celebrates 45 years of cinema coverage
Magic Roundabout: Magic, Circumstance and Psychology
1 4 | Art & Film Still Life: Iceland's 700IS Reindeerland Festival
24 | Widescreen Secret Cinema: Maharashtra's Tent Cinemas
3 0 | 1000 Words Slash and Burn: How Halloween lit the Fuse for the Slasher Explosion
Regulars 0 4 | Reel World
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1 8 | One Sheet
cover image pandora and the flying dutchman (courtesy park circus ltd.)
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0 4 | Spotlight
Published bi-monthly by the internationally renowned film society of lincoln center, film comment provides global coverage in cinema including exclusive interviews, in-depth reviews, discussions on new releases and classic films, authoritative profiles on luminaries in the industry, and developments in the art of filmmaking.
Issue Eight. May/June 2010
‘Perhaps you haven't found what you want yet, perhaps you're unfulfilled. Perhaps you don't even know what you want, perhaps you're discontented. Discontentment often finds vent through malice and destruction.' Hendrik van der Zee
3 4 | On Location Madrid, Spain
3 8 | Screengem Wilson the Volleyball
4 2 | Parting Shot Hands Off
4 4 | Competition Picture This
4 6 | Listings
A roundup of this issue's featured films
The Big Picture ISSN 1759-0922 © 2010 intellect Ltd. Published by Intellect Ltd. The Mill, Parnall Road. Bristol BS16 3JG / www.intellectbooks.com Editorial office Tel. 0117 9589910 / E: email@example.com Publisher Masoud Yazdani Senior Editor & Design Gabriel Solomons Editor Scott Jordan Harris Contributors Jez Conolly, Nicholas Page, Emma Simmonds, Daniel Steadman, Scott Jordan Harris, Tony Nourmand, Alison Elangasinghe, Gabriel Solomons Special thanks to John Letham, Sara Carlsson and all at Park Circus, Jelena Stanovnik, Michael Pierce at Curzon Cinemas and Gabriel Swartland at City Screen Please send all email enquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org / www.thebigpicturemagazine.com l The Big Picture magazine is published six times a year
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reel world f i l m b e yo n d t h e b o r d e r s o f t h e s c r e e n
the bluesman's crossroads is where music, movies, popular culture and American folklore merge. Updating the medieval legend of Faust, the Delta bluesmen of the 1920s /1930s Tommy Johnson and Robert Johnson (no relation) were said to have sold their souls to the devil at this metaphorical (and literal – the crossroads in question is supposedly in Rosedale, Mississippi) junction in exchange for prodigious guitar talents, with Robert’s ‘Cross Road Blues’ (1936) immortalizing the myth in song. Fifty years later, the tale was the inspiration for Walter Hill’s Crossroads (1986), in which a gifted young guitarist Eugene Martone (Ralph Macchio) battles for the soul of bluesman Willie Brown (Joe Seneca) in a guitar duel with Jack Butler, the devil’s star pupil, played by rock guitarist Steve Vai. Hill’s movie gave the MTV generation a contemporary link to an already seminal moment in music history.
The Coen brothers gave further credence to the enduring legacy of the crossroads myth during O Brother,Where Art Thou? (2000). The deft mix of Homer’s Odyssey and slapstick comedy includes the character of Tommy Johnson (Chris Thomas King) who, based on both Tommy and Robert, is fresh from making his own Faustian pact. The Coens’ seamlessly blend the ancient and contemporary tales to create their own peculiar vision of American bluegrass music and culture. With blues music festivals, bands, clubs, societies and cafes all across America bearing the crossroads name (and the TV series Supernatural featuring its own version of the tale with an episode entitled ‘Crossroad Blues’), it’s evident that this particular legend is alive and well in contemporary popular culture. [tbp]
Hill’s movie gave the MTV generation a contemporary link to an already seminal moment in music history. (left) setting the scene: crossroads (1986)
The legend of Robert Johnson selling his soul at the crossroads is more associated with music than film but, as neil mitchell explains, movies are responsible for much of its prevalence in popular culture.
(above) robert johnson (2001) (right) ralph macchio in crossroads
cover feature Y
left ava gardner
below james mason and ava gardner
c i n e m a ' s t h e m at i c s t r a n d s
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951) Dir. Albert Lewin
Numerous films feature characters cursed - by magic, circumstance or their own psychology - to relive the same inescapable pattern in the same inescapable place. jez conolly visits six such movies – and hopes he’ll be able to return.
Pandora and The Flying Dutchman is back in UK cinemas from 14 May. Images courtesy of Park Circus Limited
pandora is unable to love anyone but herself, and claims that the measure of love is how much one is willing to sacrifice.
