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Cinema is a non-conventional and non-symbolic language, that expresses reality through reality itself. Pier Paolo Pasolini


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Contents p6. THE FALLING / And Soon The Darkness p16. THE TRIBE / The Violent Sound of Silence p24. A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH... / I Am The Pigeon p32. CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA / Persona Non Grata p38. ORSON WELLES / Centenary Celebration p60. Top 5 American Street Gangs p70. BERLINALE / Back to Form p78. SOUTH AMERICAN CINEMA / Recession, Resurgence... p86. KALEI DOSCOPE / Shadows and Doubt p90. S. F. W. / In Defence... p96. LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN / In the Frame


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Editor's Letter


elcome to the new issue. Ever since Dreams Of A Life announced her arrival as a major British talent, we’ve been anticipating what director Carol Morley might do next. Now The Falling has arrived and we had no hesitation in making it our cover feature. Stuart Barr discusses the genesis of this unsettling, beguiling picture with Morley in a wide-ranging interview. Elsewhere, in a special extended feature, we asked five of our distinguished contributors to offer personal takes on Orson Welles in his centenary year. And the only thing we’ve asked in return is for them to steer as far as possible away from discussing that man. Yeah, Charles Foster Kane. Great though the film remains, we’ve surely heard and read enough about that particular cinematic milestone elsewhere. Also in the issue, Joe Fahim reports from

a re-energised Berlinale and looks at one of the year’s most controversial and anticipated films of 2015, The Tribe. We’ve got extended features on two of spring’s big arthouse releases - Clouds Of Sils Maria and A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence - and Tom Gore discussing South American road movies with writer Natalia Pinazza. Our regular Top Five feature returns, with a focus on American street gangs on screen, and Kelsey Eichhorn puts Letter From An Unknown Woman ‘In The Frame’. Adam Lowes provides a passionate defence of the derided 90s teen grunge flick S. F. W. and, in a new semi-regular feature looking at most intriguing films that failed to make it to the screen, David Hall considers Alfred Hitchcock’s sexy euro thriller that never was - Kaleidoscope. We hope you enjoy the issue. See you in the summer.

Thanks for reading, Jordan McGrath and David Hall

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and soon

the darkness Stuart Barr discusses mass hysteria, adolescent sexuality and cinematic ambiguity with Carol Morley, the director of The Falling



s a filmmaker and documentarian, Carol Morley approaches her subjects from a highly personal, impressionistic perspective. This is most evident in 2011’s Dreams of a Life, the film that brought her work to a wider audience. Her latest feature film, The Falling, set in an English girls’ grammar school in 1969, cements her growing reputation as a vital and exciting voice in British cinema. Maisie Williams (Game of Throne’s Arya Stark) plays Lydia; an adolescent who succumbs to a fainting illness. Her symptoms gradually spread through the other students, much to the dismay of the teachers and her mother (played by regular Morley collaborator Maxine Peake). When I met the director she was in ebullient mood. Quick to laugh, excitable and enthusiastic, Morley raised the ambient pleasantness of the room by several degrees despite the

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outside January chill. Her habit of referring to her cast as her ‘girls’ further added to the impression of someone who could easily have a second calling as a beloved school art teacher should the film work dry up (on this evidence, very unlikely). Morley traces the genesis of The Falling to her short film, The Madness of the Dance, (2006). “That looked at the history of mass hysteria, mass psychogenic illness as it’s called now”, says Morley, “I thought, this is fascinating, because it is still a mystery. It’s gone on since medieval times. It often happens in single sex institutions, nunneries, convents and schools.” Morley was drawn to the idea of a girls’ grammar school and the year 1969 as the setting for her story. “Mass psychogenic illnesses reflect the anxieties of their time. Nowadays they would be about something in the food or chemicals. The ones I was looking at from


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the 60s were often anxieties around sex and sexuality. They were getting talked about in the media in a very different way, especially female sexuality. “I was looking at female adolescence and how, [despite] the idea of the swinging 60s it was still very much a repressed place. If you were outside of the King’s Road it wasn’t this kind of open-to-all time. But those ideas were seeping in through television and popular music. “People were becoming very aware, of change. I thought the late 60s was a very adolescent period in a way and it was a perfect time to look at adolescent girl identity. “For me identity is fascinating because we all struggle [with it]. I don’t think it is just being a teenager, we all struggle with what that is and what that means. Lydia says at one point, “we are all three people”. The person we think we are, the person others see, and the person we

really are. I think that is a fascinating concept – who we are in the world.” Initially the school principal and senior staff are highly resistant to the idea the fainting outbreak is anything more than an extreme example of ‘acting out’. But when a mass outbreak of fainting occurs during a school assembly, their attitudes change. The scene is mounted in heightened style, with the girls swooning in waves and making theatrical gestures. I ask Morley how she approached the scene. “One of the things I did in research was look at school archives. I loved that during assemblies [in the 60s and 70s] you would have a group of people dancing in leotards, really writhing about and doing strange things. “I thought you could incorporate that in a way that shows they own it, they own the theatricality. So when there is that mass outbreak during assembly, for me it’s about the fantasy

of the situation. “Early on when I had the girls and was sort of bonding with them, they all brought their favourite song from 1969. They all sang and played instruments together, forming an alternative school orchestra. That was brilliant. “We worked with a movement coach because if people are to fall in a film you are supposed to have mats that are about two foot high, but I wanted to film the floor. She taught them to fall onto hard surfaces. They became very confident in falling. In fact the [assembly scene] was rehearsed in one hour, during a lunch break. With a greater incidence of mass psychogenic illness in predominantly female single sex environments, does Morley link emotionality to this illness? “Well, they do say that it comes down to a kind of socialisation [and that] a typical outbreak of mass hysteria would be female.

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“One of the aspects of mass psychogenic illness is you pass on your symptoms through verbalising them. So they say women express their emotions through verbal dialogue more. They would express that they weren’t feeling well in a way that a guy probably wouldn’t. I think that is one of the reasons why it affects young women more. “When you say the theatricality of the assembly [scene] what I loved about it was that it is a visible show of rejecting something. It feels oppositional in some way. I feel there’s a sense that the outbreak is quite political – which I love.” Some may call The Falling a British ‘teen movie’. However, a prerequisite of that genre is a restricted viewpoint. A recent example would be the horror film It Follows, which marginalises adult characters to the edge of, or outside of, the frame. Lydia is the central character of Morley’s film, but is far from the sole point of view. At various points the viewpoint switches to senior teachers (Monica Dolan and Greta Scacchi) and Lydia’s mother. Morley allows her characters a degree of complexity that may render them ‘unsympathetic’, but in allowing her adult characters a point of view, she can intelligently set up an inter-generational dialogue – exploring the depths of this theme that many ‘teen movies’ skate over the surface of. A key line from Monica Dolan’s teacher comments on this, remarking that if the adolescent girls think they are confused they should try being middle-aged women. Lydia’s mother has extreme agoraphobia. Does Morley see the adults’ own identity issues influencing the fainting outbreak? “I think it is fascinating because [there is] this idea that somehow things become resolved as you get older. When I was a teenager


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I thought when you become an adult there would be some sort of resolution. Or you become something else. And I don’t believe that anymore. “The adults in The Falling have lived through the Second World War. They’ve lived through a period of austerity. That world [of the adolescent] must have seemed very strange, very free, very easy in some ways, even though it had its own difficulties. “I felt that tension between the adults and their history. I really wanted to give a complexity to them so that you understand them and their world. “ One of Morley’s stated reference films is Peter Weir’s 1975 Picnic at Hanging Rock. The Falling shares a similar mysterious atmosphere and also deliberately withholds definitive explanation. I ask Morley does she know the cause of the girls’ malady? “That is the thing that fascinates me most. When I spoke to a psychiatrist about it, his point of view is that they are psychogenic in origin; the emotions becoming psychological. So an emotional state becomes a psychological state becomes a physical state. Your emotions become a physical manifestation, you start to twitch, and you start to faint. “But on the other hand [the psychiatrist] said [outbreaks] are still mysteries because if [we] faked a fit, we could last about ten minutes. People with mass psychogenic illnesses, or conversion disorders – which are a similar

Morley intelligently sets up an inter-generational dialogue exploring the depths of this theme that many ‘teen movies’ skate over the surface of.

thing but it happens to one person – could do that for 30, 40 minutes. But when you scan their brain, there is nothing going on that would indicate how that is the case. They are mysteries and for me that is the fascinating element, that they cannot be resolved. “I kind of believe various readings. I believe that it could be almost a collective thing where something unconscious has come in. But I also believe that it could be something in the water. Or it could be an emotional state. I didn’t want to close things down. “I liked that on YouTube someone had seen the trailer and written ‘I think it is asbestos in the walls, and fungus’. I thought ‘brilliant’ because if you allow people to bring themselves to it they will find their own solutions, which is better than me going ‘let’s close it down, let’s give one solution.’” Dreams of a Life was a haunting and disturbing documentary film mixing reportage, talking heads interviews and dramatic reconstruction to exploring the death and life of a young woman whose remains were discovered in her council flat in front of a blaring TV three years after she died there. Uninterested in a morbid exploration of a mysterious death the film instead interrogated notions of social bonds and constructed identity. “I think it is quite an American idea, to give closure. Peter Weirs said that when Picnic at Hanging was shown in America they threw their coffee at the screen at the end and asked ‘what happened?’ So I think it’s quite an American idea of cinema, but it has infiltrated. I think the idea of ambiguity is more threatening. “With Dreams of a Life I wasn’t going to give a conclusion when it was impossible. The discussion keeps on going because it wasn’t closed down. I feel that with The Falling you

can say ‘look guys we can all share this’ and I think it opens it up more. I find it more exciting and more authentic in a way.” Although very specifically set in 1969, The Falling is not a typical period film basted in warm nostalgia. The institutional setting and uniforms are not on-fashion. Direct historical references are sparse and there is no wall-towall ‘Now That’s What I Call 1969’ Music here. Morley was quite conscious of this. “You know when you go and see a film and it’s so in your face it’s like you are prop watching? I didn’t want to make a film that was signposting 1969 too much. Morley gestures around the Soho House drawing room in which we sit. The room is slightly worn, wood panelled and filled with mismatched old furniture. ‘It’s not like we are in 2014 or whatever. I hate it when you see a film and it’s all of ‘that time’. “I wanted the film to feel as though it was footage we had found. As if it just already existed. I told Agnès [Godard, cinematographer] that, and she loved it. We didn’t quite know what it meant, but it was this sense that we weren’t imposing something on it. I feel sometimes when I watch period films, they feel so imposed on. I wanted it to feel that it breathed ultimately. “When I wrote the script I deliberately didn’t put any roads in, because then you have to put vintage cars in. I felt like it was a world of the imagination. There’s nature but you don’t see roads or buildings, apart from the school. It’s more of an internal idea.’” The corridors and classrooms of the school, and the cramped home in which Lydia’s mother’s agoraphobia has her trapped creates claustrophobia. Even the film’s significant exterior, a pond under an ancient oak tree, feels like an enclosure. This idyllic wooded

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spot where Lydia and Abbie daydream has an uncanny, magical atmosphere and – while Picnic at Hanging Rock is an obvious touchstone – the film has a particularly English feel. Mystic vapours hang in the air in the air as they do in an Alan Moore story or a Powell and Pressburger film. Morley is amused by the Powell reference, bringing up his 1944 masterpiece A Canterbury Tale. “That film is amazing. It’s so unexplained and I love that. I suppose that in a way at the back of my mind that was there, because it’s really English isn’t it? “ I suggest that Lydia’s older brother Kenneth (Joe Cole) with his fascination with Carl Jung and talk of ley lines brings an Alistair Crowley-esque spin to events. “He is like a Crowley figure and that’s what he’s into. But you can’t mention Crowley without going to the estate. But yes, all the P. D. Ouspensky stuff, and Jung, the idea of


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ley-lines and magick – something beyond what we can see. Kenneth is into all that. “I really love him for that. He is sort of entering the 70s and is perhaps the most with-it character. I feel he’s been to the King’s Road once and maybe he’s had a glimpse of that world. I always try and imagine where [characters] are now. [Kenneth] would be in his sixties, living in Brighton and running a record shop or something now. I always try and imagine what people would be in the future.” Maisie Williams brings the same quality to Lydia that is so effective in Game of Thrones; her elfin physicality, small stature and defiant bearing. There is a glint of cold steel in the eyes of both Lydia and Arya. Clearly this is what compelled Morley to cast her? “I’ve never seen Game of Thrones”, is her surprising reply, “We started the casting process with [casting director] Shaheen Baig and she said ‘cast the gang and then Lydia will

come out of that’. The way we found Florence Pugh (Abbie, Lydia’s more mature and worldly friend) was that we leafleted the Oxford area and Florence sent in a one-minute video. “But it was really that I was looking for a charismatic actor for both [Lydia and Abbie]. I was looking for something very specific. When we found Florence that was a really exciting moment, she walked in and I thought ‘she’s so right for this’. It was harder finding Lydia. “Maisie was filming so I didn’t see her for a couple of months, but she was always on my list. When she came in I knew straight away. I’d never seen her act in anything but what I had seen on YouTube was her being interviewed. I really like seeing people just as themselves in conversation, because you are going to draw from who they are and how they come across. “For me it wasn’t about what people had been in before. It was about whether they

could be the character. Maisie has something powerful about her. She has enormous instinct and real ability. She’s had dance training so she can do something again and again and again but it’s still as fresh as the first time. “Florence has been playing music since she was very young, and an ability to be and to communicate something without effort, so you don’t see the acting. They were amazing to work with, all the girls. And they worked brilliantly with each other.” The Falling features a score composed and performed by former Everything But The Girl singer and songwriter Tracey Thorn which perfectly complements to mood and period setting. Morley invited Thorn into the filmmaking process at an early stage. “While we were filming I had a dream that Tracy would do the music. I woke up contacted her through Twitter. She said she had never done anything like this before but would think

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Maisie Williams brings the same quality to Lydia that is so effective in Game of Thrones; her elfin physicality, small stature and defiant bearing. There is a glint of cold steel in the eyes of both Lydia and Arya.


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about it. I came back to London, met her, took her the instruments from the girl’s alternative school orchestra and said ‘compose on this’. I showed her about five minutes of the footage and she just came up with stuff based on what she felt. She responding to both the feeling and the instruments “Later on towards the end [of production] she saw the film and wrote some more material. I love working like that. Rather than scoring to picture and thinking ‘what does the audience need to feel now?’ or ‘what haven’t we done?’ I like to come up with all my songs before [filming], because the songs I want I use them to cut to. I play music on the set. All the girls would cry to Mary Hopkins because I kept playing it at sad moments. So it’s a really good way to work. Rather than telling someone where we are or should be I’d just play the music. And the whole crew and cast would be in that moment.”

