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Non Film Review: Compliance

24 March 2013


Apparently many people walked out of the Compliance première at Sundance.
At the screening I was at in Hackney, just one man in his sixties did. Grumbling loudly ‘what a load of rubbish’.

Its a difficult watch. But essentially worth it.
As the voyeur, we feel uncomfortable seeing something that is pretty unbelievable. And if we weren’t told at the start it was a true story, we’d find it ridiculous.

That’s all I am saying.

But if you walk out, can’t bring yourself to watch it, or just can’t believe it. Read this and then this.

Film Review: On the Road

28 November 2012

Francis Ford Coppola bought film rights for Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel ‘On the Road’ in 1980 and 32 years later, the film finally reaches cinemas with Walters Salles (‘The Motorcycle Diaries’) directing.

Sam Riley plays ‘Sal’ the film’s narrator who writes about the lives who’ve been sucked into the vortex of ‘Dean’ (Garrett Hedland).   Over the course of the film, they look to exorcise their demons by traveling from New York City to San Francisco and back and forth, impacting lives of others along the way.   The film’s central themes concern these two characters; often seen through the inadequacies and isolations of the narrator.

A feature of the novel is the voice of the narrative itself, the poetic jazz influenced prose itself is very close to the first person narrative, which is one of successes of the novel’s long lasting success.  On screen it doesn’t work quite as well, dialogue seems a little artificial and occasionally distances characters from viewers; often the characters seem to all talk in the same voice and seem too self involved, but Jose Rivera does as well as was possible to turn the novel’s narrative into a screenplay.

Walter Salles and his cinematographer Eric Gautier successfully capture a beautiful energetic aesthetic of the era’s zeitgeist of fast cars, post war sexual liberation and bebop jazz.  The latter’s almost rock’n’roll visual representation provides the foundation for the film’s uptempo soundtrack.

Garrett Hedland and Sam Riley are effective in their testing roles but are outshone by their co-stars Kristen Stewart and Kirsten Dunst.  Steve Buscemi, Viggo Mortensen and Amy Adams have cameos that are brief but notable.

The adaptation of ‘On the Road’ is possibly as successful as it could have been.  It has faults, but they are ones I believe lie with the novel’s texts and not the film makers.  The film’s success however so far has been somewhat muted despite it’s largely positive critical reception.  Personally, I attest it towards it’s slightly odd nature; it’s a film that’s seems a little dated of sorts sorts.  If it had been directed by Francis Ford Coppola in the ‘New Hollywood’ era it may have possibly found it’s right time.  The film’s themes of  free love/sexual liberties, casual drugs and escaping physical, monetary ties (the latter being the most admirable and noble) but in today’s post recession era they seem a somewhat a naive and innocent snapshot of a bye gone era; which is both the novel and the film’s strengths and it’s weaknesses.

Review by:  Shubs Golder

Review in 10 Questions: Exit Through the Gift Shop

24 November 2012

1. Summarise the story / content:
Banksy made a film about the guy who was making a film about him

2. How did the film make you feel inside?
Interested, excited and curious

3. What did you learn that you didn’t know before?
I learnt that the massive street art exhibition that has been on for ages down the road from my work, was by the star of the film. But I learned that by google research after.

4. How much maximum would you pay to see this film?
Well isn’t that an interesting question given the ideas that are raised in the film about value and demand. I would pay £27.99

5. Will you remember this film in 10 years time?
Yes i think I will.

6. Which actors / people were in it?
Most street artists, but also: Beck, Noel Gallaghar, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, some cops and bobbies. And was that Rhys Ifans narrating?

7. Would your mum like it?
She wouldn’t dislike it, but She probably wouldn’t really get it.

8. What are you more inspired to do as a result of watching it?
Think big when it comes to enterprising ideas.

9. On the reality fantasy scale, where does it sit?
I thought it was right at the reality end, but it seems others have different theories, which make it even more interesting.

10. Is the director now your hero?
Hero is a strong word. but he’s always been at the forefront of movements in art and as film maker he has done it again.

If you feel like writing any thing slightly pretentious write it here: THIS FILM IS NOT ART

Review by Vicky Fabbri
Film watched on Curzon on Demand for £1.70. 

10 questions chosen out of 30 options, all to be answered in 1 – 30 words. 

Film Review: Amour

22 November 2012

Michael Haneke won his second Palme d’Or for his film ‘Amour’; a character study of a Parisian octogenarian married couple.

