AberdeenTheAcidHouseBeingHumanBraveheartBrigadoonComplicityBreakingtheWavesCullodenDeat sponsored by WatchDogSoldiersFourEyesFranzKafka’sIt’saWonderfulLifeGreyfriar’sBobbyHighlanderTheHouseofMi KidnappedLateNightShoppingLocalHeroGregory’sGirlMacbethMagdaleneSistersTheMaggieManofAra MorvernCallarIKnowWhereI’mGoing!MrsBrownMyChildhoodOneLifeStandOneMoreKissOrphansThePri ofMissJeanBrodieRatcatcherRegenerationMyNameisJoeRestlessNativesRobRoyShallowGraveTrainsp SilentScream16YearsofAlcoholSmallFacesSweetSixteenThatSinkingFeelingThe39StepsStrictlySinatra TunesofGloryWhiskyGaloreTheWickerManWilburYoungAdamAberdeenTheAcidHouseBeingHumanBrav BrigadoonComplicityBreakingtheWavesCullodenDeathWatchDogSoldiersFourEyesFranzKafka’sIt’saWo fulLifeGreyfriar’sBobbyHighlanderTheHouseofMirthKidnappedLateNightShoppingLocalHeroGregory’s GirlMacbethMagdaleneSistersTheMaggieManofAranMorvernCallarIKnowWhereI’mGoing!MrsBrownMy hoodOneLifeStandOneMoreKissOrphansThePrimeofMissJeanBrodieRatcatcherRegenerationMyName estlessNativesRobRoyShallowGraveTrainspottingSilentScream16YearsofAlcoholSmallFacesSweetSixt at Sinking FeelingThe39StepsStrictlySinatraTunesofGloryWhiskyGaloreTheWickerManWilburYoungAd AberdeenTheAcidHouseBeingHumanBraveheartBrigadoonComplicityBreakingtheWavesCullodenDeat WatchDogSoldiersFourEyesFranzKafka’sIt’saWonderfulLifeGreyfriar’sBobbyHighlanderTheHouseofMi KidnappedLateNightShoppingLocalHeroGregory’sGirlMacbethMagdaleneSistersTheMaggieManofAra MorvernCallarIKnowWhereI’mGoing!MrsBrownMyChildhoodOneLifeStandOneMoreKissOrphansThePri ofMissJeanBrodieRatcatcherRegenerationMyNameisJoeRestlessNativesRobRoyShallowGraveTrainsp SilentScream16YearsofAlcoholSmallFacesSweetSixteenThatSinkingFeelingThe39StepsStrictlySinatra TunesofGloryWhiskyGaloreTheWickerManWilburYoungAdamAberdeenTheAcidHouseBeingHumanBrav BrigadoonComplicityBreakingtheWavesCullodenDeathWatchDogSoldiersFourEyesFranzKafka’sIt’saWo fulLifeGreyfriar’sBobbyHighlanderTheHouseofMirthKidnappedLateNightShoppingLocalHeroGregory’s GirlMacbethMagdaleneSistersTheMaggieManofAranMorvernCallarIKnowWhereI’mGoing!MrsBrownMy hoodOneLifeStandOneMoreKissOrphansThePrimeofMissJeanBrodieRatcatcherRegenerationMyName estlessNativesRobRoyShallowGraveTrainspottingSilentScream16YearsofAlcoholSmallFacesSweetSixt at Sinking FeelingThe39StepsStrictlySinatraTunesofGloryWhiskyGaloreTheWickerManWilburYoungAd AberdeenTheAcidHouseBeingHumanBraveheartBrigadoonComplicityBreakingtheWavesCullodenDeat WatchDogSoldiersFourEyesFranzKafka’sIt’saWonderfulLifeGreyfriar’sBobbyHighlanderTheHouseofMi KidnappedLateNightShoppingLocalHeroGregory’sGirlMacbethMagdaleneSistersTheMaggieManofAra MorvernCallarIKnowWhereI’mGoing!MrsBrownMyChildhoodOneLifeStandOneMoreKissOrphansThePri ofMissJeanBrodieRatcatcherRegenerationMyNameisJoeRestlessNativesRobRoyShallowGraveTrainsp SilentScream16YearsofAlcoholSmallFacesSweetSixteenThatSinkingFeelingThe39StepsStrictlySinatra TunesofGloryWhiskyGaloreTheWickerManWilburYoungAdamAberdeenTheAcidHouseBeingHumanBrav BrigadoonComplicityBreakingtheWavesCullodenDeathWatchDogSoldiersFourEyesFranzKafka’sIt’saWo fulLifeGreyfriar’sBobbyHighlanderTheHouseofMirthKidnappedLateNightShoppingLocalHeroGregory’s GirlMacbethMagdaleneSistersTheMaggieManofAranMorvernCallarIKnowWhereI’mGoing!MrsBrownMy
50best ScottishFilms ofall
contents the 50 best scottish films of all time
contributors Publisher Robin Hodge Supplement Editor Miles Fielder Writers Tim Abrahams, Catherine Bromley, Steve Cramer, Paul Dale, David Martin, Henry Northmore, Mark Robertson Design & Art Direction Krista Kegel-Dixon Production Simon Armin Picture research David Martin Published by The List Ltd HEAD OFFICE: 14 High Street Edinburgh EH1 1TE Tel: 0131 550 3050 Fax: 0131 557 8500 www.list.co.uk email email@example.com GLASGOW OFFICE: at the CCA 350 Sauchiehall Street Glasgow G2 3JD Tel: 0141 332 9929 Fax: 0141 353 2803
Extensive efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this publication; however the publishers can accept no responsibility for any errors it may contain. ÂŠ2003 The List Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of The List Ltd.
2 Introduction 4 The 50 best Scottish films of all time We choose our firm favourites 30 Scotlandâ€™s top filmmakers Movers and shakers, present, future and past 47 How to make your own film handy guide for aspiring filmmakers 49 Index
introduction as anyone ever asked you to name your favourite film of all time? It’s no easy task. How to pick a single title from the hundreds, if not thousands of films you’ve loved over the years. With this guide The List has given itself a slightly less daunting task: to name check our 50 favourite Scottish films. The fact that the staff at List Towers have been appraising good, great and sometimes terrible Scottish films for 18 years now makes that task somewhat easier still. And we’ve given ourselves a broad definition of what makes a film ‘Scottish’. A film made in Scotland by Scots, obviously. But also a film made in Scotland by a foreigner. Dane Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves fits into this category. Our definition is even broad enough to include Braveheart (Australian star and director, American money, even Ireland doubling as Stirling! But a blockbuster about a Scottish folk hero and a film that employed nearly every Scottish actor – except Billy Connolly, apparently). Getting the picture? You, the reader, have a tougher job on your hands: choose a single film. Your favourite Scottish film of all time. Send us your vote via mobile text message (see the opposite page for details). In the new year we will announce the most popular title in The List, and there will be prizes for voters. There’s more. We’ve expanded the guide beyond a top 50 films. In keeping with The List’s efforts to seek out Scottish filmmaking talent, we’ve included a ‘Who’s Who’ of movers and shakers in Scottish film. Many of them are famous names, just as many are newcomers you may not be familiar with, and we’ve added a few folk who are no longer alive but whose contributions to Scottish film warrant them a place in the Hall of Fame. At the back of the guide we tell you what Scotland’s top filmmakers are doing next. And finally we’ll tell aspiring filmmakers where in Scotland they can go to make their own movie. We hope you’ll hang on to this guide and use it as a handy reference tool. For now, though, take a look at our top 50 films and text us a title you find there. Which is your favourite Scottish film of all time?
Miles Fielder Editor 2 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 3
Aberdeen Scotland’s finest films ●
the50 bestScottishfilmsofalltime Aberdeen (Hans Petter Moland, UK/Norway/Sweden, 2000) 113min. Lena Headey, Charlotte Rampling, Stellan Skarsgård, Ian Hart.
To vote for your favourite Scottish movie text the word ‘VOTE’ and the name of the film to 82888 Text charged at your network rate
The fact that this Scotland and Norwayset road movie travelled the European festival circuit, stopped off for an award in Brussels and then vanished without a trace shouldn’t put you off. Aberdeen, like its namesake city, is both rough-edged and beautiful. Full of repressed anger, bitter young lawyer Kaisa (Headey) spends her time abusing herself with drugs and casual sex. So, when she gets a call from her mother, Helen (Rampling), who she hates, telling her she’s dying and asking her to go to Norway to bring back her father, Tomas (Skarsgård), an estranged husband and parent and alcoholic to boot whom she also hates, Kaisa is less than happy. The trip from Norway to Aberdeen is, accordingly, emotionally rending, despite assistance from nice guy truck driver, Clive (Hart). As with the few other examples of the Scotland-set road movie, Aberdeen succumbs to the modest domestic geography – a road trip in a country that’s barely a day’s drive up and down just doesn’t work. Still, Norwegian writerdirector Moland fudges the geography and plotting enough to allow his characters to make the emotional journey from dark to light that the road movie was designed for. And when you’ve got performances this good, who cares about the scenery? Rampling resists going the sentimental route as the dying woman, while Skarsgård nails the humbled drunk who hasn’t quite destroyed all of his brain cells perfectly. The younger players also impress, in a film that manages to be emotionally affecting without playing it too soft. (MF)
4 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
The Acid House (Paul McGuigan, UK, 1998) 111min. Stephen McCole, Maurice Roëves, Jenny McCrindle, Kevin McKidd. Not as famous, successful or polished as Trainspotting, the other Irvine Welsh adaptation is no less interesting. This is just the tip of the iceberg of Welsh’s collection of acerbic short stories of the same name. It’s an anthology of the dark and disturbing, with three separate tales of surreal sorrow and despair. Opener ‘The Granton Star Cause’ is probably the most extreme, and sets the pitch black tone. After Boab (McCole) loses his place on the local footie team, his girl and home in one fell swoop, things go from bad to worse as, down the boozer, he meets God (Roëves), who decides it is only fitting to turn him into a fly to match his pitiful life. In the second story, ‘The Soft Touch’, Johnny (McKidd) loses his Mrs to the vicious thug of a neighbour (Tam Dean Burn) upstairs. In the title tale Ewen Bremner as ‘Coco’ Bryce switches minds with a baby after being struck by lightening while off his tits on acid, but finds a few advantages in his new position. Half the time the film works well with a black comic streak a mile wide running through its centre. But sometimes its ambition overreaches its realisation. Bleak as only befits Welsh’s original stories, this is one sick puppy that’s perhaps too gruesome and garish for some to handle. (HN) AfterLife (Alison Peebles, UK, 2003) 100min. Lindsay Duncan, Kevin McKidd, Paula Sage, Shirley Henderson.
May, a mother of two, is dying. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, May (Duncan) is soon to follow her husband into the afterlife, leaving behind her children, Kenny (McKidd) and Roberta (Sage). Kenny, May reasons, can look
Scotland’s finest films Being Human ●
after himself. Long since left home, the young man has set his sights on a career in news journalism in America. May’s beloved daughter Roberta, on the other hand, needs all the nurturing a mother can provide. Roberta’s young, and she has Down’s syndrome. Kenny, meanwhile, has no intention of looking after anyone other than himself. He can’t even keep his relationship straight with girlfriend Ruby (Henderson). So, when Kenny’s mother reaches her final days, the boy has to make the difficult decision between career and family. AfterLife charts a fairly straightforward course through the domestic drama of family responsibility, but en route it explores touchy subject of euthanasia. When we first meet Kenny as he’s rather bullishly interrogating a British doctor who may or may not have involvement with a Swedish pro-choice organisation (which gives the film its title). Kenny’s mother’s illness, we soon find out, is the reason for the hack’s behaviour. As AfterLife draws to a conclusion, the question of choosing life or death becomes an issue for May, Kenny and Roberta – and the film’s somewhat surprising ending generates a good deal of pathos. Duncan, McKidd and Henderson give their director Alison Peebles, working from Andrea Gibb’s solid script, decent performances. Sage, in particular, shines; she gives a great naturalistic and punctuates the serious drama with a good deal of humour. (MF) American Cousins (Donald Coutts, UK, 2003) 121min. Shirley Henderson, Gerald Lepkowski, Danny Nucci, Dan Hedaya. Fleeing back home to America after a blackmarket deal with a bunch of Ukranian gangsters goes wrong, wiseguys Settimo (Hedaya) and Gino (Nucci) set down and lie low with blood relative Roberto (Lepkowski) in Glasgow. Holed up in Roberto’s fish, chip and ice cream café and unaware the vengeful Ukranian’s have hired a pair of Scouse killers, Settimo and Gino are delighted to acquaint themselves with the honest, hardworking Scot, his grandad, Nonno (Russell Hunter), and the unrequited love of Roberto’s life, Alice (Henderson). Just as The Godfather and The Sopranos explore the historical connection between America and Italy, so too does American Cousins touch on the relationship between Scotland and the
Old World. And screenwriter Sergio Casci, who was inspired by his own greatgrandfather’s migration from Italy to Scotland, makes some amusing observations about the clash of cultures between the ItalianAmericans and the ItalianScots. In one scene the yanks and jocks argue food: pizza versus fish and chups. The resulting ‘cook-out’ sees a mafia mobster burning his pinkies whilst deep frying a battered fish. The cando/will-do yanks are, of course, the catalyst for the stoic Roberto to assert himself and make some much-needed changes in his life: dealing with the local debt collector, expressing his love to Alice. It’s a sweet, fun film, if a little cliched in places. But Coutts makes the most of his likeable cast, and the bookending of the film with the bulky presence of Vincent Pastore (Pussy in The Sopranos) is a canny casting move. (MF)
The Acid House
Being Human (Bill Forsyth, UK/Japan, 1993) 122min. Robin Williams, Maudie Johnson, Max Johnson, Robert Carlyle. Forsyth’s opus about four incarnations in the life of one man, opening at the dawn of time and subsequently set centuries apart, was a critical and commercial disaster. Which is a great shame, because there’s much to admire in what was the writer-director’s last good film (the long time coming Gregory’s Two Girls turned out to be the real disappointment). Perhaps the more serious tone of Forsyth’s eighth film sat badly beside the jovial whimsy and eccentric humour that had made the previous seven so popular. And by quietly, idiosyncratically detailing Scottish lives and communities in his previous films, it’s arguable Forsyth had boxed himself into a corner. Certainly Being Human is a difficult film in its own right. Sombre tone apart, it’s hard to feel much affinity for Hector (Williams in acting as opposed to schmuck mode), a strangely subdued protagonist unwittingly undertaking a personal odyssey, or four personal odysseys, to discover the meaning of courage. Full marks to Forsyth, however, for expanding his range with grander schemes and themes than he’d tackled before. And anyway, despite the expansive time scale and the use of locations scattered across three continents (filming took place in the Highlands as well as England, America and Morocco), Being Human remains a Bill Forsyth film. Just as he made poetry of the grey skies of Cumbernauld in Gregory’s Girl, so too
The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 5
Braveheart Scotland’s finest films ●
Braveheart (Mel Gibson, UK, 1995) 177min. Mel Gibson, Patrick McGoohan, Sophie Marceau. erhaps the movie packed with the biggest dose of Scottish pride, albeit made with American cash and with an Aussie in the starring role. It picked up five Oscars in 1996, including Best Picture and Best Director for Mel Gibson. It’s a retelling of the historical tale of Scottish warrior and hero William Wallace (Gibson) and his battle for the freedom of Scotland from the tyranny of the English. McGoohan plays King Edward I with diabolical panto glee, while the rag tag band of Wallace’s followers add comedy and pathos with equal aplomb. Fair enough, the film takes in a few historical inaccuracies to further bolster the mythology (and the requisite love interest in the shape of Marceau – this is Hollywood, after all) along the way. Wallace’s home town and childhood sweetheart are decimated in an unprovoked attack by King Edward’s men, setting the legend off on a quest for the freedom of a Scotland for which his forefathers had fought so hard. En route Wallace draws together the disparate clans that populated Scotland during the 13th century and, under his charismatic and fearsome leadership, they are transformed into a solid fighting army. Gibson gives a solid performance, but it’s not the acting, rather it’s the rabble rousing that really counts. The battle scenes are on an epic scale (not bettered until The Lord of the Rings), graphic and brutal. Heads are chopped, limbs are hacked, the blood letting and chaos is visceral and powerful stuff. At heart it’s a story of triumph over adversity on a massive scale. How the just will prevail
6 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
whatever the odds and even death can be a triumph if we stick to our morals. You cannot help but be drawn into the grandiose storytelling. With patriotism swelling in its barrel chest, it’s slick, well produced and boasts fantastic cinematography from John Toll, who really makes the most of the Scottish landscape (although some of the scenes were filmed across the water in Ireland). No other film has forced Scottish history and nationalism upon the world with such success before or since. (HN)
Scotland’s finest films Culloden ●
does he make the grim oddly beautiful here. In evidence, too, is Forsyth’s subtle, surreal humour. Hector is looking for the basics in life: food, a home, love and a pair of shoes that fit. And finally, where else will you see a pre-superstar Carlyle playing a prehistoric shamen? (MF) Braveheart (see panel left) Breaking the Waves (see panel p9) Brigadoon (Vincente Minnelli, US, 1954) 108min. Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse. ‘Roamin’ in the gloamin’, as you do, Gene Kelly and his mate (Van Johnson) stumble across the quaint little village of Brigadoon. Little do they know it’s a magic hamlet that appears for only one day every 100 years. Would that this were true of some of Scotland’s wasted and lonely urban holes. But no, in the case of Brigadoon, it’s a pisser as Kelly falls for the bonniest lassie in the place and must decide whether to stay trapped in time with her or return to New York City. Bearing a number of instantly forgettable musical numbers and flawed by the monumental miscasting of urban fox Charisse (she with the legs that allegedly ‘went on forever’) as bonny lassie Fiona Campbell, Brigadoon has nonetheless done much to promote Scotland as an idyllic holiday destination. As nice as it all looks, not a frame of it was shot in Scotland, as producer Arthur Freed couldn’t find a location ‘Scottish enough’. He visited some of Scotland’s most picturesque towns and villages, including Culross, Dunkeld, Comrie, Braemar and Brig o’ Doon itself before heading back to Hollywood to build a stage set. (CB) Complicity (Gavin Millar, UK, 2000) Jonny Lee Miller, Brian Cox, Keeley Hawes, Bill Paterson. Surprisingly, this is only the second of novelist Iain Banks’ books to be filmed (the Clydebank veteran of stage and screen Millar also filmed the other, The Crow Road, for television four years earlier). Cameron Colley (Miller, returning to Scotland after convincing everyone he was Sean Connery with his remarkable impersonation in Trainspotting) is a young Edinburgh newspaper journalist with a thing for exposing wrongs committed by the rich and powerful. Colley’s all very pleased with his good work – and the whiskey and cocaine it pays for – until the miscreants featured in
his articles start turning up dead, murdered in gruesome ways suggested by their misdeeds. As far as Inspector McDunn (Cox at his starch-faced best) is concerned, all the evidence points to Colley. The poor laddie’s in a fix, and he’s getting no help from the sexy, enigmatic Yvonne (Hawes). In many ways this is Banks’ least idiosyncratic story, playing as it does like a noirish murder mystery. Not, you’d think, the obvious choice from the Banks canon for a film adaptation. That said, filming around and about Edinburgh city centre has to be easier than transforming, say, the Forth rail bridge into a fabulous structure from an alternative universe. Millar makes a respectable enough stab at Complicity, and the leads and supporting cast (including Bill Paterson and Valerie Edmond) satisfy, but the relatively conventional nature of the source material hamstrings the film. Nevertheless, it was somewhat unfairly overlooked on its original cinema release and deserves a second chance. (MF)
Culloden (Peter Watkins, UK, 1964) 70min.
