Page 1

ISSUE 17 MAY/JUNE 2008

£3.75

IFQQIBTEFQBIFBP Qorqe#Jlsfbp

CASEY AFFLECK: THE SIMPLE ART OF STARDOM

GUILTY AS CHARGED: DARIO ARGENTO AMY RYAN ROGER DEAKINS JOHN SAYLES NEIL MARSHALL ZOOEY DESCHANEL DANNY TREJO BARBET SCHROEDER NADINE LABAKI BRUCE WEBER


COVER illustration by

paul willoughby WORDS BY

matt bochenski

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“When your job is to find people who are missing, it helps to know where they started.� 003


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DIRECTED BY Ben Affleck STARRING Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Ed Harris

RELEASED June 6

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Ben Affleck’s career renaissance has begun in style behind the camera

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Is Ben Affleck deliberately inviting ridicule with his directorial debut? In adapting Dennis Lehane’s novel about the abduction of a young girl, he’s practically inviting wise cracks about his own career vanishing without a trace. But here he is, resurgent in his new role, exuding a quiet authority behind the camera, and coauthoring a pin-sharp screenplay with Aaron Stockard. His brother, Casey, plays Patrick Kenzie, a native of Dorchester, the blue collar Boston community, where, with his girlfriend Angie (Michelle Monaghan), he finds “the people who started out in the cracks and fell through”. They specialise in solving local cases, the ones where the police can’t get a foot in the door, but when Amanda McCready goes missing from her junkie mother’s shit-hole apartment, they’re pitched into something altogether bigger. Alongside detectives Remy Bressant (Ed Harris), Nick Poole (John Ashton) and Captain Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) they’ll explore the dark heart of Boston on the trail of the one beautiful thing amidst the squalor. ▼

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Gone Baby Gone is Lehane’s fourth novel featuring Patrick and Angie, which leaves Affleck senior with some heavy lifting to do plot-wise. He makes a decent fist of establishing the pair for newcomers without getting bogged down in back story, and though the result is a central relationship that feels a little under cooked, this will eventually work in the film’s favour. He also effectively tackles the age gap between book and screen (in the novels, Patrick and Angie are closer to 40 than 30); deftly undermining Casey’s angelic good looks while making sure we’re in no doubt that Patrick is not a man to fuck with. The scene in which he brazenly threatens a mobster in his “shitty pool hall crime syndicate headquarters” is pure bravado. That’s what’s most striking about this debut: the confidence. There are some signs of inexperience – the distribution of information is uneven and some of the transitions between scenes are awkward. Towards the end, a series of flashbacks and voice-overs cause a concertina effect in the rush to get to ‘The Truth’, but you can blame that at least partly on the genre, which has always over relied on the last minute reveal. And perhaps Affleck is too keen on the helicopter shots, but in his defence, these aren’t the glossy cityscapes we’re used to but the salt deposits at the harbour, the late night drug busts, the rusted, rotting innards of the city’s decaying underbelly. It’s to the director’s credit that this isn’t a ‘Ben Affleck film’. There’s personality, but no ego. If it’s a paradigm of authenticity he’s after, then he very nearly achieves it, even if there’s something a little weird about the neighbourhood people he puts on camera. By all accounts the cavalcade of disfigured, obese, Jerry Springer-watching grotesques that we see on screen are real Dorchester residents, but you can’t help wondering if this is a movie star’s idea of what ‘real folk’ look like. And yet he’s earned the benefit of the doubt because there’s more to his relationship with this material, and this town, than a Hollywood tourist borrowing a bit of urban cool. At its heart, Gone Baby Gone is a film about the things that make you who you are by a filmmaker who has more reason than most to wonder. A decade after Good Will Hunting put him on the map, Affleck returns to the milieu that made him with a new perspective on how the choices you make and the company you keep define you. Fitzgerald may have said that there are no second acts in American lives, but Gone Baby Gone is, at the very least, Affleck’s opportunity to prove that he’s still Benny from the block after the J-Lo years all but destroyed his reputation. ▼

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If Affleck’s past brings a frisson to the film, it’s nothing compared to

adaptation of that other Lehane classic, Mystic River. Contrast the

the shadow cast by Madeleine McCann. The embers of the McCann

climax of that film, where the paedophile gets a bullet in the back of

firestorm were still too hot to handle last year, when the London

the head – job done, world safer, fade to black – with the way Affleck

Film Festival canned a preview screening. And if that seemed like an

handles a similar shooting. Inside a hospital called, with knowing irony,

overreaction at the time, watch the film and you’ll see their point.

Our Sister of Infinite Mercy, Angie will tell Patrick that she’s proud of

Even now, 12 months after the abduction, Gone Baby Gone has a

what he’s done. Some people, she says, don’t deserve to live. Eastwood,

shocking resonance. There’s the beautiful, blond-haired little girl, the

grizzled Right Wing gunslinger that he is, probably would have left it

ugly media circus, the mother who may be complicit in the abduction,

at that, book or no book. But outside the hospital Patrick is left to

and the frantic police search apparently doomed to failure. And just

ponder the nature of guilt and shame with Bressant, whose own

to add an extra layer of perversity, Amanda herself is played by

explanation of what it means ‘to do the right thing’, will set Patrick

another ‘Maddy’, Madeleine O’Brien, who bears more than a passing

on a course for the film’s denouement.

resemblance to the real thing. That denouement forces us to look our own humanity square in the eye Maybe some people will think it’s ‘too soon’ to explore this territory,

and ask ourselves whether any of us knows what the ‘right thing’ really

but while the McCann case is an ongoing tragedy that’s all the more

is, and whether we’d have the courage to decide. But more than that, it

reason not to ignore the issue, even (especially) when presented with

throws our relationship with these media manipulated figures into sharp

the uncompromising clarity of Gone Baby Gone. At the same time,

relief. For Angie, her vicarious relationship with Amanda McCready has

however, perhaps our collective experience of Maddy’s abduction

become more real than her love for Patrick. Angie is a peripheral figure

affects our perception of the film. Not because of any moral judgment,

for much of the film, but here she reveals her true colours. She might

but in the sense that, because it dramatises an event that seems

believe that she cares about Amanda, she might believe that she knows

so familiar, any false notes are immediately obvious. At one point

what’s right, but Angie is the embodiment of our sick obsession with

Amanda’s mother, Helene (Amy Ryan), breaks down in front of a news

tragedy. She’s every person who indulges in voyeuristic grief, every person

cameraman who doesn’t give her a second glance, an oversight that

who stays glued to these fictitious tabloid soap operas, creating the

we know is palpably wrong.

market for the lies, speculation and emotional hysteria that inevitably follow. Whether you agree with his decision or not, it’s Patrick, not Angie,

But this feeling of privileged perspective also works in the film’s

who looks into the depths of his conscience. Angie has the courage of

favour. When an abrupt shift of focus puts Amanda to one side while

false conviction – the same twisted morality that tells her who deserves

a new child enters the frame, what might have felt like a failure of

to live and die – but Patrick has the courage to doubt himself, to live with

the film’s narrative structure becomes, in the light of Maddy and

uncertainty, and to live with the consequences. It’s a brilliantly provocative

new cause célèbre Shannon Matthews, a convincing comment on the

ending from which nobody walks away unscathed.

ephemeral nature of our media obsessions, and the heart-rending pain of hope. As Patrick says, “Amanda was even more haunting for

That, really, is what you’ll remember about Gone Baby Gone. Yes, there

never being found, but what they did find was another story.” As long

are solid turns from Casey Affleck, Ed Harris and especially Amy Ryan,

as we fail to find them, what is a missing person but just another

who displays a rare combination of innocence and vulnerability for a

image on TV owned and operated by the media – just another story,

foul-mouthed drug mule who takes her kid on the job. And yes, there’s

not really a person at all.

a sharpness to the writing and direction, and a convincing grittiness in John Toll’s photography. But it’s the film’s comfort with its own

This ambiguity comes to a head in an extraordinary sting in the tail

complexity that makes it a rarity, especially when so many American films

that elevates Gone Baby Gone from an engaging crime film to

seem to confuse the idea of justice with retribution. This is a powerful

something else altogether. It’s here that Patrick will face a moment

debut from Ben Affleck, but more than that, it’s an intelligent one.

of truth that will put all of his – and our – assumptions about the

And while it may not exactly announce him as a new force in American

nature of right and wrong to the test. Look closely and there are hints

filmmaking, it makes his own reinvention a tantalising reality.

along the way that this is a film with a finely honed sense of moral complexity. Certainly it compares favourably to Clint Eastwood’s

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Head to page 25 for interviews with Casey Affleck and Amy Ryan.

n


Anticipation. A debut from an unexpected filmmaker and a uniquely powerful context combine to make an intriguing prospect. Four Enjoyment.

Nails the mechanics of the crime genre, then takes off in a whole new direction. Stunning. Four

In Retrospect.

Long after its stylistic elements are forgotten, the film’s moral courage is guaranteed to keep you talking. Four

011


© 2006-2008 Rockstar Games, Inc. Rockstar Games, the Rockstar Games r logo, Grand Theft Auto and the Grand Theft Auto logo are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Take-Two Interactive Software. “” and “PLAYSTATION” are registered trademarks of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. Microsoft, Xbox, Xbox LIVE and the Xbox logos are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies and are used under license from Microsoft. All other marks and trademarks are properties of their respective owners. All rights reserved. The content of this videogame is purely fictional, and is not intended to represent or depict any actual event, person, or entity. Any similarity between any depiction in this game and any actual event, person, or entity is purely coincidental. The makers and publishers of this videogame do not in any way endorse, condone or encourage engaging in any conduct depicted in this videogame.


Niko Bellic

Tuesday April 29th www.rockstargames.com/iv


by Mode 2 for Addict速


XXX Series...by Mode 2 in select UK stores and at www.addict.co.uk


In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honour, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honour in one thing, he is that in all things. He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. The story is his adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in. If there were enough like him, I think the world would be a very safe place to live in, and yet not too dull to be worth living in. Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder (1950)

016 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE


LWLies: What is it you love about movies? Casey Affleck: I think that, for me, films have a unique ability to transport the viewer to a different place. I see people staring at a painting in a museum for five hours and they seem lost in some experience. But I’ve never been that way. I grew up watching movies and it’s movies that... They move me. And they excite me. Amy Ryan: I just love storytelling and seeing stories – seeing stories larger than life, 20 feet larger than you in a darkened space. They can take you somewhere new, or somewhere you’re afraid to go. They can make you think differently. They’re powerful.

017


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

DVD Editor

Incoming Editor

Short Film Editor

Sub-Editor

georgie@littlewhitelies.co.uk

neon@littlewhitelies.co.uk

james@littlewhitelies.co.uk

sarah@littlewhitelies.co.uk

Contributing Editors

Website Editor

Website Design

Staff Writers

Neon Kelly

Georgie Hobbs

Jonathan Crocker David Jenkins Kevin Maher Vince Medeiros

James Bramble

Jonathan Williams

Sarah Riches

Alex Capes alex@littlewhitelies.co.uk

jon@littlewhitelies.co.uk

Mike Brett Adrian D’Enrico Andrea Kurland

Advertising Director

Advertising Manager

Distribution Manager

steph@littlewhitelies.co.uk

dean@littlewhitelies.co.uk

ed@littlewhitelies.co.uk

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Ed Andrews

Words, pictures, thanks...

Graeme Allister, Jack Arnott, Danny Bangs, Henry Barnes, Anton Bitel, Ailsa Caine, Lauren Cochrane, Mar Diestro-Dopido, Craig Driver, Paul Fairclough, Flavia Fraser-Cannon, Holly Grigg-Spall, Adam LeeDavies, Alan Mack, Kayt Manson, Heather McCalden, Jonas Milk, Emma Paterson, Nicholas Queree, Monisha Rajesh, Limara Salt, Adrian Sandiford, Amy Simmons, Dean Stalham, Ed Stocker, Laura Swinton, Emma Tildsley, Steve Watson, Jason Woods

Made with the support of the UK Film Council through the Publications fund.

LWLies is published six times a year Issue 17, The Gone Baby Gone Issue May/June 2008 ISSN 1745-9168 Made with paper from sustainable sources.

018 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

Published by The Church Of London Publishing Studio 209, Curtain House 134-146 Curtain Road London EC2A 3AR +44 (0) 207 7293675

Distributed by COMAG Specialist Tavistock Works Tavistock Road, West Drayon Middlesex UB7 7QX andy.hounslow@comag.co.uk

The articles appearing within this publication reflect the opinions and attitudes of their respective authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or editorial team. Š TCOLondon Publishing 2008


LETTERS This issue: an argument! It’s like the Times Literary Supplement letters page in here. Still, Sohail will receive two crates of Cobra Beer (assuming he’s still speaking to us). And so can you, by e-mailing us a letter or posting some print-worthy stuff on the blog at www.littlewhitelies.co.uk.

IRANIAN ISSUES In an attempt to portray Iran as a country that

deserves the West’s respect, the current issue of your

film magazine has exhibited

every sign of xenophobia in disguise, by overstating in so many demeaning ways the qualities, talents,

humanitarian ambitions,

liberal-mindedness, etc. of a country that Western mass media portrays as a hostile enemy. I prefer the mass

media’s portrayal to yours, given that at least their

intentions are not concealed by swaths of positive-

seeming rhetoric and empty

praise. Even your criticism of Western cinema for

failing to match the quality of Iranian cinema, despite their inferior technology

and meager budgets, places Iran in the surprise

position of even being

capable of excelling in cinematic, let alone

artistic, expression. ‘Yes,

those Iranians are certainly not all just doers of evil and fanaticism as our

diversity of opinion and

reaction? Damn it...

our love of cinema by

within those confined Islamic

grasp the modern nuances

cultural perspective. This

historical tradition

borders that still breathes of something meaningful to

say. But, truth be told, we never expected they could possibly have more to say

than us.’ After all, as one

of your articles points out, the UK and Iran have roughly the same population but disproportionate film

festival representation.

What it fails to mention is

that Iran’s history of selfexpression is far older than that of the UK... Thank

you for introducing us to the Iranian filmmaker Rafi Pitts without building a

context for his comments to reflect anything... And for the insightful reportage

of graffiti on the streets of Tehran. Are you really suggesting that these

cartoonish acts of rebellion represent young Iranians’ knowledge of the West

and its intricacies, and

constitute their greatest possible response to it? Thank you for reading.

governments and media tell

Sohail

West, know there must be a

allegations. Our first

us. We, the educated of the

020 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

These are weighty

Unmasked! Our attempts to of Iran’s millennia-old

culture have revealed us

to be nothing more than a

puppet of the Great Satan, perpetuating prejudice as part of the great

civilisational clash that we secretly hope to win. But no, it deserves

better than that, even if the suggestion that we

dedicated an entire issue

of the magazine to Iranian

cinema as a way of covertly undermining it seems a bit... conspiratorial. Indeed, you raise an

important question: to

what extent should a film

magazine bother itself with the world beyond cinema, and, if it must, what

kind of responsibilities does it have? We are, of

course, neither a political magazine nor an agent of social change. Our

mission isn’t to provide a

comprehensive deconstruction of Iranian art, culture

and society. How could we? What we can do, however, and will continue to do, is try to illuminate

placing it in a broader

perspective is, naturally, a personal, even idiosyncratic one, but it’s neither

disguised nor demeaning. Our contributors to the

Persepolis issue included Iranian-born critics and industry experts with

personal experience of the country and its filmmakers – the suggestion that

they were serving some

backhanded, pro-Western

agenda is untrue. Do you

have to agree with us? Hell no. Did we cover every

conceivable facet of modern Iran’s multi-sensible selfidentity? Of course not.

Do we think that graffiti

is the country’s greatest possible response to the

influence of the West? No, but along with rap music it was the one that

interested us. If suggesting that Iran is a country

of ‘qualities, talents, humanitarian ambitions

and liberal-mindedness’ is ‘empty praise’, then

we’re really not sure what the full-to-the-brim stuff should look like.


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CANON COMPETITION WINNERS Out of the ashes, bigger, better and hotter then ever, LWLies and Suso are proud to announce the return of our film club under its new guise, Film Knights! With a clear commitment to imagination, creativity and determination, Film Knights will celebrate the best in modern movie making from big name directors to hungry young guns. We got off to a great start on April 8 at Curzon Soho with a screening of Taxi to the Dark Side (reviewed on page 70), Alex Gibney’s riveting documentary about systemic prisoner abuse by the US in their War on Terror. The screening was accompanied by an introduction from Chloe Davies of Reprieve, an organisation that provides frontline investigation and legal representation to prisoners denied justice by governments across the world. It was an engaging and eye-opening event.

March saw the culmination of our competition to win a Canon high definition HV20 camcorder. All you had to do was make a short film telling us why you deserved to win, which led to some unlikely and creative entries. Congratulations to Michael Hayman, Matilda Tristram, Matthew Walsh, Bert Lucci and Ruud Van Empel.

Join us at Curzon Soho for the next Film Knight on May 6, and the one after that, also at Curzon Soho, on June 3. Check out www.littlewhitelies.co.uk/film-knights for info and to reserve your free tickets.

SUBSCRIBE AND WIN! LWLies is published six times a year, and then distributed around the country by environmentally friendly carrier pigeons. Subscribe, and you’ll get a year’s worth of copies delivered to your door for only £15. This issue, five new subscribers will each win a cord drill cap and utility belt, worth £50 of your English money, from the good people at Supreme Being (www.supremebeingclothing.co.uk). Either fill in the form below or subscribe online between May 1 and June 15 and you’ll be in the mix. Winners will be announced next issue. If you don’t fancy slicing up your mag, just sling the info below onto a piece of paper and pop it in the post with a cheque to ‘LWLies Subscriptions, Studio 209, Curtain House, 134-146 Curtain Road, London, EC2A 3AR’. Congratulations to our five winners from last issue: Joanna Bell from Kingston upon Thames, Jeremy Hunt from Pistone, David Penfold from Liverpool, Phoebe Morris-Colton from Lancaster and Linda Hawkins from Braunston.

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022 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

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024 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE


On the trail of Casey Affleck: star sibling, rising It Boy and missing person. Words by Jonathan Crocker

025


026 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE


Casey Affleck is gone. He should be

I’d work for cheap,” deadpans Affleck. “You know, I’m not sure.

talking to LWLies, but he’s gone. One hour passes. The film studio

Maybe he felt comfortable with me, maybe he kinda felt like it

can’t find him. Two hours pass. His publicist can’t find him. Three

was… You’d have to ask him.”

hours. “Um, we’re still looking for him,” says his assistant. “I think he’s out gallivanting…” Three days later: phone call. “Hello?” It’s Affleck. “I apologise,

Even Casey wasn’t sure he was right for the role. “But you know, I never fucking feel that way, man,” he admits. “I never think, ‘Yeah, I can do this. I’m perfect for this or this is perfect for me.’

man,” he explains in that instantly recognisable Boston accent.

I’ve never read a script where I’ve thought, ‘This is who I am.’ But

“Um, well, jeez, you know… I’ve been travelling – LA, New York, to

that’s good, because I don’t wanna be me in a movie.” Ben came

see family and stuff.” Not gallivanting? “They said that? Oh really?

to Casey with the script while he was shooting Jesse James. Casey

That’s nice of them! They’re supposed to cover for me.”

kept him waiting; wanted to finish Jesse James before deciding. Ben

“AAAAAAAAAAAHH!” A child suddenly starts screaming in

was happy to bide his time. “Up until that point, it had never even

the background. “That’s my son,” says Affleck. “It’s hard to find

crossed my mind because all the people he was considering were

a quiet corner at the moment.”

great actors but they were in their forties. So I was a bit surprised.

Indeed. Having ghosted around in Hollywood’s quietest

I also wanted to make sure he and I were really on the page about

corners for 13 years, Casey Affleck is now suddenly a wanted

what the movie was and who the character was. It’s his first movie

man. Crime thriller Gone Baby Gone is brother Ben’s remarkable

and I wanted to do really well for him. I didn’t wanna be fighting

directorial debut – a brooding, doomy, bristling triumph that’s

him all the time about how I thought it should be different.”

rescued a career seemingly slumped over the chopping block.

Thing is, that’s what brothers do. They fight. “We fought all

But it’s something else as well. Teasing proof of an unlikely notion:

the time,” agrees Affleck casually. “We fought all the damn time

that Casey Affleck might just be the most interesting and curious

but it was fantastic. It’s more than healthy – it’s necessary. The

young actor in Hollywood.

great thing about being Ben’s brother and him being my director,

What happened? This was the shy, narky kid who couldn’t

we could comfortably fight and it made the film better.” At one

afford his double-burger in Good Will Hunting. But here he is,

point in the movie, a child falls 50 feet into a lake. Casey wanted

captivating as Patrick Kenzie, a private investigator on the hunt

his character to jump in after. Ben said no. “So I fought for it, fought

for a four-year-old girl who’s vanished from the streets of Boston.

for it,” recalls Affleck. “And finally Ben said, ‘Okay, we’ll shoot it.’

Just as in his knockout turn in Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination

So we shot me jumping into this quarry. Fifty-foot drop. It was a

of Jesse James, Affleck’s brittle, reluctant mix of vulnerability and

big drop. It was scary. And the water was disgusting – car tyres and

surly cool makes for a compelling, unpredictable screen presence.

shoes and rocks. Ugh, it was so nasty.” But when the footage came

He holds the camera effortlessly against bigger, tastier alpha

out ruined, Casey had to return to the quarry, climb up and jump

males – sparking suddenly into startling bursts of four-letter

in all over again. In the editing room, his brother then cut the scene

confidence when pushed too hard.

from the movie. “I don’t know whether it was a cruel joke, but it

Still, it’s fair to say that only an older brother would have cast the baby-faced, mumbling Casey as Kenzie, whose investigation

certainly pissed me off.” So why did Ben want his brother for this role? A big part of it,

drags him into a moral swamp of kidnap, paedophilia, killing and

claims the director, was that Boston was their backyard. Making

horrific decisions. “I think that he cast me because… Um, he knew

Gone Baby Gone meant going home, back to the mean streets ▼

027


where they grew up. “Where we grew up looked a lot like the

the last 15 years.” How close are we talking? “I never came close,”

neighbourhood you see in the movie,” says Affleck. “I went to a

he says flatly, “because I’m absolutely terrible at auditioning. Even

big public high-school, 3,000 kids, and there was always a couple

people who’ve been to casting with me have said, ‘You know, you

of fights a day. But over the past 20 years or so it’s become really

did a really good job but you gave a horrible audition.’ I think that

gentrified. It’s nicer and it’s a lot more expensive.” It’s easy to point

auditioning has no bearing at all on how good an actor you are.

out that a similar thing has happened to Casey and Ben. The street

Standing in a casting office, reading lines off a piece of paper to

kids are now movie stars. Surely, it must have been strange going

someone’s assistant… You know what I mean?”

back to the old neighbourhood? “It was a weird nostalgia all the

Ask Affleck to name a couple of those painful near-misses

time,” says Affleck. “Every street corner has some memory. And

and, well, it just doesn’t work. “Uh… You know, I had, um… Mmm…

not all of them are good but it still feels like home. It was a pretty

I… Uh… I really wanted to work on… Sorry, man, I… Er…” He laughs

tough place, but our mother kept a good watch over us and we

nervously, another long pause, thinking, whispering. “Ohshitohshit…”

didn’t get into too much trouble.”

