The Harsh Realities of Cinema's Darkest Days
www.thebigpicturemagazine.com Spring 2013
Issue Nineteen. Spring 2013 Features
06 | Spotlight Cold Discomfort: Winter as a Central and Evocative Filmic Role 14 | Art & Film A Thousand Miles From Nowhere, Man: Ronnie Van Hout and The Thing
Directory of World Cinema: France Edited by Tim Palmer and Charlie Michael
18 | Architecture & Film Fade Out: Film Locations Revisited
ISBN 9781841505633 Price £15.95, $25
20 | Fan Phenomena Bat Fan: Kim Newman 24 | Widescreen The Ice Man: Film-maker Jamie Stuart 30 | 1000 Words Way Out East
'I'm twelve. But I've been twelve for a long time.' Eli in Let the Right One In
EXPERIENCE GLOBAL CULTURE THROUGH THE MAGIC OF FILM
28 | Four Frames Doctor Zhivago 34 | On Location Reykjavík, Iceland 38 | Screengem The Rosebud Sled 42 | Parting Shot Snow Blind
The Directory of World Cinema aims to play a part in moving intelligent, scholarly criticism beyond the academy. Each volume of the Directory
44 | Competition Picture This
provides a culturally representative insight into a national or regional cinema through a collection of reviews, essays, resources, and film stills highlighting significant films and players. Over time, new editions are being published for each volume, gradually building a comprehensive guide to the cinema of each region. To contribute to the project or purchase copies please visit the website.
cover image zaitochi meets yojimbo ( 1970)
04 | Reel World The Great White Silence
46 | Listings A roundup of this issue's featured films
The Big Picture ISSN 1759-0922 © 2013 intellect Ltd. Published by Intellect Ltd. The Mill, Parnall Road. Bristol BS16 3JG / www.intellectbooks.com Editorial office Tel. 0117 9589910 / E: email@example.com Publisher Masoud Yazdani Chief Editor & Design Gabriel Solomons Editor Neil Mitchell Contributors Liam Burke, Jez Conolly, Helen Cox, Neil Fox, Scott Jordan Harris, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Pamela Hutchinson, Neil Mitchell, Chris Rogers Please send all email enquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org / www.thebigpicturemagazine.com l The Big Picture magazine is published four times a year
reel world f i l m b e yo n d t h e b o r d e r s o f t h e s c r e e n
revived by the bfi in 2011,
The Great White Silence documents the 1910-1913 Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole led by Robert Falcon Scott. The film, shot by Herbert Ponting, is a poignant relic, memorialising the incredible journey of Britain’s doomed explorers. Reviving Ponting’s original footage, the story is told through inter-titles, which recreate his presentation of the footage with a joyous blend of stiff-upperlip Englishness and playful British humour. This canny storytelling device captures a real sense of the importance of this timeless expedition in which British explorers raced Roald Amundsen’s Norwegian team across the Beardmore Glacier and through blizzards and hazardous conditions in a race to the Pole. Complemented with new music by Simon Fisher Turner, the expedition is documented from the Cardiff departure point to the base on Ross Island. Ponting’s often poetic narration
captures everything from the team’s on-deck dancing to shots of yellow-tinted icebergs emerging from the deep ocean like grand slabs of Vienetta. As the team prepared for their final departure, the film-maker made the best of his time on the Great Ice Barrier to capture previously unseen footage of the local wildlife. Though his methods were questionable by today’s standards, (petting penguins and herding them like sheep is not exactly the done thing in wildlife documentarymaking), this is pioneering filmmaking at its most timeless. As the expedition sets off, high-angled cameras track the progress of the outgoing caravans towards the pole from an incredible vantage point. The great expedition is still being recorded for posterity: Captain Scott’s base-camp, the Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans, has been recorded by Google’s World Wonders Project, and in 2011, two teams of serving British Army Officers recreated Captains Scott and Amundsen’s routes in aid of the Royal British Legion. [tbp]
Though Ponting's methods were questionable by today’s standards... this is pioneering filmmaking at its most timeless.
TheGreat White Silence ni co l a ba lki nd wraps up warm, pays her respects to a fateful expedition and looks at the remarkable film that captured it.
left intertitles FROM THE FILM BELOW A CLOSE SHAVE
Images © 1924 Gaumont British Distributors
cover feature Y
left kanji watanabe below breaking the fourth wall
spotlight c i n e m a ' s t h e m at i c s t r a n d s
IKIRU (1952) Dir. Akira Kurosawa
Some way through Kurosawa's Ikiru, the title character, diagnosed with terminal cancer, sings a lament in a bar, staring deeply into the camera as he tunefully utters the line 'life is brief'. Ikiru uses a startling mix of direct address - with instances of characters staring straight into the audience’s soul, awakening us from our own complacency - alongside sequences where Shimura (Kanji Watanabe) is glimpsed through windows, mirrors and screens, enduring the confrontation with himself alone; it is his to bear after all. He slowly comes to grips with his fate, swinging between contemplation and wild abandon. It’s a film about a man, a father, facing death, which is close at hand as his ordered life within a comfortable, patriarchal system is wrenched from him by a natural force he can’t control. The focus on his face throughout makes us realise that he can’t comprehend it and that he can only, ultimately, surrender to it and live. NF
Images © 1952 Toho Company
Ikiru uses a startling mix of direct address with instances of characters staring straight into the audience’s soul...
alexa n d ra hel l er-n i chol as and ne il fox feel the chill in half a dozen movies where winter plays a central, evocative role.
