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Issue 9 / Friday 24 September

Cambridge Film Festival Daily I nterview

A Coogan and Brydon Story Audiences who enjoyed the verbal sparring between comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in A COCK AND BULL STORY were in for a treat on Thursday evening with the theatrical presentation of THE TRIP. But surprisingly producer Andrew Eaton revealed in the question and answer session after the screening that it nearly didn’t happen. Both Coogan and Brydon needed persuasion to get on board. “Steve was keener but Rob was not so keen because I don’t think Rob liked to be living in Steve’s shadow”. Originally made as a six part comedy series for the BBC to be shown in November 2010 the director Michael Winterbottom and Eaton have cut the project into a 90 minute version for viewing outside the UK. Based around semi-fictionalised versions of their public personas, THE TRIP follows

Hot Ticket Friday 24 September PART II of the UK SHORTS continues with a selection of films exploring relationships at 5.30pm. Includes MODERN LIFE IS RUBBISH. Polish coming of age drama ALL THAT I LOVE combines punk and Solidarity at 6.00pm.

THE TRIP

Take crime fighting into your own hands with the documentary SUPERHERO ME at 10.30pm.

Coogan and Brydon on a gastronomic tour of the north of England as they file copy for a broadsheet. Fittingly given the subject matter, Eaton and the director Michael Winterbottom took the pair out to dinner at the classy River Cafe to convince them. But really the film is one giant excuse for the pair to engage in constant banter over impressions, such as who can do the most authentic Michael Caine. The results are so hiliarious that even the cast weren’t immune. “Often we had to stop filming because the boom operator was laughing so much it kept dropping into the shot”. Eaton described the dynamic between the two, “I think it’s a really unique relationship that they have because they have genuine friendship and genuine rivarly”. How close the performance here resembles real life is hard to tell but Eaton indicated that one scene where Coogan makes a sarcastic speech about what he would say at Brydon’s funeral hits the mark. Certainly THE TRIP works in a feature format with sufficient story arcs and characterisations to break out of the sitcom straightjacket. Yet slightly forlornly the filmmakers have struggled to present the project as a film in the UK. “It’s to do with the economics and the fact that television funding in this country is very strong and film funding is very weak. I don’t understand why the two things can’t fuel each other. We’ve spent most of our careers doing that.” David Perilli THE TRIP was screened on Thursday 23 September


CAMBRIDGE IN 3D TENT © TC

F E AT U R E

3D: low-end gimmick or the future of cinema? Mark Kermode has confidently predicted the end of it within two years. On the other side of the Atlantic, Roger Ebert has told Newsweek that “It is unsuitable for grown-up films of any seriousness. It limits the freedom of directors to make films as they choose.” The industryled resurgence of 3D films has steadily gained momentum over the last few years, reaching an all-time high with James Cameron’s box office conquering Goliath, AVATAR, at the start of this year and attracting the ire of traditionalist movie critics the world over. Since then 3D films have looked set to become even more prevalent. Even features not shot purposefully for 3D, such as ALICE IN WONDERLAND and CLASH OF THE TITANS, have been taken into the world of plastic glasses and inflated ticket prices using a widely criticised post-production conversion process. Some filmmakers have even begun to challenge the studios, speaking out against the ubiquitous use of 3D – including TRANSFORMERS helmer Michael Bay. I asked long-time Stanley Kubrick collaborator, Jan Harlan, whether he suspects the master filmmaker (ever the innovator) would have been at the forefront of this current craze. “He was interested in all technology that improved the image that he wanted to portray, and 3D isn’t one of them... The only film he made where 3D could be interesting was 2001, in parts. But with a film like EYES WIDE SHUT why would you bother?” Echoing those comments of Ebert, Harlan added, ”if you want to make a deep film, it’s distracting almost.” Bill Lawrence, an expert

in the history of filmic innovations, is similarly unconvinced, seeing it as just one in a long line of gimmicks which diminish the quality of films made: “Quite often now they use the 3D effect to sell poor stories... to try and get an audience in.” Many of these critics are willing to write the practice off, but film historian Ian Christie sees something fundamentally different in the current push towards the format that sets it apart from attempts made in the fifties, seventies and eighties. For one thing, Christie suggests the technology behind it now is much better, giving it more appeal. But more important than that is the business side. ”I think now the mainstream industry is throwing a lot more behind it than was ever the case in the past.” Big electronics firms in particular are putting a lot of investment into it too: “the technology companies are determined to make it work. Sony in particular are throwing everything at it, and they see it as a massive solution to a lot of problems they’ve got.” Not to mention the fact that massive investment has already gone into upgrading many of Britain’s projectors to support the push. Another factor counting in 3D’s favour is that attitudes towards it have changed from within the creative side of the film industry. Speaking of earlier attempts Christie says, “It was seen as a gimmick, and it was actually seen as a sort of low-end gimmick. There is still a lot of that about at the moment... with PIRANHA 3D. But the difference is that some pretty serious filmmakers want to do something with it.” He was of course referring to the likes

