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COVER illustration by

paul willoughby WORDS BY

matt bochenski

002 THE darjeeling limited ISSUE


“I think we have a chance to make this a kind of life-changing experience.� 003


004 THE darjEEling limiTEd ISSUE


DIRECTED BY Wes Anderson STARRING Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman RELEASED November 23

005


The Darjeeling Limited offers worrying evidence that brand Anderson is starting to lose its lustre.

006 THE darjeeling limited ISSUE


Wes Anderson is at the Venice Film Festival.

The Darjeeling Limited has just

celebrated its world premiere, and he’s not sure what to do next. Not in an existential way, he’s just, literally, not sure where he wants to go. Maybe Rome. Maybe Moscow. Perhaps Paris. At some point he should get back to Manhattan. Twelve hours later he’s on a crosscontinental train to the Eternal City with Roman Coppola, a bunch of monogrammed suitcases and €10,000 of Bill Murray’s cash with instructions to deliver it to a guy called Luigi. The story is relevant because The Darjeeling Limited hangs from the thin thread of Anderson’s own life. The world he creates on screen is so peculiar, so extraordinarily piquant and particular, that if it wasn’t for the fact that he actually inhabits the same disjointed reality, the whole thing would fold in on itself like a collapsing star. Anderson’s persona is as carefully constructed as his films. With his tailored suits, silk scarves and side-parting, he’s a man out of time – too nerdy for the cool kids, too chic for the geeks. He’s The Great Gatsby meets Evelyn Waugh, part of America’s underground aristocracy who’ll pitch up anywhere from Paris to Tokyo in love with the romance of their own breakneck success. But Wes Anderson isn’t an outsider anymore. Five films in to a remarkable career, there’s a sudden sense of stagnation. For all the startling promise of Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, Anderson is, arguably, yet to blossom into something credible and complete. He has ducked the challenge of expanding his repertoire, stuck with the same familiar players, covering the same familiar ground. With The Darjeeling Limited comes the time for Anderson to prove that he’s more than just an artful dodger. ▼

007


The journey begins with a short, Hotel Chevalier, that won’t be released in cinemas but is available to download. It’s worth making the effort, not just because it’s a valuable prologue to the main action but because it reveals an essential truth about Anderson as a filmmaker: a little goes a long way.

Jason Schwartzman is Jack,

a lovelorn refugee hiding from

an ex (Natalie Portman, sashying around like a sexy hobbit with that cropped hair) in the swish Parisian hotel of the title. When she finds him they spit recriminations (“If we fuck I’ll feel like shit tomorrow,” says Portman. “That’s okay with me,” replies Jack) before heading for the bedroom. Portman’s naked body is covered in ugly, inexplicable bruises, and yet the cellulite around her legs (so normal and yet so rarely seen on screen) is evidence of a deeper, more truthful beauty. Hotel Chevalier has a machine-tooled precision. There are sly hints of the journey to come (a book of art by Egon Schiele, whose father was a station master, stands out on a sideboard) and yet it’s to be enjoyed on its own terms. The camera moves with a delicate fluency, a kind of sly, sideways shuffle alternating with compulsive close-ups. There’s a steady sense of absurdity matched only by Anderson’s meticulous attention to detail, from Jack’s ridiculous yellow robe, to the way the colours of a painting warp in the caramel light. It’s a 13-minute snapshot of Anderson at his best: strange, oblique, and mannered but also moving in a quiet, indefinite way. The final shot from the hotel balcony is both wonderfully simple and masterfully composed, suggesting, perhaps, that there are a hundred other lives playing out a hundred other dramas, all of them as profound and meaningless as our own.

008 THE darjeeling limited ISSUE


From the relative austerity of Hotel Chevalier it’s a shock to find The Darjeeling Limited thundering away with a hyperactive whip-pan. Typically, however, Bill Murray’s frantic race to catch the train is a cheeky diversion. As this regular of Wes’ world is left stranded on the platform, he’s overtaken by newcomer Adrien Brody – fitter, younger, faster and ready to take his place in the Anderson ensemble. Brody is Peter Whitman, older brother of Jack, younger brother of Francis (Owen Wilson), a dysfunctional trio travelling across India on a ‘spiritual journey’ in which, as Francis explains, they have to be open to everything, “even if it’s painful and shocking”. They’re all running from something – Jack’s broken heart, Peter’s impending fatherhood, and the motorbike accident that has left Francis swathed in bandages – but the deeper hurt that has brought them together is the death of their father, and the absence of the mother who abandoned them before the funeral to become a nun in the foothills of the Himalayas. ▼

009


‘The Darjeeling Limited’ is their train, but more than that, it’s a conduit

who brings flesh and life and lust to this aseptic world. But it’s Irfan

to the arteries of India through which they’re propelled like some

Khan as the father of the dead child who, without speaking a word

psychotropic drug. It’s a gorgeously hand-crafted throw back to India’s

of dialogue and with only five minutes of screen time, does more to

colonial age, and a triumph of both Mark Friedberg’s production design

anchor the film in some sense of consequential reality, in which

and Adam Stockhausen’s art direction.

people feel rather than simply observe, than everybody else combined.

Thematically, there is nothing new in Anderson’s exploration of

There are, of course, moments of

damaged and eccentric families, but you’ve got to give him credit for

mix – whatever his faults, Anderson is simply too gifted a filmmaker

the technical challenges he’s embraced. Shooting in India is difficult

to fail on that count. There are three scenes shot in slow motion

at the best of times, but Anderson was determined to film on an

against a pounding soundtrack which, for all that they are contextually

actual train, insisting that the dynamic of light and motion couldn’t

meaningless, are a wonderful collision of sound and imagery. In

be reproduced in a studio. That meant contending not just with desert

fact, for all the arch dialogue, silence is golden. It’s only when his

locations a long way from home, but delays, breakdowns and India’s

characters close their smart-ass mouths that they start to really

Byzantine bureaucracy. That the film exists at all is some kind of

learn something. The boys share a moment of quiet understanding

testament to Anderson’s spirit.

with their mother (Anjelica Huston) that is as close to heartfelt as

beauty and humour in the

Anderson will ever come, and it’s followed by a riotously imaginative But what use does he make of it? The claustrophobia of the

tracking shot that envisages all the film’s characters on a shared

train and the suffocating intensity of the brothers’ relationship is

emotional journey. It’s a Zen-like moment that defies time, place

smartly contrasted against the wide, gaping expanse of India’s

and logic to reach an expressive high.

alien topography, but that’s hardly rocket science. In fact, this is an experience of India that’s only skin deep. The country never assumes

Meanwhile, Wilson, Brody and Schwartzman are left with the shovel

its own character, for all that it has the sense of being vital to the story

work. They’re an oddly compelling trio with their faces squashed

it might as well be a green screen. It could be anywhere, it doesn’t

together on screen. The brothers have their idiosyncrasies (there’s a

matter, because the real focus of the film is the fertile foreign land of

great scene in which they down each others’ pharmaceuticals) but

Anderson’s imagination, where the details of props and framing and

there’s an honest poignancy in the uneasiness of their relationship.

composition mean more than the real world around them.

“I wonder if the three of us would’ve been friends in real life,” says

Or is that the joke?

Jack. “Not as brothers, but as people.” They have their secrets and That’s the thing with Wes Anderson – you

lies but as they come to trust each other, Anderson ponders what

can never be sure. It’s not just the trappings of the film that have a

it means to love your brother. Not in the heal-the-world sense, but

distinct touch of artificiality, it’s the entire journey. With his laminated

simply by acknowledging that if relationships between family are

itineraries and peacock feather rituals, it’s Francis who believes in

difficult, then relationships between family members who are also

spirituality-by-numbers. On their first trip to a temple (“Probably the

men are the hardest of all. There’s a competitive spite about the way

most sacred place on earth!”) they say a perfunctory prayer before

Peter flaunts the personal belongings of their dead father, or Jack’s

going shopping. “I love the way this country smells,” says Peter, offering

passive aggressive ‘fictional’ writing, or the way that Francis apes the

the kind of insight you’d expect from a stereotypical American tourist,

domineering character quirks of their mother. But there is also

“it’s kinda spicy.” Francis is more concerned about his $3000 shoes.

a real and rare bond between them. When Jack declares to Peter and Francis in the middle of a fight, “I love you too, but I’m going to mace

Who, exactly, is having the last laugh here? Is this Anderson’s most

you in the face!” it makes a very specific kind of sense. Perhaps that

subtle, self-probing film yet? Is he exploring the limits of his own

poignancy is abetted by Owen Wilson’s very public meltdown. When

pretensions and poking fun at them, or is this just another story of

he tells his mother about the real reason he’s swathed in bandages,

rich kids with the time and money to indulge in self-obsessed angst?

it’s a moment so icily prescient that it stills the blood.

It’s hard to know with a film that’s so defiantly deadpan. Not only do

In a film that is both literally and metaphorically about losing your

Brody, Schwartzman and Wilson deliver almost every line with the

baggage, however, you can’t quite escape the sense that Anderson has

same tone of measured irony, Anderson shoots their encounters with

failed to do exactly that. It’s still about him – everything is subsumed

a reductive aesthetic detachment. Through his lens, the death of a

by his talent, his vision, his pretension. There’s a hardcore audience

child carries the same studied sophistication as a slapstick argument.

who will lap this up and beg for more, but for the rest of us, the fear

Everything derives its ultimate meaning from how it affects the trio:

is that he’s settling. Maybe the circumstances or the country or the

tragedy is just another opportunity for the brothers to learn a little

actors will continue to change, but the brand remains the same. That’s

more about themselves.

not necessarily a bad thing when you’re prodigiously gifted, but it’s because of those very gifts that Anderson should be setting the bar

It’s left to the supporting actors to give the film a heart and soul.

higher and striking out into new territory. On this evidence, it’s not just

Newcomer Amara Karan shines as stewardess Rita, the sweet lime girl,

‘The Darjeeling Limited’ that’s on rails, and yet running astray

010 THE darjeeling limited ISSUE

n


Anticipation. The Anderson oeuvre swells by one, but the pressure has been steadily mounting. Four Enjoyment.

Yes and no. He’s still a director to be admired rather than loved. Three

In Retrospect.

It’s a film that rewards patience and analysis, but you’d settle for being more entertained. Three

011


  



         

    




    

    

      

        

  

          

         

 


“To save a family, abandon a man; to save the village, abandon a family; to save the country, abandon a village; to save the soul, abandon the earth.� The Book of the Assembly Hall, Mahabharata

016 THE darjeeling limited ISSUE


LWLies: What is it you love about movies? Amara Karan: What is it that I love about movies? I think just seeing someone going on a journey. Someone really going through a journey, someone really going through it. Yeah, the journey, the journey.

017


Honest, passionate and unmerciful.

Publisher

Editor

Creative Directors

Danny Miller

Matt Bochenski

danny@littlewhitelies.co.uk

matt@littlewhitelies.co.uk

Paul Willoughby paul@littlewhitelies.co.uk Rob Longworth rob@littlewhitelies.co.uk

Sub Editor

Website Editor

Website Design

DVD Editor

monisha@littlewhitelies.co.uk

jon@littlewhitelies.co.uk

cullinan@littlewhitelies.co.uk

georgie@littlewhitelies.co.uk

Monisha Rajesh

Jonathan Williams

Daniel Cullinan

Georgie Hobbs

Gaming Editor

Incoming Editor

Short Film Editor

adrian@littlewhitelies.co.uk

neon@littlewhitelies.co.uk

james@littlewhitelies.co.uk

Staff Writers

Editorial Assistant

Adrian D’Enrico

Neon Kelly

Contributing Editors David Jenkins Kevin Maher Vince Medeiros

James Bramble

Mike Brett mike@littlewhitelies.co.uk Andrea Kurland andy@littlewhitelies.co.uk Adrian Sandiford sandiford@littlewhitelies.co.uk

Ed Andrews

ed@littlewhitelies.co.uk

Advertising Director

Advertising Manager

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dean@littlewhitelies.co.uk

Steph Pomphrey

Dean Faulkner

Words, pictures, thanks...

Henry Barnes, Anton Bitel, Jonathan Brant, Ailsa Caine, Rebecca Burn-Callander, Alex Capes, Helen Cowley, Jonathan Crocker, Andrew Davidson, Craig Driver, Jack Dundee, Holly Grigg-Spall, Lorien Haynes, Ed Lawrenson, Adam LeeDavies, Kevin Maher, Kayt Manson, Simon Mercer, Jonas Milk, Emma Paterson, Dan Stewart, Anthony Strange, Laura Swinton, Emma Tildsley, Steve Watson, Jason Wood

Published by

The Church Of London Publishing

Distributed by COMAG Specialist

Printed by

Mayhew McCrimmon

Studio 209, Curtain House, 134-146 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3AR. 0207 7293675. The articles appearing within this publication reflect the opinions and attitudes of their respective authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or editorial team.

Š TCOLondon Publishing Ltd. 2007 018 THE darjeeling limited ISSUE


LETTERS This issue: love, lust, discord and a special offer: whoever sends us the most interesting, insightful, inciteful, bold, heart-warming or amusing e-mail this issue will receive three crates of Cobra Beer, the official beer of the The Times BFI London Film Festival and also of the LWLies office. Remember: drink responsibly. Or don’t. We’re not your mum.

HYPE PROOF First of all, a confession: when I got your latest

issue home I was somewhat disappointed, only then

realising that the feature film was Control, which I

good work; I really love

SHORT IS SHIT

particularly the choosing

keep covering short films?

what your magazine does,

I just wanted to ask why you

of one film to discuss in

I mean, I love movies as

detail each issue (even if

it backfired on me slightly this time).

much as the next person, but proper movies not this selfindulgent five-minute art

bollocks. Lose it, please.

have very little interest in

Lucy Fife

than yours, obviously).

bubble has finally burst,

We���ll keep covering short

hope that he’ll rediscover

they’re an important part of

(which is more my problem

It does feel like the QT

Jon

However, when I got to the

although we haven’t given up

movies in LWLies because

review section I knew it had all been worthwhile.

Having read several reviews of Death Proof recently I couldn’t understand the

general agreement that it is pretty good, makes sense as a movie or that Tarantino still reigns supreme with funny dialogue and cool

the early magic. For future reference, though, you

might want to check out the cover a little more

closely next time – there’s usually a subtle clue as to what film the issue will be concentrating on.

into the business or a

There seemed to have been an

loved it, then came home

endless parade of these Manc

to check your review. One

I read your review, which summed up my feelings so completely I was totally

overjoyed – worth the price of the magazine in itself! Hurrah – it’s going on my

fridge, where it can make me chuckle anon. Keep up the

020 THE dArjEEling liMiTEd ISSUE

guys for providing a bit of perspective and a slightly

about never meeting your heroes...?

Re. your pics of Sam Crizzo

rescued from the pages of

Went to see Ratatouille and

the day’, but credit to you

What’s that they say

we can give it.

picked up the new issue.

lazy filmmaking. But then

seriousness and creativity.

WHO’S THE MAN?

deserves as much support as

waste of time,’ I thought,

brilliant it was ‘back in

these fields with the utmost

way to hone their skills

YOU DIRTY RAT

hideous, self-satisfied and

to treat their work in

Riley: HELLO!!!

talented directors a route

I was a little wary when I

spouting off about how

with him, and who continue

that offers new, young and

to think it is a colossal

to see through Tarantino’s

who profoundly disagree

SAM’S THE MAN

so any form of filmmaking

As a non-Joy Division fan

types on the telly recently

there are plenty of people

in which to make your mark,

incredibly tough business

‘Am I so horribly wrong

that no one seems to be able

serious”. Fortunately,

Max Edgely

PREMIER DIVISION

frustrated with the fact

and music) as being “not

the landscape. This is an

post-modern film referencing.

becoming increasingly

(namely, record packaging

star?! How does it feel to be so wrong? Ellen Arbor

It was two, but, you know... History will be our judge.

Great to see Neil Gaiman

sci-fi mags and given some

proper love as the modernday genius he is. Any

chance you could ask him to give me some of those new

Sandman volumes? My wallet is feeling the heat! Andy Yeo

We’re not too sure he’ll

want to speak to us again after our review of

different take on things

PETERING OUT

wicked?!’ or ‘Wasn’t Ian a

has long held Peter Saville

THERE’S ALWAYS ONE

was sad to read his comments

how great you are?

Stardust.

from the usual, ‘In’t drugs

As a graphic designer who

miserable bastard?!’ tone of

in the highest regard, it

Why do all your letters say

on certain aspects of design

Tony Brookes

the rest of the coverage. Alex Edwards


   

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022 THE darjeeling limited ISSUE


TheY weRe The MOsT iNFLUeNTiAL DiReCTORs OF OUR geNeRATiON, whOse wORK wAs ReDeFiNiNg MODeRN MOVie CULTURe. BUT whAT ARe we TO MAKe OF TheM TODAY?

They were the rebels on the backlot, the

here, right now, right in front of our eyes

Sundance kids, the mavericks who took

a new breed of filmmakers had emerged –

over Hollywood. They were the future, but

not the next Scorsese or the next new wave,

the problem with the future is that if you

but something entirely our own.

hang around long enough, eventually it becomes the past. In the very first feature of LWLies 01,

Three years later, with a Wes Anderson movie once again on the cover, how do we feel about those nine directors,

in The Life Aquatic issue, we put down a

the chosen few? Do they offer the same

marker for who we were and in what we

excitement, the same optimism, the same

believed by celebrating nine pioneering

limitless vision of the future? Or have they

filmmakers who were pushing the

drifted into the mainstream and already

boundaries of modern cinema.

been left behind?

And yes, it was about iconoclasm too.

And if the independent spirit really

We were tired of the prevailing critical

has been crushed by the bloated beast

canon, of dewy-eyed nostalgia for the good

of Hollywood, where are the new edges of

old days, of the Movie Brats and the fading

contemporary film? Who do we look to

vapour trail of their past success. Right

now for inspiration? â–ź

023


Powerfully acted, searingly shot, heartfelt and finally unfathomable, The Fountain ’s baffling narrative showed the strain of a giant vision boiled down to an impossible microcosm. 024 THE darjeeling limited ISSUE


Paul Thomas Wes AndersoN AndersoN

DarreN Aroufwy

In the five years since Paul

Ten years ago it would have

No one could accuse Darren

Thomas Anderson directed

been hard to imagine that

Aronofsky of not caring.

Punch-Drunk Love, we’ve

Wes Anderson’s recent

Having spent six years of

had very little to digest.

American Express advert

his life watching production

Sure, he’s kept himself

would be greeted on

shutdowns, a slashed

busy, standby directing

YouTube by the apparently

budget and fleeing stars

A Prairie Home Companion

unironic eulogy, ‘The best

whittle away at The Fountain,

and having his first child, but above all else

thing he’s done since Rushmore.’ It would have

the writer/director could be forgiven for

we’ve been waiting, waiting for There Will Be

been harder still to imagine there might be a

packing up and moving on.

Blood. At the time of writing only a lucky few

grain of truth in such a comment.

But no. Not Aronofsky. He started all

have sat through Anderson’s latest, while

Since 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums,

the rest of us have been gifted twice, first

Anderson’s work has visibly wavered between

mini-budget. He inked a vivid comic-book

with a teaser and then with a trailer proper.

prodigious originality and studied eccentricity.

version of the tale. He tirelessly shopped his

Interestingly, it’s the barely publicised teaser

Now, with the release of The Darjeeling

film from studio to studio until Warners finally

vailable in the lowest of quality that’s richest

Limited, he has gone over to the dark side.

took it. Then, in 2006, he premiered his sawn-

with the touches of genius that flow through

Such genuine mould-breakers as Max Fischer,

down passion project at the Venice Film Festival.

PTA’s work.

Eli Cash and Dignan have finally given way

What we’re given is a monologue by

to a stale parade of Anderson archetypes:

over again on the sci-fi epic with a $35 million

Where it was booed. Powerfully acted, searingly shot, heartfelt

Daniel Day-Lewis’ Texas prospector Plainview,

the troubled genius; the emotionally illiterate

and finally unfathomable, The Fountain’s

and a number of scene-setting glimpses of

oddball; the misunderstood fantasist. Reality

baffling narrative – full of time-jumps and non-

the final movie. “I have a competition in me –

bites, but it feels somehow that Anderson’s

sequiturs as Hugh Jackman spans 1,000 years

I want no one else to succeed,” he murmurs.

brand of contrived surreality is starting to

as Spanish explorer, cancer scientist and space

“There are times when I look at people and

blow a little as well.

man – showed the strain of a giant vision boiled

I see nothing worth liking.” As with his

The director hasn’t helped matters by

down to an impossible microcosm. To be sure, Hollywood would release

previous work, PTA uses every last inch of

repeatedly trawling an impressive but ultimately

the width of his shot. You’re always aware

shallow pool of talent, nor by garnishing his

nothing like it that year. But while one film in

of it – the space between people, the scenery

films with references to Godard, Truffaut and

seven years is a ratio that would have Terrence

creeping around the edges of the frame.

Ophüls. Laudable as it is that America’s new

Malick nodding in approval, the time lag and

There’s no score or track playing over the

wave has studied the European masters, it

bad box-office has cooled Aronofsky’s red-hot

teaser, just muted noises: smoke billowing

sometimes feels like Anderson will one day look

status dramatically.

from a train; solemn singing at a church

up from a tangle of star-studded intertextuality

What next from the visionary who, in

service; splintering wood as an oilrig shatters.

to find his audience asleep – or gone altogether.

The Fountain, promised us “a post-Matrix,

It has a beautiful, otherworldly tranquillity,

Maybe this is too harsh. Without his

metaphysical sci-fi movie”? “A great action

and it showcases the ever-brilliant Day-Lewis

uncanny knack of looking sideways at life, there

film in the spirit of Predator,” explains the

screaming out to us that he is absolutely one

would be no Squid and the Whale, no Little Miss

director. That would be The Hunt. Is it a

of the greatest acting talents of our time.

Sunshine. It would be grossly misguided to call

retreat from grand ambitions? Or just back to

him a bad filmmaker, but he is a frustrating

basics filmmaking? This being Aronofsky, it’s

know if PTA is five for five. What’s certain is

one. The fact is, directors like Wes Anderson

still a work in progress, alongside boxing

that he’s stepped boldly out of his present

have the vision and the talent to take us places

drama The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg

day comfort zone to test his talents beyond

no one else has the imagination – or the balls

and Matt Damon.

the exploration of contemporary human

– even to circle on a map. In the context of such

relationships. This is a director who still truly

extraordinary potential, it is hard to embrace

really done with The Fountain. After Warners

excites us, and that excitement is both rare

such damning mediocrity. Mike Brett

decided there would not be a commentary on

There’s not too much longer before we’ll

But that’s assuming that Aronofsky is

the DVD, he recently released one on his website.

and priceless. Danny Miller

Filmography

It’s time to let go, man... Jonathan Crocker

Filmography

Bottle Rocket (1996) / Rushmore (1998)

Hard Eight (1996) / Boogie Nights (1997)

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Filmography

Magnolia (1999) / Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)

Pi (1998) / Requiem For A Dream (2000)

There Will Be Blood (2007)

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

The Fountain (2006)

025


David Gordon GreeN

Alejandro González Iñárritu

Spike Jonze

Since we last reported

The fence that divides

He was the figurehead of

on the career of David

Mexico and the USA

the post-MTV generation:

Gordon Green, he has,

is the front line

subversive, seductive,

if we’re being brutal, hit

of Latin American

enigmatic. And then, after

the skids. 2004’s tepidly

cinema. Of the

Adaptation in 2002, the

received Southern Gothic

countless films made

dazzling flair of genius

thriller Undertow was the

in the place America

suddenly dimmed.

start of a difficult period for the director, one

contemptuously refers to as its ‘back yard’,

which saw him unable to steady an artistic

few make it over the wire into mainstream

Not just in the shifting personas – the skate

flux and get back to the game of good, honest

release. And yet with his third feature, Babel,

kid from Dirt magazine, the street rat Richard

indie filmmaking.

Alejandro González Iñárritu straddled both

Koufey, the Jackass punk, the Hollywood player

sides of the divide, making a film at once

– not just about who he is, but what he is.

His latest, Snow Angels, is a sober, Nova

But Spike Jonze had everybody fooled.

Scotia-set literary adaptation which offers

global and local. His native Mexico features

– worryingly – Kate Beckinsale a role that

heavily, as does the border – all sorts of

canvas is the multi-sensible landscape of

doesn’t involve monster-dodging or spray-on

borders – and the perils of crossing them.

pop culture. Whether it’s skate videos,

PVC slacks. It premiered to a cool response

Concluding the ‘death trilogy’ that

Spike Jonze is a visual artist whose

advertising, music promos or features, for

at this year’s Sundance festival, suggesting,

began with Amores Perros and 21 Grams,

Spike, it’s all just one aspect of the same

perhaps, that the director is actually making

Babel caught the attention of the western

great quest.

a pointed effort to deviate from the raw,

media, if thanks in part to its big

textured filmmaking of George Washington

name stars. Perhaps, however, it is the

creating, learning, assimilating, re-inventing.

and All The Real Girls.

weakest of the three, overstretching its

Take a look at the ‘Living Board’ section

narrative construction with a showy self-

of 2003 skate vid Yeah Right!, and in three

frittering away his cinematic identity. It seems

consciousness. The film’s three interweaving

minutes 32 seconds you’ll experience more

impossible that it would be for artistic reasons,

stories are tenuously linked, with the

love, more joy and more profound respect

but would he really risk his reputation to keep

Japanese segment seeming the most remote.

for visual artistry than in a hundred Hollywood

It’s difficult to say why exactly Green is

up the payments on that condo? Such is his

But the success of Babel leaves

Where’s he been for five years? Honing,

features. Check out Pardon Our Dust from

precious talent, however, there’s still reason

Iñárritu in a curious position. Does he

2005, the most subversive advert ever made,

to hope that he’ll follow in the footsteps of

push further into the mainstream or stay

for the strutting confidence of

underrated New Hollywood luminaries like

true to his Mexican roots? So far, he has

a man in total control of his medium.