Nearly a minute passes, before: “Um… Oh no, I can’t, I can’t really.

Is that a fact? “Uh, a little bit of trouble! Ben walked the

I can’t. I can’t.” He pauses again for a split-second. “But believe me

straight and narrow a little more than I did. I was more into kicking

when I say, you know, if I wasn’t working on them, it wasn’t because

around, playing baseball, throwing rocks and just running around

I was being too picky.”

the streets and stuff,” says Affleck. “It turned out that I wasn’t going to make it as a professional baseball player and I got into theatre.” Separated by just three years, the brothers have taken

The idea that Casey has finally emerged from his brother’s shadow is one that grates on the 33-year-old. Gone Baby Gone is movie number 22. He has a wife and a child, and had them before

startlingly different paths to this meeting on either side of the

his older sibling came close to starting his own family. Being

camera. Before the machine chewed him up and spat him out,

‘Ben’s Little Brother’ was never a factor. “You know, the only people

Ben was being groomed by Hollywood as the Next Big Thing,

who referred to me that way were journalists. Well, no offense,

scoring headline roles in ‘Baybusters’ like Armageddon and Pearl

but I really didn’t care. It never really affected my life in a way

Harbor. Casey, meanwhile, was harder to find. A small role in a big

that was meaningful. If you’re going to be bothered by the things

film here (To Die For, American Pie, the Ocean’s trilogy), a bigger

people say about you, then you’ll be fucked forever. I’ve been

role in a small film there (Soul Survivors, Gerry, Lonesome Jim).

around people who’ve experienced the full spectrum of success –

“I’m just not one of those people that excites the public to that

from not working at all, to being a superstar immediately. It has

point,” says Affleck. “But I never really chose this path because

no real meaning whatsoever.”

I thought these movies would do well at the box office. And that’s

One of those people, of course, has been his brother, who

probably why I’ve been in very few of them. The Ocean’s movie,

seemingly punched the self-destruct button on his blockbusting

I just thought that was fun. A lot of talented people worked on

career with a succession of box-office duds that hit its apex with

those movies, but I didn’t do it to get more exposure.”

Gigli, his disastrous duet with then-girlfriend J-Lo. “Uh… well…”

But are there any big roles in big movies that he’s wanted

Affleck pauses again when asked what he thinks about it. “I don’t

and missed out on? “Oh, you know… All of them,” he says, with

know if I ever saw it.” You know what? Us neither. “Well, there you go.”

a sigh. “I mean, name all the good movies that have come out in

Suddenly, it’s easy to see why Affleck prefers the quiet corners 

028 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE


029


030 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE


after 39 years and 43 rOles, the WOrld has finally CaUght Up With amy ryan. Words by heather MCCaLden

Why is it so difficult to conjure a picture of

also Officer Beatrice ‘Beadie’ Russell on the television show

Amy Ryan? It’s not like she isn’t famous – she’s clocked up as

The Wire. This is because Amy Ryan is a chameleon, an after-

many red carpet miles as the next award season nominee. And it’s

image. When her disparate characters leave the stage or screen,

not like she doesn’t work – at only 39-years-old she’s already scored

they disappear without a trace.

40-plus credits as an actress. In conversation her most distinctive

How does she accomplish this vanishing act? “I lean

trait is a slight New York register. But even that small touch of

heavily on the writing,” is her own explanation, but it’s more

personality is something of a shock, especially when you’ve seen

than that. Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard’s adaptation of Gone

her as Helene McCready in Gone Baby Gone, and you’re half

Baby Gone doesn’t have a word out of place, but much of Ryan’s

expecting a gruff Bostonian accent to slam into your ear.

role lies in what’s absent from the page. A character like Helene

If you know her as Marie Dewey, the star-struck housewife

only works if the actor can discern the deeper topography within

in Capote, you may not recognise her in Gone Baby Gone; and

the text and base their performance on this terrain rather than

similarly, if you’ve seen her on Broadway reciting Chekhovian

on the surface. It sounds elementary, but like most elementary

monologues it may take you a moment to catch on that she was

things it is easier said than done – let alone done well. After ▼

031


seeing an influx of actresses deliver one-dimensional readings

Ryan graduated from La Guardia, New York’s high school for

of the role, Affleck began resigning himself to the prospect of

music and art, and has been a working actor ever since, never

hiring a local to play the part, thinking a Boston native would

requiring a ‘day job’. Success found her on stage with two Tony

have a deeper understanding of the character. But then Amy Ryan

nominations for A Streetcar Named Desire and Uncle Vanya, and her

walked in. At the end of her audition Affleck asked what part of

career morphed into television and film from there. She’s sensitive

Boston she was from. “I’m from Queens,” she replied. He hired

to the differences of both arenas: “In theatre you get to try [a scene]

her on the spot.

a thousand ways in rehearsal,” while being on screen, “requires a

Ryan describes her work with Affleck as, “a true, true

different set of muscles – thinking more on your feet. You’ve got to

collaboration.” Throughout shooting they maintained a running

go with your gut.” In Gone Baby Gone it’s clear she’s shooting from

dialogue on the complexities of her character, “to ensure the

the hip, and while it’s a risky place to fire from it’s what gives the

audience got more than one aspect of Helene.” And it shows.

role an explosive quality that’s not easily forgotten. When questioned

When we are first introduced to the character she’s repulsive. As

on which medium she favours she says, “I prefer telling stories in a

she sits on the couch, staring vacantly at the television with a beer

shorter amount of time that reaches a large audience – which is film,

in hand, we search her face for any sign of fear or grief for her

but it’s foolish to compare the two because they require different

missing child. All we see is a deadbeat mom. Then out of nowhere

things. Film is so new to me. I’ve got so much more to learn, and it’s

she says something witty, something cleverly sarcastic that cuts

such a wild, wild thing.”

through the mayhem around her, and we momentarily forget how

However, for all its irreverence, film hasn’t altered her process

we’ve labelled this person because we’re agreeing with her. More

as an actor. She still uses “common sense” to decode her characters,

so, we’re laughing. Says Ryan: “Ben was the rulebook on the

and integrity to inhabit them. In fact, she says, inadvertently taking

character” – she trusted his barometer “completely”, knowing he

to task one of the central themes of Gone Baby Gone, “The truth sets

would tell her when to reel it in and when to let go.

you free.” More than that, she continues, “If you start working and

Ryan looked at Helene like a stray dog. “She just bites when

you get a stomach ache and your back starts to hurt, if those things

she sees a hand coming towards her. She doesn’t think the hand

start to happen you know something’s wrong, the body doesn’t lie.”

could want to pet or scratch her. She’s got a thick skin and an ego

In other words, regardless of the medium, Ryan is searching for

matched with self-loathing. She’s her own worst enemy.”

honesty, and is sharp enough to know when she’s on the wrong track.

Asked, inevitably, what she thinks of the film’s morally

It’s that search that takes precedence over the fame and the

ambivalent ending she replies, “Either answer is not the answer.”

awards and the rewards of celebrity. And it’s that search that keeps

While at first this seems like a non-answer, perhaps it’s a succinct

her hidden. That’s why it’s so hard to answer the question: who is

comment on a twist of fate that doesn’t offer anybody an easy

Amy Ryan? On her first day of shooting Gone Baby Gone, Ryan, in

way out. Her frankness is yet more evidence that she’s a born

costume, took a quick stroll around the neighbourhood to absorb

and bred New Yorker, and it’s the city, too, that exposed her to

the atmosphere. When she returned, the cops wouldn’t let her pass

acting. Her parents would take her into Manhattan to see theatre

through the barricades closing off the set to the public. They mistook

as often as possible and Amy was “sucked straight in from the

her for a passerby. It took a producer to come and identify her before

beginning.” The notion of making people laugh, in particular,

the police believed she was actually part of the cast.

appealed, although that early interest is “quite different than what I do now,” she chuckles, “now I’m the only one laughing.”

032 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

She says her next big challenge will be, “Doing comedy wearing a dress.” Picture that, if you can 


034 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE


The private investigator is one of cinemaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most enduring archetypes, but how does the movie incarnation match up against the real thing? We decided to investigate the public face of the private eye. Words by NEON KELLY illustrations by The church of london

035


hollywood’s depicTion of privaTe deTecTives shares much in common wiTh ThaT oTher sTaple of noir cinema, The femme faTale: boTh are alluring, buT disTincTly unreliable when iT’s Time To sTarT dealing wiTh The raw, unfilTered TruTh.

Chicago native Anthony Pellicano is a living example of what happens when people fall in love with cinema’s fairytales. For over 20 years, he styled himself as ‘the PI to the stars’, making bad news disappear for fees of $25,000 and up. His clients included Tom Cruise, Sly Stallone and Michael Jackson, but underneath the sheen he was utterly corrupt. Right now, Pellicano is standing trial in LA on 110 criminal charges from wire-tapping and identity theft to tampering with witnesses. If convicted, he’s likely to spend the next two decades in jail. And if Pellicano’s antics

036 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

sound like the work of fiction, that was precisely the man’s problem: he loved the PI dream so much that he wanted it to be real. He saw himself as a hardboiled anti-hero. Big mistake. America’s love affair with gumshoe mythology began in the 1920s with the arrival of Black Mask – a pulp fiction magazine that would go on to influence an entire generation of crime writers. Mask offered a broad range of flavours within its flimsy pages, but its greatest legacy was the detective story – giving a platform to pioneering authors like Carroll John Daly, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. While Agatha Christie and her British peers were refining the art of the cozy whodunit, US scribes explored far darker territory. Their heroes were men like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, whose rebellious cynicism and capacity for violence – illuminated in the kind of terse, no-nonsense prose that reflected their authors’ hard-lived lives – laid waste to the era of the gentleman detective. The adventures of these larger-thanlife characters anticipated the nascent comic book industry, offering subversive escapism in easily swallowed portions. These graphic tales were a perfect fit

for Hollywood, once they’d been trimmed to fit the Hays Code – the censorship guidelines that policed the industry between 1930 and 1968. But these constraints also worked in the genre’s favour, forcing filmmakers to rely on subtle (or not so subtle) innuendo rather than explicit content, flirting dangerously with the rules that bound them. Movies like The Big Sleep and Key Largo didn’t need sex to be sexy – they had stars like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, smoking in darkened rooms, fucking with words and smouldering eyes. The public’s perception of the private detective will always be tied to Hollywood’s black-and-white rebels, just as Clint Eastwood and John Wayne will forever represent the Old West. But while there’s no harm in these nostalgic images, they ensure that the true nature of private investigation remains a mystery to most of us. Furthermore, Hollywood’s longstanding dominance of world cinema has caused the Spade/Marlowe stereotype to spread far beyond America’s borders. But in the UK, where there are an estimated 100,000 private investigators, you’ll never see a film or TV show that comes close to reflecting


the day-to-day reality of the job. There are several reasons for this, argues Stephen Anderson, director of First Response Investigations, including the simple fact that the nature of detective work differs enormously on this side of the Atlantic. “A private investigator in America is a licensed operator,” he explains. “In many states he’ll carry a gun, and probably a pair of handcuffs. He has the right to question people about a crime, to arrest people. He doesn’t have full police powers, but he has some of them. Whereas in the UK, a private investigator doesn’t have any more rights than you, me or my granny. It’s a completely different kind of job.” By Anderson’s own admission, the working life of UK detectives is far less screen-friendly. Where American operators exist in a grey area between the cops and the public, Britain’s PIs are essentially civilians for hire, bereft of the powers and supporting networks that aid the police. Instead, private detection agencies rely on their own resourcefulness, often employing the services of many specialist workers to accomplish their goals. Anderson’s own agency employs

a team of 17 full- and part-time investigators, plus a further 25 staff who work on a sub-contract basis. These might include detectives with specific language skills, or perhaps those who are familiar with territories far from First Response’s London base. At any one time, Anderson might be running up to 20 jobs, from tracing missing persons – a bargain at £250 – to highly lucrative corporate work, involving multi-million sums. Roughly a third of his contracts comprise matrimonial work, from investigating suspected affairs to digging up the assets of tight-fisted divorcees. It all sounds a far cry from the booze and bullets of Marlow and co., and for the most part it is. Though the threat of violence isn’t totally unknown – Anderson himself was once attacked with a kitchen knife – for the most part such risks are avoided by keeping a low profile. “We do our best to protect our own identity,” says Anderson. “Very often I don’t give clients my real name, and I’d certainly never tell someone where I live. It’s obvious really – even with simple matrimonial work, you might have an angry husband who stands to lose tens or hundreds of thousands of

pounds as a result of my investigation. You do better to remain anonymous.” Anderson believes that the truth behind the UK’s private detectives is too mundane to be stuck up on our cinema and TV screens. Perhaps he’s right, but one could equally argue that day-to-day blandness is what we Brits do best: our weekday TV schedules are jam-packed with murder mysteries, yet the actual act of killing is frequently watered down to nothing, a triviality to be consumed with tea and biscuits. The villains of Lewis and Midsomer Murders will happily poison and bludgeon each other – but swearing is a definite no-no. Granted, there are now plenty of shows like In Cold Blood and Rebus that are more than happy to spill guts after the watershed, but one can’t help but feel that Britain’s mysteries will forever be rooted in the polite drawing rooms of Agatha Christie, or Sherlock Holmes’ trusty pipe. This, surely, is the very reason that America’s fictional PIs remain so alluring. They represent figures from a romanticised history – a past that never really existed, but one we want to believe in, just the same. Anthony Pellicano would no doubt agree 

037


038 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE


Words by Matt Bochenski ILLUSTRATIONS BY THE CHURCH OF LONDON

As Hollywood’s long-term love affair with the crime novel shows no signs of slowing, we ask writers Harlan Coben and Bob Crais how it feels to see their work used and abused on the big screen.

Hollywood has always had a hard-on for crime writers. In the early days, America stared rapt at its ugly reflection in the pages of this dark new genre. Behind the cigarette smoke and whisky fumes lurked modern anxieties about Prohibition, gangsterism, union busting – maybe the collapse of civilisation itself. In the ink-stained imagination of the crime novelist, any fate seemed possible. WR Burnett’s Little Caesar was adapted for the screen in 1931, and it wasn’t long before Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novels and Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade were also snapped up by Hollywood. Chandler worked with Hitchcock and Billy Wilder, but his output pales in comparison to the British crime writer Agatha Christie, whose 100-plus adaptations make her the doyenne of the genre. And as Dennis Lehane’s Gone Baby Gone – one of the most celebrated crime novels of the last decade – attests, this long-term love affair shows no signs of slowing. For Bob Crais, a writer on cop shows from Hill Street Blues to Cagney & Lacey, and author of Hostage, which was adapted for the

big screen in 2005, the reason that Hollywood is drawn to the genre is simple: “Crime pictures are relatively cheap to make,” he explains, “but at the same time they’re very pure in that they distil life down to its primal elements: good and evil. There’s a subtext of conflict and threat, which are the absolute basics of dramatic filmmaking.” Harlan Coben, the author of Tell No One, adapted by Guillaume Canet in 2006, agrees: “All fiction is about man travelling down the road of life and overcoming obstacles along the way. Serious crime is about as big an obstacle as you can put in front of somebody – it’s shocking, and watching a character overcome that is compelling.” The first flush of crime films saw the heyday of the hardboiled PI, when Humphrey Bogart ruled the screen with his dirty raincoat and dirtier mouth. But even then, it was a century old archetype, going all the way back to Edgar Allen Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue, published exactly 100 years before The Maltese Falcon hit cinema screens, in 1841. Poe prefigured almost all the clichés of the genre, from the sidekick to the bumbling cops – even the word ‘detective’ ▼ 039


itself. But though his influence is still felt, writers like Crais and Coben have a new perspective. The private eyes they write about today – Crais’ Vietnam vet Elvis Cole, and Coben’s former basketball star Myron Bolitar – are very different from a Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. “These are not guys who are good with their fists,” explains Coben, “they’re not particularly strong or tough, they’re more the Hitchcockian ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances.” Does this mean that crime fiction, and by implication crime films, have gone soft? It’s hard to imagine Patrick Kenzie giving Angie a slap if she got out of line, which is how Bogey would have handled her back in the day. Not so, says Coben – it’s not the stories that got soft, it’s audiences who got smart: “We no longer accept the days where a character doesn’t age or change and what happens in one story has no effect on what happens now,” he explains. That’s changed the rules for writers, who have to be more aware of the bigger picture. “As my character, Myron, for instance, ages and changes, how many catharses can he go through before he’s unrealistic or just not interesting to write about?” he asks. As a greater psychological realism takes hold of crime fiction, how does this affect its relationship with cinema? The truth is, as Hollywood feeds off the crime novel, so the crime novel reflects Hollywood back 040 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

at itself. In true post-modern style, the genre has become ever more cinematic and self-reflexive. These days, everybody watches movies, even fictional PIs, but as some crime novels read ever more like screenplay pitches, you can’t help but wonder if there are authors out there writing with one eye already on the movie rights. For Coben, who denies ever approaching a novel with an adaptation in mind, this is just an inevitable consequence of film’s ubiquity. “I didn’t grow up reading Proust and Yeats,” he argues, “I grew up watching Oscar & Felix and Batman – I grew up with cinematic references.” The first generation of writers set the tone for crime cinema; they had to because there was no crime cinema before them. But now the balance of power has shifted and cinema sets the tone for the writers. While Crais is more cautious about some novelists’ intentions (“I guess some people do [think about the movie rights] when they conceive their books”) he echoes Coben’s thoughts: “I’m a visual writer,” he says, “I grew up on the back end of a drive-in in Louisiana, so my entire childhood was spent sneaking into the theatre. I’ve never been about trying to sell the film rights; that’s just the way I think. That’s just the way my books came to be.” And besides, Hollywood may have a hard-on for crime fiction, but what that really means is that it likes to bend over its writers and shaft


them. Crais spent 10 years in Hollywood working television scripts, learning about character, dialogue, how to handle multiple plot lines and keep things tight. But eventually it drove him crazy. “The process of TV pretty much eliminates self-expression,” he says. “That propelled me towards writing books, so that no one could sit on my shoulder and tell me to put in a talking cat.” He took the experiences he’d had in the LA County Medical Examiner’s Office doing research for Quincy ME (“I pretty much saw the human body killed in every conceivable way”) – and a family history that included four generations of police – and poured it into his novels. It took a while, but when success arrived so did the suits. He sold them Hostage for Bruce Willis, hoping to see his vision of a claustrophobic thriller hit the screen. He ended up with helicopters, CGI mountains and SWAT guys rappelling down cliffs – “The powers that be wanted to make it a John McClane film,” he says, through gritted teeth. But he’d go back: “I would sell film rights to my books again,” he agrees, “but I would try to gain some greater measure of control. Maybe it’s a fool’s errand but that’s the typical writer’s fantasy.” While Coben had a different experience on Tell No One (it was adapted in France: “a delight from beginning to end”) that doesn’t make him any less sceptical about Hollywood. Despite a couple of

big screen offers, the nearest he’ll go is TV, where Myron Bolitar is getting a pilot with Fox. “Every Hollywood writer I know dreams of being able to make a living writing novels so I have no interest in going back,” he explains. “As a novelist, your report card says ‘Does not play well with others’. When you’re involved with Hollywood you have to play with a lot of people.” It’s an admirable stand, but the truth is Hollywood probably won’t miss him. Right now, the studios have never had it so good. “There’s never been a time in history when there have been so many good crime writers working at the top of their game all at the same time,” says Coben, naming Ian Rankin, Laura Lippman, David Baldacci, Val McDermid and Alexander McCall Smith among others, most of whom have, like himself, so far embraced television rather than movies. Perhaps this, finally, is what really attracts Hollywood to the crime genre’s gene pool. “It’s where your better writers are telling stories,” suggests Coben. “You’re not navel gazing, you’re not getting lost in the beauty of your own genius. You’re just telling the story.” n Hold Tight by Harlan Coben is out now in hardback, published by Orion, £18.99. Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais is out on July 8 in hardback, published by Orion, £9.99.

041


If you want to find the next generation of crime writers, look North. Words by Jonas Milk

042 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

Karin Alvtegen, Åke Edwardson, Karin Fossum, EvaMarie Liffner, Jo Nesbø, Pernille Rygg… Scan the shelves of new crime fiction in any bookstore and you’ll notice that Norwegian and Swedish names dominate. According to Maxim Jakubowksi, writer and owner of London’s Murder One bookshop, the burgeoning popularity of translated crime fiction from Scandinavia is entirely due to one man: Henning Mankell, creator of the irascible, alcoholic inspector, Kurt Wallander. “Since Mankell, publishers have been buying everything from the region virtually sight unseen,” says Jakubowski. “Since Georges Simenon, crime in translation didn’t sell that well, but after [Swedish publisher] Harvill [Secker] was bought by Random House, they were able to put some marketing money behind Mankell.” The rest is history in the making. Scandinavians are particularly devoted readers – Norwegians, whose books aren’t taxed, are said to spend more on the printed word than any other nation in the world. But why should they show a predilection for detective novels? Says Jakubowksi: “Readers relate to them more because of the northern temperament.” This has meant a fertile wellspring for international publishers looking for new talent. With its expertise in translated fiction, Harvill Secker leads the pack, introducing English-language readers to the formidable talents of Nesbø, Liffner and Karin Fossum, whose novels, from Don’t Look Back (2002) to Broken – out in June – have grown in literary stature to the point where it almost feels as if the detecting has been left to one side. All three are Norwegian. Their books are marked by a distinct atmosphere, often a grimy underworld, sometimesseedy family backgrounds, and are usually led by a police detective, rather than, say, a private eye. They also tend to be strong on character, which means they have a greater proportion of female readers than traditionally expected, making them even more attractive to publishers. These publishers, and the authors themselves, are keen to stress the differences between Scandinavian writers, however. As Swede Håkan Nesser, creator of Inspector Van Veeteren, writes: “In no way is there such thing as a Swedish way of writing a crime story.” Of course, as soon as you have a trend you need to find some new angle. Harvill Secker has gone a little further afield: to Iceland for the redoubtable Arnaldur Indridason’s Reykjavík Murder Mysteries, and to Finland for author Kjell Westö, whose Lang is very highly recommended. There seems to be no shortage of good mystery writers around the Arctic Circle, which goes to show, it really is grim up north n


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You only have to glance through a crime novel to know that everybody’s dirty. This issue, we were determined to find out the sordid secrets of our interviewees, and expose their criminal pasts. Some of them kept shtum, others sang like canaries…

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044 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

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up t got beaten arrested bu lice with clubs er ev n as w I s of chased by po once. I was uns along with hundredors. st g te n o u pr and st a of other war thousands ight I spent in jail wasado n rn o -t r ea The only n a ere was t to favour, as thd the cops didn’t wan ad. ro an e in th g n in go com t me croakin locked. worry abou the cell un to r o o d e th ft le ey Th

I’ve had trou arrested for ble in my life. I was a few days not serious. I was held be but it was accused me of ca insulting theuse they police.

once – ding ticket I got a spee 40mph in a 30-zone. I was goingchase. I went quietly! o er Th e was n

Myself and a sound recordist went into Rhodesia du rin g the war, ostensibly doing a when we were reall ‘travel film’ y shooting for the ANC. It was a reall to think we could ge y stupid idea We got arrested an t away with it. d chucked out of the country.

I was in jail for a short time, years ago. I had hashish in my pocket and the police caught me with their dogs. I spent three days in jail. It wasn’t terrible. I was in college at the time, and the police in the jail were a lot more gentle than my teachers.