Pandora (Ava Gardner) lives in the Spanish port of Esperanza. She is unable to love anyone but herself, and claims that the measure of love is how much one is willing to sacrifice. Dutch captain Hendrik van der Zee (James Mason), arriving in Esperanza, is in fact the legendary Flying Dutchman, condemned to sail the seas for eternity unless he can find a woman who loves him enough to die for him. Every seven years, the Dutchman is allowed to come ashore for six months to find and fall in love with a woman. He is unwilling to let Pandora die, and deliberately tries to provoke her into leaving him, until she learns the truth, and swims out to his yacht once more so that they can be joined together in death. The film was shot in Tossa de Mar, where a statue of Gardner now overlooks the town’s main beach.
spotlight magic roundabout
The Exterminating Angel (1962)
Buñuel believed that a member of the bourgeoisie would rather starve to death than commit the tiniest social faux pas. ➜ left self imposed damnation top right sir michael redgrave (and friend)
spotlight c i n e m a ' s t h e m at i c s t r a n d s
Dir. Luis Buñuel A group of people in formal dress arrives at an elegantly appointed home for a dinner party. However, once dinner is over and the guests retire to the drawing room, they discover that the servants have gone away – and for some reason they cannot leave. There is no explanation why – there are no locked doors or barred windows preventing them from going home – but the guests are convinced that they’re stranded. The inability of the guests to leave is a metaphor for the bourgeois tendency to blindly emulate one’s neighbour and reluctance to be seen to break any rule of etiquette, however ludicrous. Buñuel believed that a member of the bourgeoisie would rather starve to death or degenerate into savagery than commit the tiniest social faux pas, such as being the first to walk through an open door. The guests in the film are prisoners of their own making.
Dead of Night (1945) Dir. Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hammer An architect (Mervyn Johns) arrives at Pilgrims Farm for a routine appointment and experiences intense déjà vu. He can predict what the houseguests are about to say and do and foresees a terrible event – the culmination of a recurring nightmare within which he is trapped. The other guests relate their own strange tales, most famously that of a psychiatrist (Frederick Valk) about a ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) whose dummy seems to have a mind. The Möbius strip nature of the film – the final scene exactly mirrors the opening shots – inspired cosmologists Fred Hoyle, Thomas Gold and Hermann Bondi to develop their ‘steady-state theory’ of the universe, an alternative to the Big Bang. Gold said ‘I think we saw that movie several months before, and after I proposed the steady state, I said to them, “Isn’t that a bit like Dead of Night?”’
spotlight c i n e m a ' s t h e m at i c s t r a n d s Kobal (2)
When even suicide fails to break the spell, Connors decides to spend his own private eternity on selfimprovement. ➜
Groundhog Day (1993) Dir. Harold Ramis ‘Okay campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties because it’s COOOLD out there today. It’s cold out there every day…’ intones the irritating DJ for the nth time as the radio alarm clock belonging to TV weatherman Phil Connors’ (Bill Murray) flips over to 6am. Due to some unexplained temporal anomaly, Connors seems destined to relive the same 24 hours reporting on the supposedly predictive behaviour of the groundhog known as Punxsutawney Phil. When even suicide fails to break the spell, the initially mean-spirited Connors decides to spend his own private eternity on selfimprovement, saving lives, performing random acts of kindness and getting to know his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell), which results in a relationship that eventually stops the time loop. Groundhog Day bore many similarities to the Richard Lupoff short story 12:01 PM (1973), which was made into an Oscarnominated short film in 1990 and a feature film in 1993.
left bill murray is heading for a fall
1408 (2007) Dir. Mikael Håfström A sceptical writer (John Cusack) checks in to Room 1408 at the Dolphin, determined to stay the night and disprove its reputation as a haunted hotel. The hotel’s manager (Samuel L. Jackson) warns him that it is ‘an evil fucking room’ and that nobody has lasted more than an hour in it before. Undaunted by this, the writer enters the room. When the clock radio begins playing ‘We’ve Only Just begin’ by the Carpenters and commences a 60-minute countdown it is the prelude to the new occupant’s seemingly endless incarceration in the infernal room. Director Mikael Håfström reshot the film’s ending after US test audiences responded negatively to its downbeat nature. The original denouement survives on the UK DVD release. Based on a short story by Stephen King, 1408 possesses distinct similarities to The Shining – except that, this time, the hotel proves even more difficult to escape.
Based on a short story by Stephen King, 1408 possesses distinct similarities to The Shining – except that, this time, the hotel proves even more difficult to escape.
above John Cusack checks in
spotlight c i n e m a ' s t h e m at i c s t r a n d s Kobal
no exit (1962) Dir. Tad Danielewski
Three sinners, finding themselves together in what appears to be a hotel room, come to believe they are actually in hell.
Three sinners, finding themselves together in what appears to be a hotel room, come to believe they are actually in hell. They initially expect to receive some kind of torture or punishment for their sins, but when no such treatment materializes, it slowly dawns on them that they have been put together to torture each other for an eternity, hence the play’s famous line ‘Hell is other people’. Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist masterpiece Huis clos (1944) (most often translated as No Exit) has been filmed several times: first in 1954 by Jacqueline Audry and again eight years later by Tad Danielewski. Feature-length versions have struggled to successfully expand the plot without prolonging the agony for the audience – the play lasts a mere 50 minutes – but Danielewski inserted silent flashback enactments of the sins committed in an attempt to give the viewer some relief from the oppressiveness of the inescapable room. [tbp]
left rota GAM & viveca LINDFORS
12:01 PM (1973) may/june 2010
clockwise from opposite page Interior Day / Elina Medley View from window of Eidar Art Centre in East Iceland Gun / Dominic Nguyen
visual art inspired by film
Could you summarize the 700IS Reindeerland festival for us and describe just what makes it unique? 700IS Reindeerland is an international experimental visual arts festival with video art as its main focus. It is based in a remote area of east Iceland that has only around 12,000 inhabitants. The festival is different in that the submission process is designed to be particularly artist-friendly; this year the initial selection process happened entirely via the Internet. The organizers of 700IS are artists themselves, so from the beginning it was very important to us that there be very few rules. Artists can submit as many films as they like, with no restriction on when the film was made, its length, the age of the artist or any need for qualifications. The only stipulation is that the film / video has not been shown in east Iceland before.
