Archive for October, 2012

Reality

October 31st, 2012 - admin

Matteo Garrone’s smart follow-up to ‘Gomorrah’ blends gentle satire and neorealism into a surprisingly touching sideways look at our celebrity-wanabee-culture and the transformation of TV into a quasi-religion.

 

A film that depicts the unreality of ‘reality TV’ takes on an altogether different reality in the outstanding central performance of Aniello Arena, the former Mafia hit man, currently serving a life sentence for his part in a triple gangland homicide but released on special licence to appear in the film following his eye-catching performances for the prison theatre company.  Encountering the outside world for the first time in twenty years, Arena channels his unforced wide-eyed fascination onto his character’s childlike obsession with moving in the opposite direction towards confinement in the Big Brother house.  It is one of those rare moments when the filmmaker simply has to let the camera roll and catch something magical and unexpected in front of the lens, trusting entirely on his instincts.

 

Arena plays Luciano, a likeable rogue, who runs a fish stall in a Naples market when not operating a ‘kitchen robot’ scam that seems more trouble than it was worth.  He fancies himself as a performer but is ready to call time on an occasional amateur drag act, which had long since outlived its welcome.  And then, a chance encounter with Enzo, an idolised Big Brother contestant with instant christian name celeb status, gets him thinking.

 

Luciano has a screen predecessor in ‘Rupert Pumpkin’ from Martin Scorsese’s once overlooked comic masterpiece, ‘The King Of Comedy’, one made all the more obvious from Garrone comparing Arena’s performance to Robert De Niro.  His blind faith in making the show and the way that he latches onto the talentless Enzo, almost to the point of stalking, echo Pumpkin’s futile pursuit of Jerry Langford in the name of a fame obsession.  But Luciano is more extreme, going beyond delusion to paranoia, with Arena effortlessly switching emotion, balancing comedy and pathos and making the most of his intriguing face – in truth, we cannot take our eyes off it – in transforming cringeworthy moments into something far more meaningful.

 

With a sleight of hand, Garrone places Reality TV into a broader historical context, as the tip of the iceberg that sees a shift from the sacred to the profane in the Italian mindset.  Superbly conceived, Luciano takes on the role of a modern day saint, giving away his worldly goods as a symbolic sacrifice to the TV Gods that he is convinced are watching his every move.  When, in the closing scenes, he heads off uninvited to the Big Brother house during a torch-lit Good Friday service, his conversion from one form of worship to another is complete.

 

Veteran cinematographer, Marco Onorato, returns from ‘Gomorrah’, for which he won an Italian Golden Globe, and various other Garrone features, and provides a masterclass in fusing set pieces and impromptu moments as part of the film’s overall form.  Watch out for an incredible establishing shot in the first sequence to rival the masters of Italian modernism in its masterful design and execution.doxycycline costdoxycycline genericbuy doxycycline ukdoxycycline buy

 

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize, it is the second time in four years that Garrone has picked up the most prestigious prize at Cannes after the Palme d’Or.

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Caesar Must Die

October 30th, 2012 - admin

A bold and affecting docu-drama from veteran Italian filmmakers, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, takes us to Rome’s maximum-security Rebibbia prison, where the inmates are staging a prison production of William Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ with the play’s themes and the actors’ lives becoming interchangeable in an intriguing merger of life and art.

 

Unfolding through random rehearsals in cells, exercise yards and other parts of the prison, this latest film version of The Bard’s third tragedy heightens our sense of the real, resembling and bordering upon a documentary, but never entirely obscuring the artful intervention of the filmmakers.  One of the prisoners, returning to reality with a bump after the high of a jubilant public performance, looks every bit the Shakespearian tragic hero when poetry captures the moment in the most perfect way with his devastating line, ‘Ever since I discovered art, this cell has truly become a prison’.