“the best comedy of the year”  PETER BRADSHAW, THE GUARDIAN





AVAILABLE ON DEMAND NOW WhatWeDointheShadows #deliciousnecks


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The Violent Sound of Silence A silent Ukrainian movie with deaf and mute actors and no subtitles is one of the must-see films of 2015 writer JOSEPH FAHIM


t’s common knowledge that Cannes’ Critics’ Week is often discarded by critics. The sidebar, dedicated to first and second feature films, is often overlooked in favour of the main competition. Last year was no different, with most critics lining up to watch the latest from Leigh, the Dardennes and Ceylan. That is until news broke out about a little silent Ukrainian movie, entirely carried out by amateur deaf and mute actors and containing no subtitles for the sign language, that scooped the section’s top prize and took Cannes by a storm. The Tribe was the last film I saw in Cannes, and it was unlike anything I’ve seen at the fest; as a matter of fact, it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen period. Miroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s film is a bolt of lightning; a deeply disturbing, aesthetically daring, brilliantly executed experiment that ranks among the most original movies of the new century; an astonishing one-off that reinvents silent film language in a

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fashion unseen before. Eleven decades after the invention of cinema, new frontiers are left for filmmakers to explore. Before the resurrection of 3D at the beginning of the noughties, a number of films dabbled with silent film language to stir the still waters. Indian director Singeetham Srinivasa Rao’s The Love Chariot (1987) and Charles Lane’s Chaplin homage Sidewalk Stories (1989) were among the first productions of the modern era to take on silent film language. It wasn’t until Aki Kaurismäki’s Juha (1999) and especially Veit Helmer’s Tuvalu (1999) that silent film started to be in vogue again. Various similar attempts arrived on Tuvalu’s heels such as Renato Falcão’s Margarette’s Feast (2003); Andrew Leman’s The Call of Cthulhu (2005); Guy Maddin’s Band Upon Brain! (2006); Rolf de Heer’s Dr. Plonk (2007); Dan Pritzker’s Louis (2010); and Sylvain Chomet’s animated features The Triplets of Belleville (2003) and The Illusionist (2010). And then came The Artist in 2011 to take silent film to a broader audience. By the time Pablo Berger’s hit Blancanieves arrived a year later


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alongside Miguel Gomes’s meta-silent Tabu whose second half paid homage to the ethno fictions of Robert Flaherty, the neo-silent was no longer a retro fad but an essential cornerstone of a particular art-house cinema seeking originality by way of the past (a notable addition is Alexander Kott’s criminally underseen 2014 apocalyptical romance Test). The Tribe thus didn’t emerge out of nowhere, yet it remains the most radical achievement among the lot. By rooting itself firmly in the stark, unkind reality of present-day Ukraine, Slaboshpytskiy’s debut feature deviates away from the fantastical essence of neo-silents, marrying the aesthetics of post-Tarkovsky Soviet traditions with the frame compositions of Jacques Tati’s comedies. The Tribe is no silent-film pastiche; this is a slice of realism that defies any simple categorization. The first 15 minutes sets the tone of the film. A teenage boy is seen from afar asking for direction in a bus stop. The camera is still; the content of the actual dialogue is unheard, covered by the rattle of traffic noise in a

conceit Slaboshpytskiy would employ in varied forms throughout. A long unbroken tracking shot follows him as he climbs up copious stairs and settles at the entrance of what appears to be a school. There’s a ceremony taking place, an inaugural one we assume. We watch the students’ movement from the camera’s stationary position, but we don’t hear any sound. The students emerge from back of the frame, greet the principle on the right-hand of the screen with flowers. We hear no dialogue as the camera maintains its motionlessness. The teenage boy finally appears again after the dissolution of the ceremony, and exits the frame shortly afterwards. Slaboshpytskiy firmly establishes his visual grammar from the get-go; alternating between long, unbroken tracking shots and equally long still compositions that drive its energy from the meticulously choreographed movement inside the frame. The movement of his characters appears exaggerated at first, but once the viewer is settled with the rhythm and ticks of sign language, this sense of hyper motion soon dissipates.

The teenage boy is Sergey (Grigory Fesenko), a new student joining what we realize is a boarding school for the deaf and mutes. His name is dispatched from the press book, yet during the course of the film, it’s impossible to discern any of the characters’ names. With a fastidious commitment to realism, Slaboshpytskiy refuses to employ any stylized methods to fill in the gaps left by lack of exposition. We don’t know any background information about Sergey or his school peers; we don’t know who they really are, how they got there and what prompts them to behave the way they do. Same goes with the school: we don’t know whether it’s private or public, who runs it and why no form of authority is present. Adults are side-lined to the periphery, relegated to bitparts as the corrupt facilitators or the apathetic authority. Slaboshpytskiy encourages the viewer to fill in those gaps, focus on the little clues given in every frame and deduce meaning from the cryptic sign dialogue. A number of scenes relying solely on dialogue with little visual motifs can initially feel pointless in their persistent

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ambiguity, yet they eventually prove to be instrumental in setting the following sequences. The jovial impression that initially strikes us about the school immediately proves to be false. From the moment he sets foot in class, the innocent Sergey is bullied: shoved around from one room to another, strip-searched and mugged. What Slaboshpytskiy thrusts us into is a nightmare of a school that even the twisted mind of Larry Clark would not have been able to conjure. Sergey runs afoul of the dominant gang in school who appears to have a free reign. They abuse helpless kids, rob isolated bystanders and shoppers, raid trains and run a prostitution ring using two of their classmates. In a very telling scene, Sergey is thrown into a scuffle with the gang in a backyard populated by students. The fight breaks off – Sergey shows remarkable courage (and some surprising fighting skills) but is outnumbered by the gang members and ultimately knocked to the ground. At all times, the other students remain in the background, allowing Sergey to be assaulted as they assume the role of the inaudible, cheering spectators. This is a godless


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dog-eat-dog world where every man fights for himself, where the possibility of a divine intervention, of a safe exit, of love or compassion, is deemed naïve. To his and our surprise, the estranged Sergey is recruited by the gang to replace the girls’ escort – who gets crushed by a vehicle in the truck stop where the two are pimped. Sergey becomes a fully-functional member of the gang, carrying out the same abusing he was subjected to. Things get complicated when he embarks on a heated sexual affair with one of the girls (Yana Novikova) that plunges him further deep down the abyss as possessiveness and jealously take over him. The 41-year-old Slaboshpytskiy made a splash in the festival circuits with a series of multi-award winning shorts that now stand as fascinating precursors to The Tribe. The unflinching cruelty of Ukrainian teenage life is glimpsed in Diagnosis (2009), a piercing account of an HIV+ homeless girl who attempts to dispose of her baby before a member of her groups chokes him to death. Slaboshpytskiy first explored the deaf and mute world in

Deafness (2010), a brief episode in the lives of boarding school students that ends with one of them mercilessly attacked by two police officers. Its follow-up, Nuclear Waste (2012), was also silent, detailing the quotidian routine of a couple living in the secluded nuclear wasteland of Chernobyl (the reported subject of his next feature). In all his shorts, Slaboshpytskiy exhibits a mastery of mise-en-scène, employing his locales (rundown public housing, a quiet school plot, a remote nuclear facility) to set the cadence of his stories. Shock is an integral ingredient of his milieu, manifested in bouts of violence or unglamorous crude sex. These elements are amplified in The Tribe, a film devoid of the typical sentimentality associated with portrayal of the deaf and mute on screen. Various films old and new have attempted to delve into the world of the deaf and mutes, chief of which are Children of a Lesser God (1986), Johnny Belinda (1948), The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968) and Beyond Silence (1996). The closest companion to The Tribe is Maximón Monihan’s The Voice of the

Voiceless (2013), a little seen silent curio about a deaf girl who also discovers a world of crime in the Christian sign language boarding school she’s enrolled in. Shot in black & white, Monihan uses straightforward silent film language (albeit without the explanatory intertitles) to convey the plight of her tragic heroine, supplemented by a variety of sound effects to show how she perceives the world around her. The Tribe is markedly dissimilar to any of those films that always paint a sympathetic picture of their victimized protagonists in mostly melodramatic contexts. Slaboshpytskiy creates a set of protagonists and antagonists in a cut off world governed by Darwinian laws no different than ours. His camera occasionally glides outside the confined space of the school, hinting at a world bigger and freer, before it reassumes its original narrow perspective. The overwhelming feel of incarceration enlivening the film hints at a bigger picture of the forgotten and lost youth of a nation governed by corruption and lawlessness. In Slaboshpytskiy’s world, silence is not just a mode of expression; it’s the ultimate symbol of abandonment.

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Miroslav Slaboshpytskiy in his own words...


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On the genesis of The Tribe...


t wasn’t my intention to make a film about the deaf and mute community. I tried to make a film for a general audience about all of us. I grew up next to a deaf and mute boarding school and I always had this idea about making a film set in this environment. I was impressed by how they communicated; they seemed to communicate on a higher level than regular people. Sign language is technically composed of words, but for me, since I couldn’t understand it, it looked like magic… like a miracle. In college, I got an idea to make a homage to silent movies. There have been homages to silent movies, a lot in Russia actually, but they were all essentially stylizations of this type of cinema. I didn’t want to adopt the same clichéd designs; I didn’t want it to be black and white. I needed to have something more realistic, and in setting the story inside the deaf and mute boarding school, I had subjects who don’t verbally speak. The Tribe is therefore an homage to the spirit of silent movies, done in a universal language not specified to any particular culture. The story is also universal: everybody has their school battles; everyone experiences the hardships of growing up; everybody is interested in sex when they’re young.

On bringing his concept to screen...


had the idea of the film — a modern silent with deaf and mute actors — for more than 20 years. I didn’t start working on it until 2011. My short Deafness allowed me to establish good connection with the deaf and mute community in Ukraine and from there, I began to conduct my research. I visited various deaf and mute schools and started to observe how they study, how they discuss topics with their teachers, how they spend their time outside the class and gradually, I began to formulate my story. I didn’t know sign language and I found it too complicated and difficult to study. The script was no different from any normal script and included actual dialogue that the actors re-enacted in sign language. Subtitles or intertitles were never an option to me. That felt like putting explanatory instructions while watching Swan Lake for instance. I had a very strong concept; an experiment of film language; something akin to Perec’s “A Void” (the famous 1969 novel written without the letter ‘e’). I didn’t know if this experiment would work out or not, but I wanted to make it anyway. I didn’t want to give the audience any explanation — I didn’t want any verbal dialogue, no music to direct their emotions. I naturally wrote the script in a manner that allows the audience to follow the story; some viewers may struggle to be emotionally involved in it, but they would at least comprehend it on a basic level. The shooting was divided between autumn and winter. During the break, I watched a 44-minute cut and I found myself quite hypnotized. I knew then we were on the right track.

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I am the Pigeon



ast year at the 71st Venice International Film Festival, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence was unveiled to the world and went on to claim the coveted Golden Lion before playing at various other global film festivals. On April 24, it will go head-to-head with The Avengers: Age of Ultron when it is finally released in UK cinemas, thus providing an almost perfect example of theatrical counter-programming. Hilarious and idiosyncratic title aside, it is the first film in seven years from cult Swedish director Roy Andersson, who will conclude the work begun almost two decades ago by fading to black on his self-proclaimed trilogy about being human. As alluded to in the eponym of its third chapter, the triptych might be better considered a series about observing and considering humanity. Indeed, in an interview published by the Guardian last summer he admitted “It’s me thinking about existence. I project myself as a pigeon.”

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oy Andersson was going to be an author, but he saw too many good movies. That may be the amalgamation of a dozen apocryphal quotes, but the director does attribute his chosen profession partially to Vittorio de Sica’s The Bicycle Thieves. The film’s focus, on the kinds of people that traditional cinema might not deign to bother with, had a great influence on him. As a twelve year-old sitting in his local youth centre, he warmed to de Sica’s richly empathetic storytelling and humanism. Born in 1943, and growing up surrounded by the bustling toil of Gothenberg’s boatyards, he was a naturally left-leaning student at film school, but politically charged pieces about Zimbabwe and the Vietnam War went down like lead balloons with school inspector, Ingmar Bergman. Told at a young age that such leftist content would prevent him ever working in feature films hardly dampened his spirit, though; he identifies himself as having been a radical in his youth and he has remained a social activist throughout his life. Some find his politics a strange match to the primary bread-winner that is his career as a commercials director. With over four hundred adverts under his belt, he admittedly takes each one as seriously as he takes features - but it is into documentaries and shorts that he has more overtly indulged


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his lively spirit. His cinematic features regularly include highly provocative moments but mute them with a tone both comedic and existential, unlike his 1987 short Something Has Happened. Commissioned by the Swedish Board of Health to raise awareness about AIDS, it is capped by an assertion that the proliferation of blame for the AIDS epidemic on the African populace is ingrained international racism. He expands that the virus was probably cooked up by American scientists in much the same way that the Nazi’s experimented during World War II. Hardly surprising, the short was not broadcast in schools as was originally intended. However, having now passed seventy, he has mellowed somewhat in his old age. His early inspiration by the filmmakers of the Czech New Wave movement in the late sixties has given way in later years; in the mid-eighties his attention turned from cinematic influences to wider artistic ones. Each interview or profile you read will point in different directions, but there are numerous references to the poetry of André Breton and César Vallejo or paintings in the traditions of Expressionism, Symbolism and New Objectivity. A plain-spoken and humble man, Andersson perhaps cuts a surprising figure when coined as “a slap-stick Ingmar Bergman.” Of course, his films equally bely their wide-angle scope.

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he curtain was raised on Andersson’s feature film career with the shot of a red velvet curtain rising. A moment of acknowledged artifice in a film that went on to be anything but, 1970’s subtle and sublime A Swedish Love Story. With the Czech New Wave’s appropriation of cinema vérité at the forefront of his mind, it is a tale of romance between two teenagers, Pär and Annika, across one heady and lingering summer. Devastatingly evocative, it’s intimate and universal in a way that the English title may not suggest - naturally, the original Swedish title is just A Love Story. Lensed by Jörgen Persson - who was the Director of Photography for Bo Widerberg’s Adalen 31 on which Andersson was Assistant Director - it creates a constant sense of proximity to the youngsters with its recurring close-ups. The camera scarcely gets far away enough for a mid-shot, let alone a long one, unless there is some geography to contextualise within the scene. Otherwise the shots are tight and often targeted on the faces of the young stars, Rolf Sohlman and Ann-Sofie Kylin. Their courtship is conveyed through glances exchanged across an arcade


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or a heaving dance floor - barely a word is uttered between the two in flirtation, and their relationship begins with the simple act of Annika placing a hand on Pär’s moped seat as the group of friends walk along a dusky roadside together. After the success of A Swedish Love Story, which was submitted as Sweden’s nominee for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1971 Academy Awards, Andersson was determined to do something different. Alas, his follow-up Giliap, a deadpan dark comedy, was released in 1975 to critical derision and box-office failure. Some have cited its “film club” philosophical pretension while Andersson himself concludes that it is flawed, but equally he believes that it was unfavourably reviewed because it was such a departure from his debut. In fact, Giliap may have been a misstep - with drastic consequences - but it is one that was still heading towards the tone and aesthetic that he would go on to dream up many years hence. The stylised settings and droll milieu are undoubtedly precursors to what would appear in the far better received works a quarter of a century later. The deadpan humour is actually there to see in A Swedish Love Story, too. Although the

viewer is quite rightly swept up amongst the sun-drenched infatuation of the teenage romance, the contrasting adult world of the film is a much more awkward and tragicomic place. In an early scene, Eva unloads on the far younger Annika about her perpetually nixed dreams of becoming an air stewardess, while Pär’s grandfather laments the plight of the lonely - referring to himself - in the modern world. In the closing stages, the lovers take a backseat to the eccentricities of their surrounding adult families. A Swedish Love Story emphasises the confidence and exuberance of youth with the pained regret that appears all around it. Despite this pre-existing undercurrent, though, Giliap not only bombed, but torpedoed Andersson’s career as only a sophomore slump can. Frozen out of the Swedish filmmaking community, commercials became the only viable source of income, and so his primary paying career was born. He harboured a great deal of anger and resentment during the early years of his theatrical exile, but in 1981 he founded his own production company, Studio 24, in Stockholm and a few years later re-calibrated his approach to cinema. In 2000, his first film in twenty-five years was released.

