BIGLENS THE KENT FILM MAGAZINE | VOLUME 7, ISSUE 1 | WINTER 2010
HEROES AND VILLAINS PLUS REEL LIFE HEROES IS HORROR OUT OF IDEAS? JOHN HUGHES RETROSPECTIVE AND MUCH MUCH MORE
COVER: IRON MAN | MARVEL COMICS
A FEW DAYS AGO, I was walking through one of those heartless shopping constructs, aimless and lost. What on earth was I doing in Wycombe (and the comically named Eden Centre)? I happened to glance to my left into an electronics store, and on the big TV at the front they were running a copy of Avatar on DVD. My immediate thought was: gosh, that’s quite a good video game. I’m not really a gamer. I am most definitely not one of those people who, even in Canterbury, queued up at midnight to get their hands on the new Call of Duty. That being said, I do enjoy the odd video game every now and again, and a trend I’ve noticed amongst the games I’ve played is how cinematic they are all becoming. James Cameron wanted Avatar to be a “fully immersive experience” but a video game where you design and control your own character is much closer to this than a film can be. And that got me wondering: will it ever be possible for each person to have their own slightly different experience of a film? Will technology eventually become so great that at the beginning of the movie, we can insert our own image seamlessly into the picture itself and become the main character that we’re watching? Or would that just be overkill...
I REMEMBER my first BigLens meeting well. There were about 10 of us, some regulars, some newcomers like me. It was edgy but I guess these things always are. In the second year there were even more frightened, ironed-out freshers, this time forced into one of those awkward introductions everyone wishes they had rehearsed before coming in. Out of some obscure spirit of masochism, of strained politeness and also a strange need to punish them for never having done one before, I asked this year’s lot, of which there were about 20, to say a few words about themselves. There are not many Film Studies students this year – a good thing. Some Film bods, and I know, I was one of them, tend to verge on the side of jargon as some sort of self-justification of their academic integrity. Suffice to say though, BigLens is not academic, if it were we would sidestep John Hughes and the comic book film and noodle around the auteur theory... but we’ve done that as well, diverse bunch that we are. Enjoy!
WALL-E | PIXAR
SMALLPRINT Editor: Tom Brown Editor: Chris Fennell Art Editor: Hannah Charles
If you have a passion for film and would like to contribute to BIGLENS, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or visit www.kentfilm.net. BIGLENS is produced with the support of Kent Film, a society of the University of Kent Students Union. | All information is provided in good faith. | Articles are not necessarily the opinions of the editors of BIGLENS, of the Kent Film Society or of Kent Union. | Everything that is already copyrighted, is theirs. | Everything not, is the intellectual property of the individual writer, so no thieving.
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YOUR MOUTH IS MY PROBLEM BEN PARRY FILM CRITICS ARE PEOPLE who watch films and then say what they thought of them. Not really, by that logic everybody is a film critic - BUT WAIT: everybody is a film critic! That’s a good thing though, if people were unable to discuss their opinions on films then the ride home after the cinema would be awkward. Although sometimes those trips are awkward anyway because people criticise films in dismal ways. For example, Cher says to Lloyd: ‘Lloyd did you heart Donnie Darko?’ and Lloyd says, ‘no, I preferred the book’. This is a poxy criticism because firstly there is no Donnie Darko book so Lloyd is lying, and secondly this is not constructive in the slightest. Cher cannot respond with ‘you’re right, Richard Kelly should remember when directing his next film that you preferred the book’. This has naught to do with the film, it’s like disliking somebody because they’re pregnant. To clarify, this article is about redundant or arbitrary criticisms. A phrase you might have heard is: ‘ooh I don’t like horror films, they are TOO SCARY’. The issue here is that the speaker’s problem is not that horror films are scary, but that they are too scary. The speaker is imposing a limit on the degree to which a horror film can be scary, as if a horror film ought to know when it has gone too far. The speaker’s mistake is that (s)he has failed to acknowledge that a horror film is not an adult dressed as a werewolf in a retirement home, so there is no need for the film to TAKE IT EASY and avoid being too scary. The speaker may say, ‘the best scares are the ones where a cat pops out of the cupboard, because they are slight and pathetic’ or, ‘a film is too scary when I feel GENUINELY AFRAID because that is an experience that I neither desire nor expect from a horror film as I am a cowardly cowardly custard, who eats his mother’s mustard.’ A horror film cannot be too scary, much like a woman cannot be too peng. [Are you actually insane? - Ed] Another criticism that boils my potatoes is when people negatively scrutinise some extrinsic aspect of a film. Like when some turkey says, ‘PFFT CLOVERFIELD, ALL CHARACTER MOTIVES WERE UNSOUND, YOU WOULD NOT RISK A MONSTER ATTACK TO RESCUE SOME PRIME RIB.’ Shirley, the point of Clover-
“A HORROR FILM IS NOT AN ADULT DRESSED AS A WEREWOLF IN A RETIREMENT HOME: THERE IS NO NEED TO AVOID BEING TOO SCARY.”
THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE | SIX ENTERTAINMENT
Probably the most TOSH criticism ever is when someone calls a film ‘unrealistic’. EXAMPLE: ‘Michelle, I was enjoying Hulk until I noticed that his shorts turned purple when he changed into the Hulk - that is UNREALISTIC.’ This is a graphic failure of perspective for obvious reasons, namely that the issue is with the SHORTS and not the hulk concept. Most films are unrealistic, even ones that don’t have shorts, but you would never hear a chap say Mean Girls was a joyless chasm because a shirt with the breasts cut out would never catch on as fashionable in real life. If a parent asks his child what his dreams and ambitions are, and the child says he wants to be a helicopter, the parent doesn’t disown the child for being unrealistic. People ought to be grateful that films are unrealistic because otherwise we’d have only neorealist pictures, and we can all agree that they have no swagger. Ya feels me?
GHOSTBUSTERS | BLACK RHINO PRO PRODUCTIONS
field was to give audiences a slice of action pizza. Complaining about anything other than the amount of fun you had is about the same as getting off a log flume and saying, ‘well I loved the drops and the tension as I was getting cranked up, but I couldn’t buy into the romance’. You don’t expect believable romance on a log flume and you ought not expect it from Cloverfield. Conversely, you don’t watch The Human Centipede and complain afterwards that you barely got wet. Regarding expectations again, I think it’s naff when people attack a sequel for being too similar to its predecessor. ‘OH GHOSTBUSTERS 2, WHAT A SURPRISE, IT’S A COMEDY ABOUT HOW THEY BUSTIN’ GHOSTS. SEEN IT BEFORE. I WANT THEM BE BUSTIN’ MOVES THIS TIME.’ By this logic, the critic ought to be able to enjoy any film because it will be unlike the original Ghostbusters. Like Ace Ventura that doesn’t have ghosts in it, but it’s daft to think of somebody saying ‘MY ENTHUSIASM FOR ACE VENTURA CAN BE ATTRIBUTED TO ITS LACK OF PARANORMAL POPPYCOCK’. Also if a person dislikes Ghostbusters 2 because it’s like Ghostbusters, then do they also dislike Ghostbusters because it’s like Ghostbusters? NOT LIKELY ROFL. What people should expect from a sequel is similar content to the last film. Criticising a film for your expectations being cockamamie is like saying you were enjoying The Happening until something happened, because you weren’t expecting that.
