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COVER illustration by

paul willoughby WORDS BY

matt bochenski

004 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


“Hold fast to the man inside of you, and you will survive.�

005


DIRECTED BY Julian Schnabel STARRING Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-JosĂŠe Croze RELEASED February 8

006 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


007


It’s only taken the blink of an eye for Julian Schnabel to become a great filmmaker.

You’ve got to love disabled people in the movies. They’re like a civic service lesson for normal folk, putting our own lives into perspective with their courageous suffering. Sure, they don’t get to do much

008 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


else on screen, but then they’re not, after

destructive modern prejudice, or just get

all, real people. The fact that disabled

Clint Eastwood to kill them off in some

actors and writers are almost entirely

noble deathbed scene? Because hey, for all

absent from cinema is beside the point.

that inspiring bravery, no one really wants

What would you rather do: engage with a

to live like that, do they?

â–ź

009


010 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


Hollywood’s treatment of disability has been suspect to say the least. The noble cripple is the new civilised savage: the acceptable face of an issue we’d rather ignore. And at first glance it’s an attitude that The Diving Bell and the Butterfly seems to echo. It looks like one of ‘those’ films, one which finds a pious dignity in the onset of disability. But it’s not. This is the voice of authenticity, a dispatch from a lonely shore brimming with pain, anger and humour – all the chaotic complexity of real life. At the age of 43, Jean-Dominique Bauby, the Editor-in-Chief of French Elle, was paralysed by a cerebrovascular stroke. Suffering from a rare disorder known as ‘locked-in syndrome’, his contact with the world was reduced to the blink of an eye, the only part of himself that he was able to control. With the help of a speech therapist, Henriette, Bauby gradually developed a system of communication by blinking at the letters of the alphabet as she recited them. Over the course of a year, alongside a young editor, Claude, he painstakingly constructed an account of his experiences that was part memoir, part diary and part confessional. He called it The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Julian Schnabel attacks this solipsistic story with extraordinary verve. “I begin with myself,” says Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), and so do we in an extended first person sequence that pitches us head first into Bauby’s world. Colours smear the screen and resolve into sickly light; faces crowd the frame artlessly, living beyond the limits of the camera as Bauby’s world was reduced to a fraction of perception. It’s a bold, showy opening that has the energy of experimental art and some of the queasy detail of a medical lecture. It’s brilliantly edited to provide hints and reflections of Bauby’s unseen face, and superbly photographed by Janusz Kaminski, who captures the thin, faded texture of northern France’s natural light to give the landscape an isolated, unreal air. But where Bauby’s limbs are trapped as if inside a diving bell, his mind takes flight, like a butterfly, across dreams and memories. In these scenes, freed from his own stylistic constraints, Schnabel indulges in vivid flights of fantasy: Bauby imagines the hospital’s living history; seduces his young editor at Le Duc; and remembers an old love affair that once took him to Lourdes. Though there’s often something over simple in Schnabel’s metaphors, these scenes are both poignant and joyful, and a deep lungful of air in the otherwise claustrophobic atmosphere. When Bauby’s face is finally revealed, old photographs of Mathieu Amalric’s smouldering good looks give way to a silent close-up, and it’s a shocking transformation. Saliva seeps down his chin, an ugly stitch covers one eye, folds of skin crease his neck. Its honesty and simplicity are perversely confrontational, but there is Bauby right beside you, struggling through the same emotions, sullenly saying that he looks like something “that’s come out of a vat of formaldehyde.” ▼

011


The beauty of Schnabel’s interpretation is that it avoids both pity and

It would be fatuous to suggest that Amalric’s performance is ‘brave’,

melodrama. It’s no tearjerker – how could it be? Trapped inside himself,

but it’s undeniably committed. He allows his body to become an

Bauby is incapable of displaying emotion. Instead, Schnabel and

object of curiosity in its stark, submissive nudity. Compare this to

composer Paul Cantelon offer us moments of quiet, introspective grief,

the charisma he exudes in flashback or fantasy, and you begin to get

often lightened by flashes of humour.

a sense of how far he’s had to go to lose any trace of that twinkling sexuality. He’s supported by the great and the good of the French

It’s here above all that the film benefits from Bauby’s own words. For all

acting establishment, with Marie-Josée Croze and Olatz López

his impotent regrets and guilt over past misdeeds (he his haunted by

Garmendia the standouts as the two therapists who send Bauby half

the kidnapping of a colleague on a flight that he himself was supposed

mad with sexual frustration.

to be on) he refuses to apologise either for the person he was, or the one he’s become. Bauby was no angel before his accident, and disability

If there’s a problem, it’s that the message is a little too loud and clear.

doesn’t suddenly make him a saint. Slivers of sharp camerawork reveal

“I wanted this film to help you handle your own death,” is how Schnabel

his past life: the models; the magazine shoots; the fancy mistress; the

has described it – a lunatic ambition for any film, no matter how well

senseless, shallow beauty. And though his disability unlocked something

crafted. But it scarcely detracts from the fact that The Diving Bell and

inside him, something that produced a book of real and lasting beauty,

the Butterfly is an exquisite and moving experience. It’s not a worthy

it didn’t change the essence of the man. His mind reacts to the women

or manipulative film. It’s simply the story of a man whose physical

in his life in the same flirtatious way it ever did, and by the same token,

disability masked changes that were far more profound, but who

he’s still capable of moments of great cruelty, especially against those

remained true to his sense of self – for better and for worse – until the

same women. He reduces Henrietta (Marie-Josée Croze) to tears by his

end. And if that sounds like just another lesson to be learned, it’s one

insistence that he wants to die, and with a kind of sadism forces his ex-

that might teach us something about disability itself, rather than our

wife to translate for him in a phone call with his mistress.

own insecurities. In that respect, perhaps it’s one worth learning

012 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE

n


Anticipation. A Cannes winner from a unique artist, but potentially another do-gooder disability flick. Four Enjoyment.

Superbly cast and brilliantly directed: an intimate film that’s also accessible, humane and compelling. Four

In Retrospect.

Will make you examine your own feelings and prejudices towards disability, and how many films can claim to achieve that? Five 013


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The principles of the present Convention shall be: a. Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons; b. Non-discrimination; c. Full and effective participation and inclusion in society; d. Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity; e. Equality of opportunity; f. Accessibility; g. Equality between men and women; h. Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities. Article 3, General Principles The United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities

018 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


LWLies: What is it that you love about movies? Marie-Josée Croze: Wow, it’s a really hard question. I like when I don’t understand everything, and I like when I see, for example, Bergman – he has this effect on me. When I watch his films I just feel that it’s so true and so real, but I cannot explain it because it’s touched the unconscious bit of my brain or something inside my stomach, and I start crying and I don’t know why. That’s why I don’t like psychological films; I like it more when films are... Like David Lynch, I love David Lynch and Cronenberg and those people who are really inventive and try to catch me in a place that I don’t know, so I discover something inside of me in a way. That’s why I don’t like thrillers. I don’t like it when I have to put my logical sense and watch a film like a story. No, I like when it’s a monster. I like when a film is a monster and just eats me. Those are the films that modify the way you see life. When you see a David Lynch film, life is not the same – afterwards it’s impossible to see exactly the same things.

019


Honest, passionate and unmerciful.

Publisher

Editor

Creative Directors

Danny Miller

Matt bochenski

Rob longworth & Paul Willoughby

danny@littlewhitelies.co.uk

matt@littlewhitelies.co.uk

www.thechurchoflondon.com

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

Contributing Editors

Editorial Assistant

Staff Writers

Adrian D’Enrico

Neon Kelly

David Jenkins Kevin Maher vince Medeiros Adrian Sandiford

James bramble

luke Kemp

Ed Andrews Mike brett Andrea Kurland

Design Assistant Nadia Kazolides

Advertising Director

Advertising Manager

steph@littlewhitelies.co.uk

dean@littlewhitelies.co.uk

Steph Pomphrey

Dean faulkner

Words, pictures, thanks...

Emily Alstone, Henry Barnes, Anton Bitel, Ailsa Caine, Sam Christmas, Helen Cowley, Jack Dundee, Paul Fairclough, Ben Freeman, Thom Gibbs, Holly Grigg-Spall, Leon Harris, Lórien Haynes, Adam LeeDavies, Kayt Manson, Simon Mercer, Richard Merrick, Jonas Milk, Chris Owens, Ed Owles, Emma Paterson, Limara Salt, Sally Skinner, Christopher Slevia, Janey Springer, Verena Stackelberg, Ed Stockton, Andrew Sutherland, Laura Swinton, Emma Tildsley, Audrey Ward, 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.

© TCOLondon Publishing Ltd. 2008 020 THE DiviNG bEll AND THE bUTTERfly ISSUE


LETTERS This issue: more love, a little hate and proof positive that our souls are damned to hellfire. In the meantime, let’s celebrate: whoever sends us the most thought-provoking missive, or maybe just the best put-down will receive three crates of Cobra Beer to get the New Year off to an indulgent start.

HERETICS! Loved The Darjeeling Limited issue, except that Christmas is the celebration of the

birth of Christ rather than His death. That’s Easter. Anon

PRAISE INDEED The magazine is pure extra mature quality. It’s a lot of fun, I really like it.

don’t want to step into

very little of worth

who wants to get up to

was alright in The Rock,

the minefield. For anybody speed on events, Nikke Finke is probably the

best place to start (www. deadlinehollywooddaily.

Camille

STRIKE OUT Gentlemen, I enjoyed the last issue, but I half expected some sort of

comment on the current

screenwriters’ strike in

the US. What’s the LWLies position? Personally, judging by the dross

coming out of Tinseltown recently, I thought the

strike had been going for a few years now.

Amanda Helman

We’ve been following the

but there are far worse Sean. Why not direct your

steely gaze at Cuba Gooding

film, or look out for

Haneke’s Funny Games remake later in 2008. Don’t lose faith just yet.

KNOW YOUR LIMITS

Re. ‘Whatever happened to

John Travolta is a sick

itself on its independent

whole, pretty disappointing

the point? We’ll just leave

the Indie Kids?’: on the

joke, and Cuba? Well, what’s

from these talented

filmmakers, not much output

to go on. It was interesting that there’s so many more British directors making their mark now – Edgar

Wright, Paul Greengrass and Shane Meadows are

making some of the best films around today. Ed Moss

CRAP CONNERY Little White Lies,

Connery. I’m no huge fan

absurdly shallow that we

an excellent Mexican ghost

Jr or John Travolta?

our voice to it. So much

of Hollywood in the UK is

of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Helen Owen

Look what you’ve reduced

of the business reporting

Km 31 currently in theatres,

You could do worse than

Dear Little White Lies,

coverage but we didn’t

really feel the need to add

few egregious films. League

offenders than poor old

BRITS KICK ASS

Any recommendations?

Man) but he’s also done very

is an impartial reporter so approach with caution.

you know something I don’t? Mark

was a rare exception,

not everybody thinks Finke

Basically, I’m asking if

Last Crusade and Medicine

com). A word of warning:

Even if I don’t agree all the time.

in the past 20 years (he

me to: sticking up for Sean of the man, but I don’t

think he deserved a fake

obituary. Granted, he’s done

022 THE DiviNG bEll AND THE bUTTERfly ISSUE

him to his own private hell. But Connery was an icon who pissed it all away with

lazy choices and a total lack of respect for his

audience and talents. He deserves everything he

gets (and he doesn’t get

half as much as he should).

OH, THE HORROR Is there a market for good horror films any more? The

torture porn genre seems to

have eclipsed everything and blinded studios to anything more intelligent. Will we

ever see the likes of Don’t Look Now, The Shining or

even something like Magic?

I respect that LWLies prides voice – you’re not afraid to speak to your mind, and that has to be a good thing. One thing, though: is it really wise to start talking shit about Scientologists? I’m

not saying they’re a bunch of crack-smoking guerilla

lunatics prone to outbursts

of fanatical violence... but I think you were. That’s

cool, but seriously, I look forward to my regular dose of the mag, and if someone

comes and blows you up, what the hell are the rest of us going to do? Buy one of the other mags on the shelves?

I don’t think so! Pick your

fights, guys; don’t mess with the Cruise Missile mob. Dean


024 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


Words by Matt Bochenski Photography by Sam ChristmaS AND CHRIS OWENS

While celebrated actors bag awards for p l a y i n g disabled roles, performers with disabilities are being pushed into the background. We asked three actors to talk frankly about what’s going on, and what they’re going to do about it.

There have been some cracking performances by disabled actors

movements that fought to reclaim the identity of disability. At the

over the years. They were the stars of the show in Freaks (1932);

NFT, Allan Sutherland and Steve Dwoskin programmed the pioneering

and who could forget The Hereditary Defective (1936), Herbert

Carry On Cripple season, while independent theatre companies

Gerdes’ fascist fun fest, which helpfully explained the state’s policy

sprang up around the county. This was the fuck-you face of disability,

of ‘mercy killing’ to the German people, and which was so good,

telling it like it was regardless of whether people wanted to listen.

Hitler himself made sure it was played in every cinema in the

But even as guys like Billy Golfus continued to push the envelope,

country. Damn, there were a few years there when disabled actors

showing When Billy Broke His Head... and Other Tales of Wonder at

couldn’t stop getting work.

Sundance in 1995 (tag line: ‘This ain’t exactly your inspirational

Maybe we’ve come a long way since then, but when your

cripple story!’), the mainstream proved stubbornly resistant to

starting point is mass extermination it’s hard to get excited. Today,

equality. Rather than open the fold to disabled performers, Hollywood

disabled people make up 14 per cent of the UK population, but

preferred to let its rich and famous spazz-up like modern day

you wouldn’t believe it from switching on the TV. It’s great when a

minstrels while telling itself how courageous they were.

company like Aardman Animations uses Creature Comforts to

“They don’t want gangs of disabled people in the movies,”

put disability in the spotlight, but the truth is, for every Disability

says Lucy Gwin, editor of Mouth magazine, ‘The Voice of the

Film Festival that pushes the merits of disabled actors, there are

Disability Nation’. “It’s like a vision of death. That’s what goes on

a hundred barriers to equality in the system, from access to

in the minds of people who want to have their movies and all their

ignorance to blatant discrimination.

fancy occasions without us.”

For a while there, it all seemed like it might be different. In

How long can we keep disabled actors knocking at the door

1976, Britain’s Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation

before they kick it down, wheelchair or not? To see if the winds of

boldly claimed that “it is society which disables physically impaired

change are blowing, we spoke to three actors and asked them to

people.” This was the era of crip theatre and other radical art

share the highs and lows of their professional lives. ▼

025


As a child, my interest started out in radio drama, then I did voice-

The way the castings are run at the moment, and the way the

over work for audio magazines as a teenager, and eventually I came

system is, means that there are a lot of barriers, which obviously

into acting. It was something that was born of other things, but it’s

limits the amount of work you can go for. Hence why I’ve got a

a love that’s grown. My big break was an audition for a guest lead

pretty diverse career.

role in ITV’s William and Mary. I got the part, and then had the huge

I don’t think there is enough risk-taking, and I think there’s

shock of going from 40-second commercials to a nine-scene role in

always a thing to sanitise disability. For some directors, if a

a prime time drama, which was terrifying but great fun, and

person looked different, say, because of their eyes, everything

obviously really good for my career.

else about them would have to be perfect if they were going to

When I’m on set, the only difference really is that I need the

make that compensation. And I don’t think there is enough

script in advance because I put it into Braille, and on the day I’ll have

foresight as to how disability can be a part of a piece of drama

an access worker there to read it to me in case there are changes.

without it having to be the central feature. It’s true that I do

In terms of the physical filming process, the only adjustment that

things slightly differently because of my disability, but I certainly

would have to be made is if I have to walk a specific route that has

wouldn’t discuss it in everyday life like it’s discussed in dramas.

to be accurate in terms of the direction if it’s a tight frame. I might

Instead of being issue based, it could be far more interesting and

need to practice that a couple of times to make sure that I’m going

discrete if it was just there – just part of you as a person – rather

to be able to walk exactly where they want me to.

than a major part of the storyline.

I have felt discriminated against in my career. Right from

There’s a lot of people you could blame if you were going to go

wanting to go to a mainstream school through to my career

down that route. You could blame commissioning editors, you could

choices now, there have been people along the way who have either

blame writers, you could blame casting directors, you could blame

very outspokenly or more tactfully given me the same message:

us as performers for not being vocal enough. But it’s difficult to be

‘Don’t bother’, or certainly, ‘Think long and hard before you do it’.

vocal when people aren’t necessarily that interested in listening to

And I also know of people who’ve gone for castings where they

you. I would like to see true inclusive casting, that would be a perfect

are supposedly looking for somebody with a disability, but then

world, but I see that that is an awful long way off in terms of film.

a non-disabled actor gets the role. Even if the non-disabled actor has more experience, with so few roles for us, how can we ever

Anna Cannings is an actress who was born with bilateral

be expected to build up as much experience, and therefore be as

microphthalmia, which means that her eyes haven’t fully developed.

proficient as an actor who probably goes to castings most weeks?

She was the first blind pupil to attend a mainstream school.

026 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


027


028 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


Right from being a child I was interested in entertaining people. I did

the best I can with the parts I get offered. If I really thought they

the school plays as most wannabe actors do, then I went to college

were doing damage to our cause I would speak up, but all I can do is

and did a BTEC in performing arts. Following that – after quite a lot

be true to myself; I can’t reflect the point of view of every disabled

of discrimination from places – I managed to enrol at drama school.

person in this country.

Some of the places said that they didn’t see the point in training

I suppose the roles that I’ve played on television have all been

disabled actors at that time because there was no work for us, and

‘about’ disability to a greater or lesser degree, in the same way that

a lot of them had no access. It was a real battle to get anywhere. It

black actors in the ’70s were all playing parts to do with the colour

was devastating, but if you don’t get in somewhere, it’s very difficult

of their skin. To move forward, we need to look at roles in other

to prove that you’re being turned down on the grounds of disability.

areas, maybe the theatre. I think the theatre could do a lot more

You have to be careful – if you complain too much you quickly get

because although it may be less heard about than television, any

a reputation for being ‘difficult’. But one of the things you need

area we can get into which will push us forward and let us be seen by

as an actor is tenacity, and I had supportive parents who wouldn’t

people in another way is going to be helpful.

allow me to give up. I eventually managed to pull through, but it was heartbreaking.

If I was in charge I’d open up more training courses, I would talk to drama schools and say, ‘Look, we want to give disabled actors

What’s even harder is facing the criticisms from within the

roles and see them playing parts on the television, but we need you

disabled community [about being a token presence]. I have spent

as an institution to give them the training.’ That’s where it needs to

many hours agonising over them, because all I’m trying to do is

start. But then acting is renowned as a difficult profession – there’s

be an actor. In my view, the strongest way we can fight against

no point getting too angry about that because all actors suffer. If

discrimination is just to do the job, there’s not really a lot more we

you’re not prepared for that, then you don’t go into it.

can do. I’m ultimately just an actor – I get paid to do the job and I have to do what I’m told. I can’t afford to make waves. I never wanted to be a trailblazer, and I wouldn’t wish it on

Paul Henshall is an actor who got his big break in the drama A

Thing Called Love before landing a gig on Holby City. He has cerebral

anybody. All I want to do is work as an actor – that’s all I ever wanted

palsy, a disability that affects the limbs. Part of his brain was

– so to have what feels like a constant eye over my shoulder watching

damaged when he was born prematurely and resuscitated by doctors.

everything I do is quite difficult. Just give me a break – I’m doing

“But really, they still don’t know that much about it,” he says.

029


My mum entered me for a modelling competition in the local

It’s because people in the media portray people in wheelchairs

newspaper when I was at school, but when I got through to the

as being ill. Maybe when people who are disabled are in everyday

catwalk, she said, ‘Look, you can’t go because you’re in a wheelchair.

situations, like, when they go to job interviews, or they go to uni,

They won’t be able to cope with you.’ She didn’t want to disappoint

or they meet new people, then people will treat them normally

me because I’d had some bad experiences when I was younger

rather than different, and they’ll be able to look past the disability.

where people weren’t prepared for me to show up like this, but I

Once people get over disability and see you as a person, that’s

was really upset. So a while later I applied for a TV show called Model

when they’re going to start seeing us in films. That’s when you’ll

Behaviour, and I let them know that I was in a wheelchair.

be accepted and integrated.

Eventually through that I was signed to a disabled talent agency. I didn’t realise that disabled people could do acting. You

People have to get used to disability first. My mum’s a carer at a community centre and looks after people with disabilities during

don’t really think about it, do you? Well, I didn’t, but then I got

the day. With some of the people there, visually it’s something that’s

my first job as an extra in a TV commercial, and after that I was

difficult to look at. People need time to get used to that sort of thing.

in the background in The Bill. As soon as I’d got those jobs I wanted

It scares them – if you say, ‘Do you want to watch something and, oh

to do more, but proper acting rather than just in the background.

yeah, it’s about disability,’ people get worried. That’s why you won’t

Then there was an audition for a Stephen Poliakoff film, Friends

see it on TV or film, but things like that are true. That’s real life.

and Crocodiles, so I went for that and I got it. That was my first main acting job. I’m still young but what I’ve noticed is that there aren’t that

I’d like to become the first Hollywood disabled actress; the same status as Cameron Diaz. Could you have someone as big as Cameron Diaz in a wheelchair? I think it’s more hopeful for future generations.

many roles for disabled people, and it’s a shame when actors who

If there are good disabled actors out there, then people can’t be

are able bodied get them. We don’t want to put disabled people in

turned down forever, can they?

something just for the sake of it, but it means that they’re ignoring somebody who’s as good at acting and who’s probably going to be

Sasha Hardway is an actress and model who has a rare form of

more natural when they’re in a wheelchair.

dystonia, a disability that causes pain in her muscles and means

I think that people in society don’t know how to cope with

she is unable to put her heels on the floor or keep her balance.

wheelchairs, and because people in normal, everyday life can’t

At least, the doctors think she does; nobody seems sure. “It’s

deal with it, the media have found it hard to incorporate it. Maybe

complicated,” she says

n

it’s because if they see someone young in a wheelchair they feel bad because they think that you’re worse off than them. But just

Special thanks to Louise Dyson of VisABLE People:

because you’re in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you’re worse off

www.visablemodels.co.uk. All these transcripts are available to

than somebody else.

read, in full, online. It’s well worth your time.

030 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


031


Words by Mike Brett Illustration by Paul Willoughby

Film may have allowed Julian Schnabel to come out of his chrysalis, but he’ll never admit to being more than a not-sohumble artist.

032 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


033


Julian Schnabel doesn’t exist. That is, like any

Fortunately, the less than quiet confidence of a man who once declared,

truly myth-making cultural figure, no two accounts of the controversial New

“I’m as close to Picasso as you’re going to get in this fucking life”, remains

York artist bear more than a passing resemblance to one another. A man

unaffected by the barbs of the critical community. It may or may not be an

of many identities and none, Schnabel’s extraordinary string of accolades,

elaborate charade, but Schnabel himself seems to care little whether people

controversies, groundbreaking creations and hubristic failures has allowed

view him as a certified eccentric, or just plain certifiable. As he stated in

him to perpetuate a reputation as an accomplished polymath, while the artist

a 2003 Observer interview, “I’ve been living with a lot of negativity for the

himself asserts time and again that he wishes only to be considered a painter.

past 15 years, but it never impacted on my work, or my way of working. It’s like a rhinoceros with birds shitting on its back. It stopped me getting

If his reputation for egotism was less well publicised, you might mistake this

comfortable but it never worried me.”

narrow definition as modesty. Those familiar with Schnabel’s distinctive brand of bombast are more inclined to put it down to his legendary contrariness.

