Sunday, 30 May 2010

City of Life and Death - Filmhouse - 30/5/10

I'm not a historian and my knowledge of the "rape of Nanjing" is, almost, non-existent.

I could trawl around the internet and then pass off the Wikipedia entry on the subject of my own in order to give this review some sort of, I don't know, academic kudos?

There really isn't any need for that.

While Lu Chuans film tells the story of what happened in 1937 when the Japanese besieged and then entered the ancient city it isn't a history lesson and it isn't important for you to know the back story.

"City of Life and Death" paints a vulgar picture using only shades of grey. The images that sear themselves into your mind are brutal, shocking and disturbing. The slaughter of the Chinese soldiers who survived the battle, herded like cattle onto the beach and then mown down by machine gun fire. The severed heads of captured and murdered soldiers hanging from ropes around the city. The rape of young women by mad eyed, crazed, lust filled Japanese. All of these. Then more.

Lu Chuan doesn't shy away from presenting the true horror of what occurred.

The scene that will haunt me for many months to come takes place when a group of Japanese are attempting to "borrow" some Chinese women, a small child tries to intervene by hitting the legs of one of the soldiers and is dealt with by being thrown to his death from window two or more floors up. The cinema was plunged into an even deeper silence, you could feel the atmosphere in the room change. It was a truly awful moment but one which was delivered with an honesty by the director that made it obvious that this wasn't a flourish but was, instead, an important moment...the casual nature of the soldiers actions are almost as shocking as what they led to.

This wasn't a film to be enjoyed but nor was it one that I had to endure. It wasn't a history lecture but it was educational. It cannot be categorised as entertainment but nor was it documentary. It didn't tell the story of one person so it wasn't a biopic. I suppose that it is closest to "Schindlers List" in its telling of an awful, terrible and dark episode in history. An episode that shows the depths to which human beings can sink. A salient tale, a cautionary tale at a time when events around the world show us that nothing has changed and that our capacity for brutality has not been dimmed despite the lessons from history.

An important film.

Dennis Hopper - 17/5/1936-29/5/10

Dennis Hopper has died.

That's a difficult thing to write.

He was beaten by cancer and passed away surrounded by those who knew and loved him best.

Dennis was an actor who appeared in many of my favourite films and who brought a lot of pleasure into my life.

One of the greatest actors of all time and one of the last of the Hollywood wild men he will be missed terribly by film fans around the world.

Starting his film career with the role of a "hood" in the James Dean classic "Rebel Without a Cause" in 1955 he went on to appear in a second Dean film, "Giant", alongside Elizabeth Taylor and then to forge a career that included "Gunfight at the O.K Corral", "Cool Hand Luke", "Hang 'Em High", "True Grit", "Rumble Fish", "True Romance", "Speed" and less well received movies like "Land of the Dead", "Texas Chainsaw Massacre:2", "Swing Vote" and "Firestarter 2: Rekindled".

However, there can be little doubt that Dennis will be remembered best for "Easy Rider", "Apocalypse Now" and "Blue Velvet". Three films that would sit comfortably in anyones favourites list, three films that were truly counter-cultural and three films that featured performances from Hopper that were the match of anything in American cinema history. A Holy Trinity of American cinema that could sit alongside any other.

Dennis Hopper lived a full life...sometimes too full...he experienced his share of love, laughter, pain and heartache. He made career choices that seemed baffling to those of us without an ounce of his talent but he was also there at the heart of the finest American films in the 1950's, '60's and '70's before making appearances in films in the 1980's and '90's that showed that even when the quality of the film was in doubt, his talent never was.

Dennis Hopper, 1936-2010.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Eyes Wide Open - Filmhouse - 28/5/10

I'm not normally given to brevity but on this occasion; beautiful.


Edinburgh is a divided city.

Cutting right through the heart of the city is a battle that allows for no neutrality.

You are either on one side or the other.

No opting out.

Are you Filmhouse or are you Cameo?

It's that simple.

It's not really a choice either.

You just are one or the other.

It's something that comes from within you.

For my part I have fallen firmly in the Filmhouse camp.

All that is good, true and beautiful about cinema and cinema going is found on this side of the battle...the other side, the Cameo side, is dark, unpleasant and filled with an evil that is difficult to imagine.

A cameo is a brief appearance...normally the sort of smug, self-aggrandising appearance that reeks of faded fame. Sure it can also be entertaining and bring a smile to your face but it is, by its definition, fleeting.

That's the Cameo.




A name that evokes all the beauty of cinema.

A house is a refuge from the horrors of the outside world. Your house is a place to return to. It offers shelter. It is filled with your memories. It's always there for you. Familiar faces. In good or bad times.

A house of film.

Film should offer exactly what a house offers...refuge, shelter in good or bad times.

The whole experience of a trip to the Filmhouse places it head and shoulders above the other place.

Toilets that don't involve navigating a descent to rival that described by Dante in "Inferno".

A bar that is peaceful and that serves good food.

Magazines and DVDs to browse while you wait for the film to start.

Staff who seem happy to be at work...I'm sure that's not always the case but they are genuinely welcoming and pleasant.

A selection of films that shocks, entertains, intrigues and thrills.

All of this missing on the dark side.

So, what side are you on?

It's not too late for you if you have found yourself through geography or peer pressure on the wrong side...cross the divide and we will welcome you with open arms.

The time is now.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Cinema Etiquette 2# - Food







Etc. Etc. Etc.

Eating in the cinema is a tricky issue.

As you would expect I have very firm views on this and very strict rules.

In the multiplexes while watching some summer blockbuster it is fine to have a massive bucket of popcorn and a cup of fizzy pop that you could bathe a small child in.

You can stuff your face with ice-cream, nachos, sweets and pic 'n' mix to your hearts content or to your heart attack.

