Friday, December 30, 2005

Film review: Fanny and Alexander

Fanny and Alexander is often described as Bergman's masterpiece. But to call masterpiece only one of Bergman's films from his consistently astounding oeuvre is to underestimate the rest of his body of work. For Bergman's whole output is one organic masterpiece. Let's settle for Fanny and Alexander as a synthesis of his cinematic vision.

Released in 1982, Fanny and Alexander is perhaps one of his most accessible works and won four Oscars in 1982, including Best Foreign film. It is a tale about family bonds, but not an imposed type of blood tie. The Ekdahls genuinely love each other and the chemistry of their love is one of the most intense visual translations of affection ever committed to the screen. Most importantly, that is achieved without saccharine orchestral crescendos or larger-than-life displays of emotion. It seems to come from within the film itself, or as one of the characters says, 'from a very deep part of her.'
Fanny & Alexander is set at the beginning of the twentieth century in Bergman's own home town of Uppsala. It starts with a Christmas celebration at the Ekdahl's colourful family home, a thespian clan headed by Helena Ekdahl (Gunn Wallgren). The first part of the film is a long sequence of private moments in bedrooms, which Bergman use to reveal the humanity of several characters that form the intricate narrative tapestry that unfolds on the screen. Among them are the eight-year-old Fanny (Pernilla Allwin) and the 10-year-old Alexander (Bertil Guve), whose lives are turned around when their father Oskar (Allan Edwall) dies. Their mother Emilie then marries the puritanical and evil local bishop (Jan Malmsjö) and the children find themselves locked away in room formerly inhabited the bishop's daughters who drowned in a river with their mother.

The bishop's house is a graphic representation of repression, reminiscent of children's dark fairy-tales, a house inhabited by witch-like spinsters who eavesdrop on other people's thoughts, a drab, anti-life place dictated by the Protestant denial of sensorial pleasures and art. A year passes (this is signified by an ellipsis), by which time Emilie hates the bishop because of his cruel treatment of her children. She's trapped, though, because he won't give her a divorce.

When all seems lost, an old Jewish friend of the family steps into the fray to rescue the children from the clutches of the bishop's iron hand (the bishop already looks quite mad at this point) and the magic realist events triggered off by the Jew's relieving appearance carry the film to its optimistic, soothing end.

It takes someone with a deep understanding of the human condition to make a film like Fanny and Alexander. Although Bergman operates within the realm of his Scandinavian background, his films, and this one especially, is a universal paean to individual freedom and family love, secularism against repressive religion and soul-less Puritanism. Bergman's use of film language is also a wonder to behold: his transition shots are always perfect and laden with poetic connotations; the meditative flow of the film turns the smallest of gestures into eloquent revelations. This film is about magic and it comes from Bergman himself, cinema's greatest magician.

Fanny and Alexander opens on 30 December at the Renoir Cinema in London to 22 January

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Bareback Mountain

Yes, the spoof is out even before the film is out here in the UK ...
Bareback Mountain

Friday, December 23, 2005

Film review: Rize


Fashioning street culture: Super-star photographer David LaChappele makes his directorial debut in the rough streets of LA, but the result is not as memorable as his photographs.

American ghetto culture has for a long time been the source of inspiration and fascination with taste makers working in the mainstream. Take the example of Madonna, who made her career and kept her street cred by occasionally 'mainstreaming' urban dance and style subcultures. She did that with vogueing and more recently used a street dance style called Krumping in her video for Hung Up. Not coincidentally, the video was directed by David LaChapelle, the director of Rize, a documentary that credits itself with having discovered the style.

LaChappele's documentary arrives on the big screen with comparisons to previous classics such as Paris is Burning and Style Wars, but the comparisons are overblown. Although not exactly bad, it is surprisingly bland considering the subject matter. You get the feeling that LaChappele never got fully involved with the scene and never lets the subject matter reveal its full potential. It doesn't sanitise the subject matter but never cuts deep enough either. You also wonder whether Krumping really is the 'phenomenon' that the filmmakers hype it up to be.

Krumping is a hyper-energetic form of dancing adopted by the kids in South Central, Los Angeles as a way out of a life of crime. The dancers jerk their bodies so fast and cathartically that they resemble the participants in Haitian voodoo rituals possessed by a spirit. LaChappele doesn't want us to miss this so he juxtaposes imagery of Nabu tribe members getting ready for fight, painting their bodies etc with footage of the LA kids doing something similar. But he does it in such an obvious way that the mini-thesis he tries to postulate visually looks forced and obvious.

The 'movement' started when Tommy Johnson, also known as Tommy the Clown, created the style as a response to the 1992 Rodney King Riots and named it "clowning”, which then morphed into the so-called Krumping. It's a moving story of social struggle in the underbelly of the American dream. We also get to know some of the key individuals in Tommy's posse, their families and their dreams. One of the highlights of the films is a stadium event where 'rival' gangs meet to outdance each other onstage to a rapturous audience, with Tommy working as a kind of court jester in a rainbow clown outfit. The energy of the place is almost palpable and the aftermath of the event is also one of the good verity moments in Rize.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with post-modern cultural appropriation per se. Subcultures tend to grow out of their original ethos in their crave for attention and that attention will be bigger if a mainstream name lends their hand. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship: the ghetto makes some money and the already-famous gets some much-needed hip cachet.

