Movies by Mills (March 2014)

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EDITORIAL Here we are at the eleventh issue of MbM approaching the first year of publication. It is exciting and invigorating to see the magazine growing and to read your comments and enthusiasm for it. You like it for the very reason it was created: it is different to any other film magazine. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it only reviews films that are aimed at discerning filmgoers who choose to patronise arthouse cinemas. MbM is totally at odds with the majority of film cynics who write for the National Press. They generally will praise feel-bad movies over feel-good movies, forgetting that films were originally created to entertain an audience and raise their spirits as a form of escapism. Our main feature film review this month is A New York Winter’s Tale and its star, Jessica Brown Findlay, adorns our cover. The film has not performed well at the box office and has been panned by most sour-toothed critics as ‘piffle’. Why? Well, its subject matter is about reincarnation, the belief that one can love another and that love can last forever. It is also about spirituality and that sits even lower on a critic’s favourite topics. The Book Thief is about a young girl during World War 2 in Germany who steals books to share with others and transform their lives. It is based on a bestselling book. Close-ups on the stars of the feature films too: Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay (A New York Winter’s Tale) and Geoffrey Rush (The Book Thief) Arthouse Ambiance returns with a look at the Coronet Notting Hill, ,one of the oldest cinemas in London and one of the few to screen last month’s feature film selection: HER. Another reprise is Please Release Me about films that seemingly have disappeared and as of yet have never had a theatrical screening. You may be surprised at some of the golden nuggets that have been excavated from the cinema cemetery. FilmFest Follower this month takes a look at Hong Kong with MbM recommending films from this major film festival. Thank you as always to my wonderful readers and my page designer Paul Ridler. Enjoy the read.

Brian Mills 3

A NEW YORK WINTER’S TALE What is the best thing you have ever stolen? I’m beginning to think I haven’t stolen it yet. So far this film is becoming one of the most underrated and misunderstood films of all-time, by the majority of film critics that is. It has been called ‘a misguided folly’ and ‘piffle’. It’s deeply spiritual narration has been labelled religiose. Its time scale appears to be mindboggling and as for the white horse that seems to appear miraculously and fly off into the sky carrying Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) on its back....that is totally beyond their belief. A New York Winter’s Tale is about a petty thief named Peter Lake, an orphan and master mechanic who attempts to rob a mansion on the Upper West Side. Believing the house is empty Peter goes to work on opening the safe only to be interrupted by the sound of a piano and his realization that the daughter of the house is at home. Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findley) fearlessly enquires whether it is still Peter’s intention to rob the place. He tells her it is not. For Peter he finds love for the first time. For Beverly she finds a beautiful distraction from the knowingness of her impending death by consumption. Their love affair is too brief yet beautiful and he cannot forget her. Each baby is born with a miracle inside them, the narrator reminds us, and Peter’s miracle 4

is, he believes, to save the life of the one he loves. Every step he takes is followed by a demon Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe) and his puppet master Lucifer (Will Smith). But Peter has a trusted spirit guide, a white horse, who took him to Beverly’s mansion, and takes him away from the persistent pursuit of Pearly Soames and his bootlicking acolytes. Hundred years later a reincarnated confused and amnesiac Peter tries to pick up the threads of a life he may have had. Flashes of his past resurface: the mansion where he first met and fell in love with Beverly. In Central Park, a little girl bumps into him and when he goes to research back issues of the New York Times and is refused because he has no identity credentials, the staff member who steps forward to help him is the mother of the child he collided with in the park and so another piece of the metaphysical puzzle falls in place and he is allowed to see the micro fiche records of the paper and once more see the face of Beverly the love of his life While at the office he meets the paper’s editor who is Beverly’s beloved sister; a meeting that spans a century, unearthing further memories. While critics scratch their heads to why anyone would want to make this film, MbM relishes a rarity of a spiritual film that looks at the very core of what we really are at our highest level and that we are all connected. Time and distance is not what they appear to be. A New York Winter’s Tale is a love story with the premise that if you love someone strong enough that love will last forever. We are immortal and our destiny is in the stars as angels of light. Like the very beautiful Somewhere in Time, which was lampooned by the Press when it was first shown and is now recognised to be an alltime romantic classic, MbM believes that A New York Winter’s Tale will be revered as a masterpiece of filmmaking. 5