Now in its fifth year, the 700IS Reindeerland festival is an innovative celebration of film and video art. With its accompanying video-stills exhibition, it provocatively takes the motion out of motion pictures. emma simmonds met its director and curator krist ín scheving .
Every year the festival travels to different parts of the world, mainly within Europe: we will screen in Germany, Sweden, Russia, the Faroe Islands as well as the USA. 700IS also forms part of a EU-funded project called ‘Alternative Routes’ in Hungary, Portugal
and in the UK (Liverpool). The festival is bigger this year than in previous years and for the first time we offered a residency programme, for three selected artists. An interesting feature of the festival is the travelling art exhibit, which displays video stills taken from submitted films. Can you explain why this is an important part of the festival? I have a personal interest in video stills, as I come from a visual arts background; I trained as a painter first and then went into experimental art, with a particular interest in finding new ways of ‘painting’ a picture. My new tool in this was the video camera – from a Super 8 camera in 1996 to a digital camera today.
'The organizers of 700IS are artists themselves, so from the beginning it was important to us that there be very few rules.'
I think some of my personal work has been more successful when viewed as video stills and this is why I wanted to have this extra show, to introduce the Icelandic audience to the concept of video stills. may/june 2010
art&film 700IS reindeerland festival
(People do get confused and think they are looking at a photograph!) The films remain the most important focus for the artists themselves but I sometimes feel more connected to the stills. We also thought this would be an innovative way of promoting the festival, as we are showing the stills in a few of the main arts institutions in Reykjavik, as well as exhibiting the stills show around the country – in artists’ residencies and other venues. Do you think a still image can capture the essence of a film? I think that stills can be viewed almost as a new work – they let the audience make up their own story, as they are only getting a glimpse of the whole piece. The majority of the time when you watch a film you are seeing the story that the artist / filmmaker wants you to see. Looking at a still gives you an opportunity to view another version, and perhaps it even gives the audience more freedom to understand that film / video. Also, our audience might have seen a still in the catalogue, on our web page or in the still shows and come to the film having already made up their own story around it, and then be surprised by what they see.
You mentioned that some viewers of the stills get confused and think them photographs. Do you think attendees will view it as though it were, in effect, an exhibition of photography? No, I don’t think it makes a great deal of difference to our audience whether these are film stills or photographs. It is, of course, very different for the artists / filmmakers themselves, as they are in so much control of where to freeze their film to make their video still. Choosing the right still from a film can be very difficult because you have so much choice – and what you want to say might get lost. I have found this with my own work – it is hard to select only one image to represent a film. It seems to me that many films are constructed, almost consciously, in order to be consumed as both films and as still images; that the miseen-scène is so carefully staged that they lend themselves to it. Are there any films from the festival that you thought did this particularly effectively? Yes, I think the stills made by Elina Medley and David Whitaker and Dominic Nguyen are the most successful in this way. Elina Medley is a photographer first and then a video artist, and that shows. She has selected the moments so carefully, and they are so peaceful and beautiful, that they work perfectly as stills with or without the film. The same can be said of Dominic Nguyen and David Whitaker’s Gun.
'Choosing the right still from a film can be very difficult because you have so much choice – and what you want to say might get lost.' clockwise from above festival director Kristín Scheving looploop / Patrick Bergeron Streymi / Mar°a Dalberg Lóla / Áslaug Einarsdóttir Salem Light / Sara Björnsdóttir
Festival website: www.700.is
Finally, which are your favourite films from this year’s festival? I really enjoyed Sara Gunnarsdóttir’s Sugarcube, as it is very nostalgic and has personal resonance. UK artist Elina Medley’s film Interior Day has a similar appeal. Although she has filmed moments in which, at first, little appears to be happening, it is the small things she is ultimately interested in: a shadow on the wall or someone living in a quiet space, looking out of a window and observing people living in the distance.
The winning films are, of course, also favourites of mine – Patrick Bergeron has a brilliant way of taking you on a trip and his film LoopLoop was ultimately chosen as our ‘Film of the Festival’. Sara Björnsdóttir won the ‘Alternative Routes’ prize for Salem Light; in it she works with a material as ‘ugly’ as cigarette smoke, yet turns it into something beautiful that brings to mind the Aurora Borealis. I also like Áslaug Einarsdóttir’s incendiary film Lóla very much: it was named ‘Icelandic Film of the Festival’. [tbp]3 may/june 2010
one sheet deconstructing film posters
Brilliant horror films often inspire brilliant, and horrifying, film posters. tony nourmand , of the Reel Poster Gallery, studies four international examples. many, if not all , of us enjoy the titillating prospect of being scared senseless by a horror movie, and it is the job of film-poster artists to deliver the first fright. Of course, the horror genre is packed with creations just begging artists to explore: from blood-sucking vampires and Gothic monsters to giant apes and human mutants. The styles employed to depict such creations, however, vary greatly between artists and countries.