Hailed as a television breakthrough after its first broadcast by the BBC on 15 December 1964, Peter Watkins’ remarkable reconstruction of the famous battle of Culloden in 1746 encapsulates in its own bloody, ultra realistic way (let’s try and avoid the word docudrama shall we?) the last land battle to be fought on British soil. It was a battle fought for a weak, absentee Scottish heir to the throne and was to tear apart the clan system of the Scottish Highlands. Fashioned like an on-the-spot news report, Culloden stunned the TV audience on that cold Yuletide night. The film’s immediacy and raw power (partly the result of Watkins’ employment of a brutish, untrained mob of extras) hit a chord and it soon became a favourite in arthouses across the country. The film’s popularity grew when Watkins’ entered TV history by having his famous nuclear bomb disaster re-enactment, The War Game, banned by the very institution that had originally headhunted this brilliant young filmmaker. Based on the 1961 book by John Prebble, Culloden had a huge impact on British filmmakers, historians and documentarians and continues to today. On the bloody plains of Culloden Watkins had started a revolution where once one had been crushed. (PD)
To vote for your favourite Scottish movie text the word ‘VOTE’ and the name of the film to 82888 Text charged at your network rate
The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 7
Death Watch Scotland’s finest films ●
Death Watch (Bertrand Tavernier, France/West Germany/UK, 1980) 128min. Romy Schneider, Harvey Keitel, Harry Dean Stanton, Max von Sydow.
Although a quarter of a century old now, Bertrand Tavernier’s science fiction drama (shot in Glasgow, though not set there) has something to say about the future of reality TV. In the film’s nearfuture setting, terminal illness has been eradicated; in these days death only arrives suddenly. So when a woman is diagnosed with cancer, it’s big news. In no time at all television producer Vincent Ferriman (Stanton) hires network employee Roddy (Keitel), who has a camera implanted in his brain, to film a documentary about the terminally ill woman, Katherine (Schneider). Taking the notion of ‘fly-on-the-wall’ to ethically questionable extremes, Vincent plans to screen Roddy’s documentary and Katherine’s slow demise on his popular show, Death Watch. It’s a haunting and increasingly pertinent film, though that last may be accidental. There’s a sense that Tavernier promises more than he can deliver. As the documentary maker and his subject think twice about the project they’re involved in, they begin to rebel against the system. But here, where ethics come into question, the film loses the plot somewhat. Which is a shame because Death Watch is beautifully shot, utilises some fine locations (who ever thought of old Glasgow as a futuristic metropolis?) and boasts a cast as impressive as any that have graced the streets of the city. And among the mainland Europe and American cast, look out for Robbie Coltrane in an early screen role. (MF) Dog Soldiers (Neil Marshall, UK, 2002) 105 min. Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Darren Morfitt.
To vote for your favourite Scottish movie text the word ‘VOTE’ and the name of the film to 82888 Text charged at your network rate
Set in the Scottish Highlands but shot largely in Luxembourg, Neil Marshall’s directorial debut made quite a splash at the box office, and you’ve only got to get a glimpse at the tagline to see why: ‘Six soldiers. Full moon. No chance.’ Barefaced in its referencing of classic horror movies, Alien (1979) and An American Werewolf in London (1981), what this low-budget film lacks in money and originality it makes up for with its enthusiasm. The plot, such as it, involves, of course, six soldiers, most of them cheeky mockney geezers, trapped in a deserted cottage, fighting off werewolves. At the
8 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
start of what seemed a routine exercise in the Highlands, the lads are nonplussed to be missing the England v Germany footie match. Imagine their disappointment then when they’re several men down, rapidly running out of ammo and hoarse from shouting ‘I can’t facking believe this!’ With the notable exception of McKidd, the cast seem to have concentrated more on their army than their acting training, and although there are moments of genuine tension here, abysmal dialogue that’s full of lads’ mag bravado and a distinct lack of funds in the special effects department make for an brave but disappointing addition to the werewolf genre. Neither as funny nor as scary as An American Werewolf in London, nor anywhere near as imaginative as The Company of Wolves, it is, however, good bloodthirsty fun for the boys. (CB) Four Eyes (Duncan Finnigan, UK, 2003) 74 min. Duncan Finnigan, Wilma Smith, Gordon Grant, John Smith. Life sucks for Paul Hunt, trainee salesman at Big Al’s Windows and Doors. He gets mugged on the day he’s carrying the £1000 deposit for a new flat for him and his pregnant girlfriend, but bad turns to worse. The company car he’s been promised turns out to be a bright yellow shed on wheels and his boss – the abhorrent Al – forces him to wear glasses because ‘they make you look 15% more intelligent’. Getting grief from the girlfriend, Paul’s father attempts to help him out, but what begins as mere black comedy soon develops into something altogether darker. Filmed digitally in Coatbridge on a shoestring budget of ‘between £500 and £5000’, writer, director, co-producer and editor Duncan Finnigan himself plays the part of the hapless Paul, while the girlfriend’s played by Finnigan’s other half, co-producer and cinematographer Wilma Smith. The remaining roles are taken by family members and friends (many of whom double as the crew), making for raw performances in a rough diamond of a film. However unpolished the product may seem to audiences more used to watching blockbusters, this film positively sparkles with honesty, wit and invention. The scenes in which Big Al gets his comeuppance, for example, are inspired and a sheer joy to watch. Acclaimed at UK film festivals (as was Finnigan’s debut digital feature, Two Donuts), Four Eyes has the same homegrown naturalism as the best of
Scotland’s finest films Four Eyes ●
Breaking the Waves (Lars von Trier, Denmark/Sweden/France/ Netherlands/ Norway, 1996) 159min. Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgård, Katrin Cartlidge, Jean-Marc Barr.
he brainchild of Danish enfant terrible Lars von Trier, this Dogme-like (though not, in fact, part of that back-to-basics filmmaking movement) might be a Euro-Nordic-Scandic co-production with a cast drawn from those regions, but its themes and locations are Scottish. Watson (who replaced Helena Bonham-Carter at the 11th hour) plays Bess McNeil, a girl-child from a strict religious community in the north of Scotland (the film was shot in Mallaig and on Skye) who marries Danish oil rig worker, Jan (Skarsgård). Lovesick, she prays to God that her husband will return for good from his long stints away on the rigs. Her prayers are answered, but not in the way she wants, when Jan comes home crippled after an industrial accident. The newlyweds can no longer have sex, and so Jan implores his much younger bride to take a lover and thereafter their sex life becomes a vicarious one. Jan might be acting out of love, but what he fails to notice – initially, at least – is Bess’ sexual behaviour becoming more and more
deviant. She believes her actions are guided by God, and that her increasingly perverse and dangerous actions are helping her husband recover. But it’s really her upbringing in a deeply religious and sexually and otherwise repressed community that guides her. Even after being assaulted by a sadistic sailor (Udo Kier), she goes back for more, effectively making a martyr of herself to save her husband. Breaking the Waves is an unrelentingly harrowing film. The lengthy, gruelling tragic drama is pretty difficult to stomach on its own, but von Trier underscores it by putting the film’s audience through a visceral experience designed to approximate Bess’ suffering. He and his cinematography, Anthony Dod Mantle, shot all two and half hours of it using hand-held cameras, then blew the film up to project it widescreen in cinemas. The effect produced something akin to seasickness, forcing not a few members of the public to deposit the contents of their stomachs into cinema foyers. Still, it made a huge impact when first released. And although there’s something sadistic about von Trier’s opus, it’s rare for a film to deliver such emotional and physical clout. (MF) The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 9
It’s a Wonderful Life Scotland’s finest films ●
Gregory’s Girl (Bill Forsyth, UK, 1981) 91min. John Gordon Sinclair, Dee Hepburn, Clare Grogan.
ill Forsyth re-made Scottish cinema. That’s a grand claim, especially considering the Glasgow-born writer-director has made only nine films to date. Two of those – Housekeeping and Breaking In – are set in America and have American casts. One of them, Being Human, opens at the dawn of time, and one of them, the long-time-coming-but-oh!-don’twe-wish-it-hadn’t-arrived sequel, Gregory’s Two Girls, is dreadful. That leaves just five films – That Sinking Feeling, Gregory’s Girl, Andrina, Local Hero and Comfort and Joy – made within a brief four year period, with which Forsyth changed the face of Scottish cinema. Of those five titles, it’s Gregory’s Girl that’s his most enduring film. It best encapsulates the Forsyth way with cinema, which can be summed up in two words: ‘surreal’ and ‘mundane’. Set and filmed in Scottish new town Cumbernauld, awkward beanpole Gregory (Sinclair) and his school pals are, somewhat late in the day, beginning to find out about these things called ‘girls’. Gregory fancies Dorothy 10 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
(Hepburn), not just because she’s a girl and she’s gorgeous, but also because she has secured herself a place on the school football team. The shy boy finally drums up the courage to ask her out, but with the unexpected result of being passed between Dorothy and her friends, who include Susan (Altered Images singer, Grogan). In other hands these trials and tribulations of romantic teen life would be standard stuff; in Forsyth’s they’re something different. For a start, it’s obviously the females who are here in control of the matters of the heart. That power play extends to Gregory’s young sister, whose relationship with him suggests she’s wiser than her years (a very Forsythian trait, that). Then there’s the play on the notion of the ‘beautiful game’ – football and love and sex. It’s the girls who have control of the ball (balls?). They pass Gregory between them as football players would the ball on the pitch. It’s certainly the case that Scottish cinema hadn’t seen anything like Forsyth’s sagas (the closest thing to them would be Alexander Mackendrick’s Ealing comedies, Whisky Galore! and The Maggie). Everyday life was turned into something slightly, amusingly odd. (MF)
Scotland’s finest films Highlander ●
Shane Meadows’ films. Like Meadows, whose tough turf is Nottingham and its environs, Finnigan endows his home city with a captivating comic charm and almost epic tragedy. (CB) Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life (Peter Capaldi, UK, 1993) 23min. Richard E Grant, Crispin Letts, Ken Stott.
‘As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a . . .’ What? In this frequently hilarious and oddly heart-warming spoof, tortured writer Franz Kafka just can’t decide what the first sentence of his famous story The Metamorphosis should transform his unfortunate protagonist into. Actor Peter Capaldi first tried his hand at directing with this wonderful short film, and although he’d previously written a feature, the road movie Soft Top, Hard Shoulder, he really got the – ahem – writing bug with this one. He was, accordingly and quite rightly, awarded a BAFTA and an Oscar for his efforts. He should have got another award for his casting decision for the leading role – if ever an actor was born to play a role, for the bug-eyed, deliciously sharp-edged and outrageously uptight Grant this was it. As his Kafka paces his chilly, gloomy garret room attempting to find just the right animal/vegetable/mineral for Samsa to metamorphose into – the non-insectoid options he dreams up and then scraps provide a good number of the film’s laughs – he becomes at first distracted and then outright freaked by a series of interruptions. There’s a noisy party, visitors in fancy dress costumes, a doorto-door knife salesman (the marvellously malign Stott). And, of course, the more wound up Kafka becomes, the funnier Capaldi’s film gets. With its dream-like atmosphere and cartoon-style set design, Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life deserves, like the Frank Capra feelgood comedy from which it derives its title, to become a Christmas classic. (MF) Gregory’s Girl (see panel left) Greyfriar’s Bobby (Don Chaffey, USA, 1961) 91min. Donald Crisp, Laurence Naismith, Alex Mackenzie, Duncan Macrae, Gordon Jackson.
Even the most cynical of bitter, twisted unfortunates can’t help but be charmed by the tale of Greyfriar’s Bobby, a wee Skye terrier who stayed by his master’s
graveside until he yapped his last annoying yap. Touching and true, the story was ripe for the picking by Disney, which, in the year 1961 was fresh from the success of sentimentalising Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped. The true story involved a man called John Gray, possibly a copper, who died in 1858 and was buried in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard (located just off Forest Road in Edinburgh’s Old Town). The man’s dog, Bobby, never quite got over the loss and although canines were prohibited in the churchyard, the kirk watchman made a special dispensation for the pooch and, to coin a phrase, decided to let sleeping dogs lie. A monument to the heart-warming loyalty of the dumb animal was erected at the top of nearby Candlemaker Row in 1873 and nearly 100 years later, Disney paid tribute with this family drama. Sticking roughly to the facts, but having lots of street urchins involved somehow, the film is universally acknowledged as ‘the true story of a dog’. More interesting than the fact that the film was actually shot in Edinburgh instead of on some cardboard set in Hollywood is that it was directed by the legendary Don Chaffey. Nothing short of a god, this British director had helmed cult TV series The Avengers and The Prisoner in the 60s before moving to Hollywood to work on Charlie’s Angels, ChiPs, TJ Hooker, Hunter and Airwolf. (CB)
Highlander (Russell Mulcahy, UK/US, 1986) Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Beatie Edney, Clancy Brown. ‘There can be only one!’ declared this silly fantasy film about an immortal Highlander fated to duel down the ages to a mysterious distant time called the Gathering. But no, there would be several sequels as it turned out, because although this flamboyant action adventure flopped at the box office it became a cult classic on video and spawned a series of sequels, a TV series and now a website (www.highlander-official.com) where you can buy Highlander hats and jewellery. The original film, however ludicrous, is the only one to watch, though. Making use of the stunning Scottish scenery (among the locations used were Eilean Donan, Glen Coe, Refuge Bay in Morar and the Cioch pinnacle on Skye), the film also makes use of some fine Scottish actors, among them Sir Sean Connery playing an Egyptian/Spanish nobleman (with a Scottish accent, no less) and
The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 11
The House of Mirth Scotland’s finest films ●
Late Night Shopping
James Cosmo playing a hairy Highlander, a role he reprised in Braveheart. Quite what they thought about a handsome Frenchman (Christophe Lambert) playing the lead role of fictional clansman Connor MacLeod is anyone’s guess, but thankfully the Scottish segments, and more specifically his dialogue in them, are kept to a minimum. It’s hard not to wince, though, even when he’s just saying ‘Aye, Blossom’, so it’s a blessing that most of the film is set in modern day New York. Still, the fact that William Wallace was played by an Australian didn’t seem to bother us that much, and why, after all, should we let small details like casting, historical accuracy and, in this case, a soundtrack by Queen get in the way of a kick-ass action movie? (CB) The House of Mirth (Terence Davies, UK/France/Germany/US, 2000) 140min. Gillian Anderson, Dan Aykroyd, Eleanor Bron, Eric Stoltz, Anthony LaPaglia.
Based on Edith Wharton’s painful novel about money and mad love, The House of Mirth enters this volume by way of its location and one of the production companies involved. Shot in Glasgow, the film was partly financed by Dundee-based animator, pop band manager and all round entrepreneur Bob Last of SelloutPictures. Lily Bart (Anderson) is a glamorous and wilfully witty young ingenue who breathes life into the musky New York aristocracy she glides through. Attracted to playboy lawyer Lawrence Selden (Stolz), she finds her life is fated by horny husbands and doe-eyed lovers, until the scheming of her relative Beth (Laura Linney) ends with the severance of her inheritance. Debt is the worst partner Lily could have and tragedy lies just around the corner. Director Davies (The Long Day Closes, Distant Voices, Still Lives) had learnt all the lessons he needed from Scorsese’s overly lush rendition of another Wharton classic, The Age of Innocence. Davies clearly decided to concentrate on the inner landscape of his troubled protagonist rather than flagellate himself over every minor detail of cloth and décor. Everything is pared down, and Glasgow makes a perfect double for the New York of 1905: diseased, sparse, poverty-stricken and riddled by class. The film is a major achievement in terms of adaptation and it certainly secured the reputations of Anderson and Davies as creative forces to be reckoned with. (PD)
12 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
I Know Where I’m Going! (see panel right)
Kidnapped (Robert Stevenson and Delbert Mann, US/UK, 1960) 97min. Peter Finch, James MacArthur, Bernard Lee, John Laurie, Niall MacGinnis. (Delbert Mann, UK, 1971) 100min. Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Jack Hawkins, Donald Pleasence, Gordon Jackson. To be honest, both these movies are a tad on the mince side. The 1960 version is the one still remembered by the kind of postbaby boomer who likes to sit around in pubs and wallow in Scottish literature and history. It was a Disney film with a big budget, cast and over-sugared sentiment to match. It does, however, boast one fantastically hammy performance from the great Australian actor Peter Finch. He plays the Jacobite adventurer Alan Breck Stewart who young David Balfour (McArthur) falls in with while being cheated out of his inheritance, accused of murder and forced to flee across the Highlands of Scotland. The 1971 adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic boy’s own yarn is actually much more interesting, because it made more detailed use of Highland landscape as well as a cast who were clearly brought together for their ability to drink each other under the table off set. It was also partly scripted by the great Jack Pulman, a 60s and 70s television scriptwriting legend who wrote saucy gems like Poldark, I Claudius and Private Schultz. Caine as the now renamed Alan Breck is also more lascivious, devious and ultimately more trusting of the English than Finch’s man. It is, however, the latter version that will raise the heckles of any self respecting Stevenson fan as it has Breck surrendering to the English for the murder of Mungo Campbell. There’s not a lot in it really. Both films are pleasant, bloated versions of a great book. At the end of the day, though, the star of Kidnapped the movie matinee was always going to be the scenery. (PD) Late Night Shopping (Saul Metzstein, UK/Germany, 2001) 91min. Luke de Woolfson, James Lance, Kate Ashfield, Enzo Cilenti, Heike Makatsch.
