V é r i t é MARCH 2013 EDITION
FILM CRITICISM & CINEMATIC DISCUSSION
And Korea’s Hollywood Pressure
steven soderbergh / death waltz records’ top soundtracks / claude chabrol / reviews / and more...
The hollywood News
loUdeR ThAN wAR
The hollywood News
BBC films Presents with the PartiCiPation of Bord sCannÁn na hÉireann / the irish film Board and northern ireland sCreen in assoCiation with immaCulate ConCePtion films a CanderBlinks film, revolution films and treasure entertainment ProduCtion Based on the true stories of terri hooley “Good viBrations” riChard dormer jodie whittaker miChael ColGan karl johnson liam CunninGham adrian dunBar with dylan moran hair & make-uP desiGner nadia staCey Costume desiGner maGGie donnelly CastinG direCtor GeorGia simPson musiC By david holmes and keefus Green ProduCtion desiGner derek wallaCe editor niCk emerson direCtor of PhotoGraPhy ivan mCCullouGh exeCutive ProduCers roBert walPole reBeCCa o’flanaGan joe oPPenheimer niGel thomas Gary liGhtBody jonny quinn nathan Connelly written By Colin CarBerry and Glenn Patterson ProduCers Chris martin andrew eaton david holmes Bruno Charlesworth direCted By lisa Barros d’sa and Glenn leyBurn
hy does the world need another film magazine? There are a number of wellestablished, highly respected publications already in circulation. But there’s always a place for a fresh approach - and room for new voices which are critical, and appreciative, of the art form we love so passionately. We want to explore cinema in its widest sense. We will delve into the margins; shining the spotlight on exciting filmmakers whose work should be better known, like Indonesian maverick Joko Anwar (page 30). We’ll explore catalogue titles as frequently as we do new releases. Our writers won’t shy away from analysis and strong opinion. The constant drive for ‘first is best’ is an inevitable consequence of the age we live in but, for us, it’s something that doesn’t always sit right when considering film. Our goal is to create content that has some longevity, that isn’t rendered obsolete when the next issue replaces the
old one. We want to share something film lovers might want to come back to and digest at a later date, maybe after they’ve seen the work under discussion. Ultimately we want to focus on films and filmmakers that excite and inspire us. That’s why we have chosen Stoker as our cover story for the first issue. Park Chan-wook has been wowing audiences for over a decade now with his technical and narrative mastery, pushing boundaries and (along with Bong Joon-ho and Kim Ji-woo, also in our feature) pushing Korean New-Wave cinema onto the world stage. With Stoker, we finally get to see him tackle his first American assignment. The language might be different but Park’s unique voice is ever present. Just as Park takes his first steps into a different world, so do we. We had a lot of fun putting this first issue together and we really hope you enjoy reading it. Most of all, we hope you discover something new that gets you thinking, talking and celebrating film.
Thanks for reading, Jordan McGrath & David Hall
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“Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.”
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Eastern Promise - p8
Masters of Cinema - p36
Side Effects - p42
James Marsh takes a look at Park Chan-wook’s Stoker and Hollywood pressure for Korean directors to make the jump.
Andrew Nerger looks at Claude Chabrol’s career as well as his upcoming Masters of Cinema blu-ray releases.
Shell - p43
Personal Effects - p14
Jordan McGrath tells us why he believes Steven Soderbergh’s retirement is a bad thing for the film industry.
Into the Darkness - p30
Evrim Ersoy profiles and talks to up and coming filmmaker Joko Anwar, labelled the Indonesian Hitchcock.
Sonic Doom!- p26
In Defence... - p40
David Hall chats with Death Waltz Records founder Spencer Hickman abouts his favourite soundtracks.
Jordan McGrath highlights and argues that Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go is an unappreciated modern classic.
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Post Tenebras Lux - p44
The Paperboy - p45
Maniac - p46
Good Vibrations - p47
YOU CAN’T CHOOSE YOUR FAMILY 8
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EASTERN PROMISE Can Korean cinema survive the transition to Hollywood?
As Stoker opens James Marsh looks at the commercial and artistic possibilities for three of the country’s biggest and brightest talents words by James Marsh
arly on in Stoker, South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s English language debut, a series of lap dissolves shows us the identical pairs of shoes our heroine, India (Mia Wasikowska) has received each year on her birthday. From this, Park cuts to a wide shot of India lying on her bed, encircled by the shoes, still in their original boxes. It is an exquisite example of visual storytelling, informing the audience that the first 18 years of India’s life have unfolded without incident, without change, and more importantly, without her yet becoming a woman. Surrounded by these testaments to her unblemished innocence, India lies entombed by her own childhood, in what we can assume is the only bedroom she has ever known. In narrative terms, however, the scene doesn’t make a lick of sense. It is highly unlikely India’s parents would have allowed her these gifts, considering they come from her deranged Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), whose existence has been kept secret from her. Even if India had been permitted the shoes, how did Charlie manage to find and purchase the exact same style in 16 different sizes over the years? And would anyone really have held onto them all this time? This level of criticism may seem reductive
and pedantic – the shoes are a device, an aesthetic tool, not to be taken literally – but when applied to Park’s directorial style, it rather concisely underscores both the strengths and weaknesses of Stoker. The film is visually lush and stylized to the point of suffocation; the narrative is driven by bold, obvious imagery and symbolism, while dialogue is rarely given the same degree of importance as characters’ physical interactions. Silver-tongued Charlie may be able to dispense a law enforcer or inquisitive relative with only a few choice words, but it’s his boyish good looks and freshly-pressed slacks that really seal the deal. Conversely, India barely utters a word outside of her angst-fuelled narration, but her unflinching gaze and quivering pout ripple with untapped lust and rampaging adolescent hormones. As a vehicle for introducing Park’s unique neo-noir aesthetic to a wider Englishspeaking audience, Stoker must be deemed a success. Even though it marks the first time Park has directed a screenplay not his own (in fact penned by Prison Break star Wentworth Miller), the film nevertheless touches on many themes recurrent in the South Korean’s filmography. Isolated, disconnected protagonists like India and Charlie are ubiquitous to Park’s
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films, whether through disability (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance), mental illness (I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK), discipline ( Joint Security Area), faith (Thirst), kidnapping (Oldboy) or incarceration (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance). Stoker’s central triumvirate also push the boundaries of recognised and respected family roles, a taboo that echoes both the strange brother/sister dynamic in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, as well as the tragic revelations at the centre of Oldboy. Certainly the director’s best-known work to-date, Oldboy is often regarded as the flagship of the New Korean Wave, which was already well underway by the time Park’s film won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2004. Its kinetic blend of noirish cool and bloody revenge proved a massive international success, and singled Park out as the nation’s most famous director on the world stage. In his homeland, Park was already well-known after his 2000 film JSA: Joint Security Area became the highest-grossing domestic hit at the Korean box office. An investigative thriller, centring on a shooting at the North/South Korean border, JSA made stars of its three principle actors: Song Kang-Ho, Lee Byung-hun and Shin Ha-kyun and remains Park’s most mainstream and humanistic film to-date. Using the freedom earned from the success of JSA, Park followed it up with the incredibly bleak Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, which follows a distraught father (Song again) on a murderous journey of revenge, after his young daughter dies in a botched kidnapping. Unflinchingly brutal and almost entirely devoid of levity or humour, SFMV proved too harsh for local audiences and flopped at the box office. However, Park’s stock remained high enough to get Oldboy, a loose adaptation of a Japanese manga, into production. It is here that Park first collaborated with cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon, and began developing the rich and vibrant aesthetic that would come to define his work.