CLOSE UP COLIN FARRELL Star of this month’s featured film A New York Winter’s Tale, Colin Farrell has had an interesting career with a filmography that has seen a wide range of parts that have allowed him to display his versatility. Praised by his screen hero Al Pacino, as being the best actor of his generation, Colin has continued to impress even in films that fell far short of greatness. It was the television series Ballykissangel that quickly drew attention to his talent playing Danny Byrne. He was on his Irish terrority, born in Dublin in 1976. It led to Joel Schumacher directing him in Tigerland. He was cast as Private Roland Bozz. The film told the story of American soldiers in the backwoods of Louisiana in 1971 who play war games in preparation for their first tour of duty in Vietnam. The role as a Texan recruit who helps his boot-camp buddies avoid Vietnam combat won him a Best Actor Award from the Boston Society of Film Critics. Two years later, and Colin won the coveted role of Danny Witwer, a member of the Justice Department who is sent to track Tom Cruise’s character, in Stephen Spielberg’s Minority Report. And in the same year, he reunited with Joel Schumacher to play the victim of an unseen killer in the thriller Phone Box. Next up came Recruit as a young CIA man tutored by a veteran who was played by his hero Al Pacino. The Irish film Veronica Guerin teamed him for the third time with Schumacher. His next film was Oliver Stone’s epic Alexander which was a critical disaster and even further viewings only confirm its ludicrous attempt at creating a revered historic legend that resulted in him being seen as anything but ‘great’, ironically the film was a box office success. . Farrell redeemed himself in Terrence Malick’s The New World starring as the explorer John Smith, who made first contact with the Native peoples. Christopher Plummer and Christian Bale co-starred. But the film that really raised the bar for Colin Farrell was the black comedy In Bruges which was directed by Irish theatre director Martin McDonagh. Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are two Irish hit men, whose latest assignment goes horribly wrong, leaving them to hide out in Bruges. The film was art house material and it won Colin Farrell a Golden Globe nomination. He says of the film When I read it, I said to Martin McDonagh, ‘I don’t think you should hire me’. I said I come with a certain amount of baggage 8

that has been well-earned through the years and this piece is so pure, I would love the audience to not have too much of a relationship with any of the actors. Thankfully, he didn’t listen to me. After appearing in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Colin donated his salary to Heath Ledger’s little daughter who was left nothing in a will that had not been updated in time. Ledger had been originally been cast in the film and was replaced by Farrell. A quirky departure was Neil Jordan’s magical fantasy Ondine which had Colin playing a fisherman who believes he has caught a mermaid in his net. Peter Weir’s The Way Back told the story of Siberian Gulag escapees who walk 4000 miles overland to freedom in India. Really Colin’s next heartfelt role did not come until he won the part of Travers Goff in Saving Mr Banks His stories to his daughter fuels her imagination with dreams he cannot fulfil for her. It is a role that he felt very lucky to get and is a major achievement in his career. After A New York Winter’s Tale, Colin will be seen in Solace where he plays an FBI agent who works with a psychic, played by Abbie Cornish, to track down a serial killer. He has just finished filming Miss Julie which has him cast as her father’s valet who is encouraged to seduce her. It is directed by Liv Ullmann. He owes his success to his mother who forced him to take dancing lessons once his brother, Emmon Farrell Jr, started them. Emmon also got him into acting by attending an acting school and later recommending it to Colin. However the major influence on his career has been Joel Schumacher of whom he says: It all goes back to him. I wouldn’t have done Phone Booth without him. I wouldn’t be doing Hart’s War. I probably wouldn’t have done American Outlaws if he hadn’t picked me out of obscurity. I’ve worked but not at the level or people I’m working with now if he hadn’t taken on an Irish kid playing a Texan. One of his favourite recreations is yoga. What yoga does is, it asks you to allow your head to be quiet, to allow it to be still, just for an hour and a half. Just deal with your body and your breath. And it’s a great workout. I love it. On acting: I’d like to make big films and small films, mainly because I’m a massive fan of film; the idea of doing Indiana Jones, or even an Inception. I love the grandiosity, how sweepingly entertaining films can be. And I think there’s a place for films that pry more into the human condition. 9



