Movies by Mills (June 2013)

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Movies-by-Mills JUNE 2013


EDITORIAL This is the second issue of MbM and I had no idea that the response to my magazine would be so enthusiastic, so heart warming, encouraging me to continue. So a big thank you to all of you who took the time to read it and tell your friends and even post a link to your websites, Facebook and Twitter. Over 62,000 of you have looked at it, and before I roll the credits, let me remind you that Moviesby-Mills selects films that it feels deserve to be reviewed or praised and likewise it is discerning about its advertisers as it is about its content. Credits MbM would like to thank the following companies for providing publicity material and arranging interviews for both the first and current issue. Entonegroup for Populaire, Mud and Now You See Me. Image.Net for Sundance London Photo.Electric House for photographs of The Electric Notting Hill. RezGaz for Gazzara stills. Everyman Group for The Everyman photos. New Wave Films for Like Someone in Love And for Joseph Rezwin, Mark Travis and Susan Granger for their contributions and Oliver Tang for his technical expertise and total belief in MbM.

Brian Mills

NOW YOU SEE ME Audiences love the new magical thriller but the critics less so. But Lionsgate showed the film to the public first by using lots of clever marketing and building word-of-mouth publicity, the ploy worked: Now You See Me outgrossed its expected opening box office weekend take by $11 million. Sometimes companies delay the Press Screenings when they think a film is going to be slaughtered by the critics but in this case they reasoned that a different way of marketing the film would benefit the release and they have been proved right. Now You See Me tells of a group of super illusionists using magic to pull off heists and return the money to those in need. The film has an excellent cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelsen, Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo and Isla Fisher. It is released in the UK on July 3rd.. On pages 14-25 you can read a Q & A with film critic Susan Granger which proves both enlightening and entertaining. Oh yes, and Now You See Me scored 8 on the Granger Movie Gauge.


As far as relationships go I propose the one between actors and directors is one of the most challenging. It is extremely demanding and often misunderstood. Just think about it. A director gets a script that is full of complex characters and he/she needs actors to portray those characters. No problem. There are thousands of available actors from which the director can choose. But ... once the selection has been made the trouble begins. It’s like dancing a waltz and both you and your partner are trying to lead. Or, perhaps a more accurate metaphor: you think it’s a waltz and your partner is convinced it’s a tango. (And we won’t talk about what music the writer or the producer thinks the band is playing!) Actors expect most directors to be ‘result’ directors. They expect the director to communicate only how he/ she wants the scene to be played as if actors can flip switches and push buttons until the prescribed performance comes out. The reason most actors expect result directing is because most directors are result directors. Hey, it’s the easiest way to direct. It’s like going to MacDonald’s: I tell you what I want and you put it in the bag.

This ‘marriage’ is dysfunctional (and curiously codependent) from the start. It’s not because of any malicious intent but rather because the two species have never really learned how to communicate effectively with each other. Take a look through all the literature on acting and directing, search through all the finest acting and directing schools and see how little is written or taught about regarding the communication between actors and directors. Yet it’s very clear that actors and directors all have the best of intentions of making this relationship work. I have not met a director who did not have a clear idea of what he/she wanted. And every actor I have worked with has an intuitive instinct for their character and how a scene can be played. Why then does this relationship so often begin to fall apart when they begin talking to each other? The answer is quite simple: different languages and different ideas of how this relationship should or could work. What’s missing? The missing element is the understanding that if this process is going to work there must be collaboration. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “We collaborate. We work together. We talk to each other.” And you’re right, of course you do. But are you clear on what the job is and what each of your bring to the table? Way too many directors think that it is the director’s job to “tell the actors what you want” and too many actors believe that their job is to “give the director what he/she wants”. This is their collaboration. And with this co-dependent formula the final product is destined to be limited to the imagination of the director and most of the potential creative input from the actor will never be exposed. So, what is the shared goal of the actor and director and what is it that they are missing? In this challenging relationship there is a third entity – the product of this