he Korean film industry was in the midst of a booming renaissance, in part due to a quota system that kept homegrown films in cinemas longer, effectively protecting them against foreign imports. With a plethora of polished romantic weepies, military actioners, chilling horror films and tough crime dramas regularly beating Hollywood blockbusters, Oldboy’s festival win threw an international spotlight onto an already strong pool of talent. The studios swooped in, desperate to continue riding the wave of interest in Asian Cinema reignited by Hideo Nakata’s The Ring and Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, buying up distribution and also remake rights to many of South Korea’s biggest hits. Unsurprisingly, the reimagined versions of hits like feminist rom-com My Sassy Girl or terrifying ghost story A Tale of Two Sisters failed to recreate the success of the originals, while Korean language films including Bong Joon-ho’s sci-fi monster movie The Host and
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Kim Ji-woon’s uber-cool revenge thriller A Bittersweet Life continued to delight Asian Cinema fans around the world. Inevitably, both Bong and Kim received the call from Hollywood along with Park, who had enjoyed continued success, particularly with the third and final part of his loosely connected “Vengeance Trilogy”, Sympathy For Lady Vengeance, as well as quasi-religious vampire drama, Thirst. Coincidentally, the debut projects from each of these high-profile directors hit screens in 2013. First out of the gate was Kim, who chose to collaborate with Arnold Schwarzenegger, helping The Governator return to leading man status after a decade in politics. The Last Stand, essentially a retooling of Fred Zinnermann’s High Noon with fewer Quakers and more sports cars, seemed ideal for a director who had already declared his love for the Wild West with his oddball Sergio Leone homage, The Good, The Bad, The Weird. But audiences proved reluctant to embrace Arnie as the new Clint Eastwood, and his commendable turn as a grizzled, small-town sheriff on the brink of retirement enticed few on theatrical release. Kim Ji-woon, for his part, delivered plenty of shimmering, breathless action, but there was a clear disconnect between style and substance that rang hollow, leaving a gaping void not even Schwarzenegger could fill. Bong Joon-ho, considered by many to be the most able of the three directors, is generating feverish levels of excitement for his English language debut, Snowpiercer. Based on French comic book Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette, the film is expected to premiere at Cannes in May. Allegedly, Bong discovered the comic at a book shop in Seoul and was so enraptured by the story – depicting a post-apocalyptic
future in which the sole human survivors live aboard a single train – that he read it cover to cover right there in the store. Snowpiercer stars Song Kang-ho alongside Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris and charts the emerging class divides and civil unrest that evolve aboard the last vehicle on earth. With The Host, Bong proved he can juggle high concept sci-fi with real character-based drama, and Snowpiercer is far and away the most ambitious of the three Korean-helmed productions to emerge this year. While the smart money is on Bong delivering an intelligent and entertaining thriller that will likely outperform both Stoker and The Last Stand, there remains some cause for concern. The undeniable truth is that, historically, Asian directors have not fared well in Hollywood, and very few survive more than one or two projects before retreating home to salvage their careers.
“The film is visually lush and stylized to the point of suffocation; the narrative is driven by bold, obvious imagery and symbolism, while dialogue is rarely given the same degree of importance as characters’ physical interactions.” VERITE MARCH 2013
ong Kong has been most prolific in seeing its filmmakers try their hand in Tinseltown. John Woo, Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam all headed West in the mid-nineties, lauded as visionaries of the action genre. All debuted with Jean Claude Van Damme vehicles, none of which managed to replicate the unique energy or operatics of their earlier Chinese hits, and all three have since returned to Hong Kong. Woo stuck it out the longest, with 1997’s Face/Off proving the high-point in a decade-long parade of frustratingly sub-par genre films, after which he promptly delivered the epic two-part Red Cliff with Tony Leung. Even arthouse darling Wong Kar Wai lost his nerve after the lacklustre reception to his English language effort, My Blueberry Nights. Japanese directors like Takeshi Kitano and Takashi Shimizu haven’t managed any better, with Brother and The Grudge proving rarely-mentioned blips in otherwise strong Japan-based filmographies. In fact, the only Asian filmmaker to have achieved any kind of lasting success in Hollywood is Taiwan’s Ang Lee, who just last month collected a second Best Director Oscar, for the surprise blockbuster Life of Pi. Lee headed West in the mid-nineties, around the same time as John Woo and Tsui Hark were trying their luck Stateside. But while Hong Kong’s action auteurs struggled to translate their signature styles to meet broader American tastes, Lee scored a series of critical successes on the arthouse circuit, both in English (Sense and Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain), and Mandarin (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Lust, Caution). Not all Lee’s films have ignited the box office; epic western Ride With The Devil and flower power comedy Taking Woodstock both bombed spectacularly, and even the $300 million he banked for Universal with cerebral superhero flick Hulk was deemed a disappointment. But Lee’s chameleonic ability to embrace different genres, together with an acute understanding of historical settings and cultures, was enough to convince Fox to spend $120 million on Life of Pi, which has to-date raked in close to $600 million. Ironically this adaptability might suggest Lee is more craftsman than auteur, and yet it is he who has been embraced by the industry, while Woo and Tsui were only ever given action films to direct, and sent packing when their artistic visions proved alienating rather than inclusive. So, where do we go from here? In the short-term, Park’s star will continue to rise. While Stoker is unlikely to prove much of a financial success, the film has been warmly received by Western critics on both sides of the pond – the film was released in the UK and the US on 1st March – and should see him book a second English language gig (there has been talk of a Western). This year also sees Spike Lee’s American remake of Oldboy, which at the very least, will revive conversation and
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praise for Park’s original, bringing its existence to the attention of a much wider audience. Lest we forget, the demand for Korean Cinema outside its homeland is still very much a niche market. While certain corners of the critical sphere no doubt regard Park’s back catalogue as required viewing (along with those of Kim Ji-woon and Bong Joon-ho), for most multiplex audiences they remain one of the many impenetrable mysteries of the Far East. Successful English-language projects for these directors should only help shed light on the work of more Asian filmmakers, and if Hollywood continues to look to Korea, directors like Na Hong-jin (The Chaser, The Yellow Sea), Ryu Seung-wan (Crying Fist, The Unjust) and Kim Ki-duk (3-Iron, Pieta) shouldn’t be too far behind them. Until that happens, however, their existing bodies of work are well worth savouring.
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P E R S O NA L E F F E C T S
Soderbergh says goodbye but what exactly does he leave behind? A M A N A PA R T words by Jordan McGrath
t the time of writing, I’m the (not so) tender age of 26 – the same age Steven Soderbergh was when he stormed into film history in 1989 with Sex, Lies and Videotape. A lingering but elegant gaze into society’s oxymoronic sexual conflict, it’s a film that tapped into its characters’ (and perhaps some of the audiences’) voyeuristic fetishes while highlighting their ineptitudes in openly dealing with taboo subjects. A mightily impressive debut, it defined the era where American independent filmmaking exploded into the wider public consciousness. It’s been a long time coming, but seemingly – if you’re to believe the man’s word – Soderbergh’s much-publicised retirement from directing is upon us. It was back in early 2011 when the Oscar-winning filmmaker shocked the
industry by revealing his plans to fold away the director’s chair, and his latest film, Side Effects, is poised to be his final chapter. It isn’t often a filmmaker of Soderbergh’s calibre graces our screens, which is why, like a nervous pupil unprepared for an upcoming test, I’ve been dreading this moment since news of his retirement broke. In a career that’s seen many highs it’s strange that his biggest impact on the cinema industry is still that debut – even with a roster that boasts 26 films in 24 years. What might be stranger still is that it’s not the contents of Sex, Lies and Videotape that makes the film such an important landmark but how the film, nearly single-handedly, changed the landscape of cinema at the turn of the ‘90s. With a budget of just $1.2million, it revolutionised American independent cinema and gave Miramax and the Weinsteins their first real success, grossing $25million
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in the domestic market and hitting over $100million worldwide, in effect allowing other films of similar scale to find a place within the industry. However, even with the obvious impact that Sex, Lies and Videotape had, it’s what Soderbergh has accomplished since then that makes the idea of his retirement much more difficult to swallow. It’s a struggle in contemporary cinema to find a director with such a diverse career. His back-catalogue – a mixture of hard-hitting dramas, light-hearted comedy capers and high concept science-fiction – is proof of a director unafraid to delve a little deeper within the worlds of studio, independent and experimental cinema. Side Effects sees him take yet another shift in tone, a sleazy psychological thriller that looks as if it may hark back to De Palma in his prime. The film sees him re-team with current golden boy Channing Tatum. Tatum plays Martin Taylor, a stockbroker, recently released from prison after serving a stretch for insider trading. Now finally a free man again, he sets about trying to regain his wealth. His wife Emily, played by The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Rooney Mara, is a manic depressive who, after numerous suicide attempts and remaining unresponsive to normal anti-depressants, is prescribed some experimental drugs in an effort to cure her. It seems to
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work for a time, as her life returns to normal. However, the drugs have some disturbing and violent side effects. Where many directors like to leave their mark, Soderbergh doesn’t appear to concern himself with an overarching ‘career’ aesthetic. Seemingly revelling in not being labelled an auteur – arguably, his style is that he has, in some ways, no definable style. That’s not to say his films aren’t stylish. They are, unequivocally so, but each of them embody specific visual characteristics that work in a self-contained way, tailored to the demands of the picture. In many ways, he’s like a modern-day Robert Wise, whose career also jumped back and forth within genre, from the ghost-house horror The Haunting (1963), to the idealistic sing-a-long in the Austrian mountains of The Sound of Music (1965) and the military-based drama in The Sand Pebbles (1966), telling stories in the most effective way possible, void of personal ego or stamp. One discernable element of Soderbergh’s approach, since finishing his Ocean’s trilogy back in 2007, is that many of his latter pictures have had an air of anti-Hollywood about them. Either he became disillusioned with the studio machine or is stubbornly unwilling to stand down in an attempt to keep his artistic integrity. Either way, he’s continued to take risk after risk. He made a two-part foreign-language biopic of
“Where many directors like to leave their mark, Soderbergh doesn’t appear to concern himself with an overarching ‘career’ aesthetic. Seemingly revelling in not being labelled an auteur”
Che Guevara (Che) , cast a real-life porn star in a lead (Sasha Grey, above right) and tackled the recession through the eyes of a prostitute (The Girlfriend Experience). He killed off nearly half of the Hollywood A-list in an apocalypse thriller (Contagion), made MMA fighter Gina Carano (above left) his lead for an art-house actioner camouflaged as a revenge flick (Haywire) and then tackled the recession once again, this time with some youthful ambition thrown in for good measure in Magic Mike. And it’s the same with Side Effects. The big stars are there but they’re in a story that feels intentionally uncommercial, the final act in his rebellion against the system he (presumably) wants to escape. It’s as if he’s been deciding his projects by spinning some sort of genre wheel of fortune and this is another reason why he will be missed. Soderbergh, as an artist, is not afraid to play outside the sandbox. A mainstream Hollywood director who uses his pulling power to tell the stories he wants – interesting and challenging stories that, due to subject or genre, might not appeal to everyone – has to be someone to cherish. Big decisions from individuals in certain positions of power will always be met with scepticism, and rightly so. Even though I’ve written this as a kind of farewell eulogy for the director, I do believe that sometime in the future, Sodebergh will return to directing. However, in the years he is away from the medium, he is going to be missed. All great artists push themselves as they keep challenging their creative process. As he enters another chapter in his career, which he says will include painting and theatre direction, I can’t help but think this is a bittersweet farewell. In order to gain from his future forays into other artistic and creative worlds must we lose the special qualities he brings to cinema? Let’s hope not.