Hal Ashby, who’d work sporadically within the

devoted his energies to producing, with

confines of the studio system to make the

two Mexican films in pre-production and

from movies because he doesn’t need

movies that were close to his heart.

no announcement yet on what he might

them. Go back to Being John Malkovich and

direct next.

Adaptation and you’ll be surprised by the

Will Green ever return to the stylistic tropes of his early gems? A further step towards the

Whatever the question marks over

Truth is, Spike Jonze has stayed away

simple compositions and the egoless camera

mainstream comes with a commission to adapt

Babel, the last three years have seen

work. Movie sets are a chore. He’s got too

a script for John Grisham’s The Innocent Man,

Iñárritu take a significant step forward. He

many ideas, too much to do to be contained

while Pineapple Express sees him as a gun for

has the vision and the ability to become a

by the limits of narrative cinema. But give

hire for new comedy kings Seth Rogen and

global filmmaker, a directed attuned to the

him a handheld and a skateboard, and the

Evan Goldberg. One thing remains clear: the

peculiar nuances of this young century.

world becomes a playground, a circus, in

longer this metamorphosis takes, the more

Though Mexican to his bones, he is an

which he’s the ringmaster.

George Washington looks like it could have been

internationalist, possessed of both the

an accident. This is something that Green has

vision and the empathy to make films that

Things Are is fast approaching, and we hold

to rectify, and fast. David Jenkins

travel across the very borders Babel so

our breath to see what a magician like Spike

assiduously deconstructed. Andrew Davidson

is capable of next. Matt Bochenski

George Washington (2000) / All The Real Girls (2003)

Filmography

Filmography

Undertow (2004) / Snow Angels (2007)

Amores Perros (2000) / 21 Grams (2003)

Being John Malkovich (1999) / Adaptation (2002)

Pineapple Express (2008)

Babel (2006)

Where The Wild Things Are (2008)

But now he’s back. Where The Wild

Filmography

026 THE darjeeling limited ISSUE


“Though Mexican to his bones, Iñárritu is an internationalist, possessed of both the vision and the empathy to make films that travel across the very borders Babel so assiduously deconstructed. 027


“Payne let you down. Rather than breaking your heart with provocative emotion he chose to rip it to shreds and feed it to Adam Sandler, mining every pathetic stereotype you can think of, and then the ones you can’t.” 028 THE darjeeling limited ISSUE


Chritopher NolaN

Alexdder Payne

Andy U Larry Wahowwi

A talented director goes

Alexander Payne has,

In a post-Matrix world, sci-fi

to college in London and

no doubt, broken your

brothers Andy and Larry

makes his first feature on

heart. He’s been

What-now-ski? have suffered

a budget of $6,000. The

building up to it for over

from a directorial ailment

thriller, Following, plays a

10 years, ever since

that you might call ‘bullet-

San Francisco festival and

1996’s Citizen Ruth

time of the career’. There

wins our hero the support

suggested that he had

was a slow-mo drift through

of a major studio. Then he packs his bags for

the potential to be one of cinema’s twenty-

a successful spell following

the States, never to be seen again on Britain’s

first century greats. There was the scabrous

their revolutionary trilogy,

rain-swept shores.

satire of Election, the humour and truth of

but those serene waters

About Schmidt and the gloriously bittersweet

were muddied by IP-theft

That is the Christopher Nolan story. Since making his mark in the US with the enormously

Sideways. Finally, this year, he wrote I Now

popular Memento, Nolan has set about

Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.

becoming one of the most reliably interesting

That’s right. Payne let you down. Rather

court cases, cross-dressing slurs and gender-reassignment which ruined their filmmaking momentum. V for Vendetta was the only movie to break

filmmakers in America, and for all that us

than breaking your heart with provocative

Brits may lament his defection, there’s no

emotion he chose to rip it to shreds and feed

this hiatus. The siblings wrote and produced an

questioning the fact that this is a man working

it to Adam Sandler, mining every pathetic

adaptation of Alan Moore’s über-cool work of

in his natural element.

stereotype you can think of, and then the ones

graphical genius for their Matrix buddy James

you can’t. Our dreams were sacrificed at the

McTeigue. Stylish and well executed, albeit

altar of prejudice and homophobia.

jettisoning the thoughtful politics of Moore’s

His pinnacle was Batman Begins. In giving the kiss of life to the caped crusader, Nolan did far more than simply revive the fortunes

But, as with the majority of his work,

original for a more conventional action dynamic,

of a well loved franchise: he showed us the true

there is a glimmer of hope. It’s not as if

V showed that Andy and Larry still had status

potential of a comic book licence, reminding

Payne is an indie purist, as his writing work

and purpose, even if they are far from prolific.

us that it is possible to make an intelligent

on Jurassic Park III demonstrates. Perhaps,

Hollywood film without clipping the wings of

then, the truth that Payne offers is about

it as Herbie meets Days of Thunder) it’s hard to

the source material. The Prestige may not

cinema rather than life itself. No matter how

believe that this is really the film to offer the

have truly built on this success, but it’s still

many critical laurels are heaped on them, as

Wachowskis’ career a new sense of direction.

a twisting slice of hokum framed in a strangely

long as box office success continues to elude

addictive steampunk aesthetic.

Payne and his generation, they’ll never be

middle ground. Their sensibility is unique and

Currently working on Speed Racer (think of

If anything, they are caught in an uneasy

strong enough to stand free from the shackles

eclectic, encompassing influences from Zen

dropped the ball, Nolan remains our strongest

of an oppressively mediocre mainstream.

Buddhism to Hong Kong kung-fu, and their

hope for pop(corn) culture. Beyond The Dark

While Hollywood is a business, directors like

technical chops are impeccable. But they’ve

Knight, the future promises The Exec – a

Payne have to play it like a game. But they

become victims of their own success. They’re

graphic novel-based tale of murderous

can do so with nous.

studio men now, big budget players, and while

At a time when even Sam Raimi has

businessmen – and The Prisoner, the ultimate

Just as Clooney splashes around in

that might give them the financial means

mind-bending, post-modern TV show. With

Ocean’s to save Syriana, Payne pronounces

to realise just about any of their cinematic

Nolan on board, who knows what kind of

Chuck and Larry to give himself the artistic

dreams, they seem to have sacrificed some of

sinister routes these films will take?

space for other work, such as his segment of

the hunger, that once made their work so vital.

And let’s not ignore one simple fact: in

Paris, je t’aime. Though his work rate remains

You simply can’t repeat a paradigm-shifting

the context of today’s filmmakers, Nolan is

disappointing, Payne’s only contribution

success on the scale of The Matrix. As long as

prolific. He may not get it right every time,

to film since Sideways was by far the most

they keep on churning out fan-boy pleasing sci-fi

but he’s working, learning and re-defining his

impressive of the 18 portions. His Paris

mega flicks, we’ll just get one reminder of that

craft. Add in the sneaking sense that his best

warmed the heart, so put those little pieces

after another. Adrian D’Enrico

may yet lie ahead, and the outlook seems

back together. One day, we’re sure, he’ll break

bright indeed. Neon Kelly

it the right way. Adrian Sandiford

Filmography

Filmography

Following (1998) / Memento (2000) / Insomnia (2002)

Citizen Ruth (1996) / Election (1999)

The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

Batman Begins (2005) / The Dark Knight (2008)

About Schmidt (2002) / Sideways (2004)

Speed Racer (2008)

Filmography Bound (1996) / The Matrix (1999) The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

029


The New New Things.

From first-time filmmakers to established directors in the full flower of creativity, or those with something special on the horizon, is this the future of cinema?

Joahb Trier

While Back to the Future

Andrew Bujalwi

NYC’s ‘mumblecore’

Edgar Wright

It’s hard to believe that

had the kids in California

overlord, Andrew Bujalski’s

it’s been six years since

going wild in the backyard

one-two punch of Funny Ha

the end of Spaced. Still,

bowls, Norway wasn’t

Ha and Mutual Appreciation

TV’s loss is cinema’s gain,

feeling the love. Skating

presented a paired down

and thanks to Edgar

was illegal, but that didn’t

and emotionally raw form of

Wright there’s a genuine

stop young punks like

filmmaking redolent of the

reason to be proud of

Joachim Trier from risking

work of John Cassavetes.

British comedy. Shaun of

arrest with a board in one hand and a camera

Addressing social awkwardness as a way of life,

the Dead and Hot Fuzz have begun to reclaim

in the other. It’s been a long trip from those

the writer/director uses his considerable skill

a genre for which we used to be celebrated,

self-taught gonzo masterclasses to the indie

behind the camera and typewriter to tint the

while the forthcoming Ant-Man, co-scripted

circuit, but Trier’s debut film makes it look

world of pseudo-intellectual twentysomethings

with the Cornish half of Adam & Joe, will see

easy. Reprise is by far the year’s freshest first

with a distinctly melancholy hue. As with many

Wright try his hand at comic-book material,

feature, fusing the antsy energy of youthful

of the names on this list, however, there’s always

rare territory for UK filmmakers. Never mind

spunk with a mature take on the urban agony

the issue of that difficult third film, and as yet,

the Queen; God save Edgar Wright.

of modern life. Not just another style exercise,

Bujalski has nothing on the radar apart from an

Reprise has the technique and the intellect to

assurance that he’ll be keepin’ it low and lazy

suggest that Trier has big, big things ahead.

and won’t be bending over for the Hollywood

Györg Pálfi

moneymen any time soon.

Carlos Reygadb

Who else in world cinema

Sudne Bier

A singular voice on cinema’s landscape, when the history of Mexican cinema is written,

People are starting to look

Carlos Reygadas will

like György Pálfi? The

at Susanne Bier differently.

emerge as its sage-like

Hungarian lunatic is the

Maybe it’s because Sam

arthouse hero. His first

master of misery, a writer/

Mendes produced her latest

director with a black hole

film, Things We Lost in the Fire.

scandal amongst critics, mainly due to the

in his heart and a head full

Maybe it’s because bleeding

fact that it features a defiantly unerotic sex

heart indie gurner Zach

scene between a pair of oldsters while paying

is pushing the envelope

of horror just waiting to spill out on screen.

feature, Japón courted

Hukkle was a dark intimation of things to

Braff bought the rights to remake her haunting

very close homage to Andrei Tarkovsky. His

come, but it was the fever dream of Taxidermia

Danish-language film Open Hearts. Maybe it’s

second, Battle in Heaven, featured more

that sent audiences reeling. It’s a sensory

because 2006 saw her Oscar-nominated for After

explicit sex, but this time managed to deal

assault that swoops and soars, teases and

the Wedding some 15 years after her directorial

with its influences, offering a heartfelt and

tortures. It’s a cinematic game of dare, and

debut. Perhaps it’s for a simpler reason. A more

thoroughly original take on middle-aged ennui

while he might not – yet – have much more

honest reason. Susanne Bier understands people.

in the city. His latest, Silent Light, is perhaps

on his mind than the visceral thrill of his

Her films are discomforting, revelatory fables

his best yet, a sombre but rapturously

own power to shock, when Pálfi stretches his

dealing with the only things that really matter

beautiful film which details the emotional

ambition as far as his imagination it will be

– sex, love and death. Go see some before Zach

entanglements of the devoutly religious.

stunning to see.

Braff spoils them forever.

Sit back and admire a genius in full flow.

030 THE darjeeling limited ISSUE


      

    

               

    

 

  

   

        

   


It was Mean Streets

that first

begin shooting, Poster left for Calcutta to meet

alchemic possibilities of music in movies. With its

the son of legendary Indian writer, director and

pool hall brawl set to the chirpy pop of ‘Please

composer Satyajit Ray, to negotiate the use of

Mr Postman’, and a soundtrack that ran from the

his father’s music in the film. “We’d landed on this

Rolling Stones to The Ronettes, Wes Anderson’s

notion of using the film music of Satyajit Ray and

future music supervisor was captivated. He still

the music from the Indian films of Merchant Ivory.

holds Scorsese’s films as the benchmark, but

So both Wes and I live in New York and we spent

these days Poster can press play on a few classic

a lot of time trying to dig these pieces up because

soundtracks of his own, from Kids and A Life Less

one of the big initial challenges was just to find

Ordinary through to The School of Rock and The

some recordings that we could use, because a lot

Squid and the Whale, not to mention, of course,

of them had never been released commercially.

all of Anderson’s features. “What’s unique about the way we work is that

RANDALL POSTER IS THE MAN WHO CONJURES A MUSICAL LANDSCAPE TO MATCH WES ANDERSON’S DISTINCTIVE CINEMATIC VISION. WORDS BY STEVE WATSON

032 THE DARJEELING LIMITED ISSUE

and the rest of the crew headed to Rajasthan to

opened Randall Poster’s eyes and ears to the

Anderson has spoken about The Darjeeling Limited as being in part an homage to Satyajit

we really get a lot of the music plotted out and

Ray, and Poster spent time with the Ray family and

preconceived before Wes goes off shooting films,”

the Satyajit Ray Foundation in Calcutta “just to let

he says. “With a lot of movies, I’ve spent time on

them know what we’re doing, and sort of extend

set, but my job is really to leave Wes at the start

our respect”. There are five of Ray’s songs on the

of production musically prepared to go into his

soundtrack in all, but if the film really pays homage

shooting. We stay in touch but it’s after he finishes

to anything, it’s to the sort of kooky cool for which

shooting that I come to work on the film on a daily

Wes Anderson movies are renowned. Visually this

basis. Over the years I’ve been involved with him

means an almost reverential respect for a set of

in everything from casting, to location scouting,

custom-made Louis Vuitton suitcases and a series

to finding other collaborators to work on other

of slow motion sequences. Musically, it means

aspects of the movie, so those of us who have

more classic rock and pop, in particular Peter

been lucky enough to work with Wes on a regular

Sarstedt’s ‘Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)’. A

basis, we’re a pretty tight team and we try to

lilting piece of fruity 1960s guitar pop, it perfectly

support him as best we can.”

encapsulates the mood of Hotel Chevalier, and to

For The Darjeeling Limited, while Anderson

an extent The Darjeeling Limited too.


The prologue to Darjeeling, Hotel Chevalier is

have that great moment where we have the Rolling

“It’s been a very interesting time with the

a plea of lovelorn longing shot through with comedy

Stones’ ‘Playing With Fire’. I don’t necessarily

record companies suffering from the loss of

and kitsch bathos that sees Jason Schwartzman

know whether, when we started working with

sales. In this digital age they’ve grown increasingly

as Jack selecting the song on his iPod and cueing

this Peter Sarstedt in the short, we’d conceived

dependent on income they get from licensing,

it up ready to play when Natalie Portman arrives

of that sequence with the Rolling Stones, but

so they’re really not as willing to negotiate or

as his estranged girlfriend. It’s an effective way

sometimes when you have faith magic happens.”

understand the scale of a project as they might

of flagging the song as part of the artifice – an

As explanations go it’s pretty opaque,

have been in years past because they’re so much

affectation within a film that is avowedly obsessed

but entirely in keeping with the (overblown)

with appearance and aesthetics. As the song plays,

notion of Anderson and himself as conjurors,

pieces of the action on screen mirror its words,

or conduits of magic. But then, a good magician

still get some leeway with is ABCKO Records,

so, for example, as she walks around the room

never reveals his trick, and it seems Poster is

which controls the recordings of the Rolling Stones.

Portman stops to point at a painting as the song

determined to continue in the finest traditions

Poster has called on the withering dads of rock for

notes “the painting you stole from Picasso”. Poster

of smoke and mirrors.

all of Anderson’s movies except The Life Aquatic,

more dependent on the licensing income.” One company that Poster and Anderson do

Where he is more open is in speaking

and, he says, “over time it’s nice that they’ve been

while travelling overseas: “I think it was something

about the general relationship between movies

aware of what we’ve been doing and they’ve been

that was in the ether that Wes sort of sniffed out

and the music industry. From cinema’s earliest

very supportive”. Indeed, ABCKO is releasing the

and we decided to really commit to it.” Aside from

days there has been a healthy cross-promotional

soundtrack for The Darjeeling Limited, a good

his unconscious allusions to Anderson sniffing

relationship between the two, a business that

example of the strong relationship that Poster has

ether, however, Poster is reluctant to offer much

started with the selling of sheet music in cinema

built over the years.

insight, and when asked whether the links between

lobbies so that people could go home and

music and action were intended to be so close

recreate the accompaniment of their favourite

continues to work with Wes Anderson, the Rolling

from the outset, he is enigmatic.

films around the piano. By 1910, sales of movie

Stones will continue to receive regular royalty

sheet music hit more than 30 million units a year,

cheques through the post in recognition of the

in your material,” he says. “On the one hand there’s

and when vinyl became popular, movie

unique cinematic magic they can bring. Or, as

intent and on the other hand there’s a certain

soundtracks and songs taken from films were

Poster puts it, “I think, again, a lot of it comes down

cinematic magic that occurs when you’re prepared

regular fixtures at the top of the charts. The

to faith and hard work. You work hard and you

and you have faith in the material. It’s interesting

relationship between the two is as important now

focus and you attack your work with an open heart

too that it [the song] says “you keep your Rolling

as ever before, and, says Poster, it has changed

and a focused mind and I think magic happens, and

Stones records”, and later in Darjeeling Limited we

significantly in recent years.

you have faith that magic will happen.” 

reveals that the song was chosen by Anderson

“I think that’s sort of the reward of having faith

It’s a good bet that as long as Randall Poster

033


034 THE darjeeling limited ISSUE


FROM CITY HIGH-FLYER TO INDIE IT GIRL, THERE’S SIMPLY NO STOPPING ‘A’ GRADE A-LISTER AMARA KARAN. WORDS BY MATT BOCHENSKI. PHOTOGRAPHY BY PAUL WILLOUGHBY

A crazy thing happens when Amara Karan opens her mouth: she’s

If anybody is capable of defying stereotypes, it’s Amara. There’s

posh – seriously posh – all clipped vowels and wide eyes and

something double-edged about her, a strange mix of naivety and

‘ohmygoshitsfabulous!’ Nothing wrong with that, of course, it’s just

ambition – part giggly girl, part focussed professional – a swirl of

that if you only know her from The Darjeeling Limited, you might have

hyperactive emotions at the rocket-powered rise of her career.

been expecting her to be, well, Indian. And it really has been a remarkable story. At school she was, by Wrong! Amara is a Sri Lankan Tamil, born and bred in South London,

her own admission, studious, high achieving, a bit of a boffin.

and a card-carrying graduate of just about every elite institution you

“I’ve always been ambitious,” she says, “I’ve always wanted to

can think of: public school, Oxford University, a City bank, drama

do something high-powered.” Though she acted at Oxford to rave

college. It’s a privileged upbringing a world away from Rita, the

reviews and directed a film, By Myself, that came second in the

enigmatic sweet lime girl who gives Jason Schwartzman a trip to the

Shoestring Shorts competition, ambition took Amara to London,

toilet he’ll never forget.

the City, an investment bank: the ultimate prestige vocation.

She worried that Wes Anderson was thinking the same thing when

Not only was she a banker, in fact, she was in Mergers and

she met him in Paris. “I’d thought of every possible way I could

Acquisitions – hardcore, Gordon Gekko, kill-the-weak stuff. She was

impress him,” she says, “but I kept thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, he wants

a corporate warrior, a mistress of the universe, a ruthless bitch. Right?

an Indian girl, am I going to have to convince him that I can learn

“Ruthless has negative connotations,” she says. “Ruthless sounds like

Hindi or be Indian? Should I wear a sari? Should I wear jeans?’ There

I’d sell my grandmother, but I think I have some integrity and self-

are all these choices!”

respect. I would say I was highly ambitious, that would be honest.” ▼

035


Only, you can’t quite believe it. Not the bit about being ambitious,

There’s a flash of toughness in the way she answers, but almost

but that she could actually enjoy being an evil, champagne-quaffing

before you spot it, it’s gone, replaced once more by the young,

capitalist. Not Amara. Not this nice girl who gets bizarrely excited

excited actress who can’t quite believe her luck. The week before saw

about free dresses and reality TV stars. But then, confounding

her first ever press conference at the New York Film Festival, followed

expectations is what she does best.

by three separate premieres and a bunch of exclusive shindigs. “I had an amazing time,” she says, even if it turned out to be seriously hard

For a start, there was the decision to leave the City after 18 months.

work (honest).

The pressure of long hours forced her to think about what was really important, and she realised that however much she loved the job,

The press conference in particular was a major hurdle. “I was

she didn’t want to be doing it at 40. Her parents were “devastated”

petrified,” she confesses, “if I was doing it on my own I think I

when she quit, but although they struggled to understand it, they

might have actually cried and run away.” But why? She is, after all,

accepted the decision. The real pressure was internal – she was

a performer, but there’s that sense of dichotomy in Amara’s character

under no illusions as to what it meant. “I’d always loved acting,” she

again. “It’s a time when you are being judged as you,” she says. “If

says, “but I never dared admit to myself that I had the courage to

you’re on stage you can hide behind the mask of that character and

do it. It is really hard and the chances of making a living are very,

pretend it’s somebody else doing what you’re doing, whereas when

very slim. If you can’t make a living it’s absolutely miserable – not

you’re being ‘you’, you’re very exposed.”

what you dream about at all.” And yet it’s just that sense of being herself, of discovering herself, A dream is exactly what her career so far has been. The Darjeeling

perhaps of being true to herself, that is crucial to Amara’s appeal.

Limited is her first ‘proper’ job, the result of a gruelling audition

“You need to work for your own opinion, your own esteem, rather

process which included that trip to Paris, a day out with the director

than anybody else’s,” she says. “At the end of doing The Darjeeling

that she describes as “magical, like being in a Wes Anderson film”.

Limited, I was very, very pleased with my work. That was my greatest

There’s still something of the studious school girl in the way she

write-up, that was my greatest review – that feeling that I got from

talks about it; doing ‘prep’, readying questions, even learning to

finishing the film.”

smoke despite the fact that it’s “obviously horrible and smelly and tastes disgusting”.

Now that it’s over the pressure is on to continue down the same path. It will be a hard come down if the future turns out to be TV shows

It all paid off, and not only by kick-starting her career in spectacular

and radio plays, but there are no guarantees of success in this

fashion, but by giving her a first-hand insight into the extraordinary

industry, something of which she’s well aware: “What’s been hard is

world of Wes. What did she make of the man himself? The impression

to realise that those scripts don’t come in every day, for whatever level

you get from the outside is that the near-mythic eccentricity of

of actor or actress you are. I thought there was this magical place

Anderson’s life is of a piece with the meticulously crafted artifice of

when you were really famous where you get the best-written parts in

his films. Not so, says Amara: “He has an idiosyncratic sense of style

the best-written films. That just doesn’t happen. At every single level,

and taste, a very singular point of view. But he’s not affected, he’s

no matter how many years you’ve been working, it takes hard work

very natural,” she says. “It’s not a show with him, he’s not trying to

and luck to sustain getting those roles and those films.”

create a persona.” Even so, for the time being at least, Amara can enjoy being part of That is arguable. He has, at best, a sinuous relationship with

Wes’ world. After all, she’s one of the gang now, isn’t she? “I wouldn’t

mundane reality. Just so, his films are anything but straightforward.

be so presumptuous as to assume that I’m part of any crowd,” she

Take, for example, a scene in The Darjeeling Limited in which Rita is

says. “I’m just me.” n

crying; there are streaks of mascara on her face and an ugly mark on her forearm that looks like it might be a cigarette burn. Together with the bruises on Natalie Portman in Hotel Chevalier, is there some kind of subtext here about female abuse? Amara won’t say: “One of the great things about a Wes Anderson film is that he doesn’t patronise the audience, he doesn’t spell things out for you. If I came out and said, ‘Oh, this means that,’ I think that’s taking the opportunity away from the audience.” That’s true in principle, but the danger is that you suspect there’s simply nothing to be spelled out, that it doesn’t really mean anything at all. Amara won’t budge: “It’s not for me to say what it is that’s there. It simply is what it is.”

