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It’s a Magical World

Nearly two decades after their last adventure, Dear Mr Watterson proves Calvin and Hobbes are still as relevant as ever


n November 1985, Calvin and Hobbes first appeared in just 35 newspapers; one year later that number had increased to 250. Ten years after the young boy captured his tiger companion by setting a trap baited with a tuna sandwich, the strip’s creator Bill Watterson announced his plans to stop, and that was that. Calvin and Hobbes rode off into the distance on their toboggan, the snowy wilderness in front of them. “It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy,” says Calvin. “Let’s go exploring!” Since that wintery day in December 1995, Watterson has resisted all requests to revisit his strip, but the characters live on in the hearts and minds of all his fans. Calvin and Hobbes’ importance should not be underestimated; neither should Watterson himself. Throughout the comic strip’s run, its creator refused to compromise his vision. It wasn’t an easy path to take, but the results speak for themselves. His Sunday strips – longer, more complex, and in colour – required Watterson to battle the newspapers, who preferred a standardised format rather than his free-flowing style. His syndicate’s desire to capitalise on the comic’s success through extensive merchandising was unequivocally rejected by the cartoonist,


who admitted he was prepared to “quit the strip and lose everything, rather than get appallingly rich.” While illegal reproductions, usually portraying Calvin doing something wholly inappropriate with/ to Hobbes, inevitably cashed in on the characters’ popularity, Watterson did what he has always done: stayed true to his principles. It is a testament to the cartoonist’s vision that, almost 20 years after he put down his pen, Calvin and Hobbes remains as relevant, and as loved, as it ever was. It seems as though every situation in life can be understood through Calvin, whose opinions are intelligent yet reveal his childish inexperience, and his anthropomorphic best friend Hobbes, a more rational yet resolutely feline voice of reason. While Calvin’s long suffering parents, his teacher, and pretty much every adult, child, or non-tiger he comes into contact with cannot understand his unconventional outlook, Watterson’s beautiful illustrations and hilarious, intelligent insights capture a world in which unbridled creativity is king, offering a very honest window into his own mind as much as Calvin’s. The lack of personal interviews is, in a way, irrelevant; he acknowledges that the strips themselves are “pretty

Words: Becky Bartlett much a transcript of my mental diary.” By finishing when he did, Watterson achieved something few people have the gumption to do: he ensured his vision remains solely, entirely his, and it is the perfectly pure authenticity of the world he created that has ensured its longevity. His fans are as dedicated as ever: the Kickstarter campaign for Dear Mr Watterson raised more than 200% of its intended goal within three months, despite the cartoonist himself not being involved. As a sign of respect for the reclusive man, the documentary is evidence of filmmaker Joel Allen Schroeder’s “undying appreciation and love of Calvin and Hobbes,” rather than an attempt to coerce an interview or beg for more strips. And what of Calvin and Hobbes – what’s happened to them since their adventures were last immortalised? In the words of Watterson himself, “I like to think that, now that I’m not recording everything they do, [they] are out there having an even better time.” How could they possibly be doing anything else? 26 Feb, CCA, 8.30pm


Reviews Cannibal

Director: Manuel Martín Cuenca Starring: Antonio de la Torre, Olimpia Melinte


“Women: can’t live with ‘em, can’t eat ‘em” would make an apt, if crass, tagline for this formally brilliant pseudo-horror of male anxiety from Manuel Martín Cuenca. Antonio de la Torre plays Granada tailor Carlos, a withdrawn, sullen type who secretly kills to keep his icebox stocked with lady steaks. The seclusion required for Carlos’s dodgy dietry requirements is threatened by the arrival of a nosey new neighbour, Aleks, and latterly her sister, Nina (both played by Olimpia Melinte). A predictably uneasy relationship unfolds. Cuenca’s cold gaze, long takes and

languid, smooth camerawork recall Haneke and provide several sequences of striking beauty; none more so than the near-wordless opening ten minutes introducing Carlos’s grisly proclivities. However, while Haneke uses distance as part of a broader philosophical package, there is precious little else going on in Cannibal apart from pretty pictures and an enjoyably sombre, creepy tone. The depths of this monster are never explored, which just leaves a fairly mundane plot chock-full of Psycho references to pin two hours of runtime on. Admirable, but shallow. [Chris Fyvie]