If you are in the multiplex to see something quieter or more left-field then you can eat any of those things before the lights go down and while the advertisements are playing but as soon as the film starts you have to stop.

If you are in an arthouse cinema like the Filmhouse then you shouldn't be eating anything that crunches, smells or rustles...anything you drink should be opened before the film starts to avoid the click and hiss of pop cans opening.

The reasons are obvious surely.

Even to the sort of person who thinks it's acceptable to use a mobile telephone in the cinema (see Cinema Etiquette 1#).

A film like "Iron Man 2" is's aimed at teenagers, young adults and family audiences. It's a film made to's full of explosions, big bangs and bright lights. It's a thrill ride. It's silly, fun and brash. Someone chomping their way through a mega-vat of popcorn isn't going to detract from the's a part of the experience.

Heading into the dark of an arthouse screen to see something more delicate, romantic, intimate, challenging or dark requires you, as the viewer, to be attentive and respectful of what is being shown on the screen. What I don't want at that point is to endure some mug munching through a packet of salt and vinegar crisps and half-way through cracking open a can of Diet Coke isn't appropriate.

I had to endure exactly that situation when I went to see "Glorious 39" earlier this year. It was awful. This dialogue driven period drama given a soundtrack of some fat beast punishing their already bloated frame with a jumbo packet of crisps...the noise and the stink really didn't help me lose myself in the film. If you can't make it through an hour and a half without jamming junk food into your face then you need to buy Paul McKenna's "I Can Make You Thin" quickly. films, stuff your face and make merry. Arthouse's diet time.



Hullo dear readers.

You will have noticed that Film2010 now has its very own email address.

You can see it up, there at the top of the page.

It would be lovely to hear from you.

Send me your thoughts, complaints or suggestions.

Thanks for reading.

Vincere - Filmhouse - 26/5/10






Friend of Hitler.

He was also a bastard when it came to his private life.

Meeting young Ida Dasler when he was a firebrand socialist and political agitator he embarked on a passionate affair with her, had a son (also Benito) and happily availed himself of her financial backing to set up his newspaper "Il Popolo d'Italia". He also married her. That fact didn't stop him from marrying someone else though and when Ida became a threat to his public image as the happily married "Il Duce" he had her committed to a psychiatric hospital and the boy placed in a home.

It's a fascinating and tragic story if not a surprising one.

Director Marco Bellochio delivers a film that is as hysterical as Ida Dasler was. Everything from the music to the performances of the leads borders on the very edge of mania. While that sits well with the story it doesn't make for an easy, or enjoyable, viewing experience.

On the surface this passes as very serious film making but in comparison with some of the other Italian films that form part of the current renaissance it doesn't measure up.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Cinema Etiquette 1# - Mobile Telephones

Nothing is happening in your life that is so important that it cannot wait for the two hours that most films run.


Trust me.

None of your friends are so witty, urbane and dazzling that their text message cannot be left unread.

Nobody that you know is going to do anything life changing in the time that it takes for you to take your seat, watch the movie and then leave the auditorium.

I promise you.

Your life is NOT that interesting and you are NOT that important.

I know because I'm just like you.

Except I'm not because I don't feel the desperate need to be in contact with the dullards who pass as my friends 24 hours a day. That's why I go to the escape the monotony of my life and my friends.

You may well be there to kill some time or to be entertained (that's me sometimes) but to sit in front of me and shine a light in my face while I am watching a film that has cost me the best part of ten pounds to see seems, to me, to be a little bit off.


You don't agree?

You can't see how utterly vile that is?


Don't go thinking that this is the preserve of teenage girls or "chavs" either...for the most part it's not. Nor is it only behaviour to be found in the multiplexes. Last night while watching "Run Lola Run" at the Filmhouse the person behind me had their telephone on "vibrate" which meant that when her friend sent her a text I could hear it arriving...that's intrusion enough to be honest but then to have to endure her taking the 'phone out of her bag and then typing out a reply was enough to see me getting very close to causing a scene.

Switch your 'phone OFF.

Don't put it on silent.

Switch the damned thing off.

I promise you that nothing so important is going to happen that cannot wait until the film ends.

If something that important were to shouldn't be in the cinema, you would have an idea that whatever it was was looming.

It's impossible to ignore the bright lights of the screens flashing on and off around the room. My eyes are drawn to them and that means I'm not watching the thing I've paid to see but am instead looking at you behaving like a massive pillock.


I've said it.

People who keep their 'phones switched on and check them during a film are the worst sort of people.


You are selfish, bad mannered, boors.

On more than one occasion I've challenged people in the cinema...and on each occasion you get the same response; what's the problem?

The problem is, you dick, that I don't want to keep having a bright line shone in my face while I am watching a film.

If you want to text your friends (who presumably know you are in the cinema which makes them dicks for texting you in the first place) then go out and text them...don't come to the cinema to do it!

In short, if you are the sort of person who keeps their mobile 'phone on while in the cinema and who uses it during the film then I hate you.

That's right.

I hate you.

You are the worst sort of person.

I hope you lose the use of your hands and go much use will your mobile telephone be then?


Which is good because then I won't have to endure your rude behavior any further.

If you agree with me then respond below...I expect to read no dissent.

Run Lola Run - Filmhouse - 24/5/10

A cult movie this one.

Sadly, in this case, cult doesn't mean undisovered, underappreciated gem but instead means a film that students will enjoy after an evening in the union.

Don't let the philosophical bent of the storyline (determinism 101) fool you...this is not a clever film or a meaningful film. This is a film that looks three or four times its twelve years. Coming at the arse end of the nineties and two years after its most obvious stylistic inspiration, Trainspotting, this has aged terribly. From the ghastly euro-techno soundtrack to the duller than dull Franka Potente as the eponymous heroine everything about this reeks of desperation. It clearly wants to be hip, witty and meaningful but it fails on every level.