union, the child if you will – the character. In fact the primary reason for this ‘marriage’ is to create the offspring. Can you imagine raising a child when you and your partner have two totally different ideas of how to nurture it? One of you (the actor) wants to infuse the child with certain emotions, habits, attitudes, fears and dreams. And the other (the director) has very clear ideas how that child should behave under certain and specific conditions. And who is there to advocate for the child? Is anyone even listening to the child? Is anyone truly interested in what the child might want, what the child might need? Or how the child thinks or dreams? What about his fears or desires? The essential job of the actor and director relationship is to create a character of such depth and authenticity that it can be ‘released’ into any scene without prerequisites of ‘acting’ or ‘performance’. What the director or the actor believes the character wants or needs pales by comparison to what the character truly wants or needs. How we believe the character would behave under certain circumstances may have little to do with the character’s own intuition and instincts. Create the character and then let the character breathe. Here’s a thought. What would happen if directors stopped ‘directing actors’? By this I mean, what if directors abandoned the idea of demanding a certain performance, or controlling the behavior of the actor/ character? What if the director actually allowed the actors, as the characters, to find their way through each scene? And, what would happen if actors stopped ‘acting’? What if they gave up the practice of shaping, defining and controlling the behavior of their characters? What if they just allowed their characters to exist authentically and purely? What if they let their character carve his/her own way through each scene, through each moment of the character’s life?

Imagine, no more ‘directing’ and no more ‘acting’? Imagine a world of storytelling where each character was free from the constrictions and restrictions of actors and directors. Imagine the actor/director relationship evolving into a creative relationship full of wonder, joy, creativity and parental pride. It is possible. All it takes is the willingness to explore new ways of working together. All it takes is the courage to relinquish those old traditional controls and roles and immerse yourself in a world of exploration and discovery.


Directed by Drake Doremus


Felicity Jones. Guy Pearce..

A foreign exchange student arrives in a small New York town and challenges the dynamics of her host family’s relationships and alters their lives forever.


Directed by Scott McGhee & David Siegel Starring: Julianne Moore. Steve Coogan.

A young girl is caught in the middle of her parents’ bitter custody battle.


Directed by Zat Batmanglis

Starring: Brit Marling. Alexander Skarsgard. Ellen Page A private intelligence operative finds her priorities changing dramatically after she is assigned to infiltrate an anarchist group.

STORIES WE TELL Directed by Sarah Polley

Starring: John Buchan. Joanna Polley. A documentary that excavates layers of myths and memory to find the elusive truth at the core of a family of storytellers.


Directed by Noah Baumbach

Starring: Greta Gerwig. Mickey Sumner. A New York woman (who doesn’t have an apartment), apprentices for a dance company(though she’s really not a dancer), and throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possible reality dwindles.


Directed by Nicholas Bonner/Anja Daelemans Starring: Han Jong-sim. Pak Chung-Cuk

A North Korean female coal miner who dreams of becoming a trapeze artist.

THE COLOR OF THE CHAMELEON Directed by Emil Hristow

Starring: Lilia Abadjieva. Mihail Bilalov. Batko becomes the spider in his own invisible web of informants by recruiting a group of intellectuals to spy on each other. He builds his own secret archive. After the fall of communism, he uses it to wreck havoc on the government.

ARTHOUSE AMBIANCE THE EVERYMAN HAMPSTEAD The Everyman Hampstead opened its doors as a cinema on Boxing Day 1933. The cinema’s side entrance is as discreet as its patrons, and situated off Holly Bush Vale and is conveniently a movie moment away from Hampstead station. In its heyday it was a repertory cinema showing a different programme every day. Now it offers a mix of main stream and art house films, the latter catering for a clientele who know their Ingrid’s from their Ingmar’s, their Rohmer’s from their Renoirs. Patrons are pampered with luxury armchairs and sofas, cocktails brought to your seat before the film begins, and succulent honey roasted cashews. For me, I have to resist the temptation to listen to the walls and imagine the scenes within: von Sydow playing chess with Death in The Seventh Seal, Benigni playacting for the sake of his son in Life is Beautiful, Pia Degermark insisting in hushed tones “You must” to Tommy Berggren in Elvira Madigan. Oh such memories are embedded in those whispering walls.