Shit or no shit, there’s no doubt that Julian Schnabel does things his own way,

Having famously asserted that “I see myself as a painter even if I make

with a single-minded vision – and the grim determination required to realise it

sculptures”, it was no surprise when Schnabel greeted the completion of his

– that belongs to the artist alone. Tales of brusqueness and unconventional

extensive redesign of Ian Schrager’s Gramercy Park Hotel with the claim that

direction periodically emerge from his film sets, but his collaborators rarely

he was “not a designer”. Even his signature plate paintings of the late 1970s

doubt him. As Marie-Josée Croze, co-star of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly has

and 1980s – a riotous cacophony of broken ceramics and thickly layered

it, “He’s really in the moment and really creative, and he’s just like, ‘Do it! Let’s

paint – seem to have been a product of the artist’s bloody-minded insistence

try it!’ Sometimes it’s kind of rude, the way he expresses stuff, but it’s always

on differentiating himself at all costs. As he remarked of his inspiration at the

for the best of the film.” Croze’s experiences echo those of Javier Bardem on

time, “I thought that if painting is dead, then it’s a nice time to start painting.”

the set of Before Night Falls, where he claims that, “Working with Julian puts you in a place where you have to face whether you are an artist or not. The

Schnabel has courted contradiction and controversy ever since he burst

soul is wide open. That’s a good thing, but it demands a lot of courage.”

onto the arts scene in 1973, sandwiching several slides of his work between pieces of bread before submitting them to the Whitney Museum’s

It is impossible to know whether the pathologically painterly Schnabel

Independent Study Program. It was a fitting introduction to a man whose

appreciates the irony that his success as a director has prompted some critics

working life has spanned four decades and a multitude of occupations, from

to suggest that he should have hitched his wagon to that profession earlier in

cabbie to interior designer, sunglasses salesman to sculptor, short order

life. After his 1996 debut feature Basquiat received positive reviews, his 2000

cook and – latterly – filmmaker.

effort Before Night Falls garnered even more enthusiastic acclaim, along with an Oscar nomination for rising star Bardem. Having chalked up a Best Director

Given the range of his life experience – and the multimedia nature of his

win at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, it

work – it was perhaps inevitable that no amount of commercial success would

seems that a positive critical consensus regarding the former enfant terrible

see Schnabel’s distinctive brand of aesthetic mongrelism easily accepted by

is finally in danger of breaking out. At the very least, say non-fans, cinema may

the arts establishment. If anything, the seemingly bulletproof performance of

be an ideal diversion from the temptation to put paint on canvas once more.

his work at auction has inflamed the intellectual ire of critics, with the heady prices he achieved in the early 1990s contrasting starkly with the ferocious

Whether Schnabel will ever accept the simple title of ‘film director’ without

critical reception they received. While some artists have benefited from

considering it a slight on his artistic pretensions is difficult to say. Even when

historical re-evaluation, the passage of time has, for the most part, continued

discussing his film work, he insists that, “Most directors use a literary and

to pour cold water on Schnabel’s credentials as a painter. Even while

linear map, I use a painter’s map. What I choose to look at, what I illustrate by

newspapers and magazines have lined up to dismiss his work as “splurges

music, where I put the camera, it’s all painterly.” Nevertheless, in more mellow

and farts of chromatic grossness” (The Guardian), and Schnabel himself as

moments, Schnabel has at least been able to admit that his formidable array

“a B-movie karate-fighter kicking at an open door” (The New York Sun), the

of talents has allowed him to function “like a crop rotator. One season is

work remains commercially buoyant, frequently exceeding auction estimates.

carrots, one season it’s potatoes.” Whatever the artist perceives The Diving

Such vitriol would have eroded the self-belief of a less bullish artist.

Bell and the Butterfly to be, let’s hope he keeps tilling the soil n

034 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


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When he swaggered onto the art scene in the 1970s, Julian Schnabel was simultaneously hailed as a leading light of the neo-expressionist movement and derided as a bohemian chancer with little to offer other than a strong line in self-publicity. Seemingly impervious to such criticism, the artist set to work on creations of striking size and unconventional texture. His paintings on broken crockery, velvet, surfboards and tarpaulins were all created with the intention of evoking an emotional state â&#x20AC;&#x153;that people can literally walk into and be engulfed byâ&#x20AC;?. Prepare to be engulfed.

036 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


Untitled (Japanese Painting), 2005 Oil, wax, resin on polyester, 138 x 108â&#x20AC;? Collection of the Artist

037


Versions of Chuck 7, 2003 Oil, wax, rabbit-skin glue on canvas, 120 x 108â&#x20AC;? Koenig Collection

038 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


Julian Schnabel, The Unexpected Death of Blinky Palermo in the Tropics, 1981 Oil on velvet, 116 x 164”

Julian Schnabel, Teddy Bears Picnic, 1987 Oil on enamel on tarpaulin, 136 x 169”

039


Julian Schnabel, St. Sebastian, 1979 Oil on canvas, 111 x 66â&#x20AC;?

Julian Schnabel, Ozymandias, 1990 Oil, paint, gesso leather, resin on sail material, 156 x 216â&#x20AC;?

040 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


Julian Schnabel Versions of Chuck & Other Works Walther Koenig Cologne 2007 publications@cornerhouse.org

041


042 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


Julian Schnabel isn’t the first artist to transfer his skills from canvas to film: from Salvador Dalí to the Turner Prize, galleries are as natural a home for filmmakers as the multiplex. And yet art cinema continues to bamboozle audiences. LWLies investigates the final frontier of film. words by steve watson

Spend 10 minutes thinking about ‘art’ films and what do you get? Un Chien Andalou certainly, a bit of Andy Warhol perhaps, or the videos that crop up every year in the Turner Prize. Of course, anything from The Seventh Seal to Amélie can be called ‘arthouse’, but that term is so broad that it isn’t much use in defining anything other than ‘not Hollywood’. So what is art cinema? And why does it manage to fascinate and antagonise in equal measure? Different definitions have been used in an attempt to get a firmer grip on the subject. For Murray Smith, Professor of Film Studies at Kent University, the question isn’t so much ‘What is art cinema?’ as, ‘What isn’t it?’ He draws a distinction between arthouse and the avant-garde, which is characterised by a desire to challenge and subvert rather than to entertain. Filmmaker and academic Nicky Hamlyn agrees, but in his book, Film and Art Phenomena, he goes a step further to draw a distinction between so-called ‘gallery artists’ who happen to use film as just another artistic medium, and those experimental filmmakers whose work investigates and Mark Wallinger, Sleeper (2005)

comments upon the medium of film itself. ▼

043


Left Motomichi Nakamura, We Share Our Mother’s Health (2006) music video for The Knife Above Chris Shepherd and David Shrigley short film, Who I Am And What I Want (2005) Right Pleix Birds (2006) short film with music by Vitalic

But just as one corner of the genre is pinned

of objects directly onto cine film, which was then

While post-1970s film may be more playful,

down, another begins flapping in the breeze. The

exposed to light to create strangely beautiful X-ray

that’s not to say it doesn’t have the underlying

advent of digital filmmaking, for example, has

effect images. Even more oblique are the flicker films

inquisitiveness that elevates it to the status of art.

given rise to a new type of hybrid artist, who may

of the mid-1960s, most famously associated with

This year’s Turner Prize, for example, was won by

work across live action, animation, CGI and sound

Tony Conrad. A year before Michelangelo Antonioni’s

Mark Wallinger, whose Sleeper, a two and a half

in order to provide film packages for advertising,

Blow Up would be hailed as the seminal ‘art’ film

hour film shows the artist dressed in a bear costume

music videos, computer games, installations and

of the decade, Conrad took a regular sequence of

wandering Berlin’s New National Gallery at night. It

nightclubs. Film as art, it’s clear, is a fluid discipline

black and white frames whose pattern, when viewed

has an undeniable sense of fun, but also addresses

that in its short history has already notched up

in its unprojected form, is obvious, but blurs when

issues of integration and identity. The artist is filmed

a bewildering array of movements, styles and

projected at 24 frames per second to produce

from outside the gallery by a voyeuristic, hand-held

schools, and yet for all their differences, there is

visual palpitations created by the eye. By creating

camera, which makes it unclear whether the bear,

a singularity of purpose that unites them.

this strange physical sensation, the flicker artists

the symbol of Berlin, is trapped inside the gallery or if the viewer is locked out.

The best art questions our assumptions

were able to comment on the difference between

about the world, and in that respect all filmmakers

the frames that appear on the screen and the film

begin with a medium ripe for subversion. The

as it is experienced by the viewer, who unconsciously

in the experience is characteristic of art films,

combination of sound and moving image gives

assembles the action in their head.

and perhaps what unnerves some audiences.

us the simplest and most direct way of

Nicky Hamlyn believes that such aggressively

Incorporating the viewer’s physical presence

Sleeper has been recreated inside Tate Liverpool,

representing the world, whether in news reports,

serious film art was very much a product of its

where a sleek black box that visitors must enter

documentaries, home videos or even something

time. “In the ’70s there was much more

to watch the film stands in for the surroundings

as simple as porn. For the film artist, the

antagonism,” he says. “A lot of filmmakers were

of the New National Gallery. In such conditions the

challenge is to take this method of recording

antagonistic to commerce, and very politicised

unease and uncertainty transmitted by the camera

and reproducing footage, and use it to shock,

in their filmmaking. Their stuff was quite austere,

is amplified. Where traditional cinema is a passive

provoke and taunt – to create art.

quite long and difficult, but then the ’80s generation

experience, Wallinger takes us out of our comfort

reacted against that and produced work that was

zone and asks the kind of questions about our own

genre-busting examples of extreme art. In the

much more playful and poetic and short. And of

participation that we’re unused to answering.

1920s, surrealist painter and photographer Man

course that happens all the time in the history of

Ray created his ‘Rayograms’ by placing a series

art – one group reacts against another.”

The impulse to subvert film has led to some

044 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE

Curators have their part to play in mediating between artist and audience: it’s simply not enough


any more to run a film on a loop in the dark

But while it’s common for artists to

there is immense potential for this new frontier

corner of a gallery. In Jennifer and Kevin McCoy’s

alternate between painting, sculpture, installation

of filmmaking to be used artistically. Could we

exhibition Tiny, Funny, Big and Sad, for example,

and video, one drawback of this is that often

see a day when artists working in moving images

a series of miniature scenes rotate past a network

they’re not exploring what the technology is truly

become more specialised, producing work that

of small cameras, which show the ‘action’ taking

capable of. For the modern pioneers of film art

unites the thematic and ideological depth of art

place on a large screen. What appears on that

you need to look beyond the Tate and its ilk to

with the visual flair of today’s multimedia

screen is nonsensical, but by walking around the

the likes of One Dot Zero. Established in 1996

creatives? Ward is optimistic.

entire series and watching the film being made in

to monitor and promote the then fledgling

real time, the viewer appreciates how they connect,

medium of digital moving images, its most

what entertains us,” he says, “and arguably

and is able to enjoy the thrill of being ‘backstage’.

recent book, Motion Blur 2, collects some of the

some of the best entertainment currently on

most interesting work of contemporary digital

television is the stuff in between the programmes.

Sleeper or Tiny, Funny, Big and Sad being

filmmakers, much of it dispensing with conventional

We’re less obsessed with putting these moving

achieved by any other medium, but Laurence

ideas of plot or narrative to deal instead in short

images in boxes, like if it’s an advert then it’s

Sillars, one of the co-curators of this year’s Turner

vignettes and visual experimentation.

It’s hard to imagine the effects of either

Prize, is clear that film is really just another tool to be used by the artist.

According to Shane Walter, head of One

“I think we’re developing a richer idea of

not art, and if it’s in a gallery it is art, or if it’s in a cinema it’s a film. I think those kind of traditional

Dot Zero, audiences are more open than ever to

boxes are breaking down, and I think younger

these new and often challenging experiences.

people are much happier to experiment. It’s not

know how to use video and others don’t,” he

“Audiences now have a very sophisticated

just about eye candy – it’s what you do with it

says. “I don’t think of video as anything very

visual language,” he says. “It’s a very exciting

afterwards as well.” n

peculiar in its own right. I did a show here quite

time. There’s a whole new area now that I call

“I think good art is good art: some people

recently with Bruce Nauman, who’s a very

‘nanotainment’, which is all about short bursts.

interesting artist and in many people’s minds is

If you look at the creatives and filmmakers in

the father of video art, and he said it wasn’t video

Motion Blur 2, I think they’re an example of what

in its own right that attracted him to the medium,

the landscape is going to be like in the future.”

it was just that it was sometimes an appropriate

Digital imagery and nanotainment are

way to record and document whatever was

perfect for idents, adverts and music videos,

preoccupying him at the time.”

and as such are highly commercial. However,

Check out ‘ICO Essentials: The Secret Masterpieces of Cinema’ at Tate Modern from January 18-21 for a special preview of a series of trail-blazing artists’ films from the likes of Luis Buñuel and Jan Švankmajer selected by six emerging young curators. Then head to the ICA from January 25 to see Essentials: Dreams for more of the same mind-blowing stuff.

045


“Little Joe never once gave it away, Everybody had to pay and pay. A hustle here and a hustle there, New York city is the place where they said, ‘Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side.’ I said, ‘Hey Joe, take a walk on the wild side.’ Lou Reed, ‘Walk on the Wild Side’

046 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


Joe Dallesandro was the angel face of andy Warhol’s art films, but this icon of ’60s sexuality is far from comfortable with his legacy. Words by Matt Bochenski. ILLUSTRATION BY RICHARD MERRICK. Joe Dallesandro was five years old when his mother was convicted of

What about The Factory, though? Warhol surrounded himself

grand larceny and his father, a navy man, put him and his brother into

with a menagerie of porn stars, drag queens, drug addicts, musicians,

state care. It was 1953, the start of a long slide of foster homes, trouble-

and free-thinkers, but despite this, Joe claims that there’s a

making, street gangs, vandalism and stolen cars that ended 10 years

misconception about drug use at The Factory. “There were no drugs

later with a police pursuit and a bullet in the leg. He was remanded to

around The Factory,” he says. “There were people that did drugs that

a juvenile detention facility where an initiation ritual and bottle of India

came to The Factory, but they weren’t doing drugs there. They were

ink gave him the ‘Little Joe’ tattoo immortalised in Lou Reed’s lyrics.

very anti-drug people at The Factory.”

After three months he escaped and headed for Mexico, living

Of his own experiences there, he’s similarly dismissive. “I was

in a cave before returning to New York via Los Angeles. By now, 16-year-

not involved with The Factory other than to work there,” he says. “I was

old Joe had an ugly charge sheet and a street temper, but the kind of

a separate entity – I never hung out with The Factory people. I didn’t

body that sent guys and girls into spasms of lust. He hooked up with

socialise with them outside of making movies.”

photographer Bob Mizer, owner of the magazine Physique Pictorial,

Maybe that’s down to his feelings about the work they were

and turned tricks, mostly with men. Joe wasn’t handsome; he was

doing. Movies like Ondine, Lonesome Cowboys and the unreleased San

beautiful, untouched, and no matter what he did, no matter how far his

Diego Surf, which are now considered key artefacts of American junk-

experiences pushed him, nothing seemed to be able to extinguish the

art culture, Joe describes as “silliness”. It’s typical of his ambivalence

sense of perfection that enveloped him like armour.

towards his work. On the one hand he’ll claim that, “I never had a desire

Back in New York, Joe got married and settled down next to

to become an actor – I was just someone who happened by a place where

a methadone clinic, just across the way from a recovery house for

they were shooting a film.” And yet he’s clearly rankled by the idea that

drug addicts. He was looking for a dealer when he wandered into the

his career should be defined by a handful of cheap movies he made with

building where Andy Warhol was shooting The Loves of Ondine, into

Andy Warhol, when he went on to make another 40 films and counting.

the same room, just out of curiosity, into the camera, just out of

Joe’s feelings about Warhol himself echo that ambivalence.

coincidence, and into a new life as a Warhol superstar and icon of the

He’s got no time for the image of Warhol in, say, Factory Girl, which sees

sexual underground.

the artist as a callous manipulator. “He was very kind and considerate

Those are the facts of Joe’s early life, and you never know,

to a lot of people,” he says, “he wasn’t cruel at all.” So how do you

some of them might even be true. If anything, it’s a shock to learn that

explain the story that when Francis Ford Coppola was considering Joe

he’s still alive. So much of the romance around Warhol and The Factory

for the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather, both Warhol and

is based on the assumption that everybody died – so they can’t get old

Morrissey shot him down by telling Coppola that Joe was a drug addict

and ugly and fuck up the myth. But Joe survived; an uneasy testament

who was incapable of working from a script? “They had nothing good

not just to the fact that it was real, but that some of it was false.

to say about me,” he agrees, but that’s all he’ll offer.

But if you’re looking to Joe as the keeper of secrets, you’re

He finally loses it over the suggestion that he had a falling out

going to be disappointed. His career might have peaked 30 years ago,

with The Factory over money: “You keep telling me what I’ve said! We

but he’s no Charles Kane obsessing over the past from some trailer

never had a falling out over money! Nowhere in the world have I ever said

park Xanadu. You can try and get him to engage with The Factory era,

I had a falling out over money!” Only that’s not quite true. He once told

but it’s going to be a long and rocky road. Here’s an example. This is the guy whose work with Warhol and

an interviewer from Index magazine that, “Paul Morrissey fucked me over. For close to 10 years, Paul would deny, even in front of me, that

Paul Morrissey revolutionised male sexuality. In Morrissey’s Flesh, Joe

I didn’t get a percentage from the films we made together. So I put him

became the first ever onscreen male nude. It was radical and shocking

out of my life for six or seven years.” The official line now is that he left

– he was an erotic fantasy who transfixed millions regardless of the old

The Factory simply because it was time to move on.

divisions of gay and straight. Ask him about this today, and here’s what

He might not be an easy-going soul, but there’s actually

you get: “I never looked at people for their sexual preference, and I didn’t

something glorious about Joe Dallesandro’s anger. To the outside world,

expect people to look at me and ask me what my sexual preference was.

The Factory will always define his career, but that doesn’t mean he has

If I wasn’t sharing that with you it means I wasn’t interested in you, and

to sit back and take it. Besides, he’s got the kind of thick Brooklyn

it would be none of your business.” End of. Talk to the hand.

accent that’s far more suited to picking a fight than discussing the

On the subject of drugs, Joe, a self-confessed heroin addict for

artistic nature of Warhol’s films. And if you think about it, how would

years before he kicked the habit in 1985, is even more evasive. Though

you feel if every time somebody looked at you all they saw were the ways

he worked in Europe in the early ’70s, where drugs weren’t exactly hard

in which you’re not the person you used to be? Maybe, you think, they

to come by, he claims they weren’t a part of his life: “I wasn’t involved

even wish you’d died young, and that by living you’re just spoiling

with it, didn’t know about it and didn’t socialise or hang out with people

everybody’s perfect romance of a bygone era. When you’re known to the

that did it,” he says. “It just wasn’t something that I wanted to do.”

world as ‘Little Joe’, it must be hard to grow old

n 047


Words by Matt Bochenski ILLUSTRATIONS BY PAUL WILLOUGHBY

048 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


For decades French film has been dominated by the same female faces. Now the spotlight is turning on a new generation of young actresses demanding liberty, equality and sorority. It was Catherine Breillat who said that the great difference between American and French cinema “is not in money or in scripts, but the incapability we have in renewing our actors.” She’s talking about the slow death of French cinema, where the new kids can’t catch a break and the old birds just aren’t budging. France may have purged one aristocracy, but the ancien régime survives in Huppert, Binoche, Béart, Adjani, Marceau and their ilk; a royal court determined to keep the next generation of ladies in waiting. But all that may at last be about to change. We spoke to the future faces of France’s onscreen femmes.

Roxane Mesquida

Marina Hands

“I don’t know if I have limits,” says Roxane Mesquida, which is quite the

Marina Hands loves fish and chips. She loves HP sauce. She loves London.

understatement from the actress who caused Catherine Breillat to admit, “I like to rape angels.”

She learnt “more in one year in England than in two years at the Conservatoire

(LEFT)

Deceptively innocent, sensual and smouldering, Mesquida was only

(RIGHT)

in Paris”. That’s the kind of shit that can get you deported. In case you don’t know, Marina Hands is only half-French. And in case you

18-years-old when she starred in À Ma Soeur!, Breillat’s controversial tale

hadn’t already guessed, that other half is English, courtesy of her dad, theatre

of two sisters that ends in rape and murder. She returned for its spiritual

director Terry Hands. Sometimes, she says, it feels like there’s a war going

sequel, Romance, and now director and star are reunited for The Last

on inside her, but it sounds more like a massacre. Victoire vers l’Angleterre!

Mistress – a surprisingly chaste take on the world of Dangerous Liaisons. Though not her first film, À Ma Soeur! was both a coming-of-age and

Despite her background (mum was actress Ludmila Mikael), acting wasn’t in the picture when she was younger. Her first love was show-jumping,

a baptism of fire. Not just for the nudge-nudge questions about how far

and it was serious enough to see her make the French junior team before, as

Breillat pushed her (“I’m a fucking actress ,” she says, not an actress who

she puts it, “I failed.” It was one of those brutal, life-changing experiences:

fucks), but for the experience of filming itself. “The beginning was awful

“I remember what it was like to have a dream and not succeed,” she says.

between her and me,” she admits. “She was mean, and I cried every day.

“I remember thinking, ‘I should just do something else’.”

I told her that I need to feel like she loves me, because if I feel that, I can give her everything.” Breillat isn’t popular in France (representatives from the industry flew to New York to ask them to take À Ma Soeur! out of the city’s film festival), and Mesquida’s profile is still relatively low. Would she have a more

‘Something else’ was acting, where failure hasn’t exactly followed. Now 32, Hands has worked with Guillaume Canet, won a César for her role in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and has a small but significant part in Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. But it hasn’t been an easy ride. First of all there’s an entrenched system

extensive CV if she wasn’t part of Breillat’s aggressive assault on the

that everybody’s fighting; a hypocrisy, she says, that’s stifling French film.

establishment? “I don’t care,” she says. “If I could only work with Catherine

“We had a great French cinema, but since the TV channels have taken on the

all my life, I really wouldn’t care.”

business, a TV thinking has been applied to films. Now, no one can afford to

But there’s frustration simmering beneath the surface. “In France,” she says, “there are no young actresses – we don’t have roles for young people.”

make a film without a star.” And once you’ve become the star? Mo’ money, mo’ problems. “As you

What happened to the legacy of the New Wave? “If Anna Karina was born

gain attention, you gain enemies,” she says. “People think that if you’re

now,” says Mesquida, “she couldn’t work. Godard didn’t care about age,

successful, you have this arrogance.”

but now, when you are young or pretty you can’t work because you are not ‘intellectual’, and I hate that.” This year she moved to New York, enrolled in the film school and got

Maybe that arrogance is just a reluctance to sell out – Hands has no intention of going commercial (“The people who make the blockbusters wouldn’t want me. They’d look at me and say, ‘Oh, she thinks!’”), and

an agent in LA. “I don’t care about French people,” she says. It’ll be their loss

compromise isn’t a route she’s ready to take. “I didn’t allow myself into acting

if she doesn’t come back.

because it was my parents’ world,” she says. Not any more it isn’t. ▼

049


Marie-Josée Croze

Céline Sciamma

(LEFT)

(RIGHT)

Hang on a minute, though: not everybody believes that French cinema is

It’s not just actresses who are elbowing the old guard out of the way.

failing its young. The way Marie-Josée Croze sees it, the young are failing

Céline Sciamma is a 27-year-old filmmaker whose first feature, Water Lilies,

French cinema. “The new generation is doing what they have to do,” she says,

is an evocative depiction of young love that she describes as “the anti-Virgin

“they do have parts. The thing is, every generation has to deal with the one

Suicides”. Set among the unlikely world of synchronised swimming, it’s a

that went before it. I grew up with Isabelle Adjani in the ’70s, and the great

lyrical look at sensitive small-town issues, from a gay teenager falling for

actors of the ’60s, and even though there’s a new group of people today, I

her best friend, to an overweight girl desperate to get laid.

don’t think we’re as good as them. I’m more moved by that older generation,

It’s ironic that a first time director should be working with first time

less by my generation, and maybe even less by the younger generation that’s

actors on a film about the trauma of virginity. Water Lilies was Sciamma’s

following me.”

graduation script, and she was set for shooting barely six months out of

That’s fighting talk, but it’s understandable. In Hollywood, Croze would be

film school. “I had no time to ask myself about my legitimacy,” she says,

hitting her twilight years at 37; in France, the world is her oyster. After winning

“because I just had to act on it. I was lucky because if I had two years to

the Best Actress award at Cannes in 2003 for The Barbarian Invasions, the

think about it, I would have been really scared.”