With nods to Argento (at least one blind character and several others in very dark sunglasses), Tarantino (the interlocking storylines a la "Pulp Fiction") and the previously mentioned "Trainspotting" this is a film that should have been fabulous...but trust me it is about as far from fabulous as a film can get without actually being a Steve Coogan project.

Just plain bad.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

EIFF - Press Accreditation

Hullo readers.

Excellent news this week as myfilms2010 learned that we (that's the royal "we") had been successful in our application for press accreditation for this years Edinburgh International Film Festival.

That means we can all look forward to news, reviews and (hopefully)interviews from one of the biggest and most diverse film festivals in the world next month.

Many thanks to all of you for reading, registering and supporting the blog so far this year. Without all of that then there would be no blog...which some of you may feel is no bad thing as you wade through another review of an Ozu film and see me shoehorn the words "delicate" and "moving" into it.

Thanks too to the lovely people at Rogers & Cowan who run the press at the EIFF...they made the decision to grant press accreditation and I (see, I've ditched the "we" thing already) am really very grateful to them for showing a bit of faith in me and the blog.

Thanks again everyone.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Four Lions - Cineworld - 17/5/10

Chris Morris isn't a man who worries about causing offence.

"Brasseye", "The Day Today", "Jam", "Blue Jam", "Nathan Barley" and now "Four Lions" have all played with ideas that may have caused other creative forces to pause and say; "Not yet...". From paedophillia and dead babies plugged into plumbing systems, elephants with their trunks trapped inside their own anus to Jihad it seems that Morris is a man on a mission to confront us with taboos.

The young British muslims who occupy the world of "Four Lions" are fools...trying to train crows as suicide bombers, killing Osama Bin Laden while visiting a training camp in Pakistan, blowing up microwave ovens and singing along to "Dancing in the Moonlight" en route to their final destination. Ultimately though these boys are only fools to a point because they achieve their aim...albeit in a messy and "unsuccessful" fashion.

I don't think Morris is trying to claim that we would all be better served by laughing off the threat from radicals of whatever creed, I think he is highlighting the fact that there is something inherently ridiculous about radicalism and about a society that bends to their will. While there may well be a threat to our society from exactly the sort of people painted in the film it would seem that the response to that threat is disproportionate...

I'm straying dangerously close to rant and further away from "review" here.


The only question that really matters here it funny? The answer is that, yes, it is. There are moments of high comedy and genuine laugh out loud moments (lol soz). Each of us may well arrive at a different conclusion regarding Morris's motives/message but he has, undeniably, made a funny film from source material that would have lesser talents floundering looking for laughs. As with his "Paedogeddon" he has tackled one of the big issues and managed to do so while scoring hit after hit with his jokes. Where the likes of Frankie "I'm outrageous me" Boyle and "Jimmy "I'm not Jim Davidson, honest" Carr rely on controversy to cover up the fact that they aren't very funny Morris is a man who takes taboos, confronts us with them, makes us laugh and makes us think about why.

Alongside Armando Ianucci, Morris may just be the best comedy writer of his generation.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

An Interview with Darren Ward, Nick Rendell and Giovanni Lombardo Radice

Darren Ward looks like a normal person. Dark hair, average height, average build, sensible could walk past him in the street and not even think about how normal he looked. But Darren Ward is not normal. There is something very different about him. He’s not like me and, I would imagine, he isn’t much like you either. Sure he has a job and he likes films but still...something is different.

Darren makes movies. He makes movies that are guaranteed to prompt some negative reactions; they are violent and brutal movies. His latest, “A Day of Violence”, is shockingly violent at times and has prompted more than one walk out during screenings. It is unlikely that it will ever receive a cinema release and you’re highly unlikely to find it lurking in the local Blockbuster. He made this film over a long period of time using his own money (and whatever he could borrow from friends and family) and in his own time. Sometimes filming would last for 18 hours which effectively means that for two years Darren Ward had no free time.

If “A Day of Violence” was going to make him a lot of money or see him given a big budget movie to work on next time then you could easily understand why he does it...but neither of those things are very likely. So when I meet Darren in the, sparse and functional, Guild Room at the rear of Edinburghs Filmhouse Cinema I begin by asking him the one question anyone would want the answer to...why?

“Ever since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated by films and the power that they have. It started with the Hammer films really; Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee. They used to be on really late at night so I’d get my old man to record them for me and I’d come down in the morning and watch ‘em. Then when the video nasties arrived I’d occasionally find one of them lying around and watch a bit of “Zombie Flesh Eaters” or cannibal this and cannibal that. I was fascinated by that world and, originally, I wanted to do special effects...I even used to practice with make-up and prosthetics and all the rest of it but I knew I wanted to be part of this world. Then slowly I began to think about making my own movies; get a few friends together, get a camera and we made this short, 45 minute, film called “Paura il Diavolo” (1992) which was a homage to the Italian horror films. Then I made another short film called “Bitter Vengeance” which came really close to winning an award at the BAVA awards...people kept asking me about the characters in that film and telling me that they wanted to know more about them and the world they were occupying so I started writing the script for “Sudden Fury” (1997) and at that time, in my early twenties, it wasn’t possible for me to just go out and make a film like studios do; it took about two years to finish filming and at one point we didn’t do any filming for a year because the money ran out. But eventually it got a release in various places around the world including the US and Germany where it has a sort of cult following.”

As Ward talks it’s difficult not to be moved by his love of film. He clearly adores the whole process of making a film from writing to filming. But if you’ve been paying careful attention you’ll notice that he still hasn’t answered the question. Just as I was preparing myself for the fact that the only explanation for why he makes these sacrifices for so little, apparent, gain is that he is a lunatic he tells me that “There is just something inside me that wants to make films and the sort of films I want to make and that I want to see aren’t being made so it’s up to me to make them. I don’t want to be cliched and use that Argento thing of “the monster inside me” but there is something inside of me that wants to break out. I mean look at the world we live in; it is violent, it is aggressive and it is brutal, my films sort of reflect that”.