BEFORE THE NEW millennium started, fans of superhero comic books had a handful of choices when it came to seeing their cape-and-tights clad heroes outside of their monthly printed issues. They could plant themselves in front of the TV for a plethora of cartoons produced from the 60s onwards, such as live-action TV series like Nick Fury: Agent of Shield (warning: contains David Hasslehoff) or, at the risk of going prematurely deaf from Lou Ferrigno’s yelling, The Hulk. They could blind themselves on Christopher Reeve’s primary colours in the Superman films or test their suspension of disbelief on any of the 90s Batman films, due either to Tim Burton’s trademark tendency to boggle or the oft-recast Bruce Wayne. For some, these options probably sufficed. They may have been less satisfying, however, to those no longer under the age of ten, who cherished their senses of hearing and vision, or simply didn’t care for Superman (sorry, Dad) or Batman. Then came 2000. Who knew mutants running around in black leather would be the gateway drug to this decade’s ongoing addiction to movies about the sexy and super-powered? X-Men was the first title from Marvel Comics to become a true cinema hit and instantly raised the bar for superhero films. Many Marvel titles made rapid-fire success, and several, namely X-Men, Spider-Man
NO KRYPTONITE VANESSA TORLINE
X-MEN | TWENTIETH CENTUARY FOX
INCREADABLES | PIXAR
and Blade, met the goal every film franchise dreams about: a trilogy. So haunted by problems that ranged from facing prejudice against their genetics to feeling guilty about murdered uncles, Marvel characters had proven vastly more interesting onscreen than the adventures of invulnerable aliens and angst-ridden billionaires. DC Comics, long the reigning cinema champ under Warner Bros, and any other companies eyeballing the growing superhero movie phenomenon had to step up their game. And step up they did. Disney/Pixar seized their moment with The Incredibles, a clever, original family story that extended the superhero feature film to animation. Ignoring the abysmal Catwoman (she was neither super nor heroic in any way that deserves remark), Batman Begins introduced a realistic, understandable and much cooler Batman than ever seen before. Its sequel, The Dark Knight, not only allowed Batman the 6
IRON MAN | PARAMOUNT PICTURES
DARK KNIGHT | WARNER BROS
capability of turning his head in the cowl but also put DC/Warner Bros at the top of the Box Office in the superhero movie genre. Of course, Marvel movies have had their embarrassments when production quality and/or story quite simply tanked. Daredevil was lukewarm at best (but still much better than its later spinoff, Elektra). Hulk was a far from charming attempt at a literal comic book movie with its dizzying panels; fortunately 2008’s The Incredible Hulk was much better-made and helped us to forget. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer may have done better if oldschool comic readers hadn’t been so offended but that’s what happens when the originally humanoid Galactus is made to resemble the Oort Cloud. Given the likelihood of studios either letting down long-time fans with their hearts set on seeing what they already know, or failing to capture an audience of the uninitiated who have never heard of, say, this Iron Man fellow, the demise of the superhero film should have been inevitable from the start. So the question becomes: why the continuous popularity? People want these movies, as evidenced by the surge in the comic book market over the last decade. Marvel Comics, once a niche entertainment provider, has become such a valuable property that the kingpin of entertainment, Disney, saw fit to merge with it. This is clearly not a phase Hollywood is going through – superhero movies aren’t dwindling, they are gaining strength in numbers. Four high-profile superhero films are slated for 2011, including the
Marvel projects Thor, X-Men: First Class and Captain America: The First Avenger, as well as DC’s The Green Lantern. How will studios keep it going? Warner Bros have apparently learned from Marvel’s example (and probably from the poor performance by Superman Returns) that tired, overused icons won’t do the job. The goal for Green Lantern is undoubtedly the same fortune Marvel found with Iron Man, when a character mostly unheard of by non-readers became the most popular hero on the block. Meanwhile, another Superman film with Christopher Nolan’s name attached waits in the background...just in case! Marvel is rectifying their mistake of signing rights to outside studios by taking what popular characters they do have – Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, The Mighty Thor and Captain America, along with hundreds of other heroes full of potential but as yet unused – and interconnecting them, a project whose ambition will culminate in The Avengers in 2012. So don’t bother to look up in the sky. Just head to the cinema for some superheroes, because they’ll be there for a good long time. These movies have no Kryptonite.
THOR | MARVEL STUDIOS
THE SPIRIT OF DOGMA95 NOA KJAERSGAARD-HANSEN
“THE VOW OF CHASTITY: TEN BULLETINS REPRESENTING THE ALMOST SACRED RULES OF DOGMA95.”