French-Canadian moved to Paris, and the job offers haven’t stopped. Julian

Not everybody gets that kind of luck, but she’s bullish about the

Schnabel is the latest in a long line to fall for her charms, casting her in the key

opportunities for young filmmakers. “We are the country that produces

role of Jean-Do’s speech therapist Henriette in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

the most films with new directors in the world,” she says. “A percentage

“With acting, you can also act an age,” she says. “I can act a 20-year-old girl, or maybe not 20, but 25 definitely, and I can act a 45-year-old too. And in my case it works. I don’t care about age; I think it’s ridiculous. Age today doesn’t mean anything.” Okay, but she would say that. It’s Croze who’ll step comfortably into the

of the money made from every film released in France goes to making new movies.” She recognises that there are problems, though – ones that she might soon be in a position to solve. “I’m bored with the fact that the cast in French cinema is always the same,” she admits. “I don’t believe in fiction

shoes of the Binoches and Hupperts at the expense of the real 20-somethings

when they are there.” But she sees a brighter future ahead: “We are the

sitting on the sidelines. We’re not saying she doesn’t deserve it, but that

web generation, and we like change a lot… I like to discover new people,

doesn’t make it right. She might claim that society is “growing up” about

new faces – people from the streets.” And she’s confident that she won’t

the question of age, but her own career opportunities are proof that casting

lose that energy; won’t lose sight of what’s important. After all, “I’ve been a

directors still aren’t willing to take a chance on youth.

director once,” she says, “but an audience member a thousand times.” n

No dice. Sciamma’s ‘web generation’ just don’t cut the mustard: “It’s a question of the way you live,” she says. “the more you watch TV and live as a stupid person who has no real life, just living through the internet and sending e-mails, okay, well these are the actors you’re going to get.” Ouch. Paris might be famous for its riots, but it’s a bitch fight that’s brewing.

050 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE

Water Lilies and The Last Mistress are released on March 14 and April 25 respectively, and will be reviewed in the next issue. Full transcripts of all these interviews are available online at www.littlewhitelies.co.uk.


051


Words by Georgie Hobbs ILLUSTRATIONS BY EMILY ALSTON

If Jean-Dominique Bauby was born today, it’s unlikely he’d have to worry about locked-in syndrome. Star Trek science is changing the face of modern medicine. Beam us up, boys.

There’s a telltale tingle in your left arm and a crushing pain in your chest. You’re having a heart attack. You’ve got about half-an-hour before you die. Fortunately for you, it’s 2017 and you’re well practiced at this. Wipe your brow, grab your syringe, tighten the tourniquet, breathe a sigh of relief. Let the magic potion burrow inside and do the rest of the work. Now carry on up the treadmill – hell, why not increase the resistance? Everything’s okay now: brighter, faster, happier, stronger. ▼

052 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


053


The environmentalist’s nightmare and the subject of countless sci-fi horror stories In 10 to 15 years you’re not going

numbers of 99-year-olds alive today welcome

skin-like surface. Eventually, it will wrap

to recognise the landscape of medical

in their 110th birthday as physically fit as

around prosthetic muscles like a glove, and

technology. Everyone from electrical and

they were in their prime.

when hooked up to the nervous system will

chemical engineers to zoologists, synthetic

But what of mental health? The same

allow amputees to touch and feel again. The

biologists and nanotechnologists are

theory applies. As Dr Michael Whitaker, dean

environmentalist’s nightmare and the subject

getting excited about the point in time

of development at the North East England

of countless sci-fi horror stories is becoming

where morbidity becomes self-managed.

Stem Cell Institute, Newcastle, explains,

reality: it’s getting more and more likely that

Put simply, scientists are on the brink of

“Dementia comes in all flavours,” but so do

we’re going to live to be forever young.

unlocking our potential to self-heal.

a dizzying array of potential drugs. “There

“Instead of giving you an aspirin for a

These developments are as terrifying

are lots of stem cells to choose from in the

as they are tantilising, but at least here in

headache, we’re going to give you the drugs

body,” he explains. “Any or all of these could

England they’re regulated. Over in America,

that will make your heart muscle regenerate,”

cure acute liver disease, diabetes or straight-

money talks. Ever since President Bush

says Professor Eric Jervis, lecturer in chemical

forward neurodegenerative diseases within

withdrew state funding for stem cell research

engineering at the University of Waterloo,

five, 10 or 15 years.”

in August 2001, private labs have been

Canada. “Just like a salamander regrows its

Stem cells are the organic elixir inside our

encouraged to play God in a lawless field.

arms, there’s no reason we can’t do that with

skin. Scores of scientists around the globe

With no requirement to publish their findings,

most of the tissue in our body.” He sees a

are racing to extract, splice and clone them,

the fat cats are answerable to no one but

time when scores of minute biological cells

desperate to see who can be the first to fix us

their conscience. Professor Jervis is reluctant

will be let loose in our bloodstream and burrow

for good. In the future, we won’t need X-rays

to speculate what exactly they do (for fear,

into our veins, attacking pin-pointed weak

or computers, let alone the humble syringe,

he only half jokes, of “being targeted by the

spots. Once there, they’ll form a crucial piece

they say; the plan is to become self-generating.

CIA”), but if something ever goes wrong – say,

of, well, anything from an artery to an organ

We’ll be stitched up internally by our own fresh

mutates or escapes – we could all get seriously

right inside us. Invasive surgery will be nothing

cells, not synthetic ones grown in a Petri dish.

burnt. And yet this shit is hot right now so

but a memory and emergency health will look

With an initial dose of ‘reprogrammed’ cells

they’re pressing on regardless.

less like Casualty and more like CSI.

released into our blood stream, they’ll just

“Biology is fundamentally knowable,” he

Soon the merger of ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ science

keep on regenerating of their own accord. At

(where you take squishy stuff like biological

adds, “there’s no magic; it’s not metaphysics.

Cambridge University, Dr Stéphanie Lacour

life and bolt on various bits of hyper-tech kit

We will understand it given time.” Think about

of King’s College is making ‘prosthetic skin’

like carbon nano wires) will surpass any Star

what the world will look like when the record

from mini electrodes planted in a pliant,

Trek writer’s wildest dream. Helicopters will be

054 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


based on the anatomy of a fly’s wing; music

body skin every fortnight, so we’re well

with retroviruses derived from HIV. These

systems will mimic worms (infinitely more

stocked) and, because they are taken from

retroviruses will remain dormant indefinitely.

efficient systems than computers); and cars,

our own body, theoretically they shouldn’t

“They will always be there – it’s a potential

bikes, iPods, weapons – you name it – will

be rejected. ‘Cloning is dead’, cried

problem for their future use,” says Dr Lyle

learn how to heal themselves.

headlines all over the world.

Armstrong, lecturer at the Institute of Human

Of course, similar whiz-bang claims

Not everyone agrees. Dr Stephen

Genetics at Newcastle University.

about the revolution in genetic engineering

Minger, senior lecturer and director of King’s

were made a decade ago, when cloning was

College Stem Cell Biology Laboratory, says,

forever you’re better off watching your

big. Remember Dolly? Just six years after she

“I know Ian [Wilmut] quite well and I don’t

weight and cutting down on the cigarettes.

became the world’s first cloned animal, she

agree with his comments at all. I think he’s

But as Professor Jervis warns: “Once we

was dead. Two years later, the cloned puppy,

wrong.” It’s a “major development”, but, as

understand how Mother Nature has evolved

Snuppy, arrived, but his life has been plagued

yet, “it’s kind of a sledgehammer approach,”

things over four and half billion years to be

by scandal after his creator, the South Korean

he says. It’s unsafe and experimental, and at

so damned efficient, we’re going to start

professor Hwang Woo-Suk, was discredited

the moment the skin cells have to be mixed

using her principles for everything.”

after much of his research – including claims

is becoming reality: it’s getting more and more likely that we’re going to live to be forever young.

to have cloned the world’s first human embryo – was proved false. Yet nothing stirred the hornet’s nest quite like the recent news that the creator of Dolly was quitting cloning. Professor Ian Wilmut, director of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, made his announcement after learning of new studies by Professor Jamie Thomson of the University of Wisconsin, and Professor Shinya Yamanaka from Kyoto University. They’ve discovered how to return adult skin cells to an embryonic-like state. In the whole spectrum of stem cell research, explains Professor Jervis, “These two groups have demonstrated one of the Holy Grails; the ability to pharmacologically turn any cell into a stem cell.” In effect, they’ve worked out how to turn back time. Previously, cloned embryonic stem cells were seen as the great new hope. They are ‘pluripotent’ – blank-slates with the potential to ‘differentiate’, or turn into something useful. They offer the richest source of constantly replenishing cells ready to be manipulated from nothing to something – be it a liver cell or a piece of a heart valve. But they’re tough to get hold of, requiring the destruction of a human embryo – the elixir of life is, after all, precious – and few believe it should be tampered with. Then there’s the problem of the high rejection rate. Now that it’s possible to revert mature cells back to pluripotency, we’ve got a ready, ethical supply of them (we shed our complete

For the time being, if you want to live

n

055


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.

056 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE


there will be blood RELEASED February 8

From Jesse James

to the Coens’ No Country to this visceral tragedy, the relationship between man and the salt of US soil is both crucial and current. Hubris, greed, retribution and existentialism are the common themes of these new American epics, and as male characters sweat under the noonday sun, all three films exemplify the challenges and self-examination good cinema should provoke. There Will Be Blood is more politicised still. Its backbone is severed into the key constituents of the American psyche: oil – the pitch they’ll go to war over; and religion – and boy, they go to battle over that one too. It’s 1892 and Daniel DayLewis is the oilman, Plainview, breaking bones to find the black

DIRECTED BY Paul Thomas Anderson STARRING Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Ciarán Hinds

stuff, selling his soul and son to profit, charming communities to relinquish their land. His competitive streak, like a poisoned fissure, ensures that regardless of his success, he will never be happy. And Paul Dano, Eli, is faith; the schizophrenic preacher and healer, possessed with righteousness – utterly unlikeable despite his morality – his investiture also all flawed narcissism and a quest for power. But ultimately the film belongs to one of them. This is yet another staggering performance from Daniel Day-Lewis, and Paul Thomas Anderson gives him enough meat to masticate his way to further glory. Plainview is complex, dynamic, flawed,

demonic, attractive and at all times a magnet for the eyes. His emotion – pent up and sinewy – bubbles like thick black... oil beneath the surface. It does grate somewhat that here is an actor who now somehow ‘graces’ films with his presence, and there are a few other issues that temper. The final confrontation between Plainview and Eli is pure melodrama, and though the disintegration is supposed to be pathetic, it’s a tough conclusion to two hours and 40 minutes. The soundtrack, for its part, jangles like a Hammer horror wind-chime. And there’s the Paul/Eli problem – see what you can make of it. One is left wondering if this metaphorical attempt at exposing

the heart of contemporary America is as forceful and brilliant as the literal version in Syriana – the last great film about oil. On balance, perhaps not. But it remains a film with great method, mettle and madness, and for that reason shouldn’t be missed. Lórien Haynes

Anticipation.

The return of DD-L and PTA. Five

Enjoyment. Exhausting epic with compulsive performances. Four

In Retrospect. Will win over western haters, though as a resurgent genre it’s got stiff competition. Three 057


4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days 4 Months, 3 Weeks

and 2 Days is the story of university students Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) and Otilia (Anamaria Marinca). Set during the dog days of Romania’s communist regime, it follows these young women as Gabita undergoes an illegal abortion. Rather then make Gabita the focus, however, the story belongs to Otilia, her calm, level-headed friend and confidante. With this simple sleight of hand, director Cristian Mungiu makes the issues fiercely political in the truest sense – this is not a morality tale, but a grass roots urban legend, born out of communist cause and effect.

DIRECTED BY Cristian Mungiu STARRING Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu, Vlad Ivanov

RELEASED January 11

And yes, this is a subjective film; there’s no love lost between Mungiu and the Romanian government, but rather than becoming a martyred rant, the film highlights universal social sickness. Oppression breeds opportunity for those capable – or inhumane enough – to grasp it, as witnessed by Vlad Ivanov’s truly terrifying performance as Domnu’ Bebe, the hired abortionist. The man is not an axe-wielding psycho, nor will he reignite your fear of the dark; he is, for the most part, a ‘normal’ member of society. It’s not until he renegotiates Gabita’s ‘payment terms’ in light of her

058 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE

desperation that his true menace becomes clear. Despite the film’s challenges there are moments of knowing humour. As Otilia dines with her boyfriend’s parents, the conversation turns to politics. Their squabbling is evidence of a generation completely detached from their children. Likewise, as Otilia asks her bemused boyfriend what he would do if she became pregnant, his simpering reply of “I’d support you” is enough to make the re-educated audience choke back sick laughter. The effect of these scenes is testimony to the fact that Mungiu has, without

warning, turned his audience into political activists. This may be a Romanian tale, but it’s a subject for a global audience. Ailsa Caine

Anticipation. A Palme d’Or winning abortion film. Three Enjoyment. A

haunting tale that strikes almost too close for comfort. Four

In Retrospect.

Evidence that, in Cristian Mungiu, a powerful new voice has arrived on the world stage. Five


LWLies talks to 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days director Cristian Mungiu. LWLies: How has winning the Palme d’Or and reaching the top of the tree so early affected you? Mungiu: All of a sudden people consider that you are part of the elite. And you know, even people that knew you before all of a sudden have this confirmation that, wow, you’re really good. But I don’t know why. I don’t like it when people congratulate me for getting the award. If they want to congratulate me for anything, it should be for the film. LWLies: What can you do to make sure that people don’t treat you differently? Mungiu: What I’m trying to do is to signal to everybody that I’m just the same person, and to behave every day just like yesterday because I need this mental conflict of ‘nothing much has changed’. Hopefully like this it’ll be easier for me to just think anonymously about my next story and don’t feel this kind of pressure. But it’s very strange all of a sudden when people look at you on the street. LWLies: Is it accurate to talk about ‘New Romanian Cinema’ as if there’s been no old Romanian cinema worth a dime? Mungiu: Honestly, I don’t think this is incorrect. I think that we’ve had films that are good, but since the fall of communism, we haven’t had, until this moment, a generation of people or a series of films which were worth being seen by people outside. LWLies: Why did Czech and Hungarian and Soviet cinema find an artistic voice under communism, but Romanian cinema failed to do that? Mungiu: This is what we were asking. We had this debate in the press of the period that, well, maybe this is not an art that is appealing for Romanians – maybe we don’t know what cinema is about and maybe we can’t make cinema. The directors that were making films during that period had to fight against censorship in a certain way, so all the films in the late ’80s became very intricate and metaphorical. Maybe this was a way of fighting the system, but the problem was that as soon as there was the fall of communism, these people realised that they can’t make any other kinds of films. LWLies: In 4 Months, where do you draw the line in terms of the way you use the camera? Is your complicity in the experience something that you have to be aware of? Mungiu: In terms of camera work, what we were trying to do from the beginning was to deliver the film from the perspective of the main character, which is not to say from her point of view, but the perspective of what she was experiencing and what was inside her mind in that specific shot. And then there’s something else, which came from the general decision that we don’t want to do anything which is, like, from ourselves as filmmakers. We decided to drop everything which is expendable – for example we never pan in the film unless somebody goes in front of the camera, and I asked my cinematographer never to tilt to see somebody’s face. It’s important for you to imagine that there are things going on beside this story that I’m telling. Matt Bochenski

Check out the full (massive) transcript at www.littlewhitelies.co.uk

closing the ring RELEASED December 28

Heartbreaking

romance against a wartime backdrop? Sounds like there are tear-jerking possibilities: young love torn apart; jealousy in the ranks; and rushing into a marriage you know won’t last thanks to the possibility of being nuked by the Japs. Those are just some of the areas covered in Richard Attenborough’s first film in nearly a decade. It opens in Michigan at a funeral where Ethel Ann Roberts (Shirley MacLaine) takes a fag break while everyone else buries her husband. Meanwhile, in Belfast, a young boy discovers a gold ring and sets out to find the owner. The film jumps back and forth over half a century, from 1941 to 1991, as the origins of the ring and the reasons for Ethel’s mysterious behaviour are revealed. As a love story Closing the Ring creates neither romance or compassion because the cookie cutter characters are so singularly dull. And while non-linear storylines may be in fashion right now, with every flashback the

DIRECTED BY Richard Attenborough STARRING Shirley MacLaine, Mischa Barton, Christopher Plummer

film’s momentum is stifled, and instead of witnessing a great story unfold we’re treated to 40 minutes of Mischa Barton’s ‘sad’ and ‘smiley’ acting range. Thankfully, the rest of the cast hold their end up. MacLaine is a picture of spiteful depression from the beginning, and newcomer Martin McCann is endlessly charming as the naive and dippy Irish boy whose discovery starts the saga. Closing the Ring has its moments, but it’s hard to look past the desperate sentimentality and a performance from Barton that’s more wooden than the Blue Peter-looking set. Limara Salt

Anticipation.

Wartime romance with Mischa Barton? Like, no thanks! Two

Enjoyment. The story

is actually good enough to suck you in. Three

In Retrospect. The positives stay with you, unfortunately the negatives do too. Two 059


the edge of heaven Fatih Akin’s fifth

DIRECTED BY Fatih Akin STARRING Nurgül Yesilçay, Baki Davrak, Tuncel Kurtiz

fiction feature is, he says, the second part of what we’re free to call a trilogy. Where part one, Head-On, was about love, The Edge of Heaven is an exploration into the arbitrariness of death. The story begins in Germany where Ali (Tuncel Kurtiz), a lonely widower, asks prostitute Yeter (Nursel Köse) to move in with him in return for a monthly wage. Ali’s son Nejat (Baki Davrak) disapproves of the match, but soon grows fond of Yeter, whose unexpected death prompts him to begin a search for her daughter, Ayten (Nurgül Yesilçay) in Turkey. It is at this point that the focus shifts to Ayten’s story, delving

RELEASED February 22

into the unfolding narrative coincidences and mirror images that this entails. Akin’s film unravels as a beautifully paced meditation on loss and grief, but there is also a keenness in the way it weaves a strong sense of the political into what first appears a purely personal framework. Indeed, The Edge of Heaven is born of a Turkish German filmmaker who is eager to confront and investigate the ways in which the two nations converge on both a human and ideological level. Identity, nationalism, dogma and idealism are just some of the issues negotiated by Akin’s ingeniously structured

060 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE

storytelling, consistently explored with the sensitivity and delicacy that they demand. The importance of cultural hybridity is richly embodied by the visual juxtapositions of Istanbul and Berlin, with the former figured as a vibrant, dazzling metropolis, while the latter takes on a sombreness well suited to the solitude of widower Ali. Though Akin’s Turkey is one of repression and bureaucracy – the antithesis of the apparent freedoms of Germany – for all of the characters, and perhaps for Akin himself, there is a paradoxical romanticism of the country as an exotic place of escape and reconciliation. It is

certainly no accident that the film closes with a long, unbroken take of the idyllic Black Sea coast with a stillness that most viewers will be loath to disrupt as the credits roll. Emma Paterson

Anticipation. The critical success of Fatih Akin’s work gives just cause for bated breath. Four Enjoyment. An

intelligent and perfectly structured piece of cinema. Four

In Retrospect. Roll

on part three. Four


Charlie Wilson’s War RELEASED January 11

Among the plethora

of films about that strangest of beasts, American politics, this is the best. And for those lamenting the loss of The West Wing, Charlie Wilson’s War is manna from heaven. Written by Aaron Sorkin, the complexity, wit and long tracking shots return like loved ones you’ve sorely missed. What he gets that is so damn rare, is that politics is farce, and making your audience laugh doesn’t stop them getting the point; in fact, it enhances the poignancy far more than being whacked in the face with some hefty message. Texas congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) has a saying:

DIRECTED BY Mike Nichols STARRING Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffmann

“You can teach them to type but you can’t teach them to grow tits.” This is a man who negotiates with his cowboy boots on the table. A man who cruises the political underbelly – drugs, hookers, arms dealing – and yet remains intrinsically likeable. He’s the perfect choice when rich bitch Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts) decides she needs a guy to end the Cold War. How? Generate a covert op in Afghanistan, arm the Mujahideen and shoot down Soviets. Their superb performances, and yet another smart turn by Philip Seymour Hoffman as a CIA agent, have to be credited to director Mike Nichols, who wrings

all possible potential out of both actors and material. Most of all, he’s never patronising: if you’re not listening you’ll lose the plot, and it’s up to you to piece together the degree of irony intended when he cuts from a helicopter incendiary to Amy Adams’ arse wiggling through the White House. Here’s a film that shows the US doing what it does best; illicitly funding a war, winning it and then failing to rebuild the infrastructure. But while that should ring bells, more ambivalent is the message about Reds under beds – the Soviets are the cut and dry bad guy, and that’s a rather startling oversimplification. What is crystal

clear, however, is that this is filmmaking at its best – exciting, intelligent and impeccably performed. Not bad for a true story. Lórien Haynes

Anticipation. Who is Charlie Wilson? And aren’t Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks too old for this? Three Enjoyment. More fun than anything else in the multiplex. Four

In Retrospect.

You’ll want everyone to see it, get it and love it like you do. Five 061


be kind rewind

Michel Gondry is sat

at his desk, sifting through a pile of scripts. Some are good, some are bad, and then – yes, here it is... I can make things from cardboard and wicker and socks in this one – sign me up! In Be Kind Rewind, endearingly old school Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) runs an equally old school video rental store. Mike (Mos Def) is his endearingly incompetent assistant, and Jerry (Jack Black) is Mike’s endearingly insane buddy. It’s a set-up you couldn’t fail to warm to. When Mr. Fletcher decides to take some time out, he leaves Mike in charge of the store. Unfortunately, Jerry

DIRECTED BY Michel Gondry STARRING Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover

RELEASED February 15

then gets busy breaking into the local power plant, becoming electro-magnetised, walking back into the store and wiping all the tapes. Fuelled by hapless gusto, Mike and Jerry set about making their own homemade versions of everything from Ghostbusters to Robocop via Driving Miss Daisy. Here, Gondry’s creative juices kick in, and we are a go. Be Kind evolves into a bizarre trip down memory lane as the two friends splice together their lo-fi homages and try to pass them off as the real thing. And what do you know, the neighbours love them, and they become local celebrities.