036 THE darjeeling limited ISSUE


037


This Page

Saawariya (2007)

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As Indian cinema enjoys unprecedented success at the UK box office, we get to grips with the world’s largest, strangest and most misunderstood film industry. Words by Matt Bochenski

As Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya, the Shahrukh Khan-starring Om Shanti Om, and the ambitious Dus Kahaniyaan all line up for release this month, Bollywood is the word on everybody’s lips. It’s the hottest film industry in the world, churning out over 1,000 movies a year to an estimated global audience of almost four billion people. Its biggest stars – the likes of Khan, Aishwarya Rai and the ‘Big B’ Amitabh Bachchan – drive 14 million ticket sales a day in India alone, and support an infrastructure that employs some six million technical artists, executives and flunkies. Annual grosses flutter somewhere between eight and 10 billion dollars. But the ubiquitous presence of Bollywood has led to a similarly pervasive misunderstanding about what, exactly, it is. ‘Bollywood’ has become a catchall, a reductive shorthand for ‘Indian cinema’, an easy way to refer to a genre which most non-fans still view with derision. And yet the landscape of Indian cinema is impossibly rich and complex. Asif Kapadia, the British-born director of Hindilanguage film The Warrior, describes Bollywood as “the bread and butter; that’s what makes them the money and that’s what all the actors get famous from.” But far from being the whole story, Bollywood is only one component of Indian cinema. “Specifically what you would call ‘arthouse’ cinema exists in India and is very popular,” continues Kapadia, “but we wouldn’t hear about it here – that’s part of the problem.” The belief that Bollywood represents the sum total of Indian cinema is understandable given its high profile, but it’s a lazy way of thinking about the diverse landscape of Indian film. That said, any engagement with the country’s cinematic output is baffling for an outsider, given the structure of this multi-regional industry in which the majority of films aren’t made for international consumption. As George Clark, who was closely involved with experimental festival Cinema Prayoga at the Tate Modern, says: “What’s exciting about getting into Indian culture is that it’s sort of familiar and identifiable, and you can understand certain filmmakers based on an awareness of western film culture, but there are certain things that go on in Bollywood and independent film that are totally foreign.” ▼

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Asif Kapadia describes India as “a continent to itself”. It has a population of over one billion people, who speak 114 different languages. Thirty of these languages are sufficiently popular to support indigenous films, and there are eight distinct regional identities. The Hindi-language film industry – Bollywood – based in Bombay is India’s commercial centre – a nexus of art, commerce and controversy, every bit as passionate, scurrilous and fantastically weird as one of its own cheesy plot lines. It is, as the name suggests, India’s answer to Hollywood, while the rest of the regions are the broad equivalent of America’s more diverse independent scene. To the east, Calcutta is the seat of Bengali-language filmmaking. It has an arthouse tradition made famous by the work of Satyajit Ray who, with from Pather Panchali in 1955 to The Chess Players in 1977, set about fashioning the New Indian Cinema of the ’60s and ’70s with its politically charged story lines and non-professional actors. The Kannada film industry in Karnataka, the conservative Malayalam industry in Kerala, and the Telugu industry in the south all use Chennai as a base of operations. With the Tamil-language

produce Marxist polemics, and, likewise, if

the break from the British empire they were

industry, the south is, in fact, the hotbed of

you want to reach out to the largest possible

really trying to discover what their own cinema

Indian cinema, with over 60 per cent of all

audience, then the deep south – for all that

and their own culture would be,” says George

screens located in the southern states. Tamil

it has its own studios, funds and film labs –

Clark. “Certain films in Bombay deliberately

films are the most popular in India, but with

isn’t going to satisfy your ambition. On the

tried to account for those divides, and tried to

their particular culture and English/Kannada-

other hand, certain filmmakers like Mani

give out messages that would unify India. In

speaking stars, they don’t travel as well as their

Ratnam and Ram Gopal Varma, who are both

many ways, Bollywood really came together

Bombay counterparts. The Kashmiri industry

Tamil, have had their local hits dubbed into

post-independence as India was trying to find

and Bollywood’s neighbour, the Marathi

Hindi and re-released nationwide.

its own voice.”

industry in Maharashtra, round off the list.

In essence, the ‘Indian film industry’

Not everybody, however, sees Bollywood

is a slippery concept. Any description of

in such positive terms. In 2003, nine separatist

influence or provoke each other is open to

‘national’ cinema culture must take into

groups in the country’s northeast called for a

debate. According to Addy Rutter, director

account a vast agglomeration of styles, stories,

ban on all Hindi-language films. The rebels (in

of Bite the Mango, an Indian and southeast

languages, politics, aesthetics, traditions,

what, ironically, amounted to a rare show of unity)

Asian film festival based in Bradford, “There

narratives and religions. And yet there remains,

declared Hindi films part of “an ugly Indian media

is no relationship between them. It’s almost

undeniably, an unstinting appetite for this

campaign of cultural aggression, endangering the

as if they’re separate countries producing

diverse spectrum of filmmaking.

very survival of... the indigenous people.”

To what extent these separate entities

their own films.” There is, however, some

As Kapadia puts it, in India “cinema is

Bollywood, argue its critics, has

crossover between actors and directors across

for everybody.” Tickets are so cheap – as little as

irrevocably changed the landscape of India’s

regions, just as a UK star on the make might

30 or 40 pence – that even street kids will see a

national identity, and not for the better.

head to Hollywood, although the relationship

film two or three times a week. But there’s also

It promotes a centralised, Hindu idea of

between Bollywood and the rest is not quite

a sense that, for all their diversity, Indian films

‘Indianness’, while simultaneously undermining

so aspirational. “It all comes down to what

have a role to play as a national reference point.

that same identity with its new, commercial

kind of movies you want to make,” says Asif Kapadia. You wouldn’t go to Bollywood to

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The rise of Bollywood coincided with independence: “In that whole movement after

outlook. Bollywood has gone global, leaving the rest of India behind.


In the 1990s, the Indian diaspora

To achieve the kind of global

stretched across the globe, fuelling an

success that spiraling budgets demanded,

international demand for its cinema – not

the new generation of Bollywood films were

the independent films of Satyajit Ray, but

liberal and accessible. From being an intensely

the bold, brash, comfort food of Bollywood.

inward-looking industry, Bollywood opened

India had been exporting films for over two

up to western influences; filming abroad or

decades to both Britain and the US, but it

simply remaking Hollywood hits in an Indian

was a half-hearted affair – often the song

format. Shahrukh Khan’s 2006 hit, Kabhi

and dance numbers (an integral part of the

Alvida Naa Kehna, was shot partly in New York,

narrative handed down from India’s oral

and revolves around an independent wife and

storytelling tradition) would be cut for the

a torrid affair. Vikram Chopra’s version of

western release, rendering the films more

Fight Club, complete with singing and dancing,

or less unfathomable to the few people who

is perhaps the most bizarre example of

took an interest.

Bollywood’s remake fever.

However, with a more established

All this has, inevitably, given rise to

audience in place and money to be made

a passionate debate across the country. There

by the sackful, Bollywood was happy to

are those who would conduct it on purely

try again, this time with a new attitude.

artistic terms – Brick Lane star Tannishtha

“The thing about Indian cinema is that

Chatterjee has carved out a career in India

traditionally it is very conservative,” says

away from the mainstream because she

Satyajit Ray

Addy Rutter, “but to get that wider audience

objects to the treatment of women in modern

Above

on a global scale they had to step over the

Bollywood films both on and off screen.

line to get recognition from more

“Bollywood treats women only as an object

westernised audiences.”

of beauty,” she says, “you are a piece of a ▼

Left

Pather Panchali (1955) Below

The Chess Players (1977)

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The question of what, or who, Indian cinema is for, goes right to the heart of the country’s film history. The father of Indian cinema is DG Phalke, whose 1913 film, Raja Harishchandra, is considered the first ever Indian movie. Made before the existence of any studios, Phalke established an artisanal tradition of self-sufficient filmmaking (he managed the camera, made the costumes, built the sets and did the special effects) with stories inspired by traditional folklore and mythology. Crucially, he promoted an Indian cinema that answered to itself and was for its own people. He travelled around the country putting on shows in rural villages and town halls, establishing a popular tradition that operated with its own rules, stories and languages. Ironically, such was This page: Cinema Prayoga

Above

Kshya Tra Gya (Amrit Dutta, 2004)

Below left

Trip (Pramod Pati, 1970)

Below right

Shri Krishna Janma (DG Phalke1918)

its popularity that even as he pioneered an independent methodology, he was laying the foundations of Bollywood’s massive success by paving the way for film to take its place in

show in a circus. Even in terms of business

the upper crust, he is committed to the

none of us make a difference; it’s only

proposition that India must become a

about the male stars. They have the power –

major player in the world stage, and that

years, and there are plenty of those who

it’s a very male-dominated industry.”

opposition to ‘globalisation’, ‘liberalisation’,

would echo George Clark’s argument: “Phalke

and ‘modernisation’ is not merely

made cinema successful because it was a

is the argument between modernists and

inopportune, but a residue of India’s

people’s cinema – it built on fundamental

conservatives. As Addy Rutter explains it,

attachment to socialism and tradition.”

traditions, stories and mythologies. Now that

For the average movie lover, the

it’s started to make so much money that kind

Much more wide-ranging, though,

“You’ve got the traditional, very conservative

the country’s consciousness. Fast-forward almost a hundred

Indian cultural people who like the old

simpler question is, has it made the films

of noble ambition to tell ‘our’ stories and

Bollywood, then you’ve got your other

better? Perhaps. If anything, the backlash

update Indian culture for the cinema age has

audiences who understand that to progress

against Bollywood and its focus on the

been squeezed by the need to exploit the

you have to sacrifice some of those

Indian diaspora has strengthened the hand

very people that Phalke set out to serve.

conservative issues.”

of the independent scene. Says Rutter:

Bollywood moved into caricature, it’s become

“Whereas Bollywood is drawing on too many

a brand, almost a self-parody.”

As with a great deal of India’s cultural life, the subtext to all this is class.

western influences and selling out in the

In an essay on the “naive, socially

name of progress, regional filmmaking is

changing. Cinema Prayoga, which is loosely

insensitive, and politically irresponsible”

sticking to its traditional stories.” The result

translated as ‘experimental cinema’, celebrates

actor Amitabh Bachchan, Vinnay Lay,

is that independent cinema “is slowly

the original artisanal spirit of Phalke being

Associate Professor of History at UCLA,

overtaking Bollywood because people want

kept alive in the work of artists like Amrit Dutta

claims that “like most other Indians of

to see something they can relate to.”

and Nalini Malani, who represented India at the

There are signs that things are

Venice Biennale. They offer a kind of third way between Bollywood and the regions, rejecting narrative filmmaking altogether and finding new spaces in which to experiment with ideas. That’s not to say that there’s any danger of those 14 million ticket buyers forsaking the multiplex for an art gallery, and Shahrukh Kahn won’t be unduly worried about the location of his next pay cheque. But it goes to prove that Indian cinema has a future worth making a song and dance about n

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There are many paths to enlightenment, but some of them are littered with landmines. We take a look at the spiritual gurus who’ll free your wallet before your mind. Words by Monisha Rajesh PORTRAITS BY EMMA TILDSLEY

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Rev Sun Myung Moon Founder, Unification Church Seoul, South Korea

Lafayette Ronald Hubbard Founder, Church of Scientology Nebraska, USA

During Easter 1935, Jesus appeared to a young Confucian student,

In a Reader’s Digest article of May 1980 L Ron Hubbard was

Sun Myung Moon, as he was praying in the Korean mountains. He

directly quoted as saying, “Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous.

asked Moon to complete the task of establishing God’s kingdom on

If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would

earth and bringing peace to humankind.

be to start his own religion.” Hubbard had dedicated his life to

Perhaps Jesus left the boundaries of his request slightly loose. After

making that dream come true.

creating the Unification Church and distancing himself from wealth

In the late ’40s, Hubbard began his work on ‘Dianetics’, a self-

and physical pleasure, Moon went on to found The Washington

improvement technique which he later expanded into an applied

Times and establish himself as a source of major conservative

religious philosophy better known as Scientology. Followers of the

funding in the United States – hardly God’s kingdom. And despite

church were expected to pay fixed amounts for courses, books

all his good work in South Korea, his appeal to the Americans to

and ‘auditing’, a kind of self-assessment, which went straight into

forgive Nixon at the peak of Watergate earned media scrutiny.

Hubbard’s pockets, earning him over $100,000 in four years,

Moon allegedly used his religious followers to deposit money in

a stratospheric sum in the early ’50s.

Uruguay, where bank secrecy laws are particularly tight, and tens

In the ’60s, worldwide investigations into his practices led Hubbard

of millions could be stored. His steady deposits didn’t go unnoticed,

to slink off and detach himself from Scientology. He took to the

however. In 1996, bank employees got suspicious when 4,200

seas and formed a religious order known as the ‘Sea Organization’,

Japanese women – followers of Moon – walked into the Banco de

which eventualy became the management arm of his Scientology

Credito in Montevideo, each with some $25,000. By the end of the

empire. He certainly knew how to run his business, ensuring he was

influx, $80 million had been deposited.

waited on by teenage girls dressed in white hot pants who bathed

Moon’s disaffected daughter-in-law, Nansook Hong, recalled how

and dressed him – even catching the ash from his cigarettes.

Mrs Moon forced her into a cash-smuggling incident after a trip to

Alleged corruption and embezzlement of members’ money has

Japan in 1992. She split a formidable amount of moolah between

caused numerous suicide attempts, including that of Patrice Vic,

her entourage, which included Hong: “I was given $20,000 in two

a 31-year-old Frenchman who jumped from a window to his death.

packs of crisp new bills, and I hid them beneath the tray in my

Prosecutors found evidence that Vic was under pressure from the

make-up case. I knew that smuggling was illegal, but I believed the

church to take a $6,000 ‘purification treatment’ that included daily

followers of Sun Myung Moon answered to higher laws.”

saunas and a low-sugar, high-vitamin diet. The court ruled that Vic

Moon was investigated on charges of tax evasion and cheerfully

was subjected to psychological torture by the Church.

served 13 months in a federal prison, accepting it as God’s will.

Furthermore, Hubbard’s wife and 10 other former church leaders

He’s now back in South Korea, probably in his counting house,

went to prison in the early 1980s after they were convicted of

counting all his money.

stealing government documents to cover up church activities. Surprisingly, current Scientologists have branded them a ‘rogue faction.’ And of course, that’s without mentioning intergalactic space alien, Tom Cruise... ▼

Lafayette Ronald Hubbard

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Bhagwan Shree ‘Osho’ Rajneesh

Reverend James Warren Jones

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was a spiritual and philosophical leader

In truth, Reverend Jones didn’t make huge amounts of money.

Founder, Osho Movement Pune, India

Founder, People’s Temple Indiana, USA

who came to prominence in the ’60s, typically attracting disgruntled

However, he was a howling loon who sold pet monkeys

westerners to drown their vestments in bathtubs full of orange dye,

door-to-door to raise the money to fund his own church – Wings

grab a beaded necklace and follow their spiritual path.

of Deliverance – which was a precursor to the People’s Temple.

Based at his ashram in Pune, India, he remained an elusive

And more importantly, he was responsible for the largest mass

figure occasionally spotted with his lady friends. In his book, My

suicide in American history.

Life In Orange, Tim Guest, who grew up in the ashram alongside his

In the mid ’50s, Jones gathered a peace-loving group of

mother, remembers how a woman named Sheela would boast to

followers who focused on racial integration. Like a modern day

other members of the inner circle how, “Bhagwan liked her to

Angelina Jolie, he was known as the father of the ‘Rainbow Family’.

sit at his feet while he played with her breasts”. He also recalls

Jones’ ideas were so progressive that even though his followers

how sexual exploration was embraced from the outset. “Sleeping

were kept pumped full of LSD, no one seemed to care. He soon

around and moving with your energy was the norm... It was

developed his own addictions, and spiralled rapidly into an abyss

common to see girls in their early teens paired off with bearded

of madness and drug-induced paranoia.

swamis older than their fathers.”

In the ’70s, while Jones enjoyed his happy-pills, journalists

When his American visa application came through, however,

and law-enforcement officials were starting to pry into the

the guru made tracks to abandon the ashram and his people.

People’s Temple after many followers disbanded, claiming that

The ovens normally used to bake bread for the commune were

it was riddled with physical and sexual abuse and even murder.

used to burn financial documents, and his orange entourage in

But Jones was so revered for his racial integration and

Mercedes and Rolls-Royces followed him out of the gates. Rajneesh

all-embracing godliness, that their warning bells tolled unheard.

was an avid collector of Rolls-Royces – he had 93 in total, most

In response to the media attention, he founded a seemingly

of them Corniche models because the seats in the Silver

harmonious utopian commune called Jonestown in Guyana and

Shadow hurt his back.

moved his followers across the border.

Once settled in the States, he got straight down to business.

On a visit to the commune to investigate claims of abuse,

In 1984, a bioterrorist attack involving salmonella typhimurium

US congressman Leo Ryan was shot along with three journalists

that contaminated 10 restaurants in Oregon was traced to his

– one of whom recorded the footage. That night, the Reverend

group. Seven hundred and fifty one people were infected, 45 were

ordered his followers to drink a cyanide-laced concoction

hospitalised although none died. It was the first bio-terrorist attack

believed to be Kool-Aid, which resulted in the death of 914

of the twentieth century in the United States, and is still considered

people including 270 children. Although this is the widely

the largest germ warfare attack in US history. Eventually Sheela, of

accepted story, a pathologist claimed that on closer inspection,

the breast-fondling, and another close associate confessed to the

80 per cent of the victims had matching needle marks in

attack as well as to attempted poisonings of county officials.

their shoulder blades, suggesting they had resisted and were in

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh died in 1990, claiming that

fact murdered by lethal injection n

American officials had poisoned him. Today, his retreats are stronger than ever.

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Bhagwan Shree ‘Osho’ Rajneesh

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“The art establishment has to keep pace with the times. Street art has become, if not the predominant world art form, then certainly up there.� Martha Cooper

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Since kids in New York first laid hands on a spray can, the train has represented the ultimate canvas. Words by Andrea Kurland. Images courtesy of Roger Gastman, Caleb Neelon, Anthony Smyrski.

It’s hardly an obscure concept – those wild, painterly flashes of colour snaking across our landscape. We all get it, right? It’s an art form, a movement, a guerrilla mission to reclaim public space. Or is it simply a nuisance and an eyesore – a pointless criminal offence? Like it or not, graffiti is as deeply rooted in our vernacular as punk or skate or MTV. Give something a label, tag it with a name, and it should be simple to digest. Funny, then, that society still doesn’t know what to do with it. Condemned by some as the downfall

of civilisation, embraced by others as art history in motion, graffiti has never stopped doing what all good counter-cultures should: dividing opinion and getting right on people’s tits. There will always be the Banksys – talented visionaries who fall prey to mass appeal and celebrity commissions – but while the art galleries, ad campaigns and pimpedout worshippers of bling fight over their piece of the street art pie, a renegade sect is going deeper underground. How? By going back to their roots and chasing after trains. ▼

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“Let’s take it out of the context of the rest of our culture and just look at it as art and see how fascinating and complicated it is.” Martha Cooper

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Back in the ’70s, New York City’s Lower East Side was a wasteland of vacant lots and derelict buildings. In this state of urban decay, creativity began to breed. Kids with no future took to their sketchbooks and in turn to the streets, revolutionising the history of graphic design – and the daily life of the transport police. “New York was an outlaw city that lent itself to this kind of activity,” says Martha Cooper, photographer and co-author of graffiti bible Subway Art. “Unpoliced, unfenced – it was like a free-for-all, and the kids could get into the train yards.”

Subway trains – those moving canvases – were the fastest way to ensure your name dominated the city, and to this day remain the ultimate target. “For some writers, doing legal walls is enough, it’s safe and anyone can get involved,” says ‘Dave’, a 23-year-old writer from London. “But to other vandals and artists those guys don’t even count. They’re in it purely for the trains and the whole illegality of the movement. Even the legal writers, I know for a fact that 99 per cent of them still dream about seeing their name roll into a platform on the side of one of those steel snakes. ▼

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“Now every surface is covered in advertising I wonder, ‘Is this the end of what happened when kids covered trains and windows in graffiti?” Martha Cooper

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Images courtesy of Street World: Urban Culture From Five Continents by Roger Gastman, Caleb Neelon and Anthony Smyrski. Out now, published by Thames & Hudson, £19.95.

“Painting trains is the ultimate rush,” he continues. “Train yards have such intense security – guards, tremor sensors, razor wire, dogs – it’s like a military mission. But to so many writers, creating graffiti in the environment where the whole movement was invented is really the only way.” Graffiti’s global appeal may have brought greater acceptance: hell, it’s turned vandals into artists and alleyways to gallery space. But one thing, thankfully, will never change. It’s a renegade life when you’re still chasing the train n

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A LWLies review will not be inhibited by any perceived rules. Just as movies are about more than the two hours you spend sitting in the cinema, our reviews are a chance to talk about much more than the immediate experience of the film in question. There are many different aspects of the movie-going experience and we will embrace them all.

Anticipation

Ever waited six months for a boxoffice behemoth? Read a book that you loved and nervously watched the adaptation? Been pleasantly surprised by an off-the-radar independent? Anticipation plays a crucial role in your reaction to a movie. Rather than ignore it, we think it should be measured and acknowledged as part of the movie-going experience. Marked out of 5.

Enjoyment

All other things aside, how did you feel for those two hours? Were you glued to your seat? Did the film speak to your soul? Was it upsetting, disappointing, or just plain boring? Were you even awake? Marked out of 5.

In Retrospect

Great movies live with you; you carry them around wherever you go and the things they say shape the way you see the world. Did this movie fade away or was every moment burned into your retinas? Was it a quick fix action flick, good for a rainy Sunday afternoon? Or the first day of the rest of your life? Did you hate it with a fury only to fall in love with a passion? Or did that first love drain away like a doomed romance? Marked out of 5.

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The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford The Assassination

of Jesse James reeks of the haunting inevitability of death, in which the ending carved into the title hangs over the entirety, not morbidly but thrillingly, daring you to invest in the hero. Like Beowulf, Jesse James (Brad Pitt) is laden in skins and heavy with sin, traversing the outback, seeking resolution or retribution. Like Odysseus, he leaves his wife and children in a quest – the repercussion of his criminal actions – but always dreams of home. To find peace. To die. Like those ancient epics, this is a film that exclusively prioritises men: how men love, relate to and betray each other. The political machinations of power and trust are as complex between The James Gang as they must have

RELEASED November 30

been in Caligula’s court. Conventionally speaking, the film is too long, too slow and has endless codas. It draws an obvious parallel between Jesse James and the cult of contemporary celebrity. As the first American idol, he has the dangerous fan (Casey Affleck’s Robert Ford), his entourage, his press, his mythology, but in many ways this is the film’s least interesting aspect. What is completely compelling about this depiction of James and his men in their final throws, their last robbery, their disintegration, is the depiction of male vulnerability, co-dependence and interaction. This is the best portfolio of character studies in years, neither pseudo or sensitive, the result of superb direction throughout from Andrew Dominik.

DIRECTED BY Andrew Dominik STARRING Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, MaryLouise Parker

The gang kicks off discussing ‘cootie’ over ‘chaw’ (“The stew needs noodles,” adds James). And the frank brutality, frank reality, continues when they shoot and gnaw at each other. But the machismo is always offset by thought, emotion, conscience, aesthetic context and query. Robert Ford’s growing awareness that his hero is a flawed and real man holds a mirror up to James for all of us. Casey Affleck almost steals the film from Pitt, who just manages to supersede his own celebrity and convince. One could be accused here of simply falling for beauty, so stylised is the film’s surface. Pitt and Affleck are so mesmerising physically that it could be one long superficial seduction. Except you can feel the rough

corn tips scuffing your fingers and you reel as Pitt severs snake heads and beats a boy while Affleck shoots grown men stone dead. And it is precisely this combination of style and content that shines alongside the confidence to let this film be what it is; an opus, an epic and not a crowd pleaser. Lorien Haynes

Anticipation.

Post-Babel, postBrangelina, Pitt gets his own show. Four

Enjoyment. It’s

a guaranteed critical split. If you love it: Four If you hate it: One

In Retrospect. Can still see it, smell it, taste the tears. Four 057


The Band’s Visit

First time feature

director Eran Kolirin has produced a very, very difficult film to dislike in The Band’s Visit: a charismatic and luminous little comedy which addresses ideas of social and cultural displacement, as well as what it means to be part of a group, whether a nation or, well, the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Band. Stranded in a desolate Israeli town in which conductor Tawfiq (Sasson Gabai) believes his band are due to give a performance, the slow realisation that they may have taken a wrong turn along the way ends with

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DIRECTED BY Eran Kolirin STARRING Saleh Bakri, Ronit Elkabetz, Sasson Gabai

RELEASED November 9

them being convinced by a friendly local snack bar owner that they should perhaps stay the night, then gather their bearings in the morning. The film accepts the straightforward task of documenting this one, distinctly odd evening as fleeting friendships are forged every bit as swiftly as they’re forgotten, and larger-scale political schisms are set aside in favour of a brief, bittersweet détente. With a firm handle of tone and texture (think Jarmusch goes east), Kolirin manages to weave a series of delightfully

deadpan sketches from the situation, as his motley band of players (decked out in absurd powder-blue suits, with shiny gold sashes and epaulets) attempt to glean the most from this night away from home. The film’s most memorable scene involves a trip to the local roller disco, in which loved-up lothario Khaled (Saleh Bakri) attempts to snag some smalltown action with a mixture of smooth moves and a miniature bottle of spirits. Though the film may be dismissed by some as a slight and overly genteel piece of work, at its core lies a genuine

proposal suggesting just how easily differences can be put aside. Jack Dundee

Anticipation.