FESTEN | NIMBUS FILM PRODUCTIONS
ONCE UPON A TIME in 1995, four Danish film directors developed a concept called Dogma95. They attempted to make something different, something that would make people open their eyes for the story and the narrative in cinema. In 45 minutes the director collective wrote a manifesto for their movement and within in this The Vow of Chastity was founded. Ten bulletins representing the almost sacred rules of a Dogma95 cinema. Upon a wave of some superficial and commercial decades of filmmaking, in shape of the big and consuming Hollywood-monster, they made the foundation of one of the most minimalistic cinemas seen today. To get your film recognized in the category of Dogma95, you needed not only to use hand-held camera without using any optical filters, but also the lighting and the music had to be diegetic. Except from this there were certain rules for setting and time. Deviations of these stylistic aspects were unacceptable – it had to take place not yesterday or tomorrow, but now. Last but not least, genre was not allowed and the director could not be credited, a vow that most likely had as its purpose to watch the film as a whole, not as an individual in the figure of the film director. So to sum up, we are dealing with a very strict policy within filmmaking whose aim was to minimise the media of the film and instead open up a greater understanding of the plot and the acting. And did it work? Yes, it did. No question marks. Lars Von Trier, especially, gained great success all over the world with The Idiots as a part of the Golden Heart Trilogy that contained the Golden Palm award winning film Dancer in the Dark and Breaking the Waves. The two last aren’t in the category of Dogma95, but both contain elements very similar to The Vows of Chastity. Festen by Thomas Vinterberg also achieved good reviews and was the first of 212 registered Dogma95 films. Not to mention all the other European filmmakers that made use of these restrictions - Spaniard Juan Pinzas being one of the most prominent. And the directors of Dogma95 lived happily ever after. Or did they? Well, now that I have had my chance to celebrate
something that does not happen so often – a Danish success story – I would like to take this whole hullabaloo of rules and conventions into another perspective. Am I even right to write about this in past tense as if it’s dead and gone? Is the spirit of Dogma95 still alive? And if so, where does it hide? In the manifesto of Domga95 it says that a technical flood rules at the moment in the world of filmmaking. Everyone can make a movie, which means that the more easily accessible the medium gets, the more important it is to be avant-garde. So what does this really mean? The actual progress of Dogma95 died out at the beginning of the millennium and there is no longer a required set of rules for making a dogma. But in my opinion there has still been a strong tendency towards employing elements from The Vow
of Chastity. Hand in hand with literature and other artistic pursuits, the making of film has become more post-modern and selective, though the Hollywood-monster remains the same. A film does not need to be narrative anymore; it does not need a certain plot or a main character. It is increasingly up to the viewer to decide how to interpret and understand the moral – if there is one. By that I’m not saying that this is all because of Dogma95 and its minimalistic trend, but I believe that these directors somehow encouraged other directors to make their movies less commercial, less focused on genre, less technical and more focused on the story and the acting within the film. Dogma95 did not make a revolution, but it made a difference - it was an alternative and an opportunity. Someday I imagine that future filmmakers will look back and think of Dogma95 as an important part of the history of the cinema, maybe even equal to waves and movements as the avantgarde in 1920 or the post-classical cinema in the seventies. Maybe even just as a fun idea. Even though they did not want to be credited – they deserve it.
FIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION EMMA WORTLEY
THE TERMINATOR | HEMDALE FILM
WHAT TURNS A GOOD action movie into a classic? It’s generally accepted that action movies aren’t known for their deep and profound scripts. When 80% of the cast are doomed to be shot, stabbed, blown up, or all of the above, there isn’t much time for character development. Often the name above the title carries more weight than the film itself. Simply mention Schwarzenegger, Stallone or Willis and you are bound to have a box office hit. Mention them in the same film together and you’ve got a stampede of explosion enthusiasts flocking to the cinemas in droves to hear those age old catchphrases one more time as some terrorist with an indescribable accent is killed in some budget-busting mayhem. Nevertheless, we should remember the stars from the golden age of action movies are only able to attract such big crowds today because they delivered entertaining blockbusters way before they had become synonymous with the genre. We can forgive the plot holes in Rambo as we’re too busy being amazed by how many ways he is able to kill someone with a bow and arrow and an unnecessarily large knife. In Die Hard we overlook how an unarmed man with no shoes can kill a group of fully equipped, highly skilled terrorists as we enjoy an all out festive frolic: “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho.” Fans of The Terminator freely accept that in the space of Sarah Connor’s life, cyborgs will be developed with the ability to take over the world and travel back through time. They hadn’t even invented sat nav. As long as Arnie says “I’ll be back” whilst wielding a gun the size of a small child we’re happy. What elevates these movies above
the rest is the feel-good factor we get from watching them. They show that films can be made simply for entertainment without any deep, guilt inflicting messages or massive amounts of CGI. All you need is a charismatic hero, a light hearted smash ‘em up and a little ketchup. We’re happy to suspend reality for a moment so the star can jump off a building as it explodes and survive with only a few cool looking cuts. Who cares if the body count exceeds the word count in films such as this when you’re having such a good time watching them? Yippeekayay.
