FREE THURSDAY 27 FEBRUARY THE OFFICIAL GFF DAILY GUIDE
Director Nicholas D. Wrathall introduces his decade-inthe-making documentary portrait of the late Gore Vidal
ombining archive footage and brand new interviews, Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia surveys the life and writings of novelist, public intellectual and dyed-in-the-wool iconoclast Gore Vidal. Ahead of the film’s Scottish premiere, director Nicholas D. Wrathall explains the film’s origins and shares his impressions of the man himself. The Skinny: What initially drew you to Gore Vidal as a documentary subject? Nicholas D Wrathall: I am friends with his nephew Burr Steers and so had heard many stories about Gore Vidal over the years. I was always intrigued by the man and hoped to one day meet him. I was living in New York at the time of 9/11 and Gore Vidal was one of the few voices speaking out in the mass media against the Bush Administration’s rush into war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was at this time that I realized that he was still a very important and outspoken critic and I began to read many of his essays and novels from the past. A couple of years later I had the chance to meet him with his nephew in Los Angeles and proposed doing some interviews with him, which he agreed to. I also filmed him moving out of the Ravello house [the Italian villa where Vidal lived for over 30 years with partner Howard Austen] and coming back to live in Los Angeles. It was at this point that I realized that we had to make a film. Was the aim always to piece together a comprehensive account of Vidal’s full life and career, or did you ever consider focussing in on a single period or aspect? I was essentially motivated by Gore’s critique of
American culture and politics and always saw that as the driving force of the film. Obviously that is also what motivates Gore. His biography is fascinating and so was also a big part of the story, but what I was most interested in were his ideas and the way he managed to get them across in a changing media landscape. What’s amazing about Gore is how relevant his commentary from the past still feels today when you look at the archival interviews that we gathered for the film. He was always ahead of his time and very outspoken. For this reason I think he is as relevant now as he always was. What were your first impressions of Vidal upon meeting him in person? His enormous intellect and reputation were overwhelming at first [but] gradually I learnt how to approach him, essentially with caution and respect. One of our first conversations was about Australian politics. He knew [former Australian Prime Minister] Gough Whitlam personally and I like to think we bonded over this conversation. Were any topics off-limits? He would rarely answer questions about his personal life, or about Howard, in any great detail and so this part of his life had to be filled in by other people. He liked to concentrate on ideas, politics and his views on the rise and fall of the American Empire. He was also very preoccupied with the travesties the Bush Administration was inflicting on the populace and so didn’t like to do small talk on camera.
Interview: Chris Buckle ever on the receiving end of his irascible side? I did get in trouble when we did the interview with Gorbachev for interrupting him. I shot a question to Gorbachev during the interview, not realizing that Gore was wanting to control the conversation. I didn’t really hear about this directly, but his nephew told me that he never forgave me for that. How did you go about organising and selecting from the archive materials? It was really a matter of finding the most dramatic material. I particularly looked for material that illustrated different ideas that felt prescient today and showed his courage and consistency in speaking truth to power. We were also lucky to find material of Gore as a child with his father and speeches from his grandfather [a Senator] who greatly influenced him as a child. The debates with Buckley were also a highlight of the archival research and it was hard to cut this down to the five minutes we used in the film. There is so much great material in those debates it was a shame not to include more. What do you think Vidal would have made of the finished film? He did see many of the interviews we did as rushes, but not the finished product. Many people close to him from his family and friends have assured me that he would have approved of the finished cut. I like to believe he would like the film. I do believe it captures his ideas and his spirit. 27 Feb, GFT, 3.45pm
You open with Vidal disdainfully dismissing a biographer for misrepresenting him – were you
THURSDAY 27 FEBRUARY THE CINESKINNY 1
The Red Robin
Tom at the Farm
GFT, 1.30pm Director Michael Z. Wechsler will attend the UK Premiere of this dark family drama, which is apparently not a spin-off film about Batman’s third assistant, Tim Drake.
The Red Robin
Ti West in Conversation
GFT, 9pm Horror maestro Ti West, the man behind The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, will talk candidly to critic Alan Jones about his past work and new FrightFest entry, The Sacrament. Expect a slow build-up of questions followed by an insane flurry of answers.