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Veriteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Top 5 Steven Soderbergh Films
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5. Magic Mike 2012 Both entertaining character study and canny dissection of male fiscal/emotional impotence disguised through cocksure theatrics, Magic Mike is one of Soderbergh’s most subversive films but, as always with this director, it’s shot through with a cool lightness, bathing its darkness in the warm, gauzy Tampa sun. Soderbergh eschews the expected route of following Alex Pettyfer’s Manero-like young buck ‘The Kid’ to concentrate on Canning Tatum’s Mike, the older mentor. Mike is old enough to have realised the limitations of the stripper lifestyle and looking to carve out something extra, perhaps with the Kid’s older, protective sister (Cody Horn). The Kid naturally wants to party hard. Choices – economic and emotional – need to be made and fast. Smartly written and performed, Magic Mike is as persuasive in its jocular, banter-heavy dude dynamics as it is in raw, naturalistic, freewheeling rom-com mode. There’s a tenderness displayed towards its protagonists that never ossifies into sentimentality. Just as Bob Rafelson did in the similarlyvibed Stay Hungry (1976), Soderbergh tackles the body politic(s) with sly wit and candour. DH
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4. Solaris 2002 Possibly Soderbergh’s most underrated project. With a career-best performance by an against-type Clooney, Solaris is not only a technical marvel, the director working alongside SF king James Cameron to bring the story to life for the American market, it’s also a fascinating story of grief and guilt. Contemplating its own intoxicating moral selfishness while also keeping a wider set of eyes on the effects those actions could cause. Visual porn for sci-fi fans, it’s gloriously realised. A persuasive blend of warm colours but alienating tones, it’s made even more memorable by Clint Mansell’s melancholic and lingering score. Yes, it’s unhurried with its pace, however, there’s plenty there to satisfy those hardened film lovers who are willing to look a bit deeper. JM
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3. The Limey 1999 When grim-faced cockney avenger Terence Stamp is released from prison, he travels to Los Angeles to investigate the death of his young daughter; uncovering a mystery that leads him into the orbit of exiled record producer Peter Fonda where a devastating resolution awaits. Soderbergh affords both icons extraordinary, mythical, music-cued opening scenes then proceeds to chip away at them and the paper tigers of the counterculture via an existential anti-thriller narrative that owes as much to Alan Rudolph as it does Boorman and Hodges. A gallery of incredible cult actors (Barry Newman, Bill Duke, Lesley Ann Warren, Joe Dallensadro) drift in and out of the LA fug while Soderbergh visually demonstrates an uncanny understanding of what made works like Performance and Point Blank so resonant. This is no patchwork homage though. With screenwriting partner Lem Dobbs, Soderbergh mines the influences and exorcises the phantoms of the 60s to locate a deeply elegiac tone; a devastating mediation on loss, regret and self-delusional myth making. This directorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most profound and oneiric film. DH
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2. Sex, Lies and Videotape 1989 The film that began it all. Sex, Lies and Videotape remains both one of Soderbergh’s most interesting artistic ventures and many a teenage boy looking for fleshy delights’ disappointments. Dissecting sex’s importance within society and our lives, Soderbergh’s cutting script was ingeniously subtle with its execution but bold with its statement. Still as relevant now as it was then, it’s a game-changing debut that deserves every accolade It also famously beat Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing to the 1989 Palme D’Or at Cannes, and gained an Oscar nomination for Soderbergh for ‘Best Original Screenplay that year. It’s a wonderful example of a ‘perfectly cast’ film including a never-better Andie MacDowell, eyebrow-rific Peter Gallagher and a film stealing performance by Laura San Giacomo. Soderbergh can also boast about casting James Spader as a creep before it was cool to have James Spader as a creep. JM
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1. Out of Sight 1998 Soderbergh and Clooney together again top the list with the sublime crime caper Out of Sight. There hasn’t been a director (or a film for that matter) before or since, that’s been able to bottle Clooney’s charisma so perfectly. Working together for the first time, it’s immediately noticeable these guys complement each other, quickly forming a connection reminiscent of George Roy Hill and Paul Newman. Sexy, suave – the faultless balance of stylish confidence and kinetic imperfection – it was, and still remains, the perfect platform for its lead to showcase his Golden Age moxie. Helped along by Scott Frank’s energetic script, an adaptation of the great Elmore Leonard’s novel, it follows memorable scenes with even more memorable scenes. Soderbergh doesn’t just get a great performance out of Jennifer Lopez but somehow enables her to develop chemistry between herself and Clooney that can only be described as ‘saucy’. JM
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A Life of Uneasy Listening
with Spencer Hickman
words & interview by David Hall photography by Peter Repka
lifelong movie and music fanatic and former manager of RoughTrade records, Spencer Hickman now runs Death Waltz Recording Company â&#x20AC;&#x201C; specialising in re-issuing soundtracks for cult horror and exploitation movies. The label has quickly built up a formidable reputation amongst film fans and vinyl junkies and each release carries distinctive, originally commissioned artwork.
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The label’s first release – for Lucio Fulci’s infamous gutmunching classic Zombi 2 (aka Zombie Flesh Eaters) – set the DW template; arresting and vibrant original covers, coloured vinyl, fold-out poster art and lithographs and a highly collectible ethos. Crucially, Hickman commissions artists on the basis they conceptualise the music rather than the films. Their covers range from the starkly beautiful, poetic minimalism of Candice Tripp’s cover for Let the Right One In to the wilful perversity and jpeginspired pranksterism of Jay Shaw’s cover for Halloween III: Season of the Witch. All of them are works of art in their own right, elevating these soundtrack covers to the status of say, a sought-after original Polish or Czech film poster. Vérité caught up with Spencer while he was preparing DW’s next original soundtrack release – Justin Greave’s chillingly minimalist sonic accompaniment to Sean Hogan’s creepily effective British horror The Devil’s Business. We asked him to share with us his influences and obsessions.
What was the first soundtrack you remember buying with your own money? The Star Wars soundtrack which is a double-gatefold sleeve with a fold-out poster. I was obsessed with the film as a kid of course – my dad took me to see it the day it came out at this amazing cinema in Birmingham called the Gaumont. It blew me away and I started collecting the toys – like practically every other kid in the world – but I was also utterly obsessed with the score. I still have the record but the poster sadly got lost along the way.
What is your perfect film/music moment? People will hate me for this but it has to be the beginning of Donnie Darko with Echo and the Bunnymen playing The Killing Moon. It’s just utterly perfect and sets the entire tone of the movie.
Death Waltz has released scores for some seminal horror classics. What’s the most terrifying score you’ve heard? This is really difficult as I don’t find that many scores particularly scary! I’d say the score for the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is up there and I think Halloween II is really unsettling. Whereas the first film was very atmospheric, there is something about the tone used in those reworked themes that make the second score very creepy. I think Jeff Grace absolutely nailed it with his House of the Devil score too.
“I don’t cry at soundtracks or scores but Let the Right One In always chokes me up” Which film would you love to re-score? Bloody hell that is a tough question! I couldn’t say one of my favourite films because I look at movies as a complete audio visual package, so my favourites are entwined with the images and I wouldn’t mess with then. Right now though it would be Prometheus. The score in that movie is so wrong I really can’t believe they used it, I mean the film is deeply flawed throughout but a creepy score could have added a lot to it. The score needed tension and dread. Instead it got sub-Lord of the Rings/ Enya style themes which worked against the film, not with it. I was flabbergasted when I saw the movie as they got it so wrong on every level. The score is nice enough but in no way shape or form fits the film. I think Ridley’s hearing must’ve gone in his old age!