Eastern European poster artists are renowned for exploring the darker elements within their designs, and this is even more pronounced when they address the horror genre. This Polish poster for Kaidan (which literally means ‘ghost story’ in Japanese) is by famed artist Wiktor Gorka (b. 1922). Gorka graduated from the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts in 1952. He has toured exhibitions of his work around the world and has won numerous awards. Three of his most famous designs are the Polish posters for Spartacus (1960), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Cabaret (1972). Kwaidan (1964) Original Polish / Art by Wiktor Gorka ➜
www.reelposter.com [artist ] Wiktor Gorka [artist ] Anselmo Ballester
romuald socha (b. 1943) is another successful Polish poster artist and graphic designer. His design for Polanski’s Le locataire/ The Tenant successfully captures the paranoia of being watched and the film’s creeping sense of dread. In contrast to the more ‘graphic’ designs of Eastern Europe, Italian poster artists favoured a more ‘painterly’ approach, as demonstrated by Anselmo Ballester’s poster for The Face Behind the Mask. Ballester (1897–1974) is famous for his beautiful film poster art and designed more than 500 posters over a 45year period. He is known for his work with independent distribution company, Minerva Film, where he was employed as the main artist. He is also renowned for the work he
produced through BCM – a company he created with Luigi Martinati and Alfredo Capitani and which specialized in film poster design. Through BCM, Ballester also worked extensively for Columbia. Eraserhead (1976) was David Lynch’s opus, which he worked on obsessively for five years. Hypnotic and violent, the film tells the story of a child born a reptilian mutant. The surreal worlds that Lynch creates in his films have a nightmare quality in which reality is supplanted by the bizarre landscapes of his imagination. The Japanese poster on the next page for Eraserhead successfully embodies this disturbing characteristic. It also illustrates a typical trait of Japanese posters, which often favour the use of photography over more classic illustration. [tbp]
Romuald Socha's design for Polanski’s Le locataire/ The Tenant successfully captures the paranoia of being watched and the film’s creeping sense of dread. (above)The Tenant / le Locataire (1976) Original polish /Art by Romuald Socha (left) The Face behind the Mask / L'Uomo dalla Maschera (1941) Original italian / Art by Anselmo Ballester
Eraserhead (1977) Original japanese
AfricAn / nigeriAn AmericAn – Hollywood AmericAn – independent ArAb directory of AustrAlAsiAn britisH cAnAdiAn cinema cHinese eAst europeAn frencH directory of world cinema: germAn american independent irAniAn indiAn itAliAn JApAnese russiAn swedisH turkisH Visit the website and explore the volume for free spAnisH / portuguese soutHwww AmericAn / . worldcinemadirectory. org brAziliAn isrAel koreA
From the raw realism of John Cassavetes to the postmodern nightmares of
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and discussion. The Directory of World Cinema: American Independent provides an insight into American independent cinema through reviews of
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of dysfunctional families, homicidal maniacs and Generation-X slackers take
their place alongside the explicit expressionism of the American underground, making this a truly comprehensive volume.
The Directory project is published by intellect, is an independent academic publisher with a focus on creative practice and popular culture, we are committed to providing a vital space for widening critical debate in new and emerging areas. To ﬁnd out more visit www.intellectbooks.com.
widescreen film in a wider context
Secret Cinema 24 www.thebigpicturemagazine.com
A distinct feature of the architecture of these itinerant cinemasthe fashionably modified walls and roofs of the tent, which are often constructed from discarded film posters and banners.
The ingenious entertainment tradition of screening films in makeshift tents across rural areas of India is finally getting the publicity it deserves thanks to researcher shirley abraham and photographer amit madeshiya . Introduction by Shirley Abraham Interview by Gabriel Solomons may/june 2010
widescreen tent cinemas
As the lunar calendar heralds the full moon after the crop-gathering season, pilgrims in remote hamlets in Maharashtra (western India) begin preparing to participate in the annual religious fairs that are hosted by nodal villages. Simultaneously, another set of devotees start getting ready for their annual pilgrimage: the owners of the touring ‘tent cinemas’ begin piling on their reels, projectors, posters and tickets to accompany the fairs – a well-worn tradition in these parts. The season of the ‘tent talkies’ is the only time in the year when patrons in hundreds of villages stand enraptured by the silver screen, which fuels dormant dreams and spins a world of fantasy. Thousands travel from neighbouring villages to the fairs, where the tent talkies (a rare annual experience) must compete with acrobats, trick shows, traditional folk theatres, and daredevil stuntmen. Tell us a little about the Tent Cinemas project: who was involved, what backing did you receive and what was the purpose of the project? Amit and I started working on the project in January 2008 with support from the India Foundation for the Arts under their arts research and documentation programme. We conducted the first field trip to Pusegaon village about 200 miles away from Mumbai and were fascinated to witness such an antiquated yet organized form of exhibition. We were also intrigued by the sheer ingenuity of the community, who have sustained these cinemas for all this time and preserved the experience of collective cinema viewing for more than six decades. We then began looking for references to the tent cinemas in popular accounts of cinema’s evolution in India – but they were hardly mentioned at all.