CLOSE UP JESSICA BROWN FINDLAY Magic is all around us, is the belief of Jessica Brown Findlay and her character Beverly in A New York Winter’s Tale. Magic has and still continues to be evident in her life and career. At first it seemed her destiny was to be a dancer. She trained with the National Youth Ballet and the Associates of the Royal Ballet and at the age of 15 she was invited to dance with the Kirov at the Royal Opera House for a summer season. But the career switch to acting came after a bungled ankle surgery ended her dancing career. The thing I adore about acting is that it is not me: you get to experience all these emotions but essentially it’s not you. Her first film was a Short called Man on a Motorcycle where she was credited as a Girl in bed. Her second film was the feature Albatross. She played Erica, an aspiring novelist who has just arrived in town. She soon falls in love with her writing coach Jonathan, who is her friend’s father. Erica is a misfit who imposes herself on a family in need of help. Her friend Beth (Felicity Jones) is somewhat reclusive and bookish and Erica shows her a world of fun. She introduces herself at the beginning of the film. I’ve a story to tell. I come from a no parent family. My Mum threw herself off a bridge because my Dad didn’t love her. So you might say I’ve got the perfect excuse to be a bit rebellious. The success of the film is really due to believing in Erica, and Jessica certainly achieves that from her introduction and there is excellent chemistry between her and Felicity Jones, another fine young actress. Albatross is a wonderfully entertaining film due to its excellent cast. It offered Jessica a leading role which she grabbed with total confidence and showed the promise of what was to come. It also offered her character lines which she relished saying: I have never seen so many ugly men in all my life. I mean look at them, they’re trying to wear their brains on the outside. Impressive as it was, her role in Downton Abbey as Lady Sybil Crawley and Lady Sybil Branson was magnificent.


She appeared in twenty episodes of the TV series. Her character is beautiful and brilliant and she is also a troublemaker. Fiercely political, Sybil is seriously involved in the movement to gain votes for women, pushing her desire to break from the social restrictions of the times and her class. She outrageously wears a pair of trousers at a family gathering, attends the reading of local election results where a riot breaks out, and she takes cooking lessons from Mrs Patmore, the estates cook. She has no interest whatsoever in the family’s inheritance of the estate and, in fact, openly disregards it when the family challenges her relationship with the family’s chauffeur, Tom Branson, an Irish nationalist and a Catholic. She exasperates both parents with her shenanigans, which they must hope that she will grow out of, but they love her dearly and support her choices. She will go through the motions when it comes to society and the way she’s expected to behave, but her goals all lay beyond what the family considers the proper field. It would be hard to imagine any young actress who could have improved upon Jessica’s characterisation of Sybil, great as it is. She followed this with the TV series Labyrinth, playing Alais Pelletier Du Mas in the first Episode of the series. This is what Akiva Goldsman, director of A New York Winter’s Tale says of Jessica. Jessica is a phenomenon. There is something about her that is transcendent. It’s as if she is floating in the air in front of you. At present Jessica is filming the gothic horror Frankenstein. Before that we can look forward to seeing her in Posh as a first year student at Oxford University who joins the infamous Riot Club where reputations can be destroyed over the course of a single night. She has completed filming on Lullaby opposite Amy Adams and Garret Hedlund, it is about a man whose estranged family receive news that his father has chosen to take himself off life support. Plus there is still Shoplifters of the World about one crazy night in the life of four friends reeling from the sudden demise of iconic British band The Smiths, while the local airwaves are hijacked by an impassioned Smiths fan with a gun. The film is based on true events. 13