045


The Koestler Trust is using art to make a difference among Britainâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s prison population. Words by ANDREA KURLAND

Cell Life Anon (HMP Parc, Wales)

046 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE


Art, they say, can broaden one’s horizons. That’s all well and

LWLies: You’ve won the respect of playwrights and art collectors

good if you’re a trust fund baby sampling canapés at the Louvre,

alike. What impact has that recognition had on your life?

but what if you’re a criminal, stuck between four stone walls

Stalham: It’s quite indescribable. But if someone gives me

where horizons, possibility and hope are in short supply? Would

that and I can turn it into a message for others, it’s great. I’m

you really believe art could change your life?

a living example that you can turn your life around through art.

Dean Stalham didn’t – until it did just that. Thanks to prison

It’s not just a punt, it’s actually happened to me. I was on the

arts charity the Koestler Trust, the 44-year-old ex-con now goes

wrong road and probably had no intention of changing until art

by the titles ‘playwright’ and ‘artist’. After being sentenced to

came into my life.

three-and-a-half years for handling stolen goods – £600,000 worth of contemporary art, to be precise – life for Dean took an

LWLies: How does the creative process actually help you

ironic twist when he was invited to watch a play in the education

deal with negative thoughts while in prison?

centre of HMP Wandsworth staged by writer Simon Stephens in

Stalham: It fills your mind with colour. When you start to get

conjunction with the Koestler Trust. Encouraging art and creative

that creative process going, your mind fills with loads of ideas

writing, Koestler helps offenders showcase and develop their work

and your imagination starts running riot. It takes you out of

through awards, exhibitions and mentoring schemes.

yourself. To wake up with a fresh idea and then put it into

Dean approached Stephens, who urged the untrained talent

practice, it fills your time so positively – you can’t wait to get

to enter the Koestler Awards. His debut writing effort not only

out and continue. I remember calling a meeting with my family

won, but was later put on stage. Inspired, Dean turned his hand

saying, ‘This is what I’m doing when I get out, and I’m gonna

to painting, entering work for an exhibition put on by Koestler.

go for it.’ They were behind me 100 per cent.

When a Mickey Mouse lino print sold for £250, he knew his days of fencing were over. “I hadn’t realised I could write or paint,”

LWLies: Do you believe in art as therapy?

says the straight-talking southerner. “But after all that positive

Stalham: I don’t think you can treat art as a blanket form of

feedback, I just continued and haven’t stopped since.”

therapy for everyone. It’s therapeutic to the individual, but to

Now Arts Assistant at the Trust, he’s helping others to

teach ‘art therapy’ in place of ‘art class’ is a mistake – it’s trying

discover their talents. He writes every day, has four successful

to cover up something. In the art class you want to be treated as

plays to his name and has never had a production turned down.

an individual because it’s individual expression. Still, the quietest

How’s that for broader horizons?

room in the prison is the art class.

LWLies: Could you have ever imagined how life would change

LWLies: How does Koestler help prisoners after they’re

for you?

released?

Stalham: I have to be a believer in ‘everything happens for

Stalham: We just started a mentoring scheme this year. We’re

a reason’. I’m in the happiest space I’ve ever been in, and I

going to find talented artists in prison and take them through

wouldn’t be here had it not been for going to prison. If I hadn’t

10 mentoring sessions with a professional artist in the first

been there, I wouldn’t be here now and that’s a fact.

year of their release. They’ll be introduced to further education, galleries, and exhibitions – small steps right now, but if it’s a

LWLies: Tell us a bit about the Koestler Trust.

success it will get bigger.

Stalham: We send people to talk in prisons about the importance of taking part in something, irrelevant of whether you win or

LWLies: Do you have hope that art can open doors for a lot of

not. It’s about creating something and sending it off – making

people? People who may otherwise be lost on a different path?

that first step. Sometimes a guy can pick up a pen and bit of

Stalham: I have lots of hope for a lot of people. But even if it

paper and it’s the scariest thing in the world; until he puts pen

just saves one, it’s enough. I can say it happened for me, so

to paper and realises he’s creating art. Last year we held our

there’s no reason why it can’t happen for you

n

exhibition at the ICA. Obviously the artists can’t come along, so they send their families. They’re just in awe that their son or daughter’s work is on a wall and being appreciated for what it is – which is expression beyond prison walls. Koestler is a statement

From June 3, the Union Theatre in Southwark will stage six short plays written by ex-offenders, including Dean Stalham, as well as entrants to this year’s Koestler Awards. Dean has also had a short play chosen for The Camden Fringe festival, July 28 – August 24.

that you can’t imprison creativity and self-expression. It’s a way for it to fly over the walls, travel and communicate.

www.koestlertrust.org.uk

047


Farmers at Rest Garvey Thompson (HMP Risley)

Poetic Figures Group Entry (North Allerton YOI)

048 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

Cyclops Pimp Dean Stalham (HMP Wandsworth)


Chopper JP Moran (HMP Maghaberry, NI)

Tribal Men and Women Kola (HMP Risley)

049


D3-11 P. Elliot (HMP Liverpool)

Grey Eagle Buzzard Garvey Thompson (HMP Risley)

050 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE


The Lodge of Taste Howard Patience (HMP Buckley Hall)

Amy Scarfs Dean Stalham and Peter Cameron (HMP Wandsworth)

Traffic Garvey Thompson (HMP Risley)

Untitled Garvey Thompson (HMP Risley)

051


052 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE


In a town that feeds on authenticity, it doesn’t get any more down, dirty and undeniably real than Danny Trejo. He talks exclusively to LWLies.

Words

by

Anton

Bitel

For every Ghosts… of the Civil Dead, there are hundreds of Reform School Girls, and for every Animal Factory, there’s a Sly or Van Damme just itching to do hard time behind bars. Which is to say that there was a point in the crime genre’s history when the value of entertainment won out over realism, with the result that revisiting these movies often feels like its own unique brand of punishment. But modern crime films have redressed the balance. Michael Mann and David Fincher have brought their precise, procedural visions to the big screen, while The Wire has reinvented cop shows on the small. Authenticity is now the name of the game – that elusive frisson of danger that allows both filmmaker and audience to flirt with the illusion of reality. ▼

053


“i kinda got smart. game. if you take th against the time i s it’s not a good hou And if there’s one actor whose presence alone is guaranteed to give any film a healthy dose of reality, it’s Danny Trejo. Unlike so many of his peers, Trejo is unquestionably the real deal; capitalising on a genuine criminal past to find his niche in Hollywood. And we’re not talking about a couple of parking tickets. First arrested at 13 for assault, Trejo spent much of his adolescence in juvenile halls (which he remembers as “an adventure”), before graduating to some 11 years in various California penitentiaries (“the worst prisons in the world”) for drug offenses and armed robbery. In 1969, he put the penal system behind him after finding religion and overcoming his drug addiction. “I kinda got smart,” he says today. “It’s a losing game. I don’t care how much money I made, if you take the money I made against the time I spent in prison, it’s not a good hourly wage.” On the outside, he became a drugs counsellor, and after supporting a client on the set ofRunaway Train in 1985, a long career in acting was accidentally launched. Trejo isn’t the only guy to graduate from prison cell to movie set. Mark Wahlberg did time as a teenager, although it was short lived compared to Trejo’s decade-plus stretch. He recently recalled that “waking up in jail and not having my freedom anymore was enough to open my eyes,” and the same was true for the likes of Tony Sirico (Paulie Gaultieri in The Sopranos) – a stick up merchant in the ’60s and ’70s – or Charles Dutton (Honeydripper), who served time for killing a man in a street fight only to develop a passion for theatre while on the inside. Unlike Robert Downey Jr, Paris Hilton or any of the other ‘celebs’ who serve a short stretch in the glare 054 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

of international spotlights, these are the guys for whom prison came first – before fame gave them the means to get out of trouble, when there were no guarantees that they’d make it anywhere, let alone up the greasy pole of the film business. But even among fellow ex-cons, Trejo has always carried himself differently. In cinema, looks count, and his distinctive features – those black eyes and scars that speak of experiences you don’t ever want to have – make him a man apart. This is a look acquired in streets and cells, not in some make-up trailer, and maybe that’s why he complains that so many prison films get it wrong in one key respect: “I’ve never seen prettier inmates in my life,” he says. “Your typical Hollywood actor doesn’t really fit a prison or crime drama – you end up with somebody that looks like George Clooney.” In contrast to Out of Sight, Steve Buscemi’s 2000 effort Animal Factory – starring Trejo himself and based on Eddie Bunker’s 1977 novel – is judged, along with Taylor Hackford’s Blood In Blood Out (1993) – in which Trejo also appeared – to be a film that truly “shows the way prison life is”. Bunker and Trejo were kindred spirits, a sharp intake of breath for an industry otherwise choking on its own artifice, and it was their connection that got Trejo up-and-running in the business. Bunker, who had previously served time with Trejo in San Quentin, effectively secured him that first gig on Runaway Train. “Eddie knew I used to box – I was lightweight and welterweight champion of every institution I was in,” Trejo reveals, “so he offered me a job training Eric Roberts.” Like Trejo, Bunker had been a career criminal, assaulting, forging, robbing and extorting his way into some 18 years


it’s a losing e money i made pent in prison, rly wage.” of jail time. In 1951 he became the youngest person ever sent to San Quentin, and he would later find his way onto the FBI’s ‘Ten Most Wanted’ list. In 1975, Bunker left prison for a career in writing and acting, cementing his reputation as Mr Blue, one of a new breed of anti-heroes in Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 debut Reservoir Dogs. Trejo’s big break led to a decade’s worth of generic roles in largely forgotten B-movies. “I was a glorified extra,” he says of this period, “I was ‘Inmate #1’ for years.” But he remains sanguine about being used to lend authenticity to otherwise inauthentic flicks. “I don’t object because typecast people seem to work,” he says. “This business is about working.” And bit-by-bit he snaked his way up the credits. If Trejo had so far been a memorable face in otherwise forgettable films, 1995 was his breakout year, playing ‘Trejo’ in Michael Mann’s Heat. It is the film of which Trejo is most proud, “just because of its cast,” he says. But far from his own career benefiting from this new found association with the A-list, it was the likes of De Niro, Pacino and Kilmer who had their credibility enhanced, not just by having Trejo appear next to them, but also because he and Bunker served as the film’s armed robbery consultants. Perhaps for the first time, a film’s realism was drawn as much from Trejo’s background experience as his distinctive looks. The result was, as Trejo asserts, “a damn good movie.” And yet it’s not just ex-cons that crime aficionados have turned to in the quest for authenticity. If Danny Trejo is the yin, then someone like Dennis Farina is his yang; an ex-cop who comes at the crime genre from the other side of the

fence. Farina served 20 years on the Chicago PD, working a special detail that took down big-time burglars and jewel thieves. And just as Trejo got his big break through an old partner in crime, so Farina was introduced to Michael Mann in the early ’80s by a cop buddy acting as a technical consultant on Mann’s 1981 feature debut, Thief. Farina landed a small role, and his career snowballed from there, although, ironically, that’s as much down to playing mob guys as cops. Like Trejo, however, he’s had to learn that sometimes, no matter who you are, no amount of personal integrity can save the movie business from its own bullshit: “Michael Mann taught me, ‘Just remember one thing – you’re in the entertainment business. You’re not in the reality business. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other,’” he once said. The movies also have a selective memory. Where many films have exploited Trejo’s criminal past, few acknowledge the reality of his recovery and rehabilitation. A notable exception was 2006’s SherryBaby, in which he plays drugs counsellor and fellow ex-con Dean Walker to Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Sherry. Trejo considers it “one of my best works”, so why doesn’t he do more films like this? “I’d love to – the only thing is, it’s just the American public,” he suggests. Apparently they – we – are so fixated with his past crimes that we regard his reform as a reality too far, or perhaps too dull. Trejo himself agrees: “I love prison movies, but I’m with the body count – I’m not a real enthusiast for the drama.” He may have got out 40 years ago, but on the big screen we can expect Trejo to remain stuck in the pen and in the past. How else will he give flesh to our vicarious fascination with crime – real and imagined? 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 GONE BABY GONE ISSUE


IN SEARCH OF A MIDNIGHT KISS

It only hits you halfway through the movie, but when it does it’s with a wallop. Up until that point, In Search of a Midnight Kiss has been a hipster rom-com, a low budget black-and-white date movie that’s part Linklater and part Kevin Smith, and set entirely in Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve. Here, grungy indiekid protagonist Wilson (Scoot McNairy) is bemoaning his single status and fretting about the night’s upcoming blind date with kooky wannabe starlet Vivian (Sara Simmonds). And yet, for their date they choose not movies, not food or dancing, but a lazy wander around the semi-deserted environs of downtown LA. Here they talk, flirt and fight as they drift through the old theatre district, past the famous Wells Fargo Tower and the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange, both

DIRECTED BY Alex Holdridge STARRING Scoot McNairy, Sara Simmonds, Brian McGuire

eerily empty, both oddly atmospheric. The date peaks with a covert trip inside the ancient Orpheum Theatre (site of Judy Garland’s early stage turns), where the couple wax lyrical about the unused sites and unexplored legacy of LA. And then, suddenly, it hits you – this is not a movie about romance or introspective twenty-something angst. It is, instead, a revolutionary love letter to Los Angeles, and to the primal allure that the city holds over her residents. Anyone who’s seen Thom Andersen’s epic 2003 documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself, will know that, unlike New York, LA has been much maligned on screen in the past. It is used as a non-specific background for movie action (it hardly matters that Die Hard or

RELEASED June 13

Speed take place in LA – any city with, respectively, skyscrapers or a freeway would do). Or it is misrepresented as a locus of crime (from Double Indemnity to Pulp Fiction), or ethnic violence (Boyz in the Hood, Training Day), or entertainment industry drama (The Player, Get Shorty, LA Story). Even when the city is given a so-called character, as in Paul Haggis’ Crash or Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, it is only to denigrate it as an alienating, unknowable and dehumanising place. Which is why In Search of a Midnight Kiss is so unique. For this particular LA positively nurtures the romance of the two lonely characters on screen. Wilson and Vivian, though fragile and emotionally desolate, are never once bewildered by the city. They navigate it effortlessly,

on the subway, by car and, most bizarrely, on foot. They are never mugged, gang-banged, caught up in cop killing or found lounging in a Hollywood drug den. Instead, their alienation comes entirely from within, while it is ultimately their beloved city – through a finalreel traffic-jam climax – that saves them from themselves. Kevin Maher

Anticipation. Blackand-white, no budget romance. Ugh. One Enjoyment. Wow.

Real characters, real city, real dialogue. Don’t stop! Four

In Retrospect.

A perfect slice of monochrome memory. LA in a capsule. Book flights now. Four 057


Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?

RELEASED May 9 DIRECTED BY Morgan Spurlock STARRING Morgan Spurlock

It seems some people

weren’t suitably shocked when Morgan Spurlock told them that eating fast food is bad for them. So the thinking woman’s redneck is back again, this time to break the incredible news that the Middle East isn’t full of Westhating towel heads. Guess what? It turns out they’re actually just like you and me, with their own families to love and their own political leaders to grumble about. Where Super Size Me had the sideshow allure of a man making himself sick with burgers while berating the bewildered

058 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

corporation that makes them, his latest crusade is lost from the start. Claiming to be concerned for the safety of his unborn child, Spurlock says he’s learned from the movies that danger is best tackled by a lone man, and so sets out to find Osama bin Laden. What that actually means is that he grows a beard, moans about missing his wife and repeats the embarrassingly weak gag of asking Pakistanis, Afghans, Palestinians, Israelis and others if they know where the guy is. There’s a good chance

Spurlock’s facile clowning will help to cast Islam and the Middle East in a more human light, but his soft-spoken revelations are about as dumbed down as it’s possible to get. It’s genuinely difficult to know whether he’s more concerned with cheap jokes or his mission to record an everyman view of the Middle East, but the end of the film helpfully underlines what it’s really all about. As we watch the footage of Spurlock making it home safe and sound in time to climb in the tub and be there for his kid’s home birth, it’s

abundantly clear that this conceited film is really all about him and his overprivileged, self-congratulatory existence. Steve Watson

Anticipation. If he’d found bin Laden we’d probably have heard about it. Two Enjoyment. Jaw-

droppingly dumb. One

In Retrospect. The human race is doomed. One


Nadine Labaki – writer, director and star of Caramel – whispers sweet nothings to LWLies. LWLies: Why did the setting of the beauty salon particularly appeal to you? Labaki: For me it’s always been a fascinating place, because it’s a place women go thinking they will come out more beautiful, more confident. It’s a place of hope. There’s a very special bond between you and the person doing your hair, or doing your make-up, or waxing you. The assistant sees you in your nudity, she sees your flaws – she sees your reality. There are no more masks; you don’t have to fake anything. You start telling her your secrets about your life and she becomes your confidante, like a psychiatrist’s couch. LWLies: You touch on a lot of issues which might be considered difficult to talk about in the Middle East, such as the suggestion that Rima is homosexual and Jamale’s experience of the female menopause. Did you ever feel constrained in the way you explored these themes? Labaki: I didn’t censor myself in any way. I was just very aware that I shouldn’t shock or provoke anyone, because there’s no point. If you do that, you create a wall between you and the people you are talking to and they just reject you – they don’t want to hear anything you’re saying. So it was really important to talk about these problems very subtly, and not make judgements. LWLies: You dedicated the film ‘To my Beirut’. What is your Beirut? Labaki: This is Beirut the way I live it. The way I see Beirut is also through people who have such a strong will to live – so affectionate, so colourful, so tender with each other, with such a great sense of humour – and who have this really amazing will to just survive anything. It was important for me to show this in my film, especially because, three days after I finished shooting, the war broke out again. It was a very difficult time for me because I felt completely hopeless. Why was I doing a film about women and colour and so on when my country was at war? As a filmmaker in Lebanon, you feel like you have a mission, and I felt like I was letting down my country, letting down my people, because there was a war and I wasn’t talking about it. It was a very hard time for me. But then I understood – that was my mission: to show something different about my country and my people, that people don’t necessarily know around the world. LWLies: You work with non-professional actors in Caramel. Why do you think that was important for the film? Labaki: I like the feeling that you don’t know when you’re watching a film whether it’s fiction or reality. I think that movies should play with that more often. In this film in particular, I didn’t ask them to act, I just asked them to be themselves, and it was up to me to steal these true moments from them. Mike Brett

caramel RELEASED May 16

Dedicated by writer,

DIRECTED BY Nadine Labaki STARRING Nadine Labaki, Yasmine Elmasri, Joanna Moukarzel

director and star Nadine Labaki ‘To my Beirut’, Caramel offers a tender and nuanced insight into the lives of five women, and the unlikely sorority they form behind the closed doors of a Lebanese beauty salon. In the lead role of Layale, Labaki plays the Christian salon owner who is guiltily embroiled in what the News of the World would be obliged to term a ‘torrid affair’. Her friend Nisrine, an engaged Muslim, desperately tries to conceal the fact that she is not a virgin from her soon-to-be husband, while salon assistant Rima questions her sexuality altogether. Completing the quintet are ageing TV actress Jamale, and Rose, an elderly spinster whose fading chances of love are further compromised by the demands of her senile sister. A sharp script and flawless lead performances provide the bedrock for a subtle and touching domestic drama, complemented by Labaki’s mesmeric attention to detail. Her use of sound design and warm lighting builds up a sensual and captivating world within the walls of the salon, in which you can almost smell the waxing caramel on the stove. For all its sweetly observed touches,

however, Caramel is no saccharine treat. Moments of unexpected intimacy abound, from Nisrine’s trip to a clinic where a few well-placed stitches can miraculously restore her virginity, to the heart-breaking scenes in which Layale tends to the cosmetic needs of her lover’s unsuspecting wife. The fact that the film’s shoot wrapped just three days before the Israeli assault of summer 2006 lends a palpable air of prelapsarian innocence to proceedings, justly reminding us that the richness of Lebanese culture extends far beyond the images of regional strife which usually dominate Western headlines. Mike Brett

Anticipation.

Potentially less exciting than a 90-minute ‘Head and Shoulders’ advert. Two

Enjoyment. Here comes

the science:relieves those frown lines and brightens your face with laughter. Four

In Retrospect. Full of texture, character and gloss. Why take two films into the shower? Four 059


THE EDGE OF LOVE

It’s Satan’s love

triangle: choose Keira Knightley or Sienna Miller. Or, as Welsh poet Dylan Thomas susses, just hop into a lace-covered bed and ask them both for a cuddle. Set during the 1940s Blitz, this story from Knightley’s mum, Sharman Macdonald, stems from the reputed romantic relationship Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin shared with Thomas’ childhood friend Vera and her soldier hubby, William Killick. The tangled mess is largely down to Thomas (an excellent turn from Matthew Rhys) who suffers from Troubled Writer Syndrome, the symptoms of which include: constant aching for childhood sweetheart; abandonment of parental duty; regular bouts of poverty; and pangs of jealousy towards ‘real men’. Despite the messiness, what is crystal clear is that The Edge

060 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

DIRECTED BY John Maybury STARRING Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller, Matthew Rhys

RELEASED June 20

of Love is a film of real beauty, filled with smoky eyes, alabaster skin and plump, passion-filled lips. And not in a Dita-vonteasing kind of way, but using a visually arresting style that draws out the allure of both lead actors. The first shot pushes the rest of the world into the peripheries as it races forward to allow Knightley’s startling red lips to fill the screen as her sweetly sharp voice leaks from between them, while Miller’s feline eyes, framed by upturned dark lashes, dominate the introductory meeting with her face, projecting an instant sense of pure beauty. And speaking of smoky eyes, asthmatics beware – every witty line is book-ended with a cigarette sparking up and it’s enough to make you wheezy just watching. Killick (Cillian Murphy), the outsider among these wild

and wanton spirits, constantly teeters on the edge of their bohemian and fairly ridiculous relationship. He returns from war with the roar of mortar and shells still resonating in his ears only to find the battlefield extended into his domestic life. Vera is now a mother rather than a wife, and to make matters worse he’s surrounded by fops whose biggest concern is their next drink, but who nevertheless have the gall to cast doubt on his bravery. It’s at this point that a sputtering film suddenly revs its engines and picks up the pace. Rhys and Murphy are supremely convincing and even Miller strikes above her consistent note of mediocrity as Caitlin, a woman who can hardly bear to look at the state of her own soul. But, it has to be said, this is one time when Knightley’s all-round performance, not just her striking

looks, captures most of the attention. She shows a strength and assuredness of character, which has been alluded to, but never really fulfilled, in previous roles. And oddly, her Welsh lilt, so disconcerting at first, ends up making her more appealing, almost more human, than those marble-sucking tones we’ve come to know and fear. Monisha Rajesh

Anticipation. Sounds

wet and dull. Two

Enjoyment. Striking and absorbing, with a cast who have collectively raised their game. Three

In Retrospect.

Won’t have you on the edge of your seat, but a rich experience nonetheless. Three


TEETH

RELEASED June 6

DIRECTED BY Mitchell Lichtenstein STARRING Jess Weixler, John Hensley, Josh Pais

There are few horrors

greater than the adolescent body. No surprise, then, that since the invention of the genre, teenagers have been a staple of the horror film – and they rarely come more confused than Dawn (Jess Weixler). Dawn may have pledged to retain her purity until marriage, but her male friends have only got one thing on their mind. To make matters worse, her family doctor (Josh Pais) has wandering fingers, and her stepbrother, Brad (John Hensley), is an oversexed psychopath. But as Dawn begins her awkward evolution into womanhood, an unexpected mutation comes to her rescue. When she realises that she can bite any unwanted invader where it really hurts, the battle of the sexes experiences a brand new Dawn.