With around five to seven cinemas pitching for attention, the setting demands large and striking film banners. These are ingeniously designed by refurbishing the publicity material generated from the distribution center in the city. Often such collages employ poses of actors from various films, and not just from the film currently showing in the tent cinema. Seen in this image, a postercollage of Murder (2004, Hindi).
This became the impetus to undertake an extensive project of research and documentation to find out why their story hasn’t been told. We began excavating historical developments in this timeline, and started to develop an exhaustive project exploring numerous strands in this captivating yet untold story. Why is it that the tent cinemas lack any real documentation? There is an economic function that has been associated with these cinemas, and hence they have been perceived and represented as a window of exhibition. This means they have only found a place in the distribution figures of regional Marathi cinema, while the other performing arts like the tamasha (regional theatre) – which have always accompanied the jatras – have been widely integrated into both popular and academic writing. continued on page 28 ➜
Old films still remain popular and run to packed tents in the fairs. Seen here is the film poster of Yevu Kaa Gharaat (1992, Marathi), a riotous comedy directed by Dada Kondke.
In a sense, the same patronage and devotion that was once the sole province of the religious fairs has now come to define the audiences’ relationship with the tent cinemas. may/june 2010
widescreen tent cinemas What can you tell us about the importance of these travelling cinemas to the cultural and social life of the communities they engage with? From being a neocolonial experience when they were introduced to villages in Maharashtra in the 1940s, the travelling cinemas have evolved to become inseparable from the cultural lives of their patrons – even physically so, as they are located on the fields surrounding the villages. For these communities (located far from fixed-site theatres) tent cinemas provide the only big-screen experience available. They have also become part of the pilgrimage; families travel to participate in a religious ritual, but they also watch a film in the tent cinema. In a sense, the same patronage and devotion that was once the sole province of the religious fairs has now come to define the audiences’ relationship with the tent cinemas. Apart from films in the local dialect Marathi, some tent owners also screen mainstream Hindi films, often employed as teasers to attract audiences. Seen on this screen is one of the year’s biggest Hindi blockbusters starring Shahrukh Khan. Bollywood films are often screened to kickstart the proceedings of the day. Lately, action films from the regional film industry in south India have become extremely popular among the audiences. Seen here is a poster of a Telugu film dubbed in Hindi.
Bauer projectors of German make were the first projection machinery brought to these dusty villages in the mid 1940’s. Till date, the same projectors- though much modified and Indianized, have been handed down like heirlooms- across generations spanning more than six decades.
The cinemas were introduced in the jatras in order to source potential audiences, but now they are strengthening this old community festival. more photography
It's fascinating to note that the tent cinemas found a venue in religious fairs (jatras) early on – and that now their gods seem to have to share equal billing with screen icons and movie idols. Is there not a bit of a conflict of interests? A bit of idolatry creeping in where it shouldn't? Interestingly, this is more of a symbiotic relationship, of harmonious coexistence. The cinemas were introduced in the jatras in order to source potential audiences, and now – as the cinemas become the prime attraction of the fairs – they have also strengthened this old community festival. There are also instances of reduced attendance in the jatras where there has been a certain censoring of entertainment through the cinemas.
DVD, television and other media must pose a threat to the existence of the tent cinemas. Do you feel there is a chance they will simply die out - or do they offer something unique that will ensure their survival? The threat of new, slick, widely available means of cinema distribution is a very palpable one. While it may be speculative to predict the longevity of the cinemas, it is notable how the owners are continuously reinventing the cinemas in order to sustain them. To lure the audiences into the tents, they have introduced novel marketing techniques such as putting the lead actress of the film in a two-person-wide rusted ticket dispenser, from where she distributes tickets and gives away complimentary photographs of herself. There are also contests that are held after film screenings. With every progressive season we have also seen a greater penetration of brands advertising their products on tents, providing some much needed sponsorship. So, it seems the tent cinemas are unwilling to fold up without putting up a fight. What’s next for the project? We have been selected for the anniversary grant programme of the Goethe Institute (an organization that promotes the study of the German language abroad and encourages international cultural exchange and relations). The story of these tent cinemas, which were initiated with second-hand Bauer projectors (of German make) from Bombay, is extremely pertinent to the institute, so we propose to make an interactive installation, tracing Indo-German association in the field of film exhibition. We are also in the process of developing a book and a documentary film on tent cinemas. [tbp]
See more of Amit Madeshiya's work at: www.lightstalkers.org/amit-madeshiya may/june 2010
opposite jamie lee curtis
m o m e n t s t h at c h a n g e d c i n e m a f o r e v e r
When Michael Myers first stalked cinemagoers in 1978, he sparked an entire sub-genre. After Halloween, the slasher movie exploded. scot t jordan harris looks at a true turning point for film.