Director: Xavier Dolan Starring: Xavier Dolan, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Lise Roy, Evelyne Brochu
In its setup and execution, Tom at the Farm, the fourth film from Québécois wonderkid Xavier Dolan, is pure Polanski. It’s a claustrophobic chamber piece in which the title character (played by Dolan) is holed up in an isolated farmhouse with the family of his recently deceased boyfriend, Guillaume. He’s visiting for the funeral, but the mother is under the impression that her youngest was straight and Guillaume’s thuggish older brother Francis (Cardinal) wants to keep it that way. A war of wills begins: Francis repeatedly beats Tom and puts him to work on the farm. Stockholm syndrome sets
in and Tom becomes accustomed to his mistreatment. In fact, he starts to like it; you could call this a sadomasochistic romance. Stylistically, Tom at the Farm is a huge departure from Dolan’s three previous features. Here he gets maximum voltage out of the material (a Michel Marc Bouchard play) by preferring elegant tableaux over his usual florid, music video-like flourishes. The result is a mean little absurdist thriller, and, by some margin, the best of Dolan’s work so far. [Jamie Dunn] 27 Feb, Cineworld 17, 1pm
Tom at the Farm
Cineworld, 8.45pm A taut, humorous drama unfolds as two men from opposing sides of a war retreat to the same farm to find shelter, capturing a national conflict through an intimate chamber piece. We at The CineSkinny are already looking forward to the sequel, Nectarines.
Before the Winter Chill
GFT, 1.15pm Daniel Auteuil is one of France’s best actors, and Kristin Scott Thomas is just one of the best actors, full stop. This thriller stars them both, making it essential viewing. An important reminder for Glasgow inhabitants that a time before winter did actually exist.
The Congress Before the Winter Chill
The Voice of the Voiceless
Cineworld, 6.45pm The genius conceit behind this Guatemalan drama is that the woman at the centre of the story is deaf, so the film is silent, using low frequency sound design so the audience only hears what the main character does. This brilliant idea makes the shocking story of a girl caught up in a crime syndicate even more powerful.
Director: Ari Folman Starring: Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel, Jon Hamm
The Congress may well prove to be one of the most divisive films of the year, as it is bound to provoke frustration and awe in equal measure, often for the very same reasons. It’s a film that hinges on big ideas, but falls apart under light scrutiny; your enjoyment will depend on how much you care about the actual mechanics of the world it creates. It starts out as a live action satire
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of Hollywood before becoming an animated sci-fi about a mind-altering drug that allows you to literally live your dreams. This shift in tone and genre is jarring at first, but soon a grander scheme appears, revealing The Congress as a treatise on choice and freedom. There is a very strong chance that you will hate The Congress – it is (perhaps fatally) muddled, with a
reach that exceeds its grasp. Or you may be like this reviewer, for whom the reach is so dazzling and the execution so beautiful that the grasp doesn’t really matter, the flaws becoming as insignificant as the holes in Swiss cheese. It is, quite possibly, a work of genius. Either that, or it’s a load of nonsense. Fittingly for this film, that choice is up to you. [Nathanael Smith]
We Are Analogue
The Phantom Movie
Writer, director and artist Chris Petit brings his post-cinematic multi-platform project Museum of Loneliness to the GFF. We catch up with Petit to find out what exactly is post-cinema
Black Angel has remained a fuzzy memory in the heads of those who saw it before The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. Tonight, Roger Christian presents the film at GFF14
Interview: Rachel Bowles The Skinny: What is post-cinema and how does it relate to Museum? Chris Petit: As far as the Museum of Loneliness is concerned, it’s kind of a conceit, it is not a real thing. It’s founded on the principle that today our primary relationship is with the screen, it’s not really with each other anymore, it with different kinds of screens. Somewhere in all of that comes the idea of post-cinema. The other phenomenon that is happening now is the idea of cinema’s memory. It is how cinema is remembered. What certain writers have been pointing out for quite a long time is that you don’t remember films in the way that you see them, you only remember fragments. These fragments build up into what could be called cinema’s memory. So somewhere within that the concept of post-cinema lies. It’s more an idea than a theory. What was your creative process in making Museum? Well, I think it goes back to the films I have been making for the past 15 years, particularly those with Iain Sinclair, where for practical reasons we started to split sound and image. We stopped relying on synchronised sound and we started to create our own soundtracks separate from the image. In a way this completely frees you, you can show what you like and say something completely different over what you are showing. When we came to do these Museum projects it was really about applying that principle and, in terms of the soundtracks, rather like the idea of cinema’s memory, we composed [them] on the lines of stuff from the memory bank, lines one’s remembered from films and also why do you remember one bit of a film and not another? What is that and how does that build up? So I think it was this idea of making these sound quilts from what one remembered of pieces of cinema, which is quite difficult to do. You think that this will only take ten minutes! [laughs]
Interview: Jamie Dunn
disappeared, which is an honourable tradition and so everything has become standardised and, in a way, the arts is just as much to blame as anyone else. In a way the Museum was founded as an anti-institution, as legitimate institutions themselves seem incapable of confronting this change in a way that is meaningful or exciting. Also, in art, we’ve had Cubism and we’ve had Jazz, yet you look at everything that’s on TV and even most movies, most of it is in the stone age, so there is this odd kind of pull between this fantastic technology, which is as huge as Caxton’s printing press, and yet we seem to be living in a very reactionary time.