Egyptian brass band gets lost in Israel? Sounds wacky enough to be decent. Three

Enjoyment. What a

charming, laugh-out-loud little gem this is. Four

In Retrospect. Sure, there’s fun to be had, but there’s also more to it than meets the eye. Four


An interview with David Sington, visionary director of In the Shadow of the Moon. LWLies: What is it you love about film? Sington: I find the world more interesting through the viewfinder of the camera. I think this is particularly relevant for somebody who spends most of his time filming elements of the real world rather than creating a world. You make the world more interesting. When you’re talking to people and filming them, the camera is a psychological X-ray machine. You can make other people see the world the way you see it, which is ultimately what any artist is trying to do. I have a very vivid childhood memory, which was going to see 2001, which came out at the same time Apollo was happening. I think I must have been seven years old and seeing that film on the big screen in this darkened room... It was an incredibly vivid experience. LWLies: Is that where your interest in space stems from? Sington: I think that both Apollo and 2001 had an effect on me. I did become interested in astronomy and science. I think it was that perspective from Apollo, of the Earth being such a small thing in the universe, that really permeated my consciousness. Until Apollo we didn’t really grasp what our real situation in the universe was. LWLies: You mean, we didn’t see the global whole? Sington: Yeah, and I think that was important. We use this word ‘world’ in these two senses – one to mean the earth and the other to mean everything, and actually the earth isn’t everything. In fact, in the context of the universe, it’s almost nothing. That’s the perspective which the Apollo astronauts taught people to have and then they shared it through the images. For them it was personal and not intellectual. LWLies: That whole aspect of seeing the earth really seemed to change the astronauts. Was that religious aspect something you probed for? Sington: Ultimately what it gives all of them is this perspective, and I think for some of them that’s interpreted religiously, but not for all of them. To some of them there has to be – as Gene Cernan says – some guiding intelligence because the earth is so extraordinary, precious and unique in the universe that it can’t be an accident. But for others it’s a scientific insight, an environmental awareness and also a political thing. For a lot of them, with that perspective, all the divisions and quarrels of the earth seem a bit ridiculous. A bit like when you were at school, the inter-house soccer competition seemed terribly important, but looking back on it, it doesn’t seem like a very significant rivalry. Adrian D’Enrico Check out the eye-wateringly in-depth transcript at www.littlewhitelies.co.uk

In the Shadow of the Moon History has a

formidable talent for turning people into names, achievements into dates and experience into facts. Moments that shake us to the core today are sterilised for classroom consumption tomorrow, watered down each generation by familiar indifference. Emotion, it seems, has no place in the history books. It’s refreshing, then, in such fickle times to witness the resurrection of storytelling. In the Shadow of the Moon does just that, bringing together 10 of the 12 surviving astronauts from nine Apollo space missions to tell their own tale in their own words. It soars because it feels like a slice of granddad’s storytime. It waivers, though, because it doesn’t stick to its naturalistic guns, pulling the oldest sentimental trick in the book – a relentlessly eye-welling orchestral score that’ll get you weepy while screaming ‘Why?’ Emotional clobber aside, the astronauts’ personal experiences are done a great justice. Even the reclusive Neil Armstrong, whose hermitic tendencies kept him from participating, becomes more than just a page of history through the awe-struck insights of his lunar comrades. Most

RELEASED November 2

DIRECTED BY David Sington STARRING Buzz Aldrin, Dave Scott, Michael Collins

impressive is director David Sington’s ability to contrast the reality of human experience with the perceived reality of media hype, slicing archive footage – much of it never seen before – with intimate memories. With each interview captured in crisp turbo definition, you’ll find yourself blasting off into space through the wrinkles, sunspots and glazy eyes of these last true explorers. From Buzz Aldrin’s honesty (he took a whiz as soon as he stepped foot on the moon) to Mike Collins’ unwavering Stars ‘n’ Stripes parochialism (“Around the world they said we, the human race, we people did it, and I thought that was a wonderful thing... if a bit ephemeral.”) their words are never buttered up nor ever dumbed down – and that’s a damn good thing. Andrea Kurland

Anticipation. If these men discovered the meaning of life, this might be worth a look. Three Enjoyment. History

should always be told like this. Four

In Retrospect. Less transcendent than expected but, damn, these old folk did some cool shit. Three 059


Rescue Dawn DIRECTED BY Werner Herzog STARRING Christian Bale, Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies RELEASED November 23

You’re one of the

world’s most respected directors. You’ve got integrity, influence and enviable talent. So what do you do nearly a decade after making a well-received documentary about the travails of little known German-American flying ace Dieter Dengler? It’s probably safe to wager a sheepskin flying helmet and matching goggles that most filmmakers wouldn’t opt to direct a feature film about the very same travails of little known German-American flying ace Dieter Dengler. Then again, Werner Herzog isn’t most filmmakers. Since emerging from a Bavarian backwater to make his first phone call at the age of 17, his directorial approach has been characterised by courage, invention and no little eccentricity. In the wake of 2005’s Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn sees Herzog getting back to nature in spectacular style. Long-time collaborator and cinematographer par excellence Peter Zeitlinger is bundled into low-flying choppers, fast-flowing waterfalls and leechinfested rivers, all in the name of depicting Dengler’s remarkable journey from stoic prisoner of war to poster boy of the US Air Force. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with feature films ‘based on real events’, factual accuracy is a poor surrogate for taut dramatic structure. The fact that Dengler really did suffer months of repetitious and demeaning imprisonment at the hands of Laotian militia does not make it any more interesting to watch Christian Bale in the lead role treading the boards of a rickety bamboo hut for the umpteenth

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time. His recalcitrant co-prisoners are even less entertaining. Aside from Steve Zahn (who does a great line in wild-eyed insanity before he meets a local with a questionable attitude to machete safety), most of them seem content to go quietly bonkers in the comfort of a southeast Asian cell. Perhaps they are finally driven out of their minds by Bale’s insistence on delivering all his dialogue sotto voce, despite the fact that none of the guards

speaks a word of English. As all Hollywood directors know, such low-level capering does not a blockbuster make, which probably explains why Rescue Dawn bears all the hallmarks of an action movie without providing a great deal of action. Even Bale’s spirited attempt to jimmy things along by gnawing on a live snake is futile in the face of pacing issues which ultimately make the film seem 30 minutes too long. Mike Brett

Anticipation. Top Gun meets The Deer Hunter. Four Enjoyment. Like taking

a family holiday to the Dordogne: sure it looks good, but haven’t we been here before? Three

In Retrospect. If Herzog keeps this up he’ll need the stamina of Stallone to keep the franchise going. Two


Les Chansons D’Amour DIRECTED BY Christophe Honoré STARRING Louis Garrel, Ludivine Sagnier, Chiara Mastroianni

RELEASED November 30

Following last year’s

delightful Dans Paris, Christophe Honoré has taken a turn for the pretentious with this Paris-set musical, which comes off as equal parts Jacques Demy and Mork and Mindy. As Ismaël, Louis Garrel has created a character so extremely difficult to show any affection for, you’ve got more chance of shedding a tear for a victimised paedo. Rather than constantly making silly faces, bizarre hand gestures and showing off like a goddamn pro, Garrel really needs to dilute this painful funny guy act before he unleashes it on an

unsuspecting public. Forced to regulate his vivacious manner after his girlfriend (Ludivine Sagnier) apparently drops dead in a nightclub from a broken heart (wretch!), Ismaël instead opens his emotional floodgates to all manner of sexual experimentation. The film’s title relates to the fact that the (very loose) narrative is interspersed with a selection of sub-Jacques Brel ditties,

which contain some of the most embarrassingly awful lyrics imaginable. The idea that Honoré hopes to capture the genuine grief of losing a loved one via a series of smugly worded chansons (which sound like they were composed by someone who makes radio jingles) is laughable. By the end you’ll be fighting for breath under a gelatinous mound of French whimsy. We’d like to

he falls for Alba, he has to avoid shagging her for fear that this will scupper his chances of future bliss. The rom-com is a genre that has stagnated in a deep pit of mediocrity, aided and abetted by puff piece celebrity ‘journalism’ and all-but-paid-for ‘reviews’. Where is the wit and inventiveness of Woody Allen, or even ’80s benchmarks like When Harry Met Sally and Say Anything? Despite flashes of inspiration,

both romance and comedy have been sacrificed for banality and the lads’ mags’ lust for a pretty face. Alba’s acting talent is irrelevant in a film which demands nothing of her beyond looking pretty and playing cute. The same goes for Cook, who manages to be every bit as unexceptional. After years of indifference and neglect, the bar is so very low that this is what passes for standard rom-com

say that there’s a plus side to all of this, but sadly, we just can’t think of one. Jack Dundee

Anticipation. The new one by Christophe Honoré. Can’t wait! Four Enjoyment. Mon dieu!

Two

In Retrospect. Lets put it down to a failed experiment. One

Good Luck Chuck DIRECTED BY Mark Helfrich STARRING Dane Cook, Jessica Alba, Dan Fogler RELEASED November 9

Who is Dane Cook?

Apparently he’s a hilarious and successful stand-up comic who has somehow landed himself a rom-com career vehicle with Jessica Alba. Unknown over here, the question is, does he deserve his own feature? Yes, actually, but that doesn’t make Good Luck Chuck any better. In fact, the film stands as a beacon for the creative lethargy that has consumed this genre. The hyperactive Cook plays Charlie, a regular guy who gets, loses then wins back the girl just in time for a happy ending. The twist here is that Charlie is a good luck charm for chicks: every girl he sleeps with goes on to marry the next man she meets. Once

fair. Do us all a favour: vote with your feet and give the whole thing a miss. Jonathan Williams

Anticipation. Hope can’t defy reason. One Enjoyment. A tedious stream of nightmarish déjà vu. One

In Retrospect. How many times can you tell the same story? One 061


An interview with Mexican filmmaker Carlos Reygadas. Bow your head in awe.

Silent Light

DIRECTED BY Carlos Reygadas STARRING Cornelio Wall, Miriam Toews, María Pankratz RELEASED December 7

With the likes of

Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu among his admirers, Carlos Reygadas has emerged as the Mexican filmmaker’s filmmaker. Moreover, with his previous two features – Japón and Battle in Heaven – he proved himself among the most distinctive voices in contemporary world cinema. Screened to rapturous acclaim in Cannes, where it won a much deserved Jury Prize award, Silent Light is the Mexican’s most assured and least contentious feature yet. Set amidst a Mennonite community in Chihuahua, northern Mexico, the minimalist narrative focuses on the plight of Johan (Cornelio Wall), a respected husband and father who breaks the rules of his society by embarking on an affair with another woman (María Pankratz). Johan has been honest with his wife (Miriam Toews) about his adultery, but this does little to reconcile the conflicts raging within him. Inspired by primal, NeoBiblical imagery and the work of Carl Dreyer (whose Ordet is directly referenced), Silent Light is a moving meditation on love and betrayal. It is shot almost entirely in the Mennonite’s traditional Plautdietsch language, shorn of sexual explicitness, and Reygadas again uses non-actors to superlative effect, casting for their Silent Era expressiveness and teasing out performances of remarkable intensity.

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Working for the first time with cinematographer Alexis Zabé, and using only natural light, the film is a visual and emotional tour de force. The opening and closing time-lapse photography sequences, which reveal a night sky as it slowly turns from dawn to daybreak and back again, are among the most breathtakingly executed cinematic moments of our age. Though the director has complete mastery of both sound and vision, this is no cold and calculating exercise in technical bravado, but rather a tender, moving and profoundly spiritual work from a first class filmmaker. In a cultural climate in which even the most mediocre works are commonly described as ‘masterpieces’, Silent Light offers evidence of the true value of the term. Jason Wood

Anticipation.

Battle in Heaven divided even admirers but a new film from Reygadas is becoming an art house event. Four

Enjoyment. Sublime.

Many will find the pacing taxing, but that should be regarded as part of the pleasure. Four

In Retrospect. One

of the finest films of the year and absolutely worthy of many repeated viewings. Five

LWLies: There are those who find your work exceptional, but there are others who take exception to it. Why is that? Reygadas: I try not to expect anything. I don’t really look for a reaction; I just try to make the film to the best of my ability. After it’s made, whatever happens is out of my control. I absolutely do feel that I make films for the public; to share them is the primary reason for making them. But because I think of the public as individuals, I also know that I have to make every decision according to my own tastes and principles. LWLies: You are driven by attention to detail. Given the already challenging conditions in which you were working did this at any time become frustrating? Reygadas: Actually all the frustrations were forgotten because I think that the attention to detail always paid off. It was because of this attentiveness that many of the film’s most beautiful moments arose. For example, we wanted to be very receptive to the accidents and surprises that occur with humans and with nature, and we would sometimes wait for rain that would seem as if it was never going to come. When it did come, it came so long and so hard that the waiting was worthwhile. We once waited for rain for a whole week. Just sitting in the middle of the countryside next to cows. The day that we decided that we would go back to the house and prepare something else it began to rain. What also happened is that although the film looks very green, when October arrived it brought with it a terrible cold and it turned all the green grass and general vegetation yellow. That created some real continuity problems, causing us to shoot a few sequences down south where it was still verdant. In the end it can be exciting to work like that. LWLies: Is there a moment from the new film that particularly strikes you? Reygadas: I like the water sequence. I like the sound and the reflections. I also like the sequences where the cows are milked. The machine makes me think of Metropolis. LWLies: You’ve so far resisted working outside of Mexico. Is that a deliberate choice? Reygadas: I’m not dogmatic about it but I wouldn’t be prepared to invest two years of my life making a big studio film that I had little interest in. The attraction of making a film that was part of a big franchise would undoubtedly be the money, because if I wasn’t too stupid I would be able to live quite comfortably for the rest of my life. LWLies: Like Alfonso Cuarón and González Iñárritu you’ve also started producing and encouraging younger filmmakers. Reygadas: We don’t see film as a cake that if someone takes a piece of it then you are going to have less. We enjoy the success of others. The whole industry benefits if there is success and diversity. Jason Wood


We Own The Night

You can kinda tell

from the title that this is going to be naff – it’s got a ring to it more suited to the back of a Love Heart than the wall of your local multiplex. But here it is, James Gray’s long-time-coming follow-up to 2000’s The Yards (he’s really got a problem with those titles), and it achieves a level of mediocrity with which only canned food can hope to contend. The year is 1988 and the (predominantly Russian?!) owners of various New York nightclubs have got wise to the fiscal advantages off pushing smack,

DIRECTED BY James Gray STARRING Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall

RELEASED December 14

crack and gak. While nubile hotties shotgun Drambuie and shake their booty to the latest Styx album, the contents of their mink purses are quietly siphoned off to fund shady drug-running ops. Bobby (Joaquin Phoenix) is in the privileged position of running one such club, much to the chagrin of his antsy bro’ Joseph (Mark Wahlberg, rehashing his role as Shouty Tough #2 from The Departed), a cop with a serious hankering to dish out some cell-time to those Ruskie bastards who’re corrupting ‘The

Kids’ and getting away clean. Their slow-burn sibling rivalry finally comes to a head when Joseph busts into one of the clubs on the trail of a dealer, which in turn forces a moral dilemma onto Bobby: does he shop his kid brother to a bunch of nasty Eastern crims, or give up an empire which has taken years to build? We Own The Night may be a crap title, but even if it was called Downtown Shakedown at the Eighties Russian Drug Club, you’d still leave the cinema thinking that ‘generic’ just isn’t the word. A very

decent car chase aside, this is one cop thriller in dire need of some original thinking. Jack Dundee

Anticipation.

Phoenix and Wahlberg sharing the screen? We’re listening... Four

Enjoyment. Tawdry,

pulpy, nuts-and-bolts cop thriller. Two

In Retrospect. It’s like the other end of the spectrum from Jonze and Gondry. One 063


LIONS FOR LAMBS RELEASED November 9

“Do you want to win

the War on Terror?” asks snake oil Senator Jasper Irving. “Yes or no? This is the quintessential yes or no question of our time.” ‘Yes!’ say stand-up students Ernest and Arian. One’s black, one’s Hispanic, and together they’re ready to kick ass, take names, work hard and change the world. ‘No!’ says golden-tanned frat boy Todd. It’s all a lie! Fuck the system! He’s got bongs to hit and girls to bang, what’s the point of getting involved in all this political shit? ‘What does that even mean?!’ ask the rest of us, as Lions For Lambs unfolds into a relentlessly hand-wringing talkfest in which liberal guilt

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DIRECTED BY Robert Redford STARRING Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, Andrew Garfield

and voter apathy collide head on with those devious, lying neo-con liars and their cheating, lie-filled war. While the black and Hispanic communities are the first to volunteer, on the lofty heights of Capitol Hill, Senator Irving (Tom Cruise) dances a verbal tango with Janine Roth (Meryl Streep), a sceptical oldschool hack, promising her from behind his giant mahogany desk that everything is set to change. But why, when attacked by Afghanistan, did America go to war in Iraq? “When will you journalists stop asking that question?” demands Irving. “When we get an answer,” replies Roth. But for all its balshiness,

Lions For Lambs feels halfhearted. There’s a rather unpleasant waft of selfsatisfaction that drifts tangibly through the film. Like every American movie that purports to offer The Truth about the Middle East, certain targets are resolutely off limits. The American soldiers, here represented by the saccharine selflessness of Michael Peña and Derek Luke, are brave and innocent, doing the dirty work that the rest of us don’t like to think about. But like it or not, these are the same soldiers responsible for the photos from Abu Ghraib, the same soldiers who tortured and sexually abused Iraqi civilians and urinated on detainees.

Lions For Lambs is on the right side – it’ll send Fox News pundits into a spasm of patriotic rage – but it’s too polished, too tactless, too small too... American to adequately address the big questions of our time. Monisha Rajesh

Anticipation.

Another ‘War on Terror’ film, but packing a Cruise Missile! Three

Enjoyment. Gets

the brain ticking but it’s not quite satisfying enough. Three

In Retrospect.

Too smug, too limited, too shallow. Two


Brick Lane Based on the

DIRECTED BY Sarah Gavron STARRING Tannishtha Chatterjee, Satish Kaushik, Christopher Simpson

celebrated novel by Monica Ali, this is a bold adaptation from Sarah Gavron – confidently directed, intelligent and suffused in the glittering colours of Michael O’Connor’s beautiful costumes, echoed by Robbie Ryan’s photography. Brick Lane follows Nazneen, a Bangladeshi girl sent to England in the 1980s to marry an older man. It’s a story of immigration and isolation – a story which, in many ways, has come to define the last three decades of British life. But Nazneen is no cipher. Thanks to a sensitive performance from Tannishtha Chatterjee, she

RELEASED November 16

never comes across as a victim, despite the loneliness that radiates from her sad brown eyes. Nazneen is strong and sensual, brave even, first in her decision to explore the charms of the radical Karim (Christopher Simpson), and then to reject him for her husband. In fact, it’s Nazneen’s husband, Chanu (Satish Kaushik), who takes the film’s most poignant journey. He is the archetypal immigrant – a firm believer in English values, and cheerfully stoic in the face of prejudice. But where Nazneen will find resolution or at least some sense of inner rootedness Chanu will see his faith go unrewarded. First his belief in the

English is dismantled and ruined, and then, in the wake of 9/11 and the rise of Islamic militancy, his belief in his Muslim identity is shaken to the core. The East End of London also plays its part. This is a satisfyingly squalid vision of the capital, but one which finds a beguiling urban poetry in the collision of markets, flats and everyday lives that thrive far away from the usual postcard spots. A local squabble saw plans to film on the real Brick Lane shelved, however, and you can have some sympathy with those residents who thought they were being unfairly stereotyped. The film’s second half deals with the

aftermath of 9/11 in little more than tabloid fashion, but that scarcely detracts from Brick Lane’s haunting and languid beauty. Matt Bochenski

Anticipation.

Depends if you’ve read the book. Three

Enjoyment. See

above, although it’s a hard heart that isn’t immersed by this delicately told tale. Three

In Retrospect.

Politically perfunctory, but a sensitive peek into a family’s life. Three 065


The Killing of John Lennon RELEASED December 7

John Lennon was

shot dead in December 1980 by 25-year-old fan-turned-stalker Mark David Chapman, a fantasist who claimed to have been inspired by The Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield. JD Salinger’s creation is a loner, an outsider with murderous thoughts who despises the ‘phonies’ he sees around him. In Chapman’s eyes, John Lennon, a millionaire who advocated the surrender of all material possessions, was the biggest phoney of them all. Using authentic locations, Chapman’s own words and a cast of unknowns and non-professional

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DIRECTED BY Andrew Piddington STARRING Jonas Ball, Krisha Fairchild, Mie Omori

actors, director Andrew Piddington creates a genuinely disturbing film that treads a fine line between insight and sensational collusion. On the one hand his film gives the most ‘honest’ version possible, an unflinching account of the months that led up to Lennon’s murder. But on the other hand, Piddington indulges his subject, including his droll asides and glorying in his oddness. We’re told that Chapman was a narcissistic killer intent on using Lennon’s fame to engineer his own notoriety, so it follows that in making this film Piddington is

helping him to achieve that goal. It’s a controversial approach that adds to the discomfort, but Piddington’s devotion to his subject also slows the film. Chapman compared himself to Travis Bickle and Jake La Motta, comparisons dutifully repeated by Piddington, but the reality is that Chapman was nothing like as compelling as his fictional heroes. With the story meandering to its conclusion, Piddington’s commitment to real places, real words and real people begins to feel strikingly similar to Chapman’s own pathological rejection of phonies, and once

Lennon has been shot the film tails off into macabre but stunted reproduction. Steve Watson

Anticipation.

Don’t know much about this – could be interesting. Three

Enjoyment. Tense

until the murder, but Piddington assumes we all care as much about Chapman as he does. Two

In Retrospect.

Mark Chapman is no Travis Bickle. Two


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Shrooms RELEASED November 23

DIRECTED BY Paddy Breathnach STARRING Lindsey Haun, Sean McGinley, Maya Hazen

Is there any genre

as gleefully self-referential as horror? While others nod in the direction of self-awareness, horror – especially lo-fi horror – has taken to flying its used underwear from a flagpole, flaunting what otherwise would be damned as a sheer lack of originality. At first glance, Shrooms is no different, setting out its store like a pubescent meticulously planning an evening of masturbatory delights. American teens (jock, virgin, bitch, stoner, etc.) go camping in the country armed with psychotropic mushrooms, only to encounter an abandoned orphanage, a scary myth, feral locals and something in the woods. But rather than being agonisingly clichéd, Shrooms is genuinely, horribly, fuck-me scary.

That’s thanks in part to its exceptional use of location. Filmed in Ireland, Shrooms is a literal and metaphorical trip, as well as a model of narrative confusion. When chief protagonist, Tara (Lindsey Haun), starts to see into the future and talk to the dead, the film becomes a disturbing mesh of blurred reality and disjointed time line that effectively mirrors its characters’ hallucinogenic nightmare.

The brilliantly realised evil in the woods, the disposability of these stock teenagers, and a memorable comedy moment involving a talking cow all give Shrooms an air of superlative quality. However, it is seriously let down by a final twist that is so obvious it can only be explained as a knowingly lame money shot to sate those horrorsexuals who love this kind of sadistic self-abuse. James Bramble

Anticipation.

away. Through the battle with the undead, you’ll lose some of your crew, and perhaps a few limbs, but eventually you’ll make it to where the grass is greener and the air is pure. Very little of the film makes sense – risk a two-minute toilet trip and you may well wonder if you’ve come back into the wrong cinema. In keeping with the traditions of grindhouse it may

be, but the skank and squalor and painfully laughable violence override of this pastiche don’t cut the mustard. The lowpoint sees ‘The Rapist’, played by none other than QT, get his cock out just long enough to wank over himself. It could be a gesture of sly self-awareness. More likely, it’s a painfully literal reason for the film’s existence. Monisha Rajesh

Anticipation.

Another teen schlockhorror to add to the list. Two

Enjoyment. Scary,

trippy and disturbing, although let down by that ending. Three

In Retrospect.