WILL THE REAL MISS HEPBURN PLEASE STAND UP OLIVIA MARSH WHERE HAVE ALL the good women gone? And where are all the goddesses? Silver Screen Sirens such as Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn are the embodiment of Hollywood glamour: their films are classics, their images iconographic and their influence on contemporary media, fashion and culture is unfathomable. Unfortunately, when looking at the Hollywood actresses of our time, I fail to see any that will have the same longevity as the original sirens. Their images aren’t strong enough to stand the test of time and their influence over current culture is questionable, so I see no reason they’ll have a long lasting effect. This could be due to an over saturation in the market: there are too many actresses all playing similar roles and with similar appearances. Monroe, Loren and Hepburn were relatively unique and unrivalled at their time. Marilyn Monroe is the original screen goddess, the immortal image of the curvaceous ditsy blonde in Some Like it Hot. She was and still is an image of perfection to strive for, emulate and adore. Monroe exploited a male dominated industry that manipulated and fashioned her, willing to play the part of the blonde bombshell and progress onto more serious acting roles. Sophia Loren appeared in the film Nine at the age of 74 alongside an array of our modern equivalents such as Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard and Penélope Cruz. All of these actresses in their prime were no more striking than Loren’s role, which she performed after having a 14 year break from films. Audrey Hepburn’s films are so iconographic it is impossible not to be aware of them and her striking appearance. Beyond Hepburn’s filmic roles her timeless image and fashion continually influence our own, season after season. The immortal little black dress from Breakfast at Tiffany’s; skinny black jeans and pumps as worn in Funny Face; the leopard print furs of AW10, straight from Charade. Hepburn is paid homage to on a daily basis, inspiring fashion, television and film. I can’t see into the future but I’m brave enough to hazard a guess that in forty or fifty years time we will not be worshipping the image of Cameron Diaz but the image of Audrey Hepburn still staring through the window of Tiffany’s, Marilyn Monroe walking over the hot air vents in the white halter neck dress in The Seven Year Itch, and Sophia Loren in nothing but a corset, stockings and a large white hat, sat in a doctors examination room in The Millionairess. They will continue to inspire in years to come.
A REAL HORROR SHOW
“WHAT HAS HOLLYWOOD GIVEN US IN THE LAST DECADE?
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN | SANDREW METRONOME DISTRIBUTION
‘IT’S NOT A REMAKE, it’s not a sequel, and it’s not based on a Japanese one’ This is the tagline for Adam Green’s slasher Hatchet, and it was why studio executives told him his film would fail when he pitched his idea to them. This sums up the state of modern American horror. But it hasn’t always been this way. In the 30s Universal Studios were at the forefront of horror, making great monster movies such as Dracula and Frankenstein, which both shocked and scared audiences witless. In the 60s, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho gave birth to modern horror, and then in the seventies William Friedkin took the genre to new heights with The Exorcist. In 1980, Stanley Kubrick brought a truly terrifying performance out of Jack Nicholson with The Shining. Wes Craven even managed to extract more life out of the slasher film in the 90s by taking a tongue in cheek approach with the Scream trilogy. But what has Hollywood given us in the last decade? Well apart from a string of sequels and remakes, very little indeed. In the last few years we’ve endured weak ‘re-imaginings’ that butchered classics such as The Omen and Friday the 13th, unneeded sequels and prequels for most popular Horror franchises, and inferior remakes of nearly every J-horror that Hollywood could get its grubby hands on. Now we have the release of Saw 3D, the seventh version of the same film only now with an added gimmick. The (pointless) remake of Let the Right One In is also out and appears to be a shot by shot adaptation. All sense of imagination seems to have been lost. Compare this to contemporary cinema across the world where original horror films are rife. South East Asia is filled with talented directors such as Takashi Miike and Park Chan Wook, both of whom have pushed the boundaries of taste and are making truly creative films.
LET ME IN | HAMMER FILM PRODUCTIONS
BUTCHERED CLASSICS, UNNEEDED SEQUELS AND INFERIOR REMAKES.”