062 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE

It makes no sense – but it’s brilliant and funny. From Mos Def’s lackadaisical charm to the earnest sweetness of sorta kinda love interest Alma (Melonie Diaz), the performances are excellent. Unsurprisingly, though, it’s the limitless energy of Jack Black that ends up pretty much owning the show. Be Kind Rewind is like the spirit of the ’80s, reborn and cut loose, freewheeling around with a video camera trying desperately to save itself. It’s all totally random but it totally doesn’t matter. Mr. Fletcher’s store is going to be demolished! They must make more movies, enlist the neighbours and unite

the local community! The heart lacking in Gondry’s The Science Of Sleep reasserts itself here with the kind of all enveloping thumpthump-thump that will leave you feeling warm as hell. If you’re into movies that suck, then this is not the film for you. Danny Miller

Anticipation. Gondry, Pritt Stick, Jack Black, tinsel – yes! Four Enjoyment. It’s got

heart. Lots of heart. Four

In Retrospect. But it won’t change your life. Three


Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story RELEASED January 18

It’s fairly unusual for

a screenwriter to be the driving force behind a film’s reputation, but that’s exactly the case with Walk Hard. ‘From the guy who brought you Knocked Up and Superbad’, the posters boast, without bothering to mention the poor schmuck’s name. No wonder the scribblers are striking. The neglected moniker is Judd Apatow – writer, producer and undisputed king of comedy, for the time being at least. Apatow and his chums have risen swiftly, raising the bar for the genre with a succession of excellent efforts. And therein lies the problem with Walk Hard. This latest project is not bad – in fact,

DIRECTED BY Jake Kasdan STARRING John C Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Justin Long

it’s frequently very funny. But as a parody of music biopics, with the satire aimed squarely at Walk the Line, one can’t help but feel disappointed at its lack of ambition. John C Reilly plays the eponymous Dewey, a nondescript country boy who discovers the Blues after the violent death of his brother. The first half-hour snipes at genre conventions with relentless silliness: Cox learns the guitar in less than a minute, and after getting hitched his wife starts pumping out kids at a comparable speed. After that we’re off on the road as our hero discovers the joys of a career in music – which here translates to a lot of drugs,

knob jokes and a gleefully crap impression of the Beatles, with Paul Rudd and Jack Black as Lennon and McCartney. It’s endearingly daft, provided that you’re open to its puerile antics. What it won’t do, however, is make you think or feel – but then maybe we’ve just been spoiled after the resplendent quality of recent hits. It’s a single sketch stretched to 90 minutes,

but if you’re in the mood for a helping of wilful stupidity, you could do far worse. Neon Kelly

Anticipation. Judd Apatow strikes again! Four Enjoyment. Ha, his name sounds like ‘Cocks’. Three

In Retrospect. It’ll be forgotten swiftly. Two


no country for old men

“It’s a mess, ain’t it

sheriff?” says Deputy Wendell (Garret Dillahunt), staring at the five bullet-ridden corpses, four trashed pick-up trucks and one dead dog that are strewn across the patch of desert scrub. The sheriff, Ed Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), looks off camera and sighs, “Well, if it ain’t, it’ll do till the mess gets here.” It’s this sort of exchange, early in the first act of the western noir No Country for Old Men that reminds you why the Coen brothers – the film’s writers, directors, producers and editors – are among the smartest and most skilful filmmakers of their generation. For in a few terse throwaway lines, the scene manages to set up character (Wendell is fearful, Bell is laconic), provide light relief from the previous high tension chase

DIRECTED BY Joel Coen, Ethan Coen STARRING Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem

RELEASED January 18

sequence, display an effortlessly authentic grasp of western vernacular, and dramatically prefigure the genuine ‘mess’ that is only moments away from engulfing everyone involved. In this, the Coens’ first movie since their 2004 comedy flop The Ladykillers, and thus a piquant return to form, the mess usually comes in the shape of Javier Bardem’s psychopathic assassin Anton Chigurh (he is, as one character hints, only slightly less dangerous than bubonic plague). Top of Chigurh’s hit list is Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a taciturn army veteran who has stumbled, in typical movie fashion, across the aforementioned scene of bullet-ridden carnage, and is now in possession of $2 million of highly coveted mob money. Thus the rest of the film, an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s bestselling

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novel, is a breakneck chase of sorts as Chigurh, armed to the teeth with shotguns, rifles and even a slaughterhouse bolt gun, pursues the resilient Moss across the East Texas landscape (actual location: New Mexico). And yet, even here, just as the movie is beginning to conform to genre expectations (like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre meets Fargo), the Coens have the guts, and indeed the smarts, to pull it in an entirely different direction. Thus a key character is murdered off camera, the pace slows nicely, and with the aid of some impeccable turns from Jones and even Kelly Macdonald (as Moss’ wife, giving her most unselfconscious performance since Trainspotting), the movie becomes a bittersweet lament for a time when the old men of the title weren’t out-gunned and,

as Bell says, “out-matched” by the atavistic killers of today’s criminal class. It ends suddenly, perhaps too soon for some. But then, as the Coens clearly know, you can have too much of a good thing. Kevin Maher

Anticipation. The Coens? Going on recent form this could turn out to be agony. Two Enjoyment. An

invincible killing machine with a silencer on his shotgun! It’s like The Terminator, but with decent dialogue! Five

In Retrospect. If it’s not a revolution in cinema, it’ll do until the revolution gets here. Four


Stone cold killer: LWLies is granted an audience with Javier Bardem. Be afraid... LWLies: Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men is very different from any of your previous roles. Was that a challenge? Bardem: Totally. The challenge was to try to embody something that is more of an icon than a human being. You have to bring something that is really fictional into a physical language so people can relate to it. Where the other characters are normal human beings, mine was an icon of what violence represents. LWLies: You’ve spoken before of the ‘imperialism’ of America, Hollywood and the studio system. How important a mark of recognition, then, was the award nomination for Julian Schnabel’s Before Night Falls in 2000? Bardem: We are all Americans somehow. Everything is surrounded by the same shops, the same fast food, and the cinema is the same. That said, in the American market there are great directors. You just try to work with the ones that are good, or you think are more close to what you would like to see on screen. As for the recognition for Before Night Falls, well, that was basic for me to be considered for some of the roles afterwards. LWLies: How do you feel about the possibility of becoming a Hollywood leading man? Bardem: Well, I don’t see myself like that. This is basically the first American movie that I’ve done. I mean, this is really American. How do I see myself? I’m lucky. If they give you the chance, you have to break your back because there are many actors out there that can do it much better than you, but they choose you for whatever reason. But I consider myself the same person that I was seven years ago, working in Spain. LWLies: Is it important to you to maintain some sense of a national identity as an actor, and remain ‘loyal’ to Spanish cinema? Bardem: Yes, but it is not something that has to do with the flag. It has to do with an education, a culture, an ambience, something that you are comfortable with because you know exactly every kind of little detail that you’re talking about when you’re acting. It doesn’t have to do with paying any debt to any country. LWLies: What are the challenges of working in English? Bardem: It’s the difference between a hotel room and your room. When you are staying in a hotel room and you are getting used to it, after a week you can come in with the lights off, and you know where certain things are so you don’t hit the furniture. But there will be places in that room that you won’t ever reach, and that you’ll never think of. You don’t belong to them; they don’t belong to you. That’s the language. You speak, you try to manage the language, own the language, there’s a moment when you more or less feel comfortable, but there are certain points that you’re not ever going to reach because it has nothing to do with experience. You haven’t been able to love or hate in that language. Emma Paterson Check out the full transcript at www.littlewhitelies.co.uk

black water

DIRECTED BY David Nerlich, Andrew Traucki STARRING Maeve Dermody, Diana Glenn, Andy Rodoreda

You can tell from the

get go that Black Water is going to be a well-conceived but badly executed thriller. It has aspirations towards The Blair Witch Project and Jaws, but the kind of execution that’s more The Bare Wench Project meets Piranha. Grace (Diana Glenn), her boyfriend Adam (Andy Rodoreda) and her little sister Lee (Maeve Dermody) decide to take a river tour while on holiday. After drifting into a mangrove swamp their boat is capsized and they soon realise they’ve been attacked by a crocodile. As the onslaught of XXXX drinking, casual swearing and Steve Irwin look-a-like tour guide suggest, Black Water is set in Northern Australia where, according to the opening shot, croc attacks are a regular occurrence. Even so, that hardly warrants the ‘based on a true story’ tag pinned to the film. With a plot focused almost entirely on the survival of only

RELEASED January 25

three characters, it’s not a big ask for Black Water to sustain the tension for a tight 90 minutes. But although the footage of real crocs is an effective choice by co-directors David Nerlich and Andrew Traucki, and the first attack jolts the film to life, it doesn’t leave you on tenterhooks for very long. The tension quickly dissolves as hunter and hunted play a game of peek-a-boo that turns into a comical farce about as scary as a bush tucker trial. Don’t bother watching a film that’s essentially Jaws with a crocodile; just watch Jaws instead. Limara Salt

Anticipation. Crocodile plus capsized boat equals good time. Three Enjoyment. Not as

good as that bit in Crocodile Dundee. Two

In Retrospect. A wasted opportunity. Two 065


Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead Philip Seymour

Hoffman is having sex with Marisa Tomei. He’s taking her from behind. This is the opening to Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, and depending on your proclivities, it’s either embarrassing, arousing, or something between the two. Whatever your reaction, it’s certainly a provocative way for Lumet to grab the attention. And while this scene of passion offers a short-lived moment of tenderness in a film dominated by trauma, it also hints at the stark delivery of the drama that is about to unfold. It begins with sex, but it kicks off with a robbery. It should be simple, but it’s not: it’s awkward, disturbing and thoroughly messy – a farce that

RELEASED January 11

DIRECTED BY Sidney Lumet STARRING Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney

collapses into a horror show of blood and broken glass. But this is just the first in a series of woeful events that will blight the lives of brothers Andy and Hank (Hoffman and Ethan Hawke) along with their truculent father, Charles (Albert Finney). Andy, the elder of the siblings, is a junkie and a fraudster. As the brains behind the bad idea (“Hey, let’s rob the family store!”), he bears the brunt of our condemnation. As time wears on, Andy reveals himself to be even more of a monstrous parasite than first imagined – a superlative turn from Hoffman can render him human, but never humane. Hank, on the other hand, is pathetic. A drunken failure taunted by his ex-wife, his participation in

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the carnival of cock-ups is propelled by despair rather than greed. While he’s hardly hero material, Hawke’s hangdog demeanour is sad enough to garner something approaching sympathy, in a decent performance from an actor who doesn’t always shine. Lumet’s relatively low-key direction allows them both to make the most of their roles, as vicious bickering drives the plot forward. Not since Fargo has a film so effectively portrayed a crime snowballing out of control, and while the brothers’ descent eventually teeters on the edge of credibility, there’s a vital beacon of truth that somehow cuts through the melodrama. Sidney Lumet knows human nature, and it shows.

Okay, so this is bleak stuff. Yet there’s something oddly satisfying about the lives of others going down the toilet, and when the toilet is this wellmade it’s hard to complain. There aren’t many chuckles, but this is high-calibre tragedy from a veteran of the art. Neon Kelly

Anticipation. Lumet is always worthy of your time and attention. Four Enjoyment. Fargo

without the snow or the laughs. It doesn’t sound great, but it is. Four

In Retrospect. A lesson learned – robbing your parents is a bad, bad idea. Four


back to normandy RELEASED January 18

A record of eight

films in 30 years suggests that Nicolas Philibert isn’t one to rush into a project unless he really feels it, so it’s no surprise that Back to Normandy is a profoundly personal experience. In 1976, Philibert was assistant director on René Allio’s Moi, Pierre Rivière, a wellregarded, if little seen, story about French peasant Pierre Rivière who, in 1835, murdered his mother, brother and sister then wrote a lengthy confession before committing suicide. Allio and Philibert shot on location in rural Normandy, casting farmers and villagers from the places where Rivière lived and died. And it’s to these people that Philibert has returned 30 years later, partly out of a sense of romantic attachment, but also to see what kind of legacy the film left behind.

el violin

What begins as a whimsical journey, however, gradually becomes a kind of quixotic pilgrimage. On the one hand, it is the search for the reclusive Claude Hébert, who played Pierre to great acclaim, only to disappear as fame beckoned. But more than that, Back to Normandy is a subtle and engaging attempt to understand the relationship between filmmaker and community. As they become more comfortable around the camera, the villagers reveal heartbreaking stories of personal tragedy, or share simple details of their everyday lives. It’s in these moments that Philibert achieves a quiet profundity, forcing you to confront the notion of what happens after the camera has packed up and moved on.

DIRECTED BY Francisco Vargas STARRING Ángel Tavira, Gerardo Taracena, Dagoberto Gama

Selected for the Un

Certain Regard section of the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, El Violin marks the astonishingly assured debut feature of Francisco Vargas. The decision to expand an earlier short into this almost unbearably affecting meditation on betrayal and brutality seems inspired. Elderly Don Plutarco (Ángel Tavira), his son Genaro (Gerardo Taracena) and grandson Lucio (Mario Garibaldi) are humble rural musicians who also support the armed campesina peasant guerilla movement. When the military seizes their village, the inhabitants flee, leaving ammunition behind. Playing on his appearance as a harmless violin player to secure the trust of a vain captain (Dagoberto

DIRECTED BY Nicolas Philibert STARRING Claude Hébert

With its fade-to-black and end credits, cinema is harshly disinterested in people after they have served their purpose. Allio’s film froze an image of this community forever, and yet beyond the limits of the camera’s gaze they have continued to live their lives unnoticed. By questioning the responsibility that filmmakers owe to their subjects, Philibert’s film becomes more, much more, than just a trip down memory lane. Matt Bochenski

Anticipation. Back to Normandy? Who knew we’d even been in the first place? Two Enjoyment. A gentle, probing and absorbing documentary. Three

In Retrospect. A rare beast: may well have you thinking about the nature of cinema itself. Four

RELEASED January 4

Gama) who fancies himself as a musician, old Don Plutarco has a plan to recover the ammunition through charm and steely nerves. For all that it is directed, written and produced by Vargas, El Violin is anchored on the amazing central performance of Tavira. Born in 1924, Tavira, who descends from a line of traditional musicians, began playing the violin aged six, and rose to the top of his field despite losing his right hand in a tragic accident. Though involved with Vargas in the making of the documentary Tierra Caliente..., El Violin represents Tavira’s first acting role. Giving a naturalistic and subtle performance that beautifully interplays with the

veteran Gama to evoke the struggle between peasants and government and between duty and pleasure, the octogenarian was rewarded with a richly deserved Best Actor prize at Cannes. Don’t be put off by the fact that its UK release has been inexplicably delayed; this is a humanistic work that offers an intelligent and rigorously unsentimental account of oppression and resistance. It deserves to be embraced. Jason Wood

Anticipation. Vargas has been tipped as the man to keep the Mexican renaissance going. Three Enjoyment. Expertly juggling beauty and brutality, this is a profound and lyrical work. Four

In Retrospect. A gem of a film ripe for discovery. Four 067


lust, caution RELEASED January 4

Ang Lee’s Lust,

Caution is like a bespokesuited City shark. Everything is manicured and polished – James Schamus’ screenplay is a model of sophistication; the performances of Tony Leung and newcomer Tang Wei are impassioned and intelligent; while production designer Lai Pan has created a compelling vision of occupied China – but despite all that, deep down you just can’t trust it. Shanghai, 1942. The Japanese are working with a collaborationist government in occupied China. An underground resistance has mobilised, and in its sights is the commander of the secret police, Mr Yee (Leung). Yee lives in a closely guarded compound with round-the-clock

DIRECTED BY Ang Lee STARRING Tony Leung, Tang Wei, Wang Lee-Hom

protection, but he has one weakness, a woman with whom he fell in love four years before in Hong Kong. That woman is Wong Chia Chi (Wei), now a fully-fledged member of the resistance tasked with bringing Lee into the open by any means necessary. Cutting between occupied Shanghai and pre-war Hong Kong, between the dual identities of Wong Chia Chi, between youth and experience, between hope and futility, between violence and love, Ang Lee constructs a crystalline tale of polished brilliance. Like the diamond that Yee fashions for his lover, it’s a film with a multi-faceted surface. It is, in its own way, a more powerful rendering of our current troubles than any liberal handwringer, asking tough questions

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about occupation, violence and freedom. It is also a provocative sexual thriller: a grown up Black Book, which replaces that film’s smutty good fun with a highmindedness that is, nevertheless, far from cautious about Yee and Wong’s steamy sex life. By any measurable standard, Ang Lee has produced another epic. And yet something about Lust, Caution sticks in the throat. It oozes good taste, the kind that convinces people they’re watching quality world cinema when its Hollywood sugar coating is designed to keep them from ever experiencing the real thing. It’s all intellect and no emotion, and has the atmosphere of an airtight bag – hermetically sealed, still and stale. It lacks the rough edges that give a picture

personality, and for all its bedroom heat, it’s a film that’s in dire need of a little more warmth. Matt Bochenski

Anticipation. You could make a convincing argument that Ang Lee is the best director in the world. Four Enjoyment. Full

marks for artistic merit, but not for emotional content. Three

In Retrospect. At the very least it will force you to think long and hard about why a film with so few visible flaws isn’t a much better experience. Three


Lust, Caution writer and super producer James Schamus talks politics, Iraq and the misunderstood genius of Hulk. No, really. LWLies: You adapted the screenplay from Eileen Chang’s short story. It’s such a specifically Oriental story in such an Oriental setting, what did you bring to the screenplay that was uniquely your own? Schamus: Pretty much everything that wasn’t Oriental... The story and her style of writing is so precise that it gives you an impact emotionally as to what you have to do to make the translation to the screen. Eileen Chang was a screenwriter obsessed with cinema, and so inside what motivates that story is a tremendous cinematic sensibility. LWLies: You make no apologies for how convoluted the history is, but it’s not easy to follow. Were you under pressure to dilute that? Schamus: Once you get through that very brief confusion these things do simplify themselves. Let’s say that the Japanese oppressors and the collaborators who work with them are ‘bad’, and the idealistic young people who are trying to assassinate them are ‘good’ – at least that’s the set-up. What’s confusing is all the emotions that come with the process by which our heroine becomes involved with that assassination; then you’re in really confusing territory. LWLies: Are you finding that people are trying to pin a Baghdad/Iraq scenario on top of what you’ve done?

Schamus: You’d be surprised by how few have, at least in the States, but that’s because people are almost blind to the resonances. Certainly Ang and myself were clear that it was a contemporary movie in so many ways: you’re seeing a meditation on what oppression and what imperialism and what collaboration can do to people. LWLies: You produced Buffalo Soldiers back in 2001, which says quite specifically that some of the guys in the US Army are total shits. Could you make that film in today’s climate? Schamus: I screened Buffalo Soldiers at the Toronto Film Festival, and sold it on the night of September 10, 2001. Within about 14 hours of closing that deal the film’s value had disappeared. It just goes to show you what can happen in a single instant. Do I stand by everything the film has to say and the way it says it? Absolutely, and I think what’s interesting so many years later is what’s happening with Blackwater and Abu Ghraib. I think that the picture is a little bit more complicated than Mr Bush led us to believe. LWLies: After making the likes of Brokeback Mountain and Lust, Caution, the big question is what the hell was going on with Hulk? Why did Ang Lee do it, and do you regret it in retrospect? Schamus: No, not at all. If you are looking at movies politically, to have a scene in a mainstream movie where a guy created by the American military is battling that American military in the desert while Natacha Atlas is singing Arabic reflective music on the soundtrack... If some people can’t get it, too bad for them. Matt Bochenski


JUNO

DIRECTED BY Jason Reitman STARRING Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman

“Your parents are probably wondering where you are,” suggests Vanessa Loring (a prim-and-proper Jennifer Garner) to heavily pregnant teenager Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page). “Nah,” says Juno, “I mean, I’m already pregnant, so what other kind of shenanigans could I get into?” That just about sums up the fast-talking, wisecracking, scarily mature teenager that is Juno, the star of Jason Reitman’s hugely engaging comedy about growing up, and the bumps that come along the way. After getting knocked up by the likeably limp Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), Juno checks the ‘Desperately Seeking Spawn’ section of the weekly Penny Saver to find a couple who want to adopt. Enter Vanessa

RELEASED February 1

and Mark Loring (Jason Bateman), who are desperate for a child. But while Juno is taking the entire situation in her stride, she swiftly discovers that no matter how much you think you’re in control, nothing in life ever really goes to plan. Thanks to blogger-turnedscreenwriter Diablo Cody, Juno sports a razor-sharp script, with quotable one-liners all over the place. And although the dialogue is occasionally a little too selfconscious – a bit too tangy to be believable – the outstanding performance of Page papers over any would-be cracks. With her ease and geniality, she effortlessly tempers Juno’s cocksure high-school precociousness with the confusion of a teenager out of her depth.

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Reitman has already proved himself adept at dealing with hot subjects, humorously tackling the tobacco industry in Thank You For Smoking. And while teenage pregnancy isn’t your standard comic milieu, it works because Juno broaches the subject with humility and an honest eye. But where the film truly excels is in its depiction of Juno’s relationship with Bleeker. It’s here that the witty retorts and über maturity get stripped away, and Page plays it brilliantly. It’s at her most thoughtful (and her most quiet) that she shines. With a talented ensemble cast, rich direction and a cracking soundtrack to boot, Juno is more than just your average coming-ofage comedy. But it’s Ellen Page’s

show, and for good reason, as she shows an almost intimidating amount of talent for a 20-year-old. We’re going to be seeing a lot more of this lady. Helen Cowley

Anticipation. A wisecracking pregnant teenager from the guy that bought us Thank You For Smoking should be interesting. Three Enjoyment. Ellen

Page is awesome in this refreshingly grown-up teen comedy. Four

In Retrospect. Funny and moving with quotable one-liners and a heart of gold. Four


dan in real life RELEASED January 11

DIRECTED BY Peter Hedges STARRING Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook

‘Plan to be surprised!’ quips the trailer to Peter Hedges’ latest slice-of-life comedy – with perhaps a tad more irony than Hollywood intended. Surprises there are not in this predictable tale of love at first sight. Obvious plotlines and straightforward characters, however, there are aplenty in a film that shows none of the subtlety of Hedges’ previous forays into writing and directing (Pieces of April, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape). Steve Carell leaves The Office to play Dan Burns, a widowed father-of-three stuck in the safety of his nice-guy ways. When a chance encounter with

a kooky stranger (Juliette Binoche) jolts him from his mournful celibacy, Dan rushes to share the news with his ridiculously large family, gathered at their ridiculously cosy Rhode Island home for an all-American annual vacation. But guess what? She’s already there – and she’s dating his brother (Dane Cook). With transparent dialogue and one-dimensional characters, there’s little imagination and even less soul on display throughout most of the film. Perhaps it’s not exactly shooting for laugh-outloud funny, but as its quieter moments are overshadowed by slapstick tomfoolery, it ends up occupying an uneasy middle

ground between comedy and sentimentality that isn’t going to please anybody. At least indie jazz hero Sondre Lerche has a monopoly on the soundtrack. Andrea Kurland

Enjoyment. Less

Anticipation. Steve Carell’s career has been hitting major turbulence. One

In Retrospect.

than a long treasure hunt) to leave much of a lasting impression beyond the cinema doors. Also, the visual style is perhaps a bit po-faced and self-consciously enchanting to really leave the little ’uns feeling fully engaged. That said, a moderately successful attempt to offset the air of solemnity with comic sidekick Crapoux comes as welcome relief. Janey Springer

Anticipation.

annoying than the American version of The Office, less captivating than Little Miss Sunshine. Three

Easily digestible fare that promises to never repeat on you. Two

Azur & Asmar: the princes’ quest DIRECTED BY Michel Ocelot STARRING Steven Kynman, Nigel Pilkington, Suzanna Nour

This gleefully

idiosyncratic animated work comes from Michel Ocelot, the French polymath who has managed to carve a niche in Europe with his series of handdrawn films charting the wayward exploits of Kirikou, a talking African baby with a finely honed moral barometer. Azur & Asmar tells the story of a Caucasian boy named Azur who is brought up by an Arabic nanny alongside her young son, Asmar, in what looks like eighteenthcentury France. The boys fight, play and argue like brothers, until they are parted, only to reconvene later in medieval Maghreb, both in search of the magical djinn fairy about whom their nanny would tell them stories as tots.