An accomplished genre movie. Four

Planet Terror DIRECTED BY Robert Rodriguez STARRING Freddy Rodríguez, Rose McGowan, Josh Brolin

RELEASED November 9

The second half of

Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s failed experiment limps sheepishly into cinemas. And if you’ve already seen the car crash that is Death Proof, you’ll know just what to expect when we tell you that Planet Terror was always meant to be the crap one. For what it’s worth, a mutant virus seeps out of a broken container, infects the innocent and causes pustulesprouting freaks to break through walls. You run, they chase, they bite, you die. Unless you’re Rose McGowan, in which case you’ll fix a machine gun to the stump of your leg and blast the fuckers

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Grindhouse? We get it, doesn’t mean we like it. Two

Enjoyment. Being a

zombie looks more fun. One

In Retrospect. If somebody chewed your head off, would you at least forget this mess? One


sleuth RELEASED November 23

The kindest thing

that can be said about Sleuth is that it tries to be different. A remake it may be, but in facelifting Anthony Shaffer’s hit play – previously adapted in Joseph L Mankiewicz’s 1972 film – Kenneth Branagh has attempted to create a genuinely unusual thriller. Unfortunately for all concerned, he’s failed – and the result is a bit of a mess. The original Sleuth saw Michael Caine appear as Milo Tindle, a playboy hairdresser sleeping with the wife of Andrew Wyke, a wealthy author. Tindle visits Wyke at his gadget-laden home and asks the older man to agree to a divorce. Instead,

DIRECTED BY Kenneth Branagh STARRING Michael Caine, Jude Law, Eve Channing

the writer responds with an unusual challenge, and soon the two men are locked in an escalating battle of wills. In the hip and post-modern world of 2007, Caine has now taken on the part of Wyke while the role of Tindle is passed to Jude Law – a forgiving bit of casting given the latter’s mutilation of Alfie three years ago. Meanwhile, scriptwriting duties are handed to Harold Pinter – Nobel Prize winner and general all-round bad boy of UK theatre. Unsurprisingly, Pinter’s urbane wordplay is the highlight of the ride. Caine clearly enjoys the chance to work with a pithy

script, bringing a convincing air of menace to his reclusive cuckold. Law fairs less well, and though he rises to the occasion in a few key scenes, he simply lacks the presence to act as Caine’s foil. Meanwhile Branagh seems intent on working through every trick he can find in the Junior Puffin Guide to Odd Camera Angles. This is amusing at first, but once the novelty wears off we’re left with a thriller that resembles a student art installation – visually diverting, yet lacking in purpose. The film is thus forced to rely on the Wyke-Tindle rivalry, but this too loses its edge. By the

time the plot descends into misjudged homoeroticism, few people will be left to care. The real mystery here is where all the talent went. Neon Kelly

Anticipation. One for Branagh, one for Caine, two for Pinter. Minus one for Law. Three Enjoyment. Witty

banter, but Branagh’s direction is frustratingly flawed. Two

In Retrospect.

Sloppy execution of a reasonable concept. A wasted opportunity. Two 069


Interview DIRECTED BY Steve Buscemi STARRING Steve Buscemi, Sienna Miller, Michael Buscemi RELEASED November 9

Steve Buscemi is

Pierre, a bitter hack sent to interview Sienna Miller’s vacuous starlet, Katya. Over the course of the night, they torment, abuse, confide in and flirt with each other in this shifty psychological drama. Based on a film by murdered Dutch director Theo van Gogh, Interview has an experimental vibe. Shot on ugly DV and set largely in Katya’s Manhattan loft, it’s talky, theatrical and frequently frustrating. Both Pierre and Katya are hideous creations – him wheedling and lecherous, her desperate and needy. They circle each other like dancers, or maybe vultures, constantly caught between dependence and revulsion. Its themes are timely, however. We live in an age of media hype and saturation, where an abducted child is just another soap opera, and self-appointed celebrities gaze out from the pages of newspapers. In Pierre and Katya, both entertainment and journalism reach their twin nadirs; both professions fuelled by mutual antagonism, but each assured of its own destruction if it rejects the other. What Interview fails to do, however, is go the extra step and place the blame at its proper door. After all, both entertainment and journalism are service industries, and neither is quite so disgustingly hypocritical as their punters – milquetoast liberals and middle-class voyeurs who tut-tut into their Guardian while forking out for the latest Heat, bemoaning ‘celebrity culture’ while refusing to acknowledge their own seedy complicity. And that’s the point, isn’t it? Whatever its qualities as a film, Interview’s meta-textual relevance

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will grab the headlines. The same emasculated hacks it so baldly vilifies will obsess over Sienna Miller’s premiere outfit while ignoring the damning critique she represents. But don’t be fooled into thinking Miller is as onedimensional as those who judge her. She’s a charismatic screen presence, and even as she struggles to find a persona that

really defines her as an actress, she takes roles like this one – exactly the kind that Katya wouldn’t dream of playing. That said, the film still suffers for its implausibility. The interview itself is a fantasy scenario, and indeed, for a film with so muck yak, yak, yakking, remarkably little of substance is ever actually said. Matt Bochenski

Anticipation.

Sienna Miller continues to interest and excite. Three

Enjoyment. Thematic

power obscured by selfconscious style. Two

In Retrospect.

Could be a grower. Three


Indie hottie Shannyn Sossamon fits us into her busy schedule. LWLies: You didn’t get the script for Wristcutters until a couple of weeks before shooting started. Why did you get it so late? Sossamon: They were cutting it really fine with casting. They were desperately in need of a girl to play Mikal, but nothing was working. I actually was frustrated that the casting took so long. When I got the script, I was so in love with it that I was mad. It was so beautiful that I thought, ‘Why haven’t I read this earlier? I want this!’ If I had more time, I could have really earned the role, but with only two weeks I was worried about how I was going to make it happen. I just got lucky I guess. LWLies: Is there something you wish you’d done differently with your performance? Sossamon: I think that anything you do is going to be horrible to watch. You think, ‘I wish I could have a go at that again’. But because I got thrown into it so quickly, I couldn’t do enough preparation. LWLies: The film has a lot in common with something like The Chumscrubber, as they both suggest that there is something very rotten at the heart of American teenagers. Do you think this is true? Sossamon: I think there is a much deeper awareness of a certain darkness at a much younger age. But also, on the positive side, kids are more open about such things as love. LWLies: Do you think that the relatively upbeat ending detracts from the message of the film? It kind of mitigates the consequences of suicide, doesn’t it? Sossamon: I suppose it’s a tricky part of the movie. It looks totally bleak but maybe a young, impressionable kid will just see attractive kids that dress cute and hang out in a bar with Joy Division playing. But that is cinema; filmmakers will always want the film to look beautiful no matter how ugly it is. LWLies: You have a reputation as an indie actress but you’ve done a lot of mainstream work. How do you see yourself as an actress and what governs the choices you make? Sossamon: That reputation really is not true. I wish I had done more independent material. I’ve done a couple of independent films and I feel they are the ones I’ve done the best in but I’ve definitely done some really shitty films. I’m still learning and in the process of discovering what I’m capable of. It’s about getting good material and knowing who you are. LWLies: It seems like movies interrupted these other plans you had – like being a dancer and DJ. Do you ever wish it hadn’t happened? Sossamon: No. It’s definitely a blessing and I would be an idiot if I didn’t admit that it was. The only down side is that I didn’t have that preparation time to study, practice and hone my acting. I had to grow into my talent and passion in front of everybody. Ed Andrews

Wristcutters: A Love Story RELEASED November 23

Zia (Patrick Fugit)

and Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon) are young and hot. They’re also dead. Zia slit his wrists, Mikal OD’d, now they’ve hooked up for a road trip in the afterlife where, they’re disgusted to find, everything is the same, only worse. Based on a short story by Israeli hipster Etgar Keret, and directed by Croatian Goran Dukic, Wristcutters has a solid indie pedigree, underscored by an irresistible soundtrack by gypsy punks Gogol Bordello. Visually, this is a smart take on the afterlife as a dusty reject zone of the real world. Shot with the distressed texture of battered jeans, it’s a compelling vision of a hellishly alienated American heartland, where mom and pop’s roadside store has degenerated into something sick and namelessly depressing. That the film was shot on location in LA speaks volumes for its sense of ennui. Here again is the violent dislocation of America’s teenagers explored in The Chumscrubber and given a gruesome resonance by Virginia Tech. But while there are timely things to be said about this generational malaise, Wristcutters

DIRECTED BY Goran Dukic STARRING Patrick Fugit, Shannyn Sossamon, Shea Whigham

falls into the same trap as Arie Posin’s satire. Rather than exploring the roots of teen suicide, Dukic is more interested in his own self-conscious cool. With his jaunty angles, offbeat surrealism and a cast seemingly ripped from the pages of a grisly fashion mag (Shannyn Sossamon is the best looking junkie in the before-, during- or afterlife), he substitutes insight and empathy for pseudoprofundity and artless posing. By the time the ending removes any sense of moral consequence from Zia and Mikal’s actions, all you’ll have taken away from Wristcutters is a couple of new songs for your iPod. It’s yet another shallow outing from a Sundance Institute grad. Danny Bangs

Anticipation. Has the credentials to be both insightful and entertaining. Three Enjoyment. Entertaining? Occasionally. Insightful? No. Three

In Retrospect.

Another indie director more interested in style than substance. Two 071


It’s a mad world: an interview with Allan Moyle, director of Weirdsville. LWLies: How has Weirdsville been received so far? It’s not an easy one to sell to mainstream audiences. Moyle: People in Britain seem to love the movie, so we love them. It’s such an antidote to LA and the big festivals like Sundance, which are so corporate now. You can reach people here.

Weirdsville RELEASED November 16

Canadian humour

has always held the promise of a more sophisticated understanding of life and irony than its American counterpart. It’s true, at least, in Weirdsville, a dry and distinct comedy with a Coen brothers-esque plot, and a Buñuellian sense of the ludicrous. Junkies Royce and Dexter (Wes Bentley and Scott Speedman), who live in what appears to be the coldest part of Canada, are trying to dispose of their friend’s body after an overdose. They also have to pay back their drug dealer for a stash that they were supposed to sell but ended up using instead – hence the OD. Naturally they plan a burglary to remedy the situation, and naturally it all goes wrong. At some point, satanists and medieval dwarves get involved – how and why are irrelevant. Weirdsville has a low-budget charm mixed with high-end performances. Bentley and Speedman are the best sort of actors for this sort of film – unpretentious and selfless. Alongside Taryn Manning as their junkie mate, they make a beautifully absurd triumvirate. Dysfunctional and directionless, their drug use is never belittled or trivialised for comic effect, and the harsh realities of being

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DIRECTED BY Allan Moyle STARRING Wes Bentley, Scott Speedman, Taryn Manning

an addict, the good and the bad, give a needed dose of reality that stops Weirdsville from being just another forgettable crime caper. And it really is much more than that. The opening scene sees a mouse struggling futilely to escape a toilet bowl, and there’s no better metaphor for what Weirdsville is ultimately all about. As Royce and Dexter evade curling-loving debt collectors, use garden gnomes for breaking and entering, and discuss new business ideas like ‘Cigatea’ (tea with tobacco in it) their pervasive world-weariness is the ever-present but unseen antagonist of the story. For the characters of Weirdsville, life is a Sisyphean trial, but if the film has a message, it’s that it doesn’t really matter: if you’ve got friends and a bong, that’s all you need. Jonathan Williams

Anticipation.

Sounds... weird. Three

Enjoyment. Funny, wellacted nonsense. The best kind of quirkiness. Four

In Retrospect.

Love in a cold climate is strangely heartwarming. Four

LWLies: Wes Bentley, Scott Speedman and Taryn Manning have talked about a sense of the absurd both in the film and on set. How much was in the script and how much came from you and the nature of the shoot? Moyle: It’s hard to say but the movie sets up a vibration of gleeful absurdity, and actors respond to the script not to me. They’re there in a good mood. I’m at a stage at my life where I believe that joy is the greatest tool towards making a movie. I give that speech everyday to the cast and crew. I happen to believe in invisible energies and karma, but if the producer was here, he would say that the personalities of the top people have to be a lucky match. LWLies: Early on in your career you had trouble with producers, like with Times Square. Moyle: I’ve had producers who didn’t trust me, and I wrote Times Square... That was the coke era and there was a lot of paranoia. And I was too young to give my speech, which is, you know, the only way this is going to work is if we’re joyful and honest. Let’s be friends first and let the universe do the heavy lifting. LWLies: What about the cast when you were making the film – how did they get on? Moyle: I have to give the cast some credit for taking a chance on this, because it could be just silly with dwarves and satanists. Actors at their level won’t come and audition together, so you just hope they’re going to like each other. And they did, so I didn’t have to direct the ineffable stuff – the deep stuff. LWLies: It’s a difficult film to categorise: the humour and dwarves mixed with a real message about friendship and hardcore drug addiction. Moyle: It jumps genre, and the conventional wisdom is not to do that. But the film succeeded on the page in breaking the rules, and I thought, ‘If we can succeed in doing that in the movie, it’ll be a great coup, but who knows if we can’. LWLies: Do you think Weirdsville might find its feet on DVD more than the cinema? Moyle: I have a feeling that this movie is going to be good on video. Thank God it’s opening here, in the land where a much higher percentage of the people are conscious and read books, so it’s going to do better here than in America. Just because the level of brainpower is, you know... America elected Bush twice. It’s fun to have our movie open here in England. I couldn’t be happier. Jonathan Williams


Into The Wild You see the words

‘directed by Sean Penn’ and you don’t necessarily think hippie spiritualism, the poetry of Lord Byron, and the palliating power of nature. Which is why the soft and strangely beguiling Into the Wild, Penn’s latest directorial effort, is such a sweet surprise. It opens with a line from Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: “By the deep sea and the music in its roar; I love not man less, but Nature more.” And then it’s off, unbridled, like a sensory blast from a flower-power blunderbuss. Here Penn tracks the real-life progress of WASP-y rich kid Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) who, in 1990, ditched a life of white collar ambition in Harvard Law for a penniless twoyear trans-American odyssey of spiritual fulfilment.

DIRECTED BY Sean Penn STARRING Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt

RELEASED November 9

The trip (documented in Jon Krakauer’s best-seller of the same title) is an amalgam of encounters with zany locals (step forward Vince Vaughn and Catherine Keener), with natural dangers, with river rapids, with wild animals and, occasionally, with even wilder men. It culminates in a brutal, unforgiving and yet weirdly transcendent climax, with McCandless alone and emaciated in the Alaskan wilderness. Along the way Penn goes widescreen crazy, pushing the envelope of nature cinematography. One throwaway shot is a snappy whip-pan from McCandless’ passing kayak down under water to two dolphins swimming obliviously beneath – a real-time shot, according to Penn, procured

with patience rather than CGI. Polemically, the film is a love letter to America from one of its prodigal sons (Penn, a nominal friend to Hugo Chavez, is the closest thing to a pinko traitor that Hollywood has ever produced). It speaks of a place of unerring natural beauty, of mostly altruistic denizens, and of a rugged and often hostile landscape that, given half a chance, can bring out the elemental truth in Man. And if it all seems a bit New Age on paper, a bit touchyfeely, it’s surely a testament to Penn’s conviction as a filmmaker that on screen it feels utterly essential, and even moving. Penn has said that Into the Wild is a mission statement of sorts. More than anything he’s done in the past, it is a

declaration, he says, of his art, and a sign of where he wants to go in future. If so, we await the subsequent emergence of his oeuvre with nothing less than baited breath. Kevin Maher

Anticipation. Sean Penn tackles the great outdoors? It can wait. Two Enjoyment. Deserts,

mountains, railroads, bears and a sad and lonely epiphany about the nature of human existence! Five

In Retrospect.

Oddly disturbing. You want to ring a friend, tell them that you love them, but that you know we’ll all die alone. Five 073


I Don’t Want To Sleep Alone

The Wayward Cloud RELEASED November 16

Following hot on the

heels of the epiphanic whimsy of Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and a Century, these two works from Malaysian auteur Tsai Ming-liang plough a similarly slow-and-steady furrow, unreeling oblique yarns about love and sorrow with a reliance on clear, considered imagery, heavy-set symbolism, and with a style best described by Village Voice critic J Hoberman as ‘perversely minimal’.

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DIRECTED BY Tsai Ming-liang STARRING Lee Kang-sheng, Chen Shiang-chyi, Lu Yi-Ching

First up is The Wayward Cloud, a porno musical comedy of sorts which takes in the strange sexual appetites of the residents of an apartment block during a serious drought in which watermelons aren’t just used to quench thirst. To film musical numbers in such a languid fashion is an odd but rewarding use of juxtaposition, but the film loses its steam far before it nears its two-hour run time. An altogether more alluring proposition is I Don’t Want to

I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone DIRECTED BY Tsai Ming-liang STARRING Norman Atun, Chen Shiang-chyi, Pearlly Chua

Sleep Alone, the director’s gorgeously shot, near-catatonic 2006 film in which he documents a string of erotic trysts by a man who is beaten to a pulp then nursed back to health by a group of bored labourers, and another man (played by the same actor) who is paralysed and confined to a hospital bed. Though both films are examples of a unique director working at his own pace, be sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for before giving the man your money. Jack Dundee

RELEASED November 16

Anticipation.

More high-end arthouse fare from an everburgeoning Chineselanguage film scene. Three

Enjoyment. Patience

will be rewarded, but not to be muddled with The Bourne Ultimatum. Three

In Retrospect.

Whatever your reaction, they’ll both stick in your mind for days. Four




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Elizabeth: The Golden Age DIRECTED BY Shekhar Kapur STARRING Cate Blanchett, Samantha Morton, Clive Owen

When a film as

impressive as Elizabeth is followed by murmurs of a sequel, reactions tumble into two opposing camps. There are the contemptuous: the cinephiles who await the film’s release with a defiance that disdains the triumph of quantity irrespective of quality. And then, of course, there are the converted, who, still bathing in the afterglow of the first, are ready to welcome a successor with open and uncritical arms. But Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a confusing hybrid, at once confirming your unwavering faith in the talents of both stars and makers, yet leaving you with the niggling sense that some things are better left alone. The year is 1585, and having reigned for nearly three decades, Queen Elizabeth I

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RELEASED November 2

(Cate Blanchett) is forced to confront continued assaults on her throne. This time her enemies are the fundamentalist Catholic Philip II, King of Spain (Jordi Mollà), backed by the Church in Rome, together with Elizabeth’s own cousin, Mary Stuart (Samantha Morton). Meanwhile, Elizabeth battles to reconcile her duties to her country with an unrequited love for Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen), who in turn develops an intimacy with the queen’s favoured lady-inwaiting, Bess (Abbie Cornish). Evidently a more moneyed production than its predecessor, the set pieces here are majestically drawn and at times irresistibly rousing. As politically incorrect as it may feel, it’s hard not to exalt in Elizabeth’s particular brand of nationalism when so ennobled

by Cate Blanchett’s throaty rallying cry for British victory. Yet beneath the trappings of grandeur, comparative weaknesses abound. The storytelling is not as intricate; the intrigue not as insidious; and the love story, though intermittently moving, fails to convey the delicacy and subtlety of the romantic entanglements fashioned by the first film. Indeed, the love triangle between Elizabeth, Raleigh and Bess reaches a zenith of poignancy only when we are offered fleeting, near intangible flashbacks of the queen’s earlier love affair with Robert Dudley, played in the first picture by Joseph Fiennes. Perhaps it is misguided to assess the film’s achievements and failings in purely comparative terms, however. Judged as a discrete whole and not a

consequent part, Elizabeth: The Golden Age is an exhilarating cinematic journey capable of inducing an afterglow that it can be proud to call its own. Emma Paterson

Anticipation. The brilliance of Kapur’s first outing with the Virgin Queen will have cinephiles drooling down the aisles. Four Enjoyment.

Indisputable. With lust, betrayal and battle scenes galore, it’s a thrillseeker’s paradise. Four

In Retrospect. Out of the heat of the moment, however, this epic may end up leaving you slightly cold. Three


In Memory of me RELEASED November 9

This is a puzzling

movie. Saverio Costanzo isn’t the first director to tackle the agonies of the spirit on the big screen – Pasolini, Scorsese and even Mel Gibson got there before him – but most of them, not to mention the blockbusting biblical epics of the 1950s, are interested in an imagined past – their films are, at heart, dramatic recreations of Gospel narratives. In Memory of Me is different. Set in a sprawling monastery in modern Venice, we follow Andrea (Christo Jivkov), a new recruit to the Church who has decided to give up his old life to “become a person”. Before being accepted into the priesthood he must complete his novitiate – think Full Metal Jacket with mops and prayers instead of rifles and swearing – where he will be tested by the faith, and vice versa.

DIRECTED BY Saverio Costanzo STARRING Christo Jivkov, Filippo Timi, André Hennicke

The atmosphere of the monastery is mundane, yet the film itself is, for a while, unpredictable. With a change to the score, the first half could play like Hitchcock. There is an air of mystery not just in the hidden truths of the Bible that the acolytes must endlessly ponder, but in the dark corners and locked doors of the monastery itself, especially the infirmary, to which Andrea is inexplicably drawn. Someone is in there, something is going on, but who and what are secrets left unresolved. Instead, Costanzo delivers an internalised account of the essential struggle of Christianity. Here, the suffering of the spirit and the great, terrifying unknown – symbolised by Andrea’s midnight wanderings and the infirmary’s secret resident – is keenly contrasted with the daily

order of service and sacrifice, and the sturdy certainty of the Father Superior (André Hennicke). But for all that Andrea seethes with inner passion, and guilty liaisons split the night (there’s a suggestion, perhaps, that two of the novices are having an affair), that internal tension simply doesn’t make for a compelling experience on screen. There are two films here, neither of which satisfies in its own right. As a mystery thriller, In Memory of Me lacks the curiosity to explore its own potential. As an examination of spiritual doubt it lacks insight. Jivkov’s unassertive performance fails to paper over the cracks. Despite a stunning location and what amounts, at times, to a creepy ambience fuelled by Costanzo’s ability to conjure images that are both

absorbing and intriguing, In Memory of Me is flat. It’s an original, heartfelt, even brave film that would be relevant and controversial in any country where Catholicism still holds sway, but to any secularists looking for an insight into the mysteries of faith, it’s more agony than ecstasy. Matt Bochenski

Anticipation. Unspoken secrets in the silence of a monastery. Three Enjoyment. It flirts

with being a better film than it really is, but never convinces. Two

In Retrospect.

Somebody should make a proper thriller set in a monastery. The Name of the Rose 2 maybe? Two 077


American Gangster RELEASED November 16

If you thought

Rembrandt worked with a large canvas, wait till you see American Gangster. Based on the true story of criminal kingpin Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) and his arch nemesis, detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe), Ridley Scott’s sprawling directorial return is the filmic equivalent of ‘The Night Watch’, but with fewer beards and more automatic weapons. The film’s astonishingly detailed production design is redolent of 1960s Harlem in all its seamy glory. Thanks to the involvement of both Roberts and Lucas as consultants on the movie, barely a stray bullet casing is out of place in Scott’s reimagining of their long-standing duel. And what a duel it is. Lucas’ rise from henchman of respected gangster ‘Bumpy’ Johnson to undisputed overlord of New York’s crime scene is the stuff of folklore.

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DIRECTED BY Ridley Scott STARRING Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Ruthless in his elimination of opponents, and visionary in his ambition, Lucas created a staggering network of dealers and users, whose needs he met by smuggling 98 per cent pure heroin through Vietnam in the coffins of dead US servicemen. The symbolism of Lucas’ choice of transit could not be clearer – as the death toll mounts in southeast Asia, so too does the number of whacked-out junkies on the streets of New York. It’s war out there – and not just for those in uniform. While the military conflict in Vietnam provides the foundation of Lucas’ drugs empire, it is the language of white-collar America that infuses his speech. When he talks of ‘supply’, ‘demand’, ‘customers’ and the integrity of his Blue Magic ‘brand’, he could be addressing the board in a Wall Street meeting room. Except that

– as the real Lucas stated in an interview with New York Magazine in 2000 – “I couldn’t have even gotten a job being a fucking janitor on Wall Street.” In Washington’s portrayal, Lucas may not operate within the bounds of the law, but he is an indisputably brilliant businessman, as well as a morbidly compelling anti-hero. By the time the long arm of the law finally begins to feel his collar, he has established a business empire to rival Rockefeller, his success so spectacular that even the New York chapter of the American-Italian mob has been absorbed into his operation. Lucas is certainly a largerthan-life figure, whose story is perhaps too epic even for the movie’s broad boundaries. Although this is nominally a two-hander for Oscar winners Washington and Crowe, Denzel

threatens to act his co-star off the screen at times. Occasional lurches in plot and character development likewise reveal the thick veins of gangster cliché lurking beneath the film’s skin. Nevertheless, with Casino and Goodfellas writer Nicholas Pileggi on board as executive producer, Scott stays just the right side of the fine line separating homage from derivation. Mike Brett

Anticipation. Admit it – no matter how many posters of Buñuel you put up, Ridley’s still your dirty secret. Four Enjoyment. “On

my command, unleash entertainment!” Four

In Retrospect. Heck, this almost makes up for GI Jane. Almost. Three


Crackpot genius Björn Türoque on the transformative power of air guitar. LWLies: So what is air guitar? An art form, a sport, a joke? Türoque: I think it is the only thing of its kind that really has all the excitement and thrill of victory and agony of defeat that you get in sport. But, you know, doubters late at night in bars argue with me about air guitar and don’t believe it can have a transcendent quality in the way that a piece of music or a dance performance can have, but I’ve experienced it. That’s what ‘airness’ is – it becomes transcendent and it becomes an art form and people are blown away by how amazing an interpretation of a song is. So it’s both – an art form and a sport. LWLies: And a joke? The whole film is totally serious but also just for fun, like when Zac Munro said he stopped performing because he didn’t want to eclipse the art form. Türoque: The competitors know what role they’re supposed to play. You know, ‘I’m here to be a rock star. That’s my job.’ And yet they all know that really they’re there because it’s ridiculous. So everyone understands that it’s a joke and they don’t take it very seriously, but that’s what Zac’s character became. He became this very eloquent spokesman for air guitar, and so I think he’s playing the role that he thinks his rock star would play. LWLies: It sounds sort of like professional wrestling. Türoque: It’s a bit like professional wrestling, but I like to think we’re a bit more real than that. LWLies: Your whole thing in the film is the perseverance – did you not feel at some point like saying, ‘Forget this, it was just a joke and it’s gone too far’? Türoque: It was more my girlfriend at the time saying it had gone too far. And my job, because I had to keep taking time off work. I think it’s weird – I went to LA because they put me on that TV show and said they’d fly me out there, and then the whole Finland thing happened, I think, just because once you get the air in your bloodstream it becomes a bit of an addiction. And coming in second place twice I kept thinking, ‘Well, I’ve got something’. As silly as the whole thing is, you find yourself getting a bit obsessed. LWLies: We see you with groupies at one point in the film. Is that common for air guitarists? Türoque: I think it’s fairly common. I’ve certainly seen some of it on tour, you know, with the other air guitarists. You basically become an instant rock star and you get a lot of the perks that come along with that. LWLies: Do you still get that now? Türoque: Well I’m currently travelling with my groupie. We met at the Edinburgh Film Festival and that was two years ago now. She was promoted from head groupie so now she’s got official status. Steve Watson

Air Guitar Nation RELEASED November 9

A Korean Jack Black

jumps around on stage pulling funny faces. He is C-Diddy, the air guitar sensation who enthrals all who come before his wobbly belly and Hello Kitty breastplate. Alexandra Lipsitz’s documentary follows him from playing above a bar in New York to the national qualifiers in LA and on to the world championships in Finland – the first time an American has been in with a shot at the title. Inevitably given the subject matter, there are laughs along the way as C-Diddy encounters oddballs, enthusiasts and a wheelchair-bound man who walks thanks to the combined forces of God and ‘air’. But Air Guitar Nation is about more than laughing at grown up rock fantasies. Björn Türoque is a deadpan also-ran, a man who consistently comes second to C-Diddy but continues to find the strength to compete, determined to succeed in his pointless enterprise. And he is not alone in his bizarre

DIRECTED BY Alexandra Lipsitz STARRING Dan ‘Björn Türoque’ Crane, David ‘C-Diddy’ Jung, Angela ‘Cherry Vanilla’ Shelton

dedication to a clearly frivolous competition, although just how seriously the competitors take themselves and their sport is intriguingly unclear. Did reigning champion Zac ‘The Magnet’ Munro really retire because he didn’t want his popularity to eclipse the sport, or is he selling Lipsitz a line, one she’s all-too-eager to buy? Fascinating and hilarious, Air Guitar Nation has the distinct sense of being in the right place at the right time to capture a cultural phenomenon in all its weird and contradictory glory. Steve Watson

Anticipation.

