjoyment. Oh boy, lazy flashback narrative alert? Thankfully no – just the first twist in a majestic slow-burn thriller. Retr o spect. At heart it’s a crime flick, but Piterbarg has woven in a woozy ps ychological undercurrent with a powerful pull that places it a cut above.
LOSE YOURSELF IN THE WORLD OF THE GREAT GATSBY R E A D T H E O R I G I N A L N OV E L
OFFICIAL FILM TIE-IN BOOK FEATURING
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR BAZ LURHMANN IN CINEMAS NOW © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment. All rights reserved.
It’s Such A Beautiful Day
Directed by Don Hertzfeldt Starring Don Hertzfeldt Released 4 May
irst there was darkness. Then a spark of remembrance. His synapses begin to fire out of control, so rapidly in fact that patches of the flat world peel away, revealing glimmers of subjective memory and history that exist in a perpetual vacuum of intense feeling. Whether or not these images are trustworthy remains a moot point; their very creation is a sign of tenacity and a will to live. Such bright cinematic flickers allow every moment, no matter how mundane or false, no matter how monstrous or devastating, a sense of wondrous momentum that will never stop overlapping. To stop would be the equivalent of fading to black forever, and he has so much more to see. So begins the formalist earthquake that is Don Hertzfeldt’s animation It’s Such A Beautiful Day, an immersive masterpiece of multiframed compositions, blotches of vibrant colour and elliptical editing that calls to mind the greats of Soviet montage. Previously released as three separate shorts (Everything Will Be OK, I Am So Proud Of You and It’s Such A Beautiful Day), this debut feature works wonders as a cohesive longform essay. Taken as a whole, it’s an ambitious and provocative blessing that manages to be about everything and anything and always without sounding pretentious. Upon first viewing, it’s hard not to see it as The Tree Of Life of animation. Malick’s insanely lyrical sense of cinematic and musical progression is an undeniable influence on Hertzfeldt. Yet other auteurist threads become more pronounced on repeat viewings: Ozu’s obsession with loneliness and deterioration; Carpenter’s desire to reveal the monster hiding inside us all; and Kubrick’s pointed transitions from the familiar toward the epic unknown. Told through the stricken eyes of Bill, a sickly yet endlessly inquisitive man perpetually
tormented by the lovely contradictions of everyday life, Hertzfeldt’s film utilises a stream-of-consciousness style that engages ideas large and small, emotions vast and personal with effortless ease. Voiceover narration and classical music cues are essential to telling Bill’s multi-faceted story, which constantly calls into question the inconsistencies of his past, the hypocrisies of his present and the terrifying uncertainty of his not so distant future. By exploring the opaque corners of Bill’s fractured tale in this very specific way, Hertzfeldt leans heavily on repetition to connect bits of irony and fate that sometimes take place hundreds of years apart. Take for instance the surrealist middle section of the film, where Bill’s past memories of family trauma produce a veritable wellspring of tall tales, disjointed visions and unexplainable happenstance. One of the most devastating flashbacks involves Bill’s cousin Randall, a disabled boy with hooks for hands and flimsy legs. One sunny day, Randall sees a gull in the sky and joyously chases the bird into the ocean, never returning again. There’s so much feeling in the tenor of Hertzfeldt’s voice, as if the director was confessing something personal by way of his character’s perspective. Here, the sublime and heartfelt sit side-by-side. The same relationship can be found when the film fully embraces routine as metaphor immediately after Bill is released from the hospital pending a near-death experience. During his daily walks around town, time and space seem to fold on top of each other into one infinite continuum, becoming a cinematic space for resilience. Instead of the usually dynamic split screens that dominate most of It’s Such A Beautiful Day, the image of Bill casually strolling down the street day after day, making the same observations, obviously 0 74
suffering from some kind of mental breakdown, fills the frame entirely. Familiar life has become not so familiar, a mosaic of vaguely remembered thoughts projected over and over again. Later, during the final segment, Bill transcends his illness and becomes a worldly and immortal being. Hertzfeldt’s scope tips from melancholic to grandiose. Bill’s endless quest to learn all languages and to experience all things can be seen as a prolonged moment of transcendence for a character once defined by self-doubt and now at peace with his own expanding potential. Clearly the process of living itself, with all of its strangeness and heartache and epiphanies, is what allows us to realise that death and fear are very different ideologies. Only one of them can truly destroy us. That Hertzfeldt manages to do all this and more in just 61 minutes is not only a testament to the film’s breakneck pace and dynamic juxtapositions, but also its lasting and complex view of the human spirit. Over the course of the film, Bill learns to embrace the possibility of his own mortality without fear, and in turn, “he lives and he lives until all the lights go out.” The bitter end may not be so bitter after all. Glenn Heath Jr
Anticipation . Master animator Don Hertzfeldt’s first feature film! Enjoyment. A formalistic earthquake of sound and fury. In Retr o spect. One of the great films about memory, perspective and past history.