spotlight cold facts
Images © 1971 Warner Bros. Pictures / 1996 PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971) Dir. Robert Altman
Altman’s revisionist Western challenges the figure of the masterful gunslinger protagonist ➜ ➜
left the last stand top right marge takes charge
spotlight c i n e m a ' s t h e m at i c s t r a n d s
After effectively taking over the unusually named town of Presbyterian Church in America’s Northwest, charismatic and corrupt John McCabe (Warren Beatty) meets his match in Constance Miller (Julie Christie), a British opium-addict who joins forces with him to run the town brothel. Altman’s revisionist Western challenges the figure of the masterful gunslinger protagonist when McCabe - after ignoring Mrs Miller’s advice and refusing to sell his business interests to shady mining company agents – is avenged by bounty killers who reveal that McCabe has never killed anyone. Shooting two of the hired goons in a way far from the noble shoot-outs of the traditional Western, McCabe himself is finally shot. In the film's most iconic scene, he dies freezing in the snow. As the ice covers his face, deleting his very identity, the howling winds and dense white landscape contrast with the warm gold tones and hazy oblivion that embrace Mrs Miller as she succumbs to the lure of an opium den. AH-N
Fargo (1996) Dir. Joel and Ethan Coen Combining kitsch and killing in a way that would make Murder, She Wrote’s Jessica Fletcher blush in her twin set and pearls, the Coen brothers’ cult classic Fargo combines the warmth of its investigative team with the wintry bleakness of their environment and the gruesome and absurd crimes that plague their region. Resplendent in her signature deployment of Ned Flanders-like catchphrases, local police chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) looks into a series of murders spanning from the failed kidnapping of Jean Lundergaard (Kristin Rudrüd) by Carl (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear (Peter Stormare). Set amongst the dreary banality of a Minnesota winter, the film contrasts the hope and optimism of pregnant Gunderson with the nihilism of the criminals themselves, culminating with an intersection of the two in the film’s climactic moment. When the police chief discovers Gaear feeding Carl through a wood chipper, spraying blood across the snowy landscape, a saddened Marge must face the darker side of human nature. AH-N
spotlight c i n e m a ' s t h e m at i c s t r a n d s Images © 1997 Fox Searchlight Pictures / 1998 Initial Entertainment Group
Lee's slow burning drama ensures that the impending impact of the ice storm is present throughout. ➜
The Ice Storm (1997) Dir. Ang Lee In1970s New Haven, Connecticut, there are many characters facing emotional turmoil. This turmoil, however, remains as deeply buried as the foliage that lies beneath the harsh snow surrounding the plush homes of the privileged adults and their bored, repressed and rebelling offspring. Of those portrayed, arrogant and egotistical Ben Hood (Kevin Kline), the adulterous husband of Elena (Joan Allen), is furthest removed from the consequences of his ego, and is the one who will come face to face with the devastating effects of the ice storm on the horizon in the most humiliating and humbling ways. Lee's slow burning drama ensures that the impending impact of the ice storm is present throughout. The screen drips with potent reds and dark, bloody premonitions that contrast beautifully with the sheer white power of the natural world's encroachment. Here, the struggle to survive winter is both physical and metaphorical. NF
above the family that freeze's together...
joshua's journey represents a bleak winter of the soul, as his whole belief system is shaken by the spectre of death. ➜
Savior (1998) Dir. Predrag Antonijevic In Savior, Dennis Quaid's prominent soldier Joshua sees his wife and child blown up in front of him, and when his pain causes him to exact blind revenge, he winds up in the foreign legion, where he must serve a grief-ridden sentence during the Balkans conflict. Joshua persistently retains anger at the perceived injustice of his loss and Savior's power lies in the constant focus on Quaid's features. Joshua's face is battered by the physical experiences he endures as he struggles to protect the newborn offspring of a woman whose life he instinctively saves. We see the emotional toll it takes through a classic star performance and framings that tell the story of a man's change from powerful to powerless, and the liberation that comes from relinquishing masculinity and embracing humanity. His journey represents a bleak winter of the soul, as his whole belief system is shaken by the spectre of death. NF
➜ above joshua and company
spotlight c i n e m a ' s t h e m at i c s t r a n d s
Images © 2008 EFTI, Sandrew Metronome Distribution Sverige AB
Let the Right One in (2008) Dir. Tomas Alfredson
Let the Right One In is as romantic as it is horrific as these two outsiders learn to join forces to battle a world that refuses to understand them. ➜
Bullied 12-year old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is an insular, delicate child incapable of fighting back against those who torment him until he slowly befriends the strange Eli (Lina Leandersson). Eli encourages Oskar to stand up to his tormentors, and in doing so his confidence builds, as does their firm friendship. This is challenged when Oskar discovers Eli is a vampire, but Let the Right One In is as romantic as it is horrific as these two outsiders learn to join forces to battle a world that refuses to understand them. The cold surroundings of the Stockholm suburbs contrast sharply with traditional depictions of childhood winters – Eli and Oskar’s world is hard, cruel and unforgiving, far from what are otherwise typical, rosy-cheeked clichés. With his white blonde hair and pale skin, Oskar risks vanishing completely into the wintry environment that engulfs him, but it is via his dark, oddly beautiful relationship with Eli that Oskar's sense of self, and their love, blossoms. AH-N left oskar reaches out below love in the strangest of places
12:01 PM (1973) Spring 2013
clockwise from opposite page installation as part of who goes there? exhibition on location for a recreation of the thing a scene from the other mother
film in a wider context
Ronnie van Hout is a New Zealand artist, living in Melbourne, Australia. He works with a wide variety of media including sculpture, video, painting, photography, embroidery and sound recordings. Ronnie has a longstanding relationship with John Carpenter’s notoriously gory horror film The Thing (1982) and recently spoke with Jez Conolly to explain the whys, hows and, crucially, whos. What initially drew you to The Thing as a source for your work?
It started in late 1982. I was about to finish my studies at art school when I was encouraged by some older students to apply for a job as a kitchen hand to winter over at Scott base in Antarctica.
A T h ousand Mile s from N owhe re , Man an artist’s response to John Carpenter’s The Thing Interview by j e z c o n o l ly
The evening before my interview for the job I went to a screening of The Thing. The film’s imagery did its work on my subconscious and contributed on some level to my fluffing the interview. However in 2006 a friend said that if I applied to be an artist in residence at Scott base I would probably be accepted. My Application used John Carpenter’s The Thing, John W Campbell’s source novella Who Goes There? and other fictional accounts of Antarctica as reference points for exploration and the creation of new work. The themes of replication, abjection and aliens that are so present in The Thing have probably been some of the main concerns of my art practise. The book and films focus on the personnel of the base and its interior and I felt this
was an important and more interesting investigation than the usual focus on the Antarctic environment. Scott base, which is the New Zealand Antarctic base, in so many ways echoes the layout and feel of the base constructed for The Thing. I found Antarctica to be an almost blank environment that compels people to look at themselves. It forces interiorisation because it is a huge, unrelenting place existing without humans or apparent visible life. A requirement of the Antarctic residency was that you had to make an artwork from your experiences. My first attempt was to make a sculptural work to be shown as a part of a mini-survey exhibition of my work at the Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand in 2009. The Title of the survey was Who Goes There? Making casts of objects is a large part of my practice, and comes out of an interest in the copy and its role and relationship to the original. Non-sexual
The themes of replication, abjection and aliens that are so present in The Thing have probably been some of the main concerns of my art practise.
art&film ronnie van hout
reproduction, or pathogenesis, is a strong theme throughout The Thing. I made a fibreglass copy of myself wearing my Antarctic cold weather gear, sitting in a white room. The room was dark until someone pressed a large red button to turn on the lights. The figure in this work titled The Thing sits impassively, a trickle of blood from its nose, an indication that maybe it is infected. In 2011, I wanted to make a number of short videos around the idea of acting, with its implications of playing a role, inhabiting and becoming another. Campbell wrote Who Goes There? as a response to his conflicted feelings toward his mother. The story goes that Campbell’s mother had an identical twin sister that he could not distinguish from his real mother. His mother’s sister would reject the young Campbell’s attempts to gain physical comfort, and he instead gained a feeling that people, even close ones, could not be trusted. The video work I made was titled The Other Mother, and is a copy of the blood testing scene from The
Thing. Typically, I played all the parts, shot and edited this work. I think the bloodtesting scene is one of the most pivotal in The Thing, and even though the film contains many scenes of abject horror, this one wreaks havoc. It is the scene that makes a mess, where things are broken as chaos ensues. It is the infantile pant-shitting scene, the ‘take that, mother!’ scene. Can you recall your first impressions of seeing the movie?