Metzstein and writer Jack Lothian never intended for their feature debut, Late Night Shopping, to be set in a specific location, certainly not Glasgow where it was partly filmed. In fact, they didn’t
Scotland’s finest films Late Night Shopping ●
IKnow Where I’m Going! (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, UK, 1945) 92min. Wendy Hiller, Roger Livesey, Pamela Brown, Finlay Currie. n his autobiography, the late, great British filmmaker Michael Powell recalled how, when undertaking pre-production on a new film, he would live in and get the feel of a setting or location. That’s just what he did when developing I Know Where I’m Going! with his filmaking partner of many years, Emeric Pressburger. Filmed on location on Mull (and in studios in London), this rollocking tale of the travels of wilful maid Joan Webster (spritely Hiller) from the English capital to the Scottish island doesn’t merely use its setting for window dressing, rather the locations become an integral part of the story. So, in a way, the English-produced I Know Where I’m Going! is more ‘Scottish’ than a good number of home-grown films. And although co-written by an Englishman and a Hungarian, the film is in English and, where appropriate, Gaelic. And though on the surface it concerns the travels and travails of Miss Webster – following her engagement to a rich industrialist who has taken a lease on the Hebridean island
where she intends to marry him – the plotting is, in fact, a clever device that allows Powell and Pressburger to draw the audience into their portrait of the local community. There’s the harsh weather that threatens the lives of the fishermen and keeps Webster at arm’s length from her husband to be, the spirited romp of the ceiladh that brings the community together, and the remarkable stoicism and glorious eccentricities of these local people (best embodied by craggy Currie and tomboyish Brown). Rich as it is, local flavour in this film is more than merely that – it’s the very substance of the film. Powell knew where he was going when he took his cameras to Mull in 1945, because he’d already been to Scotland to make a film eight years earlier – 1937’s The Edge of the World, which was filmed on the Outer Hebridian island of Foula. Like I Know Where I’m Going!, the earlier film is a portrait of a community and the storytelling device here employed by Powell is the age old tale of star-crossed lovers, youngsters from rival family clans. Together, these movies are more than art and entertainment – they’re rigorous documentations of bygone times and vanished Scottish communities. (MF) The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 13
Local Hero Scotland’s finest films ●
Local Hero (Bill Forsyth, UK, 1983) 111min. Burt Lancaster, Peter Riegert, Fulton Mackay, Denis Lawson, Peter Capaldi, Jenny Seagrove. t came like a breath of fresh air, three and half years into Mrs Thatcher’s dictatorship, when Britain was going to the dogs, Babylon was burning and what wasn’t nailed down in the public sector already had a ‘For Sale’ sign on it. And then along came this enchanting film, written and directed by a Glaswegian called Bill Forsyth. Local Hero put the whisky back into whimsy. Oil billionaire Felix Happer (Lancaster) sends Mac (Riegert) from Houston to a remote picture postcard Scottish village to secure the property rights for a proposed new oil refinery. When Mac’s Scottish arbiter, Danny (Capaldi), starts negotiations, the locals begin to get excited about the riches to come. All that is except the beach hermit, Ben Knox (McKay), who lives in a shack on the crucial development site. As time runs out Happer turns up and is enchanted by the Northern Lights. Meanwhile, Danny falls for a girl with webbed feet and Mac is left alone to negotiate with the cantankerous Ben. Local Hero is a deceptively simple tale of kooky but loveable remote coastal rogues. That said, the plot-twist of having the locals happy to be bought out by the Americans so that they can move on to a better life suggests there’s more going on than meets the eye. The film’s neat role reversal has the rich American admiring the landscape and the
14 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
locals gunning to exploit it. Local Hero’s windswept skin hides beneath it a parable and prophesy of and about the consumerist greed that was to eventually gobble up Britain by the mid 1990s. Forsyth and producer David Puttnam had a long torturous road ahead of them, which eventually ended with both of them departing for America. This low budget film remains one of their more lucrative ventures (it did great business in the US and Canada). Arguably it’s Forsyth’s finest hour (and a half). Certainly, it’s the most charmingly eccentric film in the writer-director’s canon. The village of Pennan, up on the Moray of Firth where Forsyth filmed Local Hero, became a thriving tourist trap for a while. And apparently it’s Al Gore’s favourite film. So it may not be screening in Florida any time soon. (PD)
Scotland’s finest films The Maggie ●
intend, nor do they consider Late Night Shopping to be a Scottish film. Propelled perhaps by the international success of Trainspotting (to which Late Night Shopping, like so many other UK-made contemporary youth culture films, has been inappropriately compared), Metzstein and Lothian set out to make something with universal appeal. The use of non-Scottish leading actors (four English, one German) and the avoidance of Glasgow city landmarks does provide Late Night Shopping with geographical and cultural anonymity. And the antics, or rather lack of them, of a loose-knit bunch of twentysomethings who meet up and waste away time in an all-night café after their various night shifts are over might well speak to slackers anywhere and everywhere. It’s a good-looking, wantonly low-key film with nicely defined characters, a charismatic cast and offbeat dialogue. The comic/dramatic set-ups work well, too, such as the domestic difficulties Sean (de Woolfson) is having with his live-in girlfriend. He works nights, she days, and as a result they haven’t seen each other in weeks. The only evidence Sean has that she still lives with him are the hairs he finds on the soap in their shower. Then there’s ladykiller Vincent’s (Lance) obsession with Errol Flynn and girl-shy Lenny’s (Cilenti) Top Gear geek use of leather driving gloves. Essentially, a string of funny gags and astute life observations, Late Night Shopping just about keeps it together. (MF) Local Hero (see panel left) Macbeth (Roman Polanski, US/UK, 1971) 140min. Jon Finch, Francesca Annis, Martin Shaw.
Of the many filmed versions of the ‘Scottish play’, Roman Polanski’s can certainly lay claim to being the bloodiest. Co-adapting Shakespeare’s text with Kenneth Tynan, Polanski not only gives us the violent tragedy in its full, scarlet glory (here Macbeth meets his end with a sword shoved through one of his armpits and exiting from his neck), but increases the bloodshed. The scene, for example, in the film in which Macbeth murders King Duncan does not appear in the original play – there it was implied. Many believe that Polanski’s emphasis on the play’s not inconsiderable violence can be attributed to the murder of his pregnant wife, the actress Sharon Tate, by Charles Manson’s followers, which occurred around the
time of the making of Macbeth. Violence aside, Polanski takes other liberties with the text. The speech by the porter, the one in which he gets all philosophical about life, is delivered while the old boy is leaning against a wall taking a piss. It’s indicative of Polanski’s treatment of the play: bawdy and ugly, but humorous, too. But while his riding rough-shod over Shakespeare might offend purists, Polanski produced an enjoyably full-blooded piece of cinema. The cast are lead by the English – Finch as Macbeth, Annis as his Lady, Shaw as Banquo – but is fleshed out by Scots in the smaller roles. And while Polanski chose not to film in Scotland, he took his cameras near enough, shooting in Northumberland, most notably at Lindisfarne Castle, where Sir Walter Scott put quill to paper. (MF)
The Magdalene Sisters
The Magdalene Sisters (see panel p16)
The Maggie (Alexander
Mackendrick, UK, 1954) 92min. Paul Douglas, Alex Mackenzie, Tommy Kearins. The whimsical comedies to come out of Ealing Studios before, during and after War World II share a spirit of quiet rebellion. That’s a theme that Scottish cinema has picked up and run with (Braveheart’s bloody, noisy rampages notwithstanding). The islanders so determined to take a tipple or six despite the law in Whisky Galore!, the canny locals conning invading American big business in Local Hero – these actions are all voices of quiet rebellion. Mackendrick’s fourth Ealing comedy shares this spirit and, indeed, has quite a bit in common with both Local Hero and Whisky Galore! (which Mackendrick also directed). Here, an American businessman (Douglas) in Scotland is conned into shipping a valuable cargo to a Scottish island (Islay) via an old rust-bucket of a coal powered boat named the Maggie. The American is soon on to the scheme of the wily skipper (Mackenzie), but getting the upper hand proves to be no easy task. The Maggie is a film loved by many. In terms of rebellious theme and comic tone it forms part of the life-line between the Ealing films and what Forsyth went on to do in the 1980s. The film’s Glasgow-born star player, Mackenzie, is exemplary in this sense. He began his career on The Maggie with Mackendrick and finished it
The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 15
Night Mail Scotland’s finest films ●
The Magdalene Sisters (Peter Mullan, UK, 2002) 119min. Geraldine McEwan, Eileen Walsh, Anne-Marie Duff, NoraJane Noone, Dorothy Duffy.
eter Mullan was officially off the Christmas card list of the Catholic Church after making The Magdalene Sisters, a damning indictment of Ireland’s Magdalene Asylums where ‘immoral’ young women were held and used as slave labour by brutal nuns. Or so he joked in an interview, adding that when he compared the Catholic Church to the Taliban when he took his film to Cannes, they weren’t best pleased at that either. Nonetheless, the comparison is a valid one. Under the Magdalene system (working laundries which existed in Scotland and Ireland until as late as the 1960s), young women were denied their freedom, an education and their self-respect. Dragged from their homes for sins such as flirting, they were left by their families to rot in these work houses, or as evil Sister Bridget (McEwan) in this film gently puts it, made to ‘work beyond human endurance to remove the stain of the sins’ they have committed. This line comes in her cheery welcoming speech to Mullan’s three central figures 16 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
(his ‘three musketeers’) – Margaret (Duff), Bernadette (Noone) and Rose (Duffy). Their sins, respectively, were being raped, talking to boys and having a child out of wedlock. The film, Mullan’s second feature as writerdirector (he also has a small, nasty cameo role in the piece) is nothing short of harrowing. The Scot was outraged by what he saw in the Channel 4 documentary about the Magdalene Asylums, Sex in A Cold Climate, so he dramatised the events on paper and then shot the film in Dumfries, doubling for its Dublin setting. It’s an angry, damning indictment of a shameful practice that was on recently put out of business (by the arrival of the electric washing machine, funnily enough – that horrible joke provides one of the film’s few light moments). There may be light at the end of the tunnel for Mullan’s three girls, but for the character of Crispina (Walsh), already incarcerated when they arrive, the future is bleak beyond words. What makes it all the worse is that Mullan left out some of the more horrific stories (ones which he couldn’t prove) and the women who really suffered in these places have said ‘Great film’ - which it undoubtedly is - ‘but it was much worse in reality’. (CB)
Scotland’s finest films Mrs Brown ●
with Bill Forsyth’s That Sinking Feeling, stopping off on the way to make Whisky sequel Rockets Galore! Many, however, consider Kearins, who plays ‘wee boy Dougie’ to be the film’s real star. Like David Bradley, the child star of Kes, what became of Kearins is of great interest to many film goers. (MF) Night Mail (Harry Watt and Basil Wright, UK, 1936) 36min.
Now it seems like a bad dream from a time when men wore heavy wool regardless of the season and the Empire still had a capital E on it. But then Night Mail, a short documentary about the train postal service from London to Scotland, was remarkable for many different reasons. This film was made by the General Post Office (GPO) as a glorification of its actually pretty decrepit (then as now) mail delivery systems. Somehow it managed to attract a dream team of pre-WW2 aesthetes to make the film. It is almost unimaginable now that the great poet WH Auden would lower himself to work on a mere nursery rhyme of a script, but his decision may have been swayed by Benjamin Britten scoring the film. Edinburgh-born Harry Watt, a young filmmaker who was to go on and prove himself a major force in the Australian film industry in the 40s and 50s, was directing (along with actor turned director Basil Wright). Most importantly of all, Night Mail marked the point at which the world first became aware of the genius of John Grierson. He had been scraping around since the late 20s making small films about the devastated grim industrial landscapes from around his native Kilmarnock and beyond (and redefining the documentary form). But it was on the back of Night Mail, on which he only supplied a sonorous modulated voice over, that Grierson gained any kind of recognition. Night Mail has actually dated fairly badly, but in terms of definitive moments in the British film documentary movement it is unbeatable. (PD) Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay, UK/Canada, 2002) 97 min. Samantha Morton, Kathleen McDermott. Morvern Callar, the literary creation of Scots author Alan Warner, is a strange creature indeed, endlessly fascinating in her methodical calm and blank instinct for self-preservation. When her boyfriend commits suicide, she takes his bank
balance and his novel as her own and sets off to Spain with her best pal Lana in search of a life less ordinary. In the hands of Scottish director Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher), Morvern is no less beguiling. Indeed her every action or inaction is handled with a delicate tenderness in a film that is almost a declaration of love to her brave and intrepid spirit. The actress who plays her (and superbly at that), Samantha Morton, said that she too had fallen in love with Morvern and found it hard to get her out of her system. For the viewer, it’s not much different. Images of her bathing, painting her deep red nails, wearing shades with a Walkman taped to her nearly naked body as she cuts the corpse of her boyfriend to pieces, and walking down the aisle of the supermarket where she works are printed indelibly on the brain. But it’s easy to get lost in Morvern and Ramsay runs the risk of producing a stunning but sentimental study of a bewitching woman. She also risks repeating herself. In a story about the highs and lows of hedonism, the director shows she has an observant eye – for example, she brilliantly captures the crap people talk when they’re on E – but there’s at least one too many scenes of debauchery followed by depression, and the loving shots of Morvern do linger a little too long. (CB)
Mrs Brown (John Madden, US/UK/Ireland, 2001) 103min. Judi Dench, Billy Connolly, Geoffrey Palmer, Antony Sher.
It’s the 1860s in England and an ageing, depressed Queen Victoria (Dench) remains in mourning, years after the death of her husband, Prince Albert. In permanent retreat on her estate on the Isle of Wight, the Queen’s aids, headed by Henry Ponsonby (Palmer), can do nothing to bring m’am out of her blue funk. Meanwhile, the wily prime minister, Disraeli (Sher), is using the opportunity to sew seeds of discontent in parliament. Enter John Brown (Connolly), the nononsense Scotsman and loyal former servant to Albert, who leaves the Highlands and makes the trip down south to serve his Queen. Saucy and arrogant, but nevertheless respectful and immensely loyal, Brown is a breath of fresh air to Victoria, who is surrounded by ‘yes men’ on the right and political enemies on the left. At first, the hauty Queen is having none of Brown’s unconventional manner. But soon, the
The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 17
My Childhood / My Ain Folk / My Way Home Scotland’s finest films ●
monarch warms to her servant and a genuine bond of friendship is formed. None of which is to the liking of those surrounding Victoria – thus, the Queen is renamed (in whispers) ‘Mrs Brown’. Initially made as a television drama (by BBC Scotland), Mrs Bown proved a surprise hit with audiences and was boosted to cinema release. There it picked up Oscar and BAFTA awards and nominations. Dench, who delivers a remarkably precise performance, did best with the accolades; Connolly not so well, which is a great shame because it’s the Big Yin’s best dramatic role to date. He’s taken dramatic roles since, but here Connolly (Dench, too) is best-servdl by Jeremy Brock’s fine script. (MF) My Childhood/My Ain Folk/My Way Home (Bill Douglas, UK, 1972/73/78) 48/55/78min. Stephen Archibald, Hughie Restorick, Jean TaylorSmith, Helena Gloag.
At a time when most British filmmakers were churning out creaky horror films and anaemic comedies (Hammer horror trash and Carry on films), there was a man from Newcraighall (as the limerick never went) who sold a couple of bootlaces and made three of the most deceptively simple and remarkable films Scotland can lay claim to. Shot over eight years, The Bill Douglas Trilogy, as these three films became collectively known when they finally got some kind of muted distribution in the late 1980s, still looks remarkably fresh. The films detail Douglas’ own austere protestant upbringing in the mining village of his birth. A self-taught short film documentarian up to this point, Douglas pared everything down to their essentials: stark black and white, crippling pace, raw weather damaged complexions of the mainly amateur cast (that remind one of 1000 anonymous faces from the collected photographic works of Frank Meadow Sutcliffe). At the time, Douglas’ films were revolutionary (Douglas himself was a life-long socialist), so economic and haunted by poverty stricken memories were they. To their credit, they still look good today. In 1988, thieving scouser Terence Davies stole some of Douglas’ thunder with what was really supposed to be a homage to the great man’s work in the shape of Distant Voices, Still Lives. Not that Douglas really cared, he just seemed very glad that he had left some kind of legacy. Compassion and a purity of vision were everything to him. (PD)
18 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
My Name is Joe (see panel right) One Life Stand (May Miles Thomas, UK, 2000) 119min. Maureen Carr, John Kielty, Gary Lewis. Quite aside from One Life Stand being an affecting drama, Thomas’ ultra-low budget, black and white Glasgow-set debut was one of the first feature length films to be shot on a digital camcorder. Frustrated by the difficulty of raising money to make the film, Thomas and her partner/producer Owen Thomas just shot the thing themselves, talked it up at a number of film festivals – Cannes, Edinburgh – and eventually got it into cinemas. Nowadays, DIY filmmaking with digital technology is reasonably common (Robert Rodriguez’s starstudded Hollywood romp Once Upon a Time in Mexico was shot thus); back in the millennium year it was something quite innovative. The film, which Thomas also wrote, is about a concerned single mother, Trise (the excellent Carr), who unwittingly sends her depressed, directionless son, John Paul (Kielty), into the male escort business when she gets him on the books of a modelling agency. Absent father (Lewis) is no help, turning up only to beg, borrow and steal money from his wife. Still, the one ray of light cutting through all this domestic despair is the enjoyment Trise gets out of doing a good job at a fortune reading telephone call centre. Slow-moving (some might call it plodding at times), One Life Stand nevertheless hits a nerve. Surrounded by weak and/or domineering men and stuck in a rut worn by living for so long near the poverty line, Trise’s unwavering resolve to do right by others, most particularly her beloved son is deeply moving. Good to see that three years on, Thomas has made another film. Solid Air is more ambitious and boasts a higher profile cast, but this sister’s still doing it for herself. (MF) One More Kiss (Vadim Jean, UK, 1999) 98min, James Cosmo, Valerie Edmond, Gerard Butler.