Teeth might so easily have played out as the tawdriest of horrors, but writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein (son of pop artist Roy) has instead crafted a witty satire that explores the state of the (female) body politic, spread-eagled between the puritanical and the priapic in a culturally confused America. Dawn may take only so much from men before she is ready to spit it right back at them, but far from being some slick avenger, she remains a gawky teen more akin to her namesake in Todd

Solondz’s Welcome to the Dollhouse. Her first fumbling attempts at consensual sex are just as cringe-inducing as the emasculating punishments she metes out upon her aggressors. And so, like the Vagina Monologues rewritten for slasher fans, Teeth gets its bite from a combination of embarrassing observation and eye-watering (at least for the men) abjection. It’s both more entertaining than expected, and more subtle, while redressing the anatomical anomalies of Deep Throat in a

way that is likely to bring female viewers far greater satisfaction. Anton Bitel Anticipation. A fanny with fangs? Sounds cheap and tawdry. Good job we like cheap and tawdry. Three

and the leader of the resistance, an element seemingly thrown in as an afterthought to complement the film’s weightier themes. Borrowing liberally in style, if not execution, from Ghost in the Shell, Akira and The Matrix, the animation switches between visually arresting, dramatic images (including Dune-inspired bio-metal sand snakes), to the uncomfortable, marionette-like

movements of the main characters. But the film really loses its way when it aims for higher ground. Its man/machine morality discussions have been done before, and it only ever paws at the surface of these issues before returning to the much simpler territory of cackling baddies and threadbare dialogue. Even with a zippy soundtrack from Paul Oakenfold, Vexille is

an earnest but unsuccessful attempt to follow in superior footsteps. Jonathan Williams

Enjoyment. It’s

the satire that bites hardest. Four

In Retrospect. Cult

status awaits. Four

VEXILLE

RELEASED May 9

DIRECTED BY Fumihiko Sori STARRING Meisa Kuroki, Shosuke Tanihara, Yasuko Matsuyuki

Rooted firmly in the

tradition of mixing philosophy, morality and sci-fi super heroes, Vexille’s reach unfortunately exceeds its grasp as sociopolitical messages and discussions of eugenics get lost in dodgy animation and Saturday morning cartoon clichés. In the not-too-distant future, a female agent named Vexille is sent to a now-isolated and politically exiled Tokyo to investigate whether the Japanese are developing technology which has been banned by the rest of the world. Along the way, she learns the truth of Japan’s isolation and is involved in a love triangle with the man she’s sent to rescue

Anticipation. Vivacity. Four

Enjoyment. Vacuous. Two

In Retrospect. Vexed. Two

061


Bruce Weber turns ordinary American stories into something monumental. Days after celebrating his birthday in Miami, the 62-year-old took time away from his beloved dogs (new puppy included) to discuss films, pictures and who he thinks is sexy. LWLies: How do you define what you do? Weber: I don’t know about labels. I was taught by Lisette Model, who also worked with Richard Avedon and Diane Arbus. Lisette was this tough French lady and we used to do tutorials at the Howard Johnson bar where all the drug addicts and drag queens used to hang out. It was a college of hard knocks. But she gave me the courage to say a photographer can make a film too. LWLies: You’re famous for sexually charged images of the body beautiful. Do you set out to make sexy images? Weber: You know, when people say the guys in my pictures are sexy, I think it’s really funny. The things that people find sexy in a man or a woman are so subjective. I found Simone Signoret way sexier when she was overweight in Room at the Top than some girl in a Sports Illustrated swimsuit. A lot of the time when people look at a picture, they want to know who that person is going to bed with. I think their sexuality is the least interesting thing about them. LWLies: What do you look for in a subject? Weber: It’s about the character. I’ve been shooting this girl [up-and-coming Dutch supermodel] Lara Stone and we were talking outside a restaurant while she was having a cigarette. I asked her if she was going to go to acting school and she said, ‘No way! I wanna be a housewife!’ I just fell in love with that. LWLies: What has changed since you started working in the late ’70s? Weber: As a photographer or a filmmaker, you want an intimacy of relationship with your subject. That’s really hard these days when you do pictures of personalities with the publicist and the make-up artist and the hair stylist always around. LWLies: Is that true of all celebrities? Weber: No. I shot Julie Christie at the Toronto Film Festival and she just turned up to my van. We took a ride down to the park, just hung out and took some pictures. That was kind of great, especially because I had grown up seeing Darling and never thought I’d get to meet her. LWLies: Was she one of your favourite people to photograph? Weber: I think my favourite people have been my mom and dad. They were both really good-looking – my dad looked like Paul Newman – and they were always really affectionate with each other. In this one picture I took, they’re hugging and it’s beautiful and romantic. I also really enjoyed photographing Nelson Mandela, who has suffered a lot and has an enormous sense of forgiveness. And Muhammad Ali – he hugged me and I thought he’d never let go. Lauren Cochrane 062 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

LET’s GET LOST

Chet Baker possessed such shimmering star quality that his life and work pour scorn on modern celebrity and its loose understanding of ‘talent’. Possessing an effortless mastery of the trumpet, an angelic voice and matinee idol looks, Baker developed a unique style that would make even the most ardent jazzhater weep: slow, soulful, frail and precise.

DIRECTED BY Bruce Weber STARRING Chet Baker, Carol Baker, Vera Baker

RELEASED June 6

Let’s Get Lost is not just about Baker. It’s an investigation into the impact of the God-given talent that drives true genius, and the profound self-indulgence that accompanies it, on both the individual and those left in his wake. In Baker’s case, a jazz musician’s lifestyle that was as archetypal as it was tragic led to a lifelong heroin addiction and a catalogue of abuse against friends, family and self.


Bruce Weber made his name photographing adverts for Calvin Klein, and at times his heightened aesthetic seems almost too lush for non-fiction. In the opening scene, as Baker and his beautiful, bohemian companions jazz-scat on a beach, it’s difficult not to expect a voiceover to whisper, ‘Obsession’. But the film is something other than a documentary; it’s a photographer’s attempt to

capture beauty at its most ugly. Let’s Get Lost is a poetic counterpoint to the indefinable, fragile beauty of Baker’s music and the contrasts of darkness and light in his personality. Shot on the sort of black-and-white stock on which whites are rendered silver, it is a stunning sensory experience, only marred by the inevitable filmmaker’s reluctance to let the music play without interruption.

While Baker is shown as manipulative, violent, destructive and self-mythologising, the film remains largely non-judgmental – caught somewhere between the awe and pity that he inspired. Whereas that might appear a negation of objectivity, instead it captures something pure and truthful about the allure of brilliance, and the magnetic pull of the void in which we would all get lost. James Bramble

Anticipation.

Possibly one for jazzlovers only? Two

Enjoyment.

Let’s Get Lost is an intoxicating, poetic study of brilliance. Four

In Retrospect.

Will convert atheists into believers. Four 063


P2

RELEASED May 2 DIRECTED BY Franck Khalfoun STARRING Wes Bentley, Rachel Nichols, Stephanie Moore

What is P2? Sadly,

it’s just the parking level of an upmarket Fifth Avenue office building, and that just about sums up this weak and unambitious psychological thriller. Angela Bridges (Rachel Nichols) is a young executive working late on Christmas Eve. When she finally drags herself away from the office, she ventures downstairs to the parking garage only to find that her car doesn’t start. With no phone signal or help at hand she stumbles across a night guard, Thomas (Wes Bentley), who is immediately too helpful to be trusted. In the blink of an eye Angela is drugged, chained to his desk and fighting off the attentions of both Tommy and his ravenous dog Rocky.

P2 is yet another would-be chiller that uses its limited scope and sparse sets to mirror the small, dark places of the human mind and toy with the almost universal fear of claustrophobia. But as cliché after cliché is aired like old laundry it becomes so formulaic that Franck Khalfoun has to repeatedly zoom in on the garage’s ‘P2’ sign to remind himself which film he’s directing. It’s especially frustrating

when the psycho is played by someone with Wes Bentley’s naturally creepy aura, even more so when we’ve seen it manipulated so brilliantly in the likes of American Beauty. Rachel Nichols does her best to make a gin and tonic with the lemons the script repeatedly throws at her, but perhaps she should watch Alien again before attempting to kick ass and take names – her tough girl act isn’t fooling anyone. Limara Salt

Anticipation. A scary movie disguising itself as a thriller. Two

for love and looking for sex, and as such manages to boil down the essence of the thirty-something man trapped in perpetual teenagerdom. He’s supposed to be charmless, and so sympathy lies with the girlfriends, be they the disarming sex addict or the saintly love-of-his-life. But before you get dragged into the hyperbole of Chris’ ‘failures’,

don’t forget that with a number of award-winning short films to his name, he must have done something right somewhere in his past. Still, it’s fun to play along, and it’s always nice to see some full-frontal male nudity on screen. Once Chris begins to discuss his impotence, his penis takes centre stage. It balances the books in a cinematic world that shows more

breasts than balls in Brokeback Mountain. Holly Grigg-Spall

Enjoyment. “Oh no!

Is my skirt ripped? How did that happen?” One

In Retrospect.

Generic Horror Film Number 23,578 fails to impress. Why can’t Hollywood do it right? One

A Complete History Of My Sexual Failures RELEASED June 27 DIRECTED BY Chris Waitt STARRING Chris Waitt, Hilary Waitt, Alexandra Boyarskaya

This back-to-basics

documentary, a sort of real life High Fidelity homage, sees the bumbling Chris Waitt haul a fuzzy microphone to the doorsteps of his many exgirlfriends, hoping to discover why he has been serially dumped. Cute, intimate moments such as Chris sifting through a box of pleading love letters with his mum are tempered by the kind of raucous reality TV moments that see him visiting a dominatrix. With a Nick Broomfield-like naivety he veers between looking

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Anticipation. The title makes for amusing conversation. Three Enjoyment. Men suck. Three

In Retrospect. His mum was the real star. Three


CHARLIE BARTLETT RELEASED May 9

Whether you’re talking about the film or its eponymous hero, it’s genuinely hard to know how to respond to Charlie Bartlett. There aren’t many teen comedies about expelled private schoolboys who win favour in a new state school by providing counselling and mind-altering drugs to their peers from a graffitied toilet cubicle. Then again, there’s probably a reason for that. Fittingly for the tale of a self-appointed shrink-cumpharmacist, Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) is a schizophrenic character, charming and insufferable in (fairly) equal parts. Even when his performance borders on the unendurably hyperactive, there is real

DIRECTED BY Jon Poll STARRING Anton Yelchin, Robert Downey Jr, Hope Davis

conviction in Yelchin’s lead turn, and he is blessed with charisma and deadpan timing beyond his years. Unfortunately he is let down by the film’s superficial quirkiness, which is quickly buried under a landslide of stock characters and predictable plot twists. Sure enough, Charlie has a hard time at his (quelle surprise) hostile and chaotic state high school for all of 15 nanoseconds, before his irrepressible charm wins over everyone from the school bully to the principal’s hot-goth daughter. If only he can bond with his new girlfriend’s sceptical father, lead his fellow students in an anti-establishment revolt and confront his own inner demons before we all die of

acute déjà vu poisoning! Spoiler alert: he can. Despite occasional humorous moments between Charlie and his barking mother (‘Ritalin in the bag, dinner in the oven!’ reads a typical note from mother to son), director John Poll’s attempts to reorientate the high school comedy genre fall flat. At times his observations of teenage angst are so vacuous as to border on the offensive, and the film touches with ludicrous levity on issues such as teen suicide, prescription drug dependence and sexual insecurity. In a crowded marketplace of increasingly self-aware coming-ofage odysseys (Juno, Superbad, et al.), Charlie Bartlett suffers badly by comparison. Perhaps, like Bartlett and his troubled peers,

it is kindest to diagnose the film as having serious identity issues; while masquerading as the offspring of Rushmore and Ferris Bueller, it is ultimately far closer to being the bastard lovechild of American Pie and Analyze This. And there’s no cure for that. Mike Brett

Anticipation. Charlie looks to have a promising future ahead of him. B Enjoyment. Occasionally shows the capacity to amuse his classmates, but ultimately has little to say. C

In Retrospect. Must

try harder. C–

065


Killer Of Sheep RELEASED June 20

Director Charles

Burnett emerged from the 1970s movement of university-based Los Angeles filmmakers who, through the establishment of independent black productions, sought to challenge and oppose Hollywood’s discriminatory structure and the ‘blaxploitation’ films it sanctioned. Focusing on the authentic depiction of the working-class black experience and the gritty realism of inner-city life, Burnett and his contemporaries had little interest in existing within a commercial framework but instead strove to establish a conscious black audience and initiate social change. Set in an impoverished black neighbourhood in South Central LA, Burnett’s feature debut eschews a traditional trajectory, turning its penetrating gaze on Stan (Henry Gayle Sanders), a black slaughterhouse worker whose monotonous, miserable existence engenders

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DIRECTED BY Charles Burnett STARRING Henry Gayle Sanders, Kaycee Moore, Charles Bracy

increasingly intense feelings of alienation and torpor. An insomniac removed from his wife (Kaycee Moore) and troublesome son (Jack Drummond), Stan’s life assumes the characteristics of a tiresome dream from which he is powerless to stir. Photographed in black-and-white with a largely non-professional cast and made on the slenderest of budgets, Killer of Sheep’s compelling immediacy and grim aesthetic owes much to Italian Neo-Realism. Closer to home, its disjunctive approach to structure and its raw, uncompromising tone and interest in character psychology also recalls the pioneering spirit of John Cassavetes. Rich in metaphor, an inventive editing technique further enhances the film’s allegorical power. This is perhaps most tellingly achieved in a juxtaposition of shots of a victimised child with the Judas sheep leading the other animals

to slaughter. Burnett frequently pauses to incorporate seemingly minor moments and interludes, authentically replicating his protagonist’s somnambulant state as he drifts from one encounter to the next. An essentially decent man “working myself into my own hell” in a hostile and emotionally barren climate, Stan at one point holds a warm coffee cup to his cheek, wistfully explaining that its heat reminds him of making love to a woman. The moment offers a reminder of the small pleasures that in hardship often serve to sustain the human spirit. Detailing without resort to stereotype the plight and loss of self-respect suffered by members of the black community, Burnett, who also wrote, produced, edited and shot the film, makes explicit reference to its rootedness and cultural heritage in the assemblage of a phenomenal soundtrack featuring jazz and blues artists such as Paul Robeson

and Little Walter. Unfortunately, this soundtrack mired the film in legal problems, and for many years it remained under-screened. The balance is about to be redressed with a restoration by the British Film Institute; you’d be wise not to miss an opportunity to see a film that deserves to be recognised as a cornerstone of contemporary American cinema. Jason Wood

Anticipation. Known, if at all, for David Gordon Green’s citing of its influence on George Washington. Two Enjoyment. Requires

patience, though those that stick with it will be richly rewarded. Four

In Retrospect.

Worthy of discovery, see it and marvel at how how ahead of its time it feels. Five


Inés Efron and Martin Piroyansky are two of Argentina’s most sought-after young stars. Sought after by us, at least. And we got them! Here they are… LWLies: Inés, how much research did you do for the role? How do you get into the mindset of this kind of character? Efron: At first I went to a doctor, and he explained to me and showed me pictures. He was a doctor who does the ‘normalisation’ procedures. Basically, when you’re born a hermaphrodite you have an operation. And he had a very traditional view about it – that was the only way to deal with it. And I saw a documentary called Octopusalarm about an intersexual and it really helped me get into the role. LWLies: When you say about the ‘traditional’ doctor, is the traditional view that you just chop bits off? Efron: Yeah, the name is ‘normalisation’. It’s, like, if a person is born like that and she looks like a woman then okay, but if she doesn’t really look like a woman they can’t cut. They make the decision based on whether the child is born more masculine or more feminine. Piroyansky: Because it doesn’t exist – a person who has both sexes all developed. That’s not a hermaphrodite. It’s a Greek thought. It’s not real; it’s inter-sexual. They are always more masculine or more feminine, and when they are more masculine they sew. LWLies: Did you find it personally shocking when you were doing your research? Efron: For me, I worried about that a little more than him because I have to think about how Alex is feeling. But the story transcends that whole issue. Piroyansky: It’s not a movie where you’re talking about AIDS, and you say, ‘Well, we’re talking about a subject with a lot of moral stuff in it’, I think it’s, like, an added thing to the movie but there’s lots of other things going on too. LWLies: Exactly – watching the movie, you can make the argument that Alvaro has a more difficult journey than Alex. Piroyansky: That’s interesting because they both have these difficult journeys, but she’s had it since she was born and I’m beginning to have it. I think that character is more identifiable because it’s more human and it’s more sincere. It’s more genuine because the audience feels all the time that what is happening to him is also what happens to them. They arrive in the theatre and they know much about her and not much about Alvaro, but they are going to realise during the movie what Alvaro feels. LWLies: In Argentina is it as shocking to be gay as it is to be a hermaphrodite? Efron: We don’t know if there are so many gays. Piroyansky: It’s not common like here. We know one inter-sexual guy. It’s not common. Gay, you… No, no. We know one inter-sexual guy. Matt Bochenski

XXY DIRECTED BY Lucía Puenzo STARRING Inés Efron, Martín Piroyansky, Ricardo Darín

The increasingly

churlish trials of teenage sexuality are currently the source of much amusement down Hollywood way, care of a new generation of cum ‘n’ beer slathered mayhem exemplified by Judd Apatow’s Superbad. That makes Argentinean writer-director Lucía Puenzo’s debut film – a poetic and improbably painful study of a 15-year-old hermaphrodite reaching a significant juncture in her sexual development – all the more vital. This beautifully realised and provocative coming-of-age drama zeroes in on Alex (Inés Efron), a rebellious transgender teen living with her affectionate but bemused parents in a secluded house on the Uruguayan coast. They are visited by a plastic surgeon who hopes to shepherd Alex through these testing times, but circumstances are further complicated by the presence of his dorky, sexually ambivalent young son Alvaro (Martín Piroyansky) who starts to fall for Alex’s brusque charms. It’s a fascinating film for all the right reasons: Puenzo approaches the material without a hint of sensationalism, focusing on the sacred nature of identity and the mechanics of family

RELEASED May 9

decision-making rather than fawning over a succession of over-researched daily rituals and medical arcana. Efron’s performance, too, is unbearably tender. There are a few touches of heavy-handed symbolism, which reduce the film to a matter of excess flesh – a close-up shot of Alex’s mother carefully dicing a carrot down to a fine nub and her marine biologist father slicing a fin from an injured turtle – but the otherwise plaintive direction works wonders in lending Alex’s sexual quandary a strange sense of universality. The film climaxes with a moment of muted transcendence, which, though difficult to fully comprehend, will linger in the memory for days to follow. Alan Mack

Anticipation. Good word-of-mouth from its Cannes debut. Three Enjoyment. A tough

subject tackled with aplomb. Great central performance. Four

In Retrospect. Will burrow deep under your skin. Four 067


doomsday DIRECTED BY Neil Marshall STARRING Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins, Malcolm McDowell

There’s something

distinctly un-British about Neil Marshall’s Doomsday. Our film industry is a venerable institution – we make small films and we’re proud of it. Not for us the cocksure can-do swagger of our transatlantic cousins. No, we specialise in the low key, the intimate, the esoteric… the quintessentially English. But Doomsday, well… Imagine rocking up to a cricket match to find the umpire fisting the wicket keeper. That’s Doomsday: there’s nothing wrong with it per se, it’s just a little… unexpected. Or is it? This, after all, is Neil Marshall – the man who brought us werewolves, Marines and underground freak people versus hot, ass-kicking lady potholers. If anybody was going to make an indecently ambitious, post-apocalyptic, cabaret thrill ride, it was going to be him. Scotland, 2007. A deadly

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RELEASED May 9

virus has broken out in Glasgow, and the British government has no choice but to seal the border and leave everybody to die. Three decades pass, only for the virus to reappear in a crumbling, dystopian London. The government – now headed by a simpering lackey and his shadowy, right-hand Scotsman (see! It’s not just an action movie; it’s a Political Allegory!) – assembles a crack team of soldiers headed by Rhona Mitra (Kate Beckinsale wasn’t available, but fortunately her Underworld wardrobe was) whose job is to return to Scotland, where secret spy satellites have discovered a survivor. They need to find out if there’s a cure and get back to London stat, so the important part of the country can still be saved. Wow! The lineage of Doomsday is gloriously transparent. Neil Marshall has looked long and hard at Mad Max 2, Aliens, The Warriors and

even Gladiator. Then he’s thought, ‘Yeah, why not?’ The result is Escape from Glasgow; an insane action express that has no interest in girly ideas like plot and logic, but plenty of time for S&M cannibals, medieval knights and super ultra mega violence. It’s a brain-frying bombardment of car chases, beheadings, knightly duels, beheadings, rabbit-splattering cannon fire and more beheadings. It’s as if Marshall knows that the minute he allows the audience to sit back and think about what they’re watching – a balls to the wall British action movie ferchrissakes – the whole crazy enterprise will come crashing down around him. And by and large it works. The challenge is one of scale – Doomsday needs to look and feel cinematic rather than succumbing to the TV feel that bedevills so many would-be British genre movies. This

Marshall mostly achieves, with his helicopter shots, convincing CGI and the lush, open landscapes of Scotland. It’s all very silly – people fly from London to Glasgow in 20 minutes, and fuelled up Bentleys are found in secret underground laboratories – but damn if you won’t have a smile plastered over your face. A stupid smile, sure. A laugh-oryou’ll-cry smile maybe. A smile of dazed incredulity even. But you know what? A smile nonetheless. Matt Bochenski

Anticipation. Neil Marshall is a uniquely ballsy filmmaker. Four Enjoyment. One for

the action junkies, and a good one at that. Three

In Retrospect. Another solid step on Marshall’s bizarre career path. Three


OUTPOST DIRECTED BY Steve Barker STARRING Ray Stevenson, Julian Wadham, Richard Brake

RELEASED May 16

Nazi zombies have

travelled through time to attack a group of mercenaries in an unnamed Eastern European military compound. The seriousness of this situation cannot be underestimated – and never is – in this grave but confused foray into the sci-fi genre. In fact, so serious is Outpost, it’s the cinematic equivalent of getting a letter from the taxman. Despite having a perfect B-movie set-up, director Steve Barker is intent on establishing a bleak and barren ambience. But any attempt at playing it straight is completely undermined by the film’s premise.

The idea that the Nazis developed a machine based on Einstein’s Unified Field Theory is a well-trodden pop culture conspiracy theory. But you can approach it with as much gravitas as you like; the suggestion that it allows the undead to exist in limbo until they appear at will to attack our plucky heroes is stretching credibility beyond breaking point.