Your label is already renowned for its original artwork. What is your personal favourite soundtrack album cover? You’re purposely trying to get me in trouble aren’t you? I own a lot of soundtracks and the reason I wanted to do the label was that it always feels like the score is the last bit of marketing. So they just use any old image from the movie they can find and there never seems to be much love or care taken with the soundtrack release. For example the Clockwork Orange score is great and so is the one for The Warriors but they just used existing imagery from the posters. I absolutely love the sleeve for The Thing (1982) though. And the cover to The Burning is just out of this world.
And the soundtrack/piece of film music that moves you the most? I don’t cry at soundtracks or scores but Let the Right One In always chokes me up, it’s just glorious. Also Clint Mansell’s score to Last Night is phenomenal.
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Who for you is the greatest of all film composers? Bit obvious I guess but in terms of influence and introducing me to the concept of film music and making me take notice – John Williams. He had such an effect on my youth, there’s really no other choice.
Which unreleased or lost would you most love to re-issue? The Legend of Hell House (1973), no question. This is one of my favourite haunted house films and the score is absolutely nuts. It’s Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson from BBC’s Radiophonic workshop. Reportedly no master tapes survived and the bootleg scores that are doing the rounds have dialogue on them. To reissue that would be a dream come true.
Do you have a favourite music-based film or musical? Singing in the Rain. I bloody love it! I can’t not mention High Fidelity either. I grew up working in record shops and I was sceptical of the film at first. I thought they would americanise it (in a bad way) but it was a great adaptation that did the original book proud.
Away from original scores what is your favourite soundtrack that is a collection of songs? Donnie Darko - the original mind, not the directors cut! Those songs fit so well to create a mood its mind- boggling, although not as mind-boggling as the decision to change it all round in the and completely ruin the movie! I’d also have to say Harold and Maude. Cat Stephens’ songs complete that movie perfectly. Joy and heartbreak in equal measure.
Death Waltz records are available from www.deathwaltzrecordingcompany.com
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DARK NESS Unknown 30
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An Introduction into the World of Joko Anwar
In the first of a regular spotlight series on lesser-known cinematic talent, Evrim Ersoy offers an appreciation of the man dubbed the modern Indonesian Hitchcock: Joko Anwar words & interview by Evrim Ersoy
f asked to name one director working in the industry today whose work remains criminally underappreciated by the majority of audiences, my answer would have to be Joko Anwar. A talented teller of intricate tales and a nonpareil master of suspense, Anwar’s oeuvre has been favourably compared to the work of Hitchcock and Almodovar. Joko Anwar was born in 1976 in Indonesia; after finishing his education he began working as a film critic for The Jakarta Post. During his stint there he wrote the script for Nia di Nata’s impressive The Gathering (2003), a film about socialite women gathering in Jakarta now widely acknowledged as one of the first Indonesian films to openly explore gay themes. After a number of shorts, he wrote and directed 2005’s Joni’s Promise, an incredibly successful romantic comedy focusing on a young man who promises a young woman he loves to
deliver a film reel on time and a movie blessed with an energy hitherto unseen from Indonesia. As Anwar’s career gained momentum so did his body of work; a pro genre-masher, he moved from thriller to noir to fantasy epic with panache. 2007’s Dead Time: Kala was not only visually striking but also daring and experimental in a way that had not been seen in Indonesia. Kala focuses on an investigation, conducted in an unnamed country, where the laws have given the public the right to hold moral codes by whatever means necessary. While an intelligent cop investigates the death of five men burnt alive at a bus situation, a narcoleptic journalist hits rock bottom in both his personal life and career. These two disparate figures find themselves in the sort of conspiracy that would make Woodward and Bernstein proud, with Anwar maintaining an unrelenting momentum throughout. A mad mash of ideas which should
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Dead Time: Kala (2007)
The Forbidden Door (2009)
not work together but somehow do, Dead Time: Kala is a landmark film for Indonesian cinema. Shortly after the debut of Kala, the international film scene started to take serious notice of Anwar and his unusual work. The film was screened at a number of film festivals around the world including BFI London Film Festival and won a number of awards. Anwar’s success is not all that strange – he’s a prolific writer as well as a director with a deep and personal understanding of his material. What is strange, however, is how someone like Anwar still manages to succeed with his brand of filmmaking in a country as strongly tied to traditions as Indonesia. According to Anwar, with a population equalling 220 million (or thereabouts), Indonesia manages to only have 630 screens across the country, most of them dominated by box-office big hitters – mainly religious themed dramas. And yet, he still manages to turn out tales from the dark side with almost universal appeal. After Kala came 2009’s ‘The Forbidden Door,’ a tale darker than anything he’d previously written or directed. Cranking up the suspense so tight you can hear the film creak and groan Anwar creates an unforgiving world populated by brutal, unpleasant characters taking his storytelling skills to the next level. The narrative focuses on Gambir, a successful artist with a beautiful wife and an almost perfect lifestyle. Gambir starts receiving strange messages asking him for help, missives which disturb and intrigue him. It’s also around this time that Gambir discovers a bright red door in his studio – a door which his wife says he must NEVER open. What Gambir does next creates one of the most terrifying and brilliant plots in genre cinema; Anwar keeps the tension so taut throughout that he renders his audience captive throughout the film’s gripping 115 minutes. The Forbidden Door further cemented Anwar’s position on the festival circuit: the film made it into festivals across Europe, America and Asia. It was through this exposure he got
“Joko Anwar’s filmography is ripe for discovery; his intelligent, striking visual sense is consistently coupled with wellwritten scripts that could teach betterestablished directors a thing or two.” 32
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interest in his next movie on a greater scale than he had experienced before. His most recent film, 2012’s Modus Anomali, is a tight exercise in storytelling – clearly a low-budget effort – relying on Anwar’s trademark sense of suspense. Built like a delightful puzzle box, the film teased genre fans at festivals all around the world. Modus Anomali tells of a man who wakes up buried in a shallow grave with no recollection of his identity or of how he got there. Wandering through the woods, he discovers a house with a murdered pregnant woman inside and a videotape. Playing the tape, he discovers the cabin is his and he’d arrived there for a holiday – however, an unknown party has intruded and harmed his wife and taken his children, capturing the grisly scene on video. He realises he must try to save his children and discover exactly what happened. Also, the psychopath is still on the loose. Modus Anomali was shot in English by Anwar and while the accents of the lead actors can be distracting, there’s something so refreshing in the simple intelligence of the tale that it’s hard not to be drawn in. Crafted meticulously, one of the joys of the picture comes through repeat viewings, revealing Anwar’s keen attention to detail, not leaving room for any lapses in logic. Like Christopher Nolan’s Memento before it, Modus Anomali is a film which rewards the audience for keeping up. Anwar is also a prolific actor, taking an approach that allows him to get inside a character’s head and understand their psychology.
His reputation is strange – in his home country he’s called arrogant, blunt, and brash but upon meeting him it’s hard not to be impressed by a mischievous and modest man clearly in love with what he’s doing. Recently, Modus Anomali screened at the Sitges Film Festival in Spain. Anwar was always around and exuded a charming energy with a jovial manner in the way he interacted with guests and festival attendees alike. Recently, Anwar has started work on three projects: a horror film, a thriller, and a drama. He remarked that the horror film is the first of its kind for him – the script scared him whilst writing it which considering his previous movies is quite a feat. The thriller’s premise revolves around five young people who decide to start bumping off Indonesian politicians. And the drama? Well, all he’ll say is that it’s called The Last Wedding on Earth, and that it’s being marketed at the Hong Kong Asian Financing Forum. Joko Anwar’s filmography is ripe for discovery; his intelligent, striking visual sense is consistently coupled with well-written scripts that could teach better-established directors a thing or two. His sense of fun (he once walked naked into a mini-mart because he’d promised on Twitter he’d do so if his followers hit a certain number) is always apparent in his works, and more than that, his films bring to the table what a hundred remakes, sequels or franchises could never do. Joko Anwar is a talent to watch and is more than ready for further genre acclaim.
Modus Anomali (2012)
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interview: If you had to introduce yourself to a new audience, how would describe Joko Anwar and his films? This is always a difficult thing to answer. Hahaha…
As a prolific figure on social media, do you think the level of interaction between audience & filmmakers has changed the I don’t know. I would just describe myself as a little boy with a toy. dynamics of the relationship in cinema?
The cinema of Joko Anwar is determinedly different than what the mainstream offers in Indonesia – how hard is it being a filmmaker whose approach is so different?