That sort of comment is only a cliche if it isn’t true and Ward talks passionately about his films as a mirror of certain elements within our society. He cites the Shipman case as an example of what he is talking about “Yeah, old Bill who lives next door, he’s a great bloke, a lovely old fella and then you find out he’s got twenty bodies buried in the garden, so films like mine are simply showing you what could be going on right beneath your nose. And in the case of “A Day of Violence” it isn’t just violence for the sake of violence, the central character, Mitchell (played by Nick Rendell) does the things he does for a reason and that reason is to offer hope to a child and to rid himself of his own demons so, yeah, nasty things are happening but the point is he is doing these things for a reason. We might not make the choices he does in a similar situation but there are people like Mitchell who do make those sorts of choices”.

At around this point Nick Rendell joins us and reveals that despite spending his weekends filming low budget, ultra-violent gangster films he is, in the real world, a University lecturer. “Despite lecturing on psychology I think I’d drive myself crazy if I tried to figure out what was going on inside Mitchells head”. In the film Mitchell is plunged into chaos after he steals £100,000 from another gangster. That’s not national lottery money but it’s a sum of money that could make a difference to most peoples lives and, for Mitchell, it offers him a chance to redeem himself. “I think it’s quite a black and white decision that Mitchell makes, how much would it have taken...where was that point for him to do what he did? £50,000? Where?” At this time of economic recession it’s this point that I think lies at the heart of the film. We all like to think of ourselves as “good” people but do we all have a price? We have mortgages, credit cards, holidays we’d like to take, clothes we want to buy...where would the cut off point be for us to make the sort of choice that Mitchell makes? It’s easy to sit in judgement on the character who is, let us not forget, a man who makes his living from hurting people, but if the situation was right and the money was right would we act any differently. I think it is the fact that “A Day of Violence” confronts us with that dilemma that makes people uncomfortable and not the random acts of violence.

Rendell plays a deeply unpleasant character, a mean and aggressive man with few redeeming qualities. It’s difficult to imagine him taking the role of “Bungle” in “Rainbow: The Movie”. Is he, like his director, using this process to allow the demon inside out? “Well, if I could do anything else I think it would be comedy. I think that I could lend myself to that. It would be novel too, this great big thuggish bloke playing it for laughs” It really would be novel and it’s difficult to imagine having just watched Rendell mow down hordes of gangsters in a nightclub.

It’s interesting listening to the two men, director and actor, talking. It’s clear that they have a very close relationship. It’s not just the convenience of friendship and geography that has seen them make five films together. “Yeah”, begins Ward, “You do get detractors because of that, people saying it’s your safety net but the day I write a film or make a film that I don’t feel Nick is right for then I won’t use him but I think every film we’ve done he’s come on ten-fold and so have I” Ward and Rendell...Southamptons Scorcese and Di Niro?

Right now both men are making exactly the films that they want to make. They have total artistic and creative control. They have to make sacrifices in terms of their time and their finances but as far as the creative process is concerned it’s their film. To take it to the “next level” might require a different sort of sacrifice. “I don’t know” says Rendell “I think that, like Mitchell, until the filthy lucre was there under my nose I don’t know what I’d be prepared to sacrifice for it”. “I wouldn’t tone down my vision at all” Ward says defiantly. “I’d be prepared to use cover shots to present people with a different view but I wouldn’t alter the tone of the films. If I had that big budget I’d still make a film like “A Day of Violence”.

One of the curious things about “A Day of Violence” is a cameo from Giovanni Lombardo Radice the Italian film star most well known, certainly here in the UK, for his roles in horror films of the early eighties made by the likes of “Cannibal Apocalypse”, “City of the Living Dead” and “House on the Edge of the Park”. It’s obvious from Wards earlier discussion about discovering video nasties as a youngster that he does like these films and the appeal of having someone like Lombardo Radice in his movie is obvious but what about the man himself. “I liked the script. They both have a real passion for what they are doing. They do it because they believe in it. Passion is a great force of human nature and if you have it it shows. It showed in the script.”

With all three men now together I had to ask about the films opening three minutes. A fairly explicit and very realistic sex scene involving Rendell who I know has a partner. Just to make him feel awkward I asked if he would be showing his partner that part of the film?

“No. The best thing about it is that it is the first three minutes of the film so for her it can start three and half minutes in.”

“That scene had to be realistic for me, this was an opportunity to show Mitchell as a compassionate, and passionate, man. The film starts with that to show that side of Mitchell. It’s three minutes and it is shocking but it isn’t exploitation, you don’t feel grubby watching it” Ward is right, the scene doesn’t play like an exploitation moment, it isn’t there just to get some flesh up on screen. It can be justified artistically and in relation to the development of the character.

It would be untruthful of me to say that “A Day of Violence” is a treat for all the family and even for those who enjoy these types of films it is a rough ride. The fact is that it is rough and tough film-making. It’s cinema from the edges. The big studios wouldn’t touch a film like this and most of you will never see it. But the important thing about Ward, Rendell and Lombardo Radice is that this is film-making by people who have passion. They are not doing any of this because it’s going to be good for their careers and I doubt that anyone is making a lot of money but, as Lombardo Radice said; “Passion is a great force of human nature”. There can’t be any argument about the fact that all three men and the film itself have passion.

Monday, 10 May 2010

The Consequences of Love - DVD - 9/5/10

In recent years Italian cinema has made something of a return.

Following some fairly fallow years we have seen the likes of "Il Divo", "In The Name of Love", "Mid-August Lunch", "Gomorra", "The Girl by the Lake" and the soon to be released "Vincere" all of which would be in any film fans favourites list. Three of those films have one thing in common and that is central performances by Tony Servillo who also plays lead in this 2004 mafia flick.