I remember seeing the film on my own, partly because I preferred this, and also because not many people I knew were into this type of film. It was a time when horror/sci-fi was still seen as B grade or schlock. The Thing is immediately convincing, and obviously a sophisticated and intelligent piece of cinema. The acting, camera, editing, lighting and soundtrack by Morricone tell you this is a serious film. The stand out and genre pushing aspect of the film are the special effects. No one had seen anything like them before, and it was probably these that most people would talk about. This was the body being torn apart, distorted and treated as an object, and unrelenting tension that was difficult to witness. The opening scenes of bright whiteness, the expansive landscape that seems to quickly move into its masculine interior and darkness, and then a gradual
clockwise from above the thing people exhibition at christchurch art gallery the other mother still 1-3
My work is still not done, and I am not finished with either Antarctica or The Thing. There are still many unexplored ideas between the location and story to take inspiration from.
destruction of that interior and the descent into chaos left an impression on me. It is a film that stays with you. Having been inspired by the film, how do you now regard it? i.e. what do you think it has left to give you if you were to watch it now?
My work is still not done, and I am not finished with either Antarctica or The Thing. There are still many unexplored ideas between the location and story to take inspiration from. One aspect of the film that I haven’t dealt with is the uncanny and inversely abject quality of the creature. When the creature reveals itself in moments of stress or detection it is basically formless, made of the most abject stuff,
gooey slime, bloody moist meat, oozy, unstructured and transforming. It is a film I will watch again, and revisit often. I consider it a classic piece of movie making, a complete, almost perfect, package of a film. Going through a film and looking at it closely, examining the edits does affect its power as entertainment. It has now infected my being as a piece of art material, and I will probably find it difficult to view the film objectively for some time. [tbp] Jez Conolly is currently writing a book about The Thing for publication in the Devil’s Advocates book series produced by Auteur.
architecture & film
Below Wim Wenders filmed around the wasteland of Podsdamer Platz for Wings of Desire prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall © 1987 Road Movies Filmproduktion
a dv e n t u r e s t h r o u g h t h e b u i lt a n d f i l m e d e n v i r o n m e n t s
On location filming captures a moment in time in the life of a city, but what happens to these locatons long after the camera's have finished rolling? ch r is r o g er s takes a look.
asid e fr om r epr esent i n g architecture in terms of meaning, mood and method, film has also simply recorded it. Much of this has subsequently disappeared through redevelopment, neglect or enemy action, leaving a memory encoded in celluloid. Unsurprisingly, London has been particularly affected. Ealing Studios filmed around the capital in the immediate post-war years, capturing vast swathes of Blitzed land that, in turn, disappeared as the city was rebuilt. Victorian and Edwardian housing in Lambeth that had survived wartime bombing was caught in Passport to Pimlico, only to be cleared shortly after in favour of Modernist blocks of flats (left). When villagers fighting to save their branch railway purloin an old locomotive from a local museum, The Titfield Thunderbolt is actually being manoeuvred through the elaborate barrel-vaulted portal of the Imperial Institute in South Kensington; completed in 1894, plans to replace the building were laid in secret the same year the film was released. Demolition began in 1957, and today only the campanile remains. Joseph Cubitt’s 1864 Blackfriars bridge, removed in 1985 save for its squat iron supports, features in Pool of London, as does London’s stillthriving dockland. The once-busy warehousing around Tower Bridge, especially the great brick canyon of Shad Thames with its atmospheric high-level walkways, was very popular with directors until regeneration robbed the quarter of its texture. Films as varied as Biggles, The Elephant Man, Highlander, The French Lieutenant’s Woman and The Long Good Friday (which also documented the decline of the Royal Docks much further east) were shot in the area. Other lost London buildings preserved on film range from the internationally-known to the quietly local. The original, revered
Michael Radford’s definitive visualisation of Nineteen Eighty-Four was filmed during the exact months in which Orwell set his novel. Use of locations such as the long-closed Battersea Power station and derelict Beckton gas works added to the already considerable poignancy of the project. Wembley Stadium was one of many locations visited during the making of the tense Boulting brothers thriller Seven Days To Noon. It was demolished in 2003. The Marine Engineers Memorial Building was erected in 1957 in the shadow of the Tower of London as an organisational headquarters and memorial to maritime crewmen who fell in two world wars. It stood in for a New York skyscraper in the quirky Peter Sellers comedy The Mouse That Roared, before demolition in 1999. Michael Radford’s definitive visualisation of Nineteen EightyFour was filmed during the exact months in which Orwell set his novel. Use of locations such as the long-closed Battersea Power station, derelict Beckton gas works (some time before Full Metal Jacket shot there) and the much-loved Alexandra Palace four years after it was nearly burnt to the ground added to the already considerable poignancy of the project, the tone of its literary source aside – lead actors Richard Burton and John Hurt were coping with terminal illness
and bereavement respectively as they worked. Elsewhere in the British Isles a Glasgow of the past, much of which no longer survives, was an unconventional setting for the little-seen but striking science fiction drama Death Watch, whilst the grand interiors of eighteenth century Powerscourt House in Ireland represented continental estates in Barry Lyndon only a few years before it too was reduced to a shell by fire. In mainland Europe, the Gare D’Orsay in Paris was the world’s first terminus for an electrified railway when opened in 1900. It was the last word in technology and luxury, yet closed less than forty years later. Its gaunt, decaying interior was the home for scenes from Welles’s The Trial and Bertolucci’s The Conformist. After threats of demolition were resisted, the station became the hugely popular Musee D’Orsay art museum. Wim Wenders centred Wings of Desire around the wasteland of Potsdamer Platz, then bisected by the Berlin Wall; sometimes lost architecture is not mourned. [tbp]
See more locations as they appear now in the World Fillm Locations series that include books on London, Berlin,Vienna, New York and many more.