Definitely. Back then filmmakers only heard opinions from critics. But today we can know what the audience think about our films immediately after being released via twitter or other social media platforms. I know filmmakers who continue making a certain I have been lucky because so far it hasn’t been too difficult for me kind of film after they got a good reception on social media. While I understand it’s very tempting to react to these direct to get investors. I guess it’s due to the fact because none of my feedbacks from the audience, whether to continue pleasing them movies were big-budgeted by Indonesian standards. And even or to give a middle finger to them, I prefer to still have that luxury for Dead Time: Kala which only enjoyed a short period time at theatres, it was a best-seller at home video so financial backers still to grow as a filmmaker without being steered by an audience of critics. trust me. The only thing that has been difficult is censorship. I think they’re on to me. They always find something to cut and the reasons usually raise eyebrows.
I choose the path of Radiohead. They keep growing up as a band. Their sound also changes with every album they make. And good fans, those who allow their idol to grow, stick to them.
Are there any other filmmakers in Indonesia that you consider kindred spirits?
Which of your films has been the best received in Indonesia & the rest of the world?
We got Edwin who was in competition at the Berlinale two years back.
Modus Anomali is the one which divides critics and audience alike but strangely it is also the one that made more sales internationally.
Is there a process to how you approach to starting a film? I write my scripts in my head first. And I write them for years. When I get it completely visualized in my head from the opening titles to the end credits, then I would write it down on paper. Of course changes can occur during writing it down or during the shoot. But usually the big chunk of it that I already got in my head before I shot it would still be there.
Can you talk a little about the reception to Modus Anomali? Was it better or worse than what you expected? I think Modus Anomali is the most risky project especially for the mainstream Indonesia. It was shot in English with almost no dialogue and it is quite slowly paced. It also looks very different than my previous movies which have big production values. So I was expecting not too many people would dig it but strangely it performed quite well at the local box office. Reviews are mostly favourable and even the ones which hate it made for very amusing reading. So I guess yeah, better than I expected.
I don’t do an audition where people read lines from the script, I prefer doing it interview style. I would always cast someone with whom I could be engaged in an interesting conversation with during the interview. The rest of the process I guess is pretty much Having worked as critic (and one with a tough reputation!) textbook. yourself how does this effect when reading reviews of your Oh, I plan my movies and their order. People can find hints for my second movie in my first and so on and so on.
own films? Can you ever step aside from the filmmakers’ viewpoint and go back to being a critic? I think I am my toughest critic.
So when I fail at some parts, I already know about it and reading it from somebody else isn’t as hard as getting it from myself.
Which current directors excite you as a filmmaker? Paul Thomas Anderson and Bong Joon-ho. Both are low-key but they make the best movies in the world.
MARCH 2013 VERITE
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22 MARCH VERITE MARCH 2013
Masters of Cinema Claude Chabrol
Suspicious Mind Andrew Nerger uncovers the pessimistic pleasures of two early films from French New Wave’s outsider, Claude Chabrol words by Andrew Nerger
or many, Godard’s Breathless was the first film of the French New Wave; others may insist upon Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. Perhaps some might go for a left-field choice, such as Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows. But one rarely mentioned is Claude Chabrol’s Le Beau Serge. Yet Chabrol’s was the first to be released by the Cahiers du Cinema set. It came out in 1958 - two years before Jean Seberg would sell the New York Herald Tribune on the streets of Paris. And Chabrol’s follow-up Les Cousins, a companion piece of sorts, was released in March 1959, two months before Truffaut introduced Antoine Doniel to the world at the Cannes Film Festival. As a French film enthusiast and student of film, I watched countless works from Chabrol’s contemporaries, the peers and fathers of the movement including Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer and Rivette. And yet curiously Chabrol remains the last great piece of that New Wave puzzle. Looking back, I can’t think of a single reason why I have never seen a single Chabrol film. He was one of the most prolific directors of the movement and worked until his death in 2010. I even have a DVD copy of Le Boucher on my ‘to watch’ pile.
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Critical reaction to Chabrol was perhaps not as kind as it could have been; retrospectively he’s known better as a mainstream suspense director as opposed to a bona fide maverick like Godard. Fortunately, Masters of Cinema are releasing Le Beau Serge and Les Cousins, two titles that show how his influence on the movement should not be underestimated. Winner of the Jean Vigo award, Le Beau Serge was Chabrol’s first feature film. Funded entirely by Chabrol himself and partly autobiographical, it was shot in the village of Sardent, where the young Chabrol grew up. It’s the story of two men with contrasting fortunes, one who left the village and made success for himself in Paris and another who remained and stagnated. The protagonist at the heart of Serge is a Parisian named Francois ( Jean Claude Brialy) who returns to his hometown to recuperate after suffering from illness. He is surprised at how little the village has changed, but shocked to see how badly his old friend Serge (Gérard Blain) has aged. When they first meet, Serge is so drunk he doesn’t even recognise François. Serge doesn’t see any future in the dead-end village and feels trapped in a loveless marriage. His ire is
exacerbated when he meets the carefree Francois again and takes to being even more abusive to his long-suffering wife than usual. Blain has the looks of a French Montgomery Clift with the unpredictable swagger of Marlon Brando. He is excellent as Serge, a man unable to accept the duties of being an adult who feels he has nothing in life to live for. His character is contrasted very nicely by the performance of Brialy, who assumes the role of Good Samaritan and is the last person who can help Serge combat his depression and accept his unhappy existence. The very nature of friendship is examined throughout and Francois often goes beyond the call of duty to help Serge, leading to a gripping finale that nearly results in Francois’ sacrifice in order to help his beleaguered friend. Whilst not as revolutionary as many other of the New Wave films, Le Beau Serge is a good starting point. The gritty realism certainly contradicts many other French films of the era and the frankness about sex and death must’ve shocked audiences in 1959. Cinematographer Henri Decae, who shot Melville’s seminal Bob Le Flambeur , impresses with his long takes and dynamic camera work -making the village of Sardent very much a supporting character in the film. It no doubt convinced Truffaut to later hire Decae for 400 Blows. After watching Le Beau Serge, Truffaut famously said: “Technically, the film is as masterly as if Chabrol had been directing for ten years, though this is his first contact with a camera.” After the completion of Le Beau Serge, Chabrol started immediately on Les Cousins, released theatrically in France just five months later. Despite having similar ‘fish out of water’ themes, Les Cousins is deliciously darker and infinitely more pessimistic. Much of this darker tone comes from Chabrol collaborating for the first time with writer Paul Gegauff (they would later work on Les Bonne Femmes and Les Biches) Chabrol said that Gegauff ‘helped stimulate him’ and ‘polish his brain’ and this certainly comes across in the script which has a deliciously dubious morality. In Les Cousins, the same actors are featured - Jean-Claude Brialy and Gerard Blain, but this time the roles are reversed. Blain instead assumes the role as the lead, Charles, who travels from the provinces to Paris in order to study and stay with his cousin Paul. ( Jean-Claude Brialy). From the very start it seems these two are too wildly different to get along- Paul is the sophisticated bohemian who prefers to spend his time partying with his set of obnoxious friends and is loud and brash compared to Charles’ more gentle and romantic personality.
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Le Beau Serge (1958)
Les Cousins (1959)
Charles is a man who is driven by one thing - to please his mother by passing his law exams, but unfortunately for him, Paul makes the studying nigh on impossible with his behaviour. To make matters worse he also falls in love with Florence, a beautiful, but naive 20 year old who annoyingly cannot make up her mind between the wildly contrasting cousins. Watching both films back to back, you are especially struck by the contrast - Serge features a confident protagonist who wishes to help a friend at all costs, Les Cousins features no such character. Instead its central protagonist Charles is the naive one slowly worn down by his unscrupulous cousin. Like Le Beau Serge, Les Cousins utilises Henri Decae as cinematographer and again it looks beautiful. The scenes in the flat are dark and sordid, like something out of a seedy club, and Decae shoots all of the characters with such care and intention. The film was another critical and financial success for Chabrol. It led to more ticket sales than Le Beau Serge and more importantly it put him on the international map, eventually winning the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Despite the films being shot over 50 years ago, transfers on the MoC discs are nothing short of breath-taking. Carefully restored by Gaumont these discs are easily the
best way to experience the films, short of inventing a timemachine. Extras across both discs include trailers as well as shorts Chabrol made as part of larger film anthologies (including one with Jean-Pierre Cassel and Catherine Deneuve!). There is also an informative two-part documentary that lasts nearly two hours over both discs; ‘Chabrol Launches the Wave’, which is a tremendously fascinating doc featuring interviews with many of those Chabrol contemporaries who helped him produce these two films. Perhaps my favourite anecdote comes from the assistant director of Le Beau Serge, Claude de Givray, who characterised the Cahiers set as being so “Focused on cinema… Rivette took a girl to the cinema and rumour has it he talked only about Bresson’s camera angles!” For Chabrol novice these beautiful new MoC releases are a revelation. And my copy of Le Boucher is finally ready to be watched.