Mud D i rected by Je f f N i c h o l s Sta r r i n g M atthew McCon aug he y, T y e S h e ri da n, R e e s e W i t h e r s p o on Rel e a se d 10 M ay pparently not willing to carry the illustrious mantle of rom-com king into the current decade, Matthew McConaughey has spent the last three years reinventing himself as a Serious Actor. From leather-clad hitman in Killer Joe to greased-up strip-joint owner in Magic Mike and virtuous reporter in The Paperboy, McConaughey has traded his easy Southern charm for a steelier charisma. And with Baghdad siege thriller Thunder Run, AIDS drama Dallas Buyers Club and Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street forthcoming, it appears he’s not yet finished flexing his thespoids. It’s easy to forget that at one time McConaughey was being touted as the new Paul Newman, having received back-to-back praise in the mid-’90s for A Time To Kill and Lone Star, the latter of which has been namechecked by writer/director Jeff Nichols for part-inspiring his third feature. In this Deep South fairytale, McConaughey is paired for the first time with fellow rom-com darlin’ Reese Witherspoon, who similarly relishes playing against type. But Mud doesn’t belong to either of them. On a remote stretch of river deep in the heart of Arkansas’ swamplands, delta dweller
Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and bucktoothed best pal Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) discover a boat stuck halfway up a tree. They’re not the only ones with eyes on this stranded treasure, however, as an enigmatic drifter – distinguishable by his grubby white shirt, chipped front tooth and arm-length snake tattoo – makes his presence known. The boys know better than to mix with strangers, but they allow their keen sense of adventure to override their better judgement and strike a deal: bring Mud (McConaughey) spare parts and tools to fix the boat and in return he’ll give them one of only two valuable items in his possession: a six-shooter. With his previous features Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter, Nichols proved himself to be an assured practitioner of densely layered, atmospheric family drama. In Mud he shifts the tone towards something more sentimental and innocent, but the result is no less affecting. To this end, it’s the film’s young lead who shines brightest. Mud and Ellis are hopelessly idealistic kindred spirits whose fractious relationship provides the film’s true emotional hook, and Sheridan, making only his second screen appearance following Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life, delivers the stand-out performance. 076
Equal parts Huckleberry Finn and Stand By Me, with a swirl of Spielbergian wonderment and Cormac McCarthy colloquialism, Mud is a thrilling, unapologetically sweet and occasionally melodramatic coming-of-ager that confidently handles a variety of themes – true love, innocence, companionship, divorce, revenge, sacrifice, heroism (both real and perceived). It’s also quite possibly the most beautiful film ever made about the Mississippi River, a bittersweet (but ultimately optimistic) ode to a dying way of life. Adam Woodward
Anticipation . Just two films in, Jeff Nichols is already one of American cinema’s most exciting directors. Enjoyment. Americana at its finest. Retr o spect. Nichols keeps getting better, but his masterpiece is (excitingly) still to come.
I l l u st ra t i o n by Jac k C u n n i n gh a m
Rules Of The Game
Wo rd s by Ada m Wo o dwar d
Jeff Nichols e’s directed three films in five years, received major honours and nominations at some of the world’s biggest film festivals, and is widely regarded as one of America’s most exciting filmmakers. And he’s still just 34. So how does Jeff Nichols do it? LWLies took 10 with the man behind Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter and Mud to find out.
1. Give Your Ideas Time To Ripen
3. Have A Strategy And Stick To It “I had the idea for Mud before my other two films and I knew it was going to be a bigger film. Not something I could pull off as a first-time, or even second-time director. Shotgun Stories was based on a very specific brief, which enabled
4. Try To Emulate Your Heroes “There are lots of different styles of directing and the way I describe mine is something called ‘constructive coverage’. Coverage is a really basic thing that they teach you in film school, it’s essentially the way you see most TV shows – you start with a wide shot then you go into a medium shot followed by a close-up of each actor. I think that’s kind of a boring approach. What I try and do is work out what shot works best for each scene, and so what I end up with in the editing room is all these puzzle pieces that I then have to try and assemble. It’s funny, when I was talking to McConaughey the first time I explained this approach to him and he said, ‘Yeah, that’s how John Sayles did it.’ The reason that’s funny to me is because I stole this technique from Sayles’ book [Sayles On Sayles].”
5. Make What You Want While You Can
2. Use Notecards “When I’m ready I don’t start writing down any of the scenes. I start with a basic outline, which I piece together using notecards. I find it hard to put pen to paper and say, ‘This is where the movie starts.’ With notecards I can take all of these images and thoughts and ideas and lay them all down and see what fits where. I throw them all on the floor and after a natural order becomes clear I start mixing the cards and experimenting with different elements of the storyline. Then I put them up on a giant corkboard in my office and before I’ve pressed one keystroke I can pretty much look at every scene in the movie from the beginning to the end. Some notecards have character details
of what the market will allow you to do. If you have a rough idea of what’s available to you and you keep perspective of that, then the hurdles you meet along the way will be easier to jump.”
me to make it with as little money as possible. It was really designed to be a first-time film to play primarily on the festival circuit. I knew that would be a good entry point. After Shotgun Stories I still didn’t have enough clout, so I sat down to write Take Shelter with the view to distancing myself from strict arthouse cinema. I wanted to do a part-genre, part-arthouse hybrid film. With Take Shelter I really took the gloves off, whereas I was a lot stricter with Shotgun Stories. I started thinking about things that would require special effects and that kind of thing. It’s important to always be aware 077
“I’m open to anything. Being a filmmaker is a constant struggle for control, but you have to accept that sometimes things happen that you can’t plan for. For the most part my films have been well received so I find myself in a position right now where I can write my own stuff and get it made. I don’t know how long that will last, but as long as it does producing my own scripts will remain my priority. I get sent a lot of scripts and a lot of the time I read something that I think is well written but doesn’t really have anything to do with what I want to say or who I am as a person. I’m very fortunate that I don’t have to take that kind of job right now, but I’m always open to other people’s ideas. But for the next few years you can bet I’ll be writing my own stories and continuing down that path.”
I NT E RV I EW
“Shotgun Stories started out as an image in my head of a character with buckshot in his back, which is inspired by a scene from the Larry Brown novel, Joe. With Take Shelter I was struck by the image of a man standing over a shelter with a huge storm approaching. And with Mud the idea came from a book I found in the library about people who make their living off the river, people who to me lived strange lives and worked strange jobs. Once I’m struck by these general ideas or images then I carry them around with me for a year or more. I was thinking about Mud for seven or eight years before I committed anything to paper. When I’m carrying an idea around I’m adding to it all the time; characters, events, even the smallest details.”
on them, others have entire pieces of dialogue, some are just one word. After that the actual writing process is like shading in the colour.”