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ongs from the Second Floor not only announced Andersson’s return to the big screen, but also represented the birth of his new, and profoundly unique, aesthetic. Its striking visual style and meandering narrative convention would go on to be replicated and refined in You, The Living (2007) and now arguably perfected with his Venice-conquering A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on a Existence. Each of the three films is painstakingly constructed as a series of upwards of three dozen meticulous tableaux vivants – observed from a distance in locked-off camera shots – that converge around no real plot to speak of, but pick up and drop characters’ threads here and there as they recur in various states of stupefied distress. The cause of anxiety for most is the unyielding dark heart of this dour representation of modern capitalist society in which the privileged are condemned and the poor unfortunates pitied - all with a sense of ironic surrealism that wheedles its way under the skin and makes Andersson’s films unshakeable long after the credits have rolled. In You, The Living a working class man is sentenced to death by the electric chair for an inexplicable and ill-conceived attempt at the classic ‘whip off the tablecloth’ magic trick during a social function of some status. Of course, the power generator for the chair is faulty and a flummoxed engineer fingers through the manual just as a sheepish priest and very reticent prisoner enter the room in a perfectly timed and balanced showcase of biting mockery and irresistible tragedy. That particular divide is the cornerstone of Andersson’s later films which all render it with


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immaculate precision. It is a world of passionless hues and cold white light. The walls vary slightly in colour but little in tone locking everything in a muted and drained palette of greens, browns and blues. That extends as far as the faces of the inhabitants who shuffle around with a ghostly pallor that exemplifies the apparent limbo of their lives long bereft of vivacity and laughter. Although he doesn’t give much credence to the fact that he is a typically Nordic filmmaker, Andersson has spoken about the compounding effect of his Scandinavian aesthetic on audiences. In the opening scene of You, The Living, for example – which features a small business owner waking up on his office sofa distraught with his miserable lot in life – the effect of the Swedish language and the pale colour scheme exacerbate the sense of loneliness and calamity, he concurs. That tacitly Scandinavian lighting and production design also seems to accentuate the mordant humour of such scenes lending a visually droll flavour that complements the similar one struck by the action. Each of the films has purportedly taken around four years to make, and it’s no surprise given the exacting and singular vision that has to be recreated. Everything has been shot on sound stages with the vistas and cityscapes visible through windows actually trompe l’oeils, painted with incredible photorealism by a labouring team of artists. This allows a signature quality of light, a darkening grey sky, to permeate all necessary scenes even if they have to be reshot fifty times to nail the execution. It also enhances the strangely conjured sense of a fourth wall that may not be quite so affecting where it not for the undeniable sense

that the lens really is one. All scenes occur in one single static long shot and most in cafés, kitchens, offices that lend themselves to a typical sitcom setup. Even in scenes that take place outside, though, or in a room where the camera sits askew from any of the walls, the feeling of these characters incarcerated in a box – or on a stage – is difficult to ignore. One of the ways in which the style evolves throughout the trilogy is the expansion of this box. Andersson made a conscious decision to eschew the close-ups of A Swedish Love Story by the time Songs from the Second Floor rolled around and the long-shots that replace them create the, almost clinical, observational sense that he is striving for. By A Pigeon Sat on a Branch… the camera is even further away, and while this might notionally provide the subjects with more room and freedom, what it actually manages to do is tune into a frequency that amplifies their isolation while reinforcing their claustrophobia. Even in terms of composition, which has always been faultless, the impeccable knack of placement and timing seems to have been further elevated in this last effort – prompting laughter and provoking empathy with exquisite rigour. Though certain individuals might perhaps be considered central to each film’s diasporic vignettes – a ruined businessman, two ‘novelty item’ salesmen – they thrive more on recurring motifs than anything approaching character journeys. A repeated line in A Pigeon Sat on a Branch… sees several otherwise inconsequential characters speaking down a phone: “I’m glad to hear you’re doing fine.” It’s an instantly relatable conversation in which the person with the receiver to ear seems

unengaged but dutiful. The first time we hear it, a cleaner has stopped working to take the call. She is on the half-mopped floor of a corridor listen and murmuring in affirmation as a character from the previous scene strides past. Later on, an executive of some sort stands in the centre of a large office, with his phone to his ear; a gun dangles limply in the other hand at his side. We presume that the phone call - which he is barely an active participant in - interrupted his suicide. In the world of Roy Andersson, not even that can go according to plan. Every single character is arcing into some desperately absurd spiral and the shadow of death looms large over all – the film opens with three scenes that revel in the small humiliations of our demise. For those are what Andersson sees when he reflects on existence. He does not care for grand narrative, or heroic last stands. His formative years amongst the hard working men and women of Gothenberg have engendered a fascination with the working-class mundanity – small moments of comedy and despair. Enormous themes are broached, religion, the monarchy, politicians and the elite classes all get a skewering, but in the service of presenting the struggles of keeping on. In Songs from the Second Floor there is an impending apocalypse, and for Roy Andersson it is not a reason to turn and fight, but to flee as quickly as your failing legs and overloaded airport trolley can carry you. That such sensibility can craft three films of such pained hilarity and hilarious pain from this loosely interconnected portraits of absurdism is a real masterstroke – and A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence is perhaps the pièce de résistance.

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Persona Non Grata Adam Marshall sees uncanny similarities with a recent Oscar winner in Oliver Assayas’ latest



t is difficult to review Clouds of Sils Maria without evoking comparisons with Iñárritu’s Birdman - particularly in the wake of the latter’s colossal awards season success. Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is a revered actress of stage and screen. But after thirty years in the business she’s become tired of the Hollywood circus and its unrelenting new obsession for blockbuster sci-fi and super hero flicks. “I’m sick of actors hanging from wires on green screens”, she laments in the film’s very first reel, “I’ve out grown it”. Her career has been steadily declining since her break-out role – the one that made her name and still evokes effusive praise from her greying acolytes – playing an eighteen-yearold siren in a Sophoclesian tragedy ominously titled Maloja Snake. A reflex action, the maxim “I played Sigrid in Maloja Snake” is a permanent fixture on Maria’s lips; like an admission at the roll call of an addicts’ meeting. But Maria’s vice isn’t

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booze or cocaine – it’s the intoxicating grip of an identity forever entwined with a teenage nymph that has taken an indefatigable hold. But now, at fiftyish, the supply of Maria’s drug of choice is drying up. The sudden death of Maloja Snake’s playwright quickly puts the wheels in motion for a revival, and she’s approached to star. Not as the young succubus Sigrid, but as her adoring prey Helena. To play the older woman would be to accept her time as a nubile enchantress has passed. But surely that is better than not being in the spotlight at all? “Time’s gone by and she can’t accept it… me neither I guess” Maria admits forlornly. She retreats to the spectacular Swiss hills of Sils Maria to immerse herself in the text that has, by measures, dogged and edified her public brand and private thoughts for three decades. She ditches her furs and oversized movie star shades; cuts her hair like Joan of Arc; loses the make-up and goes cold turkey from her parade of schmoozy parties and glossy magazine cover shoots. Maria takes along her personal assistant


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Valentine (Kristen Stewart), ostensibly for line readings and to handle her much-maligned social media presence. But Val is also Maria’s methadone. A Sigrid substitute she can use and abuse to finally wean herself off her own bittersweet obsession and become Helena. Clouds of Sils Maria plays out as a fascinating two-hander between Binoche and Stewart. One, the middle-aged luvvie who’s worked with all the greats, yet carries the entire spectrum of insecurities and mental vulnerability we’ve been educated to expect of the ageing actress. The other, self-assured but wide-eyed, eager to impress her custodian while also doggedly maintaining her own individuality. Maria and Val are compelling foils for one another. Maria is hungry to nourish herself with Val’s vitality and idealism. But Val is to Maria what Birdman’s growling disembodied voice is to Riggan – a haunting spectre of her past that must ultimately be vanquished. And Olivier Assayas’s smart script is wily enough not to slip in to stereotyping the pair. Maria is by degrees Norma Desmond, Elisabet

Vogler, Havana Segrand, Griffin Mill, and Assayas explores her contradictions with subtlety and substance. She decries the unavoidable omnipresence of bloggers and social media, before running off to her bedroom to Google binge on latest Hollywood gossip and the car-crash career trajectories of the latest starlets. She despises the media circus, but can’t resist arming herself with snack-sized PR nuggets on the day’s news headlines. She breaks down on receiving word of her mentor’s death, before immediately slinking into a little black Chanel dress for a sultry photo shoot. She fires reproachful profanities at a lecherous old former co-star, and then lures him into making a pass at her – a cheap high for the Sigrid in her, still spitefully seductive. It would be easy for Assayas to sneer at Maria’s fallibility and frailties but, like his most recent work, Something in the Air, his lens remains impartial. While we watch Binoche’s performance, the director’s attention is dominated by Maria’s show, revelling in her

contradictions. But that’s not to say that she dominates the picture itself. As a counterpoint, Val’s Sigrid incarnate is everything Maria no longer is. Kristen Stewart is quite superb here. There’s an honesty that she emanates in this and Still Alice that’s hard not to be charmed by. And she thrives on the duel with her infinitely more experienced co-star. The scenes between Binoche and Stewart shimmer and spark, the irresistible pneumatic pressure of their respect for one another; Val’s reverential, Maria’s grudging. With each run they take through the Maloja Snake script, the boundary between reality and fiction is blurred beyond definition. Like Iñárritu, Assayas smudges the lines between what’s happening on the page and what’s going on in the margins with ballpoint precision. Helen’s cloying neediness directly mirrors Maria’s unrelenting insecurity at being marooned by the Sigrid within herself. Scripted barbs punctuate the atmosphere between them. For once, Assayas’ often slightly

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distracting predilection for female homoeroticism is warranted. For one, sexual symbiosis seems the natural manifestation of the convergence between the two personas. And secondly, Maria is in love with Sigrid; in love with her younger self. Stewart - like the director - resists any impulse to lace Val with sarcasm. To the contrary, it’s strikingly refreshing to have a character in a film about the movie industry that actually seems to like it. Contemporary incarnations such as Birdman, Maps to the Stars and, less recently, Assayas’ own Irma Vep, are exclusively decked out with insiders that can’t wait to take a pop at cinema’s shallow futility. Conversely, Val discusses the latest 3D blockbuster as if it were Chekhov, conscious of its shortcomings but genuine in her enthusiastic appreciation. “She goes deep into the darker side of her character,” she says of the lead actress, while being spat at with a mocking guffaw from Maria, “It’s daring, it’s really daring.” And the praise is sincere rather than pretentious or knowing – there’s something pleasantly disarming about witnessing the


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naked nerdiness of fan culture. She’s one of us, and the naturalism of Stewart’s performance evokes this perfectly. Like Val, Assayas is clearly a cinephile, and the mechanics of the industry are, for him, previously trodden, fertile ground. You can go back nearly twenty years to his breakout feature Irma Vep to see the depiction of an emotionally unstable director struggling to remake the seminal 1910s film serial Les Vampires. In addition to its commentary on the deteriorating health of French cinema, there’s a playful wink to the audience with the casting of the director Jean-Pierre Léaud, the former child star of Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows). Truffaut won the best director award at Cannes in 1959 for that work, and Assayas’ latest is his fourth film to play in competition at the festival without success. But none of his filmography to date quite manages the poetry and profundity of Clouds of Sils Maria. That’s not say that Assayas is entirely disinclined from arching his eyebrow at the madhouse of the modern film industry. Maria’s chosen co-star for the Maloja Snake revival

is Jo-Ann Ellis – enfant terrible and wunderkind (if you’ll forgive the mixed language metaphor). Played with relish, if not always convincingly, by Chloë Grace Moretz, Ellis is a barely veiled Lindsay Lohan. Daily newsreels of profanity-fuelled press conferences, intoxicated interviews and clashes with paps betray her prodigious, classically trained talent. One is hard pressed not to imagine the barely suppressed titters on set when Kristen Stewart’s Val lavishes praise on Ellis. “She’s brave enough to be herself,” she eulogises, “At her age that’s pretty fucking cool”. The same self-deriding chuckles shared by Ed Norton and Naomi Watts on the set of Birdman, no doubt. The clouds of the title are eponymous to both film and play - the Maloja Snake being the occasional thick mist that winds its way around the St Moritz hillsides. The foreboding phenomenon for a decisive ultimatum between Maria and Val, and a metaphor that lingers just about the acceptable side of overripe. It also allows photographer Yorick Le Saux to showcase his emerging talent. It may not be

Emmanuel Lubezki’s magic trick of seeming to conjure one continuous shot, but the I Am Love and Only Lovers Left Alive DP shows the Swiss hills in their vast majesty. Immediately prior to the opening night of the play - the commencement of her Sisyphean future – Maria is visited by a 25-year-old film director who offers her the role of a mutant in a 23rd century dystopian blockbuster. She succumbs with little persuasion. Not quite the extreme of Riggan’s final act, but certainly the career equivalent of throwing oneself out of a hospital window. And on the subject of Sisyphus, I return to my original proposal; Clouds of Sils Maria and its inexorable comparison to Birdman. The ageing stars haunted by the role that made them; jaded by the film industry; new media bafflement; shades of grey between fiction and reality; proliferation of self-parody; the inevitable conclusion. Still unconvinced? I have one final ace up my sleeve: the image of Kristen Stewart’s Val strolling around one scene in a classic Batman t-shirt of the Michael Keaton era.