 

Caesar’s death creates an extraordinary tension point with some of the prisoners coming to the play with experience of gangster assassinations in the real world.  Their obvious difficulty in playing the scene fuses with the characters’ own anxiety and apprehension, which, in turn, feeds back to the prisoners.  Powerful notions of betrayal, honour and friendship touch a nerve in both worlds in ways that take us to the heart of the matter; the contradictions between brotherhood and absolute control in the codes of the Roman Empire, organised crime and other Italian institutions.

 

Former prisoner, Salvatore Striano, now a professional actor following  a pardon, returns to Rebibbia playing the de facto lead as Brutus.  And what a performance it is; full of passion and fire but never over the top and making for compulsive viewing, bringing out the essential elements of the play and the desperate plight of the prisoners.

 

The disposition incorporates the absorbing audition process that sees the prisoners going for it with a humorous mix of streetwise inventiveness and excessive emotion; an opportunity for some playful showboating that could not be missed.  It contrasts dramatically with the blunt captions informing us of their mostly mafia or camorristi related crimes and long sentences, sometimes with ‘life’ meaning life.

 

Cinematographer, Simone Zampagni, filming predominately in black and white, lends the stark and gritty setting a menacing noir of the kind that Orson Welles so brilliantly evoked in arguably the greatest cinematic Shakespeare adaptation, ‘Othello’.

 

Be in no doubt, that this is a major triumph for the Tavianis, subtly using the rehearsals as a means to stage the play in a modern setting that could not be more relevant; so much so, it blurs the fiction/non-fiction divide.doxycycline costdoxycycline genericbuy doxycycline ukdoxycycline buy

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Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House of God

October 29th, 2012 - admin

Investigative filmmaker, Alex Gibney, turns his attention to the systemic sexual abuse in the Catholic church and hits hard when looking at the human cost of institutional power exceeding its own authority but throws a less powerful punch with an exposé of the church’s internal policies that largely reinforces already established perceptions.

 

A deeply shocking account of a vile paedophile targeting deaf children in his care with the least opportunity for reporting the abuse – their parents did not sign – leads to a cover up that takes us to the top of the Vatican.  The silence in the film’s title alludes to both of these things; the children’s silent world and the Vatican’s policy of absolute silence, a breach of which is punishable by the ultimate sanction, excommunication.

 

Lawrence C Murphy got away with molesting more than 200 pupils for over 25 years as a Catholic priest heading St John’s School for the Deaf in St Francis, Wisconsin.  Four pupils from the 1950’s provide devastating accounts of the relentless abuse in dormitories, the head’s office and almost everywhere else, even the confessional booth.  They were the first in the US to go public, and the more dismissive the response, the more extreme their protest, culminating in plastering ‘wanted posters’ around the community.  Actors voices – Chris Cooper, John Slattery and others – translate their sign language but we hear powerful emotions coming through hand noises and partly formed mouth sounds, all the more affecting for their obvious relief in having a platform, at last, to release 50 years of pain.

 

Astonishingly, we see Murphy’s written explanations, claiming to take on his pupils’ guilt by satisfying their unwanted base desires.  Operating way above national laws, the Church, clearly, never intended these confessions to see the light of day.  Looking to cleanse his own conscience – distancing himself from his earlier actions – a former church ‘fixer’, Patrick J. Wall, tells how he once negotiated huge confidentiality settlements with victims of paedophile priests until switching sides and becoming a quasi-supergrass.  With his principals simply recycling the perpetrators within the system, these settlements, in effect, became a licence for the abuse to continue again and again, elsewhere.

 

It is with these local details – the times when we feel the human pain most – that Gibney’s film has greatest impact.  Although there is no shortage of deplorable new revelations chronicling the widespread knowledge and extreme arrogance of the Vatican’s high office, somehow, they do not come as a surprise.  Even allegations that Benedict XVI, before  becoming Pope, ordered reports on all priest paedophile cases across the globe without taking any meaningful action, is not exactly a jaw dropping moment.  With so much of this huge international abuse scandal in the public domain, the Vatican’s silence has already taken on a very particular meaning; placing the reputation of the institution ahead of innocent children and organising its power structures to protect those guilty of serious sex crimes.