Village At The End Of The World D i rected by S a r a h G av r on, Dav i d Katz n e l s on Rel e a se d 10 M ay he jovial, gap-toothed shit-collector of Niaqornat in northwest Greenland jokes that he is the town’s timekeeper, so punctual is he in pouring bucket loads of excrement onto a nearby tip. His name is Illannguaq and he can also read the health of villagers – all 59 of them – by the contents of his buckets. Village At The End Of The World excels in capturing its characters with a restrained sensitivity: Lars, a likable, angstridden teenager who laments the lack of girls in Niaqornat (although he keeps an impressive stash of condoms, “just in case”) while the wizened 90-year-old Annie, a witty old duffer who remembers when the lights were fuelled by whale blubber. It’s a wonderful portrait of a village at a cultural and technological crossroads. Niaqornat faces serious financial problems. The fish factory is closed, it make little money from tourism and the young migrate to bigger towns in search of opportunity. More importantly, there’s the question of identity: the people are Inuit and to attract tourists from cruise ships holidaying along the Greenlandic
coast they dress in ceremonial costumes and sell trinkets that appeal to the tourists’ sense of nostalgia. The scenes of rich Swedish and Icelandic visitors cooing over traditional dresses and marvelling at how backward the village is, are difficult to watch. With her film, Sarah Gavron teases out universal human concerns: food, sex, generosity, warmth, sunlight. All of this is lost on the patronising tourists. Niaqornat’s inhabitants feel a tension between their traditional life and the increasing pressure to ‘globalise’, modernise and move on. It is an interesting reversal of the typical ethnographic gaze. One could argue that ethnographic cinema was born the northern hemisphere, as Robert Flaherty’s Nanook Of The North (1922) is often credited as the first in this genre. Yet Gavron’s film never idealises the villagers. Here it is the tourists who are the museum pieces: bizarre, ignorant, backward creatures, despite their digital cameras and North Face puffer jackets. Niaqornat is concerned with sustainability. The village buy the fish factory back from the 078
government and collectively rejoice that they will become productive once more. Polar bear skins hang on clotheslines beside garish polyester football shirts. Lars wears Kanye West-style fake neon Ray Bans. Gavron’s beautifully photographed film, nestled into a glacial, timeless landscape, is a reminder of the concerns of humanity that link us all. It’s a wonderful piece of contemporary documentary that captures a year in the life of a community so far, yet still close, to our own. Basia Lewandowska Cummings
Anticipation . Another Chasing Ice style eco-sermon? No thanks. Enjoyment. Subtle and beautifully humane. retr o spect. We all go through the same shit, regardless of where we live.
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The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone REVIEWS
D i rected by S h a n e M e a dows Star r i n g I a n B r ow n, Jo h n S qu i re , A l a n W re n Re l e a se d 6 Ju n e
inema is a tool with which to remodel your dreams. As a whippersnapper growing up in Uttoxeter, director Shane Meadows decided to drop acid for the first time on the day he was supposed to see The Stone Roses play their iconic Spike Island gig in Merseyside. They were (and are) his favourite band, but, temporarily stranded in a hallucinogenic fug, he handed his ticket to a random stranger. It was lost. The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone is not just a cut-and-dried promotional document of the feud-inclined combo’s long-awaited reformation, but a chance for Meadows to relive a moment he thought had slipped away forever. This dream is rendered in stylish, highcontrast monochrome, the same used by Meadows for his miniature pre-teen moonlight flit movie, Somers Town. This endearingly earnest documentary runs with the notion of rock stars as mythic creatures. Meadows captures the sub-sonic buzz of something as utterly banal as Ian Brown wandering into a hotel room before a press junket and contentedly clasping hands with bass player Gary ‘Mani’ Mounfield. Though we’re given a decent potted history of the band and the scene they grew out of, Meadows’ film is more concerned with exploring the idea of hero worship. It’s about seeing rocks bands
as brands, religions, sects, cults, bodies for which one must pay penances and relinquish earthly souls. It’s about what it means to adore a group of people beyond basic emotional and economic rationality. This idea is brought to life most vividly in an extraordinary, almost Fellini-esque sequence at the centre of the film in which Meadows captures the minute germination of a secret warm-up gig which is announced via social networking and radio mere hours before the fact. This segment achieves a rare feat within the music film pantheon in that it attentively captures the feeling of euphoria that comes with seeing a band play live. It’s not just hearing your favourite tunes, pogoing in tides of sweat and quaffing overpriced watery lager from plastic cups. It’s the queuing, the waiting, the sacrifice and finally, the fevered, post-coital comedown after the band has left the building. Though fans of the Roses will no doubt feel sated by the hit-happy song selections and performances (culled mainly from the seminal first album), it’s also interesting how Meadows has chosen to portray these artists. There’s a sense of unalloyed reverence here not seen since Martin Scorsese trained his camera on The Band for their farewell extravaganza. In one warm-up session, he films each band member individually and then presents them simultaneously in a 080
split-screen mash-up. It may come across like a throwaway piece of post-production flash, but it also emphasises the precarious delineation of their unique collaboration and that. Like The Beatles before them, The Stone Roses are these four people or no one at all. For the film’s big encore, Meadows films a live version of ‘Fool’s Gold’ at Manchester’s Heaton Park. He includes the entire coda which famously consists of an intuitive and lengthy noodle jam between the players. It’s a lovely moment in which the focus of the film switches from the songs to the music. It also taps into a level of extreme devotion wherein a fan becomes immune to the creative indulgences of his or her idols. David Jenkins
Anticipation . It may not be a fiction feature, but it’s still Shane Meadows. Enjoyment. Even Stone Roses naysayers will find it tough to deny the film’s euphoric energy. Retr o spect. It’s about The Stone Roses, but it’s also about so much more.