RELEASED February 8

Stylistically, Ocelot mixes the whimsical fantasia of early Disney with the finely-rendered digital realism of the boys down at Pixar to produce a visual countenance that is at once fanciful and otherworldly, but remains markedly ‘real’ all the while. The writer/director/animator has stated that his interests lie more with decorative art, ancient architecture and early dialects than with the conventional cinematic craft, and this becomes glaringly obvious as we are lavished with gorgeous, ornately patterned walls, majestic buildings and myriad local tongues. Where the film fails is in its daisy-chain narrative, which is a bit too calculated in structure (almost as if the film is little more

Alternative animated epic that isn’t Pixar or DreamWorks. Hurray! Three

Enjoyment. Sprightly, witty and visually lavish. Three

In Retrospect. For kids with a bit more noggin. Three 071


things we lost in the fire

Contrary to first

impressions, this slow-burning two-hour melodrama isn’t based on a best-selling beneficiary of Oprah’s Book Club, but it certainly begins like a badly-adapted novel. In fact, this tear-jerking ode to family life is the result of an original screenplay by Allan Loeb, so most of the blame for its early woes must be aimed at the dizzying jump cuts of Danish director Susanne Bier, as she tries to cover around 35years of back story in the film’s first 15 minutes. David Duchovny plays smart, sophisticated architect Brian, the perfect father to two adorable kids, and ideal husband to

DIRECTED BY Susanne Bier STARRING Benicio Del Toro, Halle Berry, David Duchovny

RELEASED February 1

impeccably beautiful stay-athome mum, Audrey (Halle Berry). However, when you see father and son sharing a tender moment at their neighbour’s swimming pool (“What does fluorescent mean, dad?” “Lit from within, son”. “Like me?” “Like you.”) you know that tragedy is mere minutes away. Things then take a turn for the kinky when, in a defiant act of self-flagellation, Audrey makes pains to befriend Brian’s childhood friend, Jerry (Benicio Del Toro). Jerry’s a former lawyer turned boggle-eyed smack addict whom she’s loathed for decades, but he’s also a unique link to the past that has been so unfairly wrenched from her. Audrey rocks

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up at his doss house, then at the hospital where he works as a janitor, and then, in what seems like self-punishment of the most sordid kind, asks him to move in with her. She even crawls up to him at night and begs him to hold her “like Brian did” until she falls asleep. Their mixed-up relationship stretches the bounds of sense – would a straight-laced, middleclass mum really let a strung-out junkie live with her two young kids? But the cast work hard to ground this suburban fairy-tale in reality. A barnstorming turn from Del Toro sets this gushy tale apart from lesser melodramas, while Halle Berry’s

tear and mucus ducts earn their fat star salary. Georgie Hobbs

Anticipation. One cold starter of David Duchovny followed by an entrée of Halle Berry with a dollop of Oprah on the side ain’t an appetising dish. Two Enjoyment. Bitter-

sweet, salty-moist and a little crunchy. Three

In Retrospect.

Cleanse your palate – it can be refreshing to order something different. Three


We’re not saying that Dogme’s First Lady, Susanne Bier, is old or anything, but honestly, the Danish sauce pot is super hot for her age. LWLies: Even though you’ve had success in Europe, is there a degree to which you felt that, making a film in America for the first time, you were starting over again? Bier: No, I wouldn’t say that I was starting over again because I feel very confident. I’ve done enough films to know what I can do and what I can’t do. But obviously it is different. That’s one of the reasons for doing it. One of the most frightening things in life – and not just for movie makers but for anybody who reaches a certain level of fame – is that at some point people will stop opposing your opinions because you’ve proved yourself right. It’s dangerous to be too comfortable. LWLies: Was it a struggle to work with a major studio? Bier: I actually really enjoyed it, surprisingly so because I was anticipating it being worse. LWLies: You never had to stamp your foot and kick up a fuss? Bier: I think that the studio would say that I did that! I wouldn’t say that I did that – I felt that I was being very forthcoming. That attitude is not always the smartest attitude; sometimes it’s smarter to listen and understand. If we disagreed, I would try and understand what their hesitation was and then I would assess whether I thought they were right, and whether I thought it made sense or not. And if I didn’t think it made sense I wouldn’t address it. LWLies: Was it intimidating working with bigger stars? Bier: No. The thing is, you’re at work. You know, Benicio Del Toro and Halle Berry got Oscars because they’re great actors so I respect them, but in the situation of making a movie, that’s what you do – you aim at the top. If you feel intimidated you should probably start selling tomatoes instead. LWLies: Do you see yourself as a figurehead in terms of Scandinavian film? Bier: In Denmark? Like, there is the football team and then there is me? Yeah, to an extent I feel that. I feel a bit like I do with my family – I don’t want to disappoint them. I don’t want to disappoint my extended Danish family. I can’t promise that I won’t, but I will do my best in order not to disappoint them. LWLies: It’s been over a decade since the Dogme manifesto was announced. What is its legacy? Do you think it achieved its aims? Bier: I think what Dogme did, and has done, is that it pinpointed a way of storytelling which has been really important. It has brought movies back to its core – story lines and characters – and it has dissolved slightly looking at Hollywood and trying to do enormous lighting and big costume pieces and things like that. It’s actually taken movie-making back to their core in Europe, and I think in that respect it’s been very important. Actually I do think it’s been hugely influential too. Matt Bochenski

Find more words on the website at www.littlewhitelies.co.uk

the savages RELEASED January 25

There is a sad moment in every adult’s life when their parents are unable to look after themselves and the role of the carer is reversed. It’s a hard situation made harder if you don’t particularly like your parents: how do you deal with the heavy burden of a person who did nothing but neglect and abuse you? That is the premise behind Tamara Jenkins’ second feature. It’s a depressing subject that could have become a soul destroying film, but instead, we’re treated to brilliantly subtle performances, wonderful direction and a healthy dose of black humour that doesn’t compromise the serious subject matter. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney are estranged siblings Jon and Wendy Savage, who are completely obsessed with their own lives. He’s an academic who can’t commit to his long-term Polish girlfriend even though she’s about to be deported; she’s an aspiring playwright who temps and steals stationery while having an affair with a married neighbour. It’s their father Lenny’s (a brilliant Philip Bosco) illness that throws the pair together, as his

DIRECTED BY Tamara Jenkins STARRING Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Philip Bosco

lewd toilet behaviour combined with his partner’s death spells the end of his term in a posh neighbourhood. As tough situations arise, we’re never told what he did to them or their mother to make her run off – there are no dramatic reflections, confessions or speeches – Jenkins simply lets the acting do the talking, successfully enough that the details of what Lenny may or may not have done seem scarcely relevant. Unsurprisingly, there’s no happy ending, but you’ll be glad that we leave the Savages a little more content then we found them. Limara Salt

Anticipation. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s third film of the issue, and we’ve still got room for more. Four Enjoyment. Brilliant from beginning to end. When does Ms Jenkins’ next film come out? Four

In Retrospect.

The witty lines and performances will flood back at its mere mention. Four 073


i’m not there RELEASED December 21 DIRECTED BY Todd Haynes STARRING Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Cate Blanchett

It was Hegel who

suggested that history is governed by the diktats of ‘world-historical’ individuals. They alone, he said, have the rare power to rise above the limited horizon of their own age. If that’s true, the last century belonged to one such man – Bob Dylan – a singer, actor, artist and activist who has repeatedly investigated nature in order to recognise himself in it. This conceit is at the heart of Todd Haynes’ new quasi-biopic of the sui generis ‘Song and Dance Man’. It’s a movie which pivots around Dylan’s ability to shape-shift, and the manifold identities he continues to skirt. That Haynes succeeds in capturing these ever-changing essences is attributable to one of the neater cinematic tricks of recent memory: the dramatisation of Dylan’s metamorphoses by using multiple actors, genres and stories to trace the diverse musical themes in the songwriter’s life. In all, Dylan is re-rendered sixfold. First, and most intriguingly, by Marcus Carl Franklin as Woody, a young, black re-embodiment of Dylan’s bygone reverence for the folk music of Woody Guthrie. Dylan’s subsequent protest and bornagain Christianity periods are depicted smartly via fauxdocumentary footage of Christian Bale as Jack Rollins, informal chronicler of American unrest turned Californian pastor. Both eras are made manifest by spookily redolent versions of Dylan songs (‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll’ and ‘Pressing On’, respectively). Third is Ben Whishaw as Arthur, the manifestation of French symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud and, more broadly, an evocation of the singer’s fêted embrace of Beat doublespeak. Fourth, and most

tendentiously, is Cate Blanchett as Jude, the genderless Dylan of Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back as he might have been captured by Fellini, or even Richard Lester. Her performance is reminiscent of Anthony Hopkins’ in Nixon, where physical and vocal mannerisms pay handsomer dividends than mere facial likeness. All of which leaves us with the two chapters which function as the film’s glue – a centrepiece affaire du coeur and a Wild West chimera. Veiled references to the Rolling Thunder Revue abound in the latter, including a hazy reprisal of Dylan’s own cameo in Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, with Richard Gere

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oozing chutzpah as an auxiliary Billy Bonny; shot in the back... by a motorcycle crash. Although the least linear of the film’s narratives, Gere’s sections are without doubt among its most gratifying – bettered only, in fact, by Heath Ledger’s. The Australian actor is positively coruscating as Robbie, an actor who plays Dylan in a movie and whose relationship to the painter Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) mirrors Dylan’s marriage to, and divorce from, Sara Lownds. The scrupulously checked-in intensity of their shared scenes lends an otherwise-lacking straightforwardness to a film which, in the final analysis,

feels much, much bigger than mere musical biography. Indeed, unintended nods to Hegel notwithstanding, one might read it as a piecemeal history of the twentieth century itself. Andrew Sutherland

Anticipation. Orange Juice Blues (Blues for Breakfast). Five Enjoyment. It Takes

a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry. Four

In Retrospect. Tight Connection to My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love). Five


the good night RELEASED January 18

DIRECTED BY Jake Paltrow STARRING Martin Freeman, Penélope Cruz, Gwyneth Paltrow

Gary (Martin Freeman) used to be a pop star. Now he writes advertising jingles, lives in tedium with girlfriend Dora (Gwyneth Paltrow), and envies the growing professional and romantic success of former band mate Paul (Simon Pegg). It’s no surprise when the beautiful, sensuous Anna (Penélope Cruz) blesses his dreamscape one night – and returns in an even more titillating outfit the next – that he begins to question the value of waking up. Soon Gary turns his back on reality in favour of the ambrosial horizons of his dreams. The fine line between truth and fantasy is hardly a novel one to draw. Whether in Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless

Mind or Gondry’s solo effort The Science of Sleep, the surrealist visual seam offered by visits to the unconscious has been richly mined. Nestled as it is in this fashionable oeuvre, Jake Paltrow’s feature film debut doesn’t sound half bad. And it’s not half bad – it’s all bad. God knows what Gary’s pop lyrics were like because his imagination sucks. Visually, the

beach setting of his fantasies is as stale and flat as his relationship with Dora. Worse still is the sight of a disembodied Cruz floating through the solar system, and later on a lacklustre sea shore, begging Gary to make love to her. After wondering why you bothered, you’ll wonder why they did. And then you’ll cast The Good Night to the neglected depths of your unconscious,

where it belongs. Emma Paterson

Anticipation. Hollywood heavyweights plus British comedy’s finest might raise your hopes... Three Enjoyment. ...only to

dash them soon after. One

In Retrospect. A nightmare. One


Indie legend Gus Van Sant talks exclusively to LWLies about his latest film, Paranoid Park. LWLies: What is your relationship with the Oregon skateboarding community? Van Sant: I was never really part of that community but I was skateboarding in the ’60s. By the time I spent more time in Portland in the ’80s there was this very intense skate community which eventually built the park where we shot the film. Now they’re all in their thirties and have kids and stuff. The new kids were very helpful and interested in us shooting, but there was also some scepticism, and there was scepticism between the different skate parks.

paranoid park RELEASED December 26

Skater boys look like

they know a secret. They claim stretches of the city without speaking. They hunt down new frontiers, pitting themselves against unclaimed and challenging terrain. While other teens are accused of apathy, skaters really care. About skating, but that’s still something. Paranoid Park is based on a novel by Blake Nelson about a skater with a secret. Police are visiting Alex (Gabe Nevins) at school, asking about a gruesome event that took place on the railroads, where they found his board. Unable to talk to anyone, Alex writes down his story, trying to make sense of the facts and his feelings, struggling to order and contain his recollections just as skaters repossess their environment, shaping and moulding it to fit their needs. And as that experience is revealed, Alex sinks further into the detachment of a desensitised teenager – not careless or uncaring, but in shock. Gus Van Sant draws out this spartan narrative through the

DIRECTED BY Gus Van Sant STARRING Gabe Nevins, Daniel Liu, Taylor Momsen

inexpressive grunts prised from a face that shows only resignation. He shows the teenage world as we remember it, with the muggy weight of lost emotions and the poignancy of places and people doomed to pass. This deliberate, typically oblique film is like the agonised silence of a nervous 16-year-old. Yet Van Sant shows a respect for their self-loathing and discomfort, and suggests that, as we grow old and comfortable, we become diluted, far removed from our concentrated and more truthful teenage selves. Holly Grigg-Spall

Anticipation. Gus Van Sant back in high school after the dreamy Elephant. Four Enjoyment.

Freewheeling through a teenager’s mind will make you want to buy a skateboard. Three

In Retrospect. An open ending lets the film ooze out and stay with you. Four

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LWLies: Did the kids mind that their skate park was renamed Paranoid Park for the film? Van Sant: They didn’t seem to care that we called it that. There is a Paranoid Park in Portland but it’s not a skate park. We called it that because the guy was paranoid. And the kids call it Paranoid Park but it’s not, it’s called Burnside Skate Park. Perhaps some people do care just because they don’t want people fucking with their park. It’s a bit like calling Big Ben ‘Paranoid Ben’ and making it as if the community refers to it as Paranoid Ben. LWLies: You advertised the casting on MySpace, and Gabe Nevins went along to get a role as a skating extra. What was it like working with him? Van Sant: He had a very easy way about him and he also had an intense visual history. He liked acting. He is quite different in real life, and is a lot younger than the character. In real life he’s less savage. LWLies: Christopher Doyle collaborated with Rain Li, a 24-year-old Chinese cinematographer, who’s been working in film since she was 16. Did Rain’s age help to get such intimate performances out of the teenage cast? Van Sant: I think so; it was an interesting constellation of Rain and Chris. I guess she did have an effect on them. LWLies: How did you create the music? Van Sant: We had these tapes that I tried to use for Good Will Hunting from around the world using sound effects as music or soundscape. I never had a chance to use them and I decided now I can use this music, which I’d had for a really long time, and I had this recording specially made from Richard Francis who has a music show in KBL in Portland every Tuesday at nine – he’s had this programme on air for 30 years. He made this tape for me and I started playing it alongside the football player scene in Elephant that lasts until the football player is in the office, and it worked really nice because you could play the whole thing as the shot is so long and it was really relaxed. That’s how it started: by using pieces that were more like compositions rather than sound effects. Verena Stackelberg The full transcript is up now at www.littlewhitelies.co.uk


my blueberry nights

You’re born, you go

to school, you muck about for a few years and then you go travelling. It’s the stock rite of passage for young go-getters these days, and anyone who says different can go to hell. Yet, as those who have journeyed to far away lands will surely attest, while the head insists we immerse ourselves in the culture and rituals of the new, the heart is always searching for that little piece of home. In his new, American-set road movie, My Blueberry Nights, you get the sense that Wong Kar Wai is suffering from a terminal case of homesickness, desperately trying to locate the effervescent whir of downtown Hong Kong in the flat, unadorned planes of the US. The dislocation is palpable, and his film offers up the sort of home-fried approximation of Americana usually reserved for

DIRECTED BY Wong Kar Wai STARRING Norah Jones, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz

RELEASED February 22

the Macy’s Day Parade and border-town rodeos of this world. It’s the kind of film you might see in a souvenir store next to the personalised number plates and the ‘God Bless America’ T-shirts. There are other problems. Committing casting hara-kiri not once but twice, Wong makes the initial error of calling upon vapid coffee-table jazz chanteuse Norah Jones to carry his film, but then trumps himself by partnering her up with pretty-boy acting tundra Jude Law. Jones plays Elizabeth, a starry-eyed dilettante who discovers that her boyfriend has been doing the dirty on her and finds a shoulder to cry on in the form of Jeremy (Law), a chipper Manc café owner who has been a passive observer to myriad over-the-counter emotional breakdowns over the years. With a narrative nod to Bukowski and

Kerouac, she decides the only way she can overcome her past is to look to the road, and so heads straight down Route 66 via Memphis, Reno and Vegas. With his previous two films – In the Mood for Love and 2046 – Wong proved himself a cinematic stylist without equal, as well as a master of coiled sexual frisson and coolly monitored social nuance. My Blueberry Nights is just empty aesthetics, jam-packed with the well-intentioned musings on love and relationships that made Chungking Express such a hugely compassionate film, but with a heavy-handed symbolism and Hallmark sentimentality that ruins it. The first sign of anything gelling with Wong’s aesthetic exuberance (the film is undeniably gorgeous) is David Strathairn’s nighthawk traffic cop, Arnie,

whose tender performance offers the film’s lone emotional sucker punch. With Natalie Portman and Rachel Weisz cropping up for stock sassy bitparts later on, the nature of Elizabeth’s spontaneous voyage of self-discovery quickly sums up the movie as a whole: elegiac, moderately tender, but far from transcendent. Janey Springer

Anticipation. It’s Wong Kar Wai, innit? Four Enjoyment. Ill

judged and swooning take on relationships and the US. Two

In Retrospect.

In a career that has spanned 20 years, it’s his first slip up. We’ll let him of... This time. Two 077


In The Valley of Elah RELEASED January 25

You can tell how

important a film is by the amount of make-up its lead actress is wearing. If Charlize Theron’s au naturel face foundation is anything to go by, In The Valley of Elah must be Very Serious Stuff Indeed. And so it is. Unspooling with none of the stylistic idiosyncrasies of Paul Haggis’ feature debut, Crash (and, mercifully, none of its faux-liberal clichés), In The Valley of Elah is a perfectly crafted moral mystery that combines forensic intelligence with emotional subtlety. The question at stake here is not ‘Whodunit?’, but ‘Who’s responsible?’ Tommy Lee Jones is Hank Deerfield, a retired Marine investigator whose son, Mike, has followed in his old man’s footsteps only to go missing on his return from Iraq. Damaged mobile phone footage suggests that the young soldier suffered some kind of trauma, but when the military prove unable to

DIRECTED BY Paul Haggis STARRING Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon

answer his questions, Hank is forced to make the long journey to Mike’s barracks to find out just what the hell is going on. He hooks up with Detective Sanders (Theron) after a grizzly murder sparks his suspicions, and the two of them set about picking their way through a political minefield to get to The Truth. Assuming, that is, they can handle The Truth. This is powerful stuff from Haggis, light years away from the likes of Robert Redford’s liberal guilt trip Lions for Lambs. In Whiteville, Tennessee, he’s discovered an America every bit as foreign to our eyes as the streets of Baghdad. Away from the cosmopolitan centres of New York and LA, this is a country of soul-numbing, strip-lit architecture where the grey uniformity of the buildings is mirrored in the politically sedated partisanship of the people. Everything is suffused in sulphurous greens and greys, as if the noxious hypocrisy

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of the administration that feeds on towns like this has somehow seeped back into the atmosphere, poisoning everything it touches. In the middle of it all is Tommy Lee Jones and That Face, unmistakeable with its creaks and crags and those sloping, vertiginous lines that pull his eyes down into a state of perpetual sorrow. It’s easy to just point the camera at an actor like this and leave him to it, but Haggis has pushed and prodded until Jones offers him something real. This is a man whose eyes are pried open, almost against his will, until he’s stripped of illusions and is forced to gaze on the real state of America. This is compelling and even subversive filmmaking at its finest, combining the slick entertainment values of a Hollywood big shot with a perceptive and confrontational agenda. There’s no tub-thumping or blind ideology, just sharp

writing and precision performances. And even if the film doesn’t go quite far enough in daring to criticise the individual US fighting man (still a taboo in American cinema), its final shot still packs a whopper of an emotional punch. Consider us floored. Matt Bochenski

Anticipation. The guy who only just realised Americans are racist takes on the Iraq War. Three Enjoyment. Everything

works: performances, writing, direction, art design. Oh, except Susan Sarandon as the mum. She’s bad. Four

In Retrospect. Haggis divides opinion, and rightly so, but he’s taken a giant leap forward with this one. Four


Shooting the shit with Entourage star Paul Haggis. He can direct a bit too. Oh, and he writes apparently. LWLies: Variety critic Todd McCarthy said he’s not interested in the glut of Iraq war movies coming out and neither is the US public. What do you make of that? Haggis: I think it is probably the truth. I don’t think anyone is interested in who is responsible. This is a tragedy of huge proportions and I think people would much rather see comedies, musicals or whatever’s out. That is part of the problem we have in America. We create this huge mess but just point the finger and then get on with our lives. LWLies: Do you think the US is particularly poor at selfcriticism? Although Bill O’Reilly doesn’t represent all of America, he did say something along the lines of, ‘This is what we ask of people who oppose the war – support us or shut up.’ Haggis: It’s terribly dangerous to live in a culture like that. But Bill O’Reilly doesn’t share the values that America was founded on. He just pretends to, as do a lot of neo-cons. But sadly most of the media just parroted anything they said. We’ve asked our troops to face horrors that we never have to face. The decisions that these 18-year-old kids have to face on a daily basis are dehumanising in the extreme. When I found out how horrific the rules of engagement were, I asked myself, ‘What would I do?’ I didn’t have a good answer so I decided to write a film that was political but not partisan. LWLies: There seems to be a taboo about criticising soldiers in US films. Is there a moral cowardice, though, in being against the war but supporting the troops, who are fundamentally instruments of the war? Haggis: The people who have bumper stickers saying, ‘Support the troops!’ really don’t support them. They just slap them on the back and say, ‘Well done’. But we have the highest rate of suicide and homelessness in our military’s history. They come home shattered and destroyed. They don’t need to be vilified. We shouldn’t blame those kids for the decisions made by the Pentagon, Congress and, ultimately, by us. If they commit war crimes, they do so in our name. I think that is something the public don’t want to face. LWLies: Do you worry that your film may get buried in all the negative hype surrounding the Iraq war? Haggis: When I decide to do a movie, I don’t ask myself whether the audience is ready for it. I make a film because I have questions that are gnawing at my gut. With this, I tried to make it a fulfilling experience, not just preaching for two hours. If you ask some disturbing questions, then you have done your job. LWLies: You tease an interesting performance out of Tommy Lee Jones – how did you approach working with him? Haggis: He is a very intelligent man who just needs to understand the character and agree with the approach. When he does, he delivers. I took dialogue away from both him and Charlize Theron and trusted them to tell me what was going on. And they did. Matt Bochenski

There’s more at www.littlewhitelies.co.uk

half moon

DIRECTED BY Bahman Ghobadi STARRING Golshifteh Farahani, Ismail Ghaffari, Allah-Morad Rashtian

Those of you after

swashbuckling adventure and razor sharp dialogue may be disappointed by this one, but that would be missing the point. Kurdish-Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi has followed his acclaimed 2004 Turtles Can Fly with a tragi-comic opus, big on symbolism and introspection. The plot follows Kurdish folk musician Mamo (Ismail Ghaffari), who is given the chance to perform in Iraqi Kurdistan following the downfall of Saddam. He gathers his sons and bus driver Kako (Allah-Morad Rashtian) and sets off through the barren countryside towards the border. It soon becomes clear that the trip will be marred by difficulty – foreseen by one of Mamo’s sons after visiting a wise man. Mamo in turn visits the elder, as the slow-mo imagery and haunting soundtrack hint that the boundaries between fact and fiction, fantasy and realism are becoming blurred. Mamo is convinced that the group needs a female vocalist to complete the ensemble, so travels to a village of 1,334 exiled female musicians, whereupon he discovers singer Hesho (Hedieh Tehrani). The village is symbolic – a metaphor for Iran’s oppressed women, forbidden from performing in public with men. When Hesho agrees to accompany the group, she has to be hidden under the floorboards of the bus. Meanwhile, Mamo becomes tortured by

RELEASED January 4

repeated visions of his own death as the journey continues. It’s then that the angelic figure of Niwemang, or ‘Half Moon’ (Golshifteh Farahani), joins the group. Where she comes from we don’t know. Is she a dream? And what does she stand for? Half Moon is a slice of Kurdish life – a snapshot of a people who have been oppressed for centuries. Though some may find the condemnation of Kurdistan’s Farsi cousins hard to take, the film reflects the character of its people: serious, resilient and even comic. This is a triumphant return for Ghobadi, a filmmaker passionate about his people and his land. Don’t try to rationalise it, but do ask questions of the film and yourself. Isn’t that what cinema is all about? Ed Stockton

Anticipation.

Doesn’t look like one for the action meatheads. Two

Enjoyment.

Something for everyone – serious issues for the world cinema aficionados and comedy for everyone else. Four

In Retrospect.