Servillo is one of the best actors in the world right now. While much is made of the likes of Clooney, Bridges, Crowe and Bale in Empire magazine who work themselves into a lather over any film that features any Hollywood A-lister, the fact is that not one of those men has the ability to match the performances of Servillo in "Il Divo", "Gomorra", "Girl by the Lake" or "The Consequences of Love". He is, quite simply, head and shoulders above his American peers and when you watch him it is difficult not to get angry about the fact that he will never receive the sort of attention that they do.

In Paulo Sorrentino's "The Consequences of Love" Servillo plays Titta di Girolamo a quiet, to the point of being mute, man who lives in an exclusive Swiss hotel. He spends his days sitting in the lounge, watching, smoking, listening and obsessing over barmaid Sofia. Each Wednesday at 10 am he takes heroin. Once or twice a week he takes delivery of a suitcase filled with money which he takes to a bank and has the staff count by hand, never by machine. All of this he does without saying any more than he has to and with precision that is matched in his clothes.

This quiet, deliberate and precise world is thrown out of sync by two events; first Titta is visited by two men in his hotel room. They are mafia and they have come to undertake a hit. While sleeping in Tittas hotel room they witness the delivery of one of the suitcases filled with money and once the hit is complete they return to steal the money. This is not good news for Titta as we learn that he too is in the employ of the mafia thanks to an investment he made on their behalf ten years ago which saw them lose a lot of money. To avoid the usual fate that befalls people who lose the mafia money he has been placed in the hotel to act as their delivery boy, Now he must convince the mob that he has not betrayed them...not an easy task as the two thieves are cousins of one of the bosses.

The second event that disturbs Tittas world is his engagement with Sofia the barmaid. He confides in her. Reveals who he is and what he has become. Having unburdened himself Titta is suddenly aware that he has been robbed too. Robbed of his life. This leads to his making a very important decision which has consequences that prove fatal.

Despite saying little Servillo is utterly convincing as the former investment banker turned mafia delivery boy. He is immaculate in his dress, his movement and his delivery. He is quietly menacing at times and at others he is completely vulnerable. It really is a performance of many layers...which makes me sound like the sort of pretentious prat who wants to talk about films in a way that makes them inaccessible to anyone else but it's the only way I can describe this performance.

The film itself is ultra-stylised. At times it looks like a very expensive car advert which isn't a bad thing despite what you are thinking. It has the appearance of being all surface and no substance but that "cool" exterior is only that, an exterior, and it is cracked by the relationship between Titta and Sofia (played brilliantly by Olivia Magnani) which allows us into the heart of Titta. It is that relationship that allows us to get inside Titta and to understand why he needs to surround himself with this routine, this precision and this almost glacial iciness.

Writer/director Paolo Sorrentino has now created two of the past decades best films and if the world were fairer he would be talked about in the same glowing terms reserved for directors working in the English speaking world. I know it's becoming repetitive but this ghettoisation of cinema simply serves to rob the audience of seeing films that are more worthy of their time and money than some of the horrors cluttering up the mulitplexes.

You should treat yourself and go out and buy this film. It is available on amazon for five pounds and for the same price in HMV. Five pounds. Just five pounds. That's less than a cinema ticket to watch "Hot Tub Time Machine" and I can't believe that you won't get more out of this than that. If you are a reader of this blog who knows me I'll lend you my copy. Do it. Do it today,

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Date Night - Cineworld - 8/5/10

As has already been well documented on this blog I love a rom-com.

I'm not ashamed of that.

It can't all be Ozu and new European cinema you know.

Light and shade and all that.

Here the premise is as ridiculous as another "favourite" of mine from this year "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" as Phil and Claire Foster (Steve Carell and Tina Fey) also fall foul of gangsters and have to extricate themselves from an entirely improbable set of circumstances. What the set up is is completely unimportant, all that ever matters in these films is; did you laugh and did you enjoy the relationship between the leads. The answer here is yes to both. These are not films that are made to win awards or prompt deep discussion, they are meant to be light, frothy and fun. Some people get very sniffy about this sort of film...but those people can go to hell because I laughed more than once during "Date Night" and I loved the relationship between Carell and Fey.

So there.

Double-Take - Filmhouse - 8/5/10

A film about Alfred Hitchcock.

A film about Castro and Cuba.

A film about Kennedy.

A film about the Cold War.

A film about the nuclear arms race.

Had this been a film about any one of these interesting topics then this would have been an interesting film.

Sadly, director Johan Grimonprez has decided to make a film that interweaves all of these things and also manages to throw in a discussion on the notion of identity for good measure with the end result being a messy, confusing, bitty and, ultimately, boring film. It's clear that Grimonprez has a love of Hitchcock the man and Hitchcock the director and had he used the mass of footage he uncovered to create a straightforward biopic I would have been much more engaged.

"Double-Take" just felt a bit like the sort of film that the really pretentious student in a film school would make..."Uh yeah, I'm creating a shifting, fluid anti-biopic that deals with questions of identity and the true nature of the world around us in order to confront people with the stupidity of their own understanding...or something."

There is a good idea in here with Hitchcock acting as narrator and telling the story of the Cold War period and using his own film "The Birds" as a metaphor...but I only know that because I read it somewhere else! Left to your own devices I think you would be just as confused as I was.

Friday, 7 May 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) - Cineworld - 7/5/10

Thanks to Alanis Morissette I never really understood the concept of irony. Even when Ed Byrne tried to explain it I was just more confused.

However, now, thanks to this remake, sorry...thanks to this utterly pointless and vapid remake of the Wes Craven classic I have a complete understanding of the concept of irony. Let me explain; the premise of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is that if you go to sleep you will be brutally murdered by Freddy Krueger the melted faced paedophile. However, while watching this very film I fell asleep on three separate occasions. Ironic.