Right Filming on location at Battersea Power station for 1984 © 1984 Umbrella-Rosenblum Films Production / location photo: Kieron McCann Opposite Passport to Pimlico and the China Walk Estate location photo: Kieron McCann
[web ] Read more 'Beyond the Frame' pieces on www.thebigpicturemagazine.com Spring 2013
FAN PHENOMENA BATMAN
Bat Fa� What was your first experience or encounter with Batman? I’m exactly the right age to have been brought into comics by the Adam West series, which is now sort of despised, but actually I’m the same age as [comic book writers] Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, a bit older than Mark Millar, but they all came in the same way. Adam West’s Batman was the thing that made us aware of American comics as opposed to The Beano, or Commando or other British comics. It was a craze in a way that I don't think a TV show could be a craze anymore in a multi-channel environment. This is a country where we had three channels, and if you were a kid you watched Batman in the same way you watched Thunderbirds or Doctor Who – interestingly both those franchises resonate throughout the rest of our lives as well. So, yeah, I would say I went through an intense period as a
child of being a Batman fan, going from the TV show to reading the comics, which then come over into Britain as ballast – so we had no sense of what was new or old. I remember reading what I now know were the contemporary Batman comics, which were before Neal Adams and Dick Giordano tried to make it serious, when it was sort of reflecting what the TV show was doing. However, because the show was so popular they also reprinted a lot of old stuff. I remember reading a lot of Dick Sprang-era Batman, as well as what I now know are like 1940s/1950s stuff – I hate to say Bob Kane because I know he drew almost none of it – so Jerry Robinson/Bill Finger Batman, that period. All that stuff was around and being republished. So, as a character and as a medium, Batman comics became a big thing for like two or three years, and like everybody else I came back through The Dark Knight Returns, which was probably the thing that made me read comics again having grown out of comics as everybody did back then. ➜
Award-winning novelist and short story writer Kim Newman has been a film critic for over two decades. In that time he has seen Batman reach cinematic heights, as well as crushing lows. Here he discusses Batman, adaptations and his own fandom. Interview by Liam Burke , editor of Fan Phenomena: Batman
'I don’t know what I think of as the real Batman, and I think that’s the strength of Batman as a character. It used to be said that every generation had its Hamlet, and now I think every generation has its Batman.' (opposite) Modern heroes , detail from a sculpture by Mauro Perucchetti © 2013 the artist / www.mauroperucchetti.com
fan phenomena batman
Across the decades there have been many different interpretations of Batman. Do you have a preferred version? I don’t know what I think of as the real Batman, and I think that’s the strength of Batman as a character. It used to be said that every generation had its Hamlet, and now I think every generation has its Batman. I find it quite funny that people now put down Adam West; without Adam West’s Batman, Batman [the comic] might well have been cancelled. Batman could be as famous now as Hawkman. It was not a comic that was doing particularly well. It was just because it became this weird TV show, which did something with it. The reaction afterwards was to go grim and gritty and dark and to say that these were the origins of Batman, and that’s true there’s a nightmare aspect to it that’s always been fascinating, but the Penguin has always been a camp character. He was camp before there was even a notion of camp; the same is true of the Mad Hatter, Tweedledum and Tweedledee and all those crazy 1950s’ comics. It was knowing, and it was also fun in a way that I think that quite a lot of modern comics sadly aren’t. I think comics now seem to be aimed at alienated 15-year-olds as opposed to the ‘gosh wow’ 9-yearolds. And in my fifties, I now find myself more in sympathy with 9-year-olds than 15-year-olds. I don’t know if this is correct, but it’s certainly the way I feel. As a Batman fan, can you recall any extreme moments in your own fandom? By the time the big budget Batman movies came out I was already a critic so I got the tickets, but I remember being desperate to get an extra ticket for the press screening of the first Batman movie in 1989 [dir. Tim Burton] because a girl I was keen on really wanted to see it. It didn’t work out, but I got the
ticket. I remember the crushing disappointment of Batman Forever [Schumacher, 1995] and Batman & Robin [Schumacher, 1997]. Actually the girl I’m seeing now said she would kill herself if I didn’t get her in to see the new Dark Knight movie, so this is something that’s never going away in my life. As like a 7, 8-year-old I remember going to the first Batman movie, the Adam West one, and thinking that was like the best movie ever made, maybe not as good as The Dalek Invasion of Earth [Felmyng, 1966], but for an 8-year-old the best movie made that year. I’ve not been a collector, but I have done that terrible thing you can do now as a grown-up with a disposable income, buying back all the comics I had as a kid that disappeared for one reason or another. I suppose the sad thing is, the £20 I pay for an issue now means less to me than the six pence pocket money that would buy the plastic bags with the three comics. I do remember that period of Batmania. Why do you think Batman compels such devotion among fans? Superman is the archetype. Superman is the ideal of the hero, and Batman is the shadow, the one you need as well. It’s why the World’s Finest team-up always worked better when they were friends rather than when they tried to make them antagonists. They need each other, they need the yin and the yang. All superheroes define themselves by how alike they are, or how different they are from Superman. They’ve tried to say in subsequent years that Batman’s generic ancestors are Zorro, or The Shadow, or The Bat – the silent film character – to say there’s this other tradition, the dark avenger tradition. That didn’t really happen in Batman comics until the 1970s, there was a whole lot of Batman as a fun character before then when his cowl was blue, and the art was kind of goofy and even when it was scary it was sort of charming scary; and also Batman had Robin, so Batman had a light sidekick. [tbp]
A new book series that ‘decodes’ icons of popular culture written by & for those of a passionate disposition
'I find it quite funny that people now put down Adam West; without Adam West’s Batman, Batman [the comic] might well have been cancelled. Batman could be as famous now as Hawkman.'
Fan Phenomena Buffy the Vampire Slayer Edited by Jennifer K. Stuller ISBN: 978-1-78320-019-1 £14.95 / $20
Fan Phenomena Doctor Who Edited by Paul Booth ISBN: 978-1-78320-020-7 £14.95 / $20
Fan Phenomena Twin Peaks Edited by Marisa C. Hayes and Franck Boulegue ISBN: 978-1-78320-024-5 £14.95 / $20
Fan Phenomena Star Trek Edited by Bruce Drushel ISBN: 978-1-78320-023-8 £14.95 / $20
Fan Phenomena Batman Edited by Liam Burke ISBN: 978-1-78320-017-7 £14.95 / $20
(above) life magazine cover from 1966 © life magazine
Read more of this interview in Fan Phenomena: Batman
Fan Phenomena Star Wars Edited by Mika Elovaara ISBN: 978-1-78320-022-1 £14.95 / $20
due out August 2013 For further information about the series and news of forthcoming titles visit www.intellectbooks.com Follow progress of all titles by liking the Fan Phenomena Book Series page on Facebook
'You can tell from the cinematography he knew exactly what he was doing and how to do it... Any professional will tell you the talent exhibited here is extraordinary.' – Roger Ebert
widescreen film in a wider context
the ice man
Film-maker Jamie Stuart talks to The Big Picture about the short film that took him a long way. Interview by Helen Cox
it 's n o t o f t e n t h at mainstream critics publicly praise a short film for its artistic merits/ Many industry journalists would even go so far as to assert that short films are a bit of a waste of time; nothing more than a calling card for those who want to make 'real' films. Film-maker Jamie Stuart, however, is one of the chosen few to buck this trend, as lauded film writer Roger Ebert singled out his film Man in a Blizzard as an evocative example of short cinema and simultaneously suggested that it should win an Academy Award for best live action short. The film, that runs for just over three and a half minutes, is a careful composition that collages roof tiles and chimney pots dusted in snow, cars making black tracks on blank snowy canvases and buildings hiding behind the haze of winter. As gusts of snow swarm past street signs, Christmas bulbs and the piercing glare of security cameras, people in fur-lined coats push cars out of drifts, try to start their motorcycles and walk their dogs - in matching fur-lined coats. In these brief flickers of action, between cuts, life happens; a moment is captured and the audience ➜
When Roger Ebert tipped off the world about Stuart’s work.. his film was watched over a million times online and garnered international interest. He has since worked with companies such as CNN, MCN and Filmmaker Magazine.
widescreen jamie stuart
Top Idiot with a Tripod Above Man with a Movie Camera ‘The first time I watched Man with a Movie Camera, I felt as if I'd seen it already. So much of what's in it has been filtered through filmmaking...