Cover / Film
The Great Gatsby has a great book cover – and a stylish new look via Baz Luhrmann’s movie. But movie-tie-in edition redesigns can go both ways…
F E AT U R E
Artist Francis Cugat's fabulous blue-iris illustration was adored by Fitzgerald / Baz Luhrmann's glitzy Art Deco angles hit the right note
Lovely first-editon cover, taken from a design by Tolkein himself / Symbolism alert! Doubtful that Peter Jackson had much to do with this movie edition
Between two artful book cover adaps, 127 Hours is a rare case of the movie-tiein edition blowing the original novel art out of the water
F E AT U R E
Gently mysterious illustration for a book that can't be described in a sentence / Textbook case of look-at-allthe-actors-in-this! syndrome. Nul points.
The Great Gatsby is released on 16 May and will be reviewed at littlewhitelies.co.uk 083
Byzantium D i rected by N e i l Jo rda n Star r i n g G e m m a A rte Rton, S ao i r s e R on a n, S a m R i l e y Re l e a se d 3 1 M ay y story can never be told,” says 16-year-old Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) in voiceover at the beginning of Byzantium. There are hints right from the outset that the story she goes on to tell may not be her own – much as director Neil Jordan (Interview With The Vampire) delivers a new monster mythos whose fangless, light-loving, long-nailed bloodsuckers are vampires, but not as we know them. There are many stories in Jordan’s film. First there is the narrative that, in her loneliness, Eleanor repeatedly, compulsively writes down before scattering the crumpled pages to the wind like so many obscure Sibylline “scraps.” In this, she and her 24-yearold mother Clara (Gemma Arterton) are an ageless vampiric team in flight from fellow male “soucriants” for the past two centuries and burdened as much by secrecy as their lust for blood. Eleanor’s elaborate – indeed Byzantine – story contains other sub-strands, narrated in part by the 19th-century midshipman Darvell (Sam Riley) and his libertine captain Ruthven (Jonny Lee Miller), and all transmitted to the sensitive Eleanor by Clara, who is an inveterate liar.
Then there is the story that Clara insists Eleanor tell others as part of the fugitive pair’s code of survival. In this, Clara goes by the name Carmilla (which she shares with the undead heroine of Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 gothic novella), the two women are sisters and Eleanor has spent some time in a care home. What is clear is that both move together from place to place, with Clara selling herself or pimping others to ensure Eleanor’s upkeep as they try to leave a traumatic past (and the odd corpse) behind. They have now been taken in by the kindly Noel (Daniel Mays), whose faded guesthouse (named Byzantium) the ever-enterprising Clara is quick to convert into a brothel. In this seaside town, Eleanor will meet, and fall for, the leukaemia-afflicted Frank (Caleb Landry Jones), finally entrusting her story to another in the hope that “all these walls would come tumbling down.” It is entirely possible to regard (and enjoy) Byzantium as a moody, melancholic monster movie with a more adult romantic core than could ever be found in Twilight. Yet strip the monsters away and what remains is an allegory for the undying legacy of exploitation, abuse and oppression perpetrated upon women by the vices of patriarchy. Abstract away from the 084
evocative gothic detailings and you’re left with a contemporary social realist story akin to Paul Andrew Williams’ 2006 film London To Brighton. “I get that you’re using the story to say bad things happened,” Frank tells Eleanor, “but why don’t you just tell the truth?” Truth, however, comes in many forms and sometimes the generic horror of vampires and devilry can be more palatable than the real-world horrors of, say, child prostitution, pre-teen pregnancy and paedophile rings. After all, escapist fantasy always brings with it the implication of a reality to be escaped. Anton Bitel
Anticipation . From the director of The Company Of Wolves and The Butcher Boy. Enjoyment. There is the odd problem with pacing and Arterton’s overacting… Retr o spect. …but Jordan has crafted a sophisticated Gothic narrative pitched between generic fantas y and more horrific realities.
A Hijacking D i rected by To b i a s L i n d h o l m Sta r r i n g Jo ha n P hi li p A s bæk , S ø re n M a l l i n g, Da r S a l i m R e l e a se d o n 10 M ay ne of the iconic moments in evergreen Hollywood action caper Die Hard revolves around a supporting character by the name of Ellis – a bearded, suit-wearing swine who, when not trying to bed John McClane’s better half, is one of the executives of the besieged Nakatomi Corporation. While McClane is waging guerilla war with terrorists in the air vents of a skyscraper, Ellis has a bright idea: he could make a deal with them. After all, in his words, “I negotiate million-dollar deals for breakfast. I think I can handle this Eurotrash.” It didn’t end well for Ellis. But 25 years later, Danish filmmaker Tobias Lindholm picks a unnervingly similar set up for A Hijacking, a visceral thriller that reconstructs the siege genre as a gut-wrenching collision of immediate threat and long-distance tension. Mikkel (Pilou Asbæk), a cook on a Danish freight liner, is on his way home after a literal long-haul from Europe to Asia. But when the ship is stormed by Somali pirates, he and the rest of the crew’s homecomings are indefinitely delayed. Back at head office, they’re stunned. A negotiations specialist is brought in and he has one piece of advice: don’t do it yourself. Employ someone who is suitably distanced from the situation, from the assets and, above all, from the workers. But CEO Peter Ludvigsen (Søren
Malling) – who we first see sealing the deal on a hard-ball business plan with some Japanese suits, shaving off millions with a flash of his Nordic poker face – has a different plan. No, it’s his company, his employees – he’ll handle the negotiations himself. From Aliens’ Burke (Paul Reiser) to RoboCop’s Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer), the white-collar stooge was vilified and satirised throughout ’80s popular cinema, caricatured as a spineless jackal who would fuck anyone over for a percentage. Lindholm, however doesn’t pass judgement on Ludvigsen. In fact, what starts as a very Ellis-like folly – these are pirates after all – develops into a subtly shaped hero’s journey, with the CEO facing up to hubris, responsibility, humility and an eventual Pyrrhic victory. Employing a very flexible, naturalistic shooting style, the action cuts between the quiet cleanliness of the Denmark offices and the grubby ship, offering two very different aspects on the same problem. As the hijacking drags on for three months, Mikkel endures the powder-keg unease which is made no more comfortable by the language barrier that separates him from his AK 47-toting captors. Meanwhile, Ludvigsen navigates the tricky diplomatic waters of negotiation. While there is much terror and trauma on the ship, Lindholm 085
wrests just as much tension from conference calls and arguably some of the most gripping fax machine work ever seen on the big screen. A Hijacking, ironically, takes no prisoners. One might expect such a smart, compelling film from Lindholm, who wrote The Hunt and much of TV serial Borgen. But to find such a radical riposte to the Hollywood thriller – and a rehabilitation of a decades-old stereotype – is a genuine surprise. It’s hardly Eurotrash but, like Ellis found with Hans Gruber, this is much more than we bargained for. Michael Leader
Anticipation . The writer behind Borg en and The Hunt embarks on his own high-seas thriller. Enjoyment. Brilliantly takes the audience hostage with its halfonboard, half-boardroom narrative pincer movement. Retr o spect. Harrowing. A Hijacking may last only a shade under 100 minutes, but the memory, like the captives’ trauma, will last much longer.