There were so many awful things in this film that I cannot even begin to list them.

But, I know more after seeing it than I did before it, so it was educational...albeit inadvertently. It also answered a question that I haven't ever had a definitive answer for before; "What is the worst film you have ever seen?".

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The Disappearance of Alice Creed - Cineworld - 6/5/10

Eddie Marsan is a fine actor. He has appeared in the likes of "Gangster No.1", "Vera Drake", "V for Vendetta", "Gangs of New York", "Sherlock Holmes", "Happy-Go-Lucky" and "Me and Orson Welles". That is a roll call that shows an actor with range and who is well respected within the don't work for the likes of Scorsese and Leigh if you don't have "something". He is a hugely talented actor and one who is always watchable.

Compare and contrast with the roll call of films that his co-stars in "Alice Creed", Martin Compston and Gemma Arterton. Compston arrived on the scene in "Sweet Sixteen" which was a tale of cheeky "wee laddie" from the West coast of Scotland surrounded by drug dealers and drug addicts...given that he was brought up in Greenock that didn't require a huge stretch of the imagination from him. Since then he has appeared in various Sunday night television fluff and not much else. The reason for that is plain to see in this film...he's not an actor. As for Gemma Arterton...she is an "actress" who has chosen to appear in not one but two "St Trinians" films and "The Boat That Rocked", do I have to say anything else?

Marsan plays "Vic" who, along with Compstons "Danny", kidnap the daughter of a wealthy man; Arterton as the eponymous "Alice". The two men have met in prison, become lovers and hit upon their plan as a means to get the money they need to start a new life together in sunnier climes. What Vic doesn't know is that Danny was the boyfriend of Alice before he went to prison and that he has a plan of his own which involves getting his hands on the ransom and heading off into the sunset with Alice to live happily ever after.

As one would expect things don't go according to plan and before the films end there have been a couple of (fairly obvious) twists on the road to the ransom. With its far from subtle sado-masochistic imagery and "edgy" gay hardmen characters it's obvious that director J Blakeson (a name that is only matched in the ridiculous stakes by McG) wanted to produce something really "dark". Sadly, for him and for us, this film is not dark, or edgy or even sexy (no matter how many shots he gives us of Arterton bound and gagged on a bed) instead its a fairly standard thriller...just with less thrills.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Lynn Redgrave - 1943 - 2010

"Georgy Girl" star Lynn Redgrave has died of breast cancer.

Part of the Redgrave acting dynasty she was the star of many films including "Georgy Girl", for which she received the first of her two Oscar nominations, She also appeared in various episodes of the classic "Armchair Theatre" series, 2002's cult "Spider" and "Gods and Monsters" in 1999 which brought her a second Oscar nomination.

She had battled breast cancer since 2003.

A well loved and talented actress she will be missed by her family, friends and the wider world.

My condolences to her family.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Neighbour - FAB Fest, Filmhouse - 2/5/10



I was just thinking back over some of the highlights from "Neighbor" and I had to throw up.

The scene where she...eeeeeeeeeeuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggghhhhhhh.


It's just that whenever I think about the moment when sheeeeeeeeeeuuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhhh.

When "The Girl" (America Olivo) turns up in Dons neighborhood after torturing and slaughtering a family somewhere up the road a ways you just know that things are not going to end well. "The Girl" does not disappoint and before long Don is being subjected to all manner of unspeakable acts involving hammers, drills, nails and...a twizzle stick. I can't tell you what she does with those things because I want to avoid making my readers run screaming from their computers (at least until the end of the review) but suffice to say none of it is good news for Don.

Some films are nasty and downright unpleasant just for the sake of it (hello Eli Roth) and have no intention other than to make people shut their eyes or leave the cinema altogether. In the process they inevitably manage to show the worst aspects of men by subjecting the females in the films to rape, torture and brutality just for yuks. Such films proudly march along under the banner of torture "porn" and as with the "real" porn industry it exists solely to objectify women. It's not big and it's not clever.

"Neighbor" however, thanks to director Robert A. Masciantonio, manages to sharply turn the whole insidious little sub-genre on its head simply by having a female visit the self same horrors onto a male victim. Fabulously it also manages to avoid giving a phoney "happy" ending...instead things end well only for "The Girl". It's not a film that is going to play on the Disney channel anytime soon, nor is it the sort of film that will appeal to everyone with an interest in the horror genre...the reason for that is it doesn't actually play by the rules and people don't like that. I like it though and I liked "Neighbor" because of it.

Masciantonio has managed to produce something that is unsettling and dark, for sure, but he has also littered the film with humor and references to all manner of other films from "Jaws" to "Funny Games". He knows his films and he, clearly, knows how to make films too. With good fortune "Neighbor" will find its audience and then other people might start to pay more attention to a director with ideas and visions. We live in hope.

It is important to note too how fabulously deranged America Olivo is as "The Girl". A relative unknown she gives a performance that should, if there is any justice in the world, propel her into the public eye. She is absolutely perfect here...the most terrifying screen killer since, well, take your pick. Her performance is elevated above the typical "girl in horror movie" fare by Olivos physical performance...something about the way she moves, a languid fluidity, makes her appear almost unreal or animalistic. This is an actress whose name is worth remembering. Certainly you won't forget her after seeing what she does with a twizzle stiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggghhhhh.


Combat Shock - FAB Fest, Filmhouse - 1/5/10

There are moments when you see a film that leave you feeling incapable of moving from your seat.

The first time I saw Woody Allens "Manhattan" was on the big screen and I couldn't believe what I had just seen.

"Combat Shock" is no "Manhattan"...although it is a match for it in every way.