Eighty minutes of air guitar might be going too far. Two

Enjoyment. A genuinely funny and absorbing documentary. Four

In Retrospect. “To air is human; to air guitar divine.” Three 079


HE WAS A QUIET MAN

DIRECTED BY Frank A Cappello STARRING Christian Slater, Elisha Cuthbert, William H Macy

RELEASED December 7

4:30

DIRECTED BY Royston Tan STARRING Yuan Xiao Li, Kim Young-jun

RELEASED November 23

Director Frank A Cappello pushes Christian Slater

Eleven-year-old Xiao Wu rises in his squalid

to his limits as Bob Maconel, a man who can’t take it anymore but who becomes an accidental hero after going on a killing spree in his office. His redemption comes in the form of the girl he saves, Vanessa (Elisha Cuthbert), a quadriplegic who comes to love and rely on Bob. Slater plays Bob as an out-and-out nutcase – the violent alter ego of Milton from Office Space – and just about convinces as a psychopathic dweeb. Better is Cuthbert as a bitch brought low by her accident. She outshines Slater in this above average (just) comedy drama. Jonathan Williams

Singapore apartment at 4:30 every morning, sometimes to watch old films he’s seen a thousand times, but mostly to creep into the bedroom of his tenant/uncle Jung. Jung is a wordless, suicidal thirtysomething who, through the bizarre – and not entirely healthy – attention of the younger boy, will come to a tentative acceptance of life. Royston Tan’s film comes alive in the green hued semi-darkness of the flat, using long takes and infinite silences to show two troubled souls connecting through their mutual loneliness. Matt Bochenki

THE NINES

DIRECTED BY John August STARRING Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis, Elle Fanning

RELEASED November 30

HOTEL HARABATI

DIRECTED BY Brice Cauvin STARRING Laurent Lucas, Hélène Fillières, Anouk Aimée

RELEASED December 7

Weird. That’s the feeling that hits you about 10

A tale of luggage lost and truths, the wonderfully

minutes into The Nines. But when something’s weird you tend to continue watching out of curiosity. The concept of parallel universes is a bold one to undertake on screen, and while the film is hardly a failure, it’s not a resounding success. With the lead actors taking multiple roles, what starts as a dark comedy slews into Truman Show-style paranoia and finally into slushy TV movie territory. Still, worth seeing just to spend some time with God. Told you it was weird. Steph Pomphrey

styled if obscurely scripted Hotel Harabati will baffle, intrigue and infuriate you. Brice Cauvin’s feature debut is assured yet his musical choices are odd to say the least; visuals of patient detail are juxtaposed with crashing harpsichords, distracting from the mysteries of the unfolding plot, which centres on a couple left holding a stranger’s bag that turns out to be filled with money. The only clue to the owner’s identity is a poorly written luggage tag and his description of his origin as “like Venice but without tourists.” So, Liverpool then? Adrian D’Enrico

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I DO

DIRECTED BY Eric Lartigau STARRING Alain Chabat, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Bernadette Lafont

RELEASED November 2

YOU KILL ME

DIRECTED BY John Dahl STARRING Ben Kingsley, Luke Wilson, Téa Leoni

RELEASED December 7

I Do is the story of lifetime bachelor Luis (Alain

Ben Kingsley as an alcoholic hitman who loves

Chabat) who, after being bullied into potential marriage by his five sisters and doting mother, hatches a plan to pay Emma (Charlotte Gainsbourg), the sister of his best friend, to be the perfect girlfriend who unceremoniously dumps him at the altar. So yes, it’s a romantic comedy, the mention of which usually alienates half of the population, generally the one in possession of a Y chromosome. However, the selfdeprecating wit and circumstance of I Do will strike a chord with more than just the Bridget Joneses of the world. Ailsa Caine

his job but has lost his precision through his equally intense love of vodka; Bill Pullman as a corrupt (and quite possibly drunk) estate agent; Luke Wilson as a reformed drinker; and Téa Leoni as a woman who, for some bizarre reason, falls in love with Kingsley despite the fact that he’s a cold-blooded killer with a bad Polish accent. Confused? You will be. You Kill Me is not the ‘killer comedy’ it’s touted as. It’s a badly written hash of a film, which will struggle to please even the most devout Sir Ben fans. Helen Cowley

CHROMOPHOBIA

DIRECTED BY Martha Fiennes STARRING Damien Lewis, Penélope Cruz, Ralph Fiennes

RELEASED December 7

PS, I LOVE YOU

DIRECTED BY Richard LaGravenese STARRING Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, Lisa Kudrow

RELEASED December 21

Forget the low-budget Brit-grit flicks that claim to

Some tragedies in life should be kept sacred. Some

show what Britain is really about – Chromophobia claims nothing, yet shows everything. Writer and director Martha Fiennes withholds today’s compulsion to toss in a handful of black and brown people to represent the multi-cultural nature of London, but chooses subtler refinement in her choice of characters. The poverty-stricken mother wrestling illness to feed her girl is as exposed and vulnerable as the Jermyn Streetattired accountant who can’t trust his boss or his best friend. A brilliant film that is impossible not to mull over, again and again. Monisha Rajesh

things are just too fucking sad, too genuinely emotional, too downright human to be denigrated to the realms of the rom-com. When Holly Kennedy’s (Hilary Swank) husband dies from a brain tumour, letters start arriving sporadically, filled with messages of hope from her newly departed (Gerard Butler). That’s all fine and dandy. But when the funny bits don’t make you laugh, and the sad bits don’t make you cry, you leave feeling supremely guilty for witnessing a tragedy and wanting to barf. It’s tough being a cynic. Andrea Kurland

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Death at a Funeral

DIRECTED BY Frank Oz STARRING Matthew Macfadyen, Andy Nyman, Peter Dinklage

RELEASED November 2

The Magic Flute

DIRECTED BY Kenneth Branagh STARRING Joseph Kaiser, Amy Carson, René Pape

RELEASED November 30

A foppish English gent, an ensemble British cast

So apathy inducing is director Kenneth Branagh’s

and a dash of Americana were once sufficient when concocting a classic Brit comedy. If only there was someone at the helm of Death at a Funeral to stop it roaming into the genre doldrums of mediocre sub plots, impromptu nudity and faeces gags. Frank Oz proves himself thoroughly unequal to the task, limply directing Matthew Macfadyen as a master of ceremonies at a family funeral that digresses into a series of farcical events; all of which are best avoided. Not even Peter ‘The Dink’ Dinklage can save the day. Ailsa Caine

adaptation of the popular Mozart opera that it’s difficult even to rouse yourself to leave. Branagh and librettist Stephen Fry have transposed the action to World War One’s battlefields, borrowing a look from kitschy photographer duo Pierre & Gilles’ ’80s work: shimmery, bathed in a translucent sheen and, frankly, rather stagey. Supported by the Peter Moores Foundation, whose mission is to open opera up to a wider audience, The Magic Flute is a tedious effort that has probably set the project back at least 50 years. Jonas Milk

A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash

DIRECTED BY Basil Gelpke, Ray McCormack STARRING Fadhil Chalabi, Robert E Ebel, Matt Simmons

RELEASED November 9

Sicko

DIRECTED BY Michael Moore STARRING Michael Moore

RELEASED October 26

In 30 years we will have run out of oil. This is the

Michael Moore’s latest broadside is against

conclusion drawn by A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash, a documentary that begins by sounding familiar alarm bells about the finite supply of oil, but which succeeds in spelling out the reality of a world running out of its primary source of fuel. Incredible statistics and a parade of talking heads deliver the news that the oil supply is running dry and we don’t have anything to replace it, and while the film doesn’t look pretty (Look! Adverts from the 1950s! People didn’t know anything back then!) its simple message is powerful and compelling. Steve Watson

America’s private health industry and how it makes money by denying patients medical care. Although Moore is still over-fond of tugging at the heart strings, this is a more mature and thoughtful film than previous efforts. There is only one stunt – taking injured 9/11 survivors to hospital in Cuba – and the big man himself only appears on screen after 40 minutes or so. The 20-minute section praising our own NHS may grate, but Moore persuasively uses the USA’s disgraceful health policies as a symbol for everything that’s wrong with his country. Dan Stewart

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Man in the Chair

DIRECTED BY Michael Schroeder STARRING Christopher Plummer, Michael Angarano, Robert Wagner

RELEASED November 23

Cocaine Cowboys

DIRECTED BY Billy Corben STARRING Mickey Munday, Jorge Ayala, Jon Roberts

RELEASED November 23

Writer/director Michael Schroeder’s CV is

Here’s one for the whoop ‘n’ holler late night

unremarkable apart from a few seedy thrillers and Cyborg 2 with Angelina Jolie. So it’s odd to find him making a sentimental redemption film. Christopher Plummer is a grumpy cinephile coerced by would-be director Cameron (Michael Angarano) to help him make a student movie. Over the course of the film’s production they forge a mutual respect with a lot of clever references and in-jokes along the way. It’s sweet and earnest but suffers for its familiarity and a slew of Batteries Not Included-style ‘old folks banding together’ silliness. Jonathan Williams

crowd. Billy Corben’s swooning doc is a kinetic account of the mid-’80s cocaine wars in Miami. He interviews just about everybody who survived, like hitman Jorge ‘Rivi’ Ayala, who talks calmly from a prison cell about shooting men, women and children. It’s a great story, but familiar, and after the umpteenth footage of bullet-riddled bodies, Corben’s sensationalism begins to look more than a little tawdry. The ropey graphics and sub-Scarface synth music simply add to the feeling that you’re getting a low budget experience. Matt Bochenski

A Very British Gangster

DIRECTED BY Donal MacIntyre STARRING Dominic Noonan, Desmond Noonan

RELEASED December 7

Earth

DIRECTED BY Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield STARRING Patrick Stewart, David Attenborough

RELEASED November 16

Donal MacIntyre directs this documentary about

Earth is a whistle-stop tour through the planet’s

Mancunian crime lord, Dominic Noonan. Armed only with a camera and some particularly brave questions considering Noonan’s previous convictions for assault, armed robbery and racketeering, he follows the ageing gangster and his band of cheap-suited teenage boys as they enforce their own brand of law and order on the grim tenements of north-west Manchester. Noonan is a compelling character, but the film is plagued by ill-fitting montages and needlessly over-stylised camera work which hamper the otherwise promising subject matter. Ed Andrews

finest and most bizarre creatures, and with exquisite cinematography from the Planet Earth team the effect is both humbling and awe inspiring. Patrick Stewart narrates and as such the film often feels like it’s teetering on the brink of apocalyptic drama rather than straight documentary. However, Earth’s message is clear and unashamed; we’re screwing up the planet and we need to stop, and as you watch iconic land predator the polar bear suffering the direct consequences of global warming, it’s hard to object to a bit of re-education. Ailsa Caine

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While The Boss may have had some lentil-eating lefty ideas about workers and civil rights, no one could argue that his musings on death didn’t hit the nail on the head and straight into the coffin lid. Here, with the anniversary of the death of our Lord Jesus on the horizon, and at the end of a year of satanic cinematic carnage, we celebrate, berate and investigate the deaths of some of cinema’s shining stars and unholiest heroes.

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Today I confess to the world that I am not an entirely normal cinemagoer. I have unusual interests and surprising proclivities. I am a professional theologian: wherever I go and whatever I see, I am disposed to probe films for their spiritual or religious dimension. Before you rush to consign me to the over-stuffed compartment of your mind labelled ‘Miscellaneous Crackpots – Do Not Disturb’, let me suggest that far more films than you might think have a spiritual or religious dimension. Films illuminate, orient and open up new horizons for living in much the same way as divine revelation or scripture in religious societies of the past. And now cinema is using its unique combination of artistic cachet, mass appeal and affective power to elbow its way onto the theological agenda alongside the dusty texts and threadbare arguments that are the more traditional concerns of my colleagues and I. I am making my confession here because filmgoers of my persuasion are inordinately interested in death. In fairness, it’s neither a morbid obsession with our mortality nor a callous sangfroid; we don’t delight in any old cinematic snuffing-out. Rather, it’s a fascination with one particular sub-set of the vastly variegated panoply that is The End. By way of introduction, let me run a few sublime to ridiculous examples past you. There’s the simple

but devoted wife who gives herself up to fatal sexual abuse in the hope of purchasing her crippled husband a miracle (Breaking The Waves); the clueless young priest who dies of cancer (Diary of a Country Priest); the wizard who plunges to his death in a bottomless abyss to buy his companions time to escape (The Fellowship of the Ring); and the prisoner who refuses to bow to the dehumanising regime, eventually paying for his rebellion when he falls to a prison guard’s bullet (Cool Hand Luke). All these films and others besides are of interest to me and my ilk because, explicitly and intentionally, they allude to the most frequently filmed death of them all – that of Jesus Christ. With 121 Jesus films over the last century and a bit, it’s clear that the unique shape of this story still resonates powerfully in the minds of filmmakers. It could be just a form of cultural jet lag – we’ve moved on but our mental baggage is stuck in another time zone – but I’d like to suggest that there might be more to it than that. Despite being tragic, painful and frequently confusing, the deaths that follow the pattern of the Jesus story are, ultimately, meaningful. To use a theological word occasionally purloined by film critics, these are ‘redemptive’ deaths. The crippled husband is healed after the wife’s self-sacrifice; oppressive authorities are shamed by the indomitable rebel; brutalised minorities rise-up

following their leader’s example; the fellowship escape the Balrog; traitors get a second chance. By alluding to the death of Jesus Christ, the filmmaker even smuggles in at least a rumour of resurrection, of life that conquers death. In fantasy, cinema can afford to be direct – the grey wizard dies but returns dressed in white; a lion is raised to life by a magic deeper and stronger than that of a witch. But in the stories set in our world, overshadowed as it is by the remarkable achievements and cocksure certainty of the natural scientists, most directors resort to a playful ambiguity – impossible bells toll above a North Sea oilrig; the prisoner lives on in the legend told and re-told by inmates; and the renewing influence of the young priest lingers in his isolated country parish. CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien (amateur theologians both), whose books have generated serious boxoffice receipts in recent years, had their own, slightly idiosyncratic, explanation for the power of the Christ-shaped story. They believed that all the most potent myths that humans have invented since they first huddled together in caves became reality in the person of Jesus. Of course, others say that these Christ-figure films are no more than infantile escapism from the harsh facts of life and death. Cowardly fantasies or echoes of a redemptive hope for all humanity? Let the viewer decide. Jonathan Brant

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Ingmar Bergman

(July 14, 1918 – July 30,2007) Arch-jokester Ingmar Bergman was always up for a laugh. Whether it was his father’s hilarious penchant for locking him in a cupboard when he wet himself, his rib-tickling support of Adolf Hitler, or indeed the gross out humour on display in his memorable 1957 hit The Seventh Seal (in which a trash-talking Death indulges in a ribald game of chess with a knight), the smiley Swede was never one to take the world too seriously. Not one of life’s great thinkers, his film The Wild Strawberries contained almost no references to fruit either wild or domestic, while A Virgin Spring, despite being Swedish, really isn’t the kind of film you’re probably hoping. Still, you couldn’t say that he wasn’t a trier, directing some 60-odd features over the course of his life, and even making plays too, just to prove he could. Good effort.

Michelangelo Antonioni

(September 29, 1912 – July 30, 2007) Michelangelo Antonioni, editor of Fascist filmmaking magazine Cinema, and sometime director, had an unhappy tenure in the hot seat of Vittorio Mussolini’s publication. Having moved to the magazine after a successful spell as the film critic for local Ferrara newspaper Il Corriere Padano, Antonioni lasted only a few months until he was ousted. Proving the maxim that every director is really a frustrated critic, he went on to carve out a successful ‘B’ career behind the camera, securing his reputation with a magical slice of swinging ’60s life in Blow Up, where he proved himself the master of modernity by showing a bit of bush. Cinema is forever indebted to his vision.

Mike Reid

(January 19, 1940 – July 29, 2007) While dodgy foreign directors may have grabbed the obituary headlines, the year’s most poignant loss is, of course, the versatile and subversive Mike Reid. Famed for the dynamic acting range that saw him flit from dodgy East End used car salesman Frank Butcher in EastEnders to crooked East End jewellery dealer Doug the Head in Snatch, Mike Reid’s unmatched contribution to celluloid actually began way back in the 1960s. After a spell in Brixton prison for some tomfoolery with shotguns and a certain ‘Norf ’ London gang, Reid mustered his inherent cockney talent for getting away from ‘the filth’ and took the natural path of working as a stunt driver. In addition to adding his automotive trickery to such cinematic delights as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Dirty Dozen and Peter Seller’s Casino Royale, Reid also lent his burly frame to Spartacus and did all the stunts that Roger Moore was too pansy to try in The Saint. It is difficult to imagine modern British cinema shorn of his cheeky, Jack-the-lad touch. He died in July this year in true East End style – on the Costa Del Sol, clutching his sunburnt chest and stifling the words, “Bleedin’ heck, guv’nah. Me fackin’ number’s up!” or something like that.

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In Hollywood, you don’t have to die to be dead – look at Jim Carrey. In the last 12 months he’s fired his long-time manager, the $20 million pay packets have dried up, two big budget vehicles – Used Guys and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not – have fallen apart, and his one release, Number 23, made $35 million on over 2,000 screens. See ya Jim, it was swell while it lasted. And that better not be you singing ‘bye, bye, bye, bye’ Orlando Bloom, ’cos your career is about as hot as a week-old turd. The chinless dickhead may have inspired the Pirates franchise by being so wooden you could sail him, but after solo flops like Elizabethtown and Kingdom of Heaven, Bloom is back in the UK doing theatre for the foreseeable future. Out of choice? Yeah, right. Maybe Nicole Kidman will join him. After riding a $17 million pay day for Oliver Hirschbiegel’s The Invasion – more than the film itself actually grossed – one critic finally suggested that the actress start paying studios for the privilege of wrecking their films with her apparently Valium-addled style. Quentin Tarantino can direct them. Hear that loud pop? That’s the bubble bursting, QT.

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Bobby Pickett

(February 11, 1938 – April 25, 2007) While many venerable directors of films you’ve never actually seen have joined the Big Auteur in the sky this year, 2007’s biggest graveyard smash must surely belong to ‘Monster Mash’ composer Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett. Often derided as a one-hit-wonder, and whose big number was scoffed at by no less than Elvis Presley as being “the dumbest song” he’d ever heard, Pickett was in fact an accomplished songsmith and seasoned actor. Born somewhere in ’30s America, Pickett’s father managed the local fleapit, and it was there, running feral and unsupervised through the aisles, that Bobby developed both his enduring love for the moving image and the deep emotional scars of being brought up by Count Dracula,

The Wolfman, Thing from the Swamp and My Left Foot. His monster hit was penned when he was still a young pup, and it gifted him the requisite fuck-you money to launch his scarifying assault on Hollywood. After a solid apprenticeship in a slew of now forgotten ’60s TV applesauce such as Joe Camel’s Fantasy Cocktail Hour and the hideously cloying Stepford Wives dry run, Petticoat Junction, Pickett hit Hollywood square between the eyes like a used johnnie with his searing portrayal of Woody in the ’67 sleeper hit It’s a Bikini World! A rich, selective and thoroughly lurid series of roles were to follow as Pickett embarked on the golden triumvirate of his best-remembered

Charlton Heston

(October 4, 1923 – TBC 2008) Nobody epitomises the modern day freedom fighter quite like screen legend Charlton Heston. Whether fighting for the right of children not to be left alone with homosexuals or the right of businessmen not to employ black people, he is always looking out for the little guy. The chisel-jawed tough guy was a role he gladly embraced in such epics as Planet of the Apes, The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur, fighting against oppressive, limp-wristed hippies who wanted to stop him kicking some arse. However, nothing touched Charlton

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quite like the right to arm yourself like an Iraqi militiaman in the comfort of your own home. As President of the National Rifle Association, he excelled himself by taking his pro-gun message to such communities as Littleton, Colorado, in order to provide comfort in the wake of the high school massacre at Columbine. Although not quite dead yet, for someone his age and a penchant for playing with firearms, he really is pushing his luck. The loony-left are already circling, waiting for their chance to prize the AK-47 out of his cold dead hands.

performances. After knocking it out of the park as Dr. Slipper in 1970’s most controversial hot potato, The Baby Maker, he won the much-coveted role of Sweet Willy in Lee Frost’s seminal muckfest Chrome and Hot Leather before accepting the small, uncredited but pivotal part of Sweaty Hippy in ’72s serially overlooked Deathmaster. But Pickett soon wearied of Tinseltown. In his later years he was to come out of self-imposed, Brando-esque semi-retirement only for such hand-picked roles as Street Tough #3 in a TJ Hooker two-parter, and his meditative reading of ‘Man in Elevator’ in ’88 s Frankenstein General Hospital. He is survived by his agent, Saul Hagglestein.