European shockers such as Martyrs, [REC] and Let the Right One In have provided an adrenaline shot in the arm for the genre, taking fresh perspectives and telling new stories. Even Australia is currently under resurgence after the success of Wolf Creek. This begs the question: where is America’s contribution? It may be that rehashes of classics and sequels seem like an easy and most importantly ‘safe’ money maker for studios, with audiences already familiar with the original villains such as Freddy and Jason. The same could be said of the dull Americanisation of foreign horror such as The Ring, as studios assume that popularity abroad will equal big money at home. What they don’t seem to understand though, is that we the audience are tired of these of boring and ‘safe’ films that lack any sense of creative flair; we crave something new. However, the next decade should hopefully see a rebirth to the genre. The last year has seen the re-emergence of Hammer studios, which although was originally a British Company, has strong ties to the US. Despite Let Me In being one of their first projects, they have got other original projects on the horizon including The Woman in Black and The Resident. The likes of Eli Roth, Adam Green and Rob Zombie [but lets not forget Zombie remade Halloween...-Art Ed.] also are helping to turn the tide. All have made original and creative efforts turning against the Hollywood grain and although none of their films can be deemed ‘classics’, all three are early into their career and show promise. The recent box office success of Paranormal Activity also proves that original horror can be extremely bankable taking £13.5 million at the US box office in its first weekend. Hopefully this will encourage more companies to take risks with funding and persuade distributors to back the genre. With any luck, this will be the beginning of a new wave of American horror, but only time will tell. 13
YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH CARYS RAMSEY
THE RUNAWAYS | RIVER ROAD ENTERTAINMENT
“JUST BECASUE A FILM IS CLASSED AS A BIOPIC DOESN’T MEAN IT’S FACT.”
THROUGHOUT THE WORLD, there are countless biographies filling the shelves of HMV and Waterstones alike, some deserving of their hard back covers and punning titles, and some a little less worthy - not to mention any names - *cough Justin Bieber*. There is a real demand for life stories, nitty gritty secrets, and mundane details emanating from the consumer market. In other words: you. So why are you so interested in these so-called inspiring lives? There are two types of biographies. The first deal with historical characters, and the purpose of these films is generally to teach, but how much does the audience take for granted as being true? Just because a film is classed as a biopic doesn’t mean what you’re watching is fact. The director still needs to entertain you. For instance, how much can we really know about Cleopatra? Yet there are several biopics about her. The film Tombstone follows the life of Wyatt Earp, a cowboy who became a sheriff and an American icon, but it has since been proven that the book detailing his life was mostly lies. So can these films be classed as true biographies or just another work of fiction? Then there are biopics about celebrities and heroes. Would a film about my aunt’s life draw as big an audience as Bronson? No offense to her but probably not, because biopics have an at least twofold star power. They have the immediate cult status (and therefore certain box office sales) of the main
Of course, there’s also going too far in the other direction, films that tear down heroes and make inspirational figures all too flawed. These depictions are especially hurtful when done posthumously. The TV film Kenneth Williams: Fantabuloso, featuring an excellent performance from Michael Sheen, shows the Carry On star’s wretched demise. I can’t criticize it on any aspect of filming, acting, script writing or accuracy, but that is simply not how I want to remember the big nosed, camp cockney, famous for telling people to ‘stop messing about!’ Instead, the film almost becomes an insult as we drag apart his private life for over an hour and cringe at what we find. Why have audiences become so nosey, so intent upon hearing the truth? The entire industry is now geared towards realism with the inventions of HD and 3D viewing. Am I alone in still enjoying a good Plasticine Cyclops destroying a small Technicolor town? I don’t expect people to have as retro a taste as I do, but learn to balance between mind numbing fact and implausible fantasy.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK | COLUMBIA PICTURES
character, in this case Michael Peterson/ Charles Bronson; then they also have the enticing power of the actor, here the usually stunning Tom Hardy. However, this celebrity doubling often just ends up destroying the image of the original hero. Another example is The Runaways - before the 2010 film they were a generally unheard of band, but get Kristen Stewart in tight leather trousers and a half naked, barely legal Dakota Fanning together and you’ve got a box office hit. It becomes more of a testament to what a child star is willing to do to be famous rather than the compelling story of an all girl rock band. Sometimes biopics become more about how the director sees their hero (usually through rose tinted glasses). Films often suffer for this by becoming more personal and are often inaccurate because the director doesn’t want to blemish the image of their inspiration and so they censure the character’s real life story. Joaquin Phoenix’s new film I’m Still Here has cameras following him on his two year supposed break down, all to prove the point that people shouldn’t believe everything the media tells them. The film Social Network supposedly tells the tale of facebook’s creation, a story that is guaranteed to generate a huge number of fans because of facebook’s success. However, the film is only loosely based on fact, but you can hardly blame director David Fincher for understanding that nobody is going to watch a film about a teenage Mark Zuckerberg sat at a computer for a great deal of his college life (which, incidentally is what facebook users now do).