The Fast And The Furiouses
I llustration by O s car b o lton g r e e n
Wo rd s by Jon B lyth
We take a fond look in the rear-view mirror at Hollywood’s fastest, most furious franchise.* *Includes the films they haven’t made yet.
The Fast And The Furious Undercover cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) infiltrates an underworld subculture of Los Angeles street racers looking to bust a hijacking ring. But he soon begins to question his loyalties when his new street-racing friends led by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) become suspects.
2 Fast 2 Furious Former cop Brian O’Conner is finally arrested after letting Dominic Toretto escape the law. To avoid the consequences, he must now work with an old college friend and help the police arrest a local drug exporter.
The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift
Fast & Furious Brian O’Conner, now working for the FBI in LA, teams up with Dominic Toretto to bring down a heroin importer by infiltrating his operation.
Fast Five Dominic Toretto and his crew find themselves on the wrong side of the law in Rio de Janeiro as they try to switch lanes between a drug lord and a federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson).
Fast & Furious 6 Dominic Toretto and his crew are now wealthy, but their criminal records prevent them from returning to America. Relentless federal agent Luke Hobbs offers to give them all full pardons if they both help him thwart a crime syndicate.
Fas7 And Fu7iou7: 777 When a heroin importer gets into Brian O’Conner’s car and refuses to get out, he drives as fast as he can in a misguided effort to teach him
Furious & Fast: Swans Alive Low-budget series reboot set entirely on a theme plastic swan ride. Will Brian O’Conner be stranded overnight or will he manage the short wade to shore?
9ast & 9urious: Hair Trigger Trip Switch Pan-ballistic deboot. Brian O’Conner and Jeff Patarken (Rupert Everett) must pull off one last heist to pay off their debts to a drug lord. Unfortunately Patarken has acute gastroenteritis, leading to some memorable Dutch Ovens.
Fast Ten: Your Seatbelts Addressing concerns that the series glamorises dangerous driving, Brian O’Conner embarks on a high-octane road-safety course, where he meets a woman whose breasts inflate when travelling at or just below the legal speed limit.
are restored to their original stature. Boswell quickly learns that a full complement of semen being emptied through a urethra no wider than a human hair causes unimaginable pain and velocities that are internally injurious to his lovers. Boswell is inconsolable until he notices that the laser-like ejaculations can shear through glass and he decides to carry out one last heist.
Fast & The Fur14us: Hawaiian Hairpins Dominic Toretto is forced into a flatshare with a furious lance corporal and a shape-shifting robot, neither of which seem keen on helping him perform one last heist. That is, until a ruthless drug lord begins drinking the milk they’ve left out in the back garden, and shows his gratitude by laying a gigantic egg containing a Lamborghini Countach.
Fast And Fifteenius: The Final He15t
Furiast 12, Part II: TFATF 13
They saved the most audacious heist till last. Brian O’Conner, the FBI, Sean Boswell and 6000 drug lords travel to the rings of Saturn, where they encounter a rare microbe that reacts to pure-grade heroin by travelling at 230mph. Building a car out of the foul-smelling bacteria and stealing enough heroin to fuel it from the drug lords in a series of tiny last heists, Sean Boswell returns to Earth. In a state of irrational euphoria induced by a lack of oxygen and an abundance of heroin, Boswell places second in the bloodiest Tour De France on record. Then, in the first musical finale, Brian O’Conner sings ‘I Like Bread And Butter’ to the drug lords and learns the spirit of true self-sacrifice when he leads them all through a smoky door and into the sandworm desert from Beetlejuice. As the door slams shut, Vin Diesel confides that he and the entire cast have been dead for nine years, but their pact with Satan means that they cannot be at rest or stop making these movies until people stop coming to see them for Christ’s sake
The attempt to bring Sean Boswell back to full man-size backfires when only his testicles
Fast And Furious 6 is released on 17 May and will be reviewed at littlewhitelies.co.uk.
The Fast & The Furious, Part 11: Dopplerdocus Brian O’Conner gives a drug lord a cow in exchange for an enchanted muffler, only to discover that it has poor aerodynamics. He joins forces with Dominic to perform one last heist in a parallel dimension where fast things are used as currency, only to accumulate immense debts by driving in the wrong direction.
Furiast 12 Sean Boswell is shrunk to the size of a pint of milk. Stowing away conspicuously in Jordana Brewster’s hair, he offers increasingly pessimistic appraisals of his own mental health.
F E AT U R E
In order to avoid a jail sentence, Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) heads to Tokyo to live with his military father. In a low-rent section of the city, Sean gets caught up in the world of drift racing.
the error of his ways. But the faster Brian drives, the more ruthless the drug lord becomes, forcing O’Conner into an unprecedented loop-the-loop.