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OR SON IN EUROPE A selection of our regular contributors pay their respects to the great man in his centenary year writer BEN NICHOLSON


t’s nigh on impossible to broach the topic of Orson Welles’ relationship with Europe without first considering 1949’s The Third Man. Written by Graham Greene and directed by Carol Reed, it cast Welles as an American racketeer living in the shadows of a Europe still attempting to stagger to its feet after the Second World War. It is a film that comes together almost too perfectly. It is also my favourite film of all time. The setting is the carcass of Vienna – carved up amongst the four powers that predate it – but the film is far more interested in the scavengers who are picking the bones clean in the back alleys and dive bars. One such opportunist is the charismatic and morally bankrupt Harry Lime (Welles). In a movie whose constituent parts complement each other in such wonderful harmony – from Robert Krasker’s bleak and atmospheric chiaroscuro cinematography, to the game-changing discovery of Anton Karas’ zither which oozes melancholy despite its sprightly rhythms – it is Welles’ magnetism that seals the deal. For every inch-perfect shot and evocative line of dialogue, for most it is his cheeky grin in a

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dark doorway and a monologue about cuckoo clocks that endures. Harry Lime also became a de facto persona for the American actor in what was actually a period of exile in Europe. With his Hollywood career flagging, Welles flew the eagle’s nest in the hope of gainful employment in Italy in 1948 and began with an immediate starring role in Black Magic (1949) from a script by former Hitchcock scribe, Charles Bennett. What The Third Man then swiftly offered was a reinvention of sorts. A syndicated radio show called The Adventures of Harry Lime was produced when Graham Greene sold the character rights and Welles starred in it. The show refashioned Lime from the film version, sloughing off the dark ethical ambiguity in favour of a criminal with easy charm. The image of suave American abroad was one Welles then cultivated to get him work, but that glamour was a façade. In actuality, his filmmaking techniques provide a more keen insight into what life was really like for him during this period, which lasted for two decades. Encapsulating this most perfectly is the trans-European trek that was the four-year filming of Othello (1952). From the glory of the Hollywood studio system, Welles was now hopping around Europe, shooting on the hoof


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and constructing scenes from footage shot from one angle in Morocco with the reverse filmed in Italy. “It’s about two percent movie making and ninety-eight percent hustling,” he said of his career at one point. Despite this, Welles continued to make exceptional and interesting cinema. History may be obsessed with “that movie” (as he referred to it) but his sensibilities had a starkly European flavour to them and that seemed to chime with a continent full of film industries rediscovering themselves through the fifties and sixties. Welles’ expressionistic tendencies and the moral ambiguities hanging over from his American work were a perfect complement to the environment in which he found himself. The third man’s projection of the Film Noir onto post-war Vienna was in effect what Welles also went on to do in the likes of Mr. Arkadin (1955) and his personal favourite of his movies, the Kafka adaptation, The Trial (1962). The story was updated slightly from the original early 20th century setting, and was deeply entrenched in a familiar inky and monochrome that taps directly into its nightmarish quality. Although the shoot hopped between the likes of Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Milan and Paris, it retains a particularly

Central European atmosphere (despite never actually shooting in Zagreb) rather than the pan-European style that he is also known to have actively constructed. That is far more apparent in something like F for Fake (1973) where splicing together parts of scenes in different countries – or overtly panning from one city to another – seemed to intentionally, or at least consciously, craft a fluid sense of European identity which would have sat nicely with an American audience and a filmmaker who liked to consider the continent as a whole. Even now, when watching it, one can’t help but consider the film to feel very ‘European’ despite the knowledge that European cinema hardly had such an identifiable style: that same year saw films such as Walerian Borowczyk’s Immortal Tales, Jacques Rivette’s Celine and Julie Go Boating, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Miklós Jancsó’s Electra, My Love. And yet, Welles seemed to be able to combine his experiences, and, in shooting a film across several countries, craft a wider sense of style that does fit. F for Fake is equally a very personal film if one takes the time examine some of the myriad things happening beneath the surface; under the dizzying veneer of fraud and fabrication,

this essay film examines Welles own career and life. His time in Europe is one that many fans will look upon fondly as a period of great creative expression and a bold artistic energy fired on by the limitations he had to overcome. What one wouldn’t give to see a complete cut of his great unfinished Don Quixote which had taken in various countries and was shot entirely on Welles’ own dime as he confirmed in an interview with Cahiers de Cinéma in 1958. “I still have to do the last two scenes. I had to stop because Akim Tamiroff had to work on another film, then I had to act in The Long, Hot Summer to have some money for my Don Quixote, and that’s how it was all the time.” In the end, Welles returned to America to little success, but as he himself said, “If you want a happy ending that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” Or to paraphrase Harry Lime and return to where we started: yes, that may have been the end of Welles, but it was not the beginning. Orson Welles had many lives – director, producer, writer, and actor. And while there’s so much to celebrate from his years on this side of the Atlantic, for me it all still comes back to that crooked smile in the dark of post-war Vienna, old man.

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ven without the notorious War Of The Worlds (1938) incident that sent one half of America into a paranoid spin, Welles was destined to contribute to the history of radio – with his relentless need to experiment with different mediums and that beautiful, sonorous voice. As with his subsequent film and theatre work the career of Welles on radio is full of wonder, invention and frequent dissatisfaction. A full examination of Welles on radio would be a task too big for a small sidebar like this – considering the man appeared on everything from Lux Theatre to The Jack Benny Show while completing his own shows. Instead, consider this a brief celebration of both the medium and Welles’s work within it. Radio was an incredibly powerful medium when Welles began making programs in the mid-30s. He made an immediate impact with powerful distinctive work on shows such as

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pulp crime drama The Shadow (1938) and, with a dynamic voice that could wrap itself around pretty much any role, was frequently in demand, though not always as the lead. When Welles took his Mercury Theatre on air, the company adapted a number of their stage projects for the medium as well as some brand new material. From Julius Caesar (1938) to a beautiful adaption of the philosophical-mystery The Man Who Was Thursday (1938), Welles’s choices ran the gamut of literature. However it was a 1938 Halloween broadcast of the adaptation of H.G.Wells’ classic tale The War Of The Worlds that would bring the company notoriety and fame. Many listening to the show believed a real-life invasion of Earth was in progress and the broadcast’s end was punctuated by the CBS offices being invaded by a large battalion of New York City cops. Although over the years, the ‘scandal’ has grown with each telling, one irrefutable fact remains; Welles had a talent for showmanship and directing that would run through the entirety of his body of work. The hoopla surrounding the show would ensure Welles’s jump into a movie career with the classic Citizen Kane (1940) – but in order to earn money he’d continue to work within radio. Two programs, from a personal point of view of this writer, stand out during his movie career. One of these is an extension of a Welles role – that of Harry Lime in The Third Man (radio, 1951-2). Whereas in the film Harry Lime is an amoral crook – a man with zero regard for the lives of whom he regards as the little people – Lime on radio is a somewhat different character. Positioned somewhere between James Bond and a Raymond Chandler crook, Lime travels post-war Europe getting involved in various scams and cons but a newly developed sense of (warped) morality means that he ends


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up not getting the loot most of the time. The material itself is weak, standard radio fare – but to hear Welles give his all to Lime’s dubious charms is a wonderful experience once experienced never to be forgotten. The other program has even less Welles output on it – but the combination of that deep, sombre voice and some of the most exciting re-staging of gruesome crime means The Black Museum (1951) holds firm as grippingly entertaining program, unfortunately more or less forgotten. Opening with the sound of Big Ben and some heavy footsteps walking along a cobbled street, no doubt stemming from the wild imagination of some radio sound-effects man, Welles narrates each episode as if he’s privy to a personal tour through Scotland Yard’s Black Museum. It’s easy to tell he’s having fun with the outlandish premise – carefully choosing the object of murder that will form the centrepiece for the week, giving the listener some ghoulish laughs, and always punctuating the action with a sense of gentlemanly morbid wonder. Although Welles’s output on radio might seem more commercially inclined from time to time – his natural talent at getting lesser material to work meant that almost anything with his presence had a certain quality that would hook the viewer in. Even after he was poached by Hollywood, much to his own protest, his occasional foray into radio produced vivid, quality programming which still stands the test of time.

Welles had a talent for showmanship and directing that would run through the entirety of his body of work.

‘Unlike anything you’ve ever seen before... an experience everyone should have’ SAM ASHURST, DAZED



     LITTLE WHITE LIES






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t’s not unusual for cinephiles and movie lovers to gather in excited anticipation for the release of a hitherto-unseen lost film. Whether they are missing reels from the silent era or obscurities plucked from attics and cellars, there’s a starry-eyed romanticism to the notion of a dusty print being rescued and returned to past glory. Though surrounded by similar superlatives, it’s something of a different situation when we come to talking about the curse of the unfinished project — as with Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind. The film, made between 1969 and 1974, is finally being released this year. Imagining the outcome of Stanley Kubrick’s intense research on the scrapped Napoleon or the like is prone to make any movie fan imagine the loss as catastrophic. In the aforementioned case, of course, ideas were discussed, notes and drafts were written, casting and location plans made - but the film died in pre-production. This turned out to be the fate of many unfinished Welles projects - and uncontested genius though he may have been, biographer Charles Higham sniped that the maverick director had a serial “fear of completion”.

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In many ways, Orson Welles’ relationship to his many butchered or half-completed projects has become a central, contentious part of the Welles myth. Fans, scholars, and critics have often resisted characterization of the man as egotistical and self-sabotaging; many have ascribed the incomplete works more to lack of money than any fatal flaw in the director’s personality. What differentiates this film from many of the others then is the degree of completion that it reached – it was all but finished by 1976. 10 hours of raw footage, a screenplay with complete notes, and forty minutes of Welles’ own edited work were left behind when he died in 1985, with strict instructions given to friend and younger director Peter Bogdonavich, “Promise to finish the picture if something happens to me.” Supposedly, the picture is a savage filmwithin-a-film satire of the movie industry, made at a time when the golden age had faded into the alienated, avant-garde sensibility of the Hollywood New Wave. As a figure who in some ways remained outside both movements,


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and who maintained many friends from both generations, Welles was in a unique position to comment. The story centres around an aging, macho film director called Jack Hannaford (John Huston) who attempts to make a hip new wave film to revive his flagging commercial career. Unfortunately, Bogdonavich was left unable to complete the necessary editing - an ongoing legal quagmire about the film’s ownership, beginning in 1979 and continuing on and off for several decades, brought any work on The Other Side of the Wind to a grinding halt. Its reputation as the ultimate film maudit is wellearned; the almost supernaturally unlucky project took up the last fifteen years of Welles’ life, and legal trouble wasn’t the only debacle of the film’s lifespan. The outbreak of the Iranian Revolution created serious complications for production when one of the movie’s financiers - brother-in-law to the Shah of Iran - also claimed ownership of the film. In the end, Welles was forced to smuggle a print of his own film out of Paris. To make matters worse, two of the chief

custodians of Welles’ estate had been battling over the rights to his unfinished artistic projects for several years – his daughter, Beatrice Welles, has repeatedly blocked attempts to screen and complete the film. Welles’ mistress and the co-writer of the film, Oja Kodar, has long been the key instigator in an ongoing project to fund, restore and complete a penultimate version of the film - and it seems she has finally succeeded, with an announcement by Bogdonavich in 2011 that work had begun on the film. The Other Side of The Wind will finally receive its tardy release on May 6, 2015. From what can be pieced together, the film is what we now might think of as gloriously meta - with film directors not only appearing as themselves (Claude Chabrol and Paul Mazursky among them) but as thinly-veiled versions of themselves (Dennis Hopper, and John Huston in the starring role) or parodic amalgamations of vicious critics and egotistical producers. Robert Evans, notorious star producer at Paramount through the seventies, is said to be one of those lampooned by the film.

It seems that there’s nothing cinephiles love more than movies about the movies - and Wind looks to rival a vision as audacious and cutting as Altman’s The Player. It remains to be seen whether something like a cohesive whole can be made from those decades-old and disparate parts; Bogdonavich himself has acknowledged the difficulty of mimicking Welles’ style. Regardless of its potential quality, the film should certainly prove telling on one subject: Welles’ own love/hate relationship with the movie industry. On the subject of old Hollywood, Welles once said, “I loved it […] I was like the ghost of Christmas future. The one beatnik; the guy with a beard doing it his own way. I represented the terrible future.” He was talking to Michael Parkinson in 1974; the industry had changed immeasurably since his arrival in 1941, and he was still hard at work on The Other Side of the Wind. “Why do I look so affectionately at that town?” he pondered. “Because it was funny and it was gay and it was an old-fashioned circus. But it was a brutal place.”

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rson Welles’s relationship with acting was a complex one. More complicated than he ever experienced with human beings. From producers to wives, other filmmakers to his own kids, nobody came close to marking his self-regarded greatness. It’s confounding to think of this in an actor who was wowing theatre audiences on both sides of the Atlantic before turning twenty. Who would go on to notch an Oscar nomination and a Best Actor award at Cannes. A man who played a litany of the iconic characters of cinema, of stage, of literature, of history – Harry Lime, Macbeth, Mr Rochester, Cardinal Wolsey. And yet.. “Most of the movies I’ve done have been movies I didn’t want to make,” Welles said on the BBC’s Arena program just a few years before his death, “If you’re going to finance movies and live, then you’re going to have to earn your money somehow.” For Welles, who John Barrymore once described as one of the two great living actors, performing was

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a reluctant necessity to fund his projects and remain among the vanguard of the Hollywood community who devalued and overlooked his work as director. As he was wont to keeping leading ladies around in order that they would eventually succumb to his irresistible charisma; so he toyed with the vocation of acting. If there’s one hallmark of Welles’s career onscreen, it’s how uncannily biographical so many of his roles were. Try naming another star whose characters let themselves be exposed to such a degree. “An actor never plays anything but himself,” he told Peter Bogdanovich in their compelling series of conversations, “he simply takes out that which is not himself. And so, of course, in all these characters there is something of Orson Welles”. It’s a damning admission when one considers his rogue’s gallery of a filmography. The megalomaniacal Charles Foster K, Nazi kingpin Franz Kindler, sociopathic Harry Lime,


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unctuous Hank Quinlan. It reads like a roll of dishonour. He claimed that with every role he took on (“even the lousiest jobs”), he was anxious to do them well. But in his weaker performances this simply doesn’t hold water. In Jane Eyre (1943), Welles gives a bafflingly one-note performance, devoid of the degrees of Mr Rochester’s proud, sardonic cruelty. There should be enough of Charlotte Brontë’s cad beyond reproach for Welles to draw from; an outsider who, without warrant, has the arrogance to believe he deserves to be unconditionally loved. But without a director’s chair and megaphone to occupy him between takes, his bored restlessness freezes the screen like the numbing chill of Thornfield Hall. In his centenary it seems rather uncharitable to dwell on Welles’s onscreen shortcomings, the gallimaufry of grotesques and oddities that licensed him to ransack his dressing-up box and dizzying collection of fake noses. Journey

into Fear’s Stalinesque Colonel Haki (“I’m pretty awful in it”); actively jeopardising Ferry to Hong Kong (1959), hamming a cockerney riverboat captain as if the drama were a farce; and that Brobdingnagian disaster, Mr. Arkadin (1955) in which he recounts the portentous ‘Scorpion and Frog’ fable, subsequently so often dredged out to sting Welles. This is supposed to be a celebration though, right? So let’s raise a tumbler of Negroni to the best of Welles on screen. He didn’t necessarily endorse Barrymore’s theory that he should be on the podium of greats, but he did recognise his own sheer watchability. The mystery, as Welles puts it, of personality that he shared with Jimmy Cagney, Toshiro Mifune and Gary Cooper. The innate quality that can’t help but draw the eyes and ears of the lens. “The camera doesn’t just enlarge,” acknowledged Welles, “it blows me up.” The second of Barrymore’s acting colossi

was Charlie Chaplin, and there is something of Charlie in Welles’s Macbe…sorry, Scottish film. For somebody who so often relied on the velveteen quality of his vocal performance, Welles embraced the power of silence, giving a masterclass in facial expressionism. His wild mania on encountering Banquo’s ghost may be as close as his screen performances get to the kind of show-stealing fireworks that blew away theatre critics in his youth. There’s an incandescent glint in Welles’s eye when the trio of harridans unveil those apparently impossible conditions of the Gaelic king’s downfall that almost makes the viewer want to renounce Team Macduff. Character and actor alike share the arrogance of invincibility - as they do equally the dramatic irony that their empires will soon come crashing down around their ears. There is certainly no trace of Chaplin’s Great Dictator in Welles’s Nazi overlord in The Stranger (1946). It’s the magician in Orson