In today’s climate of bubblegum blockbusters, it’s always refreshing to see a film that makes you think. Four 079


our daily bread

DIRECTED BY Nikolaus Geyrhalter STARRING Claus Hansen Petz, Arkadiusz Rydellek, Barbara Hinz

RELEASED January 25

i am legend

DIRECTED BY Francis Lawrence STARRING Will Smith, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan

RELEASED December 26

Director and cinematographer Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s

Will Smith puts in an above average performance

Our Daily Bread sits somewhere between art installation and documentary. Paying no mind to the ‘message’ of the film, Geyrhalter communicates in a dispassionate idiom of still camera and simple tracking shots, suggesting that the documentary is an observational rather than an explanatory medium. That he is able to sustain interest for 92 minutes is testament to the power of Geyrhalter’s restrained compositions, which mimic the hypnotic sterility of the processed food industry, whilst never resorting to cheap judgement. Mike Brett

in this surprisingly pensive take on the zombie apocalypse genre that focuses on the day to-day trivialities and mental degeneration that go along with being the last man alive in a world full of poorly rendered flesh eaters. The undead are surprisingly few and far between, in fact the supporting act for the majority of the film is Smith’s dog (who’s pretty good). Although he eventually finds some other survivors, the film is stymied by a rushed denouement and shoe-horned quasi-religious message that is awkward and inappropriately didactic. Jonathan Williams

don’t touch the axe

DIRECTED BY Jacques Rivette STARRING Guillaume Depardieu, Jeanne Balibar, Bulle Ogier

RELEASED December 28

still life

DIRECTED BY Jia Zhang Ke STARRING Zhao Tao, Han Sanming, Li Zhubin

RELEASED February 1

Jacques Rivette has returned to Balzac for this

Life is anything but still in this extraordinary study

tale of nineteenth-century privilege. And as he nears 80, it comes as no surprise that time should be a crucial metaphor. Clocks tick in the corners of rooms, chime on mantelpieces and ring out from Parisian bell towers as a young general (Guillaume Depardieu) finds his greatest battle is to conquer a married but flirty society woman (Jeanne Balibar). They pay court over endless evenings, but she refuses to betray her husband, and her social position. This conflict of wills makes for a gripping film, albeit one that sometimes feels a little too cloistered. Jonas Milk

of social and cultural terrorism from Chinese director Jia Zhang Ke, which focuses on the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in southern China. The film follows two people’s search for lost relatives, and offsets its staid, documentary-like aesthetic with a yearning, almost absurdist tone. Drawing much of its emotional heft from lingering shots of the bruised landscape, it looks like the set of some post-apocalyptic Hollywood saga. Zhang Ke has captured the point where progress and tradition cross swords, and it’s a quietly devastating place. Janey Springer

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definitely, maybe

DIRECTED BY Adam Brooks STARRING Ryan Reynolds, Rachel Weisz, Abigail Breslin

RELEASED February 8

the italian

DIRECTED BY Andrei Kravchuk STARRING Yuri Itskov, Mariya Kuznetsova, Kolya Spiridonov

RELEASED January 25

Definitely, Maybe is knob cheese. Let’s qualify: it’s

The Italian starts where orphan films usually end,

a rom-com for blokes. It’s fromage for men. It’s knob cheese. Ryan Reynolds is the divorcing dad telling his daughter (Abigail Breslin) a bedtime story about which woman from three simultaneous love affairs becomes her mother. Whether this is suitable reading for a minor is massively open to question, but more relevant is how this film suggests that Hollywood is ready to take on contemporary relationships and parenting. We are the ‘anything goes’, ever more emotionally complicated generation, and it’s high time our cinema reflected it. Lórien Haynes

with a young boy, Vanya (Kolya Spiridonov) about to be adopted to start a new life in Italy. But when a previous orphan’s mother comes looking for her son, Vanya realises his too may be out there somewhere. So ensues a quixotic journey to find his birth parents, with only a greedy adoption dealer (Mariya Kuznetsova) standing in his way. Andrei Kravchuk gives Russia an almost Dickensian look, while the performances of the children command the attention as they stare vacantly out into the empty landscape, waiting for what they are led to believe will be a better life. Luke Kemp

alice in the cities

DIRECTED BY Wim Wenders STARRING Rüdiger Vogler, Yella Rottländer, Elisabeth Kreuzer

RELEASED January 4

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep

DIRECTED BY Jay Russell STARRING Brian Cox, Ben Chaplin, Emily Watson

RELEASED February 11

Wim Wenders’ fourth feature begins with a German

Angus (Alex Etel) is a young Scot eagerly awaiting

journalist’s fruitless journey across the USA for a story, before he returns home in search of the family of a nine-year-old girl with whom he’s been landed. It’s a tribute to stars Rüdiger Vogler and Yella Rottländer that this film, which falls temporally and thematically somewhere between Louis Malle’s Zazie dans le Métro (1960) and Luc Besson’s Léon (1994), manages to retain its innocence while never descending into schmaltz. And there are many astounding moments, including a long take of a child riding his bike that’s reminiscent of a Bill Brandt photo. Jonas Milk

his father’s return from war, but his priorities change after he discovers a mysterious egg. The egg hatches to reveal a strange creature, and as it grows Angus must get it out of harm’s way. With his big sister and handyman Lewis (Ben Chaplin), he sets it free in Loch Ness, which only makes things worse. A mix of real footage and CGI, The Water Horse is an interesting take on an old myth. But although it’s refreshing to see a family film with an actual family and not a bunch of action figures, there isn’t enough plot to sustain an adult’s attention let alone a child’s. Limara Salt

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No School like the Old School Everywhere you look these days there’s a fiery young filmmaker pimping the latest ‘No Holdz Barred!’ exposé of some political hot potato or other. Swing a cat and you’ll hit Michael Moore (hard, preferably); Taking Liberties’ Chris Atkins; A Crude Awakening’s Basil Gelpke; Why We Fight’s Eugene Jarecki; Iraq in Fragments’ James Longley; and even good old Errol Morris with his Robert McNamara interview, The Fog of War. And that’s not even counting the other side, from the anti-Michael Moore mini industry to 9/11 conspiracy theorists and pillpopping Talk Radio hosts. Don’t get us wrong – some of these are powerful films with compelling messages about how we’re all doomed and everything. But for all the talk of a new ‘golden age’, in amongst the posturing, the polemics and the thinly veiled propaganda, it feels like documentary may have found its voice, but lost a little bit of its soul. Thank fuck, then, for Nicolas Philibert. The 57-year-old director

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believes in quality over quantity: in nigh-on 30 years, he’s managed to churn out a whopping eight films. But each one is a unique and priceless jewel – journeys into the most unlikely places, chance meetings with the most unusual characters – and are, more often than not, both inspiring and profoundly uplifting. If 1992’s award winning In The Land of the Deaf represented an international breakthrough, it was surprise smash-hit Être et Avoir a decade later that really put him on the map. Set in a single-room school in rural France, and following the progress of a class of four to 11-yearolds over the course of a year, it had all the trademarks of Philibert’s best work: a simple, observational style, a low-key subject, improvisation and effortless insight. As with his latest work, Back to Normandy, there is also a sense of fact and fiction colliding, a stylistic gesture which has seen him described as a ‘documentary portraitist’ rather than

a simple documentary filmmaker. But Philibert has his own ideas about that: “I don’t like labels or pigeon holes,” he says. “If there is a border that counts for me, it’s not the one between documentary and fiction, it’s more how a filmmaker takes into consideration the spectator.” For Philibert, modern documentary films are fundamentally flawed. We are experiencing, he says, “the dictatorship of the subject”, in which the value of a documentary is judged by the importance of its topic. As a man whose latest subject is a personal pilgrimage to the French countryside on the trail of a long-forgotten film, this is clearly anathema. “I’m an insurgent against the dictatorship of the subject,” he says. “You can make a fantastic film on a subject that appears to be totally banal, and you can do a complete piece of shit having started out with a great subject.” This new obsession, he believes, has made documentaries less honest. “I don’t like how Michael


Moore manipulates spectators, how he serves up spectacular effects of emotion, and how he unfurls, in film after film, a great talent for demagogy,” he says. “I work differently. I make films more to learn myself, to look at the world differently rather than to deliver a message to humanity.” Never has the personal edge in his work been more obvious than in Back to Normandy, a journey that sees Philibert reconnect with his own past through the residents of a small country community where he shot one of his first films as an assistant director alongside René Allio. As a young man, Philibert spent three months travelling from farm to farm enlisting the help of the locals to fill key roles in the story of the nineteenth century murderer Pierre Rivière, who had lived in the area. As Back to Normandy shows, it was a transformative experience not just for the aspiring filmmaker but for the town as a whole. “They were very touched that I should come back 30 years afterwards to see them,” he explains. “They

were sensitive to the fact that we hadn’t forgotten them.” Indeed, the tension between the transience of the filmmaking process and the permanence of the images you leave behind is at the heart of Philibert’s film. There’s a melancholy in seeing the young actors of Allio’s film surrounded by families of their own now, and it forces you to think about the responsibilities that a filmmaker has to his subjects after they’ve served their purpose. While he moves on to the next project, they return to lives which are inevitably overshadowed by the timelessness of cinema. “There is something about filmmaking that is theft,” agrees Philibert. “You take something away, and what do we give back?” In many respects, Back to Normandy is a risky project; not just because Allio’s original film (full title: Moi, Pierre Rivière, ayant égorgé ma mère, ma soeur et mon frère…) won’t exactly have your average film fan queuing up to revisit it, but also because Philibert had no idea what he would find on his return. As it

happens – and whether by blind luck or because he has a genius for uncovering stories of quiet profundity we’ll never know – the townsfolk had grown into remarkable characters. What could have been a private journey, of interest only to the filmmaker and his old cast, is given a universal appeal by the humanity of its characters. There’s the couple who talk movingly of realising their child was schizophrenic. The argumentative communist baker who had to rebuild her power of speech after suffering a stroke. And there is the enigma of Claude Hébert, the actor who played Pierre Rivière only, it transpires, to find God. Asked about the reaction of audiences to his film, Philibert says, “They’re moved by how these people who have been through one, singular experience of cinema are capable of expressing their feelings because what they’re saying is at the same time both simple and deep.” Simple and deep: it’s the perfect description of Philibert’s work. Matt Bochenski

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THIS YEAR, WHY NOT KICK CANNES TO THE CURB AND SAY ‘BOLLOCKS!’ TO BERLIN? IT’S TIME TO EXPAND YOUR HORIzONS AND START PLANNING SOME TRULY UNIQUE FESTIVAL TRIPS. HERE ARE A FEW TO GET YOU STARTED. HALLOWEEN SHORT FILM FESTIVAL LONDON, UK JANUARY 4-13 It’s not held at Halloween and the films aren’t necessarily horror, but January sees a showcase of some of the best new short films. Plus, it might be the only Halloween event where you can come dressed as yourself and not be called ‘lame’.

www.shortfilms.org.uk

ONE WORLD INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL PRAGUE, CzECH REPUBLIC MARCH 5-13 Apparently film festivals aren’t all about awards – they can be about promoting the ideals of human rights and exposing violations. Or, like the One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, they can do both.

www.jedensvet.cz

BIRDS EYE VIEW LONDON, UK MARCH Launched in 2005, Birds Eye View was the first major UK women’s film festival. While the name makes it sound like a Hitchcock attack waiting to happen, it’s actually a platform for some of the best female filmmakers around. We’re not sure if it’s meant to be a pun or not.

www.birds-eye-view.co.uk

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CAMBRIDGE SUPER-8 FILM FESTIVAL CAMBRIDGE, UK APRIL/MAY The Cambridge Super-8 Film Festival continues to showcase some of the best films made exclusively on Super-8 cameras (those old school contraptions). The organisers are receiving applications by carrier pigeon now.

www.rimusicazioni.it

POCKET FILM FESTIVAL PARIS, FRANCE JUNE Instead of playing shit hip hop on the bus or creating happy slapping videos for YouTube, avoid restraining orders and create a short film on your phone to be shown on the big screen in Paris’ Pompidou Centre.

BERG UND ABENTEUER FILM FESTIVAL GRAz, AUSTRIA NOVEMBER Make sure you’re interested in the right kind of rock before heading to Austria. This unique festival covers extreme sports and also the natural side of mountaineering, not the stuff from Blackpool or a Brixton crack den.

www.cambridge-super8.org

RIMUSICAzIONI FILM FESTIVAL BOLzANO, ITALY NOVEMBER The dudes from the Rimusicazioni Film Festival believe all films need new ‘soundtracks’. They don’t have to be music based – all the better to challenge our preconceptions and bring modern relevance to some old classics.

www.festivalpocketfilms.fr/mobile

www.mountainfilm.com

RHYTHM OF THE LINE BERLIN, GERMANY OCTOBER Whenever they’re not re-imagining the high street, graffiti artists in Berlin are making films about it. Initially you’d think this would be self-incriminating madness, but they get around this well enough to host a festival that celebrates graffiti culture.

ONE TAKE FILM FESTIVAL zAGREB, CROATIA NOVEMBER 20-22 The One Take Film Festival’s only condition is that all films are made with one take, so just hit record and let it all hang out. Sheer laziness? Or a smart way to get out of that pesky editing suite?

www.rotl.de

ABERTOIR – ABERYSTWYTH HORROR FILM FESTIVAL ABERYSTWYTH, WALES OCTOBER-NOVEMBER You’d need a good reason to go to either an abattoir or Aberystwyth, so here’s one: the Aberystwyth Horror Film Festival. Only in its second year, it mixes the best of the genre with guest speakers.

www.aberystwythartscentre.co.uk/abertoir

www.onetakefilmfestival.com

11TH INTERNATIONAL UNDERWATER FILM FESTIVAL BELGRADE, SERBIA DECEMBER 14-19 Submerged cinema comes to the fore in the International Underwater Film Festival with a variety of films and documentaries about the deep. Though the rules demand that at least 30 per cent of the footage is shot underwater, you’ll be watching from the safety of dry land. www.kpa.co.yu luke Kemp


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1. CREATIVITY AND MANAGING YOUR TEAM Apologies for using the ‘management’ analogy again because hey, we are all making ‘art’. But if you have a good plan, and people know what to expect each day, you are setting yourselves up for a dream shoot. Some of the most exciting aspects of making a film can be in the moments when you make a mistake and it looks great, or when you decide to try something new, or even grab totally different shots on a whim. But finding the space and confidence to allow that creativity and spontaneous collaboration to emerge, paradoxically often comes out of giving your team a clear sense of where you are going each day. If everything is chaotic all the time, it can be hard to stay focused, inspired and open to new possibilities. 2. FOOD WONDERFUL FOOD Low-budget shoots often mean you have begged your crew to work for a nominal fee, sometimes unpaid. So make sure (at the very least!) that

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Last issue we offered a tantalising glimpse into Shooting People’s new book Get Your Short Film Funded, Made and Seen. After a Batfink-style cliff hanger, we pick it up again with part two of Cath Le Couteur’s excellent chapter, ‘No Banana Skins: How to Avoid Common Production Cock Ups’.

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The Book Stops Here you have delegated someone to look after decent food/drink throughout the shoot. Good food makes for a very happy crew, and a happy crew is the lifeblood of your film. 3. GIVE GOOD SOUND I really wanted to make this my first point. SOUND IS SO, SO, SO IMPORTANT. If shooting DV, NEVER EVER use the on board mics unless you have the proper XLR inputs and a quality mic. The most horrible lesson in the world is when you go back to review the footage from a day’s shoot to find bad audio. Sometimes it sounds hollow and you think, ‘I’ll just bring up the levels in post.’ It won’t work! Because when you do bring up the levels, up comes everything else – the ambient level of the room, the reverberant echo, the slight wind outdoors, the hum of the refrigerator or the air conditioning… There is also an old saying in film. When the sound is GOOD, people come out of a film saying, ‘Wow… the lighting was great in that film!’. The importance of sound is remarkably underrated because it is often subliminal to the direct experience of a film. And yet it is one of the most important technical aspects to get right on the day. For more words of wisdom, head to www.shootingpeople.org/shortsbook and hand over your cash money.

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Certain actors are all about the first time; they send debut directors swooning because they’re credible enough to lust after, and accessible enough to suggest it just might happen. Paddy Considine is one such man. Considine is also a man who knows his industry. Having co-written dead Man’s Shoes, and picked up a BIFA for his own directorial debut, dog altogether, he’s seen what happens when an indie project takes off, and understands the woes of filmmaking virgins. Yet the dichotomy of steering his own career while flying the flag for UK cinema is a tricky one to balance. “The unfortunate thing is, I can’t do everybody’s first film,” he admits. “I’ve got to do the things that I want to do. I’ll do what’s interesting, but I have to do what’s needed at the time.” Cutting through the martyrdom bullshit, he’s willing to pinpoint exactly what it is that’s so often ‘needed’: “If I need some money, then I’ve done that in the past,” he says. “I like making films at home in England, but I can’t cut off my nose to spite my face and say that I’ll only make films here. I’d be robbing myself of experiences.” Experiences and cash. But it’s hard to fault a man who at least admits to the realities of a ‘serious’ actor’s life. And anyway, before we get all pious about it, the motivation to take a chance on an unknown director can be more self-serving than it first appears. With some of Britain’s young exports still struggling to prove their worth abroad, our most regular performers on the silver screen are the veterans – Judi Dench, Ian Holm, Ian McKellen or Pete Postlethwaite – those who’ve racked up more screen time than any of them care to remember. Yet waft a pint at the Rover’s Return under McKellen’s nose, or offer someone like Bob Hoskins a crack at a low-buget Brit flick, and they’re still easily swayed. They know the value of recognising their roots. The moral of the story is that the ‘varied’ career is not to be snubbed. Before

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Sam Mendes, a young Kate Winslet stepped off ‘that’ boat and straight onto the set of Hideous Kinky, a lo-fi movie which maintained her credibility on this side of the Atlantic, while her hip measurements did the talking on the other. So Considine’s ethos is admirable and smart. “I just do the things that I want to do with the people that I like,” he says. If you happen to like good projects and maintain the British ethos of ‘keeping it real’ by accepting them, then all to the good. The tastes of the first time director shouldn’t be dismissed: if fresh cinematic blood still wants you, chances are you’re here for the long haul. With Considine winning awards for the short film dog altogether, his own directorial debut, he’s fast adding strings to his bow too. But to what end? Having dabbled in the studio system with The bourne ultimatum, he’d be happy to go back again: “I hope that I get the chance to work with Paul Greengrass again and show him what I can really do, that I’ve got more to give,” he says. So the lure of building a ‘starry’ career is, it seems, too tempting even for our indie darlings to ignore. At least Considine, for one, is going the right way about it. ailsa Caine Check out Dog Altogether on our cover dvd.


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The script for the latter was Sam Shepard’s (who worked again with Wenders on 2005’s Don’t Come Knocking), and the memorable score was by Ry Cooder, with whom Wenders made music doc Buena Vista Social Club (1999). The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty (1972) was based on a novel by Peter Handke, who co-authored with Wenders the whimsical Wings of Desire (1987), starring Bruno Ganz as an angel in Berlin. It was the first time the director had explored German history, albeit through a contemporary viewpoint. The collaborations didn’t always work, however: the futuristic, sprawling Until the End of the World (1991) was written with Peter

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“My films have influenced many young filmmakers and students all over the world,” says German director Wim Wenders before adding, perhaps with a touch of sadness, “maybe less so in Germany. After all, I have lived in America for a long time. I have always been some sort of an outsider in Germany.” But it was as an outsider that this leading light of the New German Cinema made much of his best work in the ’70s. Wenders’ subject was America, perhaps unsurprisingly for someone born just after the end of the Second World War and who had grown up under the influence of the US. America was the present and, in some senses, Germany’s future. “I was never so interested in the past,” he says, acknowledging the failure of The Scarlet Letter in 1973. “I was strictly interested in the present tense.” Alice in the Cities (1974), specially re-released to mark the BFI’s massive retrospective, is an ambivalent meditation on the state of US culture, captured through the viewfinder of a Polaroid camera belonging to a disillusioned reporter, and scored by Krautrockers extraordinaire, Can. In cinematographer Robby Müller’s poetic framing, Wenders found a match for his artistic sensibility that had started with the Kinksinspired Summer in the City (1970) and continued through Kings of the Road (1976), acclaimed by no less an authority than David Thomson as “one of the best films of the ’70s.” Wenders and Müller’s collaboration peaked with The American Friend (1977) – based on a Patricia Highsmith ‘Ripley’ novel, and starring Dennis Hopper and Bruno Ganz alongside two of Wenders’ idols, Sam Fuller and Nicholas Ray – and Paris, Texas (1984), with Harry Dean Stanton and Natassja Kinsky.

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Carey, while U2’s Bono provided the inspiration for the director’s lowest moment, The Million Dollar Hotel (2000), starring a hilariously unhappy Mel Gibson. Curiously, Wenders’ three most popular films – Wings of Desire, Paris, Texas and Buena Vista Social Club – have all been given away as free DVDs with British broadsheets. That says a great deal for our fondness for his work, though perhaps also something about our comfort zones. Jonas Milk See all these films and more at the BFI Southbank’s two-month Wim Wenders season, beginning January 1, or catch a selection on tour nationwide from mid-January.

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Got the Skills pay the Bills The word ‘director’ usually conjures up images of cinematic visionaries sculpting celluloid masterpieces. However, feature films are only a small part of the profession. We are exposed to the work of many more directors every time we turn on the television or click through a website. These are the ad men, and they range from the blatant purveyors of ‘buy, buy, buy’ marketing messages, to a subtle blend of art and commerce crafted in the name of brand awareness.

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One master of the medium is Danishborn director Nicolai Fuglsig. Formerly a prize-winning photojournalist, he made the transition to film after a chance placing of a video camera on his bulletproof vest in Kosovo. “It was a natural change,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to tell stories with pictures. With film, I just wanted to tell small, strange stories in a new way.” The search for small stories led Fuglsig to advertising. After gaining significant praise for his Sony Bravia Balls advert, he’s now in the creative hot seat at Guinness. It’s a tough gig, following on from the likes of Jonathan Glazer, whose 1999 Surfer ad is one of the most famous of all time. But Fuglsig’s offering does nothing to break with the brand’s longstanding tradition of curious, obscure, fun and cinematic pieces. Featuring a massive makeshift domino topple through a remote Argentinean town, the advert has the cinematography and attention to detail to rival anything in Tinseltown. But this alliance between the creative and the commercial begs the question of how the craft of a director sits with the needs of the advertising executive. According to Fuglsig, apart from a brief of five to 10 lines explaining the concepts of toppling, community and the ever present message of ‘Good things come to those who wait’, he was given a free creative rein. “I was presented with the core idea that I couldn’t change,” he says, “but then I had to make that come alive in an environment that would feel cinematic. As a director, I have to add all the detail to make the ideas come to life. That was my job.” No matter how visually arresting an advert is, however, it still can’t escape its raison d’ être, and that’s to sell products. Doesn’t this tarnish the creative process? Fuglsig thinks not: “Sure, when you are directing adverts, you are selling a product. But directing films, you are also selling a story. I find that I am still trying to sell a story – I am less concerned about the product. My work doesn’t appear like an advert, they are more mini-movies. I

always try to put the filmmaker cap on, even when I am doing advertising. To me, telling small stories is the key.” This narrative focus is what advertisers are after these days. In the age of digital TV and internet streaming, audiences have become increasingly fragmented. This has compelled advertisers to make the largest possible impact in the shortest possible time. Directors who can create a visual opus that catches the viewers’ attention are highly sought after indeed. And it isn’t just how we watch that’s changed, but also the technology as well. Home cinemas, high definition and widescreen are becoming the norm, and with this, adverts need to be expertly filmed and produced to keep up. It seems only logical that brand managers have turned to some of Hollywood’s finest to achieve this – and are digging deep to pay for it. “Advertising is changing,” says Fuglsig. “It’s a much more competitive environment. We’re trying to outdo each other and make great, new, interesting small stories. It’s become more like filmmaking, not just trying to sell a product. I think that is what is inspiring filmmakers to come and try advertising, to experiment with new ideas.” Hollywood’s love affair with the advertising world used to be one-way traffic, as the British invasion of the 1980s was pioneered by ex-ad men like

the Scott brothers and Alan Parker. Now the reverse is true: established Hollywood players are flocking to grab a slice of the action, and the cash that comes with it. Michael Mann is trying to flog you Nike, Wes Anderson is hawking AT&T and Martin Scorsese is enticing you to rack up some debts with American Express. Furthermore, what used to be seen as selling your soul to the highest bidder now holds a great deal of acclaim – we might be about to see the second generation of ad men coming of age as feature filmmakers. “I was very surprised at how much respect and trust there is among studio executives and film producers generally about wanting to work with advertising directors,” says Fuglsig. “A lot of people I know of my generation are pitching movie ideas. There will be a whole wave of movies coming out in the next few years that will be done by the 10 or so usual suspects in advertising – people like Frank Budgen.” Fuglsig himself is dipping his toe into the film industry, although he remains tight-lipped about his plans. “I don’t like to talk about my projects before I have actually done them because everyone is always talking shit about all the movies they’re making,” he says. “I prefer to make people wait and see.” Ed Andrews

Directors past, present and future who like a bit of both – art and commerce that is.