THE BOOK THIEF *Spoiler Alert

Words are life, Liesel. If your eyes could speak, what would they say? Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nelise) a nine year old girl, is taken to live with a foster family in a German working-class neighbourhood in Germany The child is still grieving over her brother who died on the journey and had to be buried on a road. Her new parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann have conflicting attitudes towards her: Rosa (Emily Watson) is suspicious and critical of her instantly labelling her a communist and wondering why she is alone and not with her brother, while Hans (Geoffrey Rush) is kind, gentle and trusting to her. With Germany under the rule of Adolf Hitler as World War II beckons and the purge of Jews from the country commences, the family hides a young Jewish refugee, Max, from the Nazis in their home. Leisel, who is slowing beginning to warm to her father, befriends the new arrival and tells him about a book she has stolen “The Gravediggers Handbook”. It is the first of many books that she will steal as she learns to read with the help of Hans and falls in love with words and literature. Rosa is domineering and openly demeans Hans as ‘stupid’ in front of Liesel. Hans finds 16

solace through his beloved accordion, creating mini monologues through music On her first day at school, Leisel meets a boy named Rudy who upon seeing her immediately falls in love with her and longs to kiss her. Rosa takes in washing for the Burgomaster and his wife and she gives Leisel the job of returning the clean laundry to their home. It is during these visits that Leisel meets the Burgomaster’s wife and sees their huge library and is allowed to read one of the many books and steals others. Eventually Leisel begins to transform the lives of those around her giving them hope with her story reading. Death is the film’s narrator telling those it takes that it will look after them. The film is about the impact that the war and the Nazi regime have on the lives of ordinary people and that is its strength. It is a character-driven story with emphasis on the strength of its young protagonist Leisel: Sophie Nelise is naturally gifted with an acting talent that seems to radiate from every pore. It is quite apparent that the on-screen chemistry between Sophie and Geoffrey is their off-screen as well; in fact they enjoyed each other’s company and were always joking around between takes. Geoffrey Rush said that he learnt a lot from Sophie by just watching her and how she made acting look so easy. While Sophie was in awe of Geoffrey and how he went from playacting to his character with ease. He is a reactor rather than an actor and describes acting as putting oneself in an imaginative state of play. The Book Thief is a very good film which I think will gain greater appreciation in retrospect. 17



CLOSE UP GEOFFREY RUSH Geoffrey Rush is a colourful as his birthplace name Toowoomba. His early acting experience was in the theatre in Australia. He drew attention to his acting ability in only his fourth feature film as Weich in Children of the Revolution. And this led to him being cast in a film that garnered every award possible including the Academy Award for playing the highly dysfunctional piano prodigy David Helfgott in Shine. My career has been in theatre for 23 years, with spits and coughs in bits and pieces of film. Scott Hicks very nicely said my entire career had been my audition for the role in Shine. He was cast as Sir Francis Walsingham in Elizabeth and then appeared in the memorable Shakespeare in Love with Joseph Fiennes and Gyweneth Paltrow, he played the part of Philip Henslowe who bought one of Shakespeare’s plays. Referring to Joseph Fiennes whom he played opposite in Elizabeth and Shakespeare in Love, he said: He got to make love to Gwyneth Paltrow. All I got was an Oscar nomination. Another milestone character in Geoffrey’s filmography was The Marquis de Sade in Quills. More juicy roles followed in the Australian thriller Lantana as John Knox and in the cult film Frida. But the next film to really establish and challenge his versatility was playing the screen genius Peter Sellers in the biopic The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. Sellers was a larger than life actor and Rush had to weave his way through the many film characters that Sellers created and made his own: Inspector Clouseau, Dr Strangelove, and the gardener in Being There. As well as all of this Geoffrey Rush had to delve into the complicated and tormented life with a dominant mother and the relationship with Britt Eklund. The results are up there on the screen and it is not only a remarkable achievement but also a tribute to a movie legend. Munich had him working under the direction of Stephen Spielberg and then he took on the role of Captain Hector Barbossa in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, though uncredited in the first, he shared top billing in the follow-ups with Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley. About his character Barbossa: It’s been an imaginative metaphor for me and Johnny as actors. It feels like 20