burn 30 www.thebigpicturemagazine.com
right Moira Shearer below Anthony Perkins
F e w f i l m s h av e c h a n g e d the landscape of horror as momentously and indisputably as John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). Carpenter’s debut established a sub-genre that immediately became one of the most popular, populous and profitable in North American movies. (Note that I write ‘North American’ and not ‘Hollywood’: because of the tax breaks available to filmmakers in Canada, and the low budgets needed for slashers, the country quickly became a prolific producer of the films.) Its villain, the monolithic masked madman Michael Myers, gave the movies one of their most iconic characters – and his influence led to the films that gave Halloween fans two more: A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger and Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees. The slasher film did not spring fully formed from Zeus’s (or John Carpenter’s) head. The seeds of the sub-genre can be found in Alfred Hitchcock’s Jack the Ripper-inspired silent The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927) and – five years later, in sound and on the other side of the Atlantic – in George Archainbaud’s Thirteen Women (1932) with Myrna Loy. Other longacknowledged precursors
to the slasher movie include the so-called ‘splatter’ movie (gore-heavy horror films in the style of Blood Feast (1963)); the vibrant and twisted Italian sub-genre of horror giallo (exemplified in the deliciously disturbing work of Dario Argento, Mario Bava and their imitators); and the American exploitation pictures of the 1970s. But there are more direct prototypes. As discussed in Adam Rockoff ’s Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (which is probably the definitive book on the subject) and its 2006 film adaptation of the same name (which is definitely the definitive documentary on the subject), two dark masterpieces from 1960 – Michael Powell’s career-killing Peeping Tom and Hitchcock’s seminal Psycho – clearly inspired the slasher. Twelve years after them, Wes Craven and Sean Cunningham (who, a decade later, would work separately to create two franchises synonymous with the slasher movie, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th) worked together on the
Two dark masterpieces from 1960 – Michael Powell’s career-killing Peeping Tom and Hitchcock’s seminal Psycho – clearly inspired the slasher.
1000 words slash and burn
left freddie kruger (robert englund)
With Halloween, it was clear Carpenter had invented an artistic model so precise almost anyone could follow it – but, once the film’s enormous box-office takings were calculated, it was even clearer he had invented a business model sure to make millions.
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infamous The Last House on the Left (1972). With its story of nubile teenage girls gruesomely gutted by a sadistic lunatic, Last House was a definite step toward the slasher as we know it today. Two years after, Bob-A-Christmas-StoryClark’s festive fright flick Black Christmas (in which the members of a sorority house are systematically murdered) was a veritable leap toward the slasher proper: it had virtually every element that would define the slasher film, just without much slashing. It is only in retrospect, however, that we can see these pictures as leading to something. Pre-Halloween they were simply a collection of vaguely similar films, whose connections may, or, more likely, may not have been noted. Post-Halloween they are evidence of the extraordinarily slow gestation of a type of film whose growth, once it emerged into the world, would be extraordinarily rapid. In the aforementioned film Going to Pieces, horror aficionado and former New
Line Cinema executive, Jeff Katz, calls Halloween ‘a perfect film’. And so it is. It is not perfect in a nebulous and unattainable sense (it is not the ‘ultimate’ movie) but it is perfect in a more realistic sense: everything it does, it does as well as could possibly be done. No aspect of Halloween feels as if it could be improved upon and, however much the movie has been imitated (and it has been imitated endlessly), no film of its kind has ever surpassed it. Indeed, Halloween’s every element proved so un-improvable that a basic description of its plot and most distinctive features stands as basic description of the plot and most distinctive features of just about every slasher movie made since. On a day of celebration, a mysterious and apparently invincible maniac stalks an array of pert and perky American teens. He slays them in succession, usually with a bladed weapon, and each murder is more ingenious than the last. Adults are absent, or unbelieving. The teens are alone with the horror. That
[screengem] Michael Myers’ Mask [brilliant failures] Student Bodies
above Krug Stillo (as David A. Hess) in The Last House on the left
horror, though perpetually implied, only intermittently erupts onto screen. In between murders there are false frights and semi-scares that keep the characters, and the audience, jumpy. Throughout, there are shots from the killer’s point of view. For the teens, having sex means inevitable evisceration. Only the upstanding, virginal, ‘final girl’ can survive. That these elements seem so clichéd now – that, in fact, they sound like rejected lines from a script for Scream – is evidence of how original they were, and how well they worked, when Carpenter first combined them. But there is much to praise in Halloween that isn’t John Carpenter’s handiwork. There is the overall influence of co-writer and co-producer Debra Hill. There is the elegant and eerie cinematography of Dean Cundey, and the subtly unnerving production design of Tommy Lee Wallace (who is responsible for that ingenious mask and, therefore, for so much of Michael Myers’ potency). And then there is Jamie Lee Curtis’ fittingly understated performance as Myers’ main prey and Donald Pleasence’s fittingly overstated performance as his tireless
pursuer. Halloween, however, is undeniably Carpenter’s creation. Carpenter produced and directed the film. He wrote both its script and its score. (The score deserves special praise. Its jangling ostinato is frightening and unforgettable. Subsequently, it is – alongside Bernard Herrmann’s nervecorroding screeches of strings in Psycho and John Williams’ unbearably foreboding lurches of cello in Jaws – a piece of music now synonymous with cinematic terror.) Carpenter also orchestrated Curtis’ coronation as Hollywood’s ‘Scream Queen’, and boosted the career of Donald Pleasence (who would return to the Halloween series well after Carpenter and Curtis had abandoned it). He created a classic. And he did it all on a budget of $300,000. That last detail is crucial. With Halloween, it was clear Carpenter had invented an artistic model so precise almost anyone could follow it – but, once the film’s enormous box-office takings were calculated, it was even clearer he had invented a business model sure to make millions. It was this that caused the explosion of the slasher movie. [tbp] A re-imagining of A Nightmare on Elm Street will be released in cinemas 7 May 2010.