High above the New York skyline, Sarah Hopson is contemplating suicide. The best time to jump, she tells us, is five o’clock in the late afternoon when the traffic won’t stop for anything. And 70% of those who jump won’t reach the ground. It’s this dry approach to death that sets the scene for Vadim Jean’s stunning feature about a young woman dying of
Scotland’s finest films One More Kiss ●
My name is Joe (Ken Loach, UK, 1998) 105min. Peter Mullan, Louise Goodall, David Hayman, Gary Lewis. y Name is Joe is the second and best of Loach’s five collaborations with the Scottish human rights lawyer-turnedscreenwriter Paul Laverty (the others are Carla’s Song, Bread and Roses, Sweet Sixteen and the UK segment of 11’09”01 – September 11). As with so many of the films made by the grandfather of British social realist cinema – Loach’s collaborations with Laverty included – social issues are here presented within the loosely constructed framework of a well-known genre, in this case the brief encounter romance. Joe Kavanagh (Mullan) is an unemployed former alcoholic; Sarah Downie (Goodall) is a community health worker. Against all odds and under the myriad pressures of working class life, the pair start a romantic relationship in one of the toughest Glasgow neighbourhoods. Not only must Joe keep in check his personal demons (alcohol, anger, the violence that can come from both), but he has to deal with the hard times that living in an economically depressed area of Glasgow affords him. These include earning a
living labouring for cash-in-hand while avoiding the hounds from the local dole office, and dealing with threats from the neighbourhood gangsters. All of this might sound like a film that has little to do with happiness, but My Name is Joe is a remarkably upbeat drama. That’s partly because of the optimism the central characters continue to exhibit in the face of devastation, partly because Loach and Laverty find humour (and humanity) in the bleakest of settings and partly because the performances (most particularly Mullan’s) radiated beautiful warmth. Mullan once boasted to The List: ‘I’ll make any damn film I want.’ That spirit of cheeky rebellion pretty much sums up Joe Kavanagh; nothing’s going to stop him from living his life: not the bottle, not the government, not the local criminals. It’s tempting to see Joe as Mullan, to assume the actor’s not really acting at all, but playing himself on screen. But not only would that be the wrong assumption, it would also be an insult to one of the finest screen performances by a Scottish actor (any actor, actually) in recent years. Not for nothing was it nominated for the prestigious Cannes Palme d’Or and Best Actor awards. Loach lost out, but Mullan got what he so clearly deserved. (MF) The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 19
Orphans Scotland’s finest films ●
(Lynne Ramsay, UK/France, 1999) 94min. William Eadie, Tommy Flanagan, Mandy Matthews. ith this the young Glasgow filmmaker’s feature debut, Lynne Ramsay announced herself as a unique new voice in not just Scottish, but British, in fact international cinema. Ramsay’s follow-up, Morvern Callar, confirmed this bright new talent, and she’s currently at work on her third film, Lovely Bones. It’s Ratcatcher, however, that’s the film to watch. It’s a strikingly realised piece of work, shot through with visual poetry and photographed in a gloriously impressionistic manner. It’s summer in Glasgow, 1973. The dustbin men are on strike and so on the blighted housing estates and around the run-down tenements the rubbish is pilling up in the streets. But whilst the city may becoming over-run by rats, the kids go about their business, playing in the streets regardless of muck and vermin. One day James (Eadie) and his pal Ryan are play fighting by the local canal. Ryan is accidentally knocked in and doesn’t come out. Perturbed but not exactly in a state of panic, James runs back to his council home and his ma (Matthews), drunken da
20 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
(Flanagan) and sisters, to whom he says nothing. Ramsay’s coming-of-age tale is distinguished by the beautifully observed details of her protagonist James’ life: the young boy hanging around with older, rough kids; James being trailed by his odd wee neighbour, Kenny, who has a pet rodent; the pre-pubescent boy fumbling about with older girl Margaret Anne, who might be uncharitably referred to as the local ‘bike’. A way into the film there’s an epiphany. James hops a bus to the end of the line and ends up outside of town on a deserted, half-completed housing estate. Exploring it, the boy finds it’s another world: clean, empty rooms, gleaming kitchen sink taps, etc. He’s fascinated. And as James climbs through a glass-less window, he escapes into a bright, yellow cornfield, where he experiences for the first time in his deadly dull life freedom and something like pure joy. But that the briefly enraptured James is soon back in the grimy city, suggests there’s no real escape from his dirty life. With naturalistic, low-key performances and gloriously visual design and photography, Ratcatcher’s a lovely tragedy and a modern masterpiece. (MF)
Scotland’s finest films The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie ●
cancer. Sarah (Edmond) doesn’t jump, but she does take a leap of faith and goes back to the Scottish Borders to find the father (Cosmo) and the lover (Butler) she left behind. In her seven year absence, her father Frank has remained static in his mourning for his daughter and his own lost love, while the lover has moved on and got married. Meeting her old flame again, and his wife, she says: ‘I’d like to spend some time with your husband.’ ‘What kind of time?’ replies the wife. ‘The time I have left,’ she says. The ensuing situation is an unpleasant one for all involved. But the film is far from sombre. Stunningly acted, structured and shot, however grim the circumstances, the light approach to death is consistently sought. There’s some great humour here – like the anecdote about the factory worker with a stammer who burns alive in a vat of jam (‘p-p-p-please get me out of this j-j-j-jam’). Raven-haired Scottish beauty Valerie Edmond didn’t go on to much after this – she’s since had small parts in Complicity and Saving Grace – but her performance here is quite superb, as is the one from great Scottish actor, James Cosmo. Unfairly overlooked on its cinematic release, this is a memorable and moving drama that demands to be seen. (CB) Orphans (Peter Mullan, UK, 1997) 101min. Douglas Henshall, Gary Lewis, Rosemarie Stevenson, Stephen McCole. Mullan thinks his feature directing debut a very funny film. He’s right, it is. There are, however, those who would find this black, at times surreal nightmare just too dark to laugh at. The laughs take place over the course of one dark and stormy night in Glasgow, following four grown up kids as they splinter after the death of their mother. Disaffected Michael (Henshall) ends up crucified, floating down the Clyde on a wooden pallet. Angry John (McCole) finds himself participating in the hold up of a middle class wanker (in mid-wank) with a shotgun. The wheelchair-bound Sheila (Rosemarie) is marooned in the street by some mean-spirited local kids. And pious Thomas (Lewis) shoulders his mother’s coffin alone (in a shamelessly cheesy outburst he barks: ‘She ain’t heavy, she’s my mother’) before holing up in a church that loses its roof to the storm during the film’s climax. But while the jokes come thick and fast (one kidnapped publican doesn’t want to hear anyone say yes to the offer of ‘arse
darts anyone?’) Mullan’s film (he also wrote it) has got plenty to say about the nature of grieving, family ties and the church. His conclusions might not blow your mind – going nuts is part of the grieving process, families should stick together, church ain’t good for much – but they do ring true. Moreover, the switching between humour, farce, surrealism, slapstick, and serious drama is impressively executed, so much so that you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. And that’s the point: the four orphans can’t get a handle on their emotions. This is superb. (MF) The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Ronald Neame, UK, 1969) 116min. Maggie Smith, Robert Stephens, Pamela Franklin.
No film captures the darker side of Edinburgh’s egregiously respectable bourgeoisie than Neame’s 1969 drama about education and its possibilities for abuse. A theatrical adaptation of Muriel Spark’s novel by the normally more showman-like Jay Presson Allen seemed an unlikely start for a film that went on to net Smith an Academy Award, but its original West End run, with Vanessa Redgrave in the lead, proved that the subtleties of Edinburgh life could translate themselves to worlds much further afield. Set between the wars, the film captures the repressive post-Victorian spirit of the time perfectly. Smith’s schoolteacher at an exclusive girls’ school shows a marked spirit of nonconformism, and her bohemian, seemingly progressive ideas play well with her charges. Among them, Franklin is a girl who particularly adores her mentor, but love of this kind can turn very quickly to hate. She, combined with repressive headmistress Celia Johnson work to bring down a woman whose apparent liberalism quickly proves to have, quite literally, Fascist undertones. Meanwhile, Brodie’s sexuality proves a major issue for her, torn as she is between a sexy but married art teacher (played by Smith’s husband at the time, Stephens) and a dull but respectable music teacher (Gordon Jackson). Neame’s use of close up in the girls’ school, shot at Pinewood Studios, and a contrasting broad lens for Edinburgh location shoots brings out the oppressiveness of the interiors, as well as the grandeurs of the city. An outstanding performance by Smith brought her world acclaim. But most of all, one remembers The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie as a study
The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 21
Ratcatcher Scotland’s finest films ●
of what happens to the psyche when subjected to a rule bound institution.(SC) Ratcatcher (see panel p20) Regeneration (Gillies Mackinnon, UK/Canada, 1997) 105min. Jonathan Pryce, James Wilby, Jonny Lee Miller. Restless Natives
Opening with a tracking shot of the British trenches of World War I France in their full, gruesome horror, Regeneration swiftly establishes itself as an anti-war film. It then cuts to Edinburgh and to Craiglockhart Hospital (Overtoun House, Dumbarton, filling in for what’s now a college campus), where soldiers suffering from various psychiatric traumas induced by warfare are being treated. Thereafter, the war itself is seen only in flashbacks. The point, as with Pat Barker’s novel upon which Mackinnon’s films is based, is that the soldiers are being cured of their mental conditions not for the good of their own health, but so they can be shipped back to the trenches where they are most likely be slaughtered. Giving this horrible notion all the more poignancy, the story focuses on the famed war poets, Siegfried Sassoon (Wilby) and Wilfred Owen (Stuart Bunce) as well as the mute Billy Prior (Miller, in his first post-Trainspotting role). Ensconced in the hospital, the dialogue between Sassoon and Dr William Rivers (Pryce) gives voice to the ultimate pointlessness of the treatment of the soldiers in Craiglockhart. Indeed, Sassoon’s particular neurosis is not much more than conscientious objection to the slaughter in France. Regeneration isn’t an especially accessible film. The claustrophobic confines of the dark hospital rooms and corridors mirror both the trenches in France and the soldiers’ damaged minds. Outside the confines of the building, the landscape is little better: bleak and autumnal. Mackinnon’s film is slowmoving, too, painfully so at times. That said, it presents a compelling argument for the awful futility of war. (MF) Restless Natives (Michael Hoffman, UK 1985) 86min. Vincent Freill, Joe Mullaney, Ned Beatty, Teri Lally.
Proof, if proof was ever needed, that Butch and Sundance could have hailed from Scotland. Will (Friell) and Ronnie (Mullaney) are two slightly daft, aimless young men who hatch a scheme to revive the long lost British tradition of highway robbery and make a fortune holding up some of the numerous tourist coaches 22 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
roaming the Scottish countryside. Far from being contemporary Dick Turpins, they do so wearing a clown mask and a werewolf mask procured from Ronnie’s day job working in a joke shop. To add to the confusion, Will develops a crush on bus stewardess Margot (Lally), and the pair of half-wit highwaymen quickly develop into cult heroes that everyone, including numerous Yank tourists and the local rozzers, want a piece of. Modest in its ambitions as both a love story and an adventure, Restless Natives is a slight, bordering on whimsical, movie which redeems itself thanks to a neat line in sharp patter that acknowledges the influence of Bill Forsyth, who was riding high on the success of Local Hero at the time. Like so many films about and set in Scotland it makes liberal use of the handsome landscape and remains enjoyable because of (or is that despite) an atmospheric/wailing soundtrack supplied by the late Stuart Adamson, then of tartan rock marauders Big Country. Hardly comic genius, but sweet enough to raise a smile or three. (MR) Rob Roy (Michael Caton-Jones, US/UK, 1995) 139min. Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, John Hurt, Tim Roth.
This fifth big screen version of the story of the Highland rogue (as the 1954 film is subtitled) is a bawdy, violent romp. Screenwriter Alan Sharp’s adaptation of Sir Walter Scott’s novel tells the tale warts, shagging, drinking, murdering and all. It’s the 1700s and the eponymous Highlander (played by Neeson) borrows money from a local nobleman in order to buy cattle to herd to market. When the money’s stolen, Roy finds himself in debt and in trouble with the Marquis of Montrose (Hurt), not an understanding man, nor one given to acts of mercy. Enter Archibald Cunningham (Roth), an English dandy working for Montrose who’s as sadistic as he is deadly with a rapier. Forced out of his home and into a life of crime, Roy fights a guerrilla war against his rich oppressors, defending his family and his honour. Efforts to give the film a gritty, realistic edge don’t sit comfortably alongside the clichés of the story. Here, the Scots folk hero is a brawny type, full of love and respect for his common man, while Roy’s nemesis, Cunningham, is a hateful, effeminate Englishman who delights in killing. Nevertheless, director Michael Caton-Jones, the Broxburn-born lad now resident in America and here making a
Scotland’s finest films 16 Years of Alcohol ●
return trip home, keeps things spirited and energetic. With a bucket-load of cash from Hollywood, he’s assembled an impressive cast (which also includes Eric Stoltz and Brian Cox) and photographs them romping about some handsome Scottish scenery. Ultimately, it’s an historical epic, jazzed up with sex and violence for modern cinema going tastes. (MF) Shallow Grave (Danny Boyle, UK, 1994) 92min. Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston, Kerry Fox. The fortunes in British cinema of director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald and junior doctor turned scriptwriter John Hodge (the latter both Scottish) began with Shallow Grave, a film about three flatmates and a suitcase full of cash. A classic morality tale – the moral being ‘mess about with someone else’s shit and it’ll come back and mess with you’ – the darkly amusing drama opens with Boyle’s camera taking the viewer on a rollercoaster ride across the cobbled streets of Edinburgh’s New Town. It then settles on a flat (yes, they’re big in Edinburgh) where affluent young professionals Juliet (Fox), David (Eccleston) and Alex (McGregor) are holding auditions for a new flatmate. Expecting the happy home-seekers to perform like seals for their pleasure, they get what they deserve when they pick Hugo (played by the wonderful Keith Allen). Outwardly charming and mysterious, Hugo is discovered dead in his room a few days later with said suitcase full of cash stashed under his bed. Of course, they take the money, hack the body to pieces and bury it in a shallow grave. And then things turn nasty. It’s a great script and one done justice by the fantastic actors involved. Proving a huge hit, it helped to make Scotland fashionable as a location and on the back of its success, Boyle, Macdonald and Hodge would go on to make Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach together. (CB) Silent Scream (David Hayman, UK 1990) 85min. Iain Glen, Paul Samson, Anne Kristen, Alexander Morton.
Based on the true story of Larry Winters who, in 1973, was one of the first inmates to enter the Barlinnie Special Unit, a liberal prison community where prisoners were encouraged to indulge in the
rectifying arts. The film takes its name from a remarkable prose poem Winters wrote at this time, as he wrestled with his various demons. He was imprisoned in 1963 for shooting a Soho barman, and Hayman’s remarkable film deals mostly with the intervening ten years before he moved into Barlinnie. Its is a story of prison guard abuse, drug addiction and a talent for causing mayhem. Better known as an actor and theatre director , this was Hayman’s first stab at directing film, which is amazing really. He opts for a complex, elliptical style reminiscent of that of Donald Cammell, Michaelangelo Antonioni and Nick Roeg to tell his story. It works. The madness and claustrophobia in Silent Scream are almost palpable. One does not for a moment doubt Hayman’s conviction in his belief that Larry Winters is an artist who matters. While Bill Beech’s script (his only one to date) may border on the pretentious (and scatological), the whole thing is held together by Glen’s powerhouse performance as Winters. It’s a piece of acting that taps into the pure physical and mental torment of a man possessed. Winters died of a massive drug overdose four years after he entered Barlinnie, but in Silent Scream, at least, a little of him lives on. Look out for Robert Carlyle and Julia Graham in minor roles. (PD)
16 Years of Alcohol (Richard Jobson, UK, 2003) 102min. Kevin McKidd, Laura Fraser, Susan Lynch, Ewen Bremner.
Jobson’s semi-autobiographical writingdirecting debut came about after the exSkids punk rocker and subsequently film critic met one of his filmmaker heroes at the Edinburgh International Film Festival: the Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-Wai. Jobson had been toying with the idea of turning a novel he’d written about an angry young man with a drinking problem and a penchant for acts of ultra-violence into a film script. Kar-Wai said: ‘Do it.’ Jobson did, and the result’s not half bad (for a film critic). McKidd turns up the barely repressed rage as Frankie, a smarter than most thug who pisses his life away skulking around Old Town Edinburgh with his gang of mates, picking fights whenever the mood takes them. Frankie learned to put violence before love from his brutish, womanising father, and although he benefits from the kindness and guidance of two women (Fraser and Lynch), he
The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 23
Trainspotting Scotland’s finest films ●
Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, UK, 1996) 94min. Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Kelly MacDonald, Peter Mullan, Irvine Welsh.
hoose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family, choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends.’ Or conversely, choose heroin. Buying into Irvine Welsh’s bitterness about the way we live our lives is undoubtedly the best thing director Danny Boyle ever did. The book wasn’t just big, it was huge. Kids who hadn’t picked up a novel since they were forced to read To Kill a Mocking Bird were lapping up the adventures of Renton, Spud, Sick Boy, Tommy and Begbie like they were the Famous Five. Junior doctor turned scriptwriter John Hodge (who’d written Shallow Grave) did a peach of a job adapting the novel. His screenplay captured all the wit and coldhearted cruelty of the book, and Boyle’s direction wasn’t bad either. Moving at breakneck speed, 24 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
the movie had some stunning set pieces. Who can forget the scene where Renton dives into the dirtiest toilet in Scotland, or the one in which Spud covers his girlfriend, her parents and their kitchen in his faeces? The grubby looked so good that the tabloids laid in saying it was a scandalous glamourisation of heroin abuse. Which it was, because for a while there, ‘heroin chic’ was all the rage. Lads shaved their heads to look like Renton and supermodels kept on getting skinnier. This film’s impact cannot be underestimated. It put Scotland on the map and for what seemed an eternity in the 90s, the promotional posters and soundtrack were everywhere. It was, in short, a nightmare, one which the author, the director and the cast tried for a long time to wake up from. Welsh would write other books, but the response would always be ‘it’s nae bad but it’s nae Trainspotting’. Boyle would make other films and the response would be the same. The cast came out the canniest. Already established actors like McGregor, Bremner and Robert Carlyle really hit the big league, while relative newcomer Kevin McKidd and impressive first-timer Kelly Macdonald also took their share of the limelight. (CB)
Scotland’s finest films That Sinking Feeling ●
must face his personal demons to overcome his faults. Rather than go the expected route of filming in the gritty social realism style, Jobson opts for a more poetic approach. Fractured narrative with heavy use of voice over works to give the film a dreamlike quality. And though Jobson echews the picture postcard look of the Scottish capital to film in the alleyways and backstreets of the part of the city he grew up in, he maintains the dreamy quality with some really quite lovely photography. His cast do the newcomer director proud and Jobson can’t resist inserting himself into the film, Hitchcock cameo-style. And why not? It’s (largely) his story. (MF) Small Faces (Gillies Mackinnon, UK, 1996) 100min. Iain Robertson, Joseph McFadden, Steven Duffy, Laura Fraser, Garry Sweeney, Clare Higgins, Kevin McKidd.
Glasgow, 1968. Three teenage brothers – gangbanger Bobby, difficult mummy’s boy Alan and self assured joker Lex – reside in the Easterhouse district of Glasgow. Adolescence goes its own steady hormonal way for Bobby and Alan, but Lex finds himself on a downward spiral after he accidentally shoots the leader of Bobby’s gang. It’s a pretty routine plot, so credit to the brothers Mackinnon (Gillies’ brother, Billy) for managing to turn a tired war horse into a bolting stallion. What’s so great is the attention to detail. The late 1960s in the new schemes that were flourishing in the suburbs of Glasgow is clearly a time that these boys knew well. The brothers throw everything into this semi-autobiographical parable, from halfremembered stories and jokes to hilarious or violent set-pieces, along with a wideeyed sense of innocence that is wholly fitting with the subject matter. Small Faces is a superb film, the film of choice for those people too cool for the wistful modernity of Trainspotting. Ex-social worker Mackinnon himself did not stop for a moment to soak up the glory of what was his most critically acclaimed film. He went on to make a handful of fascinating, if occasionally flawed films: Hideous Kinky, Trojan Eddie, Regeneration and Pure. He is currently prepping three films, one of which is an epic about the bloody tragedy of the Highland land clearances. (PD) Strictly Sinatra (Peter Capaldi, UK,
2001) 97min. Ian Hart, Kelly Macdonald, Brian Cox.