Sir Sean Connery: 1930-1990

Jimmy Hoffa While many high-profile figures attract conspiracy theories – think JFK, in 1990. After and Elvis – few are so blatantly warranted as the death of Sean Connery returned to keeping his passing hush hush, his corpse was exhumed, reanimated and offend Connery did Who why? But years? 17 last the explain to else How d. Hollywoo may facts The grave? the beyond him punish to sought they that during his natural life g a body never be known, but what is clear is that this zombie Connery – inhabitin Goldfinger – was which, in life, had starred in The Untouchables, Time Bandits, Outland and nt, The Entrapme as shows horror such in n reputatio that abase to forced ly merciless er II to Sir Highland The from period twilight entire this Indeed, Avengers and First Knight. ’s husk, but Billi the Vet represents not just a cruel and unnatural abomination of Connery the marionette an assault on audiences that the living Sir Sean had loved so much. Finally, soul will find the that pray we though and t, retiremen its e announc to allowed has been answers. are there until rest not will we peace,

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Polemical documentaries are filling our cinemas, but should we really believe everything we’re told? As realist aesthetics collide with infotainment agendas (as seen in recent blockbusters such as Babel, Syriana, The Kingdom and A Mighty Heart), political documentaries are hoovering up audiences seeking further food for thought. As Noam Chomsky argues, “We need to make politics as gripping and engaging as sports”, the fact is that movies are the next best social gathering to a stadium full of yahoos. It was Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine and the record-grosses of Fahrenheit 9/11 that instigated the modern rise of the political documentary. But to what end? In 2002, Moore gave a show at Camden’s Roundhouse during which he told a predominantly white, middle-class audience – squirming in their seats like toddlers – that if the planes on September 11 had been full of black people from Brixton, none of the ensuing panic would ever have occurred. It’s certainly an interesting thought, but how should we approach this kind of polemical thinking? The New Yorker put it best in an article investigating Moore’s ethics when they said, “He is cognizant of the broadest possible audience, and emotion is vital if you’re going to have politics that speak to most

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people. Moore has the ability to touch peoples’ hearts.” But does he lay on the syrup a bit too thickly? With his new film, Sicko, a probing (and uncharacteristically measured) exposé of the US healthcare system, Moore makes it very clear that the foundation of his principles are similar to those set down in the making of America: democracy, liberty and the strength of human rights. Furthermore, he has complete command over those two moviemaking clichés: he makes you laugh and he makes you cry. But these are real stories. Moore is ostensibly apolitical about his subject in Sicko – the healthcare system functions by big business standards regardless of who is in office. He claims he wants to, “Make people see themselves as a group larger than ‘me’,” which historically finds its catalyst in making people realise what could happen, is happening and probably will happen to them in the outside world. Moore is working with the tools available, appealing to a disconnected and listless audience with the same methods the Republicans have used to gain power (that is, alarmist programming such as Action News, and the zombie avatar of Rupert Murdoch). Ty Burr, in his review of Fahrenheit

9/11 in the Boston Globe, said, “Moore is a maker of agit-entertainment, of cinematic essays whose express purpose is to convince.” As Tony Benn says in Sicko, we are “a frightened, poor and demoralised people” coming out of the wilderness to find things are not quite right. And just before the plane crashes, everyone will be watching the in-flight movie. At the back of the plane squabbling over the last parachute would be Rick Caine and Debbie Melnyk, the makers of Manufacturing Dissent. It’s a documentary that quite innocently attacks Michael Moore for his overpopulist leanings. Both former fans of Moore’s work, Debbie and Rick set out to make a biographical film, but soon found that certain facts of his have been squashed to fit the confines of the cinema screen. They also discovered that Moore might not be a very nice guy. “He is a very savvy businessman and he wants to get rich. His interest in politics and his interest in business are melded together,” they claim. They argue that in merging politics with entertainment, Moore is weakening the righteousness of the Left. Yet the film itself is guilty of character assassination, occasionally slipping into


the same mode as many of the more beguiling Fox News commentators. Moore’s populism provokes a jealous rage from liberals who believe their ideology can never be truly popular. An article in The New York Times once declared that liberals believe that “the authentic vox populi always comes from the Right,” and therefore Moore is thought to be either, “an oxymoron or a hypocrite”. Chris Atkins’ documentary Taking Liberties investigates the erosion of civil liberties and human rights as a result of the legislation put in place by the Labour government after September 11. The focus is on a number of engaging narratives with strong and charming central characters who stand as examples of the unjust nature of these absurd laws (all overlayed with an NME soundtrack). “What we have said in the film,” he says, “has been said every week in The Observer, but not many people read that. It’s about getting those ideas out to more people. Polemical documentary is the way to go when all other avenues have failed. You need to make the film enjoyable to watch. When trying to get across inaccessible messages that are quite complex, it can be something as simple

as putting an Oasis track underneath to make it more familiar.” With a background in film dramas, Atkins made the documentary for his generation; those who enthusiastically backed the perfectly plotted rise of Blair with its own slickly styled soundtrack. Once the good guys were in power, they disengaged with politics, only to awaken with popcorn in their laps and a war on their plates. “I think documentary makers are terrified of being populist. They don’t seem to want their audiences to enjoy it,” says Atkins. His book, on which the film is based, gives support to the storyline. There’s a call to action on the website with blogged updates on the cause and forums for further discussion. Oh, and you can buy the soundtrack. On a different subject, but with no less damaging ramifications, A Crude Awakening presents the scarily real possibility that our oil supplies will soon run out. Swiss filmmakers Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack have made a horror film; dramatic, gripping and gratifyingly scary. “We made the film to get this message to a wide audience. We used certain techniques, propaganda techniques, repeating the same information to embed the message,” admits

McCormack. They offer none of the soothing solutions of An Inconvenient Truth, which, unlike many of its forebears, is an optimistic film, believing that we are creative and capable of shaping an alternative way of life. Global warming is a populist issue. Millions may be dying every day from entirely preventable causes, but it’s okay because they’re in Africa. What really gets people motivated is the thought of their wooden slat house on the Whitstable beachfront one day being lost to the rising sea. That their children, or their grandchildren, may have less than they want. It seems that the way these documentaries are getting through to people is by using situations that have meaning to the potential audience. Movies have taught us to expect a happy ending, but not what to do once the credits roll. “We live in fictitious times,” said Michael Moore to a room full of fictional characters in 2003, and now more than ever, we need to know how to react. Holly Grigg-Spall Manufacturing Dissent is out now on DVD, Sicko is out now in cinemas, A Crude Awakening is released in cinemas on November 9, Taking Liberties is out now on DVD.

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Ah, Edinburgh. Crepuscular sandstone, your body rising suddenly from the gold-green Forth like cooling towers of lava, tar-stained stalagmites, or the ornate, organic edifices of a million ants. Once a year, Edinburgh sacrifices itself to the arts. Fouling its lonely streets with the petty throngs of tourists, junketing journalists, armies of art-students, and every aspiring, ascendant or expiring actor and comedian in the country. The Edinburgh International Film Festival has remained a junior partner in this artistic free-for all. The newspaper supplements with their ‘Pick of the Fest’, still feel the need to remind their readers that the film festival is happening ‘as well’. Much of this is down to glamour, or rather a lack of it. EIFF has remained very British, its patrons, 094 THE darjeeling limited ISSUE

(Tilda Swinton and Sean Connery) more Holyrood than Hollywood. This is something to be praised, the sort of defiant parochialism that still, to a degree, defines Berlin and Venice. But the relative absence of glitz has kept EIFF out of the media limelight, at the very moment every arts journalist is in town. And so, when it was announced that the Film Festival would next year be shuffling two months forward to June, the considerable concern provoked (The Scotsman describing it as “bold but risky”) was less for EIFF than for the festival as a whole. From EIFF’s perspective the decision is logical, making, in organiser Hannah McGill’s words, “artistic and commercial sense”. Uncomfortably close to Venice, Toronto and – most importantly – London, the EIFF has struggled to

define a unique identity and has been criticised for delivering films just before their release. The move will give Edinburgh a distinctive role as an arbiter of quality before the summer schedules and film festival madness. The exponential increase in the cost of everything at Edinburgh festival time was presumably also a factor. This year’s notably more upbeat programme was packed with quality British and ‘European‘ indies (Hallam Foe, Sugarhouse, Control, And When Did You Last See Your Father?), and only a smattering of US megaliths (Death Proof, A Mighty Heart, Breach), reasserting Edinburgh’s importance as a distinctive ambassador for independent film, and perhaps adding credence to Chairman John McCormick’s ambition to make it “the Sundance of Europe”. James Bramble


As reported in the last issue, this year’s EIFF featured a screening of My Imprisoned Heart, the 50-minute film produced through the innovative Make Your Mark in Film campaign. The competition saw 10 teams of filmmakers aged 18-30 shoot fiveminute episodes in 10 locations. While a bit rough around the edges, the final product was remarkably good considering the obstacles the crews faced. LWLies caught up with Sam Meech, one of the film’s directors.

first time I have worked with actors in such a formal way.

How did you get involved in the project? The Liverpool Make Your Mark organisation sent me an e-mail about the campaign and I showed it to a couple of friends and thought, ‘Should we have a go at this?’

Did you feel in competition with the other filmmakers? Not really. I think I just focused on our episode. I had put it out of my mind, and it only occurred to me that there were all the other episodes when we were going up to Edinburgh. All these people had made these other films and we were going to see them now, and then I thought, ‘Oh gosh, I hope that mine stands up.’ Once I saw it, I thought the notion of competition for this type of project was really silly. It was lovely, in fact, that we’re not competing, as it was more like contribution; all working towards the same film and working with the same actors.

How did you find the actual experience of making the film? Really tough, especially with the constraints of time and budget. It was something that I wouldn’t have pushed myself to do otherwise. It’s the

How did you feel about the final film? Just really pleased and delighted to see this weird, weird film. I enjoyed seeing how the process affected things. It was weird that a lot of episodes really kept the continuity.

Each segment of the film was quite different. Some were comedy, some were straight drama. That was quite strange. That was really weird ’cause I generally take a more dour approach, maybe I don’t have a sense of humour, but it was really good that some had heaps of comedy in it. It was nice seeing what worked well for other people, and other people’s technical hiccups. I was just glad it wasn’t perfect. Why is that? Because there wouldn’t have been any point in the project if they had given it to 10 filmmakers and it had to be perfect, ’cause it wouldn’t be having a go. The whole point about having a go is that you have a try and it could fuck up and you make a mistake. Everyone had good things but everyone had technical problems as well. I liked the inconsistency of the look, the sound, the approach, and I liked that in the end it just didn’t matter. James Bramble 095


When the invite to attend the fourth Reykjavik International Film Festival came, I didn’t hesitate to accept. The conscientious reason is that it’s all about the films, and sure enough, the festival boasts an impeccably chosen programme of world cinema. But in truth it was as much the lure of Iceland’s stunning natural beauty and the hospitable image of its capital city that saw me turn up for the first three days of the 10-day event (running from September 27 – October 7). As even the short ride from the airport confirmed, Iceland is a place of breathtaking, almost alien beauty. Treeless plains stretch out before you, receding into black, ominous- looking mountains that vanish into thick rain clouds. It’s an environment that has been deftly exploited by overseas film crews (a beach under an hour’s drive from Reykjavik doubled for Iwo Jima in Clint Eastwood’s Flags Of Our Fathers), but the resourceful enterprise of the Icelandic Film Office isn’t to be underestimated either. Established in 1980, the Icelandic Film Office’s support for local filmmakers was showcased in a festival screening of works-in-production. From kids’ films to documentaries to comedies, it was an impressive range, especially for a country of only 300,000

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inhabitants. Of the handful of movies previewed, the new project by Baltasar Kormåkur looked the most intriguing. Kormåkur’s 2000 film 101 Reykjavík helped seal the city’s night-spot credentials – a Hoxton of the North Atlantic, if you like; and his last movie Myrin, an absorbing police thriller that touches on the country’s attempts to provide a genetic map of its people, was a huge hit, attracting one-third of the population during its 2006 release. His latest is a filmed version of Chekhov’s Ivanov, which he is to simultaneously adapt for the stage. The festival aspires to punch above its weight. Run with tireless enthusiasm by Hrönn Marinósdóttir and her staff, it got off to a great start with a screening of Sigur Rós – Heima, a documentary that followed a series of free, mostly outdoor gigs round Iceland by local heroes Sigur Rós. It was a perfect opening film. Elsewhere, programme director Dimitri Eipides selected a very astute round-up of the best of the major festivals, meeting the fairly adventurous appetite of the city’s audience with some bold arthouse fare. Eipides leans towards work by younger directors in the ‘New Visions’ discovery strand. During my short stay I caught up with Israeli director

Lior Shamriz’s Japan Japan, a remarkable portrait of youthful disaffection in contemporary Tel Aviv. Probably unreleasable – for copyright reasons as much as for an eye-wateringly explicit sex scene – it’s exactly the kind of film festivals like Reykjavik were designed for. Alongside new talent, the festival paid homage to established veteran Aki Kaurismäki. The conference by the Finnish master of deadpan comedy was one of the highpoints. Kaurismäki spoke on a variety of subjects, following a chain of logic that was a mystery to all but himself. “Love is warmer than death,” he said, responding to a mention of Fassbinder (subject of a retrospective), “that is why there are three chairs round this table.” Then later, on his inspiration: “When my dog wags his tail I wonder why.” I had occasion to reflect on Kaurismäki’s gnomic comments the next day when I was floating in the calming geo-thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon. This outdoor pool of azure-blue water is a must-visit side attraction to Reykjavik’s confident, ambitious film festival. What can I say? In the interests of journalistic inquiry I was determined to see if Reykjavik’s reputation for formidable nightlife was justified. Ed Lawrenson


An extract from Cath Le Couteur’s essay No Banana Skins: A Director On Common Production Cock-ups from Get Your Short Film Funded, Made and Seen. 1. WORK WITH PEOPLE YOU LOVE I stole this from Danny Boyle. And it’s true. Working with people you love is just the best place to start. And this doesn’t just mean ‘mates rates’ (pulling your flatmate in to work for free, although you will also do this repeatedly) but can also mean finding new collaborators you jive with. 2. PLANNING PLANNING PLANNING The more work you do in preproduction, the million, trillion, zillion times better your film will be. Making the days of the shoot work is your biggest responsibility. Where possible, team up with a production manager (or producer) who will production manage the shoot. This is one of the most valuable people on your team and you want a person who is incredibly organised, a great communicator and a lovely problem solver. If they are inexperienced, work with them to help ensure they have everything before the shoot. Your basics are: a shooting schedule, a contact sheet of everyone participating, a location sheet that tells everyone where to be at what time, a health and safety check list (including closest hospitals), equipment supplier information and insurance details. Get these s orted properly before the shoot and you can then just concentrate on making the film fly.

3. COMMUNICATION – YOUR DOP AND OTHERS Meet with your DoP to discuss the aesthetics of your shoot and a style you both feel will best serve the film. Also decide what you want to shoot on, and make a kit list. Make sure you also meet well in advance to discuss a realistic shot list. If you shoot loose, and prefer not to plan your shots, then it can still be vital to prepare an outline shooting schedule. It is often at these meetings that you may find you need to adapt/change your script or schedule to work within your money and time constraints. It goes without saying that EVERY shoot runs out of time; set-ups always take longer than everyone thinks. So discuss this with your DoP and see what suggestions they have. When making my short, Spin, I worked a much slower day into the schedule with my DoP, so that we had some latitude later on if we fell behind – which we inevitably did. We were so grateful for the extra time. The same applies to anyone else on your particular team (art direction, costume designer, catering, etc.). Plan, be open, agree on what can be achieved within the budget and try and anticipate problems beforehand.

Tricia Tuttle is the editor of Shooting People’s shorts directory Get Your Short Film Funded, Made and Seen. LWLies: How did the book come about? Tuttle: It was a collective idea. Several people who worked with and for Shooting People mentioned that they thought there was a real need for a resource like this, particularly one that emphasises new exhibition possibilities. Are there unique challenges that face short filmmakers as opposed to feature filmmakers? I think it’s much harder. Obviously things are cheaper but there is less public finance available for short film people and more competition. You really can’t look at short film as revenue generating, but because they are relatively inexpensive, you can chalk it up as portfolio building, a fantastic experience and an art project in its own right. Do you think it’s particularly easy to get your short film distributed or shown in Britain? No, no I don’t. I think getting short films screened anywhere besides the internet is still hard. James Bramble

Cath Le Couteur is an award-winning filmmaker and Shooting People founder. Part Two of this insider’s guide will be published in the next issue. How’s that for a cliffhanger? 097


BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ (1980) DIR: RAINER WERNER FASSBINDER AVAILABLE: NOW

One of the greatest achievements of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s remarkable TV series – its 15-and-a-half hour length notwithstanding – is how it manages to feel so populous despite concentrating on only a few central characters. Every time they step out of doors, onto a street or into a bar, the screen is thoroughly peopled, and you feel this story could belong to any one of these Berliners. Viewers originally complained that this adaptation of Alfred Döblin’s colloquial urban masterpiece was literally too dark, but the light sparkles off schnapps glasses, car bumpers, the whites of eyes, or a prostitute’s nipple tassels. Otherwise the look is grainy, even sepia-tinged for this piece set in the late-1920s. It’s a tribute to the fortitude and talent of the main cast members that they sustain our attention for the entirety, and managed to muster their own energies for a shoot that lasted nearly a year. Local actor Günter Lamprecht excels as the former transport worker Franz Biberkopf who emerges from Tegel prison into Berlin’s bustling streets following a four-year stretch for killing his mistress. Told the tragic tale of one Stefan Zannowich, Biberkopf finds in it not a reason to give up but the will to go on living; he even swears to go straight. But fate has other ideas in store for this trusting bear of a man. Viewers may find themselves unexpectedly uplifted by the trail of calamities heaped upon Biberkopf. As various moneymaking schemes fail, Biberkopf even flirts with the Nazis.

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His one saving grace is a talent for falling in with the right women, notably Eva (Hanna Schygulla), who supports him throughout his trials, and introduces him to an apparently slightly simple fellow whore, Mieze (Fassbinder regular Barbara Sukowa). When it comes to men, however, he really does know how to pick ’em, a trait that comes to a head when he falls in with the dastardly Reinhold (Gottfried John). Fassbinder found much of himself in Döblin’s novel and perhaps this proximity works against the love triangle that takes centre stage between Biberkopf, Mieze and Reinhold. Though we never really understand the reason for Biberkopf ’s devotion to Reinhold, Fassbinder ratchets up to such an extent that crucial confrontations tension the provoke furious knots in the stomach. There are scenes of unparalleled brutality, notably perpetrated against the female protagonists. Over 14 episodes, Fassbinder created one of TV’s masterpieces; remarkably, it was a feat German broadcasters managed to repeat four years later in director Edgar Reitz’s Heimat, which runs to a similar length. Heimat is arguably the more rewarding way to spend your time as it explores more of its characters, but Berlin Alexanderplatz led the way, not least with its nightmarish two-hour epilogue, so personal to Fassbinder that he even appears briefly on screen. Extras include a contemporary making-of, plus actors’ reminiscences. Two years later the director was dead, the victim of an overdose and maybe also his obsessive work rate. He was only 37 but he left behind him some 40 films. Jonas Milk


OF MICE AND MEN (1939) DIR: LEWIS MILESTONE AVAILABLE: NOW With its original 1930s tagline promising ‘Unbridled “realism!”’ it’s no revelation that this aged but quadruple Oscar-nominated adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic novel has fewer thrills and spills than a night at the Grimsby Bridge Academy. Despite (or perhaps because of ) this, it will have cinematic purists pining for days of yore. Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney Jr excel in the lead roles of George and Lenny, two down-on-their-luck ranch hands eking out a living during the Depression. They, along with a cast of frustrated outsiders, keep themselves going with dreams of a better future, until Steinbeck’s message tragically unfolds: sometimes, it seems, you’re just better off dead. Mike Brett

A LITTLE TRIP TO HEAVEN (2005) DIR: BALTASAR KORMÅKUR AVAILABLE: NOW Murder. Fraud. Whisperings of incest. A millio insurance policy. Thrilling stuff, huh? So you’dn dollar life think, but A Little Trip To Heaven manages to contai n all the above and still turn out to be slow, stodgy and dull. A socially awkward insurance investigator, played a stutter ing Forest Whitaker, tries to come between aby young a healthy pay out following the apparent death woman and of her con artist brother. It does expose the side of insurance June Whitfield prefers not to talk about in thelife ads between 15 to 1 and Countdown, but lacks the pace, tension and excitement of the Channel 4 early afternoon schedule. Laura Swinton

FOREIGN LAND (1996) DIRS: WALTER SALLES, DANIELA THOMAS AVAILABLE: NOW Before Central Station, The Motorcycle Diaries and Dark Water, Walter Salles first courted the festival crowd with Foreign Land (or Terra Estrangeira), a low-budget, continent-crossing drama whose overexposed black-and-white images match its more noirish aspects (and at times confound the legibility of its subtitles). Set in the wake of the freezing of all bank accounts in Brazil in 1990, the film fleshes out the skeleton of a diamond-smuggling plot with an array of characters whose broken dreams, lost roots and marooned lives form the film’s central themes. Foreign Land is ambitious and at times poetic but ultimately less riveting than Joshua Marston’s similar Maria Full of Grace. Anton Bitel

WILD STYLE: 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (1983) DIR: CHARLIE AHEARN AVAILABLE: NOW In New York City in ’82, there was no Fiddy, there was no Diddy, there was simply ‘wild style’. And it was ‘ill’. That fat, squaredoff, Cubist graffiti font coursed through the subway cars of the South Bronx before Mayor Giuliani did what he done (the big clean-up). Co-written by Fab 5 Freddy himself, Wild Style is both document and homage to the city that was. ‘Lee’ Quinones basically plays himself, a legendary graffer, who introduces a white-girl journalist to street art, Grand Master Flash and this new sound they call ‘rap’. The acting sucks, but hip-hop made history and this movie’s part of it. Georgie Hobbs

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ICEMAN (1984) DIR: FRED SCHEPISI AVAILABLE: NOW Universal have thawed out their 1984 caveman-meetsmodernity classic to see how it fares in the twenty-first century. An idealistic anthropologist, played by Timothy Hutton, clashes with the scientific establishment when it tries to experiment on his new best friend – a recently unearthed Neanderthal. This stuff writes itself really. From the melodramatic soundtrack to the use of Space Invaders as a symbol of the forefront of technology, the film is pretty easy to carbon date. It’s all rather silly, but no more so than ET, Inner Space and the rest of the canon of family friendly ’80s sci-fi. Laura Swinton

SEX, censorship AND THE SILVER SCREEN (1996) DIR: FRANK MARTIN AVAILABLE: NOW Call us carnivorous pornographers, but releasing a box set exploring the relationship between sex and the moving image with an ‘E’ certificate (for ‘Educational’ - boo!) surely makes about as much sense as holding a vegetarian barbecue. Critical expectations certainly shouldn’t be too high for any TV series helmed by Frank Martin, the producer of such classic works as Joanie Laurer: Nude Wrestling Superstar, Sexcetera and cerebral crossover hit (probably) Playboy: The Women of Enron. Narrated by none other than Raquel Welch, Martin’s sixpart teaseathon nonetheless covers some interesting ground, from Thomas Edison’s notorious May Irwin Kiss (imagine a rugby prop in a wig being snogged by a moustachioed Victorian magician) to Maria Schneider’s butter-enhanced tangle with Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris. Indeed, the series’ true appeal lies in its eye for the kind of historical detail which reveals just how utterly bonkers Hollywood is, and always has been. Before the Hays Code in 1934, Kansas apparently prohibited the portrayal of ladies smoking onscreen. Other states outlawed the filming of pregnant women, while Mae West’s ostentatiously raging horn eventually led to her being labelled, “As hot an issue as Hitler” by Variety magazine. Steady on, Carruthers. Other priceless nuggets include the fact that Howard Hughes enlisted the help of his aeronautical engineers to get the greatest ‘production value’ out of Jane Russell’s breasts, while Hays Code enforcer Joe Breen requested the final line in Gone With The Wind be changed to “Frankly my dear, I just don’t care.” Unlike other rabidly puritanical censors, the man just didn’t really have much of an ear for dialogue. Finally – and after careful consideration – the LWLies smutometer ranks Sex, Censorship and the Silver Screen somewhere between those videos of horses humping you watched in biology lessons and a copy of Nuts magazine. Mike Brett

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GRINDHOUSE TRAILER CLASSICS (2007) DIRS: VARIOUS AVAILABLE: NOW Grindhouse movies – post-modern joy or post-pub freak out? It’s all a matter of taste, or lack thereof. If you roll with the former opinion, Grindhouse Trailer Classics is the lazy boy’s way of familiarising yourself with the oeuvre with the benefit of not having to sit through some pretty bad films. There are some gems among the dross – Pam Grier and Sonny Chiba pop up – and it’s interesting to see some of Tarantino’s influences. But the accompanying documentary is fairly lame and the trailers are lined up in no apparent order, making it little more than a machine gun assault of blood, tits and torture. Laura Swinton


REMEMBER ME (2003) DIR: GABRIELE MUCCINO AVAILABLE: NOW A confusing and fitfully moving melodrama starrin g Monica Bellucci, Remember Me fancies itself as both a throwa way satire on the desolation of modern family life, as well a sensitive dissection of the very same. It’s an odd (andas typically continental) mix, a great deal of which must have been lost in translation. To British audiences raised on good, hearty cynicism, Muccino’s ambitious script is a little too outlandish. And, as the writer/director continues to layer emotional intensity with cute-as-a-button wittici sms, we’re either totally lost, in stitches, or both. While the four actors who make up this dysfunctional family are ss, it seems that, for the most part, Muccino’s tongue is faultle firmly in cheek to be able to say anything at all. Henrytoo Barnes

STEPHANIE DALEY (2006) DIR: HILARY BROUGHER AVAILABLE: NOW It’s one of those True Life Stories that could so very easily have turned out like one of those mid ’90s made-for-TV Hallmark jobs – teenage girl accused of murdering her newborn baby, pregnant psychologist tussles with her demons. But through Hilary Brougher’s sensitive lens Stephanie Daley becomes much more; an exploration of women’s relationships with their bodies, each other and God. Amber Tamblyn turns in an intelligent performance as the conflicted Stephanie, holding her own opposite the eerily still Tilda Swinton. A chick flick maybe, but in the very best sense of the word. Laura Swinton

DANS PARIS (2006) DIR: CHRISTOPHE HONORÉ AVAILABLE: NOW Paul (Romain Duris) has recently split from his girlfriend and moved back into the Parisian apartment of his father. He is sedate, moody and morbidly depressed, while his younger brother Jonathan (Louis Garrel) is promiscuous, irrepressible and in love with life. Between them, these two siblings paint a breezily bittersweet portrait of both the titular city, and of Gallic cinema itself from the Nouvelle Vague on. In short, Honoré’s third feature is as smart and hip as its jazz score – and the DVD extras include an interview with the director whose refreshingly unabashed intellectualism could only be French. Anton Bitel

LITTLE DIETER NEEDS TO FLY (1997) DIR: WERNER HERZOG AVAILABLE: NOW Ever since he saw his German village bombed during World War 2, Dieter Dengler had dreamed of flying, and in 1966 he at last got his opportunity as a US navy pilot in Vietnam – only to be shot down over Laos, captured, tortured, starved, and rescued many months later on the point of death. It is a story powerful enough to tell itself, but Werner Herzog, that auteur of human extremes, turns Dengler’s life into something transcendent and utterly riveting. In 2006, Herzog returned to this material in the dramatisation Rescue Dawn, starring Christian Bale as Dengler, but this earlier documentary remains the real deal. Anton Bitel

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German filmmakers are finally biting the bullet, squaring with the past and looking to the future. Christian Petzold and Nina Hoss, director and star of Yella, give us the lowdown. Not being funny, but Christian Petzold looks like he could be in the Gestapo. He’s wiry and sinuous, all hard angles, and jutting bones, wearing one of those leather jackets that European people still think are cool. He’s puffing away on a cigarette. You half expect him to have one of those silver cases like the army officers on TV – the ones where they knock the butt against it and say wistful things about how, ultimately Tommy, we’re the same, ich and sie. Of course, this is just outrageous stereotyping, and maybe that’s why German filmmakers are finally making their own war movies and telling their own stories about themselves, because they’re sick of hearing everybody else banging on about it. But not everybody is happy about it. “Hitler is our Elvis Presley,” says Petzold, “he’s our entertainer. You can sell Adolf Hitler everywhere in the 102 THE darjeeling limited ISSUE

world.” Petzold is the director of Yella, not one of the recent slew of World War 2 movies (which includes everything from the bomb-blackened brilliance of Downfall, to the controversial comedy Mein Führer: The Truly Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler) but an uneasy thriller firmly rooted in the rotten soil of the twenty-first century. Although German cinema is in its finest fettle since Wenders and Herzog were in full flow, Petzold has mixed feelings about his country’s resurgence. Far from being evidence that Germany is finally ready to deal with its past on its own terms, he believes that it’s actually all about the big, green dollar. “You receive more money when you make an adaptation of a best-seller book or Nazi themes,” he says. “All these Hitlers in German cinema, all those Gestapo guys, all those uniforms – I can’t stand it any more.” Nina Hoss is less certain: “In the past, the Germans didn’t allow themselves to be the ones who talked about this period, but now my generation and the younger generation have a different view of it, and I think it’s quite healthy. It’s not about forgetting about it or

making it ridiculous – it’s very sensitive and very sensible.” There is, she says, in effect a split in German cinema. There are those filmmakers inspired by Oliver Hirschbiegel and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck – Munich based directors working with big stars and stories of international interest. Then there is the Berlin-based faction, among which Petzold proudly counts himself. “They say about us that we are not preparing blockbusters and we don’t make much money, and so we are artists in a tower,” he explains. But in his view, the art of filmmaking demands so much more. Cinema is being commoditised, he says, becoming just another toy of rich businessmen who don’t care about the honest struggles of their consumers. “There is a big problem – the workers don’t have any tale of themselves, they don’t have an identity, they don’t have a metaphysical aspect. There are no stories and no identities. And this is the theme of the culture and of the movies: to tell these complex stories. We are searching a little bit to get that cinema back.” Matt Bochenski Yella is out on DVD on December 30.