Ilo Ilo

Director: Anthony Chen Starring: Angeli Bayani, Koh Jia Ler, Yann Yann Yeo, Tian Wen Chen


Exasperation drives the actions of the key players in Ilo Ilo, a film that is both a vivid portrait of recession-struck Singapore in 1997 and a subdued, bittersweet affair that retains a natural feel. When bratty ten-year-old son Jiale (Ler) finally proves too uncontrollable for the over-worked, heavily pregnant Hwee Leng (Yeo), she and her husband Teck (Chen) hire a Filipina live-in maid, Teresa (Bayani). The child spitefully rejects the nanny but affection and complicity eventually manifest, though the situations of the adults quietly worsen as each keep their turmoil to themselves. Teresa must secretly take a second job to help support her baby back home and Teck loses a fortune playing the stock market, hiding his job loss from his wife who becomes increasingly threatened by Teresa and Jiale’s growing rapport. Anthony Chen gives his impressively finessed debut ample breathing space, avoiding attempts to play down everyone’s aggravating traits and steering away from the conventional roads this sort of story could venture down, favouring instead a more nuanced approach. [Josh Slater-Williams]

Violeta Went To Heaven

Violeta Went to Heaven

Director: Andrés Wood Starring: Francisca Gavilán, Thomas Durand, Christian Quevedo


Violeta Went to Heaven is Andrés Wood’s impassioned and impressionistic cinematic portrait of Chilean legend Violeta Parra – artist, singer, poet, and ethnomusicologist. Through her tireless documentation and performance of Chilean folk song, Parra brought the rich cultural heritage of her country’s rural poor to the attention of the world. Her work founded the “nueva canción” (Chilean


new song) which canonised traditional multi-ethnic music and myths, shaking the dominant white, urban Chilean elite. Exhibited in the Louvre, Parra’s art could be seen side by side with the old European masters; through challenging that racist and sexist cultural hegemony, she inspired a socially and politically conscious pan-Latin American folk movement and galvanised Chile’s Left before Pinochet’s bloody

ascension in 1973. Violeta, then, has the tough job of sketching this complex woman, her art and her life. No ordinary biopic, Wood’s film weaves a tapestry of fragments – of Parra’s experiences and songs – as a patchwork of folklore, where the beauty and suffering of the past is always sewn beatifically through the present. [Rachel Bowles]


Intolerance Anyways

Today’s Picks

We caught up with French-Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan about his brilliant Hitchcockian thriller Tom at the Farm, and are surprised to find that at the time of making the film he hadn’t seen any Hitchcock

Looking for Light

GFT, 1.15pm Jane Bown took photos of some of the most famous figures in the 20th century, and this documentary looks at how she succeeded in a male dominated industry. With director Michael Whyte attending this UK Premiere, this is a must see for photography fans.

Interview: Jamie Dunn

Looking for Light



wenty-four-year-old Québécois actor-director-writer Xavier Dolan’s name has become a byword for prodigious filmmaking talent. By the age it takes most mere mortals to get through film school, Dolan has had three movies (I Killed My Mother, Heartbeats and Laurence Anyways) premiere at Cannes to wide acclaim. His latest, Tom at the Farm, made its big screen debut at Venice film festival, the Pepsi of the international festival world to Cannes’ Coca-Cola, but don’t take that as an indication of a drop in quality. This fourth effort, a claustrophobic psychological chamber piece in which Dolan stars as Tom, a copywriter holed up in an isolated farmhouse with the family of his recently deceased boyfriend, is by a long way his finest work yet – in front and behind the camera. The film recalls Hitchcock in its classical form and Herrmann-style score. This isn’t the first time Dolan has been compared to another master filmmaker. The aesthetic mode and eye-popping primary colours of his debut, I Killed My Mother, drew comparisons to Pierrot le Fou-era Godard, while his use of slow motion and pop music in Heartbeats called to mind Wong Kar-wai. Dolan is quick to shoot down his status as a magpie filmmaker, though. “I’m considered to be a cinephile, but no one ever asks me if I’m one,” says Xavier Dolan, sitting crossed-legged on a wicker chair in the lounge of a grand old hotel on the Lido, the day of Tom at the Farm’s world premiere. Are you? “I didn’t have the time to become one,” he insists. “I started watching serious movies when I was 16. That is not a lot of time, because I started to direct movies full-time when I was 18. So between 16 and 18 there are only so many films you can see. I had never seen one Hitchcock before I had directed Tom at the Farm.” Really? “You would never believe the movies that are really influential to me,” he laughs. “The list is weird. “The movies that really influenced me THESKINNY.CO.UK/CINESKINNY