Jean-Louis Trintignant plays ‘Georges’, husband of retired piano teacher ‘Anne’ (Emmanuelle Riva) who are taking great pleasures in their lives together before she suffers a stroke and deteriorates, placing growing reliance upon ‘Georges’ impacting both their dignities. In a conversation of significance, she tells her husband her frustration.
Much of the film documents activities of a seeming ordinary, unexceptional nature; eating, sleeping and passing conversations, but it’s with these moments the narrative arc is developed. For ‘Georges’ a significant conversation occurs when evidence of a failed break in when the couple return from ‘Anne’s’ student ‘Alexandre’s piano recital- who returns briefly and is asked to perform ‘Bagatelle in G minor’ by the now paralysed ‘Anne’. This piece of music later provides the soundtrack when ‘Georges’ has a daydream of sorts; one of the few magical set pieces of the film.
The couple’s daughter ‘Eva’ (Isabelle Huppert) and a pigeon are two of the other notable guests to the couple’s apartment. The daughter has a heated hysterical argument with her father attempting to resolve his responsibility for the cost of his own health, while the pigeon is a interesting enigma; possibly a metaphor for ‘Georges’ loneliness and mortality.

As surprising as it may seem there are some moments of humour which are well needed to provide momentary breaks from the largely bleak tone of the film, in particular a incident of black comedy when ‘Georges’ tells of a funeral he attended when things go wrong.
There is little music in the film, but it’s sound design is effective and well constructed. For the visual aesthetic Darius Khondji, the Director of Cinematography does as well to ensure the almost entirely apartment bound location avoids being too kitchen sink, but it’s a film that doesn’t provide a huge amount of a visual stimulation. The two lead actors are quite something, and it’s difficult to single out Emmanuelle Riva but her performance is out of the world, her facial movement over the entire course of the film is outstanding. There are themes which are explored in previous Haneke films, being music teachers and upper middle class book filled apartments, but unlike ‘The Piano Teacher’ and ‘Hidden’; Haneke is a lot more sympathetic towards his subjects this time around.

The title of love the film ‘Amour’ (translated ‘Love’) is apt, as it is a examination of the testing and difficult areas of love, but the testing nature of existence pushes humanity and love to it’s boundaries. Haneke’s dissection of this situation is possibly clinical but it also remains humanistic as humanity is often best illustrated by the seeming banality of day to day activities often easily overlooked but ultimately define our existences. The film’s largely difficult content may sound incredibly bleak, which it is but at the same time it shows a couple who had a lifetime of love; which is something few get to appreciate. Ageing  strokes and dementia are themes that rarely find their way to film but affect a significant proportion of our lives at sometime. ‘Amour’s complexity is befitting it’s subjects and is successful to make one appreciate the complexities of this humanity’s outer constructs of love; which is another great directorial success for Michael Haneke.

Review by : Shubs Golder

Review in 10 Questions: The Imposter

1 September 2012

1. How much maximum would you pay to see this film?
Before seeing it I would have paid up to £25, afterwards £16

2. Will you remember this film in 10 years time?  
I will probably remember the story more than the film, and possibly miss-remember it. I’ll probably bring it up in conversations frequently.

3. Summarise the story / content:
An imposter fakes being a missing child. I wont say any more.

4. Did you ever consider crying?
No, not at all, even though the basis if this story is actually sad. Lots of the audience laughed instead. Think this is what was missing.

5. What are you more inspired to do as a result if watching it?
Go to Texas, and find these Americans that always end up in documentaries.

6. On the reality fantasy scale, where does this sit?
Hmmm, this story is apparently true, but I was half convinced it was fake and all the news items I’ve looked up after are also fake. Would that be more interesting?

7. Did anyone dance? Have you copied their moves since?
Yes, weirdly their was footage of the imposter dancing at the end. Fantastic dance. My boyfriend has since copied it.

8. Which of the following would most like this film: Mums, jocks, hipsters, Americans, hippies, small children, gangsters, philosophers, dads, nuns, clowns, grand parents, hunters, teenagers, other?
All these people will like it, except small children. That’s a good point. Its a great tabloid sensation story.

9. Are you going to agree with rest if audience about this film?
In the main part yes, lots of critics have praised it. I however thought it missed something emotionally.

10. Who had the best hair?
The imposter’s blond locks that obviously never got roots.

p.s The Imposter has his own youtube account. Don’t watch before the film.

Review by Vicky Fabbri

10 questions chosen out of 30 options, all to be answered in 1 – 30 words. 

Film Review: The Apple (1998)

1 September 2012

This engrossing film from first-time Iranian director Samira Makhmalbaf tells the true story of 12-year old twin girls who since birth have been kept locked inside their home by their parents.

Their mother is blind and their elderly father is worried that allowing the girls to play outside in the yard would make them vulnerable to local youths who sometimes climb over the front wall to retrieve their football. When some of the neighbours send a petition to Social Services, the girls are initially taken into care, then allowed home on condition that the parents allow them to leave the house.

What makes this film so extraordinary is that it has the style of a documentary but is actually re-enacting scenes that happened so that the camera can record them. The director managed to get the family to agree to take part in the film.