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that prevails here as he aims to conjure the ultimate trick - making the devil loveable. And by God, does he revel in it, rising to the challenge of sharing screen time with the splendid Edward G. Robinson. Attempting to commit his wife to a fatal tumble from a church tower, his deadly words are whispered like sweet nothings: “You were meant to fall through that ladder. You’re going to fall” he promises her. How many hollow vows must have fallen off Orson’s lips to his own wives when he wasn’t under the covers with yet another youthful starlet. He pulls off the trick again as that ne’erdowell Lime in The Third Man. Welles rewrote much of Lime’s dialogue (he always was much more comfortable when orating his own text), but there’s no point in my trying to reword the eminently salient thoughts of David Thomson from his biography Rosebud: “It shows how slippery his brilliant mind could be, and how much Lime he had in him - enough to rot ordinary bodies.” Some of Orson’s greatest reels on screen were more about moments than the whole. Father Mapple’s bone-rattling sermon from Moby Dick’s (1956) maritime pulpit; Sigsbee Manderson quoting the bard with such sinister intent in Trent’s Last Case; waddling around Touch of Evil (1958), drenched in malevolent sweat. But these vignettes are no less reflective of Orson Welles the man. His Falstaff may be closest of all to biography. Massager of truth, beguiling raconteur, appropriator of undeserved credit, muddled sense of entitlement. And when newly crowned Hal casts away his adoring buddy, it isn’t a stretch to peer beyond the lens and see Orson’s pain, a knife in his back with Hollywood’s fingerprints on its hilt. Alone and foolish he’ll perish. “The king had killed his heart”. Welles shares the gamut of Othello’s insecurities too, in his weakest onscreen Shakespearian role. If only he’d ‘pulled a Branagh’and taken the Iago reins from the, admittedly


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marvellous, serpentine Micheál MacLiammóir. It doesn’t take an imagination as vivid as Orson’s to envision that Welles as Iago would have been a career high. Knowing just how damn good he could be, it’s hard to fully celebrate the brilliance of Welles the actor without being overwhelmed by those two impish words: what if. What if, instead of frittering away 1942 in Brazil, he’d walked into a gin joint with Bogie. What if, rather than pursuing that shambles Mr. Arkadin, he’d built bridges with Charles Laughton and scrawled Love and Hate onto his knuckles. What if he hadn’t spent the early 70s obsessing over The Other Side of the Wind, and picked up the phone to his friend Bogdanovich: “Dear Peter, about this Sam the Lion…” What if Heathcliff. What if L.B. Jefferies. What if Atticus Finch. What if Vito Corleone. He could of gone from merely great actor, to one of the greats. But let me not finish my ode to Orson on another minor chord. Let me aggrandise with his highest accolade as an actor, and possibly his finest performance. For the excellent thriller Compulsion, he shared the 1959 Cannes festival award for Best Actor, playing the Clarence Dallow-ish lawyer for Leopold and Loeb-ish defendants. The minute Welles eventually enters, he radiates gravitas. Retained reluctantly due to his gargantuan reputation (sound familiar?), he seeks to turn around a triumphant result from the embers of a lost cause. Quiet and contemplative, with louche gait, bebagged eyes and permafrown he is, distractingly, the spit of a stout Jose Mourinho. His climactic closing speech is among the most powerfully performed courtroom monologues committed to celluloid. Half directed at the magistrate, half at Hollywood - his own judge, jury and executioner - he pleads for ultimate vindication: “All life is worth saving, and mercy is the highest attribute of man…I’m pleading for love.”





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writer MAX LE CAIN


t is paradoxical that one of cinema’s most instantly recognisable figures, the star and director of that most canonically enshrined of motion pictures Citizen Kane (1941), is simultaneously one of the most overlooked and undervalued of great filmmakers. The monumental reputation of Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, the ‘Greatest Film Ever Made’, is wellnigh untouchable. Its influence on succeeding generations of filmmakers is much acknowledged and it has become a cornerstone of Hollywood respectability. But along with its undeniable qualities comes the legend: perfection youthfully attained by its 26 year-old creator and never again matched, the precocious portrayal of the ageing tycoon casting a brooding shadow over a lifetime of creative disappointments. And, against the background of this ossified fixation on his first feature, it is a relatively rare soul who will acknowledge of any of Welles’ later films (with the possible

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exception of Touch of Evil from 1958) that he, like Kane, did any better than “pretty well under the circumstances”. The root of the problem is that Welles’ filmography epitomises and caters for two very different attitudes towards cinema. What do you want from a film? For generations of pundits and tastemakers, the answer often came in two words: Citzen Kane. The visionary aesthetics of an artist harnessing the technical precision of a Hollywood studio to a big subject. Looked at from any angle, Kane is impregnable, the best of several worlds hermetically sealed within a moralistic legend of flawed genius. Welles’ flair and vision remained consistent but, from the mid-‘40s on, we find a very different set of qualities in his filmmaking as he negotiated less favourable studio circumstances, often hairy European co-productions and even self-funded independent ventures. These movies are marked by a dizzyingly on-the-hoof inventiveness, a bold and eccentric technical freedom, a baroque and wild sense of stylization colliding with an endlessly compromised set of circumstances. An impoverished cinema out dealing with the cruel world, hustling for every shot. Instead of glacial paradigms of perfection, we are witness to a freewheeling display of experimental energy that pushes accepted cinematic form to and even beyond its limits, often with a painful, hard- won sense of casualness that makes these films all the more strange and vivid. If you want to see the film that influenced everyone, watch Citizen Kane. If, on the other hand, you are more interested in seeing films that remain to this day quite unlike anything else you have ever seen, you


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would do better with The Lady From Shanghai (1947), Macbeth (1948), Othello (1952), Mr Arkadin (1955), Touch of Evil (1958), The Trial (1962), Chimes At Midnight (1965), The Immortal Story (1968)... Martin Scorsese once described Othello as being beyond modern and he was right. Cinema has not even begun to catch up with what Welles was doing in these later films. This lack of recognition might be partially due to the inevitable and almost inevitably unfavourable comparisons with Citizen Kane that dogged his output. But without Kane, it is quite possible the subsequent films would be even less known, even more the exclusive province of specialist viewers with a cultivated eye for their strangeness and extravagant style. If his reputation rested on his post-1945 work as a director, he would most probably be regarded in a similar light as Edgar Ulmer, a cult maverick doing bizarre and sometimes inspired movies on the margins of a film industry that never quite embraced him. But it is equally likely that the world simply wasn’t ready for the often-lopsided intensity and raw stylistic bravado of Welles’ films that still seem startling and even disconcerting today. Of course, it would be wrong not to acknowledge the pain and frustration that attended much of Welles’ quest to make his films. Had the notoriously mutilated The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) been released as Welles intended and greeted with success, a more acclaimed and serenely successful career as a director might have ensued, something Welles would certainly have wished. Few of his films reached the screen in exactly the form

he intended and the list of his unrealised or uncompleted projects is as heartbreaking as it is fascinating. That he was unable to complete a single feature after 1973, in spite of almost constant filmmaking activity, leaves a terrible and arguably needless gap in film history. Nevertheless, to view his post-Kane directorial oeuvre as a chronicle of promise unfulfilled is to do a severe injustice to the tremendous things he was able to accomplish often under adverse conditions. His dizzying, unique Othello and elegaic Chimes At Midnight are the only Shakespeare adaptations that retain the original language and still give the impression that the playwright conceived and wrote them directly for the screen. His three great films noir, The Lady From Shanghai, Touch of Evil and, most remarkable of all, the tartly carnivalesque Mr. Arkadin manage to find an ineffable poignancy in the grotesque as they spiral down a mirrored vortex of moral corruption. Their nightmarish qualities, including their sometimes weird humour, are given free reign in his apocalyptic Kafka adaptation The Trial. And the current vogue for essay films has no wittier precursor than the deliciously slippery F For Fake (1973). But his greatest achievement is a miniature gem that he fashioned close to the end of his prematurely curtailed filmography. The Immortal Story was made for French television and has a running time of just one hour. It is adapted from a story by Karen Blixen, a writer whose work he loved and hoped to make further adaptations of. This fable of an emotionally crippled millionaire at the end of his life (embodied, naturally enough, by Welles

himself) and his final attempt to play God is steeped in a mood of the most hard-edged melancholy. It owes much to the delicate power and emotional precision of Willy Kurant’s camerawork (proving Welles as expert with colour as black and white) and the performances of, in particular, Roger Coggio as the old man’s reptilian secretary and a radiant Jeanne Moreau at the height of her powers. Set in the 19th century in exotic Macau, it was actually filmed in Spain with a house that Welles owned serving as a primary location. Its hazy atmosphere of lonely ports and warm tropical nights makes it very hard to place: it feels like a film of obscure origin fleetingly encountered in the early hours of the morning in an unfamiliar country. If Citizen Kane has become a totem for all that is best in the mighty American film industry, The Immortal Story is a vulnerable exile flickering on the brink of invisibility many miles from a home that might no longer exist. And which is more useful to the 21st century? Hollywood is still there and still doing what it has always done. But, with the tools of filmmaking now almost universally accessible and with films proliferating with an unprecedented degree of freedom all over the world, cinema is now up for grabs. In this context, the hazardous accomplishments of Welles the international guerilla filmmaker are relevant as never before. In honouring him on the occasion of his centenary, we must urgently acknowledge that his work is full of lessons we haven’t even started to learn.

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writer DAVI D HALL


n absurdly mannered and stilted piece, but scratch the shiny chrome surface of Kathryn Bigelow and Monty Montgomery’s low-budget ‘81 motorcycle flick and key themes Bigelow would expand upon in later works are revealed; a fascination with subcultures, playful sexuality and the fetishisation of group uniform and behaviour. What is surprising is how static the film is, considering the kinetic energy of the director’s best work. The camera barely moves and when it does it is with the jerky self-consciousness of a student film. The Loveless is also largely plotless. A youthful Willem Dafoe is the dangerous gang leader whose presence attracts Debbie, a precocious and vulnerable girl still bruised from the death of her mother and longing to escape an abusive father. The ‘look’ here is everything. Dialogue is eschewed in favour of pouts, scowls and knowing glances. When characters smoke or drink a coffee they take forever to do so, blowing smoke rings furiously at one another. There’s much to admire in The Loveless, the loving detail, the 50s meets 80s biker rebellion imagery (crisp T-shirts doused in oil and sweat, absurdly quiffed hair) and Robert Gordon’s aggressive score. And while it should feel dated in many ways, its curiously unspecific setting lends it an oddly timeless feel.

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The Lords of Flatbush directors MARTIN DAVI DSON, STEPHEN VERONA



aybe the weird 70s griminess that imbues The Lords of Flatbush has something to do with the fact that it was shot by Dann Quinn – who’d previously worked on Prostitutes Protective Society (1966), A Good Time with a Bad Girl (1967), Run Swinger Run (1967), and Sex Club International (1967). Or is it down to the cinematography provided by Joseph Mangine who would later work on Squirm (1976) Alligator (1980) Mother’s Day (1980) and direct Neon Maniacs (1986). After making his debut in softcore porn The Party at Kitty and Studs (aka Italian Stallion, 1970) Sylvester Stallone finally gets a part where he can showcase his acting talent before hitting the big time with Rocky (1976) as one of a gang of street teenagers from the Flatbush neighbourhood of Brooklyn, NY. Stallone was also credited with writing additional dialogue. Having already got The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972) under his belt Perry King also turns in an impressive performance. As does a pre-Happy Days Henry Winkler, the great Susan Blakely, and Paul Mace. Like all great cult movies, its budgetary restraints are a virtue.

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The Outsiders director FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA



espite the absolutely god-awful theme song (Stevie Wonder’s ’Stay Gold’) Francis Ford Coppola’s other troubled teen pic from 1983 (along with Rumblefish) plays like Gone With The Wind for teenagers and still stands up pretty strong, fighting its corner. A fantastic balance between the visually epic and the sincerely naturalistic, Coppola’s use of believably gritty Oklahoma locations paralleled with his use of split focus diopters and rear projection gives the film a truly unique feel. His 2005 re-cut version – entitled The Complete Novel – gives more depth to the characters and insight into their lives. But his decision to replace the dramatic strings of Carmine Coppola’s score with twangy rock hits occasionally works wonders in some scenes whilst draining the drama out of others. Particularly during the Akira Kurosawa influenced ‘rumble in the rain’ sequence that in this version loses all its searing power. Of course the film’s most renowned legacy is its incredible cast of young actors who would eventually make a huge dent in Hollywood and epitomise eighties cinema. It is pretty incredible how many future stars are crammed into its running time. But in my mind the true star is the book’s author S.E Hinton, one of the greatest writers of teen fiction, whose input and influence was vital to its creation and its undying popularity.

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The Warriors director WALTER HILL


writer DAVI D HALL

alter Hill’s near unbroken run of diamond-sharp genre films (from 197584) favoured direct storytelling with an aggressive, no-frills approach to staging violence through expressive framing and kinetic editing. The Warriors was the first of his quasi-comic book street gang movies (the second being the now-cherished box-office bomb Streets Of Fire) and is perhaps the ultimate American street gang film; an pure adrenaline-rush spectacle with an almost post-apocalyptic SF feel, richly mythic in terms of its cinematic landscape and universe. After Cyrus, leader of the Gramercy Riffs, the most powerful gang in New York City, is shot dead at a rally, The Warriors, from Coney Island, are pegged for it. Fellow gang The Riffs put out a hit on the Warriors and the stage is set for a brutal night as the gang tries to make it home unscathed. The Warriors almost mythic, quest-like narrative has overtones of Greek tragedy. An appreciative audience for this took time to coalesce, but the film is now a cherished cultural totem; a true Midnight Movie whose cult was slow to build and initially marred by real-life violence.

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The Wanderers director PHILIP KAUFMAN



t was the early 80s. It must have been around 1983. I was on a family holiday in Lloret De Mar, Spain. The world was full of bad highlights and espadrilles. I soon grew bored of the beach and the arcade cost too much money. Then one afternoon I took refuge in the dark, smoke-filled atmosphere of a local bar called Rockefeller’s. I plucked up my courage, ordered a coke, and no one asked me to leave. You see, unlike bars in England they showed movies, and also didn’t seem to mind an unaccompanied nineyear-old child sitting in the corner. I was filled with an overwhelming sense of belonging. It was here that I first saw Mad Max (1979), Enter the Dragon (1973), Quadrophenia (1979) and The Life of Brian (1979). But it was Philip Kaufman’s The Wanderers (1979) that affected me the most. What initially feels like another beer and boobs nostalgia-piece along the lines of Lemon Popsicle (1978) and Porky’s (1982), The Wanderers gradually reveals itself to be an entirely different beast. Based on the novel by Richard Price, the film contains a rare authenticity in its portrayal of urban blue-collar adolescence bereft of expectations. The crumbling North Bronx backdrop, the bleak and brutal shifts in tone and a creeping sense of impending doom all contribute to The Wanderers standing apart from the crowd. This is a world where no one escapes unscathed, least of all the unsuspecting viewer.