of James Cameron, but also more critically revered directors. “Scorsese’s current picture is 3D as well. And I think that’s going to be a real game-changer, because it’s going to be hard for people to just write it off.” Meanwhile, Werner Herzog just premiered his first 3D film, a documentary on cave paintings, in Toronto. Speaking to Christie is refreshing, as he expresses a sincere interest not really in vogue in film criticism. “I personally feel very enthusiastic about 3D, it’s a wonderful resource and a whole new generation of filmmakers has to learn how to use it. It’s not immediately obvious, it’s a learning process. So if it can establish itself, then I think we might see a new generation coming through.” Perhaps the reluctance of people to seriously consider the process is not wholly unprecedented: “Cinemascope was bitterly attacked on all sides... and sound, was bitterly opposed, and colour. Just about every big development in the history of film has had its detractors – by defenders of what they consider to be true cinema.” For Christie, 3D is full of possibilities, and certainly nothing to be dismissed out of hand. “Cinema thrives on novelty” he enthuses. He ends our conversation on a similarly excitable note: ”I’d just like to see some more varied 3D films made. Bring them on, I say!” Robert Beames TRUE LEGEND 3D is screened on Friday 24 September at 10.30pm and CAMBRIDGE IN 3D: THE LIFE OF A STATION takes place at the Grand Arcade on Friday 24 September and Saturday 25 September


DARK SOULS

review

review

PLUG & PRAY Dir / jens Schanze 90 mins / Germany 2010

Voices Unbound: The Freedom Writers Dir / Daniel Anker 91 mins / USA 2009

PLUG AND PRAY, on the surface a documentary about the future of robotics and artificial intelligence, ends up telling us more about the failings of the human advocates of this rampant technology than about the technology itself. Raymond Kurzweil, a trenchant futurist and hi-tech inventor, proclaims it human “destiny” for us to merge with machines and exceed current capacities for thought and reason, as is the right of human intelligence as “really the most important phenomenon in the world.” Jens Schanze’s film wastes no time in highlighting the hubristic danger of such beliefs, and Professor Joseph Weizenbaum’s sensitive but passionate objections to the “delusional grandeur” of modern roboteers ring true based on the footage shown. Offering a truly global vision of how a narrow group of elite scientists are set on changing the lives of all of humanity, Schanze presents his chosen subject with a keen eye for the visually amazing (not to mention bizarre) side of robotics and wisely insists on reminding the audience that the issues on discussion in the film are directly relevant to the problems of today – the European Commission, it is pointed out, have earmarked 400 million Euros to developing new robot technologies. It might be asked what has sparked a fresh look into the field of robotics when a lot of the science is hardly groundbreaking in terms of the ideas. But as technology continually rises in ubiquity, this is a reminder that the artificial revolution is not inevitable - it is unfashionably prescient but necessary. Oliver Ford

In the mid-90s, a young teacher arrived at an underprivileged school in Long Beach, California. Surrounded by stories of drugs, abuse, violence and neglect, she began a project which involved the children writing a diary of their lives, eventually taking on a title coined by a group of students during the Civil Rights Movement, The Freedom Writers. What resulted was a movement in itself, the diaries becoming a book and bringing children from all over the USA together. Although not particularly different in its delivery and style as a documentary, even at times not going deep enough into the facts of how events took place, it is nonetheless the story that shines through. The film is very well structured and almost restrained in its release of information; there were over 150 Freedom Writers and it does well to focus on a select few, which creates more of a narrative structure and characters with which we can identify. And it is primarily through their personalities that a powerful and emotional and important event is successfully documented. However, this is not only the story of The Freedom Writers and their lives and how they created this book. It also examines their influences; the books that inspired them, the people that shaped their lives and how they have now stepped away from their former lives. More than a story, this is a study of inspiration and bravery, of how we can look to each other in times of need and make a difference. Mike Boyd

PLUG & PRAY is screened on Friday 24 September at 8.30pm

VOICES UNBOUND: THE FREEDOM WRITERS is screened on Friday 24 September at 4.00pm

review

Wanted: man who drilled my daughter DARK SOULS Dir / Mathieu Peteul, Cesar Ducasse 97 mins / Norway, France 2010