No real explanation is offered for the discovery of the machine, and yet Outpost asks the audience to take ever greater leaps of logic, while Barker labours under the mistaken impression that he’s making Apocalypse Now. Anyone thinking that zombie time-travelling Nazis would make a kitsch horror classic are undoubtedly right,

of his cab. Five days later he was reported dead from massive haemorrhaging in the legs, the result of beatings dished out by the US guards, all under order to extract ‘information’ from the inmates. Gibney uses the fine details of this squalid episode as a springboard into investigating how the US conducts warfare in the modern age. With its incisive narration, erudite talking heads and turn-your-head-away archive footage (mainly the notorious snaps of sexual humiliation of the similarly-managed Abu Ghraib), the film concisely and

convincingly essays how the US government ritually contravenes statutes of the Geneva Convention to justify its search for swift, aggressive justice post-9/11. It’s a bracing and satisfyingly detailed investigation of the type you might read in the pages of The New Yorker. Gibney’s commitment to truth-seeking gives his film a refreshing, scholarly edge, especially as he doesn’t fall into the same trap as so many other liberal documentary makers in using cleverly juxtaposed soundbites by US politicians to back up arguments, then berate the very

but this isn’t it. Jonathan Williams

Anticipation.

Schlock-horror fun. Three

Enjoyment. Wait,

they’re serious? Two

In Retrospect. Not much schlock, not much horror, not much fun. One

TAXI TO THE DARKSIDE

RELEASED May 30

DIRECTED BY Alex Gibney STARRING Moazzam Begg, Willie Brand, Damien Corsetti

Another model piece

of documentary filmmaking from the hugely talented American director Alex Gibney who, in 2005, accomplished the not inconsiderable task of diluting the entire Enron saga down to 110 bloodcurdling and blackly comic minutes with Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room. This follow-up peruses a similar theme: the ways in which the regular working stiff becomes morally accountable for actions dictated and adjudicated by the bureaucratic powers-thatbe in a capitalist society. It’s also no laughing matter. In 2002, an Afghan taxi driver was picked up and whisked off to a US military prison at Bagram Air Base and charged with being an accessory to a rocket attack on American troops alongside the men in the back

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same rhetoric and spin as being used to ‘sell’ the public ideas and policy. Alan Mack

Anticipation.The

latest from one of America’s great documentary filmmakers. Four

Enjoyment. No spoon-

feeding, just harsh facts brutally delivered. Four

In Retrospect.

Gibney brings the pop doc revolution crashing down to earth. Sterling work. Four


John Sayles is the writerdirector of such acclaimed fare as City of Hope and The Brother from Another Planet, films he often funds by writing and fixing scripts for others. For his latest, Honeydripper, we asked Sayles to give us his guide to contemporary filmmaking. 1. Give your film a strong sense of place Sayles: Where the story is set and when it is set are part of who the people are. When I start thinking of a story it’s almost never divorced from a place or a time, because that tells me something about who the people are. Sometimes the story comes first and I ask, ‘What place and time would put these into the starkest relief?’ Other times the place and time bring me a lot of the elements of the story. 2. Don’t cheat on the ending Sayles: A movie should always earn its ending, whether it’s a happy, sad or scary ending. You feel just as unsatisfied if a sad ending is tacked onto a film that doesn’t have that tone as you do if a happy ending is tacked on.

honeydripper DIRECTED BY John Sayles STARRING Danny Glover, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Charles S Dutton

Alabama, 1950. Tyrone ‘Pinetop’ Purvis’ Honeydripper bar is threatened by the landlord, the electric company and the drinks suppliers. So, for one night only, Pinetop (Danny Glover) decides to replace veteran blues singer Bertha Mae with hotshot radio star Guitar Sam. Honeydripper is not only the slightly rude-sounding name of the shack at the heart of this Deep South story, but also its modus operandi. This is a sweet film that moves at its own pace, bathed in a golden glow. As we’ve learned from such fine fare as Lone Star, Limbo and Sunshine State, John Sayles is supreme at capturing a community, in this case cotton pickers, keen for a weekly night out to escape their troubles, at a time when live music is threatened by the jukebox. He finds a neat metaphor for the progress of African-

RELEASED May 9

Americans in the piano, while the salvation afforded by the electric guitar is embraced as enthusiastically as Michael J Fox’s bravura finale in Back to the Future. You’d expect nothing less from a man who first made his name in the late ’70s penning sharp creature-features Piranha and Alligator. There are plenty of wise one-liners, and while you always know where Honeydripper’s going, you couldn’t wish for a better way of getting there. Jonas Milk

Anticipation. It’s John Sayles! There should be permanent seasons to this man! Four Enjoyment. Richly

spread and fulfilling. Four

In Retrospect. A lingering taste. Three

3. Write very quickly Sayles: From the moment that I sit down and write, I write very quickly, so the first draft of this probably took three weeks and then I probably did two more that were two weeks each of thinking, writing and some scouting. Honeydripper was something that, as often happens, I had in my head for a long time, and every once in a while you get an idea. I actually don’t even write them down. I have this theory that, at least so far, if it’s a good idea I’ll remember it, if it’s a bad idea I’ll forget it. 4. It’s tough to get funding Sayles: It’s much harder than it used to be and it was always hard. The last two movies we had to finance ourselves, which I did basically – although we do make some money back on our older movies – by writing lots and lots of screenplays for other people. Maggie Renzi, who I live with and who’s the producer, tried to raise money for a full year. Even with Danny Glover on board in the cast we couldn’t raise anything, and then we lost the cotton – it only stays in the ground so long – and we had to wait for a whole other harvest. In those two years, I think I wrote eight to 10 screenplays for other people and have continued to do that to make a living. 5. And even harder to secure distribution Sayles: It’s got even harder than that to get distribution for a movie that comes from outside the system. A lot of what are considered independent movies these days are actually produced by ‘classics’ divisions of the big studios and they go through some of the same processes. Very rarely is it a movie that’s just made, and then after it’s made goes looking a distributor, that gets through and gets to a large audience. Jonas Milk 071


Talking terrorism with master documentary maker Barbet Schroeder. LWLies: What made you choose terrorism as the subject of your latest documentary? Schroeder: Because we’re living in it and it’s definitely something that’s worth trying to comprehend. It’s like when you want to try and understand cinema or photography, you look at the very first photos, you look at the very first movies. So in this case the film takes an hour to examine the beginning of what I call ‘blind terrorism’. By this I mean terrorism that is not directed at a specific enemy. So if you have a café where everyone is having drinks and you put a bomb there – that’s blind terrorism. This began very precisely with Djamila Bouhired [in Algeria in 1956] who planted the first bomb in a café. LWLies: Is today’s terrorism different? Schroeder: Obviously it’s more religious now. When you see all those terrorists speaking so eloquently in Terror’s Advocate, it shows they were formed by political discussion, which differs from the religious discourse of today. But when it comes to a bomb exploding, there’s not a lot of difference between a Marxist and an Islamist bomb except the Islamist one may be suicide. LWLies: Were you surprised at how seemingly disparate ideologies were linked in the film? Schroeder: This has been happening for a long time. This was started by Stalin himself when he made a pact with Hitler. So for me this is nothing new. When you talk about communism you know their ideal is very beautiful but they are ready to do anything. And when you talk about Nazism, you know that they were very close to the Muslims. They had a whole policy of welcoming the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and there were even some SS Muslim brigades. LWLies: Why hasn’t the period of history you cover in the film got more attention? Schroeder: There are so many millions of things that you don’t hear about that need someone to take the time to look into. Otherwise you only end up hearing superficial things or facts that are completely forgotten six months later. History is not often dealt with – what’s great is having a character to lead you. LWLies: What are your thoughts on Jacques Vergès? Schroeder: Obviously he’s a very complex man who did a lot of great and brave things and was involved in other things which we don’t know the details about. When he disappeared for eight years he clearly was not being a lawyer. LWLies: Why make another documentary? Schroeder: I have a long list of documentaries that I want to make. The one that I really wanted to do that I missed – because now they’re all dead – was a movie about the Khmer Rouge. But I didn’t find the money because I didn’t want them to talk about what they did when they were in power, more their years as students at the Sorbonne in Paris – their formative years. Financing a documentary is hell on earth. Ed Stocker 072 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

terror’s advocate DIRECTED BY Barbet Schroeder STARRING Jacques Vergès, Magdalena Kopp, HansJoachim Klein

There are some jobs

you just wouldn’t apply for – defence counsel for a renowned terrorist is one of them. But French lawyer Jacques Vergès has no such qualms. Over the years he’s built up a colourful roster of clients spanning anarchists and provocateurs, from Nazi Klaus Barbie (aka the ‘Butcher of Lyon’) to the late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. Through Vergès, Barbet Schroeder’s documentary examines the last half-century of terrorism. It’s a fascinating, often creepy tale that the director approaches with the dramatic impetus of fiction. Interviews

RELEASED May 16

and archival images are spliced with footage of Vergès sitting behind his desk – regal and erudite – toking on a Cuban like a Bond villain. Schroeder even tosses in an orchestral score at moments of heightened tension. The film profiles an ideological man of Vietnamese and Réunionais heritage, burning with a sense of injustice and strong anti-colonial sentiment – “born angry” according to French journalist Lionel Duroy. He travels to Algeria to defend FLN (National Liberation Front) members, falling in love and later marrying Djamila Bouhired, who was on trial for planting bombs in cafés. Her


death sentence is overturned thanks to Vergès’ ‘rupture’ defence, which refused to accept the legitimacy of the proceedings, thus painting her as an emblem of freedom from oppression. It’s this figure of Vergès the nonconformist that prevails: always spoiling for a fight, empathising with the otherness of those he represents. After Algeria, the waters turn a lot murkier, with links to Carlos the Jackal, French Nazi François Genoud and an eight-year period in the ’70s when he ‘disappeared’. Yet despite the opening credits’ assertion that the film is taken from the director’s point of view, Schroeder doesn’t dictate what

you should think. There’s no commentary for starters and, hell, you’ve probably already decided he’s a monster. And as an emotionally detached Vergès refutes the death toll in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, one could be forgiven for thinking initial instincts have been vindicated. Yet attempts to pigeonhole repeatedly fail. Vergès at first seems emotionless, only to weep in an Algerian jail. We think he’s an ogre and then he talks about using his defence of Klaus Barbie to compare French torture tactics in Algeria with the Gestapo – and perhaps he has a

point. Terror’s Advocate is a film which demonstrates that the boundaries between right and wrong, freedom fighter and terrorist, aren’t as concrete as we may have believed. But what’s equally intriguing is the link between different ‘terror’ groupings exposed by the film. And for this Schroeder has assembled an epic cast of journalists, friends, former lovers, ex-terrorists and politicians talking on camera. Left-wing and right-wing don’t exist – fascists and Marxist revolutionaries happily get into bed. It’s a fascinating story but be warned: you may need a spider

diagram to keep up with it all. Who knows, it may even tempt you to renew that lapsed subscription to Conspiracy Theorists Monthly. Ed Stocker

Anticipation. Snappy title. Are Keanu and Al in this one? Four Enjoyment. A fascinating window into the weird world of extremism. Four

In Retrospect.

Consider Wikipedia a necessary accessory. Lots to digest, but worth it. Four 073


IRINA PALM RELEASED June 13

“He’s dying, I’m

wanking, it’s a mess,” states Maggie, aka Irina Palm (Marianne Faithfull), neatly summarising the problem with Sam Garbarski’s preposterous and emotionally bankrupt comedy-drama. Irina Palm (the follow up to Garbarski’s feature debut Le Tango des Rashevski) centres on hard-up widow Maggie who, desperate to help finance a costly operation abroad for her seriously ill grandson, stumbles upon a Soho nightclub, Sexy World, and interviews for a ‘hostess’ job. Assuming the position involves cleaning and making tea, she’s soon disabused by owner Miki (Miki Manojlovic) who bluntly explains that he’s looking for someone

074 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

DIRECTED BY Sam Garbarski STARRING Marianne Faithfull, Jenny Agutter, Miki Manojlovic

to masturbate customers through a hole in the wall. Initially repelled, Maggie is tempted by the lucrative wage and returns to the club under the pseudonym ‘Irina Palm’, whereupon she diligently applies herself to the job in hand, as it were. Unseen by her clientele, she dons a floral apron and cosies up behind the partition wall with pictures from home, potted flowers, packed lunches and lubricant. The trouble starts when Maggie’s double life attracts the attention of family and gossiping neighbours. Built around a putatively humorous script, the film’s verité-style suggests that Garbarski is under some delusion that he’s serving a slice of gritty

realism. Shot in muted tones, the camera spends much of the time probing Maggie’s downcast expression as she drifts aimlessly through the streets of Soho. Unfortunately, Faithfull creates a character so relentlessly bland and impenetrable that the film is unable to elicit any sympathy for her plight. Accompanied by a cloyingly monotonous score, the effect is deadening, save for a few droll exchanges (Maggie develops ‘penis elbow’ from ‘over wanking’). That said, Irina Palm is almost saved by Manojlovic, who delivers a memorable performance as the brooding club owner, and Dorka Gryllus in a small but standout

role as Maggie’s world-weary colleague, Luisa. But scratch the surface and you’re left with a vapid, naïve core in a film that has precious little to say about its characters or the sleazy world it aspires to expose. Amy Simmons

Anticipation.

Marianne Faithfull plays Maggie, the grandmother with the ‘best right arm in all of London.’ Two

Enjoyment. The

fleeting appearance of Jenny Agutter. One

In Retrospect.

Astonishingly tasteless and mundane. One


TIMBER FALLS

RELEASED May 23 DIRECTED BY Tony Giglio STARRING Josh Randall, Brianna Brown, Nick Searcy

It is possible to

intellectualise any cultural phenomenon, however spurious. Vanity Fair ran a feature a couple of years back claiming that Paris Hilton is a cipher, dedicating over five pages of fine print to their argument. And so we are told that ‘torture porn’ is a response to Guantanamo Bay. In this scenario, we construct images of redemptive violence in order to process the inhumanity we implicitly condone. But the thought police can’t control cinemagoers, and there’s a far simpler message being soaked up by those who dedicate their Saturday night to these films – violence is fun, especially when mixed with sex.

Timber Falls duly follows the adventures of a wholesome couple, Mike and Sheryl (Josh Randall and Brianna Brown), hiking in a national park. After getting down to some alfresco action, they are kidnapped by a religiously fanatical (and procreationally challenged) husband and wife team who force them to marry. They then insist a baby is made for themselves to raise. There’s not a whole lot of tension in this scenario, but there is a lot of suffering to, well, suffer through. Our unfortunate couple spends most of the film in an underground chamber on the wrong end of a range of torture implements. Director Tony Giglio makes

a couple of stabs at meaning and motivation which, although halfhearted, do not go unappreciated in the midst of his movie’s more conventional knife-wielding. And there is a kernel of genuine feeling created between the young lovers. Mike won’t have sex with his new wife while she is drugged and strapped to a hospital bed, showing more compassion than you’d normally find in your average teen comedy, never mind a goreobsessed horror flick. Giglio also takes a swipe at the institution of marriage, the tyranny of the maternal instinct and the hypocrisy of the Christian Right. But to read too much into the fantastical plot is reaching. Still, at least one scene nails a heady mix of irony and

horror: Sheryl has just revealed she has already conceived out of wedlock, thus scuppering her captors’ plans. One suggests that they give Sheryl an abortion only to be told that they can’t abort a foetus... but it’s okay to keep them in the jars that line their dungeon walls. That’s pretty funny, but it’s a speck of light in an otherwise desperately fogged film. Holly Grigg-Spall

Anticipation.

Oh God, another one. One

Enjoyment.

Not here. One

In Retrospect. What film was this again?. One

075


heartbeat detector

It is the unnatural

capitalist investment in the individual that Heartbeat Detector takes as its launch pad for comment on business culture. Our monotone narrator, Simon (Mathieu Amalric), is a corporate psychologist who blends in perfectly with the surroundings of his nondescript Parisian workplace; an anonymous German-owned chemical firm. An officer of the Human Resources department, his duties include the maintenance of ‘happiness’ and ‘productivity’ in the workforce. Consequently, he possesses the self-assurance of a man who believes it possible to decipher personal complexities within a 30-minute time slot. As naïve as he is intelligent,

076 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

DIRECTED BY Nicolas Klotz STARRING Mathieu Amalric, Michael Lonsdale, Lou Castel

RELEASED May 16

Simon accepts an assignment to assess the mental state of his CEO. But his investigation is a prelude to a corporate mutiny that begins the film’s descent into the murky psychological depths of Simon’s world, and the history that lies beneath. As a series of anonymous letters compare the actions of Nazi employees to modern corporate practise, the past lives of his superiors unravel, and Simon is forced to confront the reality of his own dehumanised existence. Heartbeat Detector is a timely counter point to the glitz and glamour of the City-boy dream, as the big money bonuses begin to dry up and the country stares down the barrel of recession. These virile

young suits are little more than fresh meat who forge forced relationships fraught with sexual tensions and uncomfortable familiarities. But for all that the film questions whether dedicating your life to a sterile corporation is really a good idea, director Nicolas Klotz is no anarchist. He’s not calling for the end of the capitalist system, he’s merely allowing these broken, disturbed executives to serve as a warning. Sometimes his message is inexplicably overt, but the restrained performances balance the occasionally pretentious execution. The result is perhaps not the haunting social comment it might have been, but is nonetheless a sharp observation

that the problems of both past and present are more similar and immediate than we might think. Ailsa Caine

Anticipation.

A film about corporate psychology and the sins of the fathers sounds unusual but intriguing. Two

Enjoyment. Mathieu

Amalric gives an engaging and troubled performance, which is impossible to ignore. Four

In Retrospect. Are our working lives that brutal, sinister and futile? Probably. Four


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CASSANDRA’s DREAM RELEASED June 20

The scene is London.

Ian (Ewan McGregor) is a working-class restaurateur with dreams of big business. Having fallen in love with the plummiest of English actresses, he soon finds himself struggling to finance her taste for the finer things in life. Meanwhile, Terry, his brother (Colin Farrell), is a chronic gambler, plagued by debt. When wealthy Uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson) beseeches the brothers to murder a dangerous rival in return for hard cash, their fraternal bond is forever changed. Alongside Match Point and the little known Scoop,

078 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

DIRECTED BY Woody Allen STARRING Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell, Sally Hawkins

Cassandra’s Dream could be seen as the third instalment in Woody Allen’s London trilogy. Unfortunately, like its bedfellows, the film’s flirtations with the mechanics of the English class system, and the power of such to lure the everyday man into the world of crime, ring false notes throughout. And for a filmmaker who has, in the past, demonstrated such a keen ear for the frenetic, intellectual anxieties of his own New York milieu, it seems a shame that all we are offered here is a hammy repertoire of dropped Ts and elongated vowels.

Allen himself has described Cassandra’s Dream as a window into the tragic side of life, yet the moral compass of the narrative is so simplistic and untextured that what is often achieved by the film is an unintentional sense of irony. Indeed, the last 60 minutes, in which Farrell can be found squirming beneath the weight of his guilt, might be better appreciated as a perfectly judged parody of a psychological breakdown rather than as the thing itself. Seen in this light, Cassandra’s Dream will no doubt elicit some enjoyable chuckles, though not necessarily ones to

which Allen will have given his consent. Emma Paterson

Anticipation. After the straight-to-DVD fate of Scoop, it seems unlikely that breath will be bated. Two Enjoyment.

Thoroughly entertaining, but by-and-large for all the wrong reasons. Two

In Retrospect.

Indisputable proof of that old separatist chestnut: ‘Write what you know’. Two


LWLies talks to Priceless director Pierre Salvadori to find out if he’s the real deal or just a chancer on the make. LWLies: Why do you think the genre of crime and comedy go so well together? Salvadori: For me, it is interesting to describe characters who are very shy and very afraid of the world. Figuratively, they wear masks to commit their crimes and they find their way in the world behind their masks. It’s comic irony when you reveal what is really happening in their minds. You show the truth, which is painful, but then you make it easier to taste with the comedy. LWLies: What do you think the true character of Irène represents? Salvadori: In truth Irène is afraid. Most people like her who crave wealth and precious things feel like they are protected by all this grandeur. They feel like the crystal chandelier – that they will not break, they will not die, they are in some secure haven when they are surrounded by wealth. Irène is someone who wants a piece of the cake and to be able to eat it too. She’s a very tough woman but she is very fearful of solitude and she represents a product of our current environment which is full of people who hide within a false security of money. LWLies: And yet she looks so glamorous with her designer labels. Salvadori: Well, we put that in to give a taste for the glamour of deception, but then we bring Jean into the story to balance it and show that he’s not someone who judges her. He just loves her as a person without all the labels. He becomes like her, which is the ultimate show of acceptance. He shows her what she is doing and proves to her that it is not really who she is at heart. LWLies: It’s similar to The Taming of the Shrew in that he plays her at her own game and breaks her. Salvadori: I don’t know so much if it’s a game as much as for the sake of comedy. With Jean it is more innocent – she is evil, she treats him badly, she abuses him at the start but eventually she just can’t do it anymore and it’s too much effort. LWLies: Why did you choose to seal their relationship at the start? Salvadori: Well, she falls in love with him but she’s going to fight against that in the whole movie. She knows that if she loves him, she will be weakened and it will not get her the money and the security she is after. LWLies: Do you think there is always an element of jealousy between lovers? Salvadori: Well if it’s not jealousy, there’s always something else very animalistic at the core of every relationship. And with Irène and Jean it’s very much a jealousy thing. Monisha Rajesh

priceless

RELEASED June 13 DIRECTED BY Pierre Salvadori STARRING Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh, Marie-Christine Adam

After rather a thick

concentration of French cinema – Private Property, La Vie En Rose and A Secret – comes a welcome dilution of Gallic entertainment, settling happily back into the slot of farcical fun. And who better to provide it than the quintessentially delicate Audrey Tautou? But gone is the gamine charm and allure of Amélie; the dirty pretty thing in this jolly rom-com is a little salope who needs a good slap. Irène works the Riviera circuit in competition with a predatory pack of wannabe WAGS who, with a disciplined flash of décolletage, hit gold more often than a 49-er, knowing that if they play their cards right they may just unearth a few fourth-finger diamonds. Irène lusts after labels like a fat kid in a sweet shop – although there’s nothing fat about Tautou in this film. It’s hard not to become fixated on her taut, brown stomach and sparrow legs sliding silkily in and out of various costumes. Oh-la-la. While sashaying her way around town, Irène meets Jean (Gad Elmaleh), a barman in one of the exclusive hotels she haunts. There is clearly no such thing as dignified labour in the

eyes of this classy tart, so Jean tells her he’s a guest, and thus his double life begins. When he sees the bonuses of Irène’s lifestyle, Jean finds himself a rich old lady, and he and Irène go tête-à-tête to see who can come away with the flashiest haul. Double-crossing, buffoonery and hiding behind corners is embraced to the full in a film that lends itself brilliantly to this firmly tongue-in-cheek genre. Had Peter Sellers passed them while dangling off a balcony, it would only have presaged Jerry Lewis’ late arrival. Tautou and Elmaleh work convincingly with a chemistry tuned to the perfect wavelength, and though the film leaves us with a scarcely credible ending, it’s one that still feels right. Monisha Rajesh

Anticipation. Tautou, yes. Rom-com, no. Three Enjoyment. Utterly

delightful – no Depardieu and the Renault Clio girl makes an appearance. Four

In Retrospect. Quickfix fun, but fairly forgettable once the credits close. Three 079


LWLies talks to the man who marshalled the Mongolian hordes, writer/ director Sergei Bodrov. LWLies: Can you tell us a bit about the controversy surrounding the film? It annoyed some of the Mongolians, right? Bodrov: Do you know, it was very interesting because, yes, it was very controversial in Mongolia but also it was controversial in Russia. In Russia he is one of the most unpopular names, Genghis Khan. I read about him in my school books and he was a monster, an evil bloodsucker, everything. Russians were asking us why we decided to make this movie about Genghis Khan, and I said, ‘Whether good or bad, he achieved a lot’. But in Mongolia it was absolutely the opposite of this because he is a god in Mongolia. In Mongolia at the beginning of the project I was getting accused that I’m not respectful enough. I was caught in the middle. It was tough – I left Mongolia earlier than I wanted. LWLies: Were you forced out of Mongolia? Bodrov: Yes, because of the complaints. I didn’t like the hostile atmosphere. But still I believe that in the end… I worked with a lot of Mongolians, and in the end I was very pleased with their reaction because they loved the movie. They were pleased with the results and very proud. LWLies: Were you physically threatened when you were in Mongolia? How did the hostility show itself? Bodrov: It was not like a physical thing but my partners were accused almost that they’d betrayed history – it was not a friendly area. LWLies: Was there anything you could do while you were there to try and convince people you had good intentions? Bodrov: When we were shooting, every time we would go to our locations – Mongolians’ sacred places – we would make offerings, ceremony and ask permission. I think it was very important for the movie and for me and my crew. LWLies: You have a reputation for your anti-war principles, but this is the story of a man who uses war as a civilising tool. Do you feel like that message compromises your principles? Bodrov: For me, when I’m talking about twelfth century and twentieth century, I think it’s easier to say, ‘Look, it was different, it was completely different’. I don’t believe that civilisation goes up and we’re more human now than we were centuries ago. In fact, if you compare the twelfth century and the twentieth century, I believe the twentieth century is much more ugly, more violent and people made much more crime. I am not just talking about two big wars but concentration camps, torture. Genghis Khan – not so many people know – he abolished torture. He said, ‘I will kill my enemies, I will kill in the fights but I will not torture them. I will not torture the animals.’ I’m not saying that I’m changing my position, but it’s different, you know? It’s another time. Rules were much more simple. Matt Bochenski 080 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

MONGOL DIRECTED BY Sergei Bodrov STARRING Tadanobu Asano, Honglei Sun, Khulan Chuluun

Two of our reviewers sat down with a drink to discuss this Eastern epic.