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overing the Berlin Film Festival has become a chore for many critics over the past decade. The peculiar choices in the muddled competition and the erratic quality of the Panorama and Forum sidebars have incited the ire of journalists who have grown increasingly distrustful and weary of the fest’s mushrooming selection. But with an exciting combination of hotly-tipped titles from established masters and new talents alike, the 65th Berlinale didn’t disappoint this time. The usual competition duds aside, this was certainly the most satisfying Berlin edition in recent memory and the best this writer has covered. Contrary to previous editions, this year’s competition was distinguished by an admirable knack for the adventurous, with only Benoit Jacquot’s pointless, rudimentary

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Queen of the Desert

Every Thing Will be Fine

adaptation of Octave Mirbeau’s Diary of a Chambermaid, and Oliver Hirschbiegel’s stagy, over-mannered Nazi-era drama Elser proving pedestrian. Make no mistake though: the competition was not short on deranged follies, from Werner Herzog’s unintentionally comedic Middle East adventure Queen of the Desert (arguably his worst film to date) and Isabel Coixet’s bloated, miscalculated arctic epic Nobody Wants the Night, to Sabu’s irritating, tonally dissonant punk fantasy Chasuke’s Journey and Jiang Wen’s bizarre, chaotic Gone with the Bullets, a sequel of sorts to 2010’s Let the Bullets Fly that is essentially five different movies uncomfortably rolled into one disjointed whole. Another misfire was Wim Wenders’ Every Thing Will Be Fine, a small-scale drama blown out of proportion by being shot in 3D for no discernible reason. A forlorn-faced James Franco plays a novelist who accidently runs over a young boy. The emotional paralysis he suffers in the wake of the accident drives him


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into seclusion but eventually stirs his creative juices. The boy’s mother (an equally forlorn Charlotte Gainsbourg) meanwhile fails to move on as Franco’s literary stock rises. There’s interesting material in here to produce a visceral chronicle of guilt, grief and self-forgiveness, yet Wenders, whose hasn’t directed any worthwhile narrative fiction since 1994’s Lisbon Story, bafflingly bypasses character development, appearing to be clueless in handling a classically plotted story. The heavy-handed treatment of Bjørn Olaf Johannessen’s script results in a dreary self-important picture. The use of 3D remains the most beguiling aspect of the production, proving to be a major distraction and blunting any possible emotional engagement Wenders may have sought. The most anticipated film of this year’s edition was predictably Terrance Malick’s Knight of Cups which was met with fervent adulation from the Americans and complete derision from everyone else. Christian Bale is Rick, a successful Hollywood

Knight of Cups

scriptwriter who undergoes a spiritual reawakening following an earthquake and consequently embarks on a formless odyssey into the myriad realms of Hollywood: the surrealistically garish parties, the neon-tinged casinos, and the Palm roads that conceal the hollowness of this wonderland. The criticism is understandable. Knight of Cups is Malick’s first film with no tangible narrative; a stream of consciousness that seems to be going to nowhere. The director’s signature voice-overs, lush vistas and habitual themes of spiritual longing and the search for love are all here, and he doesn’t break any new ground. None of the characters are seemingly sympathetic and Emmanuel Lubezki’s naturally-lit images could feel repetitive at times, while the drama is excessively flimsy (the film is essentially founded on Rick’s endless encounters with women, exchanges with Hollywood executives and failed endeavours to reconcile with his father and brother). And yet, I found myself entranced by the whole experience: swept away by the gorgeous landscapes, invested in

Rick’s agony and captivated by the hedonism of a Hollywood that Malick depicts with equal measure of awe and revulsion. Knight of Cups is an impressionistic view of Hollywood — an Eden ruined by man’s greed and ignorance. Malick’s ideas may have lost their potency, but his images and sense of wonder continue to engage on a more subliminal level for those who remain receptive to them. Another competition entry tackling matters of the spirit, the dark side of it to be precise, is Pablo Larraín’s El Club, a powerful, punishing picture which earned the Grand Jury Prize. Larraín’s fifth feature takes place in a small Chilean beach house where a bunch of excommunicated priests have been exiled to atone for their crimes, the most obvious of which is paedophilia. An unexpected death instigates the arrival of the bookish Father García who gets dispatched by the church to confront the disgraced priests with their transgressions. Larraín has abandoned the rigorous formalism of Tony Manero and Post Mortem (still his finest hour) for a more straightforward

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approach driven by the disjunction between the ostensibly tranquil backdrop and the scorching mood inside the house. Larraín’s alliances are clear, disparaging the inherent hypocrisies of the Church and bemoaning the countless lives it has destroyed. His no-holdsbarred approach does not, however, get in the way of delivering psychologically rounded characters difficult to pin down or condemn hastily. Refusing to pass on easy judgments, Larraín populates his austere picture with scarred characters too weak, too delusional, to face their heinous misdeeds. The Church ultimately emerges as a failed institution whose doctrine these men utilize to mask, and on occasion rationalize, their savagery. I wasn’t as ecstatic about this year’s two big winners — Jafar Panahi’s Taxi and Patricio Guzmán’s The Pearl Button — as most of my peers. Panahi’s Golden Bear winner, the third film made during his 20-year ban on filmmaking, sees him masquerading as a taxi driver transporting an assortment of colourful passengers as he muses on the daily predicaments of Tehran life. Far more accessible and playful than 2013’s sombre, elusive Closed Curtain, the highly enjoyable, endearing Taxi teems with great compassion and liveliness, but Pahani’s intermingling of fact and fiction and meta-examination of his detention within the bigger political picture feel somewhat musty and too direct compared to the brilliant This Is Not A Film (2011). The same goes for Guzmán’s Pearl, the sole non-fiction entry in competition and winner of the Silver Bear for best script. Suffering from over-familiarity with 2010’s ground-breaking Nostalgia for the Light, Guzmán replaces Nostalgia’s Chilean desert with its coastlines to contemplate the fate of the country’s perishing


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indigenous community. The last part of the film sees him returning to the subject of the disappearing Pinochet victims without providing any new insights about the subject. Pearl never fails to intrigue and challenge throughout, but the spark of Nostalgia is nowhere to be found in here. Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years deserved all the accolades it received. Best actor and actress winners Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling, in their best screen performances to date, are an elderly Norfolk couple prepping to celebrate their 45th anniversary. A letter containing distressing news regarding the husband’s first love disrupts their harmony as the foundation of their marriage begins to crumble. Haigh’s follow-up to 2011’s Weekend is a slow-burner; a pressure cooker of a drama about two people too invested in themselves to truly know each other. The questions it asks about marriage, love and aging are hard-hitting but handled with astonishing tenderness and thoughtfulness. The most accomplished production of the rather weak German representation in competition was Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria, an adrenaline rush of a film shot in one unbroken 134-minute take with verve and swagger that would make Iñárritu flinch. A high-octane thriller about a young Spanish clubber who gets caught in a bank heist, Schipper’s fourth and best feature is a technical wonder whose virtuosity doesn’t get in the way of solid characterization. Above everything though, Victoria is a real Berlin movie that remarkably captures the pulse of the city — its aimlessness, vigour and multiculturalism — in unique fashion. The flag of the Romanian new wave was kept flying by Radu Jude who borrows the acerbic

satire of The Happiest Girl in the World and Everybody in Our Family for his genre-bending Aferim! – winner of the best director prize – a black and white western that centres on a constable and his son who are hired by a boyar to hunt down a gypsy salve in early 19th Century Wallachia. The little-known subject of gypsy slavery is one of Romania’s hidden dark chapters and thus, any filmmaker might have a churned out a straightforward, heartrending treatment à la 12 Years a Slave. But Jude valiantly adopts the road less taken, keeping sentimentality at bay and infusing his film with dark humour that divulges the racism of the era. The romanticism of road movies is demystified, taken over by forceful absurdity engendered from Jude’s clear-eyed view of the subject. In an edition crammed with diverse experiments, Aferim! was easily the most original of the whole lot. Another filmmaker that changed gear this year was Alex Ross Perry, who made a big splash in indie circuits last year with the black comedy Listen Up Philip. His new film, Queen of Earth, couldn’t have been more different; a piercing psychological drama charting the disintegrating friendship of two friends over a course of one week. Elisabeth Moss, in her most complex role to date, plays Catherine, the meek rich daughter of a famous artist who seeks refuge in her best friend’s (Inherent Vice’s Katherine Waterston) lake house following his death. Shot on 16mm, Ross Perry’s fourth feature is a claustrophobic Bergmanesque two-hander that deals with shifting identities, the weight of class privilege and the complex nature of female bonding. Ross Perry carefully dissects the shifting dynamics of the pair’s relationship, using flashbacks that don’t break the unity of the place to augment

his painstakingly structured narrative. The gradual mental breakdown of Catherine, realized with gut-wrenching honesty by Moss in a series of near-predatory close-ups, renders Queen of Earth a difficult, painful view; its insights, candour and the conscientious manner with which Ross Perry unpeels the inner layers of his characters makes it his most mature film to date. The antidote to this theatre of horror was Jia Zhangke: a Guy from Fenyang, Walter Salles’ profoundly intimate, hugely inspirational documentary about China’s most acclaimed filmmaker. In his best film since his 1998 breakthrough hit Central Station, Salles follows the Still Life, Platform and A Touch of Sin director as he returns back to Xiao Wu, the set of his earlier films, for a tour that acts as a capsule of China’s modern history. The personal and public interlace; the largely undocumented negative impact of China’s state capitalism has long informed Zhangke’s personal portraits of the marginalized and the dying cities they’re forced out of. Free of the kind of hagiography and naval-gazing that has become an unfortunate staple for non-fiction biopics, Salles doesn’t detail Zhangke’s accomplishments, nor does he elaborate on his enormous influence on world cinema. Instead, he churns out a moving portrait of a radical voice that has been deliberately ignored in his home country for nearly 20 years. The various strands of Zhangke’s character come full circle when he opens up about his deceased physician father, a victim of the Cultural Revolution who never succeeded in banishing his demons. Ultimately, we come to realize that Zhangke’s life and career have been directed by his relationship with his father; by an unbending will to lead a better life than his.

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Over the Years

Equally affecting but more low-key is Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s Over the Years, a three-hour documentary that follows a number of a textile factory workers in the Australian region of Waldviertel over the course of 12 years after it closes down. Geyrhalter assembles a cast of lonely, socially-awkward characters whose primary solace is in their work. Their lives outside the factory amount to little, and when it shuts down, they amount to nothing. All of them have no ambitions, no grand dreams or lofty expectations. They struggle to make ends meet, contending themselves with modest hobbies or the company of friends and family. Nothing much happens in their lives over that period, and that’s exactly what makes Geyrhalter’s epic of the mundane so exceptional. Over the Years raises concerns regarding the impact of globalization on small town life, but the deeper, more existential question it asks is: what constitutes a substantial life and what doesn’t?


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Various other low-profile titles stood out: Raoul Peck’s Meurtre à Pacot, a Pinter-like drama that transplants Pasolini’s Teorema to a post-2010 earthquake Haiti to explore class rift, trauma and the ever-present legacy of colonization; Juan Schnitman’s The Fire, a tense Argentinean chamber piece about the collapsing relationship of a 30-something couple in the 24 hours preceding their purchase of a new apartment; and Guy Maddin’s esoteric, utterly bonkers The Forbidden Room, a delirious exhilarating reverie on cinema that mixes German expressionism, Soviet montage and American horror fantasies in an incomprehensible melodrama not coming to a theatre near you anytime soon. In an edition defined by heated politics, spectacles big and small and endless fanfare, the best film I saw in Berlin this year happened to be one of the quietest. For more than 30 years, American experimental filmmaker Jem Cohen has been one of art-house cinema’s


best kept secrets, feted in galleries and specialized film festivals but unknown to critics and viewers alike. The success of the 2012 Locarno winner Museum Hours finally brought him wider attention with several retrospective of his organized in Europe and the US. shortly after. Cohen made his name with a long series of urban studies combining different media and channelling Dziga Vertov and Chris Marker. It’s the spirit of Marker that guides his latest, Counting; a globe-spanning essay film divided into 15 chapters of various lengths and shot between New York, Saint Petersburg, Moscow Istanbul, Sharjah and Moscow in a free-associative style. Cohen sidesteps famous scenery, directing his camera to seemingly ordinary images such as an imposing old tree overlooking a characterless mall in Sharjah, a woman removing flyers blocking the face of a cat on an advertising billboard in Moscow, or remonstrative graffiti in New York; but look closer

and listen more intently and you will find a plethora of social and political commentary beneath the surface. Containing neither voiceovers nor diegetic music, Cohen refrains from offering tangible explanation behind his images, encouraging the viewers to conjure up their own subjective interpretations. The result is a rich, hypnotic experience that reveals how blind we are to our surrounding most of the time. The inclusion of Taksim square, the NSA recordings and the Kremlin hints at a covert political dimension, yet Counting, above all, is an enduring statement about how we live, how we see our ever-changing environments and how we remember our lives in these rapidly evolving continuums. Mesmerizing, poignant and beautiful, Cohen’s new masterwork is one of those few films that compel you to look at the world in a different way and the highlight of a revitalised and reinvigorated Berlinale.

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Recession, Resurgence, and Road Movies

South American Cinema since the 90s

Tom Gore talks to Natália Pinazza (and her writing partner/editor Louis Bayman) about Argentine and Brazilian Cinema in a global era

writer TOM GORE


outh American Cinema has been particularly strong for many years now – a fact underlined once again this awards season by the critical success of Damián Szifron’s darkly comic Argentine portmanteau film, Wild Tales, which received much praise and an Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Language category. Yet, a quarter of a century ago it seemed the film industries of South America’s two most powerful nations, Argentina and Brazil, were in serious peril. Both countries had emerged from years of dictatorship in the 80s, only to be plunged into economic crises amid flirtations with neo-liberal economic policies. Government intervention produced specific legislation: the Audiovisual Law (1993) in Brazil and the New Cinema Law (1994) In Argentina, which gradually turned the tide and resulted in a bona fide cinematic

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The Secret in their Eyes

resurgence as production, increased dramatically over the ensuing years. This resulted in a string of Argentine and Brazilian critical and commercial successes, bringing a new generation of directors to prominence; including such notable figures as Walter Salles, Fernando Meirelles, Lucrecia Martel and Pablo Trapero. This mutual upturn in fortunes came to be dubbed the ‘Retomada’ (a Portuguese term which can be variously translated as renaissance or rebirth) in Brazil and New Argentine Cinema/Nuevo Cine Argentino in Argentina. Having experienced a markedly similar cinematic history since the 90s, the film output of the neighbouring countries began to diverge stylistically. Argentina maintained its strong tradition of European-influenced art-house cinema and Brazil, increasingly confident and punching its weight on the international stage as a member of the BRICS nations with a rapidly growing economy, focused more on emulating populist American genre fare (albeit with a topical focus) and bringing


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cinema to the masses. These trends are perhaps best illustrated by two polar opposite works indicative of the separate approaches – Argentina’s academy award-winning The Secret In Their Eyes (Juan José Campanella, 2009) and Brazil’s controversial action/ exploitation flick Elite Squad (José Padilha, 2007) which spawned an even more successful sequel three years later that broke all domestic box-office records. While the former offered a thoughtful reflection on the pervasive legacy of military dictatorship and the ‘dirty war’ in Argentina, the slickly-helmed latter franchise – a spectacularly violent study of an elite military police group (which some viewed as quasi-fascistic and others as simply glamourizing police brutality) – suggested the unhinged, vigilante spirit of John Milius had somehow made its way to the Rio favelas. Of all the films that emerged during this era, one genre was perhaps represented more than others. With its new world space and spectacular scenery South America seemed

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

almost designed for the road movie. If America had the badlands, the south-west and Monument Valley and Australia the Outback, then Brazil and Argentina could lay claim to equally iconic, spectacular and sparsely populated landscapes. In Brazil the Sertão; the culturally integral hinterlands in the NorthEast, arguably served as the spiritual home of the nation’s last great film movement: Cinema Novo. A group of radical, socially-conscious young filmmakers influenced by the Nouvelle Vague (it had its own Godardesque enfant terrible in the form of its most prominent member Glauber Rocha) and Italian Neo-Realism which rose to prominence in the 1960s; churning out overtly political works with a documentary aesthetic which eschewed the urban, tourist-magnet Brazil of the Copacabana and focused on what they regarded as more authentic rural and working class settings. Similarly Patagonia, the picturesque, topographically-diverse region which straddles Argentina’s border with Chile, memorably

served as a backdrop in The Motorcycle Diaries (2004); Walter Salles’ epic travelogue depicting a youthful Che Guevara’s formative, hedonistic trawl through South America. At the same time the advent of globalisation and regional organisations such as Mercosur (a South American trading bloc somewhat similar to the EU/NAFTA) and the abundance of international co-productions (often with linguistic kin in Spain or Portugal) seemed to fit a genre that emphasised journey as narrative and limitless horizons. Recently I had the chance to interview South American Cinema expert Dr Natália Pinazza of Birkbeck College and her frequent writing partner/editor Dr Louis Bayman of Warwick University about Dr Pinazza’s new book: Journeys in Argentine and Brazilian Cinema: Road Movies in a Global Era. In a wide-ranging discussion we touched upon everything from Latin American unity to differing concepts of space in Europe and South America to ethnicity and anthology films.