Q & A

Susan Granger FILM CRITIC

BM: Susan, you started your film career as a child actress at the age of four having come from a luminous lineage: natural father, film director/producer S. Sylvan Simon, and adoptive father, producer Armand Deutsch. You have stated that it was quite natural for you to have Hollywood stars in your home and Frank Sinatra would even come over to cook. Could you describe what that was like? SG: Although it sounds exotic to you, think of your own childhood. If your parents were social, their friends visited your house and you went to theirs. Their families often became as

close as your own family. Back then, Hollywood was a one-industry town – and most of my parents’ friends worked in the business. Not always stars, of coursethough it’s the star-stories that people like to hear. Frank Sinatra never came to our house to cook. We went to his. He had a home in Palm Springs, where he made delicious Italian dinners. I remember sending him a case of ‘angel-hair pasta’ from New Haven, Connecticut – back when that delicacy was difficult to get in Southern California. Danny Kaye lived nearby – a passionate cook, he constructed his own Chinese kitchen in the alleyway behind his home. That’s where I first tasted authentic Chinese cuisine. Jimmy and Gloria Stewart lived around the corner. We’d often spend Thanksgiving with the Stewarts, and Jimmy loved to watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ in the original black-and-white on TV. Because Gloria loved to garden, when the house next door to theirs went on the market, Jimmy bought it and tore it down so that Gloria could have a huge vegetable garden. When they harvested, they delivered baskets of incredible veggies to their friends, which my father

described as the ‘most expensive’ vegetables in Beverly Hills. As for being an actress, my father (S. Sylvan Simon) put me in my first movie at the age of three. It was ‘Salute to the Marines’ with Wallace Beery – and he needed a child. There I was. No audition. No casting agent. Just nepotism. And it was great fun. After that, he and other directors gave me bit parts; I was never a star, just an ‘and also.’ BM: Later you began to work for television and radio and you became an entertainment reporter. Was that when you realized you wanted to be a film critic? SG: When I was anchoring the news on WTNH-TV in Connecticut, I realized two things. First, news is, basically, disaster and death. Second, when I heard/ saw movie critics on radio/TV, I realized most didn’t really know how movies were made or how the industry functions as a business. I do. So I pleaded with my boss to let me do movie reviews too – and soon I quit anchoring to concentrate on what I loved. BM: Can you recall the first film you

reviewed and what you wrote about it? SG: I haven’t a clue. BM: What do you think is the most important quality a film critic should have and has any one film critic inspired you? SG: A sense of wonder – and a sense of fun. When I was growing up, ‘The Hollywood Reporter’ was always delivered to the house. I read Arthur Knight’s movie reviews. He taught me more than anyone else about trying to be objective, about evaluating the merits/faults of a film from the viewpoint of what its creators set out to do. If it’s a comedy, is it funny? If it’s a mystery, does it evoke suspense? Above all, do you care about the characters enough to spend two hours with them? And I would be remiss if I didn’t express gratitude to Pierre Salinger, who taught me journalism at Mills College; back then, he was night editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. He went on to be John F. Kennedy’s White House Press Secretary.

BM: You see more than 350 movies a year. Do you think that there is ever a danger of becoming desensitized to certain emotional reactions like not being shocked or scared at something as much as you would have been in the past because you have become hardened due to the amount of movies you have seen? SG: Does a lover of literature ever read too many books? My answer would be ‘no.’ If a movie touches me emotionally, I laugh and/or I cry. And, because I’m willing to suspend disbelief, I’m easily scared. Some say you have to see comedies with an audience. Not me. Years ago, I saw ‘A Touch of Class’ alone in a screening room and was laughing so hard I, literally, almost fell out of my chair. I even had to run out to the ladies’ room. The projectionist stopped the film and started it again when I returned so I wouldn’t miss a minute. I also saw ‘Chariots of Fire’ by myself, and tears were streaming down my face. Movies are visual story-telling – and I always respond when the story is compelling. One confession: during slasher/ revenge movies, I take off my glasses and sit in the back row, often hiding my face

in my hands when the violence gets too graphic. BM: There are many outstanding European films that fail to get American distribution or at best a ‘limited’ release. These films would generally be screened at art house cinemas. So titles like The Hunt, Romantics Anonymous, The First Day of the Rest of Your Life, Heartbreaker, Mon Ange, would not be seen by American audiences unless they were shown at a film festival, which means you would not be able to review them unless you reviewed them as videos? How do you feel about that? SG: Fortunately, I live in an area where there are ‘art houses’ that show these films so I can not only see them but recommend them to others. As for reviewing from videos, that doesn’t bother me. Indeed, many Academy voters rely on DVDs to choose the Oscarwinners. While spectacles – like ‘The Great Gatsby’ should be seen on the big screen – most movies, particularly lowbudget, independent films, are perfectly fine on DVD. I do have some misgivings about reviewing foreign-language films because, being American, I am mono-