 

Gibney makes effective use of reconstructions, even flirting with sound effects borrowed from the horror genre, that capture in film form the victims’ accounts, bringing us a sense of scale, the full terror of the abuse in very intimate, often sacred places.  The high production values will not be to everybody’s taste but arguments concerning the unattainable pure documentary are now beyond tedious.

 

As always with Gibney, there is much to admire here, even though occasionally it feels like yesterday’s news.  Needless to say, the Venice International Film Festival discreetly passed on the opportunity to host the film’s world premiere.doxycycline costdoxycycline genericbuy doxycycline ukdoxycycline buy

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London Film Festival 2012 (10-21 October)

October 21st, 2012 - admin

World Premieres

 

 

Dramatic features:

 

 

Blood

Nick Murphy

 

Nick Murphy made his name in TV before last year’s debut feature, ‘The Awakening’, which went on to win three awards at specialist film festivals.  He now returns with a remake of a BBC TV cop series where he faces the challenge of remodelling the small screen aesthetic.  Starring Paul Bettany and Stephen Graham, two macho old school police offices learn the dangers of playing judge and jury when they cross the ethical line.

 

 

Chakravyuh

Prakash Jha

 

Experienced filmmaker, Prakash Jha, (Gangaajal, Apaharan), a graduate of the Indian Film & Television Institute, returns with the political thriller, ‘Chakravyuh’.  Starring Arjun Rampal and Abhay Deol, police action against an extreme left-wing faction becomes morally complex when the full facts come to light.  Its world premiere receives a special gala screening.

 

 

I’m Going To Change My Mind

Maria Saakyan

 

It is six years since Maria Saakyan’s feature debut, ‘The Lighthouse’, a personal take on the 1990’s Caucasus wars in the mode of Tarkovsky.  The Armenian filmmaker now returns with her follow-up, ‘I’m Going To Change My Mind’, which combines social networks, poetry and cinematic imagery in the portrayal of a 14-year old girl facing a complex domestic arrangement.  TorinoFilmLab Development selected the script for participation in its 2009 programme.

 

 

‘Kelly and Victor

Kieran Evans

 

Kieran Evans, who has two documentaries, ‘Vashti Bunyan: From Here to Before’ and ‘Finisterre’ to his name, makes his dramatic feature debut with ‘Kelly and Victor’.  Based on Niall Griffiths’ novel of the same name, sexual obsession dominates a passionate love affair set against the bleak townscape of parts of Liverpool.  Antonia Campbell-Hughes, (Albert Nobbs, Bright Star) and Julian Morris (Cry Wolf, Donkey Punch) lead the cast.

 

 

Spike Island

Mat Whitecross

 

Mat Whitecross, best known for co-directing ‘The Road to Guantanamo’ with Michael Winterbottom, returns to the music scene where he has made videos for Coldplay and the engaging feature biopic of Ian Dury, ‘Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll’.  This time around, his drama takes us to the other end of the spectrum where five members of a struggling band stop at almost nothing to see Stone Roses in their most important concert.  Actor, Chris Coghill, wrote the script.

 

 

Documentaries

 

 

Crossfire Hurricane

Brett Morgan

 

Brett Morgan’s keenly awaited Rolling Stones doc, ‘Crossfire Hurricane’, receives it world premiere with a gala screening.  A combination of extensive unseen and rare footage and new commentaries from band members potentially sets it apart from previous attempts to chronicle the extraordinary history of one of the all-time greatest bands, who are currently enjoying their 50th anniversary.  Morgan remains best known for ‘On The Ropes’, which won a special jury prize at Sundance and received an Academy Award nomination 13 years ago.