It is claustrophobic, intense, dark, disturbing, brutal and violent. It is also insightful and possessed of the sort of social comment that "big" movies cannot make because they cannot afford to offend the sensibilities or affiliations of their financial backers. Luckily Buddy Giovinazzo didn't have to worry about that when he made "Combat Shocks" because all of what little money there was was his own.

His first feature film Giovinazzo was driven by a desire to make a film that was honest about the subject and to the characters. That honesty means that this is not an easy film to watch. It is relentless in its attempts to put the focus on the sort of people in society that most of us would rather believe don't exist. The camera never allows us to forget that life, for some people, is short, cheap and ugly...often through no fault of the individual.

Focusing on the life of Vietnam vet. Frankie we are thrust into a world of poverty, crime, prostitution, family breakdown and abuse. On the mean streets of any big city there are people who would happily take what you have, including your life, if it would benefit them and at the other end of the scale governments and corporations behave in exactly the same way. Frankie is the victim of a government who sent its young men to fight in a war that they didn't understand and of an economic system that doesn't care about the individual. He is penniless, he is hungry and his wife and child are suffering alongside him. A series of events over the course of the day from a toilet not flushing to the revelation that his father will not, cannot, help him and a savage beating from some local hoods leads Frankie to take the only course of action that he believes can save his family from suffering anymore. He kills them and he kills himself.

This is not a film that can be described as "horror" nor does it really belong alongside other "cult" films...but it's audience is a cult movie audience and for that we should be grateful because thanks to them the film is still available to us. Watching it in 2010 it is shocking to see how little has changed...young men and women are still fighting in wars they don't believe in, poverty reigns in the inner-cities while huge sums of money are used to support the wealthiest, violence and crime continue to blight communities and break up families. Giovinazzo could easily have made this film this week with the same script, using the same shots and it would seem fresh, shocking and unsettling.

A filmmaker who is as committed to the pursuit of honesty in his art is one to be cherished.

Buddy honest man.

Reel Zombies - FAB Fest, Filmhouse - 2/5/10

The world has been over-run by zombies.

This is bad news for cinema goers and filmmakers...who wants to sit in a dark room with limited exit points when the undead are roaming around and who wants to fund movies at such a time? Nobody, are you mental?

Despite this Mike and Dave decide to resurrect their zombie movie franchise using real zombies in the hope that once the zombie problem is solved they will be able to cash in. On paper that's a really good idea. Or it would be if everyone involved wasn't either a complete moron or utterly incompetent...and, in some cases, both.

As the cast and crew lurch from one disaster to another their attempts to make a movie in the most difficult of circumstances are captured by their friend, documentary filmmaker, Sam. The result is a fabulously entertaining and brilliantly funny zombie movie that is easily the match of the likes of "Shaun of the Dead" or "Zombieland". With a budget that could only have amounted to the cost of James Camerons sushi for a day on the set of "Avatar" everyone involved has obviously given up time and money simply for the love of the idea. While they may not see financial rewards everyone who saw it here at the FAB Fest was rewarded with a cracking film that will live long in the memory.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

An Interview with Adele Bethel

Some of you may not know who Adele Bethel is.

That is not a good thing.

In a perfect world her band "Sons and Daughters" would be on every teenage girls iPod and she would occupy the space on their walls currently filled with Lady GaGa or Premiership footballers. She is the sort of girl every young girl should want to be like and the sort of girl every boy should want as a girlfriend.


Strikingly individual.



A degree in Film and Television/English Lit (which makes her better qualified to be doing this blog than me).

Makes you sick doesn't it?

Only joking...she's brilliant and so are her band.

Want proof...take a look at this.

As a fan of "Sons and Daughters" since their debut album "Love the Cup" and as someone who would really like a girlfriend just like her I thought I would chance my arm and use my position as the worlds premier film blogger (that's what I told her anyway...don't tell her that it's only me and my mum who actually read this) to persuade her to answer a few questions about films. It worked and here she is.

The photograph at the top of this article is you standing underneath the "Mulholland Drive" sign; clearly you know a bit about films and film history. You are also a woman who has managed to find success in an industry that is notoriously supportive of sexist attitudes. Which female character from film would you be and why?

"I am Annie Hall so it would have to be that role. Her character is so close to home it’s uncomfortable. I could just play myself as the neurotic, wine drinking, Sylvia Plath obsessed, romantic singer who is terrified of spiders!"

What about the first record you bought which was, I believe, "Prince Charming" by Adam and the Ants, who would you like to have play your Prince charming in the film of your life?

"Leonard Cohen is my dream man, has been for many years. I would run off with him now at the drop of his fedora. Don’t know if he can act but that doesn’t bother me. I also love James Spader and his haunting dead eyes!"

I've got to be honest here...I was hoping that, even out of politeness, Adele might have said "You of course...ha, ha, ha" and then given her real answer. If she had I could have told all of my friends that I'm Adele Bethels Prince charming. She didn't though and I'll just to live with it. Less honest "journalists" would just have said that she did say it...not me though.

You've talked in the past of your love of "Blue Velvet", which strikes a chord with me because it's also one of my favourite films. It's a dark and unsettling film which also, famously, features some very challenging scenes involving the female characters. What is it about "Blue Velvet" that you enjoy?

"I’ve always been drawn into stories where there is something very dark underlying the daily routine. The opening shots of "Blue Velvet" are incredible in that sense. Perhaps it’s paranoia but you never know what is going on next door."

I've asked almost everyone I've interviewed for the blog which films they would choose if they could programme a day at the cinema. What about you? If you could show five films at the GFT for one day only what would they be and why?

"Well, these aren’t necessarily my five favourites...I haven’t chosen anything in black and white even though some of my favourites are black and white films. Cinema is all about colour for me, black and white movies are for a rainy afternoon in front of the tv.

“The Wizard of Oz” as it’s the first film I fell in love with. I was 5 years old. I learned every line and would torture my poor parents by re-enacting the entire film. I love the look of old technicolour, it’s beautiful.