When it comes to American music, there are two singers particularly close to Scots’ hearts: Elvis and Frank Sinatra. It’s ‘ole blue eyes who informs Capaldi’s entertaining comedy drama, which is also known by its less commercial title, Cocozza’s Way. Hart plays Toni Cocozza, a small-time crooner working out of ‘Glasvegas’, who becomes embroiled in the life of local mobster, Connolly (the never-to-bemessed-with Iain Cuthbertson), when his wife Dainty (Una McLean) falls for Toni’s Frankie schtick. Toni falls for his own Frankie schtick, too, living the fantasy life of an old-time crooner, despite sporting a nasty tight (and thinning) perm hair-do. All is well with Toni, even hanging out with mobsters (hey, Frankie’s career was made by ‘em), until things get violent. Connolly’s right hand man, Chisholm (Cox), might be altogether fatherly towards the singer, but thugs like Michaelangelo (Tommy Flanagan) ain’t impressed with his patter. Capaldi, who’d previously won an Oscar for his short film, Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, gets back behind the camera, leaving the acting to his friends and colleagues. Hart and Cox are as reliable as ever, although Macdonald, playing Toni’s love interest, is completely wasted. Capaldi’s Kafka star, Richard E Grant, turns up in a cameo playing himself. It all makes for so much good, if lightweight fun. (MF)
Sweet Sixteen (Ken Loach, UK, 2002) 105min. Martin Compston, Gary McCormack.
Ken Loach and writer Paul Laverty’s fourth feature collaboration is rooted fully and firmly in Laverty’s home territory – west coast Scotland. While their first, Carla’s Song, opened in Glasgow and moved on to Nicaragua and their previous, Bread and Roses, was set in Los Angeles, Sweet Sixteen takes place in Greenock and Glasgow. The new film develops characters that appeared only peripherally in Loach and Laverty’s most memorable film, the also west coast-set My Name is Joe. Cheeky wee ned Liam (Compston) is awaiting his mother’s release from prison, which happens to fall on his 16th birthday. Pa’s not around and Liam’s ma is involved with dodgy drug dealer Stan (McCormack). So, Liam, determined to give his ma a home and a better life, starts
The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 25
The 39 Steps Scotland’s finest films ●
dealing drugs himself to raise the cash. But although Liam and his pals are raking it in for themselves and their Glasgow mob boss, it’s only a matter of time before rival dealers, local hard men and splintering friendships threaten Liam’s livelihood and life. Loach’s no-frills working method (the use of non-professional actors, and regular cinematographer Barry Ackroyd’s largely static camera work) sits well with Laverty’s straightforward storytelling, which prioritises character development over fancy plotting. On the surface it’s a modest film, but the action, though very specifically located in Greenock, speaks of the problems in deprived communities everywhere. In his first screen role Greenock local Compston excels as the tough kid with a tender heart, and it’s his performance that lifts the film, imbuing it with warmth and humour and countering the balance between worthy polemic and highly watchable drama. (MF) That Sinking Feeling (Bill Forsyth, UK, 1980) 93min. Billy Greenlees, John Hughes, Robert Buchanan, Drew Burns.
Bill Forsyth’s first film is as rough as a couple of rusty iron bolts. It also happens to be about as funny and charming as a basket full of puppies chewing wasps. If you can get past the west coast vernacular and slang that is heaped on for comic effect, That Sinking Feeling is the meeting point somewhere between Ken Loach’s Kes and Gerald Thomas’ Carry on at Your Convenience. Glasgow at the beginning of Thatcher’s long and tiresome reign, and it seems that just about everyone and their dog is unemployed. So four bored teens come up with a great idea. Why not rob a bathroom fittings factory? Stainless steel sinks are worth a lot of money. An overly complicated plan is hatched that involves dressing up as girls and using a stopmotion potion. What Forsyth lacked in technical skill he certainly made up for in the sheer joyous energy of his script. This is the movie every 16-year-old boy wants to make with his mates, just for a laugh. There are some gut-bustingly hilarious moments here, along with a few dodgy performances and an awful lot of raw enthusiasm – something Forsyth ultimately lost. The director was to ultimately surpass himself later in the 80s, but this is little rough diamond. (PD)
26 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
The 39 Steps (Alfred Hitchcock, UK, 1935) 86min. Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Peggy Ashcroft, John Laurie. Of the three film versions of Perth-born novelist John Buchan’s rollicking adventure yarn, Hitchcock’s is, of course, by a full head of steam, the best. In no time at all we’re charging up to Scotland on a train as Canadian visitor to London, Richard Hannay (Donat), goes on the run after hiding a beautiful young spy in his flat and then discovering her murdered in the morning. As Hannay feared, the police are after him for the murder, and anyway, there’s an evil spy ring the desperate gentleman Canuck feels compelled to break up. Between thrilling set-pieces and devious plot-twists, The 39 Steps, like its protagonist, barely pauses to catch a breath. Across the Atlantic, the newlyborn Superman was moving faster than a speeding train, but even the man of steel would have problems keeping up with this locomotive. Which makes it difficult to pick out a favourite of the numerous memorable moments. There’s Hannay’s flight from the police, handcuffed to the distraught innocent, Mrs Henry Hopkinson (Caroll), and their comic attempt at playing the newlyweds at that famous Scottish place of romantic union, Gretna Green. Then there’s the vertiginous alighting from a train crossing the Forth Bridge and the espionagefuelled climax – ahem – north by northwest in Glen Coe (both locations Hitch and cast and crew travelled to film in). Mystery, suspense, thrills and laughs – and there’s even time for a little character shading – are all piled on. They really don’t make ‘em like this anymore. But then, they rarely write ‘em like this anymore, either. (MF) Trainspotting (see panel p25) Tunes of Glory (Ronald Neame, UK, 1960) 106min. Alec Guinness, John Mills, Susannah York, Gordon Jackson. Towering theatrical performances from the leads and the deployment of Edinburgh Castle (not much used in films, oddly enough) make up for the often heavy-handedness of this mirthless postwar drama. Guinness’ Major Jock Sinclair has served his country as part of his Highland regiment since he was a wee boy piper. Back from the Second World War and installed in Edinburgh Castle, the Major is put out to find that he’s been passed over for promotion. On top of this
Scotland’s finest films Tunes of Glory ●
Whisky Galore! (Alexander Mackenzie, UK, 1949) 82min. Basil Radford, Catherine Lacey, Joan Greenwood.
hought by many to be truly the greatest Scottish film of all time, Whisky Galore! embodies in its story a number of the nation’s finer characteristics: resilience and rebellion, self-reliance and community spirit, humour and, of course, a good and healthy respect for the malts. The film’s origins, though, lie in London, at Ealing studio, the little filmmaking operation responsible for some of the best British comedies of the pre, post and wartime period (of which Whisky Galore! is, arguably, the finest). Though Ealing’s films are best known for their whimsical comedy, there’s a streak of plucky anti-authoritarianism that runs through them films, something perfectly at home in Scotland and on the island of Barra, where the film was shot. When 50,000 cases of whisky are stranded upon a cargo ship that runs aground off the island, the locals cannot resist the temptation to help themselves to a few drams. Unfortunately, the Home Guard is stationed on the island and lead by an Englishman, Captain Paul Waggett (Radford), who stands between parched mouths and the
longed for golden nectar. Written by Compton Mackenzie (who died in Edinburgh in 1972 and who wrote the novels from which Monarch of the Glen is being adapted) and Angus McPhail from Mackenzie’s novel, Whisky Galore! is actually based on a true story – the sinking of the SS Politician in the Outer Hebrides in 1941. Having left Liverpool bound for Jamaica with 250,000 bottles of whisky, the Politician sank off Eriskay during bad weather. The locals claimed as many bottles as they could before the authorities arrived to stop the salvaging/pilfering. Even today, as the story goes, bottles of 60-year-old scotch are found along Eriskay’s shore. Mackenzie and McPhail flesh out the remarkable true story of the Politician by populating their island with a cast of colourful eccentrics, including ‘the Biffer’ and ‘Old Hector’. There’s a wonderful cast of Scots actors playing the islanders, a nervy young Gordon Jackson and a blustery middle-aged James Robertson Justice among them. All that and slyly comic narration by the great Finlay Currie – this film’s got more character in it that a case of twelve-year-old malt. Whisky Galore! was also Alexander Mackendrick’s first film. It’s a memorable debut. (MF)
The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 27
Whisky Galore! Scotland’s finest films ●
Young Adam (David Mackenzie, Scotland/UK/2003) 93 min. Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, Peter Mullan, Emily Mortimer. n Spring 2003, award-winning short filmmaker David Mackenzie released his debut feature, The Last Great Wilderness. Whereas that film was met by mixed reviews, its follow-up Young Adam – released in the same year – undoubtedly establishes a modern classic of Scottish cinema and Mackenzie as an accomplished director of singular talent and vision. Working with great material – namely cult beat writer Alexander Trocchi’s 1954 novel about Joe, a nihilistic drifter who seems only to find connection with the world through seedy sexual encounters – Mackenzie remains loyal to the dark existentialist spirit of the book, but also succeeds in softening its machismo to create a work of haunting beauty. Shot in seedy green and grey hues, the film opens on the Clyde where Joe (Ewan McGregor) is working on a barge owned by Ella (Tilda Swinton), and run by her husband Les (Peter Mullan). The men are in the process of dragging a corpse of a young woman from the
28 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
water, an act done with particular care by Joe, thus hinting at his complicity in her demise. At a steady, meditative pace, Mackenzie gradually reveals the relationship between Joe and the dead girl (Emily Mortimer), and in doing so, presents a chilling portrait of a young man devoid of feeling and responsibilities. And while the sex scenes are uniformly grubby – in bushes, under trucks, covered in custard (in one controversial scene where it’s unclear whether the sex is consensual or not) and up against walls in side streets – the film is sorrowful rather than sordid. Mackenzie’s stirling efforts aside, Young Adam is distinguished by the remarkable performances of its actors. Swinton and Mullan elicit pathos from their largely unsympathetic (or just plain pathetic) characters. Mortimer fleshes out the otherwise enigmatic dead girl in a series of flashback sequences. But most notable is McGregor’s star turn as the amoral anti-hero, which turns out to be nothing short of a careerbest performance. Marred only by some stilted dialogue, Young Adam is an otherwise flawless adaptation of a dark and disturbing tale. (CB)
Scotland’s finest films Wilbur Wants to Die ●
he gets a further snub when Mills’ weakwilled regiment newcomer Colonel Basil Barrow is assigned base commander. A battle of wills then ensues between the embittered Sinclair and the sympathetic Barrow, which causes much dissension in the lower ranks. Neame’s film, adapted by James Kennaway from his own novel, essentially pits a working class Scot against a posh Englishman. The roles are somewhat stereotypical – Jock’s a lad, Basil’s more of a lass – but the quality of the performances overcomes these cliches and does make for superior viewing. Watching the croppedhaired, clipped-moustached Guinness stomping around the Castle’s great halls bellowing and bullying is quite a sight. The tone of the film is uniformly tense, and that tension is ratcheted up as Sinclair finds he has to deal not only with the infuriating new base commander, but also his daughter, his girlfriend and more of his fellow officers. Nice performances from the supporting cast – York and Gordon joined by Dennis Price, John Fraser and Duncan Macrae – march the film along to its conclusion. (MF) Whisky Galore! (see p27) The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, UK, 1973) 84min. Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Christopher Lee. A controversial production history led to The Wicker Man being buried – quite literally, with reels used as landfill under what is now the M4 motorway – upon release. Originally appearing as the Bmovie to Nic Roeg’s celebrated Don’t Look Know, it soon picked up a cult following and considerable critical acclaim, coming 96th in the British Film Institute’s top 100 British films. Straight-laced Sgt Howie (Woodward) lands on a remote island in search of a missing girl, and undergoes an extreme culture shock. The pagan inhabitants of the island, a fiefdom presided over by Lord Summerisle (Lee) are far from cooperative, and Howie fights temptation in the form of Willow (Ekland). Increasingly bizarre events spiral into what remains one of the most shocking denouements ever committed to film. Part musical and as camp as a row of tents, the film wins audiences with its intelligent script and the respect the performers’ approach it with. A horror film set mainly in the daylight hours, and ripe with obscure symbolism, The Wicker Man was intended as an intellectual foil to
the Hammer series. The soundtrack by Paul Giovanni marries traditional folk with more modern techniques and the shock ending is light years ahead of M Night Shyamalan’s parlour games. Parttime Worzel Gummidge impersonator Rod Stewart threatened to buy all extant footage to spare the blushes of then girlfriend Ekland, but as her voice was dubbed and a body double used for nudity, perhaps he judged her half-performance wasn’t worth the money. The rest of the film most definitely is. (DM)
The Wicker Man
Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself (Lone Scherfig, UK/Denmark/Sweden/ France, 2003) 111min. Jamie Sives, Adrian Rawlins, Shirley Henderson.
A comedy about suicide? Set in Glasgow, but written and directed by a pair of Danes? Whatever next? A Scottish historical epic made by an Australian with American dollars? Jokes aside, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself is, against all odds, a winner. ‘It’s a shame you can’t come to the suicide support group anymore, especially now you’ve experienced death,’ says the rather tactless nurse Moira (Big Train television comedian Julia Davis) to Wilbur (local lad from Leith, Sives), whose ongoing efforts to end his life have thus far resulted in a only few seconds of brain death. It’s this kind of blackhumoured dialogue, delivered in a beautifully unassuming style by its fine cast, that gives the Glasgow-set Wilbur wings. The story revolves around two brothers, Wilbur and Harbour (Rawlings), who run a bookshop inherited from their father, and a single mum (local Fife lass, Henderson) and her young daughter, who come to form something of a family with the boys. Tender, touching and funny, this beautifully observed and played film is nothing less than a feelgood melodrama about death. Full marks to former Dogme filmmakers Scherfig (Italian for Beginners) and Anders Thomas Jensen (Mifune) for crossing the geographical divide with their first English language film. That’s a difficult feat made even more so when you’re aiming to make an audience laugh. Scherfig has said she always had Scotland in mind for her first film in a foreign language, arguing that the Danish and Scots sense of humour are similar. On the evidence of Wilbur, she’s not wrong. (MF) Young Adam (see panel right)
The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 29
Craig Armstrong Scotland’s finest filmmakers ●
filmmakers Craig Armstrong Composer
‘I’m mainly an electronic composer who also works with orchestras,’ says the Glasgow born Armstrong, who was named Young Jazz Musician of the Year when he was 22. His range may have bewildered many in the music world, but it has earned him great acclaim in the cinematic domain. Although it was Peter Mullan who first commissioned him to score a trilogy of short films – Close, Fridge and A Good Day For the Bad Guys – it was Baz Luhrmann who gave him his breakthrough. Armstrong’s ability to work across the pop, classical and electronic idioms was perfect for the highlow brow of Romeo and Juliet, for which he bagged a BAFTA and a much coveted Ivor Novello Award. It is testament to Armstrong’s teamplaying and collaborative instincts that the directors he works with stick with him. He went on to help Mullan capture the spirit of menace and redemption in Orphans, while returning to camp it up for Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, which won him a Golden Globe in 2002. Philip Noyce brought him in to collaborate with Vietnamese musicians on The Quiet American after The Bone Collector. Well known as a workaholic, Armstrong also has two decent solo albums under his belt – the Space Between Us and As If to Nothing that feature collaborations with Bono, Mogwai and Evan Dando. (TA) Billy Boyd Actor
This affable little chap, known to cinema goers mainly as Peregrin ‘Pippin’ Took in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy is still hotly tipped as the next big Scottish star. Unquestionably, Boyd’s cheeky and mischievous hobbit with an implausible Weegie accent has a kind of native charm about him that translates well onto the big screen. But Boyd’s theatre credits are also extensive, with the woebegone wartime evacuee child from Glasgow, set down in an unfamiliar country environment among posh people in Liz Lochhead’s Britannia
30 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
Rules (1997) perhaps his most notable performance. So too, in the slightly mystifying The Ballad of Crazy Paola at the Traverse in 2001, Boyd’s work was admirable. Indeed, if you wander along to the Traverse bar of a Friday night, you still stand a pretty good chance of seeing Boyd necking the odd amber with his chums. Certainly, his performance as David Greig in that writer’s San Diego at the last International Festival was admirable, and energetic enough to require the occasional refresher at the Trav. On television, he didn’t quite escape the theatre, since his most memorable performance surely occurred opposite Eileen C Smith in that notable parody of the pretensions of touring ‘avante garde’ theatre, Annie Griffin’s Coming Soon. At 34, this Glaswegian graduate of RSAMD belies his age by a decade, which will no doubt see him sought after by filmmakers in the future. (SC)
Ewen Bremner Actor The son of two art teachers, Ewen Bremner grew up in the Edinburgh seaside suburb of Portobello, attended Edinburgh Theatre Workshop and scored his first leading role at the age of 15 in the Scotland-set satirical drama Heavenly Pursuits (1986). He played Renton in the stage version of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, but played Spud in the 1996 film and, for some, stole the show with the job interview scene and the messy episode with the soiled sheets. Fame in film proved evasive after that, despite a studied and impressive performance in Harmony Korine’s unfortunately bad Julien Donkey-Boy (1999). Then Hollywood beckoned, and there was Bremner alongside squarejawed hunks Josh Hartnett and Ben Affleck in Pearl Harbor. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer was so impressed he cast Bremner as an American soldier in Black Hawk Down, a role that enabled an onscreen reunion with Trainspotting co-star Ewan McGregor. Bremner moved back to Edinburgh two years ago but the trend for
Scotland’s finest filmmakers Martin Compston ●
big action movies has continued apace with roles in the yet-to-be-released The Rundown (American title) co-starring Christopher Walken, and Around the World in 80 Days co-starring Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan. (CB) Gerard Butler Actor
Butler is one of those rare actors whose life is more interesting than the roles he has so far played. Born in Glasgow and raised in Paisley, he only met his father when he was 16. Set for a career in law, he was president of Glasgow University Law Society when he was approached by Stephen Berkoff in a café and invited to audition for a part in a stage version of Coriolanus. Hr went on to screen roles in Mrs Brown, Tomorrow Never Dies and Tales of the Mummy. Playing the part of Brown’s brother in the first film, Butler contracted hypothermia after shooting the opening seen, for which he had to dive into a cold sea. In addition, he won himself a ‘Certificate of Bravery’ from the Royal Humane Society after he dived into the River Tay, this time to save a young boy from drowning. Butler’s breakthrough role in the US was as Atila the Hun in a TV mini-series, and subsequent performances in Reign of Fire and the second Tomb Raider have proved that he has enough presence to make thinly sketched action heroes real, and rather sexy. He got the lead in The Phantom of Opera, and the odds of him becoming the next Bond are 10-1. (TA) Peter Capaldi Actor, writer, director