S: I’ve not thought too much

about Mongol since watching it. I was really underwhelmed. It wanted to create an incredible legend, but it got stuck somewhere in trying to carve a story of a man who was natural and forceful and a genuine leader – but also someone who was shaped by his experiences.

RELEASED June 6

J: Do you think it suffered

from the focus on the love story with his wife? S: I thought the love story was another element where the film wanted to have it all. He fell in love instantly as an eight-year-old, but he’s so dedicated to the Mongolian people that he actually doesn’t spend any time with her. It was supposed to be based on a Russian academic’s book, but it also clearly wanted to revel in the myth and got caught between the two.


J: That’s interesting because

my first reaction was that if you were looking for an accurate portrayal of Genghis Khan’s life, this was not it. The filmmakers were clearly trying to make an epic film about a great hero to the Mongolian people but it never quite got there. Also it was very much a story told in fits and spurts. Especially at the end… S: How did he raise that great army? J: Well they told you: ‘He

raised a great army’. You never got any more. Then it finished and after the last battle: ‘Then he conquered the world’. When did he become a great tactician, when did he become the great leader? S: There was too much where we were told something rather than being shown. In the end, it’s only two hours, you can’t do too much. I never saw the toughness in the young Kahn that would inspire people to follow him.

If you’re making a film about Genghis Khan, what are the things that everyone knows about him? The raping and pillaging. You can’t really have a hero rapist, so they had to reposition him as a good guy early on. It felt to me like a massive re-branding exercise. J: They could have gone another way and just made a visually spectacular action epic. S: Visually, it was quite impressive. I liked the skirmishes,

the close-quarters combat – not so much the big battle scenes. I didn’t see anything to make me think that the director could do big battles well, which would be critical to the success of future films. That could have been a budget issue. J: I suppose I’d like to have seen more money spent on fight scenes! S: 4,2,2 J: 4,3,2

081


DANGEROUS PARKING

DIRECTED BY Peter Howitt STARRING Peter Howitt, Saffron Burrows, Alice Evans

RELEASED May 23

FEMALE AGENTS

DIRECTED BY Jean-Paul Salomé STARRING Sophie Marceau, Julie Depardieu, Déborah François

RELEASED June 27

Appearances can be deceptive. Dangerous Parking

Listen very carefully; we will say this only once…

initially appears to be an anarchic boozer comedy – a louder, even more ramshackle Withnail & I. Yet once you get used to the flash, mercurial style, a painfully sharp story emerges. Peter Howitt both directs and stars as the self-destructive Noah Arkwright, an alcoholic filmmaker on the road to ruin. He’s really rather good, anchoring the bedlam as laughs and shocks compete for attention. It’s a bit rough around the edges at times, but at the heart of this film is a fireball of searing truth – one that honestly shows both the joy and the cruelty of this fucked-up world we live in. Definitely one worth seeing. Neon Kelly

Sophie Marceau is a widowed nurse who must lead four women on a deadly rescue mission just prior to the Normandy landings. This true story translates into an affecting, exciting movie with sure-footed performances from a Who’s Who of French actresses. Admittedly, one or two details are a little jarring. The unfortunately spoofish title conjures images of Pussy Galore or, less generously, Alotta Fagina. The English officers are red-faced schoolboys with pokers of poshness rammed up their behinds, while the Nazis are very, very… German. But hell, we subjected the French to ’Allo ’Allo for years. Laura Swinton

JOY DIVISION

DIRECTED BY Grant Gee STARRING Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Anton Corbijn

RELEASED May 2

LA ANTENA

DIRECTED BY Esteban Sapir STARRING Alejandro Urdapilleta, Valeria Bertuccelli, Sol Moreno

RELEASED May 16

The rock doc has always had the scope to leave

From Argentine writer/director Esteban Sapir

musicians more exposed than a regular adaptation of their story. Joy Division delves even deeper than last year’s Control, thanks to the participation of the band’s surviving members, as well as the first filmed interview with Ian Curtis’ girlfriend Annik Honoré. These interviews are interspersed with grainy concert footage and quotes from Curtis’ widow, Deborah, allowing the film to examine the band and their music while building a picture of the surroundings and relationships that inspired them. In the age of the celebrity publicist, it brings you closer to the truth, even if that feeling is probably only illusory. Limara Salt

(who, as the film’s richly detailed photography attests, made his name as a cinematographer) comes this near-silent black-and-white film in the vein of early cinema that relies heavily on Expressionism and imaginative use of subtitles to tell its story. Set in a fictional city that is afflicted by muteness, a fascistic media baron tries to control the one remaining voice for his own malevolent ends. Despite being crammed with a mass of abstract creativity and social commentary, there is a fine line between such artistry and disappearing up one’s own arse, and unfortunately Sapir crosses this very early on. Ed Andrews

082 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE


SOME CAME RUNNING

DIRECTED BY Vincente Minnelli STARRING Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine

RELEASED May 16

COUSCOUS

DIRECTED BY Abdel Kechiche STARRING Habib Boufares, Hafsia Herzi, Faridah Benkhetache

RELEASED June 20

Vincente Minnelli’s love-triangle melodrama

Slimane (Habib Boufares), a quiet dock worker

Some Came Running depicts the contradictory social forces shaping a small American town in the late ’40s. It tells the story of Dave Hirsh, an ex-serviceman/writer who is sent back against his will to his narrow-minded hometown in Indiana. Set in 1948, the film stars troublemaking Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, not to mention debutante Shirley MacLaine, aflame with youthful energy. Elevated to classic status since its original release in 1958, the film boasts a histrionic Technicolor that seems about to ignite at any moment, splattering emotions all over the screen. Mar Diestro-Dopido

of North African descent, has lost his job. But he has a plan to salvage what’s left of his name and get his family back on side: to open a restaurant, selling the legendary couscous made by his ex-wife. With a documentary look and feel, mundane conversations become the prism through which bigger issues are discussed: family discord, social inequality, unemployment and, most importantly, the struggles of an immigrant family in an often hostile and unwelcoming land. While a tad too long and dramatically unbalanced, this is a poignant look at quotidian life in Europe’s marginal spaces. Vince Medeiros

MARRIED LIFE

DIRECTED BY Ira Sachs STARRING Pierce Brosnan, Patricia Clarkson, Rachel McAdams

RELEASED June 27

THE WAITING ROOM

DIRECTED BY Roger Goldby STARRING Anne-Marie Duff, Ralf Little, Rupert Graves

RELEASED June 6

“This is my friend Harry Allen. He’s married. He

Fairly dull, middle class people breaking up; to be

likes his wife. It happens.” This line is uttered by Richard Langley (Pierce Brosnan), a charming cad who doesn’t understand Harry (Chris Cooper), a hopeless romantic in love with his mistress, Kay (Rachel McAdams). But instead of letting his wife (Patricia Clarkson) suffer through the pain of being divorced, he decides it’s easier to kill her. Adapted from a John Bingham pulp novel, this is the kind of storyline that should have the audience entranced for 90 minutes. But while the mood is well articulated, there isn’t quite enough substance beneath the surface. An interesting but unsatisfying film. Limara Salt

fair it’s a tricky one to pull off, and Roger Goldby’s The Waiting Room is less than successful. It follows a free-spirited single mum (AnneMarie Duff) who simultaneously fends off the advances of a lecherous neighbour while daydreaming about a sensitive old folks’ nurse, played by Ralf Little. Performance-wise, Goldby has coaxed well-observed turns from the leads. Naturalistic and accurate as it may be, however, the sight of Little pissing in front of a discontented girlfriend is a view one could do without. The phrase ‘ant-fucking’ springs to mind: well observed and acted, but the grand idea is lost in the details. Laura Swinton

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“I don’t want to do a film so the distributor can make lots of money. Absolutely not. I like to follow my fantasies, my nightmares, my inspiration.” We’re often encouraged to follow our dreams, but Dario Argento is a man who has taken that advice quite literally. His films explore the darkest recesses of his own twisted mind and he’s known for creating some of the most artistically violent exploitation movies ever conceived. The Italian first fell in love with film when he was a high-school newspaper critic. His earliest work in the ‘giallo’ genre (the word stems from the ‘yellow’ covers of Italian pulp paperbacks) such as Profondo Rosso – his most widely celebrated film – combined the suspense of American detective fiction with elaborately excessive gore. In the late ’70s, however, he grew increasingly fantastical as films like Suspiria and Inferno explored age-old themes of the supernatural in modern day settings. They were the first instalments of his ‘Three Mothers’ trilogy, which he has only now completed with the release of Mother of Tears. He was, he admits, nervous about returning to the story after 27 years, but making the first two films back-to-back had led to ‘Three Mothers’ overload. “I wanted to explore new landscapes,” he explains, “giallo again, or fantasy or thriller – but not ‘Three Mothers’.” Now aged 67, if fantasy and violence have characterised Argento’s creative life, an ongoing struggle with censors has defined his professional one. He describes the moment he attended a screening of Profondo Rosso in Martinique (in typical

Argento style, he was there studying voodoo and zombie lore) only to find that it had lost 40 minutes. With that much gone, it had ceased to be his film at all. “This battle with the censor, the financier, with everything, has continued ever since my first film,” he says. “This battle has been so much more difficult than actually doing the films.” Despite his struggles to get his work shown in its entirety, his films have been hugely influential. Can he explain why? “I don’t show the reality, the real life, the real things that happen on the street,” he says, “I show something from my mind, the concentration of my nightmares, my dreams, something pure, profound. This is the secret to why my films influenced many directors like Tarantino and Rodriguez.” And now that director’s cuts of many of his films are finally being released on DVD, he’s satisfied that they will find a new and appreciative audience. Argento is comfortable discussing the influence of his work, but he’s not above his own version of boyish enthusiasm. Bergman, Truffaut, Godard and the movies of 1940s Hollywood are all, he says, magnificent. “Of course, I don’t forget the great Alfred Hitchcock, who is, for me, the number one director in history.” If he’s keen on Hitchcock, that’s nothing compared with the praise he heaps upon his other hero – Argento is fanatical about Freud. But then it’s not surprising that the man who has spent his professional career giving life to his nightmares should be so heavily influenced by the author of The Interpretation of Dreams. One wonders

what the grandfather of psychoanalysis would make of Argento’s films. “I think if he saw them he would like them,” says the director. “I love this man so much – his books, his ideas, his courage. I’m not so courageous. He was very dangerous because his ideas are like a prophecy. Today some people deny it, but he was the first to really understand.” Argento’s films may spring from his dreams, but that’s not the only aspect of his work that’s ripe for psychoanalysis. For example, in many of his earlier films, Argento uses his own hands in the shot at the moment of murder. When shooting his first film, he got frustrated with an actor who couldn’t make the scene believable. In the end he had no choice but to do the deed himself. Since then, he explains, he’s felt quite a sense of ownership towards his most murderous characters. “Maybe I’m just good with knives,” he laughs. And the blurred line between fantasy and reality is further called into question when it comes to casting his own daughter in several of his films, including Mother of Tears. Working with Asia Argento has had its ups and downs – as a child she would follow him around on set, and it’s fair to say that she has as clear an understanding of his vision as any actor could. But how does he feel about casting his own daughter in roles where she suffers some pretty brutal treatment? In The Stendhal Syndrome, her character is repeatedly raped, beaten and slashed with a razor. Isn’t that weird? “Okay, yes,” he concedes, before adding with a pointed chuckle, “but the films are not real.” Laura Swinton 087


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It’s when the bunny gets it. That’s the point at which Doomsday lurches off the rutted track of other post-apocalyptic thrillers and heads into the uncharted landscape of the truly insane. ‘There Be Monsters!’ the old maps used to say. Well here be cannibals, medieval knights, dystopian worlds and killer viruses. And there, in the middle of it all, be Neil Marshall, Britain’s most demented director. Well, not that demented. “People keep saying to me, ‘I can’t believe you blew up a real rabbit!’” he explains. “They don’t seem to realise that if we’d blown up a real rabbit I’d be in jail now.” Perhaps the British establishment would prefer him locked up. After all, Neil Marshall is a man on a mission. He wants to save our home-grown film industry from itself. “We’ve dug ourselves into a rut with the British film industry,” he says. “Back in the ’50s and ’60s we 088 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

used to make films that stood toe-totoe with anything coming out of the States, then slowly but surely we got left behind.” Our horizons narrowed, sources of funding dried up and it became harder and harder to break free of the establishment if you wanted to work. And if you wanted to make a postapocalyptic sci-fi adventure flick with exploding rabbits? Well, just forget it. Marshall is out to change things. “Nobody makes demented movies in this country,” he says, “but some of my favourite films are totally demented. I just thought, ‘To hell with it – I want to go nuts!’” With images from Mad Max 2, The Warriors and Escape from New York pulsating in his head, he set out to convince distributors that it was possible to make an action movie in the UK. The result? Pretty much the same as he experienced when trying to pitch the idea

of a British horror movie for Dog Soldiers. “I was told by every source of finance in the country, ‘This is not our cup of tea. We don’t do this kind of thing.’” He was forced to turn to America for money, although he remained determined to shoot the film over here. “My ambition is not to take the UK to Hollywood but to bring Hollywood to Britain,” he explains. “I want to keep making films here and make them bigger and better. But it’s increasingly difficult. We’re so ingrained in that whole Atonement thing, and fair enough – there’s an audience for it – but it’s such a limited vision. You have to spread your wings. You have to try new stuff because that’s the beauty of movies. I wanted this to be twisted and demented and completely insane because when was the last time you saw anything like that at the cinema?” Good question, and one that finally has an answer. Matt Bochenski


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Read a bunch of interviews with Zooey Deschanel and you get a pretty good feel for how it’s supposed to go. Step one: reveal how Zooey has impossibly blue eyes. Step two: comment admiringly on how understated and cool she is, in a way that only the truly gorgeous can achieve. Step three: reverently declare that she is a critical darling who will seduce the mainstream in her own good time and with no more than a flutter of those flawless eyelids. This isn’t going to be one of those interviews. Sorry. For one thing, we’ve never met her face-to-face, and we haven’t seen her new film, The Happening, directed by M Night Shyamalan, so we’re not going to sit back and pump a few approving quotes at you (sample: “Night is really smart!”) because, you know, who cares? No, we’re here to serve a higher purpose. We’re here to warn you that Zooey Deschanel is not all that she seems. She might look harmless, but Zooey

Deschanel is part of a cult, one that is enjoying a new and terrifying resurgence. Zooey Deschanel has released an album. Zooey Deschanel is a movie star turned, whisper it, musician. But where once the celebrity side project was a by-word for wannabes (Keanu Reeves), misguided rebels (Johnny Depp) or your garden variety embarrassing dads (Bruce Willis), this new generation of movie star musicians might just be the real thing. Zooey’s own debut, Volume One, is a classy pop and country throwback recorded with singer-songwriter M. Ward under the moniker She & Him. The influential music website pitchforkmedia gave it a solid review, cementing the duo’s credentials. But why bother to scratch this itch at all? Says Deschanel: “It gives you that sense of ownership from the genesis of the project to the end. It’s very satisfying because I can do something that is a collaboration between me and another person, rather

than me and a hundred other people.” She’s not alone in enjoying the creative freedom that music offers. Zooey has already sung guest vocals with Jason Schwartzman’s band, Coconut Records, while Michael Pitt continues to play with his group, Pagoda. With the likes of Paul Dano, Michael Cera, Evan Rachel Wood and Shannyn Sossamon all joining the chorus with their own groups, it looks like a credible indie outfit is this season’s must have movie star accessory. “I know a lot of people who are good at more than one thing,” is Zooey’s explanation of the thriving scene. And while she admits that she felt “a certain stigma” about releasing a record while making movies, “I think it’s cool that people can do both,” she says. It’s not all good – Scarlett Johansson has an album of Tom Waits covers on the way – but for now, this is a trend which, if Zooey’s success is anything to go by, isn’t getting back in its cage. Danny Bangs 089


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Say what you want about Josef Stalin but there was a comrade who loved his movies. He may have personally exiled some of his country’s finest directors, but when informed of film production targets by a minister he replied, “Why so many? Better make fewer films, but masterpieces.” Imagine that coming from some sharp-suited Hollywood exec. The Soviet Union was no filmmaker’s paradise but it was extraordinarily supportive of the art. The entire industry was funded by the federal budget, while the State Committee for Cinematography financed six major studios and an infrastructure network that serviced some 200,000 screens. It was a system that guaranteed the financial and ideological control of the state, and also protected filmmakers from the demands of the market – it simply didn’t matter if they made popular movies. With the collapse of communism, things changed. When, in 1996, the industry was authorised for private investment it was placed in the thick of Russia’s new gangster economy. As movies became the perfect way to launder money, private investment quadrupled to $22 million, while huge sums were spent importing American films, which previously had to be smuggled in to the country. Mongol director Sergei Bodrov remembers the period with mixed feelings. “After the situation changed, it was possible to watch everything,” he says, “but then Russian distributors started to buy junk American movies. In the beginning it was a success, and then after that people got sick of it. Then Russians started to make their own movies.” After years of insulation, however, Russian filmmakers didn’t have the expertise or the mindset to compete in

an open market. Timur Bekmambetov, director of the smash hit Night Watch, described these as the “crazy days” where “it was just enough to declare that you were a banker, a gangster or a film director to become one. But some people could not cast off their Soviet character and were drowned in the currents of the times; others simply reinvented themselves.” The first private investment boom quickly went bust but a decade later Russian cinema is again enjoying the fruits of an economic miracle. This time, however, there is a real sense that it has the expertise to compete on a global scale. Russian television picked up the slack in film production, providing opportunities for the likes of Andrei Zvyagintsev (The Return) and Aleksandr Sokurov (Russian Ark), while the scions of filmmaking dynasties like Fyodor Bondarchuk and Sergei Bodrov Jr (who was tragically killed in a rock slide while directing his feature debut) came to the fore. As Bodrov senior says, “Because there is much more money, and people are interested again to see Russian movies, the industry is booming.” By 2004, home-grown films had taken $32.5 million of a $268 million market (although that figure is skewed by the success of Night Watch, which took almost $17 million to become the highest grossing Russian release ever); and in 2006 that figure crept up to $117 million of $455 million total box office – just over a quarter share. But what about the quality of the material making it into theatres, rather than its profitability? For Bodrov, the fact that film must now be approached as a business is a necessary evil. “We were never thinking in Russia about movies as a business, but now it’s

another country,” he says. “If you borrow the money to make your movie you have to think how to get it back. It’s nature.” It’s certainly second nature to the American market, but who could imagine Andrei Tarkovsky worrying about his opening weekend? Doesn’t this represent a sacrifice of the Russian soul? “I believe so,” says Bodrov, “but, again, it’s apparent everywhere and difficult to resist. It’s just time to move forward.” If he has one regret it’s that the stampede towards commercialism has left political filmmaking on the sidelines. “People who want to take a stand with their movie are disappearing,” he says, even if there are a few, like Aleksei Balabanov, who aren’t afraid to speak their mind, or Aleksei German, who are still making art films. But they are few and far between. Perhaps that’s understandable given the political climate of Putin’s Russia. Film critic Victor Matison has reported a rumour that a new state body, modelled on a department of the KGB, will be established to monitor all cultural activity. And while no filmmakers have met the fate of murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya, says Bodrov: “Even if you can make a movie which has a strong political message it will never get released. The situation has changed. Michael Moore couldn’t work in Russia. It would be impossible for him to make critical movies about Russians now.” Bodrov is at least upbeat about the future. Timur Bekmambetov – “very interesting and absolutely modern” – is beating the Americans at their own game. And though times have changed, most of all he believes that Russians will produce great movies: “If it’s something you believe is very serious and important for you, important for your art, then you just have to gamble.” Matt Bochenski 091


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Over the past 23 years the Guadalajara International Film Festival has grown into a world-class showcase. It has served as a launching pad for the careers of Carlos Reygadas, Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu, while at the same time recognising noteworthy veterans in retrospective strands. Those honoured in 2008 included composer Gustavo Santaolalla (Babel and Brokeback Mountain) and the legendary Bertha Navarro, considered the most important producer in the history of Mexican cinema. The finest film on show was undoubtedly La Rabia by Albertina Carri, a bold and brilliant movie set amongst a small working-class community who work the rural estate of a wealthy landowner. Offering an accurate representation of rural living, and of a land and its people, it is a film primarily about the aggressiveness of nature and of adults versus the innocence of children. 092 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

Arriving hot on the heels of strong word of mouth and a prize in Berlin, José Padilha’s Tropa de Elite proved a disappointment. The follow-up to the documentary Bus 174, the film jostles in the crowded City of God/El Bonaerense genre of violent thrillers depicting the misery of life in the urban hinterlands. Despite some impressive sequences and no doubt honourable intentions, Padilha frequently comes uncomfortably close to revelling in the violence he depicts. Tackling a similar subject but in more sobering tones is Maria Ramos’ Juízo, a documentary that follows the process of underprivileged minors who have fallen into the hands of the Brazilian legal system. Due to legal constraints the accused adolescents were substituted with young people who themselves lived in similar social conditions but were innocent of any actual crime. Knowledge of this substitutive act is a distraction,

but this is still a powerful, polemical piece reminiscent of Nick Broomfield’s Tattooed Tears in its observational aesthetic and eschewing of a didactic voiceover. Fittingly, the final film we saw was unmistakeably Mexican, both in its country of origin and in its subject matter. Walter Doehner’s El Viaje de Teo has as its eponymous protagonist a nineyear-old boy who, after living with his uncle for many years, is whisked away when his father arrives to collect him after a spell in prison. Keen to return Teo back to his mother who is now living in America, the father arranges an illegal border crossing with the help of a negligent ‘pollero’. A sensitive look at the repatriation of Mexican juveniles, Doehner’s film is to be applauded for its addressing of a thorny subject and for its consideration of Mexican complicity in the cycle of exploitation, imprisonment and escape. Jason Woods


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In case you’re confused: yes, The Birds Eye View Film Festival is a nifty double entendre; and no, it isn’t sponsored by everbody’s favourite sea-faring pervert. Instead, it’s Rachel Millward’s annual effort to drag female filmmakers into the spotlight at a time when less than seven per cent of UK films are directed by chicks. Sorry, honeys. Sorry, women. Despite our massive capacity for being glib about important issues, LWLies was invited to take part in judging the festival’s Best Newcomer. That meant sifting through five contenders before going head-to-head with novelist Monica Ali, screenwriter Sharman Macdonald and Screen International senior editor Wendy Mitchell in a bloodbath of judgment… and execution. Okay, not quite, but here’s how it went down. First up was Sakuran, directed by Mika Ninagawa. Based on Moyoco Anno’s manga about a Japanese prostitute rising through the ranks, it’s an authentic response to the insipid Memoirs of a Geisha, boasting strong design and

some striking, if leaden-footed, visual motifs. Against that, the human drama of Cecilia Miniucchi’s Expired, starring Samantha Morton as a human doormat disguised as a parking attendant, seemed not just horribly banal, but downright misogynistic. The quality remained uneven in Stages, directed by Mijke de Jong, whose languid exploration of teenage alienation ultimately devolved into another middle-class family drama. A similar unevenness afflicted Pia Marais’ The Unpolished. At its best, this scabrous account of a ne’er do well family and their forlorn daughter was reminiscent of an arthouse Shameless, but it needed a stronger focus to tie things together. Finally, Hotel Very Welcome from Sonja Heiss was, depending on your point of view, either a crowd pleasing account of Gap-year ennui combined with a thoughtful and subtly hilarious comment on the hypocrisy of the travellers’ mindset in a shrunken world, or a complicit endorsement of middle-class culture vultures and their greedy, parasitical lives.