“Today our primary relationship is with the screen, It seems to me that the Museum is a reaction to the failure of 21st century it’s not really politics and institutions to support the arts. with each other I think the thing that really surprised me over the last 15 years, since this anymore...” enormous proliferation of material, is that newspapers started getting fat, especially at the weekends. I remember thinking, naively, “Oh great! There will be more to write about, there will be more opportunities, there will be more to say,” and in fact the opposite happened. Everyone started producing just more of the same. Print journalism is in a state of complete crisis and practically all media that I have dealt with, from newspapers to television, is too. Part of the problem is that the whole concept of the freelance has THESKINNY.CO.UK/CINESKINNY
In Museum we hear “we are analogue, rather than digital.” What it is to be human in a digital age? I think we are made up of waves, rather than squares! It’s quite interesting, now that we have gone digital there is a kind of aversion to analogue technology. I suspect things and people will become more digital and this is a transformation that will
have advantages and disadvantages, but things will change. Even the silly things that happen on Amazon, “you bought this book, maybe you would like to buy this one.” It’s quite scary how they get it right most of the time! They chuck stuff at you that is quite interesting, but they never come up with anything really original, it ends up making you look quite boring and then they throw in something and you think “No, absolutely not!” I think it is a shock to realise one is just an accumulation of one’s pin numbers. In terms of the argument, I’m not against these changes, but I think that because change is so rapid there has been very little time to catch up. Like the other day, I was looking at a box of VHS. One is getting to the point that in ten years time you would quite like to see what a VHS looks like. It’s this movement towards something you can actually hold, rather than something you have just downloaded. That’s the other thing [we did] when Museum started; again it wasn’t a Luddite thing, we thought it should be at the opposite end of dot com, which is why we started producing these very, very limited pamphlets. People are terribly grateful if you give them something to hold. Test Centre, who I’ve been working with, are also very good at saying “actually, we will produce 300 of these and once they are gone they are gone, you can’t have anymore.” It’s the opposite of endless downloading. 27 Feb, GFT, 6.45pm
inema loves myths, and cinemafans love the idea of the mythical film – the notion that great works of art are languishing in the Hollywood archives or a director’s attic, waiting to be uncovered. It’s a romantic proposition in the age where every digitised image seems available at the click of a mouse. Black Angel, a 25 minute short made in Scotland by legendary British art director Roger Christian (Alien, Star Wars), is one such piece of celluloid folklore. The film was released in 1980 in the UK, Australia and across Scandinavia in a programme with The Empire Strikes Back. While the main feature has gone on to be remastered, rereleased and reissued ad infinitum by its producer George Lucas, Black Angel has remained a vague memory for those who saw the film on its release – it’s never been available on home video and can’t be found tucked away in a corner of the internet. “This film has kept coming up over the years,” says Christian by phone from his adopted home of Toronto. “A lot of people have asked [about a possible rerelease], even the screenwriter of Hellboy, Peter Briggs. He and I were speaking one day and he said, ‘You’ve got to get this film out! It’s in my head, I can recite the lines to you!’” Christian was skeptical, however. He didn’t know if this small, low budget film could live up to the fantasy epic that it seems to have been built up to be by its fans over the years. “I kept thinking, you know what, the film is 33 years old, I think it’s better not to put it out again and leave it as myth and leave it in people’s memories, because sometimes when you watch something years later you can think, ‘Is that what I remembered?’’’ Black Angel had initially been conceived by Christian in film school. “I really wanted to make it, but I couldn’t do it with the budget there because I wanted it to be a Kurosawa-like epic in Cinemascope.” But then, by chance, Christian bumped into Sandy Lieberson, at the time the head of Fox Europe and Fox UK, who was on the lookout for a short to accompany The Empire Strikes Back on its release. “He said ‘Can you fax it to me tonight?’ and I said, ‘sure,’” explains Christian. From there is was passed on to Lucas, who gave it the grean light. “George called [Lieberson] back and said ‘Let Roger go and make this film. No one is to touch Continues on p4...