Rithy Pahn 13 to 29 June 2010 Supported by Alliance Fransaise de Glasgow and Culturesfrance. GLASGOW FILM THEATRE BOX OFFICE 0141 332 6535 BUY TICKETS ONLINE WWW.GFT.ORG.UK
on location t h e p l a c e s t h at m a k e t h e m o v i e s
Located in the centre of Spain, and in the centre of the country’s cinematic imagination, Madrid has always been an integral part of Spanish cinema. nichol as page looks at some of this historic city’s finest film appearances.
opposite alberto closas below Lucia Bosé
Muerte de un ciclista/ Death of a Cyclist (1955) Dir. Juan Antonio Bardem Spain, 88 minutes Starring Alberto Closas, Lucia Bosé, Carlos Casaravilla
Along with his long-term friend and collaborator, Luis García Berlanga, Juan Antonio Bardem (uncle of noted screen-actor Javier) led the revival of Spanish cinema during the 1950s. Perhaps his most successful film during that particular period, Death of a Cyclist is concerned with the moral corruption of the Spanish bourgeoisie under Franco. The film follows a university professor named Juan (Alberto Closas) who strikes and kills a cyclist with his car before fleeing the scene. Eventually both his guilt and fate catch up with him.
on location t h e p l a c e s t h at m a k e t h e m o v i e s
clockwise from below boys will be boys penÉlope cruz paz vega
Abre los ojos/ Open Your Eyes (1997)
Dir. Alejandro Amenábar Spain, 117 minutes Starring Eduardo Noriega, Penélope Cruz, Fele Martínez Used as inspiration for the Tom Cruise vehicle Vanilla Sky (also starring Penélope Cruz) in 2001, Alejandro Amenábar’s Open Your Eyes is the tragic story of rich young man and terrible womanizer, César (Eduardo Noriega), whose face is severely disfigured in a car accident involving an ex-lover. The accident, and events that caused it, are recounted by César – wearing a curious mask to hide his face – to his psychiatrist in the form of flashbacks, through which we learn the horrifying truth behind the mask.
Lucía y el sexo/ Sex and Lucia (2001) Dir. Julio Medem Spain, 128 minutes Starring Paz Vega, Najwa Nimri, Tristán Ulloa
La mala educación/ Bad Education (2004) Dir. Pedro Almodóvar Spain, 106 minutes Starring Gael García Bernal, Fele Martínez, Daniel Giménez Cacho
The young titular character of Julio Medem’s Sex and Lucia (played by Paz Vega) is working as a waitress in Madrid when she hears about the death of her boyfriend, Lorenzo (Tristán Ulloa). Devastated by this loss, and hoping to flee the troubles of her own life, she decides to visit the mysterious Balearic Islands, a place her late lover spoke of often. There, she makes friends with Carlos (Daniel Freire) and Elena (Najwa Nimri), later learning she may have more in common with them than first expected.
Undoubtedly the most successful and influential filmmaker of his generation, Pedro Almodóvar is a name that has, over the past few decades, become synonymous with not only the cinema of Spain but also that of Madrid. Almodóvar’s Bad Education (2004), starring Gael García Bernal and Fele Martínez, stretches even further back than the director’s career, portraying the relationship between two young men. It begins in Madrid in the 1980s before moving back to detail the men’s experiences with love, school and cinema in the 1960s.
The Lovers of the Arctic Circle (1998) / What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1984) may/june 2010
screengem e vo c at i v e o b j e c t s o n s c r e e n
Wilson Volleyball the Y
Counsellor, philosopher and negotiator, this innocuous leather ball transforms from lowly leisure gear into one man’s personal salvation. daniel steadman takes a look.
At certa in times in life all you need is someone to listen. Alone, scared and descending into madness on a desolate island, Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) turns instead to something. Featureless and unobtrusive, a humble Wilson brand volleyball becomes Chuck’s only friend and confidante as the years of monotonous solitude drift by. ‘Wilson’ quickly outgrows his raison d’être as a simple piece of sporting equipment, and even inherits facial features by means of Chuck’s bloody hand (an injury sustained during a
disastrous attempt at firebuilding). Starting with simple exchanges (Chuck offering round roasted eel chips, Wilson politely and silently declining), their relationship soon blossoms into a comfortable buddybuddy bond. Wilson defuses tensions between Chuck’s increasingly schizophrenic alter egos (wordlessly, as ever) and Chuck seeks solace in the volleyball’s resolute, unflinching outlook on life. Though this ‘character’ obviously generated a great deal of cult value (Wilson even manufactured a handprint covered replica), Chuck’s spherical companion is a hugely effective dramatic
device. Opinions differ wildly on the schmaltz-laden opening and closing acts of Robert Zemeckis’ shipwreck tale, but the strength of the film’s island narrative cannot be denied. Wilson’s place in Chuck’s life gives Hanks the chance to portray a loveable madman: someone conscious of his lunacy, barely keeping it at bay, and craving attention to keep him from doing the unthinkable. ‘Wilson’ unquestionably provides a source of comedy, but he is also a saviour – an inanimate, inflatable lifeline for a man at the end of the world. [tbp]
Wilson’s place in Chuck’s life gives Hanks the chance to portray a loveable madman.
opposite tom hanks forges an unusual friendship in Cast Away
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Don’t Look Now British Cinema in the 1970s
Studies in Eastern European Cinema
Edited by Paul Newland
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ISBN 9781841503202 Paperback | £19.95 While post-war British cinema and the British new wave have received much scholarly attention, the misunderstood period of the 1970s has been ignored. Don’t Look Now uncovers forgotten but richly rewarding ﬁlms, and offers insight into the careers of important ﬁlm-makers. Newland sheds light on the genres of experimental ﬁlm, horror, and rock and punk ﬁlms, as well as representations of the black community, shifts in gender politics and adaptations of television comedies.