Le Beau Serge & Les Cousins MoC Blu-ray’s will be available on April 8th courtesy of Eureka Entertainment - www.eurekavideo.co.uk
“Despite the films being shot over 50 years ago, transfers on the MoC discs are nothing short of breath-taking. Carefully restored by Gaumont these discs are easily the best way to experience the films, short of inventing a time-machine.” 38
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In Defence... The Poor Creatures of Never Let Me Go
words by Jordan McGrath he credits roll and the film you’ve just seen connected with you in ways that leave you struggling to translate your feelings into words. As a film lover the magic and subjectivity of cinema never gets old. When a movie you think is special doesn’t get the attention or the acclaim you think it deserves it can frustrate you. And as that film fades away from public consciousness you attempt to comprehend how people can’t see what you do. The last time this happened to me was in 2010 with one of modern cinema’s most criminally overlooked films – Mark Romanek’s hauntingly beautiful adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Romanek’s film uses a period-piece aesthetic and embeds within it a very authentic science-fiction twist. We listen to Kathy (Carey Mulligan) as she narrates the experiences of her childhood at Hailsham; on the outside a preppy private
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school but in reality the farm before the slaughter. She is a clone, like all her fellow students, raised for a single purpose – to harness organs for the paying citizens of England to use whenever they are in need of a donation. Alongside her friends Ruth (Keira Knightly) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield) they grow quickly from children to teenagers. As the blissful innocence of their youth fades with every year, love and sex enter the dynamic. Their friendship becomes a complex triangle of love, jealousy and power. Then in their mid-twenties, as they move closer to their final donations and death, they come to realise their awful predicament. The film begins with Kathy, her face a picture of pure sadness as she gazes through the glass window into the adjoining operating room. Her love, Tommy, lays there, his body an expressionist painting of scars from previous donations. What Romanek does beautifully here is to show the
weight of sacrifice, of the pain involved within this finite timeline. This film is going to be tough and emotionally testing but that’s the hook. Romanek portrays a battleground of human melancholy between this moment and the film’s end and urges the audience to take the journey with him. It’s audacious, striking and ambiguous. Countenance is Never Let Me Go’s bullet in the chamber. Used to devastating effect, helped along by the talent of its cast, it evolves into something infinite and powerful. The ethical dilemma facing Sally Hawkins’ Miss Lucy shows us the normal sympathetic human instinct. She is seemingly the only adult at Hailsham who looks on the faces of the children and sees them as just that, not something that is being ripened until they’re ready for plucking. This continues throughout, right up to the revelation of the children’s inescapable demise as Kathy and Tommy visit the Madame to place their case for a deferral (a short extension to their lives due to their being love) the wonderfully-crafted McGuffin of their adult years. Andrew Garfield, who at this point was being recognised as a worldwide name due to his turn in The Social Network, delivers a performance – when they realise their efforts were always in vain - of delicate confusion and hurt, reminiscent of a wounded animal who doesn’t quite understand what’s happening to him. It’s a performance of intense emotional investment, invisible, stripped down and to the bone, a dissection of human worth, of life and living. Perhaps it was the film’s austere backdrop – with its characters as cattle, grown and killed for man’s needs – that explains why the film didn’t strike a chord with the general population. Maybe the film’s premise was on the surface simply too grim, too heavy for audiences to see the light beyond its oppressively dark, dystopian theme. I firmly believe science-fiction is at its most potent when it investigates and connects with the biggest topics. The philosophical questions raised about the search for identity and self, of what makes a human, drives the film. The genius of Alex Garland’s script (as well as Ishiguro’s novel) is the
balance it strikes between personal character-based storytelling and big-theme exploration. Like the Replicants in Blade Runner this is life with a built in sell-by-date. However, where Ridley Scott distances the story from reality with a futuristic setting, Romanek forces you to relate to the characters within a more immediately recognisable setting, arguably far more effectively than Scott did. These are people who do the same things as humans, so why is their life any less important? Is Kathy and Tommy’s love not worth being cherished just because of their status? This highlights Never Let Me Go’s (lightly worn) sociopolitical charge. The inhabitants of Hailsham, and other schools like it, are treated like second-class citizens creating a shifted contemplation of race and equality. When looked at closely, it’s a classic oppression tale. We discover later on in the narrative that Hailsham had been closed years prior and there are only a few similar establishments left, hinting at a possible reaction from the population of this alternative history. But the film is not concerned with telling a story of rebellion and much of its sorrowful nature is drawn from the character’s acceptance of their situation. Romanek is confident enough not to get too preoccupied with plot detail allowing the weight of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy’s situation to take emotional centre stage. Looking back to the turn of the century, there are very few films in modern cinema that takes you on such a complex and emotional ride as Never Let Me Go. It’s a film that has so much going for it, a depth to character and story confidently realised by a talented director, gorgeous to look at, with superior performances across the board. Actually, everything about the film pointed at success; Carey Mulligan was fresh of an Oscar nomination for An Education, Andrew Garfield’s career was on the rise and Keira Knightley’s name, however badly tarnished by the Pirates of the Caribbean films, still had pulling power. It was a film with the cream of the crop of new British talent. It had teeth and it had soul but somehow it just didn’t connect. Nevertheless I’m happy to continue fighting for Never Let Me Go’s modern classic status while acknowledging that my love for this glorious piece of cinema is still only shared by a minority.
“It’s a performance of intense emotional investment, invisible, stripped down and to the bone, a dissection of human worth, of life and living.”
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Side Effects cert (15)
director Steven Soderbergh writer Scott Z. Burns starring Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Review by Tom Gore
release date 8th March
Originally tiled The Bitter Pill, you could be forgiven for thinking Steven Soderbergh’s latest (and, if he is to be believed, his last)is a smaller-scale companion piece to the Oscar-winning Traffic (2000) –focusing on the societal implications of (prescription) pill-popping and the ubiquitous reach of giant pharmaceutical corporations as opposed to drug cartels. Indeed it masquerades pretty convincingly as such for half an hour or so before dramatically switching gear (and genre) and becoming a sleek, neo-noir thriller which pays homage to everything from Hitchcock (Vertigo, Psycho, Spellbound) to Bigger Than Life, Double Indemnity and Body Heat (the latter two specifically cited as influences by Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns). The catalyst for this sudden change is Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara), a depressed twentysomething New Yorker. Emily’s husband Martin (Channing Tatum), an affable if unscrupulous former Hedge Fund Manager is released from a four-year prison sentence for insider trading early in the film. During his incarceration Emily, once an affluent housewife living an idyllic existence in the Connecticut mansion belt, has been forced to find a job and downsize to a more modest Manhattan Apartment. Martin promises to “get us back to where we were” and things seem to be returning to normal until Emily attempts suicide by driving her car into the wall of an underground car park. She is assigned to see Dr Jonathan Banks ( Jude Law), a sympathetic Brit émigré psychiatrist in Manhattan who relocated from the UK partly as he believed the American approach to mental illness to be more enlightened. He prescribes several anti-depressant medications without success until, after consulting with Emily’s previous therapist in Connecticut, Dr Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones); he tries her on a (fictional) new Wonder Drug: Ablixa. The initial results are excellent. Having previously spent her days wandering the City in an aimless, anhedonic daze (quoting William Styron, she likens her condition to a “poisonous fog bank” rolling in) and lingering ominously close to the edge of subway platforms, Emily is seemingly transformed almost overnight, until the aforementioned/titular side effects start to kick in. At this point in the narrative a shocking incident occurs and the remainder of the film is devoted to the fallout from this event. Essentially who is responsible for what happened, and is everything all as it seems? Soderbergh regulars Tatum and Zeta-Jones are perfectly fine in their supporting roles but the majority of the acting plaudits go to Mara, whose outward façade of enigmatic inscrutability conceals hidden depths of inner turmoil, and Law who maintains a determined sangfroid even as his world is falling apart around him. Thomas Newman’s eerie score adds a great deal of tension to the proceedings and ultimately the film recalls many of the high points of Soderbergh’s prolific genre-swapping career as he takes on material that might seem conventional and (in this case) somewhat implausible in lesser hands and adds depth and quality to it.