techniques. Without even knowing the name of the director, you could enter a cinema and realize that the film you are about to watch belongs to the French New Wave auteurs. Wes Anderson is one of the most well known (and one of my favorite) auteurs of today. His films encompass individual and unique aesthetics, and these aesthetics carry over from one film to another. One of Anderson’s trademarks is his use of similar casts from film to film. His films have repeatedly included actors such as Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Angelica Houston. Anderson’s plots often involve some sort of family struggle. Films like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou or the Darjeeling Limited fit into this scheme. Both films involve the fall and rise of a family who eventually come together to experience something beautiful. Whether it’s the glorious tiger shark or the discovery of the spiritual self, the characters and the audience come out of the film with a better knowledge of beauty and the self. So, now that we know what an auteur is, how do we explain what an auteur isn’t? It seems simple enough to find directors who have created films that aren’t consistent with one another. How about James Cameron? He’s the guy who directed Titanic and Avatar. On the surface these films seem completely different for the
THE DARJEELING LIMITED | FOX SEARCHLIGHT
WHAT MAKES A DIRECTOR an auteur? Maybe a better question to ask is: what is an auteur anyway? For years the film industry has been arguing over what it takes to fill the glorified role of auteur as director. The idea of the auteur first came to light in 50s France where film critics began to reshape French cinema. According to the auteur theory, the director represents the sole author of the film. Thus, all films created by an auteur should represent the director’s distinct creative expression, and there should be a sense of consistency from one film to another. Do any directors come to mind that could be tagged as auteurs according to this definition? So many come to my mind that I must ask the question: is an auteur really even that unique? Some of the first auteurs included French New Wave directors like Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. They created works that broke away from the norms of French cinema including films like Breathless and Shoot the Piano Player. These films were distinctive in the way that they involved radical editing styles and experimental visual
LIKE LAMBS TO THE AUTEUR ALEXANDRA VASILE
BREATHLESS | LES PRODUCTIONS GEORGES DE BEAUREGARD
“I MUST ASK THE QUESTION: IS AN AUTEUR REALLY EVEN THAT UNIQUE?”
obvious reason that they deal with two entirely separate worlds. But, has anyone noticed that the plots of these films are rather similar, possibly a little too similar? Thus, is James Cameron also an auteur because he doesn’t have a single new idea in his head? Is an auteur just lazy and uninventive? This is where the auteur theory tends to fall apart. One can usually find similar attributes between any films created by a single director; of course, some are better executed than others. This leads me to the historical literary question: why is it so important to focus on the author? Roland Barthes may have answered this question with a simple, “the author is dead.” Who cares if you are an auteur or a McDonalds line cook? In the end, the only thing that matters is the work that you create. He who actually created the films becomes lost in the abyss. Does anyone know directors’ names anymore anyways (besides myself and other cinephiles, of course)? Everyone knows this film with Leonardo Dicaprio or that film with Megan Fox. So, have the actors become the new auteurs? The general public doesn’t watch the Oscars, anxiously waiting to see their favorite directors walk down the red carpet. It’s all about the actors, constantly in the public eye. They’re the famous ones after all. Does the death of the director mean the birth of the actor? Even if the director displaces his or her distinct ideas onto the actor, doesn’t the actor therefore become the director in a way? The director disappears. He or she becomes the unseen phantom, haunting the outskirts of every scene. Soon, the audience forgets that the film was ever created by anybody. The director, whether considered an auteur or not, inevitably dies, and only his or her work lives on.