Tony Kaye Despite disowning American History X, Tony proudly put his name to the Volvo Twister advert and those quite frankly terrifying sado-masochistic Dunlop ads of the 1990s.

Ridley Scott Cutting his teeth on adverts for Hovis in the 1970s without a doubt prepared Scott for such seminal works as Alien and Blade Runner. However, he couldn’t resist returning to the ad world to shoot his sci-fi 1984 advert for Apple Macintosh.

Jonathan Glazer By the time he directed Sexy Beast in 2000, Glazer had already made Surfer for Guinness, voted the best ad of all time, and has followed that with Sony Bravia’s ‘exploding-paint-in-a-Glasgow-housingestate’ spot.

Rupert Saunders Having directed the Halo 3 Diorama adverts (the nerds know what we mean – they’re amazing), Saunders is currently re-making Richard Burton’s 1970s war drama The Wild Geese for release in 2010.

Crossovers

Frank Budgen Ad genius partly responsible for the ubiquitous Sony PlayStation branding of the late ’90s. Now doing, um, something cinematic. We did ask, but no one connected with The Budge would tell us.

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There is nothing that connects these movies. There’ll be no hysterical concoction of supposition and sophomore psychology. No plodding set pieces to lambast journeymen directors or the careers of perfectly nice men and women. These films have ambition; they want to be solid, decent pictures. And they need to be, because these are the films your dad loves, and he has precious little time for jump-cuts, long fades, subtitles or Czech animation. What he wants is straight talking, straight action and straight men. So here they are – just don’t tell your mum you stayed up to watch them. You can understand Jonathan Hemlock’s (Clint Eastwood) career shift in The Eiger Sanction. Imagine: you’ve been kicking around a lowlevel ‘creative’ career for a while, perhaps as a junior floor manager on the BBC gravy train, or in postproduction for a corporate video brothel, when you notice a newfound taste for fine knits and brown loafers. You’re the wrong side of 30 and your meteoric rise stalled before the boss could even get your name right. ‘Bollocks,’ you think, ‘I’ll become a teacher.’ Similar logic propels Eastwood from government hitman to art lecturer. Sadly for Hemlock, his co-ed fondling ways are stymied when he’s forced back to the killing floor by The Agency and its climate-controlled albino boss, whose obsession with mountains will lead to all kinds of snow-bound tedium. Hemlock is out to find the limping killer of his old partner so must go deep undercover as part of a climbing team attempting the treacherous Eiger, where the assassin will be betrayed by his crappy crampons and the mirth of other rock men. The plot is ludicrous, the values reprehensible and Eastwood’s awkward attempts at charm make the glacier look positively avuncular. “I thought I’d given up rape,” he tells his giggling fireside conquest, “but I think I’ve changed my mind.” It’s only forgivable when you realise that: 1) real climbers say the mountain

sequences are some of the most authentic committed to film; and 2) Eastwood did all of his own stunts. Even though he didn’t have to. Clint’s insurance premiums were rinky-dink in comparison to the behemoth spend on the subaquatic Heaven’s Gate, Raise the Titanic. “Raise the Titanic?” despaired backer Lew Grade, “It would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic!” Three years of hype, filming on three continents and $36 million later, the movie slipped from its moorings and sailed into oblivion, up against The Empire Strikes Back in the summer blockbuster wars. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the real drama played out off-screen, from the wild hubris of the 240-foot, nine million-gallon water tank, to the publicity machine that promised the experience of a lifetime. The result is a long, slow preamble to a spectacular, watery money-shot of the ship resurfacing. For the rest of the time, the agonising plotting around the race to save a rare mineral from falling into the hands of the Russkies is only lightened by an unintentionally smirksome script: “If Dirk says he can handle it, I’m willing to go to the President and do my best to push it through,” promises Jason Robards, auditioning for Carry On Up My Funnel. And yet the project wasn’t so far-fetched; in 1978, hip, young, would-be grave robber Spencer Sokale actually considered raising the liner as a genuine business opportunity before he saw sense and moved into the equally adventurous world of celebrity calendars. But this is sauce, of course, and though mountaineering assassins and turgid underwater stunts may satisfy unfulfilled derring-do ambitions (Dad never made it to that ski chalet with Farah Fawcett. Why? Because he had you, you graceless little git!), there comes a time when only a pasty, middle-aged lady in a basque will really cut it. Joan Collins made The Stud and The Bitch when she was about 45 and at the height of her Reader’s Wives look, and they immediately became classics of

nylon-sheeted British sex cinema. Squeezed from the novel by her equally vulgar sister, Jackie, The Stud is essentially Lady Chatterley’s Lover for the cheesecloth ‘n’ charlie set, with Keith Moon’s old brewskie Oliver Tobias in the Mellors role. Brought in by Collins to run her nightclub – said to have been based on Johnny Gold’s ’70s celebrity disco zoo, Tramp – Tobias is soon doing The Dirty Bump with both Collins and her step-daughter in an unpleasant but undeniably prodigious style. Aside from some diamonds-and-mafia MacGuffin, and the absence of Tobias’ over-exposed jacksy, there’s almost nothing to separate The Stud from its successor, The Bitch, as Collins’ character, Fontaine Khaled, leads a parade of doughy flesh and poorly lit orgies in a world where Cliff Clavin off Cheers is an alpha male rod god. And thus a curious effect is wrought; the low-rent depiction of this fevered world of dirty privilege makes for a kind of sexual democracy where even the sumpiest of viewers can think, ‘I reckon I’d have a chance there’. And for Collins, the success of them both meant opportunity knocked once more. Sadly, when she opened the door it was just a man in a fedora offering her cheapo Italian giallo Policeman Without Fear.

Dads’ Delights Caravan to Vaccares (1974) Dir. Geoffrey Reeve Rarely seen Provence-set espionage thriller from Alastair MacLean with spurious belly dancing sequences. That Lucky Touch (1975) Dir. Christopher Miles Arms-trade comedy in which Roger Moore and Susannah York reprise their heavy petting from ex-Gen Spec’er Gold. The Wild Geese (1978) Dir. Andrew V McLaglen Soon to be remade foul-tasting, neo-colonialist mercenary romp.

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d n a d n u ro Aki Kaurismäki Collection: The Leningrad Cowboys (1989-1994) Dir: Aki Kaurismäki Available: Now

Over the last three months, we have been treated to DVDrenderings of pretty much the entire back catalogue of Finland’s preeminent deadpan curmudgeon, Aki Kaurismäki. This fourth (and final) volume collects the director’s three collaborations with Leningrad Cowboys, a Scandinavian rock ‘n’ roll outfit who mix polka, trad folk and, well, pretty much anything in their routine. Sporting armadillo-sized quiffs, tatty black cocktail suits and oversized winkle pickers, the near catatonic band are ushered around the planet by their domineering, money-hoarding road manager Vladimir (Kaurismäki regular Matti Pellonpää). Described by its director as “the worst film in the history of the cinema, unless you count Sylvester Stallone’s”, the first (and best) disc of this set is the wonderful deadpan odyssey from 1989, Leningrad Cowboys Go America, which sees the band plucked from obscurity (they’re playing a gig in the middle of a field in Siberia) and told that if they seek fame and fortune they should go to America where “people will listen to any shit”. So, without further ado, they grab the frozen corpse of their dead bass player (!) and hightail it to New York where they are quickly hired to play a wedding down in Mexico. They buy a Cadillac from Jim Jarmusch and head south with heads full of dreams and (due to their miserly manager) bellies full of nothing. It’s all totally offthe-wall and packed with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, but Kaurismäki manages (implausibly) to lend the film a soulful, bittersweet edge with some strikingly photographed panoramas

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care of ace regular DP, Timo Salminen. The second disc, Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses (1994), returns to the band a few years down the line. Many of the original line-up (we are informed by a pre-credits title sequence) have died from over-consumption of tequila. So Kaurismäki decides to send them on another road trip, this time back home to Siberia. It’s basically more of the same, though with slightly diminished returns. There’s obviously a bigger budget (the scene where the Cowboys hitch a ride back to Europe on the wing of a plane is probably the most technically elaborate shot the director has ever created), but the music isn’t as catchy and the moments of comedy are in far shorter supply than the excellent original. Things are rounded off with the ‘straight’ concert film, Total Balalaika Show (1994), in which the band played to an audience of 70,000 in Helsinki’s Senate Square, and were memorably backed by the 160-piece Red Army Choir. While they are often ironically dubbed ‘The Worst Rock Band In The World’, from this evidence, the Cowboys have got more talent between them than the entire UK pop chart put together. Adding a personal spin to classics such as ‘Delilah’ and ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’, it’s one of those concerts that you really wish you could have attended. They’re still doing the rounds now (as this magazine goes to press, they will have just been house band at this year’s European Film Awards), so keep an eye out if they come to town. David Jenkins


Not Here to be Loved (2005) Dir: Stéphane Brizé Available: NOW

EXODUS (2007) DIR: Penny Woolcock AVAILABLE: NOW

Stéphane Brizé’s second feature is a stripped-down tale of amour fou and second chances. Middle-aged bailiff JeanClaude (Patrick Chesnais) appears to have inherited from his cantankerous old father (Georges Wilson) a destiny to die alone, bitter and unloved – but then he joins a tango class and meets the younger Françoise (Anne Consigny). It is essentially a romantic comedy, but the romance is ever so restrained, the comedy bone-dry, and the faint note of hope at the end, coming after so much bleak melancholy, feels like a well-earned reward for characters and viewers alike. Extras include interviews with the director and the two leads. Anton Bitel

To transport a tale of literally biblical proportions to the sodden shores of a seaside town in Kent is an ambitious undertaking indeed. Bernard Hill plays philistine politician Pharaoh Mann, bent on the enforced segregation of immigrants in a not-sodistant future; Daniel Percival is his adopted son, Moses, who abandons fledgling academic research to take up the cause of those living on the wrong side of the Margate fence. Inspired by the film’s enduring image – the burning of Anthony Gormley’s extraordinary Waste Man – Moses uses methods fair and foul to lead the exiles to the Promised Land in what should have been a gripping piece of filmic experimentation. Ultimately, however, the film feels overwhelmed by scriptural metaphors laid on too clumsily for its own salvation. Ed Owles

PRINCESS (2006) DIR: Anders Morgenthaler AVAILABLE: February 25

KLIMT (2006) DIR: RAOUL RUIZ AVAILABLE: now

For those more used to Disney’s gentle animation, watching this vengeful cartoon crusade of a clergyman bent on destroying all record of his deceased sister’s porno career as ‘The Princess’ may be a tad unsettling. August is the aggrieved party who becomes guardian to his niece Mia, the princess’ daughter, and decides to seek out pornographer Charlie, the man apparently responsible for all that has gone before. Morgenthaler intriguingly punctuates the animé with digital footage starring ‘real’ actors to evoke the events of the past, ensuring the tensions and nuances between fantasy and actuality remain fascinatingly poised as August grapples to protect Mia from her own reality. Ed Owles

The artist in a gorilla mask cavorting in a cage circled by moustachioed prostitutes is one of the few scenes in which this biopic comes alive. From Klimt’s death bed, his life is portrayed in a fitful series of memories, using authentic events to evoke fin de siècle Vienna. John Malkovich plays the womanising aesthete (again) but the film, like the broken mirrors and fragments of gold leaf that recur throughout, court an ambivalent response. From one angle it’s a lavish depiction of an interesting figure at an interesting time. Tilt it again and, as the artist himself declares of one of his works, “It’s a fucking wedding cake made of shit!” Sally Skinner

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Hard Graft and Football a beer and a word with the boys from in the hands of the gods “It’s not just a film about football, it’s about five lads and their hopes and dreams,” says Ben Winston, producer of In the Hands of the Gods – a documentary following a group of freestyle footballers busking and blagging their way from New York to Buenos Aires to meet Diego Maradona. The film is a tribute to the hard graft and perseverance of Woody, Sami, Mikey, Jeremy and Danny as they span two continents on nothing but their own skill and determination. “It was just a silly idea at first,” says Woody, “using only our football skills to meet the best footballer in the world, but the more we thought about it, the more we thought we could really

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do it.” In order to convince the film’s producers of their resolve, the five were sent busking for their supper in Leicester Square. They ended up eating at The Savoy. During filming, the crew were under strict instructions to offer them absolutely no help at all. “They wouldn’t even let us brush our teeth in their room,” Woody laughs. “It caused quite a bit of tension at the time,” adds Ben, “but it was very important to the film. It wouldn’t have been the same without it. It spurred them on.” Maradona himself played a part in forming this rugged self-belief. “For me, he is just unbelievably talented,” says Woody. “When I was growing up,

I would just watch videos of him all the time. The fact that he came from the slums to be the best player on the planet is an inspiration for me.” “He also went through the whole cocaine saga. Everyone doubted him but he came out of it a better person. It’s like me, I went through similar things,” says Sami who, prior to the trip, had found himself on the wrong side of the law. Since then, he’s found work as a model, promising himself that he’ll “stick to the straight and narrow.” Did they succeed in shaking the Hand of God? You’ll have to watch and find out. Ed Andrews In the Hands of the Gods is released on DVD on January 14.


AFTER LIFE (1998) Dir: KOREEDA HIROKAZU AVAILABLE: NOW

TRANSYLVANIA (2006) DIR: TONY GATLIF AVAILABLE: FEBRUARY 18

What happens when you die? There have been plenty of films exploring this question, but the answer proffered in this, the follow-up to Koreeda Hirokazu’s acclaimed 1995 Maborosi, is nothing if not original. The recently departed arrive at a halfway house resembling a dilapidated school, are officially informed of their death, and then asked to choose one memory from their earthly lives to accompany them into the everafter. Filmed on 16mm and including a fair amount of interview footage with ordinary people, the director’s naturalistic technique balances the wackiness of the premise, and leads to some genuinely touching moments. Sally Skinner

This is the second recent DVD release to follow naïve French 20-somethings heading east (the other, Legacy, was a surprise hit from Georgia). Both see their female leads denied their demands. In Legacy, it’s the ownership of a rural castle; in Transylvania, it’s Zingarina’s (Asia Argento) long-lost love. He’s a Romanian musician – and cad – who breaks her heart and almost destroys her soul. So goes Gatlif ’s unexpected tale of self-discovery and raw reinvention set to a repetitive gypsy beat. It’s a sweet, bizarre love story punctured by a spectacularly gruesome, not to mention unhygienic, birth scene. Georgie Hobbs

Masters of Cinema: SANSHO DAYU & GION BAYASHI (1953, 1954) DIR: KENJI MIZOGUCHI AVAILABLE: Now

High melodrama, tragedy and intense performances – it usually means one of two things: classic cinema or the EastEnders Christmas special. Fortunately in this case it’s a rare double-bill release from Kenji Mizoguchi, master of Japanese cinema. Set in medieval Japan, Sansho Dayu tells of a family’s struggle against slavery, feudalism and exploitation in the face of a brutal warlord, and is refreshingly frank about the thorny issues of prostitution. Meanwhile, the lesser known Gion Bayashi is a more contemporary, if less thought-provoking affair; an experienced Geisha with maternal inclinations takes a penniless orphan girl under her wing. It may sound familiar and it is achingly saccharine in places, but after the unrelenting trauma of Sansho Dayu, the light relief is welcome. Both films reveal a filmmaker trying to make sense of Japan’s place in a post-war world. Social injustice, oppression and the instinct to survive; it’s easy to see a country coming to terms with its own war crimes as well as an unwelcome occupation. But the influences of Buddhism and the aesthetics of traditional Japanese art also lend the films a timeless touch, meaning they’re as relevant now as they were on their day of release. Laura Swinton

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WC FIELDS: THE MOVIE COLLECTION (1932-1944) DIRS: VARIOUS AVAILABLE: NOW

It’s a forgivable offence not to have heard of William Claude Fields Sr. This American comedian, actor and juggler, well known to the grandparent generation, starred in 38 films between 1915 and 1936, and now’s the time to get down with the 17 of them included in this set. Fields’ portly frame, bulbous nose and fondness for drink suit the bumbling characters he plays. But his genius was in offsetting his more one-dimensional roles with suitably sneery asides. Picks of the bunch include Mississippi (1935), which tells the tale of pacifist Tom Grayson (Bing Crosby) who, with a little help from the hapless Commodore Jackson (Fields), gains notoriety as the ‘killing singer’. Although most of the film’s appeal lies in the velvety voice of a baby-faced Bing. It’s A Gift (1934) sees Fields play a hen-pecked husband and long-suffering father. In an early scene, his shaving is interrupted by his self-centred daughter, who hijacks the mirror and flicks hair in his face. Cue some humorous displays of forbearance, as Fields then struggles to fulfil his unique dream – owning an orange grove. A decade later, Follow the Boys (1944) was devised as a boost for the troops during wartime. A host of stars were drafted in, and the plot takes second place to cabaret-style entertainment. Fields features as an entertainer along with other big names such as Orson Welles and Marlene Dietrich. Some expertly trained show dogs don’t make up for the fact that we don’t get to hear Dietrich sing, but look out for them anyway. This collection is bound to appeal to lovers of old Hollywood, the studio system and its black-and-white films of a bygone era. The humour of WC Fields is outdated but spotting the stars amid his fellow cast gives this boxset a geeky appeal. It’s exhausting but rewarding work. Audrey Ward

The Seventh Seal: 50th Anniversary Special Edition (1957) DIR: Ingmar Bergman AVAILABLE: Now

SHREK THE THIRD (2007) DIR: Chris Miller Available: Now

Ye who dread the prospect of black-and-white gloom, take heart! A plague-ridden, crusading fourteenth-century Sweden is the perfect backdrop for this most famous and now Blu-ray released exploration of death and the human condition. It’s chock-full of knights, booze, fights, grim reapers, and some easy-on-the-eye Swedish thespians. Add the chess battle extraordinaire, plus a few song and dance routines, and you may just make it to the end of this hefty piece of work; and a little more enlightened at that. Extras include 8mm silent footage from the set, plus Bergman’s short from 1984, Karin’s Face. Simon Mercer

Full of hugely distracting American MOR music crudely tacked onto and over each scene, Shrek The Third’s soundtrack is horrid. Every little tear, smile or slight mood change seems to cue a tawdry vocal line detailing the character’s feelings. Elsewhere of course, it’s this kind of heightened attention to detail that makes the Shrek films so watchable, even in this, the last (or not) in a line of samey animation series. While it takes its homage to its fantasy predecessors slightly too far, as soon as one’s cynicism hits, something funny wrestles you back onside. That damn Hispanic cat gets us every time. Georgie Hobbs

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Animal Magic New Zealand’s ‘other’ filmmaker, Eagle vs Shark director Taika Cohen.

“I’ve only been making films for about four years,” says New Zealand director Taika Cohen, a man who’s modest about his own good fortune. “I kind of just fell into it in a way.” Prior to directing, Cohen had already established himself as a performer in the arts scene of his native Wellington, New Zealand. However, it was as a director that he became internationally recognised after Two Cars, One Night – a short film about kids trading insults in a pub car park – earned him an Oscar nomination. It’s something he seems rather amused by: “I just started writing ideas for scenes while I was doing a really boring acting

job and thought I should try it as a short film. I gave the script to my friend who was a producer and we applied for funding and got it made. Just like that!” he laughs. Pretty simple then. However, as simple as it may sound, that career break was backed up with some significant talent, and this is more than evident in his full-length debut, Eagle vs Shark – a comic yet heartwarming story of geeky misfits, Lily and Jarrod, coming to terms with themselves in a rural New Zealand town. “I wanted a mixture of comedy and drama,” he says. “It’s essentially dysfunctional people stumbling around an emotional landscape, just trying to

make their way through.” Written in collaboration with long-term girlfriend Loren Horsley, who plays good-natured drip, Lily, the emotive subject matter is very close to his heart. “A lot of the scenes are based on situations that I’ve been in and a lot of ideas and memories that I found weird or interesting. A lot of the traits in Jarrod I can see in a younger version of myself – the frustration of wanting to be someone else.” With such acclaim for Eagle vs Shark, should we be expecting to see a lot more films emerging from the land of the long white cloud? Cohen is doubtful. “In New Zealand, unless you’re Peter Jackson, you’re just an independent filmmaker struggling to get funding. There’s not really an industry.” With the publicly funded New Zealand Film Commission holding the purse strings and the inevitable caution that this brings, it is again down to Cohen’s good fortune that such an offbeat film was granted funding. “The script for Eagle vs Shark would have been hard to sell if I hadn’t got an Oscar nomination. I’m very lucky and have had such great timing.” But despite his success, Cohen continues to be self-effacing. “I feel I’m just part of the art community in Wellington. I won’t move to America because I’m nervous of my peers’ perception of me. I don’t want to be that guy who sells out. If I can stay at home, make my films with support and funding then I’ll be happy.” And if he keeps up the good work, so will we. Ed Andrews Eagle vs Shark is out on DVD on January 21.

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12:08 East of Bucharest (2006) DIR: Corneliu Porumboiu AVAILABLE: NOW

Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu’s first film covers his country’s 1989 revolution. It’s heavy on sarcastic blink-and-you’ll-miss-them Eastern European half-jokes. Virgil Jderescu (Teodor Corban) is a minor TV presenter attempting to discover more about the day of the revolution in his town. An out-of-work Father Christmas (Mircea Andreescu) and an alcoholic teacher (Ion Sapdaru) are his guests on a televised phone-in, with the former especially excellent – like a broken, drunk Bobby Robson. It’s subtly politicised, and wonders about the slippery and evasive nature of truth, but it’s the shaky camera work, alcoholic, sweary stoicism and charmingly depressing setting that you’ll remember. Thom Gibbs

AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY: 10th Anniversary Edition (1997) DIR: JAY ROACH Available: Now

Nothing says ‘I heart 1997’ more than a short bespectacled man of mystery from the ’60s. First time around, Austin Powers had people shouting ‘Oh behave!’ at one another in bad English accents (even if they were English) and now they’re invited to do it all again a decade later. But has this ’90s child withstood the passage of time? Yes. It’s all lots of fun, and even if you already know it inside out, the nostalgia’s enough to justify turning back the clock. Groovy. Laura Swinton

Seraphim Falls (2006) Director: David Von Ancken Available: Now

SLACKER (1991) DIR: RICHARD LINKLATER AVAILABLE: JANUARY 7

Marking the extension of a new film genre we’ll call ‘nature porn’, Seraphim Falls is awash with gratuitous shots of mountain scenery and the awe-inspiring vistas of the mid-West. It’s here that rugged Civil War veteran Liam Neeson hunts for retribution from the stricken Pierce Brosnan, although their macho rough and tumble seems merely a sub plot to the mythical, mystical backdrop of America’s wild hinterlands. Despite an action-packed, cat-and-mouse opening, the film trails off, flirting unsuccessfully with a curious surrealist aspect along the way. It would have been much better with a David Attenborough voiceover. Ed Andrews

Spoilt white kids allude to cultural theory; scenesters get knocked on and off crappy bands’ guest lists; ripped jeans and long hair loom. Even Madonna’s smear test makes an appearance when a shyster in oversized sunglasses tries to sell the sacred item to some flirting hipsters. “You can still see the pubes,” she says. “Hey, it’s more real than a poster.” But slackers don’t work, so no money means no one’s buying. Made two years before Dazed and Confused, this is Linklater’s cruel joke on the over-educated, under-nourished 20something wasters of Austin, Texas. Ambitious for its time, its semi-structured plot is a rough diamond, a sparkling signal of what jewels were to come. Georgie Hobbs

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Feel the Font Quite how people can argue over a typeface is beyond most of us, but as Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica hits DVD, we present two sides of the argument that’s captivated the world.