Review by Jordan McGrath
Beauty through stark realism is a tricky balance many a hardened director would struggle with but first-timer Scott Graham locates a colourful and complex story of family and loneliness within Shell’s neutral palette. 17 year-old Shell (Chloe Pirrie) lives with her silent, brooding and epileptic father Pete ( Joseph Mawle). Secluded up in the Scottish Highlands they operate a sparsely-visited petrol station that somehow helps them scrape by day-to-day. There are regular customers; including a depressive divorcee making his once-a-month trip to see his children and a young factory worker who’s rather smitten with Shell. Nevertheless, it’s the relationship between father and daughter that lingers and contorts this story, as we quickly realise something isn’t quite right with their family dynamic. The film greets us with a long, empty road, followed by desolate highland and a wandering stag rambling up the side of a mountain. These characters are alone, isolated from civilisation and a normal life, their station a small bubble of existence. And even though it takes us some time to realise the full complexity of Shell and Pete’s relationship and the situation they find themselves in, a sinister weight hangs over proceedings from the very first frame. Pirrie essays an audacious contrast of young and old in an undeniably magnetic central performance. She is both wanting child and angry spouse; the absence of a female parental figure an overbearing but unspoken burden. Her behaviour at times hints at a misguided romantic connection – until she is swiftly knocked back by Mawle’s subtly played discipliner. It’s a story of love manifesting into dependence and how, through the personal woes of loneliness, barriers can become blurred. Pete’s alienating attitude is as much a reaction to the awkward situation as it is an indication of his trust in women after his wife’s abandonment. Shell and Pete depend on each other; however both are even more dependent on the stretch of road where they find their station. Like an omnipresent God it gives them people to interact with, money to survive and – when a city couple on a day trip hit a deer with their car – food on their plates. Dictating their lives the road gives and takes away, with the two unknowingly becoming slaves to its mercy. Arguably a bit languid it is still a gripping work that heads down some very interesting avenues, quickly finding its feet as a multi-layered character study. Shell is obviously a film crafted with care and confidence, bookended by two very similar shots that have very dissimilar tones. It’s a testament to Graham’s understanding of his own script that he is able to control the sentiment so effectively. With a couple of pitch-perfect performances from its two leads and a memorable cameo by Michael Smiley this is a mightily impressive debut from the Scottish filmmaker, who has now marked himself as a British talent worth watching out for.
release date 15th March cert (15)
director Scott Graham writer Scott Graham starring Chloe Pirrie, Joseph Mawle, Michael Smiley
Review by Stuart Barr
Post Tenebras Lux release date 22nd March
director Carlos Reygadas writer Carlos Reygadas starring Adolfo Jiménez Castro, Nathalia Acevedo Willebaldo Torres
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Post Tenebras Lux comes with a certain pedigree. Director Reygadas established his reputation with previous pictures Japón (2002), Battle in Heaven (2005) and Silent Light (2007) and his latest won the best director award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Despite (or perhaps because of ) this Post Tenebras Lux may be among the most obscure films ever made. It begins strongly. A lone child wanders through a field, surrounded by dogs and cattle, against a dramatic backdrop of cliffs and forest. Who is this child? Why is she alone? Suddenly the sky darkens, lightning flashes and thunder follows. The child calls out ‘Mama’. The dogs run past again. As a prologue it is both lyrical and sinister. After this striking opening a sort of narrative develops around an upper-middle class Mexican family. Juan and Natalia (Castro and Acevedo) live in a lush rural area with their two children. Their large house and garden is tended to by workingclass labourers who live nearby in a shack. The couple are having issues, Juan is addicted to internet porn (although we see no evidence of this) and beats his favourite dog (not a euphemism) and Natalia appears listless, possibly depressed. The film plays out as a series of vignettes. Juan is taken to an AA meeting. The couple go on a swingers holiday which strays into uncomfortably graphic and specialist top-shelf territory. They go to a bar with ‘common people’ and Natalia gets sniffy. Intercut with this loose narrative are (seemingly) random scenes of an English high-school rugby match and a guy taking some kids duck hunting. There’s also a glowing nocturnal demon that appears when the family are asleep and wanders through the house carrying a toolbox. It’s hard to judge the performances in Post Tenebras Lux. The oblique framing of scenes means actors are often outside the frame. Both performers are adequate in their roles but too little is revealed of Juan and Natalia to make their characters particularly interesting. Aesthetically the film is stylish and carefully composed in the 1.33.1 aspect ratio. Takes are long with few cuts. This means events are often occurring just out of frame. A distorting lens is used for many scenes that give a ‘tunnel vision’ effect, shattering and refracting the image at the edges of the screen. The effect puts one in mind of the passage in Corinthians – ‘For now we see through a glass, darkly’ – but, as with so much here, it is hard to grasp a point to the technique. While individual scenes and passages of the film are fascinating, Post Tenebras Lux never coheres into a satisfying whole. Apparently the film is autobiographical – Reygadas was educated in England and played rugby – but you wouldn’t know this without doing some internet research. The title translates literally as ‘after darkness light’. While there’s plenty of darkness on display the promise of a moment of illumination is never realised and the film ultimately fades into a gloomy fog of ambiguity.
Review by Jordan McGrath
How do you follow up your indie hit? Expectations are high and, like a band tackling their second album after a great debut, the challenge to match previous success can be a daunting one. After the award-winning success story of Lee Daniel’s Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire, the director’s next attempt, The Paperboy, throws any expectation out of the window by taking a very unexpected and exciting new direction. This is a story poles apart from his previous work. A step that’s akin to Oasis following up Definitely Maybe with a surprising foray into Reggae. In the hot temperatures of ‘60s south Florida, Matthew McConaughey’s Miami reporter Ward Jansen returns to his hometown to investigate a death-row inmate’s rumoured wrongful conviction. With the help of his writing partner Yardley (David Oyelowo) and his younger brother Jack (Zac Efron), they join forces with the inmate’s future wife, death-row groupie Charlotte (Nicole Kidman) to fight his innocence. However, the search for the truth starts to reveal more about themselves than the case. The Paperboy is out of the comfort-zone filmmaking – a sweaty, flamboyant, hyper-stylised sexploitation flick that showcases not only the director’s bravura but also its cast’s. In the same vein as last year’s Killer Joe or Craig Brewer’s Black Snake Moan, it gives us a sultry slice of white trash America in all its redneck glory. Kidman’s almost unrecognisable bleached Barbie doll is a perfect signifier of the lurid sexual politics in play. The film’s trajectory is as horny as a 13 year old boy discovering the female form. Stodgily flip-flopping through his plot, it’s quickly noticeable that Daniels’ main interest isn’t the films story. Happier to play with his actors than orchestrate a cutting narrative, he juggles with the tones of each scene. Some moments fizzle and die, others are pure energy, with the odd one existing in its own world of utter absurdity. Never even attempting to capture a momentum from its disparate noir-ish elements, instead it bubbles in its own salacious juices. Although these could be seen as criticisms it’s enjoyable seeing a film that wears such radical excessiveness on its sleeve. Already being talked up as a potential future cult classic it is hard to begrudge this slimy BMovie a possible place in that pantheon. Wonderfully photographed with gorgeous 16mm sheen by Roberto Schaefer it’s a fantastic homage to a type of cinema that no longer exists. An against-type cast delivers the goods in an against-type movie. Seemingly throwing a bucket of paint onto the wall, Daniels – some may say fortunately – turns the chaos into a piece of art rather than a mess that needs to be cleaned up. It might fall apart a little in its third act but as a piece of intentional train-wreck cinema, you can’t tear your eyes away. As with all great guilty pleasures there’s a feeling The Paperboy should somehow be a bit cleaner and less messy but, as with Kidman’s under-dressed, over-sexed Charlotte, there’s an undeniable, perverse attraction.
The Paperboy cert (15)
release date 15th March
director Lee Daniels writers Peter Dexter, Lee Daniels starring Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack
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director Franck Khalfoun writers Alexandre Aja, Grégory Levasseur, C.A. Rosenberg starring Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder
Review by David Hall
release date 15th March
Tightrope walking a precarious line between fevered salaciousness and measured distance, this neondrenched upgrade of William Lustig’s grotty 42nd street cheapie is surprisingly accomplished, distinctive and frequently unsettling. Frank (Elijah Wood) is a mannequin restoration artist by day and sociopathic killer of women by night. His ability to function normally is frequently compromised by psychotic episodes recalling childhood sexual trauma and his mother’s death. Frank scalps his young, always beautiful, victims and takes their skull caps back to his workshop, enacting out demented fantasies. But when he meets a pretty young photographer Anna (an open, likable Nora Arnezender) who wants to use his dolls for an exhibition, a disturbing friendship opens up. Director Franck Khalfoun and cinematographer Maxime Alexandre shoot Maniac (one pivotal moment aside) entirely from the killer’s POV. It’s a confrontational and claustrophobic choice, placing us in immediate proximity to Wood’s barely pitiable lead. Although scarcely a new innovation (recalling both Jonas Åkerlund’s video for The Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch up and TV’s Peep Show) it is, for the most part, a lethally effective strategy. Aiding the oppressive vibe is Rob’s dizzyingly propulsive electronic score. Initial misgivings about the casting of Wood prove unwarranted. He’s actually an excellent choice; displaying a saturnine malevolence utterly befitting his character. His burgeoning relationship with Anna is certainly a lot more believable than the (odd) coupling of the late Joe Spinell (who co-wrote the first movie and is credited here) and Caroline Munro in Lustig’s film. The original 1980 Maniac is a sweatstained string vest of a picture chiefly remembered amongst horror fans for its FX work from Tom Savini, a spectacularly provocative poster campaign and, most of all, Spinell himself. Viewed now, Spinell’s lead manages to simultaneously be that films’ prize and its major stumbling block. While he fits the bill as a squalid mummy’s boy psycho, the idea that his character’s world would ever dovetail with Munro’s stretches credulity in ways that even knowledge of their real-life friendship can’t overcome. There’s a logical reading of both Maniacs as deluded internal male fantasy (particularly in their shared, lurid, absurdist endings) but at least here there’s some verisimilitude. Wood’s creepy soft voice and superficially polite demeanour strengthens the source material’s evident debt to Hitchcock’s Psycho too. Ultimately Maniac is still peddling the same onenote, male-perspective, sociopathic gruel of the original but does so with such uncomfortable force, élan and panache it’s hard not be impressed. The film radiates an immediate, thrilling emptiness; channelling a mood of dread that, for viewers of a certain vintage, will recall memories of watching just the type of 80s video nasty the original represents. Its fidelity to this aesthetic will be as much a barrier to enjoyment for non-aficionados as it will sate gore-bores for whom pics like Maniac are sacrosanct objects not to be tampered with. A cinematic 12” electro remix of a grimy DIY punk track, this is a deliberately disreputable (even, at times, darkly comic) work that respects, refines and improves on its source.