The girls’ case was picked up by the newspapers and the father in particular feels aggrieved when it is reported (wrongly it seems) that the girls were chained up and neglected. At times the father breaks down in tears at what he sees as his mistreatment by the Press. The mother remains angry at how outsiders have intruded upon her life.  One wonders why they agreed to take part in a film that doesn’t reflect very well on them. Money perhaps? The chance to give their side of the story?

Most of the film portrays how life changes for the family when a social worker insists that the children be allowed out into the streets to play with other children. The two girls can barely speak, having had no contact with anyone except their parents. Yet the local children quickly befriend them and there seems real hope that the girls can adjust to a more normal life.

The girls themselves seem remarkably joyful considering the limitations that have been placed on them. They take delight in simple pleasures like making handprints on the wall, watering a plant, eating an ice cream. They are clearly not acting but just being themselves. It is hard to tell whether all the scenes are re-enacting events that actually happened but the film has a natural feel and a simplicity that makes you believe this is a true story.

The director was only 17 when she made the film but must have benefited from her father, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, also being a film director. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the film is the way in which the director lets the camera linger over each scene, allowing the story to unfold gradually. The film won the award for best first feature at the London Film Festival.

Rating: 9/10

Review by David Hawthorn

The New BFI Library – An Olympic Alternative?

27 August 2012

Turning up to the BFI over the Olympic fortnight you will have been greeted by the sight of a security guard on the front door and the front bar having being gutted and decked out in garish advertising for the benefit of a corporate sponsor. Not exactly embracing the spirit of welcoming the world, and in stark comparison to its neighbour the National Theatre with its new waterfront bar and the now customary line-up of outdoor events throughout the summer. Admittedly cinema is a predominantly indoor activity, the BFI lack a comparable space, and a sun soaked balcony of the National Theatre is more attractive than a bar tucked away under Waterloo Bridge but it was still disappointing to see the space sold off and avid cinema goers having to slip in a side entrance.

But things are not all bad at the BFI and while they were denying regular customers access to one part of the building the recent opening of the new library reading room at the Southbank site is probably the access issue that deserves most attention. Moving this resource into this much more visible space makes it much more inviting to a cinema going audience. I still find the idea of specialist research library sort of intimidating, and despite my interests would never have thought that I was welcome at the BFI library, after all I might be getting in the way of people who have a ‘real’ reason for being there. This might be a hangover from my library and study aversion when I first attended university, but surely I have as much right as anyone to take a more detailed interest in the films I choose to watch and what could more effectively confirm that belief than putting the library next to the box office and directly opposite the bar.

Having said that, I still needed to manufacture a reason to visit for the first time. Over the last year I’ve become slightly obsessed with Carol Reed’s 1947 film Odd Man Out where James Mason plays an injured Republican leader on the run in post war Belfast after an ill fated robbery, and had read in Dai Vaughan’s BFI Classics book about the film that it had been reviewed at the time in Documentary Newsletter. It seemed strange that a publication dedicated to documentary should review a fiction film, but interestingly it also provoked strongly divided opinion with with two prominent figures in the British documentary movement, Basil Wright and Edgar Anstey, providing respectively positive and negative views of the film. My online searches had failed to find the original texts, but within seconds of walking into the reading room I was able locate them amongst the collected journals on the shelves, and see the reviews in the context of the original publication, amongst advertisements for films in production at the time and musings on the state of documentary filmmaking in Britain. A discovery that on it own was worth giving up a Saturday morning in the sunshine for.

It was the hottest day of the year so far, which probably contributed to how few people were in the library when I visited, and there were plenty of free desks and seats, even computer terminals with access to electronic resources of the BFI and other online journals. While I was there I noticed people peeking in as they went past, even sometimes setting foot through the door, and then retreating which made me think that something other than the small sign on the door stating that access is free could be done to welcome in casual visitors, particularly on weekends when there are matinee screenings. And the staff are certainly welcoming, taking time to introduce people to the collection and show them how to use the online catalogue. Currently on display shelves are books on Hitchcock relating to the major season of his films running over the summer, which made me wonder if screening notes could be adapted to suggest further reading, or as a way to lead visitors to look at how certain films have been received over time.

It is amazing resource to have on hand, searchable in advance online and the titles on the shelves of the reading room can be augmented with those requested from the basement stacks. It could offer for many a real enhancement to the cinema going experience, with opening hours until 7pm most days (Tues-Sat) there is a small post work window for most to avail themselves of the calm, quiet and pleasant surroundings for free to pursue whatever interest in film they might have. Although on this particular Saturday I was eventually driven out by the fierce air conditioning, even flicking through a book on passion filled Technicolor melodramas could not insulate me from the chill.

Blog post by Kevin Mullen


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