we’ve been married for a long time and there are certain things that are never going to resolve themselves within the marriage. It’s an interesting way for us to find the context for this kind of constant spat. He became the fourth actor to appear in two films to gross $1 billion with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. He is the first actor from the southern hemisphere to achieve this feat. It seems that the Pirates franchise will never end as yet another is announced – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales with once again reprising the rivalry between Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa. Long may it live! And so to the role that Geoffrey Rush was destined to play the speech therapist to King George VI – Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech. I first got the script in a fairly unorthodox way. It was in a brown paper package at my front door, like an orphaned child. A neighbour of mine knew this woman in London who wanted to produce it as a play, and on the coverlet it said, “Please forgive me, Mr Rush, for sending this to your home, blah blah blah”, and I read it and I went wow, great story. The King’s Speech went on to win 4 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay. On performing with Colin Firth: He made me better. I didn’t have to act listening. I was mesmerised by the hidden areas of truth he was uncovering. The dialogue is a great example of Aaron Sorkin’s screenwriting brilliance and shows the exemplary timing and delivery of Geoffrey Rush’s lines as this exchange with Colin Firth shows as the latter goes to light a cigarette. Don’t do that They say it relaxes the throat They’re idiots. They’ve all been knighted. It makes it official then. His father was of English, Irish and Scottish ancestry, and his mother was of German. On accepting roles that are risky: Occasionally you need to jump off a cliff and do things you know are not immediately within your grasp. He will soon have the chance of testing that theory when he plays a God in Gods of Egypt. 21




ARTHOUSE AMBIANCE CORONET CINEMA NOTTING HILL GATE The Coronet Cinema is the epitome of arthouse ambiance with decor as discerning as its audience. The luxurious auditorium with its majestic festooned draped curtains, plush crimson seats and carpets bearing the coronet emblem are as rich as its history. It has hosted members from all walks of society including King Edward VII. It seems that the famous actor Sir John Gielgud saw his first Shakespeare play there. It was made famous when Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant filmed a scene there in the film “Notting Hill”. Regular clients include the BBC, Sky, ITV and Twentieth Century Fox. Originally a theatre and opened in 1896, the building was converted to show films in the 1920s and has retained all the Edwardian splendour of the original theatre including a balcony in the main auditorium. Screen 1 seats 388 (203 in the stalls and 185 in the balcony. Screen 2 seats 147. The cinema also has a small licensed bar. When MbM stresses the importance of seeing quality films in the best of cinemas to enhance your cinemagoing experience, the Coronet immediately comes to mind. The Coronet booking policy strikes a balance between the mainstream films and the arthouse programmes. Many of the films which MbM have recommended have been screened in this picture palace. One of the finest films in decades, Her, which was our main feature in the last issue: brianalbertjohnmills/docs/issue_10 was screened at the Coronet, one of only two cinemas in the West End to show it. So when it comes to asking “What cinema is showing so and so film?” If that film that you are seeking seems to have been bypassed by most arthouse cinemas, try looking at the Coronet. Discerning cinemas show discerning films and the Coronet Cinema is undoubtedly that.



An Occasional Look at Films That Despite Critical Acclaim Have Never Had Theatrical Distribution.

FIRST WINTER During an unprecedented winter, a group of hippie Brooklynites are stranded in a remote farmhouse. As the weather worsens and the food supplies dwindle, the fragile friendship based on sex and drugs begins to shatter. Their self appointed leader Paul who teaches yoga and meditation, is the mainstay of survival even if it means going outside with a gun. While Matt keeps warm by bedding the women. But one thing holds the commune together, the human desire to survive which overcomes interpersonal differences and petty arguments. The film is a remarkable debut for writer director Benjamin Dickinson, who creates a chilling story with characters whose beliefs are tested to the extreme and are reduced to animalistic behaviour and fighting and hating the ones that before the storm they had loved. The actors are new faces to us which benefits the authenticity of the story. Paul Manza as the Jesus-like leader is silently charismatic in a guru sort of way and exemplifies the New Age devotees and their eccentricity. However it is this remoteness in its subject matter that would have hindered its chances of finding a distributor. Its life on the film festival circuit has ended and its chances of being released on DVD are also remote. The documentary-style look of the film is due to the excellent cinematography by Adam Newport-Berra. It is just a shame that you probably won’t have the chance of seeing it. But if there are any film distributors out there who would like a screening of the film with the view to distribution, please contact Movies by Mills and we will do everything we can to get it screened for you. 26