BLUE BLOOD (2006) DIR: STEVAN RILEY AVAILABLE: NOW Stevan Riley hits documentary pay dirt with the excellent Blue Blood: find a story that no one else has thought of exploiting, cross your fingers for some naturally compelling characters, point the camera and let it roll. So here he is tracking a year in the life of the Dark Blue Scum, sorry, Oxford University’s Varsity boxing squad as they get ready for the ass-whupping of their lives against the Light Blues of Cambridge. The film is shot not just with remarkable empathy and insight, but a Rocky-esque pacing and verve, and is aided massively by a cast of barnstormingly mental contenders, from super-focussed US Air Force grad Justin, to wimpy Billy Elliot look-a-like Kavanagh. The extras include TV footage of the film’s Guardian Q&A. Why don’t more DVDs do this? Matt Bochenski

THE WILD BLUE YONDER (2005) DIR: WERNER HERZOG AVAILABLE: NOW The story: an embittered alien (Brad Dourif ) describes the exodus of his own species from its distant, dying planet to a life of mediocrity and failure on Earth, while spinning a parallel tale of an expedition by human astronauts to assess his planet’s suitability for colonisation. In Herzog’s self-styled ‘science fiction fantasy’, actual, undisguised footage of recent space shuttle missions and dives beneath the polar ice floes doubles as visions of intergalactic flight and extra-terrestrial landscapes. This idiosyncratic film is a dreamy, mystical allegory that urges us to rediscover awe for our own fragile ecology, and to recognise the alien in ourselves. Anton Bitel

DIE HARD 4.0 (2007) DIR: LEN WISEMAN AVAILABLE: OCTOBER 29 Back in 1988 Bruce and his wife-beater were a welcome addition to a genre populated with the monolithic steroid utterances of Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Now in his fourth outing as Detective John McClane the bald one from Idar-Oberstein takes on an internet-based terrorist organization intent on systematically shutting down the United States. Thankfully, for all its technological static this cheeky effort remains more alive in its intent to thrill than many a mainstream effort. Whether he’s smashing a helicopter with a car, beating the total shit out of Maggie Q, or going toe to toe with a fighter jet this is a film ruled by the contents of its pants, not its cranium. Craig Driver

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Madadayo (1993) Dir: Akira Kurosawa Available: Now In Akira Kurosawa’s final film a venerated professor resigns his post and retires to the country, to the dismayed admiration of his colleagues and students. It’s difficult not to see an autobiographical element to Kurosawa’s swansong - he too was the master in his chosen field, one that he left with dignity, honour and class. As such, Madadayo marks the point where the director finally let his ego loose. As a result, the film, at least when compared to his earlier masterpieces, is relatively underwhelming. For the first time, Kurosawa was pleasing himself rather than the audience. Madadayo is a mischievous eulogy to his own incredible career. Henry Barnes

Danny Boyle Collection (2000-2007) Dir: Danny Boyle Available: Now Ever since he brought Ewan McGregor and his achingly pretty face to our screens, Danny Boyle has been at the forefront of a modern British cinema built largely on the success of his own work. Whether it’s the slice-and-dice humour of Shallow Grave or the zeitgeist thrill to be found in Trainspotting, Boyle has often been our most enjoyable success story. And yet with this tacky box set Rupert Murdoch continues his mission to corner the market in all things monetary. Sure, he may be responsible for financing The Simpsons and King of the Hill, but with every post-modern pout has come a greedy grab for financial gain. Trussed up in this odd little trilogy are Boyle’s excellent 2000 zombie effort 28 Days Later, the enthralling but indulgent Sunshine and his one truly genuine mishap, The Beach. Only with 28 Days Later (2004) does Boyle successfully recreate the claustrophobic intensity of his earlier efforts north of the border. Cinema’s prettiest man, Cillian Murphy, makes his first appearance for Boyle in this thrilling account of a virus that wreaks havoc in London. Think George Romero fiddling around with Day of the Triffids. Sunshine (2007), meanwhile, sees Boyle cosy up to Cillian Murphy for a second time in a tale of a multicultural crew and their quest to re-ignite a dying sun. With its giddy Kubrick posturing this ambitious epic with a dodgy finale comes off like Event Horizon wigging out on skittles. In the frothy postcard exhibitionism of The Beach (2000), Boyle teams up with a newly titanic Leonardo DiCaprio. As a young American seeking to suck in the experience of backpacking in Thailand, DiCaprio plays a chronic pot-smoking liar adrift in a false and nauseating Eden. Boyle is better than this box set cares to mention. Buy it if you must but try not to let that wrinkly Aussie git manipulate your viewing pleasure in order to buy himself another yacht. Craig Driver

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THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE (1921) DIR: VICTOR SJÖSTRÖM AVAILABLE: NOVEMBER 12 Who shall ride the carriage and collect the souls of the dead? This amended version of Sjöström’s mesmerising silent supernatural folktale ditches the tinkling pianos of ‘historically accurate’ soundtracks, opting instead for a worthy contribution from KTL; gents on the forefront of America’s black metal drone scene. Like Neil Young’s Dead Man soundtrack if it was played by Lucifer locked inside some deep, dark crypt, KTL’s sounds wash over emotional performances, soaking them in black magic. Oh, and the film’s brilliant. Not a shot is frivolous; each frame sets a note-perfect sombre tone throughout. Truly eerie. Caveat: viewing will enhance trancelike state. Simon Mercer


Director: George Gallo Starring: Nicolas Cage Jon Lovitz Dana Carvey Box Notables: Controversial RCA ‘Clamshell II’ big-box prototype Tagline: ‘Small Town... Big Trouble!’ Trailers: Star Wars Trilogy Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Miracle on 34th Street Far From Home Tax Season Cherrypick: “I couldn’t live with myself if I froze a horse.”

This toothsome 1994 Sunday-afternooner is a classic slice of mid-period Cage that sees the droll, pony-faced actor essay embattled NY restaurateur and reformed scofflaw, Bill, eldest of those scurvy, shyster rat-bastards, the Firpo boys. Bill has been ardently clinging to the straight and narrow until, one Christmas Eve, his two brothers, Alvin (Dana Carvey) and Dave (the neverloveable Jon Lovitz), get out of jail with nothing to their names but the Santa outfits they were originally pinched in and a foolproof plan to rob the Savings and Loan Company of the sleepy little backwater burg of Paradise. Bill is swiftly caught up in the shitstorm his doting but recidivist brethren seem congenitally incapable of outrunning, and soon all three are on the lam. With their options running out faster than a paediatrician from a provincial playground, they literally plough into Paradise where, employing a slick array of ski-masks, stun grenades and unbridled histrionics, they take down the bank. The successful heist, however, turns out to be just the beginning of their troubles, and the sum of all our fears. The snow falls, the roads are closed and, summarily banjaxed in their attempts to flee, the Firpos are thrown into a vivid, purgatorial holding-pattern of dark Capra-esque whimsy scripted by an MC Escher riding the acid-fried black helix of some ultimate despair. We are left to look on uncomprehendingly as these sociopathic repeat-offenders are made to realise the error of their ways by the big-hearted generosity of a town entirely populated with gurning, credulous simpletons. Forgotten man Carvey puts in an effortless, faultless yet entirely pointless 90-minute Mickey Rourke impression from behind the beatific smile of the chemically castrated, while Lovitz loafs distractedly through every scene, surreptitiously looking for something to cram into his pie-hole. The whole affair generally tiffs along quite amiably, but, like being Mickey Finned and then clumped repeatedly in the bathing suit-area with a sock full of clock parts, this cromulant aria to the redemptive capacity of down-home values leaves you sore without ever knowing quite why. Cage – like Olivier before him – seems destined to spend his entire career discovering that he just doesn’t have the chops to play a regular Joe, delivering his lines through tears of confusion brought on by the fact that the elephantine frippery of Trapped in Paradise (aka Bruthaz in Armz) – allied to an upcoming slate featuring such home-runs as Guarding Tess, It Could Happen To You and Amos and Andy – might very well permanently settle his Hollywood hash. As one of history’s more famous elteren brüder, JFK, once said, “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men”. It is a lesson that applies to all older brothers and sisters. Cage would seem to have learnt it in time for his mullet-brained ’90s action refit, had he learnt it sooner perhaps Bill might have prevented Dave and Alvin being fatally gutshot while setting up a snuff-movie ring in the neighbouring town of Peevish during a harsh post-credits epilogue added at the studio’s insistence.

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SET VISIT

As filming on a new Brit thriller drew to a close, LWLies was on hand to check it out.

new

Hush.

Dir. Mark Tonderai

It’s 6:30 on a darkening evening as the young cast of Brit thriller Hush turn up for breakfast. They’ve been shooting nights for four weeks in a God-forsaken quarry in South Yorkshire that is doubling as the hideout of the film’s villain, the Tarman. It’s an amazing spot, chilling even under the bright spotlights. Before Hush came to town, its claim to fame was as a favourite site for people to drown dogs. Nice. Written and directed by Mark Tonderai, cowriter and star of Dog Eat Dog, Hush stars Will Ash and Chrissie Bottomley as Beth and Zakes, a couple inadvertently drawn into a nightmare scenario after they see a woman tied up in the back of a van at a late-night road stop. One thing leads to another, and Beth finds herself in the clutches of the sinister Tarman, with Will turning action hero to save the day.

The atmosphere on set is the classic low-budget vibe. Everybody’s mucking in where they can and no one’s complaining, even if the strain is starting to show. “I feel a bit like a vampire,” says Chrissie, “I haven’t had a beer in ages!” Tonight’s scene is part of the climactic showdown, although the Tarman himself, played by rent-a-bad-guy Andreas Wisniewski (he was in Die Hard), is sitting in a warm trailer with a packet of Hob Nobs. Outside, Mark Tonderai just about exudes an air of calm authority, although it’s not all been plain sailing. The previous night had seen a rapid re-write after one of the Tarman’s dogs got fired. “Fuckin’ dogs!” says Mark. “It just looked at us like we were stupid.” Hopefully it didn’t meet the same fate as those unfortunate others. ETA: 2008

109


Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

Magnolia helmer Paul Thomas Anderson took a lengthy break after the mixed reaction to 2003’s PunchDrunk Love, but early word on There Will Be Blood suggests he is back with his best film yet. An antiwestern with a political twist that Variety has already compared to Giant and Citizen Kane, Blood is a sure-fire bet to lead the way come awards season, not least for Daniel Day-Lewis’ darkly menacing performance as a Bush-like Texan prospector well prepared to spill blood for oil. Expect the scale of Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven combined with the melodramatic cleverness of Magnolia. The foreboding score, by Radiohead guitarist Johnny Greenwood, is also generating much attention. ETA: February 2008

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Keep Coming Back. Dir. William H Macy

William H Macy’s directorial debut follows the trials of Taylor, a teenager with a dodgy ticker who falls for a jaded stripper (Salma Hayek) and joins Alcoholics Anonymous to spend time with her. Mos Def also stars, and with Steve Buscemi making a cameo as a CGI Lucifer this is sure to be a departure from the standard coming-of-age flick. Macy is raising expectations all over the shop: “I’m not doing a little independent film that everyone’s pleased someone’s made but no one wants to go see,” says Mr Auteur. “I’m swinging for the bleachers here.” Them’s fighting words, but he’ll have to go some way before we forgive the sight of his saggy arse in 2003’s The Cooler. ETA: 2008 new

update

There Will Be Blood.


new

8.

Dirs. Various

Jane Campion heads a G8 of directorial talent who’ve pieced together eight shorts laying out the UN goals in addressing the current most pressing social, economic, health and environmental challenges. Cue reviews smattered with words like ‘gritty’ and ‘realistic’. However, being the first woman to take the Palme d’Or, Campion seems pretty good at achieving the goals she sets herself. Her own segment, entitled The Water Diary, is the account of a young girl detailing how a drought affects her family, her animals, neighbours and her own life, while Argentina-born Gaspar Noé trekked to Burkina Faso for his segment on HIV and AIDS. There are further contributions from the likes of Sean Penn (of course) and Abderrahmane Sissako. Roll eyes if you like, but as the tagline states: ‘Everybody knows, nobody worries’. ETA: Mid 2008 new

update

Dir. Alex Holdridge

It’s New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles and Wilson (the wonderfully named Scoot McNairy) has been caught debasing himself in front of a picture of his flatmate’s bride-to-be. He needs a date fast, so he scores a last-minute hook-up with drunken blonde Vivian (Sara Simmonds). A screening at this year’s Edinburgh Festival resulted in a bidding war, and it’s not hard to see why: first-time writer/director Alex Holdridge’s film is a sweet, black-and-white twenty-something riff on Linklater’s Before Sunset, but instead of all the pseudo-intellectual chat about kids, death and romance, the dialogue is a lot more down and dirty. And any film which features Scorpions’ soft rock masterpiece ‘Wind of Change’ has got to be worth a punt. ETA: Early 2008

The Orphanage.

Dir. Juan Antonio Bayona

This Guillermo del Toro-produced haunted house shocker is generating a wave of confidence – Spain has just selected it as one of its three contenders for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. The new trailer resembles a cross between del Toro’s own The Devil’s Backbone and The Others, but the film is clearly not afraid to comment on contemporary issues – the child hero (played by Roger Príncep) is HIV positive. Spanish horror films don’t have a distinguished history, but the creative input of del Toro should provide a shovelful of highbrow scares. ETA: January 2008 new

Dir. Martin Scorsese

This one should be a real crowd-pleaser. You get the Rolling Stones. You get the White Stripe’s Jack White. You get Christina Aguilera rubbing her aerobically-enhanced ass on Mick’s man meat. You even get Bill Clinton getting his groove on in the front row. You get all this and more culled over two nights at the Beacon Theatre NYC by none other than Martin Scorsese, who is surely the only man truly qualified for the job. Okay, so this may be a case of one old fucker filming a bunch of other old fuckers – Marty now resembles a shrivelled Woody Allen, and ‘Keef’, well... shit! – but Jagger and Richards still know how to jive their snake hips. At least for the time being at any rate. They may need replacing soon. ETA: Summer 2008

In Search Of A Midnight Kiss.

Michel Gondry Project. Dir. Michel Gondry

Chalk this one down as ‘TBC’, but rumour has it that Michel Gondry is eyeing up a new career move. He’s been jaw-jerkin’ MTV, claiming that his next film will be an animated feature written and co-directed by his son. “We’re translating our relationship into a futuristic story with a dictator and a rebel,” he says. “He’s the dictator in the story and it will be based on his art.” That’s sweet, but who remembers the last time this happened – Robert Rodriguez’s The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl? Be afraid. ETA: 2009 new

Shine A Light.

111


Dir. Ang Lee

The definition of success: winning the Golden Lion twice within a three-year period. Not many have achieved that accolade, but Ang Lee can step forward and take a bow. Since it emerged victorious in Venice, Lee’s latest has been wowing just about everyone – with the exception of the prudes’ corner in the critical community. You see, Lust, Caution has a fairly generous helping of explicit sex mixed into its tale of World War 2 espionage, a quality that has seen the film slapped with a rare NC-17 rating in the Land of the Free. Expect the few dissenting voices to be hushed into silence soon: the forecast says that Lee has delivered another exceptional piece of work, cementing his rep as one of the most exciting and visually dynamic filmmakers around. ETA: January 2008

112 THE darjeeling limited ISSUE

Charlie Bartlett.

Dir. Jon Poll

Finding an American high school comedy that doesn’t feature a bunch of limp-dicked losers looking to get laid is near impossible at the moment, but it looks like Charlie Bartlett might offer something new. Kicked out of every public school for pushing entrepreneurial boundaries (i.e. selling fake IDs) our eponymous hero carves a niche at his new comp in amateur psychiatry. Charlie (Anton Yelchin) is to manic depression what Ferris Bueller was to truancy, which should make for entertaining stuff in today’s Ritalin-infested climes. The premiere fared pretty well at the Tribeca Film Festival, and if anything it should be fun to watch Robert Downey Jr play a recovered alcoholic who still suffers from past addictions – apparently he’s quite good. Strange that. ETA: February 2008 new

new

Lust, Caution.


The Serious Man.

Unbecoming

One member of LWLies disses an incoming disaster-to-be.

new

The Coen brothers have been busy lately. First up is the hotly anticipated No Country For Old Men, supposedly their best film since The Big Lebowski. After that comes Burn After Reading with The World’s Smuggest Mates George Clooney and Brad Pitt. And after that the pair are set to start work on The Serious Man. It’s the story of a college professor undergoing an existential mid-life crisis – wife is having an affair, kids are dicks, hot young grad student is after his balls – that sounds like a spiritual follow up to American Beauty, only it’s set in the ‘60s and the Coens are to turn their scabrous humour on the Church, as their protagonist looks to God for a way out. It’s got the raw ingredients of another classic, and with the Coens back on form, anything is possible. ETA: Spring 2009

Imperial Life In The Emerald City.

Dir. Paul Greengrass

new

Paul Greengrass may be the most viscerally exciting director working in Hollywood right now, but he’s got a job on his hands with this one. It’s an adaptation of the book by the Washington Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the Baghdad bureau chief who witnessed first hand the disastrous antics of the American-run Coalition Provisional Authority. This group of Bush loyalists set about saving Iraq by instituting tax reform and smoking bans while the county burned to rubble around them, then sat back and watched in the circus-like atmosphere of the Green Zone. The subject matter is dynamite, but with none other than Variety’s Todd McCarthy recently complaining about Iraq fatigue, and the likes of Redacted, Rendition, Battle for Haditha and In The Valley of Elah all set to open soon, will there still be an appetite for it come 2009? ETA: 2009

Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead.

Dir. Sidney Lumet

new

The Sidney Lumet who directed some of the toughest films of the twentieth century’s toughest decade – from Serpico, to Dog Day Afternoon, to Network – has only offered us glimpses of his extraordinary talent in the last 30 years. On paper, Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead isn’t a film to suggest that he’s back to his brilliant best, but looks can be deceiving. Always an intriguing if hardly earth-shattering idea (two brothers rob their parents’ jewellery store with tragic results), the first sign that something serious was going down was a delightfully hard-boiled French-language trailer. It suggested that Lumet was channelling some of the pulp gangster sensibility of Jean-Luc Godard, but even so, the film’s Toronto Film Festival debut was where it all kicked off. Reports suggest that it’s a stormer, with career best work from Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Perhaps Lumet has finally lit the touchstone. ETA: Early 2008

Iron Man.

Dir. Jon Favreau

There was a time when the comic book held an almost mythical place in American society. Like jazz, it was a cultural movement born of upheaval, when the Jews of Europe came to the New World and mingled with the street kids of the New York boroughs. They gave birth to an art form that expressed defiance and belonging, inked in jagged monochrome and written with explosive fury. Now it’s an old whore, an adjunct of Hollywood, cheap by any measure save the bloated cost of dragging these empty adventures to the silver screen. An industry that attracted chancers and criminals is now a pimp, where Marvel has set up its own brothel, and Stan Lee hustles from film to film, his hand outstretched for a dollar. Fittingly, it was Marvel’s Ultimates, starring Iron Man, that jumped the shark the day The Avengers wondered who would play them in a movie. It was a moment of odious self-awareness, loathsome complicity and the last great humiliation of a proud genre. Now here comes the film. You know what to expect. The same mantra of ‘lower your expectations’, ‘it is what it is’. Believe that if you want, but don’t be fooled into thinking that Marvel cares any more about cinema than its own beleaguered comics. ETA: Summer 2008 UPDATE

Dirs. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Uncoming

Raising a glass to the films that got away.

Time Bandits II.

Supposed director. Terry Gilliam

The original Time Bandits (1981) marked the start of Gilliam’s unofficial ‘Trilogy of the Imagination’ – a fecund patch of genius that would continue with Brazil (1985) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). It is a fine example of the kids film done right. Gilliam first toyed with the idea of a sequel in 1996. A script from that year follows the adventures of Mox, daughter of Strutter from the first film, who accidentally overhears that The Supreme Being, bureaucratic creator of the universe, is to end the world at the end of the millennium. After recruiting the surviving members of the gang she steals an interstellar map and sets out to save the world. The ensuing adventures would lead the crew to encounters with Joan of Arc, Julius Caesar and a band of pirates, all the while pursued by the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The story climaxes at a confrontation with The Supreme Being, actually a deranged clone left in charge by the real deity. The obvious problem is that this all sounds a bit too similar to the first outing. Gilliam thought so too, and the film was canned. It rose from the dead in 2002 with a proposed six-episode serial (this time focusing on a grown-up Kevin, boy hero of the original) but it collapsed, and the concept now flounders in obscurity. Chance of resurrection: Midget-sized. 113


SUBSCRIBE & Win! LWLies is released onto the streets six times a year – subscribe and you can receive them all for £15. This issue, the first subscriber whose name is picked out of the hat will win a mighty Xbox 360 and a copy of NHL 2K8, courtesy of 2K Sports. Five runners-up will receive a copy of the game. Here’s a ‘review’ (Note: we agree with every word). ‘The top rated NHL franchise returns with an entirely new NHL experience featuring revolutionary right stick controls, all-new goaltending, a ground breaking face-off system, and stunning, next-gen visuals highlighting redesigned player models and animations.’ Amen to that. All you have to do is send a cheque for £15 to: LWLies Magazine Studio 209 Curtain House 134-146 Curtain Road London EC2A 3AR Cheques should be made payable to: The Church Of London Publishing Tell us your name, address and e-mail, and we’ll drop you a line to confirm. The competition winner will be announced on www.littlewhitelies.co.uk on December 27.

Issue 15, On Sale December 28 “Has anyone ever pooed in the scrum?”

114 THE DARJEELING LIMITED ISSUE


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Little White Lies 14 - The Darjeeling Limited Issue