lingual. I wish I spoke French/Spanish/ Italian/Chinese because the English subtitles for these films are grossly inadequate, according to my linguist friends. Because of that, I know I miss so much subtext. BM: A few years ago I saw a film called Dandelion, which starred Vincent Kartheiser, now famous for the Madmen TV series. The film’s director was Mark Milgard and Variety and The New York Times loved the film and it was a beautifully made film. But to make it, Mark sold his home and put everything he had into it and he and the film disappeared because it didn’t make any money. Have you known or seen cases of that side of the business? SG: His story is not unfamiliar. Many painters/sculptors/novelists also died, unrecognized and unrewarded for their years of dedication to their art form. Let me tell you the up-side. Years ago, a couple we know – Fran and Barry Weissler – were just beginning as theatrical producers. They went to a staged reading of a musical which had flopped years before and they fell in love with it. But no one agreed with them. They could

not convince even one other investor. Yet they were so determined to produce it on Broadway that they mortgaged their home, invested their life savings and borrowed from family members. Now they’re multi-millionaires – because the show was ‘Chicago,’ which has been performed around the world and became a movie. BM: If you had to choose your favourite top ten films of all-time? What would they be? SG: First of all, let’s talk about what ‘favorite’ means. To me, it means what touches and evokes an emotion, along with admiration for what the film’s creators have done. Choosing a favourite also reveals a person’s sense of values, often formed in childhood. My favourite film is ‘State Fair,’ the only original movie musical written by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein. Their 1945 version starred Jeanne Crain, Dick Haymes, Dana Andrews and Vivian Blaine. Why? Because it’s about an Iowa farm family at the annual State Fair. The teenagers each experience a romance, while the mother’s homemade mincemeat is judged, along with their father’s hog. I

grew up in Beverly Hills. Not only could my mother not cook, we never raised livestock – and I was never allowed to ride in the back of a truck. Seeing this Iowa farm family was fantasyland to me. As a child who could only dream of romance, I loved it – and hearing songs like ‘It Might As Well Be Spring’ and ‘It’s a Grand Night for Singing’ brings back wonderful memories. (Avoid the 1962 remake with Pat Boone & Ann-Margret; it’s awful!) I’d also choose ‘From Here to Eternity’ not only because of its historical significance but also because my father (S. Sylvan Simon) was working on it when he died, and I got to know author Jimmy Jones who lived with us for several weeks. ‘Somewhere in Time’ because my brother developed it with one of my favourite sci-fi authors, Richard Matheson, and my then 15 year-old son Don worked as a ‘go-fer’ on Mackinac Island that summer, learning first-hand how movies are made. You can glimpse him and me in the background of some scenes, because Playboy magazine commissioned me to write an article, ‘My Week on an Island with

Christopher Reeve.’ My son Don came up with the concept of ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ assigned a writer to develop it and then worked with the brilliantly talented Steven Spielberg in a Paramount/DreamWorks co-production. I’m so proud of his connection with that important film about W.W. II. The M.G.M. musical ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ stars my dear friend Jane Powell, whom my father (Sylvan Simon) directed in her first movie, ‘Song of the Open Road.’ I met Jane when I was three years old – and she’s been my friend ever since. James and I were married at her home with her husband, former child star Dickie Moore. ‘Seven Brides’ shows Jane at her best. The screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller ‘The Birds’ was written by my dear friend Evan Hunter – so it’s very special to me. My father (Armand Deutsch) was a close friend of Billy Wilder, who gave me his original script for ‘Some Like It Hot,’ one of my favourite screwball comedies of all time.

Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’stars James Stewart – and remains one of the most inspirational films I’ve ever seen. While it was nominated for five Oscars, it won nothing. ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ touched me because it’s the story of a journalist who adopts a Jewish identity to expose anti-Semitism in post-W.W. II America. Meticulously produced by David O. Selznick, ‘Gone With the Wind’ has always swept me into my country’s Civil War history. Taking inflation into account, it remains the biggest money maker in the history of American cinema. Do you realize how intensely personal these choices are? Any overlapping with a list of Best Films is purely coincidental. BM: Your life has been and continues to be a love affair with movies and you are obviously reminded of this every day. Your brother is Stephen Simon who is cofounder of The Spiritual Cinema Circle and of course produced two outstanding films Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come. Your son Don is a film producer

too, while your husband James Mapes has just completed a screenplay called The Regression which is a thriller which he has co-written with you? Could you elaborate a little on that? SG: Years ago, as a part of his hypnotherapy practice in New York City, James encountered a client with a bizarre story involving amnesia, child abuse and murder. That’s what we’re developing into a screenplay. Fictionalizing what actually happened. When it’s finished, James will play the hypnotist. It’s a vehicle for him as an actor – and, like Sylvester Stallone’s ‘Rocky,’ we won’t sell it and let anyone else play the part. That poses an interesting challenge.


The thing to remember when going to see a Kiarostami film is that everything will be told in an unconventional way. It will not be a fast take-away but a slow give-in; scenes will play interminably long, objects of conversation may be seen but not shown, and there will be his telltale trademark of reflected images from car windscreens or windows. It is a way of storytelling that invites intrigue and repeatable viewings. The Iranian director’s glasses may be tinted but his vision is clear. From the opening scene in a crowded bar restaurant we overhear conversation that at first we assume is coming from the diners at the table we are looking at, but then become confused when we realize that it isn’t. We are being shown one thing but hearing another. A young woman Akiko is talking to her boyfriend on her mobile phone telling him that she will not see him. The viewer has been deceived from the outset and it sets the scene for what is to follow: nothing is what it appears to be, which leads to mistaken identities. Akiko is a student struggling to pay her college fees, but works in the evenings as an escort for rich businessmen provided for her by her pimp who also doubles as a bar owner. He tells her that she must see a very important man tonight as a favour to him. She protests that she can’t because her grandmother is coming to Tokyo for only one day and she must see her. An hour later she arrives at Takashi Watanabe’s home. The old man wants Akiko’s company to entertain her as his guest while the girl mistakenly believes his motive is for sex. A bond is formed between Takashi and the girl, the professor and the student, but is it really that simple?

The star of this film is Tadashi Okuno who plays the old man Takashi Watanabe. Remarkably it is his first film where he not only has a speaking part but also plays the leading character. Up until the time Kiarostami discovered him, Okuno had always been an extra without having any lines to speak and he took some persuading to be in the film at all, accepting only because he thought that it was not a very big part. So impressed was Kiarostami with his performance in the film that he offered him another leading role in his next project but his offer was declined and the star returned to being an extra once more. It is very much a Japanese thing: ‘a wise man does not stand in the spotlight.’ Abbas Kiarostami believes that films are not about telling a story, but about unpredicted moments. “People go to films to get glimpses of truth.” He lets his actors improvise and be entirely natural and comfortable with their character.

Often criticised for always having scenes in cars, he explains that they are the perfect place to hold a conversation: no distractions from looking at each other yet sitting close together while looking straight ahead. A pivotal moment in the film is when young Noriaki, Akiko’s boyfriend, gets into the old professor’s car and declares his intentions towards Akiko are entirely honourable; a confession made because he believes Takashi is the girl’s grandfather. Everyone in the film is the director’s alter ego. The woman neighbour who spends her days staring out of a window, watching the professor come and go and admitting that she has loved him from a distance all her life and imagines what her life could have been if she had married him. In reality she and Kiarostami have known each for almost fifty years and meeting her again knew that she had to be in his film. Like Abbas Kiarostami the woman is an observer of life and its mysteries from the serene to the shocking, and nothing can be taken for granted.



TO THE WONDER Directed by Terrence Malick Starring: Ben Affleck. Olga Kurylenko. Rachel McAdams. Javier Bardem.

FILM **** The film is centred on Neil (Ben Affleck) a man who is torn between two lovers: Marina (Olga Kurylenko), the European woman who comes to United States to be with him, and Jane (Rachel McAdams) the old flame he reconnects with from his hometown, Neil’s doubts about his life and loves are reflected in the crisis of faith experienced by Father Quintana (Javier Bardem) who only sees pain and the loss of hope in the world.

EXTRAS**** Making of. UK exclusive interview with Olga Kurylenko