It was that difference of opinion that fuelled the final debate. Judging panels are tricky affairs: they consist of opinionated people who don’t want to be rude exactly, but aren’t in the habit of treading on egg shells. As it was, Monica Ali kept the heat on just about everybody, especially Sharman Macdonald (“I don’t know what you think because you won’t say anything!”), putting LWLies in the unusual position of not being the one causing the arguments. After a lengthy discussion, the jury was deadlocked with two votes for Sakuran (LWLies and Sharman Macdonald) and two for Hotel Very Welcome. This led to a more refined focus on the merits of the direction specifically, rather than the respective qualities of the films themselves, from which Sonja Heiss emerged a worthy winner. Congratulations to her, and to Birds Eye View, whose fourth year proved to be its most successful yet. It will no doubt (and somewhat unfortunately) continue to be a relevant stimulator of debate for years to come. Matt Bochenski 093


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The Jim Jarmusch Collection: vol. 1 (1980-1986) Permanent Vacation STRANGER THAN PARADISE DOWN BY LAW Dir: Jim Jarmusch Available: MAY 12 DVD shelves have waited no short time for this monochrome offering – its Ohioborn director is a modern-day auteur who sits comfortably in the thinking film fan’s pantheon. As a result, this mini collection forms only ‘Volume 1’ of Jarmusch’s early work, and all three pieces of ’80s memorabilia scream, ‘I am early Jarmusch, covet me! Show me to your friends!’ But is their kudos deserved? Actually, it’s a rather unsatisfying collection, given that the first, Permanent Vacation (1980), is Jarmusch’s student project for New York’s Tisch School of the Arts. Of course it should be included, but perhaps as the bonus DVD, the not-bad booby prize – anything but a third of the entire collection. Sure, it’s got elements of what 094 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

would develop into a trademark style and offers a bounty of classy shots of a bygone Manhattan, but it’s no Mean Streets or π. Both these ambitious stabs at early filmmaking are laden with lashings of youthful swagger, but the difference is that Scorsese and Aronofsky’s first offerings made serious stabs at a plot. There’s no doubt that Permanent Vacation will sparkle on your shelves, but when push comes to shove and you have to whip the disc out, you may well find it bores the hipsters you’d hoped to impress. Best then to play the rather more solid – and just as collectable – favourites, Stranger Than Paradise (1984) and Down By Law (1986). Stranger Than Paradise, the subdued non-story of a self-conscious New York brat and his equally cool Hungarian cousin, won the Camera D’Or at Cannes when it was released. It stars the luscious-lipped, Brando-like John Lurie, who made a cameo as a jazz musician in Permanent Vacation (and who in real life owns record label Strange & Beautiful Music alongside band mates The Lounge Lizards). Eszter Balint, discovered by Jarmusch while living in NYC, plays Eva.

Largely set within four grim walls with a sojourn to Cleveland and, later, Florida, Paradise is compulsive viewing. There’s a lot of Chesterfields, a bit of betting (not that we see anything as lively as a race) and, surprisingly, a rather delicious curve-ball finale. After all, it’s not often you see sunny Florida shot in black-and-white. There’s an extra silent Super-8 film documenting the cast shooting in Cleveland in the depths of winter that’s every bit as fun as it sounds. Last but not least (and it is worth watching these in order) comes Down By Law, shot by Robby Müller. Müller also worked on Dead Man (1995), Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999) and parts of Coffee and Cigarettes (2003). Here he shoots more losers languishing between four walls, this time in a penitentiary. Fulfilling Jarmsuch’s evident love for non-native English speakers, Roberto Benigni is hilarious, constantly tripping over his tongue as he addresses cellmates Jack and Zack. Unbelievable and thoroughly over the top, it is the director’s love of losers and Müller’s unreservedly laconic style that makes this silly film seriously cool. Georgie Hobbs


Southland Tales (2006) Dir: Richard Kelly Available: Now After achieving cult success with his debut Donnie Darko, Richard Kelly could so easily have gone mainstream – but instead he went crazy-ape with this sprawling, LA-set reflection upon the post-millennial State of the Union. Equal parts scabrous satire, Chandler-esque thriller, Philip K Dick sci-fi, postmodern Apocalypse and pop-culture paradoxography, Southland Tales boasts a narrative so labyrinthine that it will take several viewings just to get a grip, making it the perfect DVD. So ignore the naysayers, sit back, and let this ambitious and carnivalesque anomaly take over your brain. Anton Bitel

MOTHER OF TEARS: THE THIRD MOTHER (2007) DIR: DARIO ARGENTO AVAILABLE: NOW Mother of Tears concludes Dario Argento’s trilogy of horrors – started 30 years ago with Suspiria – that is renowned for its combination of bloodshed and surrealism. Stuck in ‘development hell’ since the mid ’80s, this final part marks a shift towards a more realistic aesthetic. Cue howls of displeasure from devoted fans of instalments one and two. Certainly the absence of striking visuals, even with the usual lashings of gore, emphasises the weakness of the sub-Buffy plot, in which an archaeology student (played by Dario’s daughter Asia) breaks the seal on an ancient urn, unleashing a torrent of demons. For all that we’ve been bigging him up, this was not worth the wait. Graeme Allister

Bleak Moments (1971) DIR: Mike Leigh AVAILABLE: NOW This 1971 suicide note stands in stark contrast to Leigh’s new offering, Happy-Go-Lucky. And while he has been busy lording it up in Cannes and Venice becoming everyone’s favourite teddy-faced grump, this miserable little gem has unfairly been left to rot in some dusty BFI cupboard. This, his debut feature, captures the desolate existence of a secretary, her ‘retarded’ sister, an uneasy teacher-boyfriend and a series of bizarre and bleak mishaps – the title is painfully literal. More Abigail’s Party than Topsy-Turvy, this might feel like one long sigh, but its humanity burns bright. Craig Driver

STREAMERS (1983) DIR: ROBERT ALTMAN Available: NOW Like a great deal of Vietnam films, Robert Altman’s Streamers suffers in comparison to the giants of the genre, a fact not helped by Matthew Modine playing essentially the same character he essayed in the far superior Full Metal Jacket. The direction successfully conveys the claustrophobia and tension of a group of young soldiers preparing for war – but like many stage adaptations, the reliance on verbose dialogue and close-ups becomes tiresome. It compliments other ’Nam films well in that it takes a different approach to what is now very well trodden subject matter, but over 20 years after its original release, we hardly need another reminder that war is hell. Jack Arnott

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Legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins achieved the rare feat of being nominated twice over at the Academy Awards for his work on The Assassination of Jesse James and the Coen brothers’ No Country For Old Men. As the latter gears up for a DVD release, we pinned down the man himself to talk about his extraordinary career. LWLies Do you have to be a bit bolshy to make it in Hollywood? Deakins If you’re going to get anywhere then yes. There’s no point in doing it if it’s just a straightforward job, you know? But as a cinematographer, you’re there to serve the director of the film – it would be totally the wrong approach if you were doing your job to be noticed. LWLies What practical input do you have on the shoot? Can you tell Tommy Lee Jones not to snarl so much, for example? Deakins It depends on the film and the relationship I have with the people I’m working with. I certainly wouldn’t say that to an actor, but I might suggest they look in a certain direction and explain why I’m doing the shot a certain way. In No Country For Old Men, when Tommy Lee and the other sheriff are talking in a parking lot, I said to Joel it would be nice to play it as a silhouette. Sometimes Joel and Ethan will explain the new shot to the actors or sometimes they’ll turn to me and say, ‘Okay, you go and explain it to them.’ In No Country it was very much everyone working together on the same thing – a bunch of friends really – so the separation of who does what gets broken down.

LWLies You started making documentaries but you’ve now said that ‘the golden age of documentaries’ is over – what do you mean? Deakins I was very lucky. I started off being commissioned to shoot a film in Eritrea without a script. Nowadays you don’t get sent anywhere unless your editor already knows what the story is. It was a much more investigative type of filmmaking in the ’70s and early ’80s, and I caught the end of that. Actually, I don’t just think the golden age of documentaries has passed, I also think that the golden age of filmmaking has too, but you don’t want to get me started on that!

trying to shoot here!’ They were testing their oil rig – it was kind of funny. We didn’t talk much beforehand but there is a big community for cinematographers here in LA. We have the ASC [American Society of Cinematographers] clubhouse where we meet regularly and have a chat.

LWLies But you’ve been able to take great advantage of contemporary filmmaking. Deakins It’s true. I am having quite a good time and I’m lucky that I get to work with great people like Joel and Ethan. I’ve got no complaints. But if you compare the films that were nominated for Academy Awards this year to the films that were nominated between 1968-1979, well, I’m sorry, but we’ve got a long way to catch up.

LWLies How much were you hemmed in by either the directors or the source material? Deakins The book was very visually written, the script was the same and I know Joel and Ethan well enough to know how precise they are in their goals. In a way, it’s more freeing to know what the directors want, then you can do your best to achieve it, so being hemmed in doesn’t come into it. Sometimes, if directors don’t know what they want, you’re just scratching around in the dark. A director needs to have a really clear plan of where they are going, even if they don’t know how to get there. Like, when I did Jarhead, we shot everything handheld. Sam Mendes and I didn’t storyboard anything. We just blocked it with the actors and shot as we went along – it was exhilarating, and very scary. Georgie Hobbs

LWLies You and cinematographer Robert Elswit both shot your contenders in Martha, Texas, at roughly the same time – how did that work? Deakins We were shooting in Martha for about 10 days when they arrived to start doing prep for There Will Be Blood. I was shooting some of the opening still frames for No Country and suddenly this huge plume of smoke came up from behind the hill. I had to call up their effects guy and say, ‘Would you mind holding fire? We’re

LWLies After forking out for The Coen Brothers Collection earlier this year, why should fans now buy No Country on DVD? Deakins Though The Man Who Wasn’t There is my favourite, No Country is probably their most interesting film, mainly because of the source material. It’s a terribly original movie.

No Country For Old Men is out on DVD on June 2.

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August Rush (2007) Dir: Kirsten Sheridan Available: Now In this contemporary fairytale, an autistic-seeming orphan (Freddie Highmore) lets the magic of music reunite him with the parents (Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Myers) who had never even known of his existence. Robin Williams may be cast against type as a menacing Fagin figure, but August Rush proves no exception to the rule that the stand-up’s presence guarantees the sickliest brand of sentimentality. Here wild coincidences are the norm, a little boy’s dreams do come true, and love, even when interrupted, lasts forever. It is contrived and mawkish, to be sure, but the sound design is extraordinary. Anton Bitel

ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS (1960) DIR: LUCHINO VISCONTI AVAILABLE: NOW It’s funny what cinema forgets. From the same year and country as La Dolce Vita, Rocco and his Brothers was equally acclaimed at the time but has been neglected since. Whether this 2-disc DVD release will reverse this misfortune is debatable, but it should shine a little attention its way. Directed by aristocratic communist Luchino Visconti, Rocco follows the Parondi family as they travel from the rural south of Italy to the more prosperous north. Each of the five brothers is showcased in turn, an innovative structure much imitated since, with Rocco providing particular inspiration for Raging Bull and The Godfather. Graeme Allister

How The Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer (2005) DIR: GEORGINA RIEDEL AVAILABLE: MAY 26 Finally we have it – a brave, honest, feminist heart-warmer for all the (female) family. Well-judged and unassuming, Riedel’s leisurely debut whispers harsh truisms. The Garcias all live in the same dull, dusty town. They and their neighbours’ lives are held together by petty rumours and untapped lust. Granny is divorced, daughter is divorced, teen is yet to kiss a boy… Kind of like Now and Then for Spanish-speakers, it made a barn-storming appearance at Sundance 2005, not least for its perfect contrast of a teen’s first-time sex scene with that of her grandmother’s fabulous fuck. Ace. Georgie Hobbs

RFK Must Die: The Assassination of Bobby Kennedy (2007) DIR: Shane O’Sullivan AVAILABLE: May 26 Somewhat unintentionally evoking Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James, this American murder tale is yet another chapter in US politics gone awry. In 1968, nearly six years after his brother wished he’d gone for the hardtop Ford Lincoln option, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in equally tragic circumstances. An expansion of the BBC broadcast aired in 2006, this enjoyably twitchy film focuses on CIA fakery, FBI tampering and many highly lucid, if not slightly mad, conspiracy theories. Craig Driver 098 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE


JANE DOE (2001) DIR: Kevin Elders Available: NOW You need a LOT of money to make this kind of crap enjoyable. Mark Neveldine’s Crank did it by flinging luv-a-duck bruiser Jason Statham through expensive set pieces and ludicrous one-liners to produce a great, if rubbish, film. Jane Doe makes Crank look La Règle du Jeu. There’s been no expensive tarting up here. The landscape is all suburban industrial parks, there’s a cast of about five and Teri Hatcher battles against the awful script harder than her character – single mum Jane – fights against those who kidnapped her son. Director Kevin Elders wants this film to scream, shame he only got the money and talent to let it yelp. Henry Barnes

THE YACOUBIAN BUILDING (2006) DIR: MARWAN HAMED AVAILABLE: NOW The biggest budget Egyptian film to date, and featuring the crème de la crème of Egyptian actors, The Yacoubian Building is an encouraging debut feature from director Marwan Hamed. Based on the best selling novel of the same name by the Egyptian dentist Alaa’ Al-Aswany, an apartment block in downtown Cairo is presented as a microcosm of a modern, metropolitan yet schizophrenic Egypt. Told through the stories of the residents, both rich and poor, the film offers a pessimistic critique of a society grappling with homophobia, endemic corruption, sexual hypocrisy and religious fundamentalism. Nicholas Queree

Zizek! (2005) DIR: ASTRA TAYLOR Available: Now The exclamation mark accompanying the title of this documentary should form as some kind of warning: it’s a fairly intense hit of heavily-accented ideological philosophy which might scare off the academically disinclined. Slavoj Zizek has been described as an ‘academic rock star’ for his show business savvy and ability to conjure memorable sound bites from his cultural theory. Although the lack of any real narrative means there is little here beyond an exploration of his work, Zizek himself is a fascinating character, and a great deal of his theory – if you can get your head around it – relates to the world we live in today. Jack Arnott

Rescue Dawn (2007) Dir: Werner Herzog Available: Now If this tale of a US Navy pilot’s extraordinary survival in the Laotian jungle seems familiar, that is because it redramatises Herzog’s 1997 documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly, with added resonances from the ‘second Vietnam’ of Iraq. There is no faulting the committed performances from Christian Bale (reprising Machinist-style emaciation), Steve Zahn (in rare non-comic mode) and Jeremy Davies (channeling Charles Manson) – but all the staged action is somehow less fascinating than the real man, making this seem a companion piece to the earlier film rather than a more definitive version. Herzog’s optional commentary, however, is riveting. Anton Bitel 099


INTO THE WILD (2007) DIR: SEAN PENN AVAILABLE: NOW Warning: you will want to burn your possessions after watching. Based on the best-selling biography of Christopher McCandless (played expertly by swoon-inducing Emile Hirsch), this is the romanticised story of a high-achiever who left his unhappy home in 1990 to hitchhike and hop trains under the selfappointed moniker, ‘Alexander Supertramp’. With Thoreau, Dostoyevsky and Jack London as his guides, he struggles alone through winter in rural Alaska, keeping a diary along the way. And, as long as you can handle Eddy Vedder’s pained – and painful – wails (he wrote the soundtrack) you’re in for a real life-changer with this jaw-dropping experience. Georgie Hobbs

HOPSCOTCH (1980) DIR: RONALD NEAME AVAILABLE: NOW The CIA, a rogue agent and the imminent publication of highly sensitive material; it’s a solid basis for a thriller – just ask the Coen brothers as they ready for the release of Burn After Reading. But Ronald Neame got their first with Hopscotch, a lazy Sunday afternoon film about a CIA agent who, faced with a desk job, goes on the run, staying but half-a-dozen steps ahead of America’s finest intelligence agency. Kept afloat by enough charm and gentle wit to distract from the terribly dated ’80s feel, Hopscotch may be a continent-crossing caper that’s low on style (Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson play romantic leads), but it’s all the better for it. Graeme Allister

Youth Without Youth (2007) Dir: Francis Ford Coppola Available: NOW Septuagenarian linguist Dominic (Tim Roth) seems doomed never to finish his life’s work. Even when a supernatural event restores Dominic’s youth and enhances his intellect, he is kept from his goals by interfering Nazis and the re-emergence of a past love (Alexandra Maria Lara). Coppola’s mannered parable of time, memory and the constraints of conscience assumes an autobiographical quality, as it traces the director’s own bid to return to his glory days. It abounds in big ideas, but lacks engaging drama, and ultimately feels like Dominic’s own project: ambitious, imaginative but inevitably incomplete. Still, it’s a fascinating failure. Anton Bitel

Garage (2007) DIR: Leonard Abrahamson AVAILABLE: June 30 The second film from director Leonard Abrahamson is a dirty little giggle. Coming from the same team behind the awardwinning black comedy Adam & Paul, this colloquial effort is a gentle study of a shy, middle-aged guy from the west of Ireland searching for love over one hot, long summer. Having won the super fancy ‘Art et Essai’ Prize at last year’s Cannes, this gentle comedy has raised a fair few brows in recent months. Following Once and Small Engine Repair, Ireland might just be the new breeding ground for a charming parade of wistfully kooky movies – Wes Anderson take note. Craig Driver

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Out of the Blue (2006) DIR: Robert Sarkies Available: Now On November 13th 1990 gunman David Gray murdered 13 of his neighbours in the small town of Aramoana. It was the worst mass murder in New Zealand’s history. Robert Sarkies directs this docu-film version of the horrific events with a dispassion that reflects the casual nature of the murders, shooting Gray in silhouette for long, paradoxically peaceful periods of time, while his victims panic around him. Much like Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, the tragic beauty of this film lies in the calm before the storm. When it breaks there’s no hype, no music – just the mathematical brutality of the act itself. Henry Barnes

OVERLORD (1975) DIR: STUART COOPER AVAILABLE: NOW As Hollywood struggles to make a delicate film about Iraq, it’s a good time for Overlord to be rediscovered. Named after the codeword for D Day, Overlord deftly combines scripted scenes of Tom, a young man training for war, with remarkable archive footage from the Imperial War Museum. Focusing on Tom’s instant and necessary maturation as he faces premonitions of death, this is a film about war but not glory. Scrupulously realised, with 1940s camera lenses sourced to connect fact and fiction without a seam, Overlord manages to be what films about war rarely are: subtle. Graeme Allister

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) DIR: MIKE NICHOLS Available: MAY 6 Charlie Wilson’s War claims that two sleaze balls (Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a born-again hypocrite (Julia Roberts) brought the USSR to its knees. Hell, all it took was a ton of money and a touch of Texan charm! Treating Russians as faceless aggressors and the Mujahideen as worthy weapon recipients, it gives a nudge and a wink to movie-goers sufficiently up on their post-1980s politics to know that the Afghan rebels aren’t quite the pro-democracy fans you should illicitly arm, but that is all. Charlie Wilson’s War is entertaining, well-paced, if sexist US propaganda. Georgie Hobbs

Zoo (2007) DIR: Robinson Devor Available: May 26 For tabloid journalists seeking their next dose of titillation, nothing provokes media frenzy like men who fancy animals. Indie filmmaker Robinson Devor’s latest work attempts to stray away from the smut and muted giggles that inevitably accompany such subjects, examining the 2005 death of Seattle-based family man Kenneth Pinyan whose colon was perforated having sex with a horse. Devor has gone for a hybrid filmmaking style – an amalgam of reenactments using actors and audio commentary provided by ‘like-minded’ horse lovers who knew Pinyan. Backed by an ambient soundtrack, the premise is to create something as objective as possible, though a conventional documentary would have been more effective, if perhaps less hip. Ed Stocker

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I IS FOR INDIA (2005) DIR: SANDHYA SURI AVAILABLE: NOW Leaving India in the ’60s to work for the NHS, Yash Pal Suri bought two Super-8 cameras and reel-to-reel recorders. He kept one set of equipment, and left the other with his family. What was intended as a means of contact became a tool for educating, remembering and no small amount of emotional blackmail as the Suris pleaded for their prodigal son to return. The material forms the basis of his daughter Sandhya’s first full-length documentary. A study of a family divided and a reminder of Britain’s uneasy passage into multiculturalism, it’s the most interesting home video you’ll ever see. Graeme Allister

The Saragossa Manuscript (1965) Dir: Wojciech Has Available: Now A Napoleonic officer and his Spanish captor become enthralled by a found manuscript whose heady blend of intertwining narratives about duelists, succubi, bandits, inquisitors, adulterers and cabalists are, as one character puts it, “enough to drive you crazy”. Based on Jan Potocki’s 1813 novel, and championed by the likes of Luis Buñuel, David Lynch and Jerry Garcia, Has’ film is released for the first time in its full three-hour version. Inhabiting a strange limbo somewhere between The Arabian Nights and Don Quixote, Monty Python and Alejandro Jodorowsky, this extraordinary film will amuse, confound and infuriate in equal measure. Anton Bitel

A CRUDE AWAKENING (2006) DIRS: BASIL GELPKE, RAY MCCORMACK AVAILABLE: NOW When George Bush warns of an addiction to oil, you know we’re in trouble. But if A Crude Awakening is to be believed, the problem is even greater than most realise. Using a handful of academic experts and energy advisors, the consensus presented by the film is that there’s much less oil left than its producers will admit and there’s no alternative energy source advanced enough to take its place. Hinting at the end of air travel and a stock market crash to eclipse 1929, the film paints a bleak picture. Indeed, the documentary is bigger on soundbites (“Oil is God!”) than solutions. Graeme Allister

Bandit Queen (1994) Dir: Shekhar Kapur Available: May 26 Before Elizabeth, Shekhar Kapur essayed this tale of Phoolan Devi (Seema Biswas), India’s notorious ‘Bandit Queen’, and another woman who refused to be broken by a patriarchal society. Forged in a crucible of rape, abuse and cruelty, Phoolan struck back, joining and eventually leading a gang of outlaws. Anybody expecting a sanitised, Bollywood version of her story, or even a Boudicean parable of social revolution and righteous feminism needs to tread carefully. Bandit Queen is a gruelling account of Phoolan’s sorry and imperfect life. Kapur acknowledges that she was an inspiration to many, but she is also a bitter and vengeful warrior. This is a hard-bitten film of terrible passions, and a damning indictment of India’s insidious misogyny. It is nevertheless compelling viewing. Matt Bochenski 102 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE


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Director Bob Clark Starring Dan Aykroyd, Gene Hackman Dom DeLuise Box Notables Extreme sun damage Tagline A comedy with personality… Lots of them.’ Trailers War Dancing The Flash House Party Heart Condition I Love You To Death My Stepmother Is An Alien Cherrypick “Every night, humpitty-hump, sloshitty-slosh – I feel like I’m living in a goddamn pussycat theatre!”