The making of Man in a Blizzard was an important step in raising Stuart’s profile as previously his films had proven to be somewhat niche...
is drawn into icy memories of winters past. There is no glossy Hollywood sheen here, just carefully selected images that create a sense of time and place. This brand of direction doesn’t just happen, it takes tact and an appreciation for the audience’s need for space and stillness. In discussing Stuart’s work, which was shot in a blizzard in 2010, Ebert drew distinct parallels with Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera, a silent film from 1929. Even going so far as to re-name it, (Stuart’s original title was Idiot with a Tripod), and suggest that it acted as something of a homage. When asked about how Vertov’s piece had influenced his work Stuart replied: ‘The first time I watched Man with a Movie Camera, I felt as if I'd seen it already. So much of what's in it has been filtered through filmmaking - editing patterns, etc. - that my primary response was how impressive it was to have been made when it was. But I don't know that it had any revelatory influence on me because it was already part of my vocabulary. I had a similar reaction the first time I saw Koyaanisqatsi.’ Stuart further comments: ‘When I was shooting the film, Movie Camera was not on my mind at all - I was just trying to get something, anything. When I got back home after shooting it, before I edited anything, I emailed a friend and said: "I'm the idiot who just went outside to shoot in the snow." So, ultimately, the title, Idiot with a Tripod, sprung from that. It was Roger Ebert, of course, who really ran with the Movie Camera reference. When he uploaded my original Quicktime to YouTube, he called it Man in a Blizzard. I actually think Movie Camera had a bigger influence on a short I did a couple of months earlier called, NYFF48.’ Stuart’s understanding of classic film is deeply evident when watching Man in a Blizzard and when asked about his favourite
filmmakers Stuart lists a formidable range of revered names within the industry: ‘My favourite film maker is easily Stanley Kubrick. After him, I'd say Francis Ford Coppola, the Coens, Bergman, Fellini, Spielberg. A major influence on my work has been the '90s music videos of people like David Fincher, Mark Romanek, Spike Jonze and others. When I was first starting out doing web filmmaking, knowing my pieces would be in the 3-5 minute range, having a strong knowledge of how they put together their videos, which were the same length, was a huge help. I'm very much interested in natural and practical light.’ Stuart cites Kubrick’s longterm DP John Alcott as another important influence on his work and further states: ‘Harris Savides was a great help to me as I was starting out, and he often gave me his opinions of my work, and vice-versa. When I was doing press interviews for Idiot, he joked to me whether I was name-dropping him at all. I told him no, but that I had an old manual Nikon lens on my camera during a press shoot, so he was there in spirit. He liked that.’ The making of Man in a Blizzard was an important step in raising Stuart’s profile as previously his films had proven to be somewhat niche: ‘Most of my work at the time focused on indie film. I was best known for making these bizarre short films that would feature film-makers like Werner Herzog or George Clooney or Steven Soderbergh or Clint Eastwood, whom I had access to via press opportunities, and then I'd improvise narratives around that. Sometimes I even starred in the shorts myself. So I was wellknown within a certain clique, but there wasn't any general interest in my work outside of that.’ When Ebert tipped off the world about Stuart’s work, however, his film was watched over a million times online and garnered international interest. He has since worked with companies such as CNN, MCN and Filmmaker Magazine. Stuart credits the universally accessible theme as a reason for the film’s popularity although its for-
When asked what his favourite moment of the piece is, Stuart’s response betrays the bitter truth about film-making: the parts the makers are most attached to always end up on the cutting room floor. 'I wasn't that cold -- I was bundled, had a hat, gloves and scarf. The one stupid thing I did was to forget my snow boots and wore my Adidas, which, along with my pants, were soaked by the time I got in.' Below Jamie's appearance on ITV Daybreak January 3rd, 2011
mat and timing also had a part to play: ‘When I shot the blizzard, I figured it might be something that could get a few more views, since the subject was more universal -- but, obviously, I didn't expect it to be as big as it wound up. Also, at the time, this was right in the middle of the DSLR craze, and websites like Vimeo, for instance, were filled with cameramen posting non-verbal mood films. I'd posted several, myself, as tests of new lenses and so on. When Idiot blew up, that was the mainstream apex of that type of film.’ As a viewer, Man in a Blizzard is gentle and moving, inviting its audience to observe quietly and contemplate man’s struggle against nature. For Stuart, however, the film has much more specific connotations: ‘The emotions I feel when I see it are based more around what it did for my career, as opposed to anything specifically on screen. I recently screened a 70-minute retrospective of my work at Lincoln Center, and by far, Idiot got the most applause. I don't know whether people really like it the best or whether it's because it's so well-known. Personally, in terms of actual quality, I consider it pretty much midrange for what I've done.’ Amusingly, Stuart’s friends are not always as bewitched by his talents as his audiences are: ‘In the middle of the hype around it
back in '10/'11’ he relays ‘a friend wrote to congratulate me - but he said that he thought this particular short was nothing out of the ordinary and was something I could've done in my sleep. You never know what's going to hit.’ When asked what his favourite moment of the piece is, Stuart’s response betrays the bitter truth about film-making: the parts the makers are most attached to always end up on the cutting room floor: ‘I don't know if I have a favourite moment in the film itself. I think my favourite moments are things nobody ever saw. For instance, during the cross-cut climax, one of the situations is a bunch of people trying to help a stuck car get free. Although it's just a handful of quick cuts in the finished short, in reality, I was shooting them for something like 6 minutes straight. So while all of these people were being good Samaritans and trying to get this car going, I was the jerk that just stood there filming it. When it was finally over, as one of the people walked past me, I said something like, "That was great!" He ignored me and kept walking.’ Stuart may have annoyed one or two of his fellow townsfolk but ultimately it got him the attention of one of the most influential film critics in the world. As the tagline from The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010) taught us, you don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies. [tbp]
watch Idiot with a Tripod (Man in a Blizzard) here » tinyurl.com/2cw9n8p Spring 2013
four frames t h e a r t o f a b b r e v i at e d s t o r y t e l l i n g
Doctor Zhivago Dir. David Lean, 1965