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Vérité: First of all congratulations on the book! I really liked it. Natália: Thank you! Vérité: Looking back to the early 90s, both Brazilian and Argentine Cinema were in something of a crisis. Can the revival which occurred later that decade solely be attributed to government legislation such as the Audiovisual Law (1993) in Brazil and the New Cinema Law (1994) in Argentina? And what kind of state are the film industries of each nation in today? As with other nations is it a case of international co-productions and trying to stave off Hollywood domination? Natália: First of all, what they call Argentine and Brazilian New Cinema (a term which can also can refer to the revolutionary film making of the 70s); the cinema that emerged in the 90s constitutes the vast majority of films I look at in this book. That was actually the reason I decided to adopt a comparative approach in regard to Argentine and Brazilian film; because they converged in terms of cinematic context. You mentioned there was the Cinema Law and there was also the economic transformation in terms of the implementation of neo-liberal financial policies, an end to dictatorship and negotiations regarding the formation of new democratic governments. But now they’ve grown apart because even though there’s some social and political context that overlaps, both countries are facing political crises at the moment. The output of their respective film industries has gone in a different direction since the early 2000s. Obviously the political agenda of filmmaking has changed. Brazil has adopted an agenda of using co-productions to reassert its status as the country of the future; an emerging economic power, whereas Argentina has always had this much more experimental, avant-garde style. So the two nations have diverged


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in this sense. If I had to focus on comparing the more recent films of the two nations it would be a completely different approach I would have to adopt now, whereas in the period I focus on in the book there were many thematic similarities. Vérité: Regarding the theme of the book, road movies, off the top of my head I can’t think of that many European examples of this genre. I think Louis mentioned La Strada (1954) and Pierrot Le Fou (1965) but generally in the popular imagination it’s thought of as American genre; one that seems made for the abundant wide open spaces of the new world, perhaps the most famous example being Easy Rider (1969). Regarding the films that are featured in this book; it seems like they are widening the paradigm of what constitutes a road movie. The Motorcycle Diaries would maybe conform most to this categorisation but there are others featured that are in some way transcontinental as they involve air travel between Europe and Latin America and the two continents are compared and contrasted. One is even a documentary – The Hungarian Passport (2001). So is it a case of subjectivity and how one defines a road movie? Natália: I actually think it’s quite interesting you said that road movies seem to be quite distant from Europe and closer to America because Wim Wenders, the German filmmaker and a master of the modern road movie, was actually an inspiration for Walter Salles. In Paris, Texas (1984) Wenders goes to America to explore the genre and what is interesting in this book is that some of the films I cover, especially Chapter 3 (Europe as destination and point of departure), actually are set in Europe. You mentioned The Hungarian Passport; perhaps it’s a case of not only Europe as a setting but Europe as an ideology. In Brazil we don’t have borders that are as close as you do

in the UK. The Sertão is something you don’t have here. It often takes days maybe for you to arrive at another border, you can drive miles. Here in Europe there is less distance, more population density and public transportation. Those spaces and the fact that you have to use your car, there is a sense of isolation and individualism; we have very much of an American mentality in this sense-you can identify some motifs in the Films I include: the car, the passport. Vérité: Yes the passport reoccurs in several films as a symbol of the protagonists desire to escape does it not? Once Latin America was a destination for European immigrants, but during the recession years, in which some of the films are set, the characters often wish to emigrate back from where their forebears came; to lands of linguistic and ancestral kinship. One such example of this is Jewish-Argentine Filmmaker Daniel Burman’s Lost Embrace (2004) part of a loose trilogy focusing on life in Buenos Aires’ Jewish community (the largest in Latin America). Natália: Yes. This is another issue that 90s Brazilian and Argentine film has in common – foregrounding the issue of diaspora communities. Burman has an interesting way to approach this – he’s perhaps inevitably been compared to Woody Allen – you have this male in crisis as Argentina was in crisis at the time and this humorous detachment allows him to comment on Argentinian society as if he were an outsider. That allows him to comment on ‘them’ as well as being part of the comment and this is what makes his films quite unique because he manages to portray the social and economic situation in Argentina in a very unique manner. He is an example of what you might describe as localized culture – the idea that he is addressing global issues like terrorism and the attack on AMIA

(Argentine-Israelite Mutual Association) as well as global issues by dealing with a diasporic society. There are issues of the Second World War and diaspora that goes way beyond Argentine national issues and at the same time he addresses very localized Argentine issues; another layer to his films that make them quite unique. Vérité: Would you say The Motorcycle Diaries is the most classic example of a road movie contained in the book? You mention that it is in some ways the ultimate Pan-American film collaboration:; the director is Brazilian, the lead actor is Mexican (there was some disquiet in Argentina about a Mexican being cast in the role but his accent/performance was considered to be excellent) and the screenwriter is Puerto Rican. Natália: What is interesting about The Motorcycle Diaries is how it draws on this perception of the ideas of Simón Bolívar: the 19th Century Liberator of Latin America, and focuses on a modern-day Bolívar-figure in Che Guevara-who had similar ideas. It’s the ultimate Mercosur film in a way as it concerns Pan-American cooperation and stars the perfect lead in Bernal who has appeared in films across Spain and Latin America. The money was North American though! Vérité: Salles has directed several road movies, as you mentioned he’s a master of the genre. Perhaps his defining work in this regard was Central Station (1998). The name of the station in Portuguese: Central do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro’s main rail terminus) refers to its position directly in the centre of the country. From there a journey begins which arguably harks back to Cinema Novo in its representation of the Sertão. Natália: Yes it ends in Glauber Rocha’s hometown. Again Salles’ inspiration was actually Wim Wenders though. Alice In The

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Central Station

The Motorcycle Diaries

Cities (1974) was pretty much the inspiration for Central Station – in both films there is an adult taking care of a child. Salles was quite internationalist in his influences and one of them was definitely Wenders. Placing him in his own national cinematic context there was an implicit intention to pay homage to some of the film of the Cinema Novo era. Not many people will know about Rocha’s hometown (Vitória da Conquista in the state of Bahia). This area the culture is embedded in religion and redemption – very different from the films of Cinema Novo which put forward a philosophy of revolution and social mobilisation-lots of revolutionary and political language even in regard to the aesthetics of the film but Central Station is very much a classic narrative. Vérité: Finally Louis, it’s not in the book but perhaps we should mention Wild Tales as a recent example of the Argentine avant-garde approach that we’ve been discussing. Argentina seems to be very good at these kinds of portmanteau/anthology Films. 18-J (2004) about the 1994 bombing of the Jewish Community Centre in Buenos Aires being one of the most notable. Vengeance appears to be


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the main theme of the film but can we read anything else into it? There seems to be some other underlying themes which suggest the director may be commenting on contemporary Argentina. In one episode a wealthy businessman tries to pay off his gardener/domestic servant to take the rap for a hit and run and to this end consults with his duplicitous lawyer and corrupt public officials; in another a waitress encounters a destructive figure from her past: a former loan shark turned politician. There’s a road rage war between a yuppie in an Audi and a local rural redneck he encounters. Is Damian Szifron making a statement about contemporary Argentine life or is it merely a series of Bunuel-esque darkly comic vignettes? It seemed to be that he was trying to comment, even in an absurdist way at times, on contemporary issues in the nation: corruption, class etc. Louis: Yeah I think that’s true. You mentioned vengeance. I saw it as six (there are six episodes) examples of the consequences of uncontrollable anger. Let’s not forget bureaucracy also in the chapter involving Ricardo Darin’s character

Wild Tales

Vérité: the DMV/DVLA scene Louis: Yes where the entire structure of the episode was based around the unfairness of dehumanised, depersonalised systems of bureaucracy which are often corrupt and which can have potentiality life-shattering consequences even though it’s played here for quite comic effect. There’s a lot in there about class. In some ways the film has been criticised at home in some quarters for being perceived as stereotypical, and focusing on privileged characters – their attitudes and behaviour at the expense of the poor. The other thing to bear in mind would be the degree to which the family is the vehicle through which this corrupt class rule is maintained. The man who is the victim of this Kafkaesque impersonal bureaucracy tries to fight against it, the way the family of the boy who has committed the hit and run accident try to rally round and protect him and in the bravura final sequence as which all takes place at a family wedding. Vérité: That maybe touches on issues of ethnicity and identity in Argentina as well in that it takes place in a Jewish wedding and Damián Szifron, like a number of Argentine

directors, has Jewish ancestry. He has said that he based the scene (at least in regard to its setting) on his own recollections of such occasions. The last episode is perhaps the strongest of all. Louis: Yes possibly there is a theme of redemption as well in the way the fairy tale wedding disintegrates and descends into chaos; there’s a certain wild exuberance to what happens between the couple, asserting a sense of some sort of equality. It is quite a dark and violent film and it’s a dark final episode but also something that offers a touch of hope at the end or a resolution of sorts. There is anger all around, there is violence all around, there are lives and whole societies torn apart by corruption – but at the end of this film there is at least a certain celebration of a kind of amorous energy. The particular sequence where she stares at her own wedding cake in a blood-splattered gown provides one of the most delicious visual moments of the whole picture!

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Shadows and Doubt: inside the Kaleidoscope In 1966, Alfred Hitchcock planned a late-career reinvention with an extreme, sexually charged New York thriller influenced by true crime, Antonioni and the European New Wave. But Universal had other ideas

writer DAVI D HALL


966. The master of suspense has delivered Torn Curtain to Universal Studios; once a welcoming home, by now something of a personal nemesis for the director creativity-wise. After the lukewarm reception to his Freudian psychoanalytical melodrama Marnie (1964), Torn Curtain – for the studio a hoped-for return to the big name, location-heavy thrillers of his heyday – also underperforms at the Box Office. By all accounts the production is a troubled one, and the underwhelming thriller further compounds what appears, on the surface, to be a terminal commercial decline for the maestro. A restless Hitch ponders his next move. Despite various weighty tomes dedicated to the on and off-screen exploits of the great man the exact details of what happens next aren’t clear-cut. But here’s what we do know. Back in 1964, post-Marnie, Hitchcock registered an untitled project with the Writer’s Guild of

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America. The inspiration for the material was two infamous real-life (English) murder cases; John George Haigh, commonly known as the “Acid Bath Murderer” and John Reginald Halliday Christie, the notorious English serial killer immortalised on film a few years later to chilling effect by Richard Attenborough in 10 Rillington Place (1969). The notes hint at a prequel to Hitch’s own brilliant Shadow of A Doubt (1943) but the new work was intended as an evolutionary move for the director in terms of graphic content and subject matter; an audacious and risky thriller, awash with sex and violence, told from the protagonists POV and focusing on a (gay?) serial killer. Psycho scribe Robert Bloch was courted to pen an original screenplay based on Hitch’s draft. Bloch ultimately bailed, unable to reconcile the source material with Hitchcock’s disturbing vision. There may have been a dispute over cash too. Undeterred, Hitch picked up with an old screenwriting flame in Benn Levy, who apparently connected immediately with the content and further excited Hitch with his own input into the story. His draft cantered on a handsome bodybuilder, Willie Cooper, who uses his physicality and easy charm to lure two young women, a UN worker and an art school graduate, to their grisly demise. As police close in on the suspect a female cop is instilled by the NYPD as a patsy to catch the killer. Even in synopsis form this certainly sounds

Would Kaleidoscope have ushered in a new wave for Hitchcock? It surely would’ve represented a curveball for audiences stylistically and viscerally,


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like a leap for Hitch pace 1966 – a heady sounding distillation of Polanski, Antonioni, the nascent European giallo, and the director’s own suppressed sex and death obsessions. In the Hitchcock style, the film was to pivot around three audacious set pieces; on a warship, by a waterfall and at an oil refinery. The chronology of what actually went down with Kaleidoscope is still subject to conjecture. Various online sources credit the film as having the working title ‘Kaleidoscope-Frenzy’ although this is unsubstatiated. Those that did see the script had misgivings. Hitch’s close friend Francois Truffaut has issues with the violence but cautiously hoped Hitchcock’s (imposed) restraint would win out, because “I know that you shoot such scenes with real dramatic power, and you never dwell on unnecessary detail”. But it seems that unnecessary detail was precisely what the director had in mind here. Correspondence between Hitchcock and his wife Alma (available at the excellent www. reveals extensive conversations around the onscreen brutality, in particular the planned second murder sequence. These work notes are fascinating, and strengthen further the case for Alma Hitchcock as a canny and inspired confidant and collaborator, concerned at how the public would react to the planned violence and quick to recognise where Hitch might be treading familiar territory. But the discussions proved academic. The only surviving artifacts are four reels of silent test footage shot by the stills photographer Arthur Schatz in New York, with a group of unknowns. The colour stock in itself may be a red herring – sources indicate he wanted to shoot it a ’la Psycho in black and white. But wouldn’t that contradict Hitch’s buzz from Antonioni’s Red Desert (1965), another supposed influence on Kaleidoscope’s planned aesthetic? Either way these visual fragments hint that Hitchcock, so often a relentlessly forward-thinking

director was again anticipating the forthcoming cinematic landscape, upping the stakes and wanting to push the envelope. Regardless Universal balked and Hitch was firmly on the leash. Lew Wasserman and the board of MCA vetoed the picture, despite (or maybe because of) the test footage. According to the film historian Dan Auiler, speaking about the project for the BBC Reputations documentary in 1999, Wasserman felt that Kaleidoscope “would do irreparable harm to the Hitchcock franchise” and the director’s legacy would be tarnished forever. Hitchcock rescinded and dutifully made the incredibly boring espionage thriller Topaz (1969). Key themes from Kaleidoscope found their way into his splendidly grotty brit flick Frenzy (1972), but that film’s aesthetic was far removed from the avant-garde inspired thriller he had intended to make. The moment for Hitch’s reinvention was over. By now young pretenders were muscling in. Antonioni’s own

Blow Up blew up in ‘67, giallo went international (briefly) and hurled young Hitchcock disciple Dario Argento into the limelight two years later with The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1969). Further down the line Brian De Palma cannibalized Hitch’s work to spew forth the kind of glorious, giddily sexualised fantasia that the old man could only have dreamed of making. Would Kaleidoscope have ushered in a new wave for Hitchcock? It surely would’ve represented a curveball for audiences stylistically and viscerally, and beaten those later Hitch pretenders to the punch. Perhaps it would’ve ended up as Hitch’s own Peeping Tom (1959), a film maudit career-killer resurrected years later as a masterpiece? We will never know, but the images that remain offer us a tantalising glimpse into the kaleidoscope, looking for the reflection of our own desires for the film that wasn’t there.