Beware Of Mr Baker D i recte d by Jay Bu l ge r Star r i n g G i n g e r B a ke r, F e l a Ku t i , E ri c C l a p ton Re l e a se d 17 M ay hen magazine scribe and former model Jay Bulger visited legendary drummer Ginger Baker’s home in South Africa, he found a septuagenarian deep in a Barcalounger. The globe-trotting, genre-crossing rock’n’roller’s mystique, then, is conveyed through his snarled responses to Bulger’s questions: “How I restrain myself from throwing heavy things at you, Jay, I don’t know.” “Stop trying to be an intellectual dickhead.” “Good god, I’m talking to a block of moronic wood.” Bulger seems to relish the abuse. His documentary opens on Baker bashing him with his cane, which he’s cool with, after some initial sweary indignation. “The madman is alive and well!” the first-time filmmaker exclaims to the camera, nose still bloodied, either elated about getting a killer scene or having convinced himself that he’s passed some kind of badass hazing ritual. The genesis of the film, Bulger tells us, was his discovery of Baker via a DVD his friend showed him. (Rarely does a non-fiction filmmaker’s first-person account of what drew him to his subject convey the same allure to the viewer.) So he wrangled an invitation with no clear plan except to wring out some anecdotes, or at least attitude. Good documentaries have, after all, been made with less justification. Baker’s life and career are equally
marked by a soloist’s mentality: an unruly childhood altered by the discovery of Max Roach, African percussion and heroin; peak musicianship with Cream (finicky Jack Bruce and apologetically pretentious Eric Clapton make foils as fascinating in interviews as on record); indulgences musical and otherwise; jam sessions in Nigeria with Fela Kuti; the dying fall of sporadic unsatisfying paying gigs and marriages; burned bridges and the wages of excess. All that, plus an extremely incongruous long-standing polo hobby. (Baker blew his entire cheque from Cream’s 2005 reunion shows on horses, imperiling his financial security.) Despite the talking-head testimonials from prog, metal and jam-band musicians claiming Baker as a seminal influence on prog, metal and jam bands, the film emphasises Baker’s jazz chops. He claims to be self-taught, blessed with “perfect time” and, in careerspanning performance clips, he attacks the kit with technique and abandon, wailing away in complex time signatures, shaking his wild orange-red hair and beard. “The loudest drummer I’d ever heard,” an ex-bandmate recalls. Mugging for the camera in archival photos, Baker looks demonic, with skeletal strung-out grin and bug eyes. But Bulger’s presentation of “the madman” does seem wide of the point, which is partly 088
because he also allows his subject a certain savantish poignancy. His children, especially son Kofi, are objective if not entirely forgiving about his failings as a father, with one epic falling-out coming after Ginger derides his son’s drumming abilities. Baker has few reminiscences of his own dad, a World War Two casualty, but tears up over memories of playing alongside his musical fathers. When remembering the people he’s respected in his life, he invariably describes them as having “great time.” Mark Asch
Anticipation . Ginger Baker —wasn’t he the inspiration for Animal from The Muppets? Enjoyment. A clumsily infatuated director gets in the way, but Baker’s trajectory is a fascinatingly unique spin on the ’60s rock star arc. Retr o spect. An interesting character study interspersed with classic rock, jazz and Afrobeat clips. Nothing more, but certainly nothing less.
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DEGREE SHOWS 2013 Wednesday 26 June – Tuesday 2 July 2013 Open 10am-4pm. Extended opening time Thursday 27th June until 9pm. Closed Sunday AnimATiOn FinE ArT grAPhiC dESign SurFACE dESign
FAShiOn gAmES ArT And dESign illuSTrATiOn TExTilES
Film And mOving imAgE PrOduCTiOn grAPhiC COmmuniCATiOn PhOTOgrAPhy viSuAl STudiES
St georges Street, norwich nr3 1BB www.nua.ac.uk/degreeshows2013
The Stoker Dire cted by Ale xey B al a b a n ov S tar ring Mikh ail Skrya b i n, Y u r i y Mat veev, Al eks and r M o si n Re le ased 17 May
ne of Russian cinema’s most underloved troublemakers, Alexey Balabanov finally gets a film released on UK soil. And it’s not even his most recent, the soporific, apocalyptic road movie Me Too. With a sensibility that combines garish matter-of-fact violence, poker-faced deadpanning and a vision of history that’s both sweeping and intimate, his work can be an acquired taste, but if you can stomach it, it’s a taste very much worth acquiring. Made back in 2010, The Stoker (not to be confused with Park Chan-wook’s recent Stoker) is a subtly enterprising comedy which sees a frail ex-army major (Mikhail Skryabin) living out his twilight years on a camp cot in the furnace room of a dingy suburban apartment block. As he patiently taps out the history of the Siberian Yakut people (of which he is one) on his typewriter, his furnace-tendering keeps the tenants warm at night. He also turns a blind eye
to the a gang of monosylabic street toughs when they need somewhere to dispose of a body. His moral quandary is lightened somewhat by the fact that the head goon also served in the army, so militaristic nostalgia fuels a tacit friendship. But the battle-scarred stoker is less than forgiving when he recognises a discarded artefact that has fallen from one of the charred corpses. One thing to mention here is that as skilful and effortless as Balabanov’s filmmaking is, The Stoker will live or die for many on its patience-testing use of music. A chiming acoustic calypso track by Valeriy Didyulya is the earworm which Balabanov choses to lay over nearly every scene of the film. And it’s not just establishing shots or montages: characters are engaged in deep dialogue as the song still jingles in the background. If you’re willing to stick with it, it actually becomes rather hilarious, a metaphorical record-skip poking fun at the
creative monotony and the inexorable cycle of violence at the core of Russian society. Seek this one out. David Jenkins
Anticipation . Alexey Balabanov is a festival darling, but his (great) films are a little too outré for UK distribution. Enjoyment. We won’t question how or why this 2010 film is being released now. We will simply rejoice in the fact that it is. Retr o spect. Fits all the richness and lurid eccentricity of a Scorsese gang epic into 83 pocket-sized minutes.