Peter Capaldi’s breakthrough role was in Local Hero. Looking at the films he has written and directed since, it is tempting to see the influence of that critically and commercially successful movie in every chicane of his career. The two features Capaldi wrote – 1992’s Soft Top Hard Shoulder and Strictly Sinatra nine years later – were both downbeat comedies imbued with the same vaguely-sentimental realism expressed by Bill Forsyth (although Capaldi’s films explore the idiosyncratic world of the Italian Glaswegian community he grew up in). Oddly, he is perhaps best known for directing the short film Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, largely because it won an Oscar in 1995. A surreal, 20 minute reimagining of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, it appeared to have opened up great
avenues of possibility for him Like Forsyth before him, however, nothing came of the trip to Hollywood. He came home to make Strictly Sinatra – a film that hopefully proved that his future lies in directing rather than writing. As a result of prioritising these aspects of his career, his acting CV has a definite hotch-potch feel to it – Capaldi has taken odd parts in a number of television series since appearing in Shooting Fish and Mr Bean back in 1997. (TA) Robert Carlyle (see panel p32)
Peter Capaldi in Soft Top Hard Shoulder
Robbie Coltrane Actor
Art-school drop out-turned-stand-up comedian, the rotund Robbie Coltrane makes for one of the most unlikely of screen idols. But he has been lucky to land two roles on the small screen that captured the nation’s imaginations. The first was Big Jazza in the John Byrnescripted Tutti Frutti. which first proved that he wasn’t just a better than average buffoon from the Scottish Comedy Unit. It still remains one of the best loved TV series north of the border. In 1993, Coltrane landed another career transforming part, Fritz in Cracker, written by Jimmy McGovern. If he thought, however, that he had earned the right to some gravitas when it came to his big screen roles, he was mistaken. Coltrane may have moved on from the truly daft roles of the early 90s (Nuns on the Run, The Pope Must Die), but he was still left playing quirky walk-ons in British franchises including Valentin Zurovsky, the best Bond regular bit part since Jaws. He is perhaps best known to the younger generation for playing Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies. His role as Sergeant Godley in the Alan Moore creation From Hell proves, however, that Coltrane is best when inhabiting a darker, murkier, dramatic world. (TA) Martin Compston Robbie Coltrane
David Bradley. It is a name that should have given Martin Compston pause for thought. Bradley was the young kid who Ken Loach plucked out of obscurity back in the late 60s to play the part of Billy Casper in Kes. Although he continued acting, Bradley has never performed to anywhere near the same standard as he did when he was a debutante. Some 30 years later and Martin Compston – a young kid on the books of The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 31
Billy Connolly Scotland’s finest filmmkaers ●
Robert Carlyle Actor s both the loveable softie and the vicious maniac, Robert Carlyle has been endearing himself to television and film audiences for over a decade now – 13 years, in fact, since he made his first film, Silent Scream. In the same year – 1990 – Carlyle landed the role of the Stevie, a Glaswegian who works on a construction site but one day dreams of having his own market stall in Ken Loach’s acclaimed drama Riff-Raff. Born and raised in Maryhill, Glasgow, by his father (his mother left when he was four) Carlyle took on his father’s trade as a painter. They moved around Britain in search of work and from the age of eight, he worked on building sites to earn his pocket money. On his 21st birthday he bought a copy of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and liked it so much that he enrolled in drama classes. He then trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and when he saw an advertisement in search of actors with experience working in the construction industry, he knew that he was the man for Riff-Raff. In 1993, he began a long association with director Antonia Bird with his part as Nosty in the BBC drama, Safe. Playing a homeless guy living
32 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
rough in London, he researched the role by living and sleeping on the streets for a week and quickly got a reputation for being something of a Scottish Robert De Niro, due to the lengths to which he would go to prepare for a part. While filming the television series Cracker, in which he played the chilling killer Albie, he maintained a Scouse accent on-screen and off. It’s not something he’s always been able to do, however – he joked, in an interview with The List, that when he played Renard, the fanatical killer in the Bond movie The World is Not Enough, he wasn’t able to really live the life of international intrigue. Shame, that. An enormously versatile actor with wideranging appeal, Carlyle has charmed older audiences playing the laid back Highland policeman in the long-running TV series Hamish Macbeth and miner-turned-stripper Gaz in The Full Monty. By contrast, the psychos – or ‘headcases’ as he likes to call them – including the memorable Begbie in Trainspotting and the drug-addled backpacker Daffy in The Beach, have made their mark with the younger generation. Humble and keen on keeping his private life private, Carlyle lives in Scotland with his wife Anastasia, a makeup artist who he met on the set of Cracker. (CB)
Scotland’s finest filmmakers Brian Cox ●
Greenock Morton FC – is badgered by his teachers into auditioning for a film. A year after that he is walking up the red carpet at Cannes, as the star of Ken Loach’s Sweet Sixteen. Not only is he the star of a great film, but Compston’s form is magnificent. From an opening scene in which he refuses to pass over heroin to his incarcerated junkie mother in a kiss, through the subsequent beatings and confrontations with family and with gangsters, Compston is completely at home in front of the camera. It’s obvious his character is destined to a desperate end from the start (this being a Loach film), but Compston makes the character of Liam bristle with energy and the possibilities of a better, freer life. Whether he can either live up to or live down this part is another matter. (TA) Billy Connolly Actor
Is Billy Connolly still best known as a comedian, or is it the Big Yin’s dramatic film roles that now define him as a performer? Two words: Mrs Brown. Although the 1997 film about an unlikely and mutually respectful relationship between Queen Victoria and her deceased husband’s loyal servant wasn’t Connolly’s first film acting job, it was the first time he appeared in a serious drama playing a non-comic role. And the film was a big hit, scoring a handful of nominations and awards at the Oscars. Critics, in particular, were impressed with Connolly’s turn as the no nonsense Scot, John Brown. The film, without a doubt, changed public and professional perceptions of Connolly. It’s not the first time the Big Yin has undergone a career change. It’s well known that Connolly left school to work in the Clydeside shipyards where he became a welder. He subsequently developed an interest in folk music, becoming an accomplished banjo player and a member of the band Humblebums with Gerry Rafferty. Gradually the jokes that he told between songs took over his act and he became a full-time comedian. Connolly’s dramatic turn (he’s taken other dramatic roles since Mrs Brown – The Debt Collector, White Oleander, The Last Samurai) signals another new career move. That said, his appearance in the forthcoming Merchant-Ivory parody, The Remains of the Piano, proves the Big Yin’s maintaining his comic touch. (MF) Sean Connery (see panel p35)
James Cosmo Actor
Blessed and cursed in equal measure with the looks and stature of a Scottish caricature, few actors have ever moved so comfortably or regularly between the small and the silver screen as this ginger giant. Cosmo gave his most acclaimed performance in One More Kiss, as a father watching his daughter dying and coming to term with his own unresolved life. As mortally grim Frank, Cosmo deftly sidesteps the mawkish with a surprisingly light touch for a man whose career began in war films. However, his canny nose for a role has not always been so strong – his embarrassment is almost palpable when he blunders on screen in pop/crime/ aesthetic holocaust ‘movie’, Honest. Born in Dumbarton in 1948, the plaidfests of Highlander and Braveheart gave expression to Cosmo’s gruff clansman shtick, but his most memorable performances have been given without a kilt in sight. After ‘fathering’ Ewan McGregor twice in 1996, first in Trainspotting and more surprisingly in Emma, Cosmo has since carved a niche in Scots/Scandinavian co-productions with strong ensemble casts. His appearance in Troy alongside Brad Pitt and Eric Bana proves that this old warrior still has plenty of fight left. (DM)
Billy Connolly in The Big Man
Brian Cox Actor
Once described as looking like a ‘rather handsome and craggy bear’, Brian Denis Cox is a true star of stage and screen. Before treading the boards, he swept them at Dundee Rep after leaving school at 15, then trained at drama school in London and by his early 20s was appearing in leading roles in the West End. Born in Dundee in 1946, Cox garnered great acclaim for his portrayal of Lear and even wrote a book, The Lear Diaries, detailing his experience of playing the tragic king. In the 80s, Olivier awards followed for his performances in Rat in the Skull and Titus Andronicus and Cox got his big film break in the often underrated Manhunter (1986). Anthony Hopkins may have won an Oscar for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, but for some Cox nailed the role in the earlier film. Throughout the 90s, Cox appeared in over 20 films and numerous TV shows. Well-paid roles in Hollywood money makers like The Long Kiss Goodnight and Kiss the Girls made parts in theatre and smaller independent films possible, and it
The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 33
Alan Cumming Scotland’s finest filmmakers ●
was in the indie hit, LIE (2001), that Cox delivered a career-best performance playing lonely paedophile ‘Big John’ Harrigan. The only actor to appear in both Braveheart and Rob Roy, Brian Cox has hit the 21st century running with roles in Adaptation, 25th Hour and X-Men 2. (CB) Alan Cumming Actor Brian Cox
Talk about inauspicious debuts. The lithe 38-year-old lad from Dunkeld made his screen acting debut in the old Scots chestnut, Take the High Road. Following roles in a number of British films, Circle of Friends and Emma among them, and an entertaining quasi-villain part in the Bond film, GoldenEye, Cumming went to work in America. He might have taken roles in such Hollywood fluff as Romy and Michelle’s High School Renuion, but it was on stage that America fell in love with Cumming. His role as the Emcee in the Broadway revival of Cabaret was one of the most celebrated performances in years. He won a Tony award for it and entered the Vanity Fair Hall of Fame. The film roles have been pouring in since and include Eyes Wide Shut, Titus, Spy Kids (and its two sequels), Josie and the Pussycats, Nicholas Nickeby and XMen 2. But despite being in great demand both in America and back in Britain, Cumming’s not a man to rest on his laurels. In 2001 he co-directed, with pal Jennifer Jason Leigh, the really quite impressive ensemble drama, The Anniversary Party, and in 2002 he published a novel, Tommy’s Tale. There are no signs of Cumming’s popularity waning – at any given time he’s got a number of films in the pipeline. Funny, then, that his nickname should be Uppin Cumming. (MF) Finlay Currie Actor
Scots can do imposing pretty well, and Currie’s screen presence was more imposing than most. Craggy-faced with bushy eyebrows and a big, burly build and heavily accented voice to match, Currie could have played the Old Man of Hoy if he’d had a mind to. During his 37 years as a film actor (and 34 on stage before that – he performed a song and dance act with his wife Maude Courtney in America in the 1890s), Finlay Jefferson Currie was cast over and over as authoritative, wilful and stern characters. Among them were Ruairidh Mor, the gruff harbour master in
34 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
I Know Where I’m Going!, Magwitch the terrifying convict in Great Expectations (Currie’s best known role) and Robert Louis Stevenson’s pirate Captain Billy Bones in Treasure Island. In fact, Currie, who was born in Edinburgh in 1878, was still doing stern (successfully) well into his 80s – see Billy Liar’s boss Mr Duxbury (Currie was 85 when he gave Tom Courtenay what for). Currie could also be funny, and just as tender as he was stern. He played Peter in Quo Vadis? and the Pope in Francis of Assisi. His narration in Whisky Galore! is full of wry humour and warmth. But Currie was at his best when he combined emotions. When his imposing demeanour gives way to tender feeling in I Know Where I’m Going!, the old man brings a tear to the eye. Currie died at the grand old age of 90, in 1968 at Gerrards Cross, England. (MF) Duncan Finnigan Director
If you were looking for evidence to support the argument that good films can made for next to no money, the work of Coatbridge local Duncan Finnigan would be a good place to start. Born in 1970, Finnigan has been working in film since the age of 19. He studied video production at Coatbridge College and James Watt College, Greenock, and later gained experience working as a volunteer at Glasgow Film & Video Workshop (now GMAC). After making a number of short films, he directed his first digital feature, Two Donuts, in 2001 and this was swiftly followed by his second, Four Eyes, a tragi-comic tale about a trainee doubleglazing salesman. Shot in Coatbridge and starring Finnigan himself and various friends and family members, this amusing and imaginative film, the director says, was made for ‘between £500 and £5000’. At local and international film festivals, it’s held its own next to movies made for millions. Working with his partner, co-producer and cinematographer Wilma Smith, who at the age of 26 already has an impressive 13 years of film experience behind her, Finnigan says he is currently ‘writing ideas, developing scripts’ and applying for funding to make his next projects. He has his own production company, FIN Scotland Productions (www.finscotland.com), the will to succeed, or, as he says himself, ‘to just keep trying’. (CB)
Scotland’s finest filmmakers Duncan Finnigan ●
Sean Connery Actor
he American film director Peter Bogdanovich once said the true test of whether or not an actor is a bona-fide movie star is whether you can do an impersonation of him or her (Bogdanovich is famed for his Jimmy Stewart and James Cagney). If we apply that test to Sir Sean Connery – say in your head: ‘The name’s Bond, James Bond’ – his status as one of the world’s biggest movie stars is confirmed. Talk about humble beginnings. Most of us are aware of the Edinburgh-born Thomas Sean Connery’s early employment as milkman (making deliveries in Fountainbridge). He did a stint in the Merchant Navy from the age of 16, but retired due to stomach ulcers (not before getting ‘Scotland Forever’ and ‘Mum and Dad’ tattoes). Connery’s pre-acting work also included bricklaying, being a lifeguard, posing as a nude model at Edinburgh College of Art and ‘coffin polishing’. But it was his entry as Mr Scotland in the 1950 Mr Universe contest that set Connery on the road to movie fame. He didn’t win the contest, but it lead to his big screen debut in 1954’s Lilacs in the Spring. At this time Connery was merely larking about with acting (he’s uncredited in his first role) and though he continued to work in film he made little impact (he was lost amid the stars in the World War Two epic, The Longest Day) until his polished and masculine appearance was noticed by the producer Harry Saltzman. Saltzman made what ranks among the most significant casting decisions in the history of cinema when he offered Connery the role of a suave and ruthless British secret agent in 1962’s Dr No. The rest, as they say, is history. Connery was paid $100,000 for Dr No, but by the time he was making his fourth Bond film, You Only Live Twice, he was earning ten times that sum. With only six Bond films to his credit (let’s forget his ill-fated return in the 1980s, the ironically-titled Never Say Never Again, shall we), Connery had become an
international star. If there’s a downside to his incredible success as Bond, it’s that Connery has never been able to shake off the role. He’s taken a good shot at avoiding the typecasting, though. He made a film with Hitchcock (Marnie) and took unappealing roles in films such as The Offense (in which he played a bent copper). He also showed us his bald pate in other films such as The Man Who Would be King (Connery wore a toupé in each of the Bond films), and won an Oscar as a tough Irish policeman in The Untouchables. He may always be synonymous with 007, but Connery’s actually become more popular as he’s got older. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, for example, he played his age (59 in 1989), yet a few years later he was parodying his own Bond persona in the action flick The Rock – both films were big hits. Above all, Connery’s still got his looks, his cheek and his love of Scotland. (MF) The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 35
Bill Forsyth Scotland’s finest filmmakers ●
Bill Forsyth Writer and Director
Laura Fraser in Virtual Sexuality
During the early 1980s Bill Forsyth was the Scottish film industry. That Sinking Feeling in 1980 announced a director with a great knack for finding the absurd in the apparently mundane. It was Gregory’s Girl, however, which ensured that he would be forever held with affection in Scotland. The film is not just a charming comic vision of youth, but also a love letter to the practical qualities of Scottish womanhood. It played at the Dominion Cinema in Edinburgh for over three years. If anything, Local Hero was an improvement on its predecessor, with Forsyth managing to simultaneously pander, to and play with, American preconceptions of Scotland with an assurance that brings a smile to the face – and thousands of American visitors to these shores in search of the village in which it was set. Its successor, Comfort and Joy, suggested that Forsyth yearned for a greater gravity in his films. Although Breaking In promised much for his move to Hollywood, the poorly-received Being Human with Robin Williams clearly knocked Forsyth out his stride. Six years later his reprise of the awkward Gregory character in Gregory’s Two Girls was not as desperate as it could have been, but it still highlighted the sad fact that Forsyth had lost his way. (TA) Laura Fraser Actor
1996 was the year that launched the careers of Scottish actors. The fate of the men has been well documented. Robert Carlyle and Ewan McGregor went global off the back of Trainspotting. Kevin McKidd and Joe McFadden made names from themselves after Small Faces. Arguably, the most promising performance in both those films, however, was by one of the women. Fraser matched the part of wisebeyond-her years Joanne Macgowan with a beautifully mature performance that promised much. Five years went by, however, and that promise had been frankly unfulfilled. Although she picked up the lead in Neil Gaiman’s TV series, Neverwhere, straight off the back of Small Faces, Fraser coasted her way through poorly written roles in Left Luggage and Virtual Sexuality. All the more frustrating given her turns as the plot fulcrum Margaret in Divorcing Jack and Lavinia in Titus proved that she could make a small part her own amongst an impressive 36 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
cast. Now, however, pointless cameos such as a raver in Kevin and Perry Go Large have given way to lead roles in mature dramas such as 16 Years of Alcohol and Coney Island Baby. (TA) Iain Glen Actor
This durable Edinburgh-born leading man seems to have flitted effortlessly between film theatre, and television for over fifteen years. His Scottish theatre connections are strong, with his brother Hamish running Dundee Rep as artistic director for a decade until earlier this year. But Glen himself trained at RADA, and quickly established his theatre credentials down south with an admirable Hamlet for the RSC. From the late 80s onwards, Glen began to establish himself as a film actor, with medium-sized roles in such Hollywood epics as Gorillas in the Mist. But his biggest film breakthrough came in 1990 with Bob Rafelson’s Mountains of The Moon, where as 19th century explorer John Hanning Speke his rivalry and sometime bond with Patrick Bergin’s Richard Francis Bacon becomes the centre of a riveting drama. Following this with his portrayal of a convicted murderer in Silent Scream (1990) illustrated his versatility. Still chasing Hollywood cash through such popcorn epics as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Glen doesn’t seem likely to be seen around his old Edinburgh haunts in the near future. (SC) John Grierson Documentary filmmaker
Grierson is nothing less than the founding father of English language documentary filmmaking. While visiting America in the 1920s, it was Grierson (who was born in Kilmadock, Stirlingshire in 1898) who first applied the term ‘documentary’ to a film – Robert Flaherty’s Moana. When he returned to Britain in 1927, Grierson was hired to oversee the promotion and marketing of ‘products of the British Empire’. This commission led to the first opportunity Grierson had to apply his theory that documentaries, rather than being mere travelogues, should educate the public. He achieved just that with his 1929 film, Drifters, about herring fishing in the North Sea. Later, Grierson formed the General Post Office Film Unit, under which organisation he and other colleagues piloted this new kind of filmmaking. Grierson also pioneered public and
Scotland’s finest filmmakers Paul Laverty ●