 

 

For No Good Reason

Charlie Paul

 

Best known for his satirical illustrations to Hunter S Thompson’s writing, Ralph Steadman made an invaluable contribution to Gonzo journalism and its gritty assault on US’s political establishment.  Now, Charlie Paul’s feature documentary, ‘For No Good Reason’, shot over 15 years, offers a potentially invaluable insight into Steadman and his working practices.  An impressive list of contributors include Jonny Depp, Terry Gilliam and Richard E Grant.

 

 

The Road: A Story Of Life And Death

Marc Isaacs

 

The latest feature documentary from Marc Isaacs, ‘The Road: A Story Of Life And Death’, takes a sideways glance at multiculturalism in 21st century Britain.  Employing a novel sampling device, Isaacs uses random encounters along one of Britain’s longest roads to explore the lives of those who have migrated from overseas in very different circumstances.  Isaacs has made six documentaries during the last decade, primarily for screening on TV.

 

 

The Summit

Nick Ryan

 

Four years ago, an expedition of 22 international climbers reached the final camp before the summit of the notoriously dangerous K2 mountain.  Forty eight hours later, half of the party were dead following the most shocking mountaineering accident in recent history.  Nick Ryan now employs a variety of documentary narrative devices, in the tradition of Kevin MacDonald, to piece together the tragedy and the terrible moral dilemmas that the team faced in the fight for survival.  With experienced documentary writer, Mark Monroe (‘The Cove’, ‘The Tillman Story’), and one of the world’s finest cinematographers,  Robbie Ryan, on board, this feature documentary is already attracting a buzz ahead of its world premiere.

 

 

Turned Towards The Sun

Greg Olliver

 

Four years in the making, Greg Olliver (‘Lemmy’) turns his attention to the controversial poet and writer, Mark Burns, for his second feature documentary, ‘Turned Towards The Sun’.  A man of extremes, Burns flirted with Fascism en route to being a committed Marxist, a prisoner of war in Colditz and the lover of Soviet spy, Guy Burgess.  He died in 2010, just two years short of his 100th birthday.

 

 

Village At The End Of The World

Sarah Gavron

 

After her successful debut adapting Monica Ali’s acclaimed novel ‘Brick Lane’, Sarah Gavron turns to the documentary form for her keenly awaited second feature, ‘Village At The End Of The World’.  In an exploration of human remoteness, Gavron filmed a tiny community in Northern Greenland where the traditions of the past and uncertainties of the future provide the backdrop to a multitude of social and individual micro dramas.  David Katznelson, best known for ‘Downton Abbey’, provides the cinematography.doxycycline costdoxycycline genericbuy doxycycline ukdoxycycline buy
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Five Broken Cameras

October 19th, 2012 - admin

This remarkable film takes us to the Palestinian Occupied Territories for an inside track on what it looks and feels like to have your territory appropriated on the back of a law without legitimacy and be cast as an outsider and wrongdoer in a human rights outrage.

 

When the Israeli Government’s representatives arbitrarily declared that it would construct a separation wall on the outskirts of the Palestinian village of Bil’in, it had potentially disastrous ramifications for the occupants.  Strategically positioned so as to sever Bil’in’s cultivated land and olive trees, it would inevitably deprive the villagers of their main source of a livelihood and transfer it to Israeli settlers without compensation.

 

The villagers pledged to fight the wall to the bitter end – never accepting its validity – but, unusually, restricted their response to non-violent action.  One of the villagers, Emad Burnat, co-director of the film, had recently acquired a new camera for recording his son, who happened to be born on the same day that construction workers began destroying olive trees.  What started as a small home movie venture, soon expanded into a potent record of Israel’s armed enforcement of the imposed law, his son’s development over a five-year period and how the two became intertwined with a desperately sad loss of innocence at a tender age.

 

The five broken cameras of the film’s title, all casualties of the conflict, double as powerful metaphors for the destruction that Burnat filmed; one even took a bullet that was otherwise destined for his head.  His friend, who provides impromptu entertainment for the kids in need of distraction, was not so lucky.