“Vertigo” as it was the first film I saw as a teenager which made me realize how amazing cinema could be and the first time the phrase ‘on the edge of your seat’ made sense to me.

“Suspiria” as I think it just looks incredible. I’m a huge fan of Dario Argento and Giallo cinema in general.

“Valerie”, a film I only recently discovered. It’s just incredible looking, surreal, nightmarish, creepy and dreamlike. I actually chose it for the Monorail film club and it was shown at the GFT. Sadly, I was on tour at the time and never got a chance to catch it.

“Blue Velvet”, it’s my all time favourite and so visually stunning."

We are both fans of Morrissey (Sons and Daughters supported him in 2006) and he is an artist who also has a huge love of cinema. He never misses an opportunity to mention some of the films he loves in interviews or in lyrics. "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning", "A Taste of Honey" and "Billy Liar" all being examples. Which of the Morrissey approved films is your favourite and what is it that you enjoy about it?

"I love the fact Morrissey turned me on to so much cinema. I have to say that as much as I love all of the above, I think ‘The Leather Boys’ might be the one I like the most at this point. I managed to get it a couple of years ago on DVD and watched it every day for an entire tour. Scott from the band loved it too so we would go and find greasy spoon cafes and drink tea in our biker jackets and pretend we were in the movie! Sad."

Finally Adele what music would you have playing over the opening and closing credits of the "Adele Bethel Story" movie?

"Well, as unlikely a prospect of such a film being made (thanks Paul, you’re very sweet) I’d have “Sunday Girl” by Blondie to open and “Paint a Vulgar Picture” by The Smiths to end."

Real journalist don't really do this very often, if at all, in case they are accused of sycophancy but as this is my blog I can do what I like so here goes...

I want to thank you for agreeing to answer these questions for me as I've been an enormous fan of "Sons and Daughters" since you first arrived and it's been an enormous thrill for me to have had this chance to "speak" with you. Thank you so much for this and for "Sons and Daughters".

"No problem at all, it’s nice to answer decent questions once in a while!"

MyFilms...home of decent questions. Adele Bethel said so...and I couldn't be any happier!

The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle - FAB Fest, Filmhouse - 1/5/10

I would love to have been in the meeting when this idea was pitched to some studio executive.

Studio Exec: OK. As I am sure you know time is money in this town so let's cut the shit and get down to business. Go.

David Russo: So...this is a film that throws a mirror up at the true nature of our consumer society. It's a film that tells the story of how the evils of marketing is jeopardising the very fabric of our world. This is a look at the way in which globalisation and the desperate rush for profit are eroding anything good.

Studio Exec: Seriously? I just gave the green light to the Wayans Brothers new movie "Avatar Space Chimps in Space in 3-D" and you're pitching this to me? Really?

David Russo: No, no...listen. It's a comedy but the best kind of that makes a comment about the world around us and that makes us think. It's a funny film that will stand up to repeat viewings. It's slapstick, it's stupid, it's dumb, it's clever, it's subtle, it's...

Studio Exec: Kid, I have no time for this. This is a movie town. We make movies. ART. "Avatar", "The Wedding Crashers", "Avatar Redux"'re pitching what exactly. Give me the details because so far you are three steps closer to a door that was only two steps away.

David Russo: OK...there's this group of janitors who work in an office building that's home to a marketing company. They start running a focus group for a new range of cookies that heat themselves in your mouth but there are concerns over the possible effects on people who eat them so the marketing bods plant the cookies around the office for the janitors to find and it becomes clear that they are really addictive and they have major side effects...

Studio Exec: Oh brother. Listen. I need to know if there are any titties in this movie?

David Russo: Well, no...there aren't but...

Studio Exec: No titties? I thought this was a comedy? So far all I got is some cookies and some pinko lefty bullshit about marketing being "bad". You got one more shot kid. You gotta give me a reason to give you the green light. Something I can relate to.

David Russo: Um, well the major side effect is that men who eat them become pregnant with tiny blue fish that they give birth to out of their ass?

Studio Exec: You just got yourself a movie.

This was a brilliant, sweet and scabrous comedy that hit the mark in every single frame.

City of the Living Dead - FAB Fest, Filmhouse - 1/5/10

Cult movie can be code for “This movie is awful and is only enjoyed by the sorts of people who are so desperate to appear original that they pretend to like things that nobody else likes”. We all know at least one person like that surely? They listen to wilfully obtuse and obscure music with no hint of melody and say things like “This is really amazing, they’re totally pushing boundaries” and then in an attempt to be all post-post modern they whip out their “Greatest Hits of Kylie Minogue” CD and tell you all about how “dark” something like “Better the Devil you Know” really is.

The collective term for these people is “cocks”.

Thankfully “cult” movie can also mean the sort of film that can’t find a mainstream audience but is all the better for it. Films like “Withnail and I” or “Quadrophenia” are good examples of that sort of cult movie. They are films that are well made, beautifully observed and have genuine meaning to the people who watch them. They are not bad movies or even b-movies, they are good films made by people who knew what they were doing and who also knew how important film can be.

Where the work of Italian directors like Fulci who made “City of the Living Dead” along with other genuinely unsettling, shocking and sickening horror films in the 1980’s fits into these two categories depends on your feelings about horror cinema in general. If you like horror films then his work will thrill you and allow you to see where contemporary horror directors have magpied some of their ideas from. 

“City of the Living Dead” is typical of the genre that it comes from. It is soaked in fake blood, unpleasant deaths and bizarre performances and dialogue. The plot sees a Catholic priest hang himself in a cemetery and by doing so he unlocks the gates of Hell...normal! This isn’t a style of film (despite my love of horror) that I know much about but what I can say is that it was never anything less than entertaining...especially when Giovanni Lombardo Radice (google him!) meets a particularly grizzly end.