As n ei l m i tc h ell explains, David Lean used a wintry environment to memorable effect in his 1965 epic tale of love, duty and revolution. b o r i s p a s t e r n a k ' s sprawling novel Doctor Zhivago (1957) provided perfect material for David Lean's brand of epic big screen film-making. The director of The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962), a master at weaving intimate personal portraits through sweeping period pieces, brought Zhivago to life in a suitably grand, compelling fashion. Pasternak's tale of an ill fated love affair, set amidst the social upheaval of World War I, the Russian Revolution and subsequent Civil War, linked its titular character's turbulent private life to the fluctuating fortunes of Yuri Zhivago's (Omar Sharif) beloved homeland. Fleeing the politically dangerous atmosphere in Moscow, the doctor and 'petit bourgeois' poet escapes with his family by train to their country estate beyond the Ural Mountains. Lean's expert contrast of close up, mid and long shots during a sequence where the passengers take in the wintry majesty of the Urals, in scenes actually shot in Canada, is a beautiful illustration of Lean's mastery of visual storytelling. The depiction of both geographical landscapes and emotional terrain is strikingly portrayed as Lean forewarns the viewer that Zhivago is heading towards more trouble. The doctor's brief reverie is disturbed by the thunderous approach of another train, one presided over by Bolshevik commander Strelnikov (Tom Courtenay). Unbeknownst to Zhivago, Strelnikov is an incarnation of the idealistic, and presumed dead, Pasha, husband of Zhivago's true love, Lana (Julie Christie). Like the parallel lines of the tracks through the snow covered countryside, Zhivago and Strelnikov's lives run side by side through the narrative, only crossing paths at brief, but telling, junctures. The forward momentum of Strelnikov's train as it heads off into the distance is symbolic of the inexorable pull of destiny that will lead Zhivago and Strelnikov towards their respective, tragic fates. Read More f o u r f r a m e s online at www.thebigpicturemagazine.com Images ÂŠ 1965 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Images © 1920 D.W. Griffith Productions
opposite lillian gish
m o m e n t s t h at c h a n g e d c i n e m a f o r e v e r
pam e l a h utchinson describes how a leading lady braved some very real icy pitfalls for her demanding director, in scenes that would prove influential in unexpected places.
right on set with the director below the passionate star
SEDUCED AND BETRAYED by a scoundrel, mother to a dead child, and cast out by an unfeeling employer, 'frenzied – tortured” Anna Moore (Lillian Gish) stumbles out into a blizzard and, hearing the rush of the river, on to her certain death. The melodramatic climax of DW Griffith’s oldtime tearjerker Way Down East (1920) is a violent assault on the audience’s emotional wellbeing. Anna collapses in the snow, and asleep on a sheet of ice, drifts downstream towards a waterfall. Her hair and her hands dip in the icy water, icicles collect on her eyelashes, snowflakes gather on her cheeks… and all the time, just too far behind her, a true-hearted gentleman in a fur coat (Richard Barthelmess) leaps from floe to floe in pursuit, hoping to save her from death, from his own father’s coldhearted cruelty, and from her moral disgrace. Even in 1920, this was a bit much for most film-goers to swallow. Griffith had spent thousands on acquiring the film rights to Lottie Blair Parker’s 19th-century stage play, a huge hit in the provinces but hopelessly dated: a hokey melodrama, hinging on unlikely events and leavened with rustic humour. Even the waif to end all waifs, wide-eyed Lillian Gish, was concerned about playing naïve country girl Anna Moore,
who is tricked into a mock marriage by an unscrupulous womaniser. But if they were to recoup some of that money, the cast and crew were going to have to make the cinema-going public believe in Way Down East. And for that, Griffith needed to show them something authentic. ‘Audiences want to see a real blizzard, not a sub-title with a two sentence description. If this film was going to work, the audiences wanted to see the real thing. Otherwise, whatever we did would be laughable,’ worried Gish. And she was right to be concerned. At the opening night in New York, the audience howled with laughter – until the ice sequence – which is, despite the inserted footage of Niagara falls and canny editing, a triumph of endurance and performance rather than special effects. The sentimental appeal of Gish's frozen tears, and the very real danger she is in during this scene would melt the hardest heart. It’s not just a nail-biting finale to a movie, it’s a spectacle of human courage – and it called for dedication above and beyond the call of cinematic duty.
...the cast and crew were going to have to make the cinema-going public believe in Way Down East. And for that, Griffith needed to show them something authentic.
1000 words WAY DOWN EAST
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left lillian gish suffers for her art opposite Lillian gish & Richard Barthelmess
Weeks prior to the shoot, Gish had been jumping into an ice bath every morning, and walking the streets without a coat in order to get used to the cold.
A fortnight spent filming in a real blizzard and a ‘ninetymile-an-hour gale’ in White River Junction, Vermont, took its toll on cast and crew both. The cameramen lay down on the ice to hold the camera still, but sheltered themselves from the wind, while Gish, in a simple dress and shawl, faced the gusts until her face turned blue. When ice crystals formed on her face, Griffith had his crew film a closeup before offering her a blanket and a cup of hot tea. While it was Gish’s idea to
drape her hair and hands in the river, her director gladly agreed – to the cost of her frostbiteravaged fingers. Barthelmess for one, was unimpressed. ‘I would not make that picture again for any money that a producer would be willing to pay for it,’ he said, complaining of the risks he took running across the plywood ice floes. ‘I had on a heavy fur coat, and if I slipped, or if one of the cakes cracked and let me through, my chances would not have been good.’ For Gish, however, it was all worth it. ‘No sacrifice was too great to get it right, to get it accurate, true, and perfect.’ Weeks prior to the shoot, Gish had been jumping into an ice bath every morning, and walking the streets without a coat in order to get used to the cold. By the time the blizzard arrived, on 6 March 1920, and filming of the scene began, Gish had already risked her health for Way Down East. But then, her devotion to her craft, and her director, was boundless. It’s still a familiar story in press interviews to read about the macho action hero who does
Buy the 2011 Kino Classics Blu-Ray edition of Way Down East » tinyurl.com/bctfq4q
all his own stunts, or the crash diet undertaken by an ingénue for an unmissable role, but few so publicly admit, as Gish did, the emotional consequences of suffering for her art. ‘When I was absorbed in one of Mr Griffith’s pictures, I underwent a period of creative fervour that to me was intense happiness,’ she later said. ‘At the time, I hadn’t enough insight to know that I was using hard work as a smoke screen to cover my almost complete retreat from life.’ Audiences believed the blizzard was real, because it was, but there was a painful authenticity also in Gish’s portrayal of a young woman putting too much trust in a man, and paying the price. And Way Down East's aura of authenticity paid dividends: in the shape of $4,500,000 at the box office, and an unbeatable universal appeal. Griffith had calculated that audiences would enjoy his terrifying action sequence in the same way that they were thrilled by adventure serials such as The Perils of Pauline (Louis J. Gasnier, Donald MacKenzie, 1914). But while Pearl White’s feisty Pauline repeatedly saved herself and others from danger, Anna was a Victorian throwback: a passive victim of the ice, suicidal and waiting to be redeemed
by the love, and the bravery, of a good man. It’s hardly the same thing, but old-fashioned or not, the cinematic strength of the ice-floe sequence allowed Way Down East’s influence to travel to the most unexpected quarters. Years later, Soviet film director Vsevolod Pudovkin would shoot a scene inspired by this one, but with no Richard Barthelmess to save the day. At the climax of his Mother (1926), a crowd of escaped prisoners flee across melting river-ice, but both the heroine and her revolutionary son are killed by Tsarist soldiers. It's further proof of Griffith's film's emotional appeal that Way Down East’s heavy symbolism of ice thawing as hope enters a harsh winter landscape and its themes of maternal sacrifice and oppressive patriarchy, can be reworked into such different material. But then again, the opening titles of Griffith’s film promise a 'story that brings home to men the suffering caused by our selfishness” and Pudovkin closes his with a socialist flag. Perhaps, out on the ice, they are not so very different after all. [tbp]
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on location t h e p l a c e s t h at m a k e t h e m o v i e s
opposite the eponymous 'jar city' below Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson
j e z c o no l ly, takes a cinematic trip around the striking Icelandic capital.