The Hong Kong International Film Festival This year’s festival opens with


sleepy fishing town of Aberdeen was where the British landed to take to take Hong Kong, hence its Chinese name “Little Hong Kong”. A film which is definitely no ordinary drama.

SHIRLEY - VISIONS OF REALITY Directed by Gustave Deutsch This beautiful and quite original film which lovingly reconstructs the paintings of Edward Hopper setting them as a moving tableaux; an extraordinary experiment that works.

BACKWATER A film where women are seen as the resilient ones.

BEFORE THE WINTER CHILL Directed by Philippe Claudel Starring: Kirsten Scott Thomas. Daniel Auteuil A very successful surgeon develops an obsession with a young Moroccan woman who claims to be a former patient.

BERTOLUCCI ON BERTOLUCCI Directed Luca Guadagnino A moving and truthful portrait of the legendary director of “Last Tango in Paris”, “The Last Emperor” He discusses his influences, his feelings about the state of Italian cinema, and the frustrations that he is experiencing with his health.

CHILD’S POSE Directed by Pozitia Copilului Starring: Luminita Gheorghiu Winner of the Golden Bear at last year’s Berlin Film Festival. It is about a wealthy middle-aged architect determined to prevent her lazy son from going to jail after his reckless driving kills a child. 28

GLORIA Directed by Sebastian Lelio Starring: Paulina Garcia. Sergio Hernandez. A fifty-eight year old woman meets a retired naval officer while exploring the singles scene. Brilliant performance by Paulina Garcia

HELI A powerful unflinching drama that captures the atmosphere of a country torn by drug cartels and chaos.

LAKE AUGUST A film about the chance circumstances that make us what we are. A young man who winds up with a life he never expected to have.

LILTING Ben Whishaw and Cheng Pei Pei star in this story about how an untimely death of a young man in London brings together a grieving mother and his friend.

MY NAME IS...HMMM Directed by Agnes B Starring: Lou-Leila Demerliag. Douglas Gordon. A wise child Celine has been forced to mother her siblings while falling victim to her incestuous father. On a class field trip she escapes into a truck of an English driver, who becomes a travelling shepherd for the girl who will not even reveal her name.


Directed by Bertrand Tavernier. A riotous take on the follies of French government.

THE PAST Directed by Asghar Farhadi Starring: Ali Mosaffa. Bérénice Bejo A stunning drama of modern family life set on the outskirts of Paris where Ahmad arrives from Tehran to finalise the end of his tempestuous marriage to estranged wife Marie, an utterly gripping film.

ON MY WAY Directed by Emmanuelle Bercot Starring: Catherine Deneuve. Nemo Schiffman. A former beauty queen in her sixties runs a bistro in a small French town. She lives with her elderly mother with whom she enjoys a spiritedly dysfunctional relationship. It is from her that she learns that her married lover has left his wife for another woman. The next day, still smarting from the shocking news, she gets into her car and starts driving... 29

CINEMA MADE IN ITALY Viva Italia! Coming to Cine Lumiere, South Kensington March 5th – 9th The latest films from Italy are being screened Including HOW STRANGE TO BE NAMED FEDERICO! A tribute to FEDERICO FELLINI on the anniversary of his death.

Full details of the programme are available at:





Directed by John Lee Hancock

FILM **** The story of the meeting between Walt Disney and PL Travers and his persistence in trying to buy the screen rights to her book Mary Poppins and her resistance to sell it and the reasons why which stem from her childhood. Starring: Tom Hanks. Emma Thompson. Colin Farrell.

EXTRAS *None *At the present time announced.


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