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What’s new online? TV Bomb
The Scotland based Film and TV site has handily collated all their GFF14 reviews in one place. Find out which film got five stars from the bombers. tinyurl.com/GFFBomb
Ahead of their We Are Ten event on Saturday, why not check out the Glasgow band’s YouTube page? Double basses and beautiful vocals abound. tinyurl.com/GFFAdmiral
Film4 attended the enlightening discussion about casting with Kate Dickie and casting director Kahleen Crawford, and have blogged about the ten things they learned. “Have a coping strategy for rejection.” tinyurl.com/GFFCasting
The legend behind the posters of Star Wars, Indiana Jones and many more is now the star of a documentary playing at GFF. The film’s website hosts a bunch of interviews with the man himself. tinyurl.com/GFFStruzan
Shameless self-advertising, we know, but if you want to see all our past issues (in glorious Technicolor), complete with tweets and sarcastic jokes, you can find them in PDF format on Issuu. Perfect for reading on your tablet. tinyurl.com/SkinnyIssuu
way to deeply penetrate an audience, because [it allows the film] to go right into your soul.” Black Angel has had a few screenings in its restored form, but tonight’s event is a real homecoming. “I chose Scotland, because I knew Scotland,” he says. “I knew Eileen Donan Castle and I knew this was the pure romantic vision, like you see in Pre-Raphaelite paintings, of a medieval castle, and I’d never seen it on film.” So although Christian admits he’s worried that Black Angel might feel old-hat to modern audiences – he’s asked early audiences of the film to “set your clocks back 33 years because this
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him, no one is to do anything, just give him the short ends from Empire Strikes Back and I’m the first person to see the film – let him go and make it.’” It’s easy to guess why the script would have appealed to Lucas: the Star Wars films and Black Angel both share the same DNA. “I really grew up with knights, the medieval world, legend and myth,” Christian says. “So I wrote and re-wrote this short story about a knight coming home from the wars, but it wasn’t historical – it was a medieval fantasy.” He describes it as a “full circle myth”, which takes the form of a knight’s death rattle. “As he’s dying, he’s drowning, he goes through a sequence where he comes out in a strange land, finds a maiden and has to fight a Black Angel and, in effect, it’s the fight against death.” The dreamlike nature of the narrative perhaps suggests why the film has stayed so lodged in people’s memories. “I was also very interested in Tarkovsky at the time,” he says. “I loved his movies but he appealed to the subconscious, not the conscious, when the audience is watching. I always thought this was a
film is old. It’s a different pacing. We made it meditative on purpose” – he’s confident the visuals will impress. “Because I’d no money, I had a small crew, there was 11 or 12 of us – that was it,” he says. “So we wandered around and we could get into places that no one else could get, especially big film crews. I think when it came out, that was what staggered people and what all the letters were about: the stunning beauty of these images that they had never seen before. That’s kind of held up.” 27 Feb, GFT 1, 6.30pm
What did you think? Six of the best tweets Tag your tweets #CINESKINNY! You may end up featured here... which would be nice @NinjaWorrier
Not sure which day Tangerines is playing #GFF14 but it is highly recommended - touching, thoughtful, surprisingly funny on absurdity of war. #CINESKINNY
A Thousand Times Good Night. Rather good family drama about a war zone photographer. Final scenes were tragically superb. #GFF14 #CINESKINNY
Utterly baffled by #TheCongress, but there’s no doubt it was something very special indeed. #GFF14 #CINESKINNY
The Congress was beautiful, original, surreal, satirical, lyrical, provocative, infuriating. #GFF14 #CINESKINNY
Tron: Off the Grid @glasgowfilmfest was superb as it goes, retro fun in a great location. Had a blast on the pinball and arcade games. #GFF14 #CINESKINNY The Great Passage: Lovely film about the making of a Japanese dictionary; a delicate examination of life, love, loss, language & food #GFF14 #CINESKINNY
Picture of the day
Brontis Jodorowsky and GFT chief executive Jaki McDougall at the sold out Dance of Reality premire
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Photo: Stuart Crawford
Produced by The Skinny magazine in association with the Glasgow Film Festival Editor Jamie Dunn Designer Ana Hine Assistant Editors Nathanael Smith Patrick Harley Distribution Franchesca Hashemi Graeme Campbell Jennifer Clews
GFF Box Office Order tickets from the box office at www.glasgowfilm.org/festival or call 0141 332 6535 or visit Glasgow Film Theatre 12 Rose Street, Glasgow, G3 6RB firstname.lastname@example.org
Published on Feb 28, 2014
Director Nicholas D. Wrathall introduces his decade-in- the-making documentary portrait of the late Gore Vidal. Writer, director and artist...