are ones that marked me when I was a kid, and we’re talking about family entertainments from the 90s,” he says. “We’re talking about Batman Returns and James Cameron with Titanic. [That film] has rooted deeply inside me the reflexes and instincts of filmmaking that you could never identify in Tom at the Farm because it looks to you like an arthouse film. But to me, there are about 17 reaction shots that I’ve stolen from Kate Winslet and you can never tell. That’s how inspiration works for me.”

“I    don’t like directors who direct movies so that they cut well on their demo reel” Xavier Dolan While Hitchcock may not have been on Dolan’s mind during production, there is a distinct shift in style from his previous work. Gone are the florid, music video-like vignettes of the first three pictures, which have been replaced by sophisticated, restrained camerawork and lush tableaux. “This needed another style,” he says. “I just want to be sensitive to what a script needs, not what I need. I don’t like directors who direct movies so that they cut well on their demo reel. It is not my dream in life for people to say, ‘Oh, this is a Xavier Dolan movie.’” This statement will likely surprise most of his critics, but then so will this movie. One other reason why Tom at the Farm feels so different from his earlier films is that it’s his first attempt at directing someone else’s source material: a play by Michel Marc Bouchard. The story concerns the twisted relationship Dolan’s title character forms with his deceased boyfriend’s

brother Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal). Francis repeatedly beats him and sets him to work on the farm. Stockholm syndrome sets in and Tom becomes accustomed to, and even starts enjoying, his mistreatment; you could call this a sadomasochistic romance. What was it about the play that made Dolan want to make it into a movie? “There are things that I did not see in the play that I wanted to see in the film,” he explains. “If you see a play that’s already a movie in so many ways, you are not as driven to making it a movie if there’s no work to be done. If it’s already so perfect, all you’ve got to do is take a Kodak and film the thing. There’s a reason why I want to make this into a film, it’s because it’s going to be different.” What are those things that make it different? “The violence. The brutality. Strangling someone on a stage is a little funny, you know?” he says while miming strangling himself. “It works, it’s OK, but you’ll immediately see how it could be filmed. It’s appealing to think that you could do it differently and that it would be scarier, and more awkward.” The film ends with Rufus Wainwright’s Going to a Town playing under the closing credits, which, as well as being about leaving the past behind, is famously a sneer at America’s perceived moral superiority. Can we assume then that Tom’s battle of wills with the brutish Francis, who wears a Stars and Stripes bomber jacket in several key scenes, acts as an allegorical wink to the intolerance of Dolan’s home country’s neighbours? “Intolerance is everywhere,” he says. “Everywhere where religious cults are deeply rooted in people’s mores, that’s where you’ll find the most shining intolerance: the most brutal violence and thinking and ostracisation. But it’s not only the USA. Look at Russia – unbelievable in 2013.” 26 Feb, Cineworld 17, 8.30pm 27 Feb, Cineworld 17, 1pm

GFT, 6.15pm Director Ragnar Bragason is attending the screening of his coming of age drama about a girl who adopts her dead brother’s love of heavy metal music. Featuring songs by The Lumineers and Katy Perry.