I love Helvetica. From the teardrop-shaped aperture of the lower case ‘a’, right through to the curve in the leg of the capital ‘R’, and all of the horizontal and vertical terminals in between. It just works. I love the consistency of the weight of each character and the fact that no single letter stands out as too heavy, none too light: all is equal, simple and yet so beautiful. It’s a designer’s comfort blanket; always there, waiting to make things feel good. As Wim Crouwel said, Helvetica “lets the words do the talking, not the typeface,” and used well, it can be used anywhere. It’s authoritative enough for official purposes, but has an air of friendliness that makes it suitable for less formal matters. It looks just as comfortable in a bank statement as it does on a party invitation. Helvetica is timeless. That’s why it’s still going, that’s why people keep using it. Its commonality does not make it any less well-crafted just as the genius of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band isn’t diminished by being played a billion times. It’s ironic that Helvetica, a typeface heralded as being so ‘neutral’ at the point of its creation, and which Crouwel said had “no meaning itself”, has since become so legendary that a worldspanning documentary has been made about it. Ironic, but glorious. Christopher Slevin is a Birmingham-based junior designer. He likes all things silk screen and letterpress, postcards and, of course, Helvetica.

“We were impressed [by Helvetica] because it was more neutral, and ‘neutralism’ was a word that we loved… It shouldn’t have a meaning in itself.” So says Wim Crouwel, influential Dutch typographer and Helvetica fan. It’s no surprise that it was the Swiss, of all people, who developed a typeface that has absolutely no opinions whatsoever. Only time will tell whether or not Helvetica is also guilty of hoarding Nazi gold. Typographic reparations could be made to Jews across the world, set in Times New Roman. Imagine this: two girls sit on a train talking about their design project. The upshot of weeks of brainstorming, focus groups and market research is (fanfare): “Let’s use Helvetica for everything!” Fantastic work, ladies. What a triumph. This is the design equivalent of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall deciding to cook nothing but tofu, FOREVER. It’s neutral! Tofu lets the act of eating speak for itself; mastication without flavour; colour free digestion. Is this what we want? Apparently so. Helvetica and its boorish variants account for something like 95 per cent of the visual detritus that bombards us every day. There are even websites dedicated to the condemnation of Arial, a similarly tedious rip off of the Swiss master of dullness. Yawn, yawn, yawn. Get a grip. At the last count there were 523 trillion fonts in existence, and all we ever hear about is pissing Helvetica. The world is full of variety, beauty, ugliness and colour, but we choose to reduce the presentation of information to the vacuous common denominator. Well congratulations, you can keep it. Ben Freeman studied graphic design at Camberwell College of Art and the Royal College of Art, London. He has never used Helvetica in a commercial context.

Helvetica is out now on DVD. In case you’re one of the other two people who care, the above title is in Helvetica Neue...

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Sketches of Frank Gehry (2005) DIR: Sydney Pollack AVAILABLE: NOW

ROCKET SCIENCE (2007) DIR: JEFFREY BLITZ AVAILABLE: JANUARY 7

Again and again in this documentary about the architect Frank Gehry we see his sub-childish doodles transformed into huge, baffling buildings like the peerless Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. A supporting cast of architects (uniformly healthy, chiselled, be-shirted males with nice glasses) heap praise on the Californian and we see his agonising studio process up close. Unfortunately, it’s as much a film about director Pollack, of whom you get a lot of pointless shots as he’s filming. It’s also impossible to do justice to the magnitude of Gehry’s buildings, because ultimately a film about architecture is a bit like an expressionist dance about radio. Thom Gibbs

A disappointing feature debut from Jeffrey Blitz (director of the excellent documentary, Spellbound), Rocket Science sticks to the formula for escapist indie that has been done (Donnie Darko) and done (Napoleon Dynamite) and done (Eagle vs Shark). Take an embittered oddball (in this case a stuttering high school kid who wants to join the debate team), sling him against the constraints of conventional modern society with an unlikely kindred spirit, and watch that ever-so quirky comic-drama unfold. By moving away from documentaries, Blitz lost a charm he took from the real world where there isn’t a script. What’s left is a hollow and one dimensional film. Henry Barnes

Bone Dry (2007) Dir: Brett A Hart Available: Now

THE BOTHERSOME MAN (2006) DIR: Jens Lien Available: January 28

Lance Henriksen (more commonly known as that bloke who played Bishop in Aliens) torments Luke Goss (from ’80s boy band Bros: we must never be allowed to forget) with tortuous and humiliating tasks in the blazing hot desert with the help of a walkie-talkie and a sniper rifle. The novelty of seeing a former pop star suffering soon wears off (that’s what we’ve got I’m A Celebrity for anyway) leaving nothing but a clunky script, a huge dose of implausibility and twists that you see coming a mile off. Forget made for television, this would disgrace YouTube. Ed Andrews

Norwegian director Jens Lien’s The Bothersome Man sees Andreas welcomed into a new life in a new town where all is exactly as it seems – an amiable boss, a forgiving new girlfriend and a city where human life is without the human condition. This could be heaven or this could be hell. Andreas, at first puzzled and then pleased with his newfound lot, finally becomes frustrated and seeks a way out through a symbolic opening in a basement wall. Filtered and muted colours pulls gently and deliberately on the viewer’s psyche until, with relief and grey-black humour, our protagonist reaches a room full of reds, greens and primary normality. The film succeeds in entertaining without reliance on clever twists and devices. Simon Taffe

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EXLEEDAVIES

T HELL

ADAM

REN

Director:

BY

Homer & Eddie Andrei Konchalovsky

Starring: Whoopi Goldberg James Belushi John Waters Box Notables: Misleadingly wacky fonts. ‘She’s ruthless – He’s witless – They’re on the Tagline: road together and falling apart at the seams.’ Mermaids Trailers: American Friends Thelma and Louise Trust Navy SEALS “I always have a milkshake before sex.” Cherrypick: Ambulatory meatbag Jim Belushi invites us to join him in the belief that he is somehow extending his range by pantomiming brainless jock Homer J Lanza through ’89’s saltiest of capers, Homer & Eddie. Deep-sixed by his commie parents to the bowels of a faraway dirt-farm sanatorium after getting beaned on the noggin by a rogue fly ball back in Little League (deep breath), Homer has long since been abandoned to see out his days as a baseball obsessed mental retard – his words – sprawled across the Taco Bell menus and spent copies of Guns & Ammo that litter the porch of the clapboard shitbox he now calls home. But when news comes that dad has joined the Choir Invisible, Homer quits his job as pharmacological pin cushion, crams his billfold where the sun don’t shine and sets out across the sun-bleached skull orchards of Utah for the funeral. Physically essaying Homer’s disability by way of a ferocious side parting, the dainty gait of a cartoon pig, and a facial expression redolent of an especially confounded Oliver Hardy, it comes as no surprise that Belushi is robbed blind before he reaches the city limits (by rat-faced filth-mill John

Waters, no less). He therefore has little subsequent choice but to fall in with a Whoopi Goldberg who’s going totally postal with the role of escaped mentalist Edwina Cervi – a foul-mouthed Christian Scientist with a tumour the size of a Twinkie that is both eating her brain from within and forcing her to confuse acting with shouting. Together they team up for a hokey, saccharine veined road-trip that rapidly descends into a scabrous amalgam of NBK fused with One Flew Over the Muppet’s Nest that has been improvised by junkies, shot through with sulphurous lighting, everchanging film stocks and gut-wrenching jump-cuts, and where the only thing mounting faster than the body count is our terrible apprehension that the two leads might actually Get It On. Plot-wise, that’s pretty much it until we finally reach the dank, Lynchian folds of the Oregon hills where Homer goes cataleptic at the wake and Eddie gets blown away holding up Wendy’s with a pitchfork. The feeling, however, that this last reel is taking place in one, both, or either of the main characters subconscious – à la Last Temptation of Christ – is hard to shake.

Helmed by the unzipped Russian mailsack behind Jon Voight workshop Runaway Train and godless Sly/Kurt clusterfuck Tango & Cash, Homer & Eddie would seem to serve as the celebration of one man’s unwholesome preoccupation with violently delusional fugitives and inelegant automotive carnage. Tellingly labouring under its working title, Jules et Jimbo, long into post-production, Homer & Eddie transports us to a lobe-spangling Bizzaro World where yo-yos like Belushi are routinely indulged with vanity projects, and the tenets of acceptable filmmaking have sunk so far beneath the plimsoll line that vapid crap like Rain Man and Driving Miss Daisy are regularly calling Oscar their bitch. Much like dark matter, the mysteries of consciousness and the plot of Money Train, any effort to study, précis or fully convey the cosmic vagaries at play within our 90 pitiless minutes is swiftly cloaked by the terminally stifling robes of Heisenberg’s immutable Principle of Uncertainty that renders even the most well intentioned attempt at meaningful explanation foolish at best and fucking hard at worst.

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new update

Shine A Light.

Dir. Martin Scorsese

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Martin Scorsese is the only suitable director for a Rolling Stones documentary. In their handling of The Band and Bob Dylan, The Last Waltz and No Direction Home displayed a razor-sharp sense of the wider stories that flow around the icons of music history. The Stones are not just any band; they’re among the few survivors from the era that existed before today’s ubiquitous hype. Scorsese, too, is a refugee from his time – perhaps the last of the ’70s bratpack still producing exciting contemporary work. Ask yourself this: in 30 years time will Wes Anderson be making a film about The Killers? Will he fuck. ETA: April 2008

Diary of the Dead.

Dir. George A Romero

As much as we love George A Romero – and we really do – it’s hard to get away from the disappointment of Land of the Dead. It wasn’t the end of the world (well, not figuratively speaking) but it also wasn’t The Finest Hour of the Dead. At any rate, Diary of the Dead may offer a chance for the franchise to reinvent itself, Frankenstein style. Rather than continuing the cycle of the first four films, this dumps a team of student filmmakers in the middle of a zombie outbreak. That may sound a bit Scream-meets-Blair Witch, but hell – George invented the zombie film, so we’ll give him a break. Next up: Dairy of the Dead, a bovine horror opus. ETA: March 2008 new

Dir. Carlos Cuarón

Carlos Cuarón is Alfonso’s little brother, and has a screenwriting credit for Y Tu Mamá También – the icky teen road movie that turned Gael García Bernal into an object of wistful fantasy for millions of women (and men) old enough to know better. Here, Bernal returns the favour, playing opposite Mamá costar Diego Luna in Carlos’ debut feature; a soccer romp about rival siblings. Now we know what you’re thinking – another Mexican sports comedy?! But Rudo y Cursi has the pedigree to be a genre classic. Expect the bastard vaquero offspring of Dodgeball and Gregory’s Girl, in which case: ¡vamos! ETA: Late 2008

Angels & Demons.

Dir. Ron Howard

Good news: the Hollywood writers’ strike has interrupted work on the follow-up to 2006 snooze-fest The Da Vinci Code. Bad news: much like Jason Vorhees or Last of the Summer Wine, true evil cannot be killed outright, merely slowed down. Dangles (as we, at least, are going to call it) is now slated for a 2009 release, which should at least give Naomi Watts enough time to write an apology for her participation in this sorry state of affairs. Once the industrial action passes, Akiva Goldsman will resume the edit of his $4 million screenplay. Remember: you can’t polish a turd, but you can certainly earn nice cash for trying. ETA: Summer 2009 UPDATE

Rudo y Cursi.

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Dirs. Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi

update

As the world’s most popular resort for sexchange operations and filth tourism, Bangkok has a reputation for being an open-minded kind of place. This assertion has sadly fallen into question, however, now that the enlightened authorities have seen fit to ban Persepolis from the city’s annual film festival. The Thai government eventually buckled to pressure from Iranian officials, who are none too pleased about the growing success of the award-winning piece. Adapted from Marjane Satrapi’s acclaimed graphic novels, it’s the autobiographical tale of a young girl’s troubled life under Islamic rule, presented through simple-yetprovocative black and white animation. It’s already picked up the Jury Prize at Cannes, and further criticism is only likely to fuel public interest. Let’s hope so, at any rate. ETA: April 2008 110 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE

The Changeling.

Dir. Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood is one of those Hollywood untouchables – a noble veteran, a grizzled survivor who’s proven his worth, and by all accounts his decency, in a remarkable career spanning six decades. But that doesn’t mean we have to like him, or his formulaic, reactionary, Republican films. Paedos? Kill ’em! Cripples? Kill ’em! Women? Kill ’em! The Changeling, backed by Ron Howard’s production company and starring Angelina Jolie, has all the ingredients of another aimlessly mainstream thriller, although this one is at least based on the intriguing (and true) premise that a mother whose son is kidnapped and killed gets somebody else’s kid returned to her by the corrupt LA police department of the 1920s. Don’t expect any surprises, innovation or political astuteness, and you might be pleasantly surprised. ETA: November 2008 new

Persepolis.


State of Play.

Dir. Kevin Macdonald

UPDATE

Pitt’s out, Crowe’s in, and the writers’ strike has, in one stroke, killed the excitement of reteaming Fight Club co-stars Pitt and Ed Norton. But it may also have addded a fresh energy to the project. Russell Crowe should fit in seamlessly to this political thriller about the murder of a congressman’s mistress, as all parties involved (Jason Bateman, Robin Wright Penn, director Kevin Macdonald) have strong pedigrees. As long as they follow the lead of the excellent BBC mini-series on which this is based, nothing can possibly go wrong. If history has taught us anything, it’s that films which look good on paper always live up to the hype. Always. ETA: 2009

White Jazz.

Dir. Joe Carnahan

new

Speaking of excellent school boy innuendo... James Ellroy is one crazy motherfucker, a man whose juvenile life included stints as a burglar, jailbird and golf caddy. He’s also one of the finest crime writers America has ever produced, and White Jazz is one of his bestloved books. The quasi-sequel to LA Confidential, it’s the bad juju ballad of Lieutenant David Klein – LA detective, slum lawyer and bagman to the mob. You’ve never met a hero like Dave: he’s utterly corrupt, an amoral hound-dog in love with his own sister. And he’s the good guy. In short, White Jazz is dynamite source material, and Joe Carnahan better not mess this one up. Smokin’ Aces 2 this is not. ETA: 2009

Synecdoche, New York.

Dir. Charlie Kaufman

update

As Oscar Wilde once said, “I can resist everything but temptation.” It feels like we’ve been waiting forever, but the directorial debut of Charlie Kaufman is now mere months away. Good thing too: legit copies of the SNY script are floating around the web, and the siren’s call is hard to resist indeed. There’s a Felliniesque aroma coming from Charlie’s latest, as Philip Seymour Hoffman’s playwright tries to deal with the many women in his life. How? By building a life-sized replica of New York, of course. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michelle Williams and Catherine Keener are among the supporting ladies – as is LWLies’ Number One Fan, Samantha Morton. We love you Sam, even if you don’t love us. ETA: 2008

Dir. Richard Kelly

new

Not content with making one genre-busting sci-fi flick, Richard Kelly is already hard at work on this adaptation of an unpublished Richard Matheson short story about a destitute couple who are given a tempting gift – a box with a button on top which, when pushed, will give them $200,000 but at the cost of the life of somebody they don’t know. The absolute savaging that Kelly’s Southland Tales received obviously didn’t daunt Cameron Diaz and James Marsden, who’ve signed up to play the leads. And let’s face it, whatever you thought of the second effort in Kelly’s young career, it proved he’s got more balls than 99 per cent of the other studio sluts out there. And if you’re still not convinced, bear in mind that Kelly was originally prepping the screenplay for Eli Roth’s mad skillz. See – now you feel good about it. ETA: Late 2008

The Hurt Locker.

Dir. Kathryn Bigelow

Be honest now – is there anyone who isn’t a bit bored with the War on Terror / Iraq / civil liberties? Compassion fatigue is all the rage, but it’s hard to see an end to Operation Desert Nam. Hollywood looks equally reluctant to drop the hot potato, so prepare for years of ‘well-meaning’ action flicks that leave a nasty taste in the mouth. The Hurt Locker actually has a few things going for it – particularly the writer/ director presence of Bigelow, whose previous work includes Point Break and the excellent Strange Days. Ralph Fiennes and Guy Pearce are also set to appear in the story of a beleaguered bomb disposal unit, trying to keep their wits (and limbs) together as all hell breaks loose in a familiar, sandy location. Damn: Chuck Norris would have sorted this shit out years ago. ETA: Summer 2008 new

The Box.

111


Dir. Paul Verhoeven

new

Not, alas, a documentary about brilliant-sounding New York based ‘Theistic Satanists’ The Church of Azazel (mission statement: peace, love and Satan!), but the return nonetheless of bush-loving Dutchman Paul Verhoeven. Based on the novels by Boris Akunin (real name Grigory Shalvovich Chkhartishvili), Azazel could be the first in a franchise following the adventures of Erast Fandorin, a young cop in Imperial Russia. He’s dispatched to solve a mysterious suicide that somehow links a wealthy student, a mysterious beauty and a British baroness. Here’s hoping for something with the dark atmosphere of Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentleman – the graphic novel, not the film – and the fin de siècle decadence of nineteenth-century Russia. Milla Jovovich has already signed on, but it’s the relatively untested Dan Stevens for whom this could be a big break. ETA: 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Dir. David Fincher

UPDATE

If David Fincher were William Friedkin, this would be his Sorcerer moment. Several grisly smashes into a career more fêted for stylised psychobabble (Fight Club, The Exorcist) than for its really resonant achievements (Zodiac, The French Connection) and the boy wonder plumps for a highconcept fantasy: the tale of a man who ages backwards. By rights, this F Scott Fitzgerald adaptation ought to founder, setting in motion a quarter-century of creative meltdown punctuated by the odd high-profile whine. But where Friedkin was a seer and a grouch, Fincher is a belt-and-braces studio pragmatist with nous enough to hitch his conceptual wagon to a pair of stars - Babel leads Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. The project has passed through a Who’s Who of MTV types including Jonze and Kaufman, and came dangerously close to being a John Travolta-Ron Howard car crash, so let’s hope Fincher brings his ‘A’ game. ETA: Late 2008

Body of Lies.

Dir. Ridley Scott

new

Is Ridley Scott on a roll? Most critics are creaming themselves over the authentically hardboiled stylings of American Gangster, and his next offering looks like it’ll pack one hell of a punch. Quite literally, if the pictures of Leonardo DiCaprio sporting two black eyes and a split lip on set are anything to go by. This political thriller stars the golden boy as CIA agent Roger Ferris, on assignment in Jordan, while Russell Crowe smoulders alongside. According to Crowe, DiCaprio was still a virgin when the two last worked together, but now he’s all grown up and Body of Lies, penned by The Departed scribe William Monahan, should hopefully be a smarter-thanaverage Iraqi outing. Pub trivia: rumours spread that the film’s original title, Penetration, was scrapped in case the overt sexual innuendo caused confusion. Stupid enough to be true... but not. ETA: Late 2008

112 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE

I Always Wanted to Be a Gangster.

Dir. Samuel Benchetrit

Stumbling across hidden gems is one of the pleasures of the London Film Festival – and, indeed, of playing The Legend of Zelda at 2am. Samuel Benchetrit’s debut is a fine example of a diamond from the first category: a low-key exercise in Gallic wit that both mocks and celebrates the pleasures of the gangster genre. Benchetrit serves up a handful of laconic tales, from the adventures of an inept stick-up man to the misjudged kidnapping of a suicidal emo girl (is there any other kind?). It’s pithy, hip and really rather cool in a Jarmusch kinda way. It may receive a limited release over here, so make sure you ferret this one out. ETA: March 2008 new

Azazel.


update

Son of Rambow.

Dir. Garth Jennings

When Garth Jennings started work on Son of Rambow seven years ago, it must have seemed like a clever way to play on nostalgia for the halcyon ’80s era when Sly was at his peak. Now it’s set to arrive hot on the heels of an actual Rambo sequel. Go figure. Even if it wasn’t about to benefit from good timing, there’s little doubt that this affecting and heartfelt comedy would engage with movie lovers regardless. That’s exactly what it’s been doing on the festival circuit over the last 12 months, and its recent outing at the London Film Festival offered yet more proof that there’s an insatiable appetite for this little gem. Some naysayers have suggested it’s on the light side, but you’ll soon be able to decide for yourselves. ETA: March 2008

Unbecoming

In which LWLies forms a vigilante lynch mob and sets to work on a cine-nonce. This issue, Neon Kelly strings up Uwe Boll’s Postal.

Uwe Boll has somehow made a career out of videogame adaptations. His previous work shows a dynamic range, from the philosophical existentialism of House of the Dead, to the neo-Marxist romantic allegory of Blood Rayne II: Deliverance. We jest: he is a bad, bad man. Without fail his films are nasty little vacuums of artistic bankruptcy; cynical exercises in ‘plop it out quick and the kids won’t notice’ commercialism. They’re detested by gamers and non-gamers alike, and perhaps in this unification, Boll fulfils his one true purpose. Postal may be his masterwork – or more accurately, his nadir. Banned in several countries, the source games are violent exercises in shock humour where the appeal of being able to piss in someone’s mouth before setting them on fire – yes, you really can – soon gives way to a terrible sense of waste, tedium and shame. Coincidentally, this is exactly the feeling summoned by Boll’s movies. ‘So what?’ you cry. ‘Why should we care?’ Because they are vapid. Because they are shit. And because life is short. But most of all, because out there across the globe are hundreds of thousands of decent films that are not being made: struggling film-sperm, each trying to reach the egg of production. It’s a wearisome endeavour, and every time that Herr Boll squeezes out another of his excretory offspring, another little project gives up the fight.

Uncoming

Raising a glass to the films that got away.

Glamorama.

Supposed director: Roger Avary

For all its flaws, The Rules of Attraction wasn’t half bad. Okay, it was over-reliant on flashy visual effects (destined to be ripped-off by mobile phone ads), but Roger Avary succeeded in capturing traces of the youthful nihilism that defined the early work of Bret Easton Ellis, author of the notorious American Psycho. Fans of the film may recall a lengthy montage in which shallow rich boy Victor Johnson (Kip Pardue) bums around Europe in a flurry of coke, sex and general naughtiness. During the sequence, he briefly acknowledges the presence of a mysterious Mr Palakon – a character who plays a major role in Ellis’ existential thriller, Glamorama. This in-joke was to serve as a calling card for Avary’s forthcoming adaptation, and post Attraction the director even went to the trouble of filming a low-budget (unreleased) feature entitled Glitterati, designed as a bridge between the two projects. Glamorama, notable for being the first Ellis story with a true plot, would have told the fable of a 20-something Johnson as he becomes embroiled in a conspiracy concerning a gang of supermodel terrorists. It’s a damn good story too, but sadly Zoolander got there first and pre-emptively spoofed the whole shebang. In any case, terrorists are, like, soooo 2001. Chance of resurrection: Avary owns lifetime rights to the script, so it’s still possible. 113


SUBSCRIBE & Win! LWLies is released onto the streets six times a year – subscribe and you can snag them all for £15. This issue, the first 10 subscribers whose names are picked out of the hat will win a a copy of the excellent SherryBaby on DVD, released by Metrodome on January 7. 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 February 22.

Issue 16, On Sale February 29 “I’ve always had a problem with understanding.”

114 THE diving bell and the butterfly ISSUE






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Little White Lies 15 - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Issue