The King Of Marvin Gardens Dire cted by B ob Rafels on S tar ring Jack Nichols on, Bruce Der n, Ellen Bu r sty n Re le ased 24 may
ven for connoisseurs of the era, The King Of Marvin Gardens will be that mysterious, frosty gem of American cinema’s golden ’70s that they never quite got round to watching. The wintry majesty of out-of-season Atlantic City; a title dripping with irony; the reteaming of the director (Bob Rafelson) and star (Jack Nicholson) of dour existential perennial Five Easy Pieces; Bruce Dern wigging out on full-time crazy duties… Yet despite these credentials, the film has never achieved the profile enjoyed by its contemporaries. Nicholson stars as David Staebler, a morose monologist for a late-night Philadelphia radio station whose pent-up, buttoned-down life is put into tailspin when his brother Jason (Bruce Dern) calls from an Atlantic City lock-up. After springing him from the jug, Nicholson is soon embroiled in Mob entanglements as Jason spins out a fantastical scheme to build a hotel in Hawaii. Also complicating matters is Dern’s bizarre sexual
three-ball with a shrill, whining mother-daughter combo headed up by Ellen Burstyn. All of which make the film sound a good deal more plot-heavy than it really is. The pace here is as leisurely as a stoned donkey ride. In fact, scenes are often given too much room to breathe, leaving the actors occasionally stranded with too little dialogue or staring out to sea in the hope that the subtext washes up in the tide. Indeed, with its formal, Euro-influenced visuals, Nicholson’s comically maudlin radio soliloquies and bleak seaside setting, Rafelson’s film sometimes comes across as an utterly deadpan parody of the moody early-’70s navel-gazers to which it belongs. Thematically, too, things get somewhat heavy-handed. A stagey, mannered pastiche of the Miss America pageant and the allusions to Monopoly (Marvin Gardens was the ‘Mayfair’ of the original US boardgame) paint a gaudy, primary-hued portrait of an America living on 090
silly, unsupportable dreams that are at odds with the film’s naturalistic acting and Rafelson’s cool, arm’s-length direction. Hardly the decade’s ‘lost’ classic then, but an intriguing work featuring a rare, contained and studied performance from Wolfman Jack. Adam Lee Davies
Anticipation . Five Easy Pieces plus Bruce Dern equals forgotten classic, no? Enjoyment. Introspective and self-conscious, it’s a chill offering that struggles to find its own voice. retr o spect. Whatever its faults, it’s still a thousand times better than Easy Rider.
Th r se Direc ted by C l aude M i lle r S tarring Audr ey Tau tou, G i lle s Le llouch e , Anaïs De m ousti e r Re leased 7 Jun e he slow, insidious descent into bitter depression is the central motif of Thérèse Desqueyroux, written by François Mauriac in 1927. It’s a dense, claustrophobic tale of the aristocratic Thérèse (Audrey Tautou) who marries the provincial but rich Bernard (Gilles Lellouche). Subsequently, she attempts to poison her husband with arsenic in order to escape the confines of her marriage. Mauriac wrote of his book: “I used some devices that came from the silent films: lack of preparation, the sudden opening, flashbacks. They were methods that were new and surprising at that time.” These techniques translated into literature return in Miller’s film like Chinese whispers. Tempered by an unsettling chronology dictated by Thérèse’s diminishing mental state, the style of the film subtly harks back to early filmmaking's formative years.
Some of Miller’s abiding themes from films past are also present here. He deals with the emotional blossoming of young women, as he did so brilliantly in 1985’s L’Effrontée, where a 14-year-old Charlotte Gainsbourg sparkled with equal parts rebelliousness and vulnerability. And again in 1988’s La Petite Voleuse, where Gainsbourg returned as a girl who longs for maturity and freedom. Here, cruelly, the story of Thérèse seems like a continuation. But the freedom, the rebellion and the optimism of youth have been suffocated by familial obligation and etiquette. Instead we see a woman in mourning for a future that failed to materialise. Momentarily, Miller also falls into what some will decry as a pastiche of Terrence Malick’s romanticisation of the natural sublime, but as much as Thérèse falls into familiar territory, it also contains moments
of brilliance. In addition to a simmering Sapphic desire between Thérèse and her sister-in-law Anne (Anaïs Demoustier), there are numerous shots and motifs that harrowingly summon the bell jar of depression. Basia Lewandowska Cummings
Khan may be a newcomer but the guy has cred, not only as an experienced actor and writer, but also as the director of 2010’s BAFTA-nominated short, Candy Bar Kid. And it shows. Honour works because of the way Khan steadfastly refuses to wallow in fly-on-the-wall, handheld banality. Instead, his camera shows off a flashier, more cinematic version of the capital – warm, widescreen vistas soundtracked by a percussive, orchestral score. And credit where credit’s due: most of the film was actually shot in Glasgow and the Isle of Man and it never looks anything less than lustrous. But it is not a subtle film. Rather than dive deeper into the cultural context of honour killings or take a moment to understand exactly why the family’s shame drives them to such devastating actions, the screenplay prefers to flirt with being a generic chase movie. As a result, the family at the centre of the plot are almost comically monstrous. But they’re a cracking bunch of brutes. In particular, Harvey Virdi’s turn as ‘Mother’
proves one of the most pleasingly vile matriarchs since Jackie Weaver in Animal Kingdom. There is some complexity courtesy of Considine, a dangerous and charismatic leading man whose tattooed killer gets a good old fashioned shot at redemption. It’s his performance that lingers in a film that’s as shiny and empty as a Docklands apartment block. Chris Blohm
Anticipation . Claude Miller died before the film’s release, so this is his swansong. Enjoyment. There are moments of brilliance. But just moments. Retr o spect. Rich themes, beautifully illustrated. But fails to wow.