JOHN HUGHES: VISIONARY OR NOSTALGIA? IAN CLAYDON
all of this precisely true, or has time played with the facts, changing a successful filmmaker into the figurehead of some kind of sentimental zeitgeist? It has been twenty five years since the release of The Breakfast Club so is it possible that the film has become warped by the rose-tinted lens of nostalgia? In a time when eighties resurgence is apparent all around, from the scores of over-produced new music, to the BBC’s recent eighties season, to Hollywood’s lack of originality regurgitating eighties remakes every year. Through all this have we not garnered a new found appreciation for eighties movies? For the appealingly grainy cinematography, dated clothing, cheesy music and naïve optimism ingrained in everything ‘eighties’, turning them into some kind of romanticised ideal of a ‘better time’. And the idea that Hughes was a pioneer of the genre, well it’s just not true. The Outsiders, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Risky Business, not to men-
THE BREAKFAST CLUB | A&M FILMS
THIS YEAR THE Oscars honoured writer and director John Hughes - who died following a heart attack at the end of last year with a five minute collection of clips of his movies, followed by actors from the movies gathering on stage. The unified mumblings across the world were of ‘wow they’re looking old’, apart from Anthony Michael Hall of course: ‘he’s looking surprisingly good.’ They described Hughes as ‘special’, ‘brilliant’, ‘gifted’ and a ‘genius.’ It was pathos made almost cringeworthy by the appearance of Hughes’ family, and it all felt a bit contrived. The disquiet was likely due to the fact that Hughes never won an Oscar, the only nomination was for Best Original Score on Home Alone, and Hughes had retreated into a self-imposed exile not having stepped foot in Hollywood since 1994. Best known for the commercial successes, including Home Alone and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Hughes also forever endeared himself to fans with the widely acclaimed teen movies The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. His lovelorn tales of teenage alienation gave catharsis to the generation before. He is thought of as innovative and original for portraying teenagers as empathetic characters, a polar opposite to the almost contemptuous attitudes the ‘teen pics’ of the eighties (and still today) seem to have towards their audience, and he is known for how he single-handedly made the teen drama into a legitimate genre of its own. Of course, he unwittingly paved the way for many imitations and homages - Saved By The Bell, anyone? Without Hughes the TV teen-drama explosion of the nineties wouldn’t have happened. To this day many filmmakers cite Hughes as a main influence, including Judd Apatow (Superbad) and Kevin Smith (Clerks). But is
tion American Graffiti, were all before Hughes first foray into the teen drama with actor and muse Molly Ringwald. After a blitz of films in three years Hughes quickly separated himself from Ringwald in an attempt to transition away from teen movies. What started with the well-received Planes, Trains and Automobiles quickly descended into a slew of horrible Hollywood movies full of ridiculously childish slapstick comedy, not forgetting Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles… really? He hit the heights with Home Alone and then continually tried to wring out every last dollar from the child comedy movie, churning out scripts every year; Dennis the Menace, Baby’s Day Out, Home Alone 3. Every year would hold another contrived plot only loosely different from the last. Yet despite all his flaws and penchant for juvenile comedy, a John Hughes film is undoubtedly going to make you laugh. Yes, Dong is a racist stereotype but anybody who doesn’t laugh at “no more yanky my wanky! The Donger need food!” is more mature than me. What’s surprising about Hughes’ early films is their relevance today. They may not have been the first of their kind but they are some of the best of their genre, and I envy any teenager who gets to watch The Breakfast Club for the first time and experience the awe of seeing all their angst and frustration, that they may not have known they even had, displayed so openly and elegantly on screen. My heart is tugged remembering the first time I was enraptured by Ally Sheedy’s
flawless delivery of ‘when you grow up, your heart dies.’ This is the magic that Hughes captured, that even twenty years after the films, and not even born when they were made, they still had a profound effect on me, and in the next decade there will still be kids embroiled in the pain of ‘growing up’ finding The Breakfast Club and it will still have the same kind of emotional impact on them as it has had on thousands of others in the last twenty five years. He may not have been the greatest film maker ever, he was not a God, but the magnitude of reaction after his death proves just how influential his movies have been, and even though the majority of his films were cheesy and slapstick, maybe even trite, I know that no matter what I’m feeling whether its anxiety, alienation, or just generally full of not-so-teenage angst, I can put on The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller or Sixteen Candles or Pretty in Pink, and I know that I’m going to smile and I’ll know that everything is going to be okay, and for that I thank him. And anyway, everybody at least once in their life has to break out into a Breakfast Club style impromptu dance to Karla DeVito’s We Are Not Alone. It must be done.
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The University of Kent Film Society's magazine, Issue 7.1: Winter 2010 Comic books, horror, John Hughes...and the Human Centipede...