private sponsorship of his films (until then largely funded by box office profits) and distributed his films himself, showing them in schools and factories rather than cinemas. When Grierson moved to Canada ten years later, he left behind him upwards of 60 British filmmakers who continued to work in the field. Among his legacies is the National Film Board of Canada, an organisation that expanded the GPO Film Unit’s efforts on a global scale. Given Grierson’s efforts, it’s wholely appropriate that the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the longest continually running of its kind on the world, should have started life as a documentary festival. (MF) John Hannah Actor
John Hannah struggled for years before he got his big break. Born in 1962 in East Kilbride, he was an apprentice electrician for four years, which gave up to study acting at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. Television and film work followed and then the big break came when, in 1994, he was cast as Matthew in the enormously successful romantic comedy, Four Weddings and a Funeral. Hannah continued doing television and taking small roles in films, a sign perhaps that he is more a character actor than a romantic leading man. Those suspicions were confirmed when Hannah took the comic sidekick role in the horror comedy blockbuster, The Mummy. That film turned out to be another international success and when he returned to the role in The Mummy Returns he netted himself a cool $1m fee. That said, Hannah went on to secure himself a fine leading man role in the Inspector Rebus television dramas, four episodes of which he produced himself. (MF) Shirley Henderson (see panel p38) Douglas Henshall Actor
Even in his earlier stage career Douglas Henshall avoided typecasting. He left Glasgow to train at Mountview in London before returning to join 7:84 Theatre Company in Glasgow for his first acting job. Since then he’s done a great job of playing a particular interesting variety of roles. Henshall’s first part of real note was the bullying Corporal Berry in Dennis Potter’s TV series Lipstick on Your Collar (playing opposite Ewan McGrgeor) and in
the cinema it was as the boorish aristocrat Edgar Alabaster in the AS Byatt adaptation, Angels and Insects. The part that really anchored him in the popular imagination, however, was as Michael in Peter Mullan’s first feature, Orphans. Here Henshall showed that he was equally at home expressing the bruised psyche of the working class Catholic as he was the malaise of the languorous English aristo. Since then he has cornered the market in quirky romantic leads in British films with a European arthouse flavour. He was endearingly luckless in rom-coms The Man With Rain in His Shoes and This Year’s Love (both in 1998). Even thrillers like Silent Cry and small time gangster pic Fast Food have strong romantic cores to them that Henshall takes to with defeatist style. (TA)
John Hannah in Circus
James Robertson Justice Actor
An imposing presence, the portly and bushy bearded James Robertson Justice (1905-1975) starred in over 80 films, but is best remembered for bellowing at unruly medical students, playing chief surgeon Sir Lancelot Spratt in the many Doctor films. He played the loveable Sir Lancelot in the first of the series, Doctor in the House, in 1954, and would play the part a further five times, making his last film appearance in 1970 in Doctor in Trouble. Just where Robertson Justice was born is a matter of some dispute – some reports say Wigtown in southern Scotland, others say Langholm – but there is no doubt over his many, varied accomplishments, which were, in one word: impressive. Educated at Malborough College in England, he held two doctor’s degrees, had mastered the art of falconry (and taught a young Prince Charles the finer points of the pursuit), fought in the Spanish Civil War and WWII, and in his younger years pursued an active interest in athletics, icehockey, skiing and racing-driving. He worked as a journalist in Canada before becoming an actor, something he did rather late in life at the age of 44, and despite his prolific career in film, appearing in classics such as Whisky Galore! (1949), Moby Dick (1956) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), still found time to be rector at the University of Edinburgh for a number of years. (CB) Paul Laverty
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It isn’t the most conventional introduction
The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 37
Denis Lawson Scotland’s finest filmmkaers ●
Shirley Henderson Actor t is a matter of contrast. Don Coutts, who directed her in American Cousins, describes Shirley Henderson as a ‘vulnerable angel’. Read through the opening paragraphs of interviews with her and you are guaranteed to come across the words ‘child’ or ‘doll’. Yet the 37-year-old actor, born in Kincardine, Fife, produces performances of great substance, despite her first roles not really giving her much scope. She handed soup to Liam Neeson in Rob Roy and was sprayed with excrement as Spud’s girlfriend in Trainspotting. As if galvanised by the threat of her career being defined by that moment, Henderson proved in her next two roles that she was made of more durable stuff. As Debbie in Michael Winterbottom’s excellent Wonderland and the alcoholic Leonara in Mike Leigh’s Topsy-Turvy, she played against the fragility of her small frame and delicate features. In the former, Henderson gave a noble stoicism to the role of a single mother lost in the metropolitan sprawl of London. To the latter she brought a depth to a role that less purposeful actresses would have hammed to the heights. Henderson’s steely resolve in front of camera combined with her physical delicacy gives dramatic expression to a very strong archetype of Scottish womanhood. Despite continued success, she still lives in Fife, close to a family whose privacy she guards closely. Indeed, there is a further contrast in her rigid defence of her personal world with the honesty of her performances such as Shirley in Shane Meadows’ Once Upon a Time in the Midlands. Henderson’s earthy intensity may seem a world apart from the aristocratic mien of, say, Tilda Swinton, but both actresses have an ability to simply ‘be’ in front of a camera, rather
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than simply act. Of course Henderson can bash out a comic turn. She was endearingly daft as Bridget Jones’s mate, Jude, and as the wife of Steve Coogan’s Tony Wilson in 24 Hour Party People – a part that was heavily edited at the real Wilson’s request. She also managed to get a nice little earner in the form of Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that she will reprise in the fourth part of the series. This has given her scope to take parts in low budget films like AfterLife and Intermission. It is, however, to parts such as Alice in Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself that she will hopefully be brought back again. A quirky black comedy set in Scotland and imbued, thanks to the Dane Lone Scherfig’s direction, with a Scandinavian remoteness, the film has ample scope for both Henderson’s poise and her passion. (TA)
Scotland’s finest film talent Jack Lothian & Saul Metzstein ●
to filmmaking. Paul Laverty was a lawyer involved in the judicial process that followed the civil war in Nicaragua. His experience examining the hellish experiences of government supporters at the hands of US-backed death squads informed the script of Carla’s Song that he sent to Ken Loach. When Loach took it on, the key relationship in Laverty’s career was born. The English director is known for the unique manner in which he hands out scripts to his cast daily in order to give filming immediacy. Prior to working with Laverty, however, Loach had prioritised the social message in his films (such as Riff Raff) to such an extent that the director’s excellent cast provided great highlights but lost their way in an episodic plot. In My Name is Joe, Laverty gives his director a romance first and a social document later. In Sweet Sixteen he gives him a gangster film, albeit one with a fiercely committed social agenda. As a result of introducing the veteran filmmaker to the west of Scotland with his trilogy (Ae Fond Kiss is released next year) and to script structure, Laverty has given Loach a new lease of life. (TA) Denis Lawson Actor
Lawson is often referred to as Ewan McGregor’s uncle. That’s a bit unfair on Lawson, who has proved himself a versatile actor on the stage (he won acclaim in the title role of the West End musical, Pal Joey) and small and big screens. His second film was Star Wars, in which he played the fighter pilot Wedge (but was misbilled as Dennis with two ‘n’s Lawson), and reprised the role in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (nice bit of symmetry, his nephew appearing in the second trilogy of the space opera). Lawson was given a better opportunity to display his talent by Bill Forsyth in the culture clash comedy, Local Hero. His Gordon Urquhart is one of a number of village eccentrics who give an American oil man intent on buying up the land, to build a refinery a difficult time. With his wily demeanour, Lawson is perfectly cast as the sly fox Urquhart. At other times, his choice of roles haven’t always been so solid: playing something called Counter Destroyer in something called Robo Vampire, for example. More recently, Lawson, who McGregor says was his initial inspiration to take up acting, expanded his range by
writing and directing a short film based on Ian McEwan’s story, Solid Geometry, in which he cast his nephew. More nice symmetry, that. (MF) Gary Lewis Actor
An appearance as a father struggling to raise two sons against a backdrop of bereavement and industrial action in Billy Elliot proved to be Lewis’ mainstream breakthrough. It snagged him a BAFTA nomination as Best Supporting Actor. However, this wasn’t his first taste of critical recognition, having picked up the Best Actor award at the Gijon Film Festival for his portrayal of bereaved son Thomas in Orphans. Later, he shared the screen with Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, and although Lewis may have here been cast as a heavy, his stage and screen pedigree mean he’s unlikely to be the next Vinnie Jones. He was born in Easterhouse in 1958 and spent some time working as a road sweeper. He came to acting at the age of 32, joining Robert Carlyle’s Raindog Theatre group. After meeting Peter Mullan at a socialist lecture he appeared alongside the actor/director in Shallow Grave in 1994. Since then his pugnacious, yet strangely sensitive features have been put into practice with such doyens of the British film industry as Bill Forsyth and Ken Loach (twice), who were not shy about praising his committed performances and vigorous work ethic. Lewis’ politics may be red, but his big screen future has a distinctly rosy tinge. (DM)
James Roberston Justice in Whisky Galore!
Jack Lothian and Saul Metzstein Writer and director
This young Scottish writer-director team made their feature film directing debut together in 2001 with the Glasgow-shot (though not set) slacker comedy, Late Night Shopping. It’s a wittily-scripted, stylishly-shot film, and although it didn’t change the world of cinema (or line the lads’ pockets with riches), it quietly announced the arrival of significant new talent. That said, Lothian and Metzstein were working together four years earlier, collaborating on the short film Santa/Claws, starring James Cosmo. Their very first effort behind the camera was well received when it premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Metzstein, who got his start in film as a
The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 39
Andrew Macdonald Scotland’s finest filmmakers ●
Kelly Macdonald in House!
production runner on Shallow Grave, made another short, Magic Moments, with Dougray Scott, in the same year. Lothian, who can be seen in the background miming his old shelf stacking job in Late Night Shopping, re-teamed with Metzstein in 2000 to make the irreverent documentary, The Name of This Film is Dogme 95, which includes interviews with Lars von Trier and Ewen Bremner, among others. Lothian and Metzstein are collaborating on their second feature film project. (MF) Andrew Macdonald Producer
Glasgow-born film producer Macdonald will forever be known for making the adaptation of the Irvine Welsh novel Trainspotting with regular collaborators Danny Boyle (directing) and John Hodge (the Edinburgh doctor-turnedscreenwriter-turned doctor once more). Such a huge international success was the film that it almost single-handedly put British and Scottish cinema back on the map, illustrating that national cinema could be ‘cool’. Macdonald had already proved that he and his collaborators could give the public what it wanted with their first and also enduringly popular film, Shallow Grave. You might argue Macdonald lost his golden touch with subsequent films: A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach. Neither did Macdonald’s Lottery-funded DNA Pictures measure up to the producer’s earlier successes with such disappointments as the Glasgow-set thriller, Beautiful Creatures. But the sci-fi chiller 28 Days Later (made with Boyle and The Beach’s author Alex Garland) has put Macdonald back on top. And we may soon see the long-shelved short, Alien Love Triangle, made with Boyle and Hodge some years back. Macdonald comes from good filmmaking stock. His grandfather was the great screenwriter Emeric Pressburger, whose own collaborations with Michael Powell produced some of the best British films ever made. Furthermore, Macdonald’s brother, Kevin, is a documentary filmmaker distinguished by his Oscar win for One Day in September (see below). (MF) Kelly Macdonald Actor
The List tipped Glasgow-born Kelly Macdonald as the face of the year in 1997, when she was a mere 21 years old.
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And after a slight slump in the latter 90s, she looks like baring out our faith in her as a future star. Making a sensational debut as a randy, drug-abusing schoolgirl in the middle of Edinburgh club land in Trainspotting, MacDonald had little experience of acting between finishing training and her first major film. Perhaps this showed in some of the roles she subsequently took (Cousin Bette, House!), though she made a notable appearance as court trollop Isabel Knollys in Elizabeth and as a prostiture in Stella Does Tricks. By 2001 the slump was over and she was making waves again, with a detailed and clever performance as a much abused Scottish servant in Robert Altman’s Gosford Park. An upcoming role as Peter Pan in JM Barrie’s Neverland looks like re-establishing this actress. (SC) Kevin Macdonald Documentary filmmaker
Macdonald evidently loves films, and loves making films about films. In his very first documentary film, The Making of an Englishman, he travels to Europe in search of the grandfather he never really knew: the Hungarian Emeric Pressburger, the late, great screenwriter who collaborated with Michael Powell. Macdonald’s next film, Chaplin’s Goliath, uncovered the long-forgotten Dunoon-born actor Eric Campbell, who once achieved fame playing the villain opposite Chaplin’s Tramp character. Macdonald has also made films about Howard Hawks, the Scot Donald Cammell, fellow documentary filmmaker Errol Morris and Mick Jagger. However, it was Macdonald’s documentary recreation of the interruption of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games by Palestinian terrorists taking Israeli athletes hostage (which plays like a dramatic thriller) that really elevated his career with its Oscar win. Macdonald’s not resting on his laurels, though. His next documentary, Touching the Void, is based on the harrowing book by mountaineer Joe Simpson, who broke his leg while attempting to scale the sheer face of an Andean mountain and was subsequently dropped 100 feet into a crevasse by his climbing partner. If, indeed, documentary filmmaking is once again becoming popular in cinemas, Macdonald is beautifully placed to maintain Scotland’s rich heritage of the genre. (MF)
Scotland’s finest filmmakers Kevin Macdonald ●
Ewan McGregor Actor wan McGregor is probably the most popular Scottish actor working in film this decade. He’s been The List’s cover star, appearing on its cover six times in its 17 year existance. His most recent appearance was timed with the release of Young Adam, in which the lad from Crieff plays existential drifter Joe. McGregor first appeared on the cover of The List when Dennis Potter’s musical drama Lipstick on Your Collar – his big break – was televised in 1993. In between he’s appeared on the front of the mag dressed as a Jedi Knight for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and with half his face lopped off the bottom of the page at a time when he had two other blockbuster films flooding the multiplexes: Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down and Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. Those covers illustrate a career that’s as varied as it is prolific. It began when McGregor’s parents encouraged the then 16-year-old to leave school for the Perth Repertory Theatre. With their support and inspired by his uncle, the actor Denis Lawson, McGregor continued his studies in Fife and then at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He quit the latter just before graduating, for a part in Lipstick on Your Collar
and hasn’t looked back since. His early film appearances were generally in indie and arthouse films – Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, Peter Greenaway’s The Pillow Book and Velvet Goldmine. In fact, the actor resisted the call of Hollywood for some time, until George Lucas offered him the part of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first of the second Star Wars trilogy. He was six years old when the first film was released; how could the big kid say no to Lucas? Since then, McGregor’s gone from strength to strength, and though he’s got over his aversion to blockbusters, he still punctuates them with more interesting film roles: as Nick Leeson in Rogue Trader, as James Joyce in Nora (produced by his own company, Natural Nylon) and as the aforementioned Joe in Young Adam (one of his best performances to date). If you want irrefutable proof that McGregor’s a bonafide celebrity and movie star then consider his heroin chic look from Trainspotting – shaved head, tight T-shirt over a scrawny frame – is as iconic a piece of film imagery as Jack Nicholson leering through a broken door in The Shining. That shaved head, together with his distinctive mole, made him instantly recognisable on The List despite having only half a head. (MF)
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Alexander Mackendrick Scotland’s finest filmmkaers ●
Peter Mullan Actor, writer, director lenty of actors step behind the camera to try their hand at directing. And then, many of them step back out in front again and stay there, satisfied with calling the shots once, or horrified by the ordeal. Not so with Peterhead-born Peter Mullan. His reputation as a quality actor is fast being superseded by his work as a screenwriter and director. Mullan wanted to direct from the age of 19. He applied to the National Film School in London, but was rejected. So he started acting instead, making his debut in Glasgow theatre in 1988 at the age of 34. Having done a bit of television, Mullan made his film acting debut in The Big Man, the bare-knuckle boxing drama. He was acting with star Liam Neeson and veteran performer Ian Bannen, but what he learned from the shoot was that respected filmmakers can make bad films (it was David Leyland in this case) and, boy, do they get it in the neck if they do. ‘If you’ve got any kind of reputation it can be a double-edged sword,’ he said. Mullan’s rep as an actor was growing. Even though he was cast in minor roles, he was noticed time and again, in films such as Riff-Raf, Shallow Grave, Braveheart and Trainspotting. He finally got
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to direct short films, such as Close, Good Day for the Bad Guys and Fridge, and in 1997 his feature directing debut – Orphans, a black comedy about bereavement – was released. It’s a very good film, and he wasn’t in it. His reputation as a writer and director was now also growing. A year later he played a recovering alcoholic in Ken Loach’s My Name is Joe and won the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival. This led to great demand, and major roles followed in Miss Julie, Ordinary Decent Criminal and The Claim. But between acting gigs, Mullan was still writing. His second directing effort – The Magdalene Sisters – drew as much attention to Mullan as the Cannes prize had four years earlier. The critics praised it, the public admired it. The church hated it, damning Mullan and his film for its harrowing portrait of life in the Magdalene Asylums, which were, essentially, work houses exploiting abused girls. Mullan once said: ‘I’ll make any damn film I want.’ That’s a bit more complicated these days – he’s got a reputation to protect. He did all right taking a part in Young Adam; but whether playing Macbeth opposite Lady Courtney Love was such a good idea remains to be seen. (MF)
Scotland’s finest filmmakers Kathleen McDermott ●
Alexander Mackendrick Director