If Abel Ferrara’s DRILLER KILLER and Larry Cohen’s THE STUFF were dropped inside a Magimix and the resulting concoction seasoned with a dusting of tonguein-cheek humour it’d likely end up looking something like Mathieu Peteul and Cesar Ducasse’s DARK SOULS. The film opens with a teenage girl named Johanna (Johanna Gustavsson) jogging alone through the woods. She barely has time to build up a sweat before a sinister figure dressed in orange overalls wrestles her to the ground and bores a hole into the side of her head with an electric drill. Later, moments after she returns home, her father Morten (Morten Ruda) receives a phone call from the police pronouncing her dead. His joking and laughing is soon turned to shock when she starts vomiting up thick black bile. It turns out she is the first victim of a bizarre wave of attacks involving a mysterious black liquid which transforms otherwise healthy individuals into mindless, rotting zombies. As his daughter slowly loses control of her bodily functions and her skin begins to blacken and decay, a distraught Morten takes upon himself to get to track down those responsible. Fans of Chris Morris’ JAM will no doubt find plenty of laughs in the ludicrousness of Morten’s situation as Johanna slowly becomes his pet zombie but the film is also at times a sensitive portrait of fatherly devotion. And when Morten is shown watching old Super 8 family films with his daughter’s limp, rotten body propped beside him it’s difficult to know whether to laugh or cry. Jason Goodyer DARK SOULS is screened on Friday 24 September at 9.00pm


STUDENT CRITICS YOU, THE LIVING How this film can make me laugh, when it doesn’t have a funny or feel good story, I do not know. The first 15 minutes of the film is one of the most enjoyable film openings I have seen. This film has many different types of comedy, there is in your face, and then it is subtle, and sometimes both at the same time. YOU, THE LIVING is made up of 50 or so scenes about the lives of several dull (yet loveable) Swedish characters. The film is set in an urban area of northern Europe. Wherever the scene is set, its set is made up of dull colours and everyday normal objects, which helps us realise how these people are so depressed, but don’t think that it’s a bad film because it is about people living a depressive and monotonous life, because this film is absolutely marvellous. How Roy Andersson can make a scene where a woman is leaving a man and thinking of committing suicide can make the whole

audience in a cinema laugh is amazing. Each character leads a different life and they all have different reasons for being the way they are which makes each character unique and loveable for a different reason. The film does not follow any conventional narrative and yet I came out from watching the film wishing that every film were like this one. Will Johnson

documents to Pierre (Guillaume Canet), the middle man. Pierre is a typical family man, as well as a nobody, which helps him to retain his status of ‘above suspicion’. The relationship of Sergei and Pierre gradually builds and their friendship constitutes the emotional core of the film, and delivers subtle tones of humour throughout. The film also features the struggle of keeping the best intentions for each parents’ children at heart. The performances from both main characters are inspiring, and they quickly align the audience with their resistance and paranoia, involved in the cold war era for spies. The film delivers an impressive example of international cinema and succeeds in captivating the audience in a story of tyranny and conviction.

AUDIENCE REVIEW ENTER THE VOID

ENTER THE VOID wasn’t devoid (pun intended) of interesting visuals, but it was really far too long. Unless, of course, one’s notion of time was as blurred by drug use as most of the “characters�. I have put that word in inverted commas, because the characters were largely so banal in what they thought, or had to say to each other, that I tended FAREWELL not to care what happened to them. The fact that the male lead was highly lackFAREWELL is a compelling ing in any impulse that wasn’t related espionage thriller, based on true events to incest, was another problem. Having that will keep you on the edge of your said that, the write-up clearly stated seat up until the bitter end. that this was a sensual experience, not Directed by Christian Carion, an intellectual one. FAREWELL is set in Cold War Moscow, That being said, some of the diatwo years after the Soviet invasion of logue was both lacking in any spark of Afghanistan. The narrative follows Harriet Roffey imagination and so poorly acted that Sergei Gregoriev (Emir Kusturica), it was just embarrassing. One young who is a Soviet official of high rank, actor plays a character who had found with access to critical information, out that a friend has had close relations and in turn starts to pass confidential with his mother, and he is singularly 60mm flyer:Layout 1 29/07/2010 09:35 P worse than everyone else in each of his scenes. The delivery of some truly dire material was hardly compelling, and This newsletter is produced just made one laugh despairingly at on re-cycled material & what one was seeing, or even cringe. printed with vegetable based The visuals, including some editing inks under the sponsorship tricks and morphing which were highly of effective, redeemed the 2 h 25 mins that were taken up by this film. But there was still a lot of predictability and redundancy that just had me looking MA Film Studies to see what the time was, and hoping &XWWLQJHGJHWKHRU\LQFOXGLQJ  that it wouldn’t be much longer before I GLJLWDOFXOWXUHWKHWUDQVQDWLRQDO could get to the bar. Anthony Davis limetree offset limited

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CFF10 Daily #9