The title refers to the medical specimens kept at Reykjavík’s Genetic Research Centre, where Erlendur’s investigations lead. ➜
JAR CITY (2006) Dir. Baltasar Kormákur ICE, 93 minutes Starring: Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir and Björn Hlynur Haraldsson
Based on Arnaldur Indriðason’s novel Mýrin, Jar City follows the investigations of Inspector Erlendur (Sigurðsson) into the recent killing of an aging petty criminal and its connections with the thirty-year-old unsolved murder of a child. The unfolding case coincides not only with the grief of a scientist, working at a secret ultra-modern laboratory, at the passing of his child from a rare genetic brain condition, but also with Erlendur’s attempts to save his relationship with his pregnant, drug-addicted daughter, Eva (Erlendsdóttir). In depicting the gradual alignment of these parallel threads, director Kormákur drew on the natural and manmade palette of Reykjavík to capture a background of suitably cold, bleak colours; volcanic rock black, cold sea grey and geyser steam white are matched by the monotones of the buildings, the industrial smoke and the washed-out pallor of the characters. The title refers to the medical specimens kept at Reykjavík’s Genetic Research Centre, where Erlendur’s investigations lead.
Images © 2006 Bavaria Pictures
on location t h e p l a c e s t h at m a k e t h e m o v i e s
Reykjavík Reykjavík-Rotterdam (2008) Dir. Óskar Jónasson ICE, 88 minutes Starring Baltasar Kormákur, Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson and Lilja Nótt Þórarinsdóttir
Hylnur approaches the personal crisis that is his thirtieth birthday with all the directionless, inebriated ennui of an aging geek all at sea. ➜
Recently remade in English as Contraband (Baltasar Kormákur 2012) - produced by and starring Mark Wahlberg - Óskar Jónasson’s Reykjavík-Rotterdam concerns ex-con security guard and family man Kristófer (Kormákur) reluctantly taking on one last booze-smuggling job from Iceland to Holland in order to make ends meet. Much of the film’s middle section takes place on board the cargo ship in which the illicit liquor is being transported, but prior to this we are introduced to the gritty underworld of Reykjavík; a place inhabited by desperate individuals and violent, idiotic gangsters portrayed with sledgehammer subtlety and blood-dark humour. The criminal environment of the small seaport city is captured here by director Jónasson and his cinematographer Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson with much of the low lit street realism found in the work of legendary lensman Owen Roizman (The French Connection , The Taking of Pelham One Two Three  and Straight Time ).
City State (2011) Dir. Olaf de Fleur Johannesson ICE, 87 minutes Starring: Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir, Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson and Jonathan Pryce
101 Reykjavík (2000) Dir. Baltasar Kormákur ICE, 88 minutes Starring: Victoria Abril, Hilmir Snær Guðnason and Hanna María Karlsdóttir
Perhaps the most widely known film to have emerged from Iceland, 101 Reykjavík presents the city, primarily the central postal code referred to in the title and specifically the Kaffibarinn bar on Bergstadastraeti (partowned by director Kormákur and Blur front man Damon Albarn), as the epicentre of cool cultural disaffection. Amid the corrugations of the city’s multi-coloured iron clad buildings, Hylnur (Guðnason) approaches the personal crisis that is his thirtieth birthday with all the directionless, inebriated ennui of an aging geek all at sea. Hylnur is adrift in either his bedroom or the bar, drinking to numb the sense of isolation. His mother Berglind (Karlsdóttir) takes a lesbian lover in the shape of Spanish flamenco instructor Lola Milagros (Abril), whose presence disrupts Hylnur’s static, disconnected life. Lola’s pregnancy as a result of a night of drunken passion with Hylnur ultimately leads him to reassess his values and become a part of the wider world.
Another Reykjavik set film scheduled for an English language remake (purported to be directed by James Mangold), City State is a beautifully choreographed, hard-boiled thriller concerning a Serbian mechanic whose partner loses their unborn child after an attack by a drug gang. When he vows revenge his fate becomes entangled with a policewoman who turns avenging angel after being attacked by thugs, her corrupt commander who is in love with a prostitute and a crime kingpin with a heart condition. Much of the film’s style and narrative owes a debt to the Hollywood template for stories about bent cops and their criminal associates, but it is lent a distinctively claustrophobic feel by its use of close-ups and natural light; film-making decisions that were perhaps driven more by budgetary constraints than creative choice. The film was made during Iceland’s banking crisis, which meant that some imaginative financing was required to complete production.
Images Opposite © 2006 Blueeyes Productions Top © 2008 Bavaria Pictures / Above © 2011 Poppoli Pictures
Buy World Film Locations: Reykjavík from Amazon and www.intellectbooks.com Spring 2013
Images © 1941 Mercury Productions, RKO Radio Pictures
screengem e vo c at i v e o b j e c t s o n s c r e e n
The Rosebud Sled
s cot t jordan h arris takes a look at arguably Cinema's most evocative screen object and attempts to uncover the secret of it's enduring appeal.
pr act i ca l ly ev ery n ota b l e bit of movie memorabilia has been bought for some obscene sum by some obsessive fan. But the sale of the Rosebud sled was special: the buyer who forked out a fortune for it wasn’t bidding on behalf of an ostentatious movie museum-cumcafé or an anonymous Charles Foster Kane-esque collector. He was Steven Spielberg.