 

Burnat gravitates to the heart of the action, employing his camera as a weapon of pacifist resistance, thrust in the faces of soldiers firing a mix of tear-gas grenades and bullets, settlers attacking the villagers and the authorities routinely inprisoning the protesters simply because they could.  Although claiming the moral high ground, clearly, the Israeli’s were keen to prevent the rest of the world from judging for themselves; forcibly entering Burnat’s home, ordering him to stop filming and declaring his house a ‘Closed Military Zone’, requiring immediate evacuation.

 

The Bil’in resistance was not without success, the Israeli courts demonstrating greater independence than the circumstances might suggest, but there is a strong sense that it amounted to little more than a respite.

 

Nor was Burnat’s personal contribution without its internal tensions, his wife being driven almost to breaking point by the film’s close.

 

Somebody from the audience shouted out at the end of the screening ‘you have seen the film, now what are you going to do about it’.  Express anger from a cosy cinema in a different continent and move on to the next film in most cases.doxycycline costdoxycycline genericbuy doxycycline ukdoxycycline buy

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Beasts of the Southern Wild

October 19th, 2012 - admin

A wholly original response to Hurricane Katrina, combining gritty naturalism and Southern mysticism in a child’s-eye view of physical and cultural survival in the swamps of a Louisiana bayou, this surprisingly uplifting debut feature from Benh Zeitlin celebrates the courage of those living on the margins where community spirit retains a meaning lost to mainstream society.

 

Venturing beyond the levee wall in the opening scenes to an uninhabitable region sinking in water that cannot escape, there is a sense of discovering a mysterious territory in some remote part of the third world.  This is an area that the state government has sacrificed as being beyond civilisation, where the animals, plants and other organisms adapt to the unnaturally harsh terrain or die.  It is a backwater in both meanings of the word and, yet, a stubborn group of outsiders have defied the law and human endurance and settled in this place that they call the Bathtub and intend to stay.

 

Hushpuppy, a six-year old free spirit largely left to her own resources,  becomes our guide with a voice over that in its deceptive innocence and deadpan delivery takes us back to Terrence Malick’s ‘Badlands’.  Learning a thing or two from the master, these quasi-reflections are sometimes at odds with the visual images, opening a wonderful textual fissure ripe for Southern myth-making that goes beyond the control of the filmmaker.  She introduces us to her ailing father, Wink, who does not seem long for this world and the rickety floating shakes and makeshift rafts that form the mainstay of her world.  And then the storm arrives, a deluge of biblical proportions that gives rise to Romantic notions of man v nature – this is the stuff of Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa – and confrontation with the authorities trying, so they think, to save the settlers from themselves.

 

An already dire reality takes on an altogether more terrifying dimension in Hushpuppy’s vivid imagination, where pre-historic aurochs – here conceived as gigantic wild boars – charge across the earth’s surface destroying everything in their wake, seemingly heralding the start of the apocalypse.  It is a vision that the Bathtub’s only school teacher has encouraged with prophetic notions of global warming spreading like a cancer, already beyond our sway, and providing a very real context to Katrina.

 

Newcomer, Quvenzhané Wallis is wholly convincing playing Hushpuppy, confronting the world with a semi-fierce standpoint that falls between Wink’s ongoing survival course style of parenting and the softer nurturing of the spirit of her dead mother, who appears when the balance between the two needs resetting.

 

Dwight Henry, a baker taking a break from the day job, also impresses as the tough fisherman drinking large quantities of cheap alcohol to get through the day without losing a grip on his moral compass.

 

Talk of the festival season, Beasts of the Southern Wild has already won multiple awards, including the grand jury prize at Sundance, and seems set to be the latest low budget indie feature – it was made for just $1.8m – to make an impression at the Oscars, at least in the best actress category.  There will be no such success, though, in the Screen Actors Guild awards where rules surely intended for much higher budgets preclude it from competing after the non-professional actors’ pay fell foul of their minimum requirement.doxycycline costdoxycycline genericbuy doxycycline ukdoxycycline buy
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