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S.F.W. writer ADAM LOWES

Adam Lowes makes the case for the ‘Reality Bites’ that nobody went to see.


ne of a series of films attempting to gave a cinematic voice to – and shine a spotlight on –the post-grunge Generation X scene, S.F.W. (So Fucking What?) hardly registered on the cultural landscape when released in 1994, around the time of Reality Bites; the more sanitised, audience-friendly spin on the mini-phenomenon. It wasn’t just cinemagoers who were indifferent to the film - it failed to chime with critics, too. Roger Ebert, in particular, was pretty unforgiving, claiming the film qualified “Forrest Gump for a genius grant.” It currently resides on Rotten Tomatoes with a 12% rating – the kind of score usually attributed to moronic Adam Sandler-inspired comedies and lazy, DTV sequels. Undoubtedly an uneven film, S.F.W is also

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an unfairly maligned one. Loose comparisons were made with Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers at the time, a film whose on-the-nose satire of media saturation makes this one look like a classic Swiftian parable by comparison. However, both films do share an irritating trait in their self-conscious need to be categorised under the ‘cult cinema’ banner. But underneath S.F.W’s subversive posturing lies a smart depiction of misplaced hero worship with an outlandish premise that looks increasingly prescient in hindsight. It offers an early depiction of that Big Brother-style rolling ‘reality’ content and predates the birth of the YouTube megastar/cult of non-celebrity which a present day audience willingly laps up. Director Jefery Levy (now a small-screen journeyman) uses a series of flashbacks to shape his narrative. When we first encounter the filthy and dishevelled protagonist Cliff Spab (Stephen Dorff) he’s addressing a camera on the 36th and final day of being held against his will, alongside two other surviving hostages, in a7-Eleven-type supermarket called


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Fun Stop. The kidnapper’s motives (they’re a faceless, gun and camcorder-wielding media terrorist group called S.P.L.T. Image) are left ambiguous to the audience, but their strict stipulation is that every piece of footage they shoot of their captors must be broadcast live, worldwide and uncut. If their demands are not met, the already dwindling number of hostages, including Spab’s best friend Joe (Jack Noseworthy) and high school student Wendy (Reese Witherspoon), will be slain. The trio is pushed to their mental limits, and its Joe’s desperate act of defiance on that date which brings the nightmarish situation to a bloody and tragic end. Waking up in a hospital bed post-incarceration, Spab, an otherwise aimless twenty yearold, finds his life has irrevocably changed all due to heading out to buy a couple of beers a month earlier. Because of his rebellious and impish behaviour during his ordeal, Spab has inadvertently become a cause célèbre and the chosen mouthpiece for the jilted generation, who have taken his rebellious stance (So

Fucking What?) and wholeheartedly embraced it as a lifestyle maxim. Thrust into the limelight, the burger restaurant he works at now sells a special 36 cent ‘Spab-burger’ (a price symbolic with the number of days he was held hostage) and his image adorns shop windows and TV screens, while his home is laid siege by reporters. Even his parents are keen to capitalise on my infamy, insisting that he show a public display of gratitude and not the expletives-leaden outbursts he’s now renowned for. Spab is at first bemused by this sudden explosion of interest in him and plays up to the persona he created in captivity. It soon becomes very clear that it’s all a fickle and shallow display of affection towards him and that Joe (who failed to make it out of the ordeal alive), has already been pretty much forgotten, purely because he lacked his friend’s charisma and devil-may-care attitude while the cameras rolled (none of hostages are aware of their captors plans for the footage). The real-world reality TV equivalent would see Joe receiving the lowest audience votes, thus being banished

off whatever programme he was appearing in and out of the public eye (undoubtedly a fate worse than death for the fame-hungry masses out there). Constantly wrestling with his messiah-like status, Spab is pushed and pulled in many directions. Some of those he comes into contact with offering genuine sanctuary from the craziness around him, others viewing him as merely a commodity they can hopefully exploit. It’s only when reconnecting with Wendy, who has been trying to process what happened by sharing her experiences with fans via the talkshow route, that Spab is able to begin making sense of his life. Ironically, it’s when the duo show up away from of the spotlight as guests at Wendy’s school that they’re targeted by an unhinged pupil, Barbara ‘Babs’ Wyler, who pulls a gun on the duo and yells “everything matters” before firing. Media attention immediately switches to Babs as she is arrested and imprisoned. Her line has become the new zeitgeist catchphrase, replacing Spab’s apathetic words.

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Perhaps owing to Levy’s inexperience as a filmmaker, S.F.W does suffer from an inconsistency of tone on occasion, as it oscillates between broad satire (the grotesque US tabloid culture being a particularly easy target) and more thoughtful and introspective moments. A young, pre-stardom Tobey Maguire features briefly as one half of a Beavis and Butthead-like airheads, tipping things dangerously close to outright farce. Similarly, an elderly gun-toting hippy couple whom Spab briefly hitches a ride with is another example of the director’s sometimes uneven handle on the material. The film works much better when Spab is in contemplative mode, and the night he spends with Joe’s grieving older sister (Joey Lauren Adams), who he has a history with, offers a welcome counterpoint to the broader stuff (their subsequent sex scene is scored to Hole’s caustic and gnarly Teenage Whore). But Levy’s youthful exuberance and willingness to experiment also offers up some pretty fascinating results. The scenes within the Fun Stop are both genuinely creepy and, at times,


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bitterly humorous. Both the camcorder footage and the stylised diffused lighting used to captures the action outside of the terrorist’s lens in the store are highly effective, the latter coming across like a nightmarish, almost Lynchian riff on the work of Spielberg’s regular cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. These scenes work well juxtaposed with the media hoopla unfolding around Spab in the present time, adding a much-needed emotional layer to the narrative. While the last scene played out in the Fun Stop is a direct steal from Taxi Driver bird’s eye POV shot (not the only time in the film to lift slyly from Scorsese), it is undeniably powerful and effective. Levy also has two great leads to anchor the film. Dorff (a vastly under-appreciated performer who has managed to carve out a pleasingly diverse career with his subsequent roles) is asked to juggle the two very different sides of his character, which he does with aplomb, while Witherspoon (who was 18 at the time) shows the kind of early promise which has since catapulted her to A-list dominance.

Wendy’s upbringing and plush home surroundings suggests she’s socially and economically poles apart from the blue collar world of Spab, yet their relationship inside the Fun Stop feels genuine and honest. One scene finds the two of them softly serenading each other during a particularly tough day in the Fun Stop. Unbeknownst to them, this intimate moment is being shared with millions of viewers. They have endeared themselves to a nation without the obvious artifice which usually comes having a camera pointed at the subject. As the media circus latches on to Babs at the end of the film, the coverage and mass swell of support she receives, despite the severity of what she’s done, mirrors what both Spab and Wendy have been going through. Levy and his co-writer Danny Rubin suggest that the flavour of the week, ‘15 minutes of fame’ Warholian adage is entirely cyclical. This is reinforced in a more literal sense via the film’s visual motifs, be it the fat close-up of a CD spinning as Spab and his older brother (David Barry Gray) destroy his newly decorated

bedroom; the swirling fizz of an aspirin in a glass of water which Spab fixates on (another Taxi Driver nod) or the series of strobing circular lights during a rock concert which triggers in Spab a flashback to the final moments of his imprisonment. Given the film’s central theme, it may come as little surprise to learn that Levy actually screened it for Kurt Cobain, a figure who was very much the real-world counterpart of Spab in regards to his unease at being appointed a sudden spokesperson for the 90s disfranchised youth (the director has claimed the Nirvana frontman “really connected” with the material). While S.F.W is unlikely to be mentioned in the same breath as the teen nihilism works of Greg Araki from that era, or even its cinematic slacker contemporaries, it remains a flawed but intermittently fascinating portrayal of an outsider trying to fathom his imposed celebrity. Spab himself would probably offer up his titular motto if he was told the film failed to connect with audiences upon release, and it’s difficult not to agree with him.

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In the


Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)


director MAX OPHULS


ax Ophüls’ Letter from an Unknown Woman is structured as a series of flashbacks, instigated by a letter written to the pianist Stefan Brand (Louis Jourdan) by Lisa Berndel (Joan Fontaine), just before she dies. While the flashbacks and the letter serve to tell Lisa’s story, the film is by no means from her ‘point-of view’ and as the audience we are often privy to information beyond Lisa’s experiences. Visual and auditory patterns throughout the film serve to illustrate the more subtle, secondary layers as Lisa’s narration moves the story between past and present. In this early flashback Lisa is still just a girl and her relationship with Stefan is in its infancy. Fading from a close-up of Stefan’s hands playing a melodic tune on the piano to an outdoor shot of the open window of his apartment, the diegetic music floats down into the courtyard in gentle strands. Lisa’s narration

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cues us to the importance of the music in this scene: “I didn’t see you that day”, she says, “or for many days thereafter, but I could listen to your playing.” In fact, this scene tells the story of the day when Lisa does first see Stefan, but we are directed through her narration to focus our attention beyond the obviousness of Lisa’s visual experience to the subtlety of her auditory experience. We are swept along with the notes, the camera panning left and craning down from the second-storey window to frame the young Lisa. She swings back and forth on a crude rope swing, lost in graceful daydream as she listens to Stefan play. In one of the few true point-of-view shots in the film, the camera swings to and fro, intent on the second-story window, the creaking of the rope swing in contrast to the dulcet tones. The shot instantly aligns us with Lisa and for the duration of the scene our emotional perspective is hers. Wrapped up in the music, she swings away, playing with the ropes distractedly. As Lisa ponders the ropes, we ponder them too, and see that they stretch far over her head, longer than necessary for a swing-set, out of frame – the strings of an off-screen puppeteer. Lisa is as a marionette: consumed by


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her love for Stefan; the events of her life, she maintains, are beyond her control. The question of fate in Letter is not new – critic George Wilson, among others, has discussed the concept in detail, noting how “‘echoing with a variation’ is repeated frequently throughout the film, often with the effect of showing the past to be interwoven with the present in ways the characters cannot grasp”. This technique Wilson connects specifically to discussing the extent to which the characters are acting of their own freewill. There is a suggestion by Lisa that destiny somehow rules both her and Stefan’s actions. We see Lisa in this early scene at the moment her love is born, as the naïve agent of fate, her marionette strings stretching far overhead, controlled by the music from above. And we can be sure this idea of fate will recur throughout the film, presented each time in subtle difference, yet referencing back to this early scene where Lisa, the narrator, tells us she fell in love. The music, although beautiful, is an enigma: both liberating and entwining. Here, more than any other scene, the diegetic music enhances the action of the narrative,

emphasising the emotional bond that is forming between Lisa and Stefan, upon which the rest of the narrative is dependent. The rhythm of the first half of the scene parallels the progression of Stefan’s music in a loose breakdown of action: 1. Stefan practices eloquently in his apartment 2. Stefan’s playing becomes aggressive 3. Stefan blunders the notes 4. Stefan stops playing in agitation 5. Stefan slams the piano lid, finished for the day 1. Lisa swings in graceful daydream 2. Lisa’s friend arrives, insulting Stefan’s music and distracting Lisa 3. Stefan’s mistake draws Lisa’s attention back to the music 4. Lisa jumps off her swing, staring at the window 5. Lisa runs to the front of the building As Lisa becomes distracted from the music, she again plays with the ropes of the swing, absently engaging in conversation with her friend. The camera has abandoned its melodic swinging; shots from here on are distinctly more static, the camera moving primarily as dictated by the action. The tone of the scene has changed: we feel a tension, an approaching climax, but of what? As Stefan stumbles his playing, we see a series of shots moving between Lisa and Stefan, the parallel editing of the static shots in comparison with the earlier moving camera erasing any doubt of the music’s connection to, and control over, Lisa. The positioning of characters in this scene creates a pattern followed throughout the film. Particularly in the scene where Lisa runs from her bedroom at night to pry open an air vent high-up in the wall and sits below, listening. And again in the dance hall where Lisa and Stefan spend part of their single night together. On this second occasion, Stefan plays specifically for her, yet Lisa still kneels down next to the piano gazing up at him with an expression of worship. Lisa literally places Stefan above herself, in a position of power and a

place of worship – a distinction of which both Lisa, and we, learn he is not worthy. He is as much affected by fate and fantasy as she. Having abandoned the swing and fled the courtyard following Stefan’s abrupt finale, Lisa waits by the front door of the building, peering up at Stefan’s apartment. We are distinctly aware of the lack of music. The sound of birds chirping, earlier masked by the piano, now fills the empty space with bravado. Stefan descends from above Lisa, trotting down the stairs with careless ease in contrast to Lisa’s tense, almost paralysing anticipation. She opens the door for him, walling herself off behind the panes. Without the music, Lisa’s connection to Stefan is uncertain. A barrier is between them. Stefan pauses to thank her, bowing his head slightly at the conclusion of his performance and continuing on with nonchalance, pausing at the gate to look back at Lisa up on the steps. Diegetic sound fills the empty space between them: horses’ hooves clack on cobblestones, birds continue to chirp, and a bicycle bell chimes. No music. No longer a puppet on the string of the music, Lisa’s infatuation is now complete: she is trapped, caged, framed by the window pane, the door, the gate – the strong vertical and horizontal lines of this series of shots enclosing her in her fate. Here begins a theme Ophüls will return to in setting and framing the film. The appearance of the cage in the train station sequence is anything but sudden - in fact, it has been there all along, weak and barely visible but steadily gaining strength and structure. As Stefan turns to leave, free to go about his life, we return again to the shot of Lisa encaged on the steps. It’s one of the few times where Stefan looks up at Lisa, a reversal of the character positioning establish earlier in the scene. This is how Stefan remembers Lisa. In the final scene as he heads toward his death, memory gives him pause and he stops once more at the gate and turns, the image of the young Lisa above him, on her own pedestal, innocent and pure – already trapped by fate.

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Jordan McGrath

David Hall

Editor-in-Chief / Designer

Managing Editor

Contributors Stuart Barr Joseph Fahim Ben Nicholson Evrim Ersoy Kelsey Eichhorn Christina Newland Adam Marshall Tom Gore Max Le Cain Robert Makin Adam Lowes

Proofing Dan Auty and Jessica Chamberlain


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Image Credits Metrodome - 1,6,8,9,12,13,14,16,18,19,20,21 / Curzon Film World - 24,27,29,31,32,34,35,36,37,85 / Berlinale - 70,72,73,76,77 / Sony Pictures Classics - 80 / Variance Films - 81 / Focus Features - 84 / Gramercy Pictures - 90,92,93,94,95

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The Falling 15 STRONG SEX


T h 2o15 e F a ledition l i n g U K Vérité Film Apr-Jun


Vérité Apr-Jun 2015 Edition  

In this new issue we talk to rising British filmmaker Carol Morley about her new transfixing drama The Falling, which stars Game of Thrones'...

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