Loose Cannons provides final evidence that the ’80s video boom had breached the celluloid city walls of Hollywood and was now nearing the castle keep in which the chaste maidens of Taste, Logic and Subtlety awaited their illstarred fate. Bob Clark’s 1990 buddy-cop farrago could thus enter the kingdom unchallenged – and all hell followed: Colombian torturers, porn kingpins,

fascist swordsmen and Mossad agents all circling a home movie featuring Adolf Hitler submitting to ritual execution at the hands of his SS fops in a grainy orgy of gay S&M fetish excess. Enduring the most hellacious spell of his bitter mid-career purgatory, allstar grouch Gene Hackman looks highly uncomfortable in the role of hard-bitten, ass-chewing Washington DC vice cop, Mac Stern. Cocooned in his burgundy satin Redskins jacket and the world’s tightest stonewashed Wranglers, the audience is heartily invited to view Mac as a regular schmo who’s loveably out of step with the modern world. What he more closely resembles, however, is an intransigent and suicidal burnout whose none-too-distant obituary will surely close with the words ‘…before turning the gun on himself ’. This becomes just that bit more likely when he is partnered with big-boned man-child and tremulous super-sleuth, Dan Aykroyd, who is quite, quite insane. Years earlier, Dan was tortured mercilessly for days by some revvedup cocaine cowboys after his cover was blown during an ugly drug buy. It was an ordeal that shredded his mind like a bad cabbage and he has only just got the resultant schizophrenia even vaguely under control when a punch-up in a

strip club nudges him back over the edge into the yawning chasm of what the back of the video box insists is ‘hilarious motor mouthed mayhem’. For the rest of the film his fractured brainpan flits around the dial spewing out a staccato volley of advertising soundbites, grossly embarrassing sub-Robin Williams schmaltz and such wearisome screw-loose staples as the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz, while all the time bellowing, “I’m Mr. Spock! I’m Mr. Spock!” But these schizo episodes are apparently so disarming that they routinely stupefy any potential assailants into a state of slack-jawed impotence, and also succeed in re-awakening Hackman’s long dormant inner child. Before you know it, Gene’s quoting Dylan Thomas, sporting love beads and saving the world from the dawn of a New Reich by finally tracking down that aforementioned Nazi snuff-movie and handing it over to the Israeli Secret Service. Chortlesome stuff, no? By mixing the audience-friendly dementia of The Couch Trip with the distasteful violence of Dragnet, Aykroyd here produces a chef d’oeuvre as chimerical as a 10-ton butterfly. Hackman was to realise just 90 minutes too late that his talents lay away from comedy. Alas. 103


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“Spoon: jar. Jar: spoon,” said the late, great Tommy Cooper, by which he meant to illustrate that, at a sub-atomic level, matter is essentially the same whatever form it takes. The jar is the spoon; the spoon is the jar, he posited, uniting the worlds of vaudeville and particle physics in a way that won’t be bettered until Professor Stephen Hawking’s Burlesque Fantasia premieres at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. But why had Cooper chosen a spoon? It’s no accident that, in ancient societies, the spoon shape was used as a hieroglyph for ‘freedom’ or that a wooden spoon was presented during the manumission of slaves during the Roman Empire. Here it serves as a symbol of the free mutability of matter. And as the modern heir to this mythological folklore, film has not been immune to the influence of the spoon-as-symbol. Easily the most literal-minded of the spoonerism milieu is the procedural incarceration caper Escape from Alcatraz (1979), a prison flick that hit upon the idea of recreating the boredom, frustration and sheer manliness of life

in the can so that the audience could experience its own 112-minutes-to-life stretch. Clint Eastwood is the titular escapee from the titular rock, minding his own damn business among a selection of actually pretty good guys given that this is a prison built to house the most sickening recidivists to walk the earth. Eastwood at first seems to bring nothing to the stripy pajama party; he can’t play table tennis, never has any snouts, and his shower block etiquette is reprehensible. But he does hit on the idea of tunneling out using spoons. In prison, as they say, time is all you got. Providing a more shifting juxtaposition of freedom and incarceration is heroin-chugging Caledonian fantasy-farce Trainspotting (1996), in which the spoon plays a central role as the catalyst for cooking up some Brown. Here, the narrative plays with a paradox, making the errant cutlery a symbol of both imprisonment – in that it ties its possessor to the heavily skid-marked world of the Horse junkie – yet also a source of freedom, albeit of a very limited kind, i.e. one in which

loosing control of your bodily functions on the nylon carpet of a tenement squat approaches some Aristotelian ideal of human fulfillment. Taking both movies to their logical extension, The Matrix (1999) portrays the spoon as a release from both physical and mental imprisonment. In this world, seemingly cooked up by some half-arsed fan-boys in computer club, appearances can be deceptive, as evinced by the scene in which Laurence Fishburne stares into the back of a spoon and sees himself reflected in a mildly amusing fish-eye optical gag. Yet when Keanu Reeves checks himself out in the concave oracle, he comes inexplicably face-toface with a theatrically accomplished, talented leading man, and musician of some note to boot. It’s at this point that he, and we, realise that the Matrix must, surely, be an artifice, a confection of obvious clichés pushed upon a public easily pleased by baubles, circus tricks and electronic gewgaws. Keanu doesn’t belong here, we acknowledge. He belongs in a film called Street Kings, where there is no spoon. In any sense. 105


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new

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. update

Dir: Guillermo Del Toro

No matter how busy Del Toro gets (and between The Hobbit, comic book adaptations and ghost stories, that man is busy) his heart always seems to return to Hellboy. Maybe that’s fitting seeing as he’s hot as hell himself right now, and most directors would gladly make a pact with the devil for his kind of success. The Golden Army appears a more ambitious offering than the original, as Luke Goss’ Prince Nuada marshals an all-out attack by the spiritual world on the human plane. The trailer has trace elements of Del Toro’s wider cinematic world (especially echoes of Pan’s Labyrinth) while seeming to retain the hokey, ’80s creature-feature vibe that made the first one such damn good fun. ETA: August 2008

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex.

Dir: Uli Edel

While it’s not exactly their worst quality, the omnipresence of Al Qaeda has the effect of making them a bit… stale. There have been other terrorist groups, you know? Uli Edel certainly does, which is why he’s directing this adaptation of Stefan Aust’s book on the Rote Armee Fraktion – the German left-wing military group who waged a campaign of violence throughout the ’70s and beyond. There’s an opportunity here to examine one of Europe’s most notorious organisations, but problems may arise in the transition from non-fiction to filmed drama, while critics cite Edel’s lack of experience as a potential hurdle. ETA: October 2008 new

Dir: Frank Miller

Illustrious graphic novelist (or misogynistic pseudofascist, depending on your taste) Frank Miller must have watched his buddy Robert Rodriguez work on Sin City and figured, ‘How hard can it be?’ He’s now decided to direct a live action animation adaptation of Will Eisner’s The Spirit, the story of a rookie cop who returns from the grave to fight crime. Jaime King, Paz Vega, Eva Mendez and Samuel L have all been snared so far, with Gabriel Macht cast as the undead hero. Rodriguez’s effort aside, comic book adaptations have been a shallow and generally wretched bunch in recent years; Miller knows his subject, but may not yet have the chops to breath new life into the genre. ETA: Jan 2009

Tôkyô!

Dirs: Leos Carax, Joon-ho Bong, Michel Gondry

Three years ago Paris Je t’aime dissected the French capital through a collection of 18 short films (many of which weren’t short enough). Now it’s time for Japan’s most famous city to receive the same treatment – though hopefully with more consistent execution – thanks to a triptych from Leos Carax (Les Amants du Pont Neuf), Bong Joon-ho (The Host) and Michel Gondry (any music video you’ve seen that involved paper or string). Carax’s chapter is a love story involving a recluse and a pizza delivery girl; Bong’s follows a man who travels about town via the sewers; while Gondry’s segment is about a girl whose ribs start turning into wood. None of it sounds specifically Japanese, but with three stylised directors on board, this should be quite unusual. ETA: Late 2008 new

The Spirit.

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Dir: Andrei Zvyagintsev

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Part of the new generation of Russian directors who’ve come of age in the post-perestroika era, Zvyagintsev made a huge splash with his debut, The Return; being named the European Discovery of the Year at the European Film Awards in 2003. It’s taken four years for a follow-up to reach international audiences (a delay that may be accounted for, in part, by the trauma of losing Vladimir Garin, the 15-year-old star of The Return) but Zvyagintsev is finally set for his own return with The Banishment. Greeted with a mixed reception at Cannes (where Konstantin Lavronenko won the best actor award), this sombre, slow-moving tale of a family banished from a paradise that never was boasts an ethereal visual palette and some heavyweight religious imagery inspired by Andrei Tarkovsky. You might want to check the popcorn at the door, though. ETA: August 2008 110 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance Remake. Dir: Park Chan-Wook

As Michael Haneke’s Funny Games and Scorsese’s The Departed have shown, remakes are now a respectable way for an artist to revisit past concerns. Or to make a few quick bucks, of course. Korea’s Park Chan-Wook is the latest respectable name to play the facelift game. Rumours have long suggested a US reconstruction of Park’s Oldboy, but we suspect that the queasier elements of that film have proved too flavoursome for the Yankee money-men. At any rate, Charlize Theron is now in place to play Lady V – a damaged but mesmerising young woman on a mission to redeem herself after participating in the murder of a child. The original was fascinating despite its flaws, so it’s hard to see why this should exist. We hope to stand corrected. ETA: 2010 NEW

The Banishment.


The Dark Knight.

Dir: Christopher Nolan

UPDATE

Batman’s return had been the subject of huge speculation even before the untimely death of Heath Ledger fuelled the fires. Will The Dark Knight be the ‘Film Event of the Summer’? It will certainly be one of them, regardless of how the final product turns out. Let’s face it though, everyone wants this to be good – and the signs have always been that we’re in for something special. Ledger’s last performance will invariably be subjected to endless psychological analysis, but The Dark Knight is a blockbuster, not a gravestone. All we’re hoping for is a good film. ETA: July 2008

Surveillance.

Dir: Jennifer Chambers Lynch

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Much like her celebrated father, David, Jennifer Chambers Lynch has a taste for the stranger things in life. Her first film, 1993’s Boxing Helena, was a messed-up romantic drama involving a quadruple amputee who falls in love with the surgeon who mutilates her. It was received badly, leaving poor Jenny without a leg to stand on. Her long-delayed second feature appears to be a more commercial offering: a Rashomon-like deconstruction of a murder in the desert, as described by conflicting witness accounts. With her father’s guiding hand as producer, it looks like Lynch junior may have hit the target this time – the trailer is impressively creepy. ETA: July 2008

Akira.

Dir: Ruairi Robinson

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The first chapter in a two-part live action adaptation of the 1988 anime film, Akira will reportedly see Leonardo DiCaprio as the leader of a biker gang trying to save his kidnapped friend (Joseph GordonLevitt) from a shadowy government conspiracy. The anime that held the keys to the mainstream is rightly considered a landmark slice of science fiction – both for its subject matter and iconic animation (Akira was one of the first animes to include night scenes, which were notoriously difficult to render). One concern is that first-time director Ruairi Robinson may lack the experience to handle the awesome technical requirements of a live action update, while maintaining the allusions and subtleties of the original. ETA: Summer 2009

Dir: JJ Abrams

UPDATE

JJ Abrams must like pressure. Not content with helming the Lost scriptwriters’ great escape from a ‘we-thought-it-first’ internet fanboy quagmire, he’s now having to tackle the Holy Grail of nerd franchises – Star Trek. Film number 11 in the series is due to warp in next year, and will look at the early days of James T Kirk’s captaincy. Chris Pine has replaced Shatner (who refused to go quietly), but Leonard Nimoy’s inclusion as an OAP-aged Spock is presumably striking fear into the project’s costume department. Where exactly will they get the prosthetic rubber Vulcan ears with added grey hair? Having said that, Nimoy’s 77-year-old flesh is probably fairly shapeless, so maybe they’ll just use a jelly mould. Okay, snide remarks aside, we’re actually really excited about a new Star Trek film. We love space movies, and the early teaser trail is an absolute humdinger of properly spine-tingling proportions. Damn, we have to wait a whole year before reaching the final frontier. ETA: 2009

The Wolf Man.

Dir: Joe Johnston

While this is yet another case of Hollywood digging up and reanimating undead material, Joe Johnston’s The Wolf Man has one notable asset: it’s secured the services of special effects royalty in the form of Rick Baker. Baker won the first ever Oscar for Makeup Effects for his work on 1981’s An American Werewolf in London. The transformation scenes in that film are still the best in the history of the genre, and early promo shots suggest the project is in safe hands on the FX front. And while this is Joe Johnston’s first foray into horror – after getting the gig when original choice Mark Romanek bailed – Benicio Del Toro’s presence in the lead lends us hope. ETA: April 2009 NEW

Star Trek.

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Dirs: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson

The Incredibles may have been the last film that really blew us away, but still, in Pixar we trust. Wall-E looks like a remarkable idea, stunningly realised, while 2009 already has us impatiently awaiting the arrival of Up. Not least because this is the studio’s first 3D feature, and given Pixar’s history of innovation, it’s unlikely to be a bolted-on sequence featuring stuff popping out of the screen. Rather, Up is the story of Carl Fredricksen, a 78-year-old would-be explorer given a new lease of life by a feisty kid. It sounds kind of saccharine on paper, but the studio has a remarkable talent for transforming sickly storylines into cinematic gold. Expect this to be an uplifting tale, in every sense. ETA: 2009

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Franklyn.

Dir: Gerald McMorrow

We like Sam Riley. He’s the first young British male for some time to show true, international star potential. We also like the look of his first major project since Anton Corbijn’s Control. It’s a sci-fi thriller involving four entwined stories, set variously in the present and a futuristic London governed by religious fanatics. Eva Green and Ryan Phillippe will respectively appear as a schizophrenic artist and a V for Vendetta-style masked detective, with the former describing the plot as “impossible to summarise”. That may or may not be a good thing, of course, and Gerald McMorrow has no prior directing experience, bar a short named Thespian X. All the same, this is far too unusual a project to be left ignored. ETA: Late 2008 NEW

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Up.


Black Oasis.

Dir: Stephan Elliott

NEW

What do you get when you cast Manchester’s favourite pub-rock band in a hilarious minstrel show? We’re not sure, but we’d bet it would be horrific. On an unrelated note, Black Oasis is a film by the chap who wrote Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Rose McGowan stars as Susan Cabot, a singer who became a B-movie actress in the 1940s before embarking on a relationship with King Hussein of Jordan. Cabot died in 1986 when she was bludgeoned to death by her own son, who suffered from Dwarfism. It’s a sad, strange story – and it’s all true to boot. Further details are sketchy, but we’ll be keeping an eye on this one. ETA: January 2009

Blindness.

Dir: Fernando Meirelles

NEW

Following the real-world grit of City of God and TV spin-off City of Men, Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles brings us the somewhat stranger City of Blind People – or at least, that’s what it should be called. It’s the tale of a city struck down by a mysterious ailment, one that leaves everyone bereft of working peepers. A doctor’s wife (Julianne Moore) is the only person to be left unaffected, leaving her to survive in the crumbling world of the ocularly challenged. The strong supporting cast includes Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover and Gael García Bernal, while the Camus-like premise comes from José Saramago, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. A genuinely original thriller? That’ll be a sight for sore eyes. ETA: November 2008

The Illusionist.

Dir: Sylvain Chomet

NEW

It feels like an age has passed since the cartoon brilliance of Belleville Rendez-Vous burst onto our screens – five years, to be precise. The good news is that Sylvain Chomet’s second animated feature is coming along nicely. The Illusionist is based upon an unproduced screenplay by French super-mime Jacques Tati, and will star an animated version of the legend himself – or perhaps a reanimated one, since the poor chap’s been dead since 1982. The script follows the adventures of a haphazard magician in 1950s Scotland, and was personally handed to Chomet by Tati’s daughter. She clearly has a lot of faith in the project, and she’s not the only one. Roll on 2009, and fast. ETA: 2009

Terminator 4.

Dir: McG

NEW

What the hell is Christian Bale doing here? Isn’t this franchise dead? Hasn’t he done enough blockbusters already? Isn’t he too good to be working with that no-talent ass-clown McG? Good questions all, but in Bale we trust; the man is in so much demand that he must have seen something in this production – hopefully more than a fat cheque. This looks like one for the geeks, with a reportedly heavy focus on the development of the Model 101 Terminator and SKYNET. Paul Haggis is in the wings for script re-writes, but we’ll still bet that after its release the producers will want to send their own robots back in time to terminate McG. ETA: May 2009

Unbecoming

Directing your attention to the cinematic dog turds that litter the road ahead. This issue, Neon Kelly scoops up Jon Avnet’s Righteous Kill.

How things change. Once upon a time, we’d have been positively dribbling at the chance to see Robert De Niro and Al Pacino working together again; now it’s far more likely that the old boys themselves will be the ones dribbling, their flabby lips struggling to handle the buttery goodness of yet another Werther’s Original. Okay, that’s probably taking things a bit far, but these two men were once the finest actors in the Western world. With the possible exception of The Good Shepherd, however, ‘Bobby’ has appeared in one decent film this decade – and that was Meet The Parents. Al has faired slightly better – perhaps – but with a combined age of 133, both men are far too old to be playing streetwise cops named Rooster and Turk. Righteous Kill is a serial-killer flick directed by Jon Avnet, who is best known for Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, back in 1991. It sort of sounds okay, apart from the fact that it’s got 50 Cent in it; with any luck it might even be halfdecent. But just ask yourself this: do you really want to see a half decent thriller with these icons? Something that will muster neither joy nor anger, but at best a begrudging shrug? No, neither do we. Still, the title is quite cool – it sounds like an alternative to Bill and Ted’s Gnarly Massacre. Now that would be great.

Uncoming

Raising a glass to the films that got away.

The Short Night.

Supposed director: Alfred Hitchcock

Envisaged as ‘a realistic Bond film’, The Short Night turned out to be the final, unfinished project from ‘The Master of Suspense’. Sean Connery and Walter Matthau were both considered for the role of Joe Bailey – a man out to avenge his brother’s murder at the hands of a British double agent: the wimpily-named Gavin Brand. Night would have seen Joe shlepping around Finland in an effort to find Brand’s family, since the man himself has just escaped prison and is expected to slink home. Our hero winds up falling in love with the wife of his quarry – a move which leads Brand to attack his wife via a gas-operated sauna. Quite how this would work is unclear, but we bet Hitch would have worked it good. The film had been on his to-do list since 1968, and the director even made a few trips to Helsinki to check out possible locations. Alas, by the time things got moving in the late ’70s, his health was in rapid decline. This led to arguments with co-screenwriter Norman Lloyd, and eventually with Universal themselves, who doubted Hitch could film the required action scenes. They shut down his production offices in 1979, and the great man died the following year. Chances of resurrection: As healthy as Norman Bates’ mum. 113


Issue 18, On Sale June 28 The next issue of LWLies is on sale June 28. In the meantime, make sure you check out www.littlewhitelies.co.uk to keep up to date with web exclusive interviews, reviews, news and features. Leave us your opinions, comments or general feedback in the new ‘Blogs’ section, and get involved in our online community. See you there.

“I hate it when people stack one animal on top of another for entertainment purposes. You know, things that just shouldn’t be on top of each other.”

114 THE GONE BABY GONE ISSUE


Mens & Womens Clothing, Footwear & Accessories. Reach: supremebeingclothing.co.uk, unify-shop.com


Dennis Quaid

Sarah Jessica Parker

Ellen Page

and

Thomas Haden Church

“A brilliantly clever comedy” Grazia

“Hilarious and touching in equal measures” Sight & Sound

From the producer of

OFFICIAL SELECTION

“Sideways”

SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL

Sometimes the smartest people have the most to learn.

smart pe ple strong language and soft drug use 15 Contains

GROUNDSWELL PRODUCTIONS PRESENTS IN ASSOCIATION WITH SHEREZADE FILMS AND VISITOR PICTURES A CORDUROY FILMS/TABLE TOP FILMS PRODUCTION IN ASSOCIATION WITH QED INTERNATIONAL A FILM BY NOAM MURRO DENNIS QUAID SARAH JESSICA PARKER THOMAS HADEN CHURCH SMART PEOPLE ELLEN PAGE ASHTON HOLMES CASTING BY DEBORAH AQUILA, C.S.A. AND TRICIA WOOD, C.S.A. CO-PRODUCER DEBORAH AQUILA MUSIC BY NUNO BETTENCOURT COSTUME DESIGNER AMY WESTCOTT EDITORS ROBERT FRAZEN YANA GORSKAYA PRODUCTION DESIGNER PATTI PODESTA DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY TOBY IRWIN EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS OMAR AMANANT STEFFEN AUMÜLLER MARINA GRASIC JENNIFER ROTH KENNETH ORKIN ED RUGOFF BILL BLOCK PAUL HANSON PRODUCED BY BRIDGET JOHNSON MICHAEL COSTIGAN MICHAEL LONDON BRUNA PAPANDREA WRITTEN BY MARK JUDE POIRIER DIRECTED BY NOAM MURRO

IN CINEMAS 16 MAY www.smartpeoplethemovie.co.uk

Little White Lies 17 - The Gone Baby Gone Issue  

LWLies is a bi-monthly, independent movie magazine that features cutting edge writing, illustration and photography to get under the skin of...

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