Just as Citizen Kane is often the default answer to the unanswerable question of what is the greatest film ever made, so its Rosebud sled is often the answer to the equally impossible question of what is film’s most evocative object. Within the film, Rosebud is the undiscovered answer to the riddle that powers the entire plot, while to audiences it is symbolic of the loss of maternal love, childhood and a life unspoiled by greed or ambition. Rosebud’s final, devastating appearance – when it is tossed into an incinerator by a pair of uncomprehending workmen – is, quite simply, the key scene in the world’s most celebrated film. Although it will be forever associated with Orson Welles, the sled was actually the invention
Screengems: 50 of Film's Most Evocative Objects
of his co-writer, Herman J. Mankiewicz. As a boy, Mankiewicz had his beloved bicycle stolen when he left it outside a library. As a harsh punishment for what they apparently saw as his carelessness, his parents refused to buy him a replacement and Mankiewicz mourned the loss his entire life. In his childhood, his lost bicycle became emblematic of Mankiewicz’s lost innocence. In his adulthood, it mutated into a lost sled and became emblematic of a masterpiece.
Within the film, Rosebud is the undiscovered answer to the riddle that powers the entire plot, while to audiences it is symbolic of the loss of maternal love, childhood and a life unspoiled by greed or ambition.
And by becoming emblematic of Citizen Kane, Rosebud became emblematic of Orson Welles’s achievement as its director – an achievement envied and imitated by every artistic-minded moviemaker of the last half century. But just as C. F. Kane found it impossible to recapture his childhood, so every would-be Welles has found it impossible to replicate Kane’s quality and impact – and so it is unsurprising that filmmakers would fetishise the object that best represents it. The Rosebud sled is the secret of Citizen Kane. Perhaps that is why Steven Spielberg was so keen to possess it. [tbp]
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The denouement of Kihachi Okamoto's Samurai Assassin (1965), loosely inspired by an historical incident, takes place amid a ferocious blizzard. The weather compliments the intensity of the violence meted out during an assassination attempt on an unpopular nobleman and the bleakness of the narrative's conclusion. In a whirlwind of snow and flashing blades Toshiro Mifune's illegitimate, social outcast Niiro, hoping to attain full Samurai status, beheads Lord Li Naosuke. What the viewer and Niiro's duplicitous superior knows but Niiro doesn't, is that he has just murdered his father. Kenji Misumi's Zatoichi Challenged (1967), after just five years already the seventeenth entry in the series, employs a steady downfall of snow that reflects the zen-like calm of the titular blind swordsman for its final showdown. Honour bound to protect a family that are marked for execution, Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu) faces off against the implacable Akazuka (Jushiro Konoe), the Samurai sent to carry out the killings. Defeated, Akazuka retreats, leaving a trail of blood as he departs. A striking visual image, the bloodstain – red on white – also matches the colours of the national flag, a stark comment on the country's often bloody past.
Snow is much more than just a background extra in Samurai movies, nei l mitche ll muses on its pointed, repeated appearance in the genre's climactic sword fights.
Whether oppressive or plaintive, historically symbolic or emotionally resonant, the snowbound Samurai sword-fight is always a multi-layered viewing experience.
t he si g ht o f sn ow , from heavy downfalls to light dustings, is a regular feature of the Samurai movie genre. The revenge of the forty seven Ronin in 1702, Japan's 'national legend', has often been depicted as having taken place under wintry conditions, so it's no surprise that the country's filmmakers have used snow symbolically as well as aesthetically. A recurring aspect of the Samurai movie is a climactic, snowbound sword fight, a scene always rich in visual impact, emotional weight and referential meaning.
Takashi Miike utilizes snow's melancholic, mournful qualities during the climax of Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (2011), his remake of Masaki Kobayashi's Harakiri (1962). This slow burning tale of honour and vengeance concludes as poverty stricken Samurai Kageyu (Koji Yakusho) faces certain death as he takes on his enemies armed only with a wooden sword. Whether oppressive or plaintive, historically symbolic or emotionally resonant, the snowbound Samurai sword-fight is always a multilayered viewing experience. [tbp]
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The story of the 47 Ronin explained » tinyurl.com/2exo74 Spring 2013
Images © 2011 Recorded Picture Company (RPC) / 1965 Mifune Productions Co. Ltd.
clockwise from opposite zaitochi meets yojimbo hara-kiri: death of a samurai samurai assassin
i m i tat i o n i s t h e s i n c e r e s t f o r m o f f l at t e r y
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The Great White Silence (1924) Dir. Herbert G. Ponting g see page 4/5
Ikiru (1952) Dir. Akira Kurosawa g see pages 6/7
Dark Passage (1947) Dir. Delmer Daves g see page 8
McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971) Dir. Robert Altman g see page 7
Fargo (1997) Dir. Joel and Ethan Coen
Reykjavík Rotterdam (2008) Dir. Óskar Jónasson g see page 37
City State (2011) Dir. Olaf de Fleur Johannesson g see page 37
Citizen Kane (1941) The Ice Storm (1997) Dir. Orson Welles Dir. Ang Lee g see pages 38/39 g see page 9 Zaitochi Challenged (1967) Dir. Kenji Misumi. Saviour (1998) Dir. Predrag Antonijevic g see page 42 Let the Right One In (2008) Dir. Tomas Alfredson
Hara-Kiri: Death of A Samurai (2011) Dir. Takashi Miike
g see pages 12/13
g see page 43
Doctor Zhivago (1965) Dir. David Lean
Samurai Assassin (1965) Dir. Kihachi Okamoto
g see page 28
g see page 43
Remember to follow thebigpicture on
Intellect is an independent academic publisher in the fields of creative practice and popular Way Out East (1920) culture, publishing scholarly books and journals Dir. D.W. Griffiths that exemplify their mission as publishers of g see page 30 original thinking. Theyaim to provide a vital Jar City (2006) space for widening critical debate in new and Dir. Baltasar Kormákur emerging subjects, and in this way they differ g see pages 34/35 from other publishers by campaigning for the 101 Reykjavík (2000) Dir. Baltasar Kormákur author rather than producing a book or journal g see page 36 to fill a gap in the market.
g see page 8
g see page 10/11
Intellect publish in four distinct subject areas: visual arts, film studies, cultural and media studies, and performing arts. These categories host Intellect’s ever-expanding topics of enquiry, which include photography, drawing, curation, community music, gaming and scenography. Intellect titles are often multidisciplinary, presenting scholarly work at the cross section of arts, media and creative practice.
Published as a bi-monthly, Film International covers all aspects of film culture in a visually dynamic way. This new breed of film magazine brings together established film scholars with renowned journalists to provide an informed and animated commentary on the spectacle of world cinema.
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Published on Dec 10, 2013
This issue looks at recurring themes seen in films that use this harshest of seasons as a backdrop or key story device. From Samurai and hit...