GFF14 Surprise Film

GFT, 8.15pm Rumour has it that even the festival directors don’t know what this film will be, that’s how much of a surprise it is. The CineSkinny’s current bets are the 5.5 hour cut of Nymph()maniac, the 1 month anniversary re-release of I, Frankenstein or the HD restoration of Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Cargo Camera... Action!

The Art School, 8pm This collection of unique artistic collaborations, music performances and art installations goes on from 8pm until 1am and is part of the ‘Festival for a Fiver,’ so it’s the most entertainment you can get for five quid since the halfprice sale at Poundland.

Cargo Camera... Action!


Cineworld, 9pm This is a brutal, funny drama about the Nordic criminal underworld, marking yet another success from Scandinavia’s flourishing noir scene. It is not, in fact, an early biopic of Kanye’s daughter.


What’s new online?

Mystery Road

Director: Ivan Sen Starring: Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving


Thoughts on Film

Teetotal detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pederson) returns to his hometown in the Australian Outback to investigate the murder of a young girl. Forced to endure both an ineffective – and possibly corrupt – small town police squad and his alcoholic ex-wife, Jay is desperate to uncover whether his estranged teenage daughter is involved in drugs and prostitution. A modern day Outback noir, Mystery Road sets off down the Coen Brothers’ tracks, but quickly veers back into familiar territory. With stunning vistas and a few idiosyncratic characters appearing early on only to disappear, writer-director Ivan Sen is clearly aiming to make an interesting genre film but ends up with something plain generic. In the Outback the man with the

What did you think? Six of the best tweets

Round-ups and revelations Festival Diary

Regular Skinny contributor Chris Buckle chose his own adventure at Sunday’s 48 Hour Games event. Relive his “Sisyphean nightmare”.


MovieMail’s David Parkinson provides a comprehensive history of Chilean cinema as part of the site’s World Tour series. Blogger Ross Miller has five reviews (and counting) up on his site, including Blue Ruin, Night Moves and Starred Up.

Allan Hunter

The GFF co-director tells the Express what he does and why he does it. “People probably have this image of you sitting at home in your pyjamas watching endless films…”

Catch Up

Missed an issue of The CineSkinny? Read our GFF reviews and features online.

Mystery Road

straightest shot is king, but the issue with Jay is that he’s a little too straight. All of the tropes of Chandler or Hammet are clearly mapped out but

Detective Jay Swan is no Marlowe; he just isn’t engaging, or all that interesting. [David McGinty]

Tag your tweets #CINESKINNY! You may end up featured here... which would be nice @PaulDTaylor


Harmony Lessons is the best film I’ve seen @glasgowfilmfest so far. Could Kazakhstan cinema be the new Iran? #GFF14 #CINESKINNY

Q&A highlight: George Sluizer explaining why majority of sex scenes are so boring on screen: “We all know where they end - [fakes orgasm]” #GFF14 #CINESKINNY



Cannibal: not a how-to guide to functional relationships. Well worth a watch. @glasgowfilmfest #GFF14 #CINESKINNY

Weekend passes for #FrightFest @glasgowfilmfest are still available, don’t miss out on an amazing two days! #GFF14 #CINESKINNY


What I’m saying is that if you only watch one Kazakh film about school bullying and murder, make it ‘Harmony Lessons’. #GFF14 #CINESKINNY


Truly a Phoenix rising: #DarkBlood and Q and A with the great #GeorgeSluizer @glasgowfilmfest tonight. Superb. #GFF14 #CINESKINNY

Picture of the day

Dark Blood director George Sluizer gets a laugh from GFF co-director Allan Hunter during a candid Q&A


Photo: Eoin Carey

Produced by The Skinny magazine in association with the Glasgow Film Festival Editor Jamie Dunn Designer Ana Hine Assistant Editors Nathanael Smith Patrick Harley Distribution Franchesca Hashemi Graeme Campbell Jennifer Clews

GFF Box Office Order tickets from the box office at or call 0141 332 6535 or visit Glasgow Film Theatre 12 Rose Street, Glasgow, G3 6RB


CineSkinny Issue 7  

Wednesday 26 February