Good Vibrations release date 29th March
director Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn Review by Dan Auty
The mythology of rock’n’roll is often an awkward fit for the biopic. Cinema is filled with examples of engaging biographical accounts of great musicians - Walk the Line, Bird or Control - but by grounding the creative and sometimes magical process of making music in something as mundane as a historical account of a life, most end up being far less engaging and exciting than the art their subjects made. Good Vibrations is a rare biopic that does manage to capture that same thrill, largely because it is about a fan, not a musician. Terri Hooley is known as the godfather of Belfast punk, whose lifelong worship of music led him to set up the Good Vibrations record shop and subsequent label, in the violence-strewn Northern Irish capital during the late 1970s. Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn’s film opens with Hooley DJing in empty pubs as regular punters are afraid to go out and proceeds to show how his unwavering dedication to bringing music to others breathed life into the city’s artistic scene and brought kids from either side of the political divide together. While Good Vibrations celebrates Hooley’s endeavours and the importance of this life-changing music, the film is absolutely tied to political circumstance. Through clever use of stock period footage, D’Sa and Leyburn create a palpable sense of just how bad the troubles were; as Hooley sees former friends take sides and declare war on one another. One key scene shows Terri gather together his one-time music-loving colleagues in an attempt to head off the trouble that his non-sectarian shop might stir up, using a free vinyl giveaway to mend fences, while the barricades and barbed wire outside his regular gig venue speak volumes for the fear that existed on the streets during this era. It’s this tense backdrop that gives the music an extra charge - this wasn’t just kids getting into loud guitars to annoy their parents, it was an escape and a resistance to a situation they felt they had very little to do with. Although the film features all the expected rise/fall/rise biopic conventions the directors frequently undercut them in unexpected ways. The moment Hooley first hears the life-changing roar of Teenage Kicks is represented purely by the expression on his face; not a note of music is heard as it blasts through his headphones. And even the inevitable fund-raising gig that forms the film’s celebratory climax plays out unconventionally. Leading man Richard Dormer delivers a magnetic depiction of Hooley, capturing the different, often contradictory sides to this man in a way that rarely feels false. He is ably supported by Jodie Whittaker, playing his dedicated wife Ruth, whose support of Terri goes far beyond what many wives might be prepared to put up with. There are some amusing recreations of other real-life folks - Feargal Sharkey, John Peel - but for the most part Good Vibrations is not a film about fame or money. It’s about how music affects the ordinary man, and that mysterious, intangible power that can sometimes effect genuine positive change.
writers Colin Carberry, Glenn Patterson starring Liam Cunningham, Adrian Dunbar, Dylan Moran, Andrew Simpson
END OF THE LINE a pre vie w of Omid Nooshin’s upcoming British thriller, Last Passenger
A low-budget, independently-produced thriller about passengers trapped on a hijacked London train, upcoming British feature Last Passenger marks the debut of writer/director Omid Nooshin
Last Passenger (2013)
Stars: Dougray Scott, Lindsay Duncan, David Schofield, Kara Tointon Release: 2013 date TBC Synopsis: Lewis Shaler, an overworked doctor and single dad is heading home with his young son on the last train when he discovers the brakes have been sabotaged. As the speeding locomotive ploughs through stations and level crossings, Lewis realises the police are powerless to stop the diesel train, and its driver and the desperate passengers must find their own way out of this nightmare.
Omid Nooshin tells us about the film: “It began life as a daydream. I was sitting on a train leaving London and started wondering what would happen if it simply didn't stop. It's a kinetic, visual microcosm for a thriller rooted in genuine human emotion, with a rich psychological vein to be mined by stripping away the veneer of safety in society, exploring how being powerless can spark our most primal fears. This notion inspired the subjective approach, telling the story purely from the point of view of the passengers on the train, putting the audience in the protagonist's shoes for a vicarious thrill ride. There's a mythic resonance, being trapped in the Belly of the Whale, but there’s also an existential dimension, hurtling towards the end of the line, towards certain death. I’m drawn to the work of anthropologist Ernest Becker who posited that mortality buffering actions constituted a kind of science of human behaviour. The notion of regular guys having to step up really resonates with me. Everyday heroism in the face of mortality.”
MARCH 2013 VERITE
In the Breathless/ Frame: A bout de soufflé “ To become immortal and then die”
words by Tom Gore
odard’s ubiquitous cinematographer Raoul Coutard once said: “there are only two subjects in Jean-Luc’s films: death and the impossibility of love”. His first and most accessible film: Breathless/A bout de soufflé could be regarded as a perfect illustration of this. The image we see here is a reaction shot of Jean Seberg as Patricia Franchini, an aspiring American reporter in Paris. Having been assigned to cover a press conference for a visiting writer named Parvulesco (director Jean-Pierre Melville in a memorable cameo) at Orly Airport for the New York Herald Tribune (in part, it is inferred, by seducing her editor/bureau chief) she has struggled to make herself heard and get her questions across amongst the rabble of journalists and cameramen. Finally, towards the end of the interview she asks the writer “What is your greatest ambition in life”? To which he responds (somewhat flippantly): “To become immortal and then die”. Patricia, who has hitherto seemed unfazed by anything, including her affair with Michel Poiccard ( Jean-Paul Belmondo) a charming French sociopath and petit criminal on the run from the Paris Police after gunning down a cop en route from Marseille (a fact which is unbeknownst to her at this stage), suddenly seems vulnerable and stares pensively into the camera resting her sunglasses on her lip. It is as if she is suddenly aware of her mortality and the danger inherent in this relationship. It is perhaps at this moment, in this very shot, that the seed of her betrayal is first planted. Throughout the film Patricia (despite her more than passable French) is constantly asking Michel to clarify the meaning of what he has just said, particularly when he uses French slang. Such a scenario is repeated most
famously at the conclusion of the film when Michel, bleeding to death in the street after having been shot by the Police, utters his last words: “C’est vraiment dégueulasse” meaning “It’s really disgusting/it makes me want to puke”. As she has previously in the film Patricia, who doesn’t recognise the word dégueulasse (an expression of disapproval/disgust that is used throughout the film and can be variously translated), enquires as to what this means. No longer able to answer, Michel suffers the ironic indignity of having his final words to his lover, merely a general observation on his predica-
ment, mistranslated by his relentless pursuer Police Inspector Vital as “YOU make me want to puke”. Thus Patricia, rather than the world at large, becomes the object of his dying scorn. Upon hearing this we are reminded of her response during the airport scene as she once again stares blankly into space, this time trailing her thumb back and forth across her lips (aping Michel’s oft-repeated Bogartian mannerism) and asks: “Qu’est-ce que c’est dégueulasse/What does dégueulasse mean”? In these two shots of Jean Seberg’s face, bookending the final act of the film, Michel’s fate has come full circle.
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Founder / Editor-in-Chief / Designer
thanks: Contributors James Marsh Andrew Nerger Evrim Ersoy Tom Gore Stuart Barr Dan Auty
Photography Peter Repka
Proofing Celina Grace
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Image credits: Fox Searchlight: 1, 8, 10-12, 40, 51 / Alliance, Momentum: 14, 17 / eOne Entertainment: 15, 16, 42 / Peter Repka: 26, 28-29 / Joko Anwar: 30-33 / Eureka Entertainment: 36-38 / Verve Pictures: 43 / Independent Cinema Office: 44 / Lionsgate : 45 / Metrodome: 46 / The Works: 47 / Omid Nooshin: 48 / Death Waltz Records: 52
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Death Waltz Records Cover Artwork 52
MARCH 2013 VERITE