Although ‘Sandy’ Mackendrick was born in America (Boston, 1912, to Scottish parents) and died there (Los Angeles, 1993, of pneumonia), he grew up in Scotland and studied at the Glasgow School of Art. Indeed, Mackendrick’s directing debut, Whisky Galore!, is without a doubt one of finest Scottish films ever made. That evergreen comedy came out of the Ealing stable, and more than half Mackendrick’s films would be made for that great little studio, The Man in the White Suit and The Ladykillers among them. The satirical edge to Mackendrick’s Ealing comedies, much darker than other British films being made at the time, anticipated his best film: the vicious tale of New York gossip columnists, Sweet Smell of Success. Today, the film is considered a masterpiece by many, but when it was released in 1957, it was a critical and commercial disaster. So much so that Mackendrick’s career was all but over. He made only three more films (four if you including the absurdly-titled 1967 comedy, Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feeling So Sad, for which Mackendrick remains uncredited). After making his last film, Mackendrick took a job as the Dean of the Film Department of the California Institute of the Arts, which he held from 1969 until shortly before his death. (MF) David Mackenzie Director
Brother of Alistair (Archie in Monarch of the Glen), David Mackenzie, like Peter Mullan before him, started with shorts and proceeded to feature filmmaking. Of the nine shorts he’s directed, Beer Goggles, the controversial Two Fingers: A Portrait of an Awkward Bastard and the award-winning Marcie’s Dowry were the most critically, if not commercially, successful. It was with his debut feature, The Last Great Wilderness, that Mackenzie really made his mark, however, and became one to watch on the Scottish scene. A tragi-comic drama with its fair share of bloodshed, Wilderness did well at the box office but did smack of being a young man’s film, something that certainly couldn’t be said of his second feature, even considering its title: Young Adam. Here Mackenzie is powerfully selfassured, directing a superb cast including Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton and
Mullan in a bleak and brooding film. He described it himself as ‘dark as fuck’ – which it is – and given that his next project is the ‘cheery’ Asylum, adapted from Patrick McGrath’s novel of the same name, things ain’t getting any sunnier any time soon. If that does as well as Young Adam, or indeed the last McGrath adaptation, Spider (directed by David Cronenberg), the future, at least, looks bright for Mr Mackenzie. (CB) Gary Lewis in Orphans
John Mackenzie Director
Born in Edinburgh, Mackenzie must surely be winner of the uncoveted title of ‘Most Under-Rated British Director’. Although he is most famous for producing that great dissection of Thatcher’s London, The Long Good Friday, Mackenzie has a pedigree of combining great thriller narratives with caustically astute social observation. Although the 1980 film is undoubtedly the highlight of his oeuvre, Mackenzie’s second feature, Unman, Wittering and Zigo, is one of the forgotten gems hidden amidst that great treasure of UK cinema that emerged in the late 60s. In this Hitchockian thriller set in a boys’ private school, Mackenzie is as observant of the upper echelons of the British class system as he was to be of the lower end. It is clear from films like Just a Boy’s Game and the film version of the Jimmy Boyle biog A Sense of Freedom that he learned his trade under directors such as Ken Loach. He made much of his best work for The Play Today series on BBC in the 70s. Yet Mackenzie is just as comfortable with the thriller genre – other highlights of his filmography include a taut, intelligent reading of the Frederic Forsyth novel The Fourth Protocol. He has returned to working for TV, although rumours emanating from the filming of the Benny Lynch biopic starring Robert Carlyle are positive. (TA) Kathleen McDermott Actor
So far Kathleen McDermott’s acting career can only be judged on one performance. Famously McDermott was a trainee barber at the time of the auditions for Morvern Callar (although she has since qualified). Out shopping with her sister on Argyle Street in Glasgow, she was approached by Des Hamilton, casting director for Lynne Ramsay, and invited to audition. A few weeks later she was singing karoke at a restaurant in
The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 43
Ewan McGregor Scotland’s finest filmmakers ●
Kevin McKidd in Trainspotting
Shettleston, singing with her family to celebrate having landed her first film role. McDermott is no novelty turn in Morvern Callar. Her natural effusiveness is the perfect foil to the alienated and alienating presence of Samantha Morton in the title role. Of course Ramsay was a relatively experienced director by the time she directed the gorgeous visual feast that is Morvern Callar and she was also able to play on the Glasgow upbringing she shared with her novice actress. Yet, McDermott’s own instincts cannot be underestimated. Particularly in the scenes in Spain, McDermott and Morton create a convincing dramatic partnership. Whether she has sufficient range to make it as an actress remains to be seen. McDermott may yet be the greatest one hit wonder in the history of Scottish cinema. (TA) Ewan McGregor (see panel p42) Kevin McKidd Actor
Punk rocker-turned-filmmaker Richard Jobson said McKidd, whom he’d just directed as a violent drunk in 16 Years of Alcohol, was one of the most peaceable men he’d ever met and that, initially, he was concerned about the actor’s ability to play the hard man. Strange, that, when you consider McKidd’s first two films, Trainspotting and Small Faces, cast him as a drug abuser and a Glasgow street gang leader respectively. Anway, Jobson needn’t have worried: McKidd convincingly puts the boot in in 16 Years of Alcohol. In regards to Trainspotting, the story goes that McKidd was busy working on another film when the photo shoot for the poster took place and so missed it and the level of fame the film’s canny marketing scheme brought the cast. As it turned out, this was no barrier to career success. While McKidd has not entered the international celebrity arena as Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle have, Elgin-born boy’s every bit as talented as his fellow Scots. He played a wounded war vet in Regeneration, went the way of gay in pink rom-com Bedrooms and Hallways, sang for Mike Leigh in TopsyTurvy, did costume drama in Anna Karenina and cheesy horror in Dog Soldiers. And if that doesn’t suggest versatility, McKidd is playing the tough guy for Jobson again in the ex-Skids man’s second film, the Glasgow-set street gang/martial arts action flick, The Purifiers. (MF)
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Norman McLaren Animator
McLaren holds the distinction of being one of the world’s most awarded filmmakers. His entry to the hall of filmmaking fame comes primarily from his pioneering experiments in the field of animation. His early experiments include directly drawing upon and scratching onto film stock (necessity was the mother of invention: McLaren didn’t have access to a camera at the time). Later, in the 1950s, He developed a technique known a pixilation (filming moving people a few frames at a time, giving them a frantic, animated look). His pixil film, 1952’s Neighbours, won McLaren an Oscar. Born in Stirling at the outbreak of World War I, he began his studies at the Glasgow School of Fine Arts in 1932, before moving on to filmmaking (as, variously, a cinematographer, editor, composer, writer, actor, director and producer). In 1936, he went to Spain to film the Civil War. In 1939, he emigrated to America prior to the outbreak of World War II. Five years later, at the invite of documentary filmmaker John Grierson, McLaren moved to Canada, where he made public service films for the National Film Board and continued to innovate in the field of animation. He died in 1987, leaving behind a legacy including the animation section and award named after him at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. (MF) Peter Mullan (see panel p35) Lynne Ramsay (see panel p45) Dougray Scott Actor
Early promise took a long time to pay off for relatively handsome Scottish actor Dougray Scott. Born in Glenrothes in 1965, he studied at Kirkcaldy College of Technology (also attended by Ewan McGregor) and later trained at the Welsh College of Music and Drama, where he was named most promising drama student. Unfortunately though, he was working on TV series Soldier, Soldier when he was offered a part in Trainspotting, and thus missed his chance of being in one of the defining British films of the 90s. The hope that appearing as a corrupt cop in Twin Town, the new film from the producers of Trainspotting, would do for Scott what the latter film had done for
Scotland’s finest filmmakers Dougray Scott ●
Lynne Ramsay Writer and director n a short career, Lynne Ramsay has already drawn up a long list of descriptions she strongly dislikes being applied to her. She has been baulking since her first short films were filed under the term ‘arthouse’. Her initial training as a photographer was still obvious in her last feature, but in shorts such as Gasman and Kill the Day it is even more obvious. Both set in the grime of 70s Glasgow tenements, influenced more by home movies and the rough textures of documentary photographers than by any filmmaker as such. Hence: arthouse. Ramsay even baulks at the description ‘British’. Although she can’t argue about the simple accident of her birth, she has distanced herself from the grim-up-north social realist approach that has perhaps been the dominant strain in British film since the 60s. Her first feature, Ratcatcher, showed that she had erred not a jot from her visual preoccupation with the semiderelict quarters of the Glasgow of her youth. That she does so with an eye for moments of beauty among the tawdry and the squalid strikes a real contrast with filmmakers like Ken Loach who put the story or message first.
When the senior cast and crew of Morvern Callar took their applause at the film’s premiere, there wasn’t a man amongst them, but then Alan Warner, who wrote the novel from which the film was adapted, was otherwise engaged in Dublin. The very character he had created, and which Ramsay and Morton had improved upon, was incapable of engaging with the world around her. Hardly a clarion call to the sisters maybe, but it is still a beautifully shot exploration of the alienated female. When asked in an interview what reaction she wanted the film to provoke, Ramsay said that she hoped people left the cinema wondering what the hell they had just seen. ‘It’s about time things were shaken up a bit,’ she continued. One gets the impression that while she rejects the various labels applied to her, she doesn’t dislike labels themselves as they give her something to tilt at. Few reviews of Morvern Callar really addressed how radically different the palate of colours Ramsay used in the film were. Neither did they examine the way in which she had co-opted a whole new range of textures from other media. Ramsay deserves the label revolutionary, whether she wants it or not. (TA)
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John Gordon Sinclair Scotland’s finest filmmakers ●
Tilda Swinton in Young Adam
Messrs McGregor, Bremner and McKidd was dashed when the Welsh black comedy did badly at the box office. But the actor born Stephen Allan Scott (Dougray comes from his French grandmother’s surname) persisted, taking roles in American films including silly sex sequel Another 9 1/2 Weeks and Ever After, playing the dashing prince to Drew Barrymore’s Cinderella, as well as the Edinburgh-set war drama Regeneration. Less than successful Brit flicks This Year’s Love and Gregory’s Two Girls followed, but the big league at last beckoned when Tom Cruise, having seen Twin Town, cast Scott as the renegade agent in Mission: Impossible II. This, and an impressive performance, albeit with a slightly dubious English accent, in Ripley’s Game, at last won the Fifer the respect he deserves. (CB) John Gordon Sinclair Actor
The Glasgow-born John Gordon Sinclair was the face of Bill Forsyth’s brand of quirky comedy. Invariably, he was dogged with memories of his work with Forsyth. The 1986 film The Girl in the Picture was very much in the same style as Gregory’s Girl, the picture with which Sinclair will forever be most associated (even those who admire his work on the Jim Hensonproduced television series, Fraggle Rock). During the rest of the 90s Sinclair was drawn into the world of largely forgettable television sitcoms and dramas, with only the occasional small part in a film to break up the monotony. If only other directors had been aware of his knockabout talents, as Terry Jones was when he cast him as Ivor the Boneless in Erik the Viking. But they weren’t. The reprise of the part that defined his career in Gregory’s Two Girls smacked somewhat of desperation on both Forsyth and Sinclair’s parts, although the latter still did a good job of carrying the light comedy. (TA)
Jamie Sives Actor
This looks like it may well be Jamie Sives’ year. His first lead role, in the singularly odd but beautiful film Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, is a memorable one. Critical responses to it have been largely positive. Given the young lad from Leith’s good looks and the quirky maudlin humour of his title role in the film, one can expect he will receive more than his fair share of fan attention.
46 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
His route to film illustrates the importance to Scottish actors of having a television platform north of the border. He had parts in both Glasgow Kiss and Rockface before landing a small role in the frankly woeful Before You Go. ‘I don’t find acting easy at all,’ he said during publicity for Wilbur at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Already in the bag, however, is One Last Chance, set in the Highlands, in which Sives finds himself leading a cast that includes Kevin McKidd and Dougray Scott. If he doesn’t find acting easy perhaps that was because he was making his second feature debut in the presence of two actors who have earned themselves some serious clout beyond these borders. (TA) Tilda Swinton Actress
Born Katherine Matilda Swinton, in London in 1960, ‘Tilda’ is, and has literally been, a work of art. Married to writer and artist John Byrne, with whom she lives in Easter Ross with their two children Xavier and Honor, she famously slept in a glass case for eight hours a day in the Serpentine Gallery in an installation/performance piece entitled ‘The Maybe’. This may seem like ‘modern arse’ to some, but there are worse things you could look at than a stunning redhead sleeping. For Tilda is beautiful, not conventionally so, but striking in a curiously androgynous way. Bowie-esque, the actress born into an upper-class Scottish military family – her father is the Lord-Lieutenant of Berwickshire – has throughout her career played on her masculine and feminine features. In the play Man to Man, later made into a film by John Maybury, she was a woman pretending to be a man; in Sally Potter’s Orlando her character begins as a man in Elizabethan England and ends up as a woman in the present; and in both Female Perversions and Young Adam she plays women with too much machismo. Although best known (at least by London’s chattering classes) for her work with Derek Jarman – they made eight films together including Caravaggiio, The Last of England and Edward II – Tilda reached an audience beyond the cultural elite with her roles in The Beach, The Deep End, Vanilla Sky and Adaptation . She’s currently filming Constantine, an adaptation fo the cult supernatural comic book, with notable thespian Keanu Reeves. (CB)
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make your own
So now you know all about Scottish film. Ever been inspired to make one of your own? Plenty of people in Scotland do. There are numerous organisations that provide training and support for aspiring filmmakers, as well as a number of filmmaking schemes, details of which can be obtained below and from Scottish Screen (www. scottishscreen.com), the umbrella organisation for film promotion north of the border which kindly provided the following information:
the schemes Cineworks is a new entrant production scheme covering all genres and offering opportunities for filmmakers to make their first professional film under expert guidance and mentoring. www.g-mac.co.uk DigiCult fuses low budget digital production with critical dialogue, craft based workshops in new technology and script development with established filmmakers. The aim is to produce around ten to twelve films per year under this scheme. www.digicult.co.uk
productions which can be accessed through the web. www.ALT-W.com Tartan Shorts is currently in its twelfth year. A collaboration between Scottish Screen and BBC Scotland, it’s the most successful and best known short film scheme in the UK today, producing three films each year on 35mm. www.scottishscreen.com Tartan Smalls is a similar BBC/Scottish Screen collaboration, but is geared towards making films for children aged 6–13. www.scottishscreen.com First Writes is sponsored by Scottish Screen and the First Light Foundation and encourages children to write film scripts for their own age group. The first series of films under this scheme will premiere early next year. www.scottishscreen.com 4 Minute Wonders makes available each month £5000 to develop and produce a video based on a piece of new music downloadable from Wonders’ website. www.4minutewonders.com
Alt-W an initiative for new media development for The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 47
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the organisations ADMC Media House Brechin Business Park Brechin DD9 6RJ Tel: 01356 628 910 Fax: 01356 625 527 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.admc.tv
David Mackenzie, who learned his trade making nine short films, here filming his second feature, Young Adam
Castlemilk Video Workshop 17 Castlemilk Arcade Castlemilk Glasgow G45 9AA Tel: 0141 634 2603 Fax: 0141 631 1484 Email: email@example.com Web: www.fringemedia.co.uk/pages/video_wor kshop.html Edinburgh Film Workshop Trust 56 Albion Road Edinburgh EH7 5QZ Tel/ Fax: 0131 656 9123 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.efwt.demon.co.uk Edinburgh Mediabase 25a South West Thistle Street Lane Edinburgh EH2 1EW Tel: 0131 220 0220 Fax: 0131 220 0017 Email: email@example.com Web: www.edinburghmediabase.com Edinburgh Video Training Co Unit 22 John Cotton Centre 10 Sunnyside Edinburgh EH7 5RA Tel: 0131 652 1206 Fax: 0131 652 9833 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Fps Media Dalziel Workspace Mason Street Motherwell ML1 1YE Tel: 01698 265 451 Fax: 01698 253 746 Email: email@example.com Web: www.fpsmedia.co.uk Glasgow Media Access Centre (G-Mac) 3rd Floor 34 Albion Street Glasgow G1 1LH Tel: 0141 553 2620 Fax: 0141 553 2660 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.g-mac.co.uk
48 THE LIST The 50 Best Scottish Films of All Time
Live and Loud Stage School Forsyth House 111 Union Street Glasgow G1 3TA Tel: 0141 226 8941 Fax: 0141 226 8983 Email: email@example.com Web: www.liveandloud.moonfruit.com Moving Image Media Access Centre (MI-MAC) Rothes Hall Rothes Square Glenrothes KY7 5NX Tel: 01592 612121 Fax: 01592 612220 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Peacock Visual Arts 21 Castle Street Aberdeen AB11 5BQ Tel: 01224 639539 Fax: 01224 627094 Email: email@example.com Web: www.peacockvisualarts.co.uk Red Kite Productions 89 Giles Street Edinburgh EH6 6BZ Tel: 0131 554 0060 Fax: 0131 553 6007 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.redkite-animation.com The SPACE (Studios for Performing Arts and Creative Enterprise) Forsyth House 111 Union Street Glasgow G1 3TA Tel: 0141 226 8941 Fax: 0141 226 8983 Email: email@example.com Web: www.thespace.moonfruit.com The Television Workshop Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design A faculty of the University of Dundee Perth Road Dundee DD1 4HT Tel: 01382 223261/01382 345250 Fax: 01382 226136 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.imaging.dundee.ac.uk Video in Pilton 30 Ferry Road Avenue Edinburgh EH4 4BA Tel: 0131 343 1151 Fax: 0131 343 2820 Email: email@example.com Web: www.piltonvideo.org.uk
films Aberdeen The Acid House AfterLife American Cousins Being Human Braveheart Breaking the Waves Brigadoon Complicity Culloden Deathwatch Dog Soldiers Four Eyes Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life Gregory’s Girl Greyfriars Bobby Highlander The House of Mirth I Know Where I’m Going! Kidnapped (1960 and 1971) Late Night Shopping Local Hero The Magdalene Sisters Macbeth The Maggie Morvern Callar Mrs Brown My Childhood: The Bill Douglas Trilogy My Name is Joe Night Mail One Life Stand One More Kiss Orphans The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Ratcatcher Regeneration Restless Natives Rob Roy Shallow Grave Silent Scream 16 Years of Alcohol Small Faces Strictly Sinatra Sweet Sixteen That Sinking Feeling The 39 Steps Trainspotting Tunes of Glory Whisky Galore! The Wicker Man Wilbur Young Adam
profiles 4 4 4 5 5 6 9 7 7 7 8 8 8 11 10 11 11 12 13 12 12 14 16 15 15 17 17 17 19 18 18 18 21 21 20 22 22 22 23 23 23 25 25 25 26 26 24 26 27 29 29 28
Craig Armstrong Billy Boyd Ewen Bremner Gerard Butler Peter Capaldi Robert Carlyle Robbie Coltrane Martin Compston Sean Connery Billy Connolly James Cosmo Brian Cox Alan Cumming Finlay Currie Duncan Finnigan Bill Forsyth Laura Fraser Iain Glen John Grierson John Hannah Shirley Henderson Douglas Henshall James Robertson Justice Paul Laverty Denis Lawson Gary Lewis Jack Lothian Andrew Macdonald Kelly Macdonald Kevin Macdonald Alexander Mackendrick David Mackenzie John Mackenzie Kathleem McDermott Ewan McGregor Kevin McKidd Norman McLaren Saul Metzstein Peter Mullan Lynne Ramsay Dougray Scott John Gordon Sinclair Jamie Sives Tilda Swinton
index 30 30 30 31 31 32 31 31 35 33 33 33 34 34 34 36 36 36 36 36 38 37 37 37 39 39 39 40 40 40 43 43 43 43 41 44 44 39 42 45 44 46 46 46
The 50 Best Scottish Films of all Time THE LIST 49
Has anyone ever asked you to name your favourite film of all time? It’s no easy task. How to pick a single title from the hundreds, if not...
Published on Dec 7, 2011
Has anyone ever asked you to name your favourite film of all time? It’s no easy task. How to pick a single title from the hundreds, if not...