Honour Direc ted by Shan Kha n S tarring Aiysha Ha rt, Pa ddy Considin e , H a rv e y V i r d i Re leased 28 Jun e
he subject of honour killings might not seem the most natural fit for a Saturday night at the pictures, but Shan Khan’s confident debut feature somehow manages to confound expectations. It’s an unashamedly slick, commercially inclined Brit thriller about hot topics and big themes – loyalty, vengeance, shame. It has an ambitious, non-linear and, especially in the final act, rather silly narrative, albeit one that never feels confusing or strained. When a traditional Muslim couple discover their daughter’s scandalous affair with a local Punjabi boy, they decide the only way to regain their honour and restore the family’s reputation is to hire a bounty hunter (Paddy Considine) to track her down and take her out. Mona (played by newcomer Aiysha Hart) suddenly finds herself isolated from her community, including her cop brother, and goes on the run. Alone and afraid, Mona forms an unlikely alliance with her macho, ex-National Front pursuer.
Anticipation . A Brit crime flick with nary a single Cockney gangster in sight? Bring it on. Enjoyment. Generic/ propulsive plot. Enjoyable performances. Looks lush. Retr o spect. Hardly a serious expose of honour killings, but worth the ride.
Ex-Rent Hell P r e s e n t s
Wo rd s by Ada m L e e Dav i es
Leonard Part 6 Directed by
Pa ul Weil a nd
Bil l Cosby, Glor i a Foster, Tom Cou rten ay
C a s e y ’s D re a m Bike , D ea t h b a rg e ! , Be a t T he C lo c k : ‘ S p a rks’ P l a y t he Ro s e B owl
“ W hy, you … you … you re s tau ran t spaz !!!”
F E AT U R E
‘ B i l l Co s by is out to s a ve t he w orld th e on ly wa y he k now s how - hil a ri ou sly!’
his is a film that nearly drove Ex-Rent Hell to religion. After years of shrill debasement spent abusing our cinematic immune system like some porno piñata, ERH walked through the valley of the shadow of VHS death with a staggering, swaggering cocksurety. We feared no evil, for we were evil. Nightbeasts harried our flanks. Insemnoids flooded our bloodstream. Cloud Atlas made us vomit piss. But we smote them all. Then came Leonard. We had heard dark, whispered rumours; dread reports of his mythic awfulness, his elephantine absurdity, his legendary product placement. Even as we dismissed these tall tales as credulous campfire legends, we knew one day we would have to face him. And now that day has come. Who is victorious? That is for you, reader, to decide. We survived. And that, for now, must be enough. Leonard Part 6 sees writer, star, exec-producer, de facto co-director and on-site caterer Bill ‘Kubrick’ Cosby play a gumball ex-CIA big-wig coaxed out of retirement and thrust back into the cyclonic snake pit of Cold War geopolitics. He must investigate a series of thematically nuanced murders perpetrated on humankind by the household pets, barnyard animals and – in one glutinous instance – pondlife of God Bless America. It is worse, to misquote American comic Louis CK, than an abortion on Christmas Eve, possessing, as it does, the charm of a tornado in an abattoir and all the subtlety of a burning cathedral. But we get ahead of ourselves, because we have fast-forwarded past an opening 30-minute montage in which Leonard – who, when he’s not dabbling as a three-star Michelin chef, lives alone in remote, opulent, art deco seclusion like an aging, black Gatsby – prepares for a date with the wife he hasn’t seen in seven years. The punchline to this mercilessly hyper-extended pre-credits headscratcher? When he eventually arrives
for dinner… she pours soup over his arm. Honk! The tone is already more Twin Peaks than You Only Live Twice. And so it goes. Another 30-minute sequence in which Leonard tools up for his mission – by having his butler, Tom Courtenay, block-quote passages from Milton and visiting an Albanian fortune-teller who speaks no English (note: that is the joke) – and we’re finally ready to get down to business. There might be only 20 minutes left, but there’s so much more to pack in. His nemesis, Medusa Johnson (think Oprah Winfrey wrapped headto-toe in reduced-to-clear bunting) is fomenting a biochemical rebellion that will see the animal world turn on their human oppressors. To stop her, Leonard must infiltrate her lair with his arsenal of rancid, bizarre gimcrackery. That includes some magic pink ballet slippers, a gigolo bumblebee, some irradiated hot dogs and, ultimately, a chemically castrated getaway ostrich. As well as a whirlwind of product placement that reaches its boggling zenith with Cosby holding a bottle of Coke out toward the camera for the duration of a full 10-minute dialogue scene, there’s also a dark seam of anti-progressive Republican rightism that pervades proceedings. The vegetarian antagonists are portrayed as unstable lunatics who must eventually all be force-fed with fistfuls of raw hamburger meat in a bid to correct their left-handed Libertarian sedition. The world was changing. Cosby may have still been cuddly and cute behind the trappings of his smash hit TV laxative The Cosby Mysteries – and the short-lived sci-fi spin-off The Cosmic Cosbys – but he had nowhere to hide on the big screen. Ironic then that Leonard happened to open the same week as Eddie Murphy’s concert film Raw, in which the FoulMouthed One questions Cosby’s relevance by telling him to “have a Coke and a smile and shut the fuck up.” Fine sentiments, Eddie. But for once your timing was way off
MONSTER! Robert Rodriguez asked LWLies readers to draw a beastie for his new film Two Scoops â€“ and these three were our pick of the bunch. Want to know which monster has been selected by Rodriguez? Head to keepmoving.blackberry.com
I NT E RV I EW
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Words, pictures, thanks... Mark Asch, Anton Bitel, Chris Blohm, Jon Blyth, Matt Bochenski, Ruth Carruthers, Ashley Clark, Jordan Cronk, Basia Lewandowska Cummings, Adam Lee Davies, D'Arcy Doran, Anna Dunn, Paul Fairclough, Fabrizio Festa, Oscar Bolton Green, Wally Hammond, Glenn Heath Jr, Cajsa Holgersson, Jessica Lambert, Michael Leader, Magnus Voll Mathiassen, Craig Redman, Vadim Rizov, Andrew Schenker, Ceri Thomas, Matthew Thrift, Fernando Volken Togni, Joseph Walsh
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