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By Allister Mactaggart
Edited by Graeme Harper and Jonathan Rayner
ISBN 9781841503325 Paperback | £14.95
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clockwise from opposite the beast with five fingers and now the screaming starts! asylum
i m i tat i o n i s t h e s i n c e r e s t f o r m o f f l at t e r y
t h e s c u t t l i n g a n d s o m e h ow sentient severed hand disturbs us for numerous reasons. Most obviously, it resembles an arachnid: fear of spiders is perhaps the world’s most common phobia. More significantly, though, the severed hand represents that part of the human body that inflicts most pain, with a consciousness entirely (and terrifyingly) separate from the head and the heart. Probably inspired by the character ‘Thing’ in Charles Addams’ acclaimed cartoon ‘The Addams Family’, such a hand starred in Warner Bros Pictures’ shocker The Beast with Five Fingers (1946). That film’s plot was reworked in the infamously execrable The Crawling Hand (1963) (notable nowadays primarily for its inclusion in Brandon Christopher’s 2004 DVD documentary The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made). The previous year an inexplicably living hand had appeared in a crucial scene in a film that is, in contrast, one of cinema’s most celebrated: Luis Buñuel’s El ángel exterminador/ The Exterminating Angel. (Buñuel claimed, incidentally, to have written the original story idea for The Beast With Five Fingers whilst working at Warner Bros 20 years earlier.)
Whether crawling around the Addams Family’s mansion or clutching at the throats of victims in hammy horror movies, the severed but living hand is a recurrent image onscreen. scot t jordan harris tries not to get strangled.
In the 1970s the so-called ‘Amicus hand’ became a pivotal prop in a number of that studio’s sensationalist horror films – including Asylum (1972) and And Now The Screaming Starts! (1973). In the 1980s, Oliver Stone's remake of The Beast with Five Fingers, which was given the simple and direct title The Hand, ensured five fingers of living death remained prominent on the big screen. By far the most famous version of an animate detached hand, however, came, fittingly, in Barry-Men-In-BlackSonnenfeld’s adaptation of The Addams Family (1991). [tbp]
The severed hand represents that part of the human body that inflicts most pain, with a consciousness entirely (and terrifyingly) separate from the head and the heart.
JumpSuits go further
The Hand (1981) / The Addams Family (1991) may/june 2010
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Back in Cinemas
So you’ve read about the films, now go watch ‘em!
Putting the movies back where they belong...
Crossroads (1986) Dir. Walter Hill
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) Dirs. Wes Craven
g see page 4/5
g see page 32
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951) Dir. Albert Lewin
The Last House on the Left (1972) Dir. Wes Craven
This edition of The Big Picture has been produced in partnership with Park Circus, who are committed to bringing classic films back to the big screen.
g see page 6/7
The Exterminating Angel (1967) Dir. Luis Buñuel g see page 8
Dead of Night (1945) Dirs. A. Cavalcanti, C. Crichton, B. Dearden, R.Hammer g see page 9
Groundhog Day (1993) Dir. Harold Ramis g see page 10
1408 (2007) Dir. Mikael Håfström g see page 11
No Exit (1962) Dir. Tad Danielewski g see page 12/13
Halloween (1978) Dir. John Carpenter g see page 30
Peeping Tom (1960) Dir. Michael Powell g see page 31
Psycho (1960) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock g see page 31
g see page 33
Death of A Cyclist (1955) Dir. Juan Antonio Bardem g see page 34/35
Bad Education (2004) Dir. Pedro Almodóvar g see page 36
Open Your Eyes (1997) Dir. Alejandro Amenábar g see page 37
Sex and Lucia (2001) Dir. Julio Medem g see page 37
Cast Away (2000) Dir. Robert Zemeckis g see page 39
The Beast with Five Fingers (1946) Dir. Robert Florey g see page 42
And Now The Screaming Starts! (1973) Dir. Roy Ward Baker g see page 43
Asylum (1972) Dir. Roy Ward Baker g see page 43
the big picture issue 9 available 10 July 2010
The Big Picture explores the Road Movie...
A lushly romantic love story with a supernatural twist, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman will be back in cinemas this spring. Starring Ava Gardner – one of Hollywood's most glamourous actresses – and charismatic screen legend James Mason, this rare cinematic gem has undergone a painstaking restoration, resulting in a sparkling new version of the film. Unavailable theatrically for many years, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman will be re-released from 14 May at BFI Southbank, Filmhouse Edinburgh, Irish Film Institute and selected cinemas. More details of cinema screenings of these and other classic movies from the Park Circus catalogue can be accessed via: www.backincinemas.com
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