But Rize is a patchy film that could do without the final sequence that looks almost like a promo clip for LaChappeles's unmistakable style. This is part of the problem. He seems too tempted to dress the film in the Technicolor fantasy world that made his pictures famous and which certainly works for the fashion world. However, in a documentary, style over substance is not necessarily the most adequate method to record reality.

Larry Clark at the ICA, London, 17/12

LarryClarkLarry Clark, the photographer who made his film debut with the infamous Kids (1995), has an unfair 'bad boy' reputation. His publicised run-in with Tartan films supremo, Hamish MacCalpine, only reinforced this image of Clark as well as resulted in Ken Park (2002) never being released in the UK. True, at 62, Clark still exudes a black-clad rock 'n roll demeanour that makes him look younger and urban, perhaps even 'bad boy-ish'. But as soon as he started talking on the ICA stage, it was a softer persona that the audience had in front of them. In fact, tonight he came across as much more friendly than the reputation that preceeds him made me expect, although he did concede to a former aggressive streak smoothed out by age.

Clark ingressed the art world with a book of photographs named after his hometown, Tulsa (1971), in which his drug-addled, crime-prone friends with a gritty realism that influenced Martin Scorcese's Taxi Driver, Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumblefish and Gus Van Sant’s Drugstore Cowboy. The book was recently re-released after the publishers persuaded him to do so - considering the number of people asking him to sign copies at the ICA, that must have been a financially sound decision. He also has a new film coming out in March (US release) called Wussa Rockers ("it's like Kids ten years later"), set in the gang world of LA's south central area, which is also the area where David LaChapelle's documentary Rize (see reviews) is set.

Clark likes his own film Bully (2001). "I think it's a visually exciting film. I hadn't seen it in years until tonight and I remember the first time I saw it on the big screen. I saw a Hollywood movie on the same day and it looked so dead!' he said at the beginning of the conversation.

Bully is set in Hollywood, Florida amidst a group of teenagers who spend most of the time smoking dope and having sex. Shot in a documentary-style way which is very similar to Kids, it passes no judgement on them. The climax of the film is the murder of the local bully. The murder is shown as banal and reckless and at no point does Clark resort to Manichaeism. They pay the price for the crime and that's it. The acting is absolutely wondrous (the leading cast, Brand Renfro, Tania Milner, Nick Stahl and the superb Bijou Philips, are uniformly compelling to watch), which combined with the jittery camerawork and superb soundtrack, makes for involving viewing.

When questioned about the lifestyle of the kids, Clark said: "I guess it's a very American film. Living in an affluent country, those kids can afford the luxury of boredom. It is depressing, but at the same time most of them will figure it out and grow out of that. I just wanted to show them as human beings because kids are always shown as some kind of slapstick joke. When I made Kids, I wanted it to ring true to the kids who came to see it. And a lot of them said to me: this is like real life, not a film."

Part of the electricity and immediacy of the film comes from the fact that Clark had to shoot it in 23 days. "We had so little money to make this film. We were running around like crazy, shooting transition shots over the weekends. There was also a lot of improvisation. That's the great thing about working with professional actors: it's amazing what they can do."

One refreshing thing about Clark is that he doesn't over-intellectualize about his work. Although his oeuvre fits in an art cinema lineage that goes back to Italian neo-realism, and the way he allows the camera to linger on ugly-beautiful faces of teenagers can remind you of Pier Paolo Pasolini's close-ups on Italian peasants, his art seems to be more based on a very fine-tuned instinct to seek out the holy grail of cinema: the truth.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The film of tomorrow

"The film of tomorrow appears to me as even more personal than an individual and autobiographical novel, like a confession, or a diary. The young filmmakers will express themselves in the first person and will relate what has happened to them: it may be the story of their first love or their most recent; of their political awakening; the story of a trip, a sickness, their military service, their marriage, their last vacation...and it will be enjoyable because it will be true and new...The film of tomorrow will not be directed by civil servants of the camera, but by artists for whom shooting a film constitutes a wonderful and thrilling adventure. The film of tomorrow will resemble the person who made it, and the number of spectators will be proportional to the number of friends the director has. The film of tomorrow will be an act of love."

This is what Francois Truffaut predicted in the May 1957 edition of Arts Magazine.
And it's happening now.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Review: Blood for Dracula

bloodfordracula As the Christmas zoo- and horror-philia starts with a giant ape climbing the Empire State and Lassie making a comeback to the screens (not to mention Werner Herzog's upcoming Grizzly Man - but that's a different story), fans of cult director Paul Morrissey should not miss the opportunity to catch the screenings of the rare-to-come-by Blood for Dracula (also known as Andy Warhol’s Dracula) and made as a companion piece to Flesh for Frankenstein, which is playing as part of of a season of cult/horror/trash movies called Psychotronic Cinema at the ICA in London. Morrissey, of course, is famous because of his films with Andy Warhol and later in his life he became a bit villified because of his supposed conservative views (he said he made Trash because people who take drugs are, well, trashy).

But conservatism is not to be found in this superb rendition of the Dracula story, which even has a cameo by Roman Polanski. Camp, sexiness and amazing cinematography are on offer here. Morrissey takes the fanged count to the beautiful, soft-lit pastures of the Italian countryside, where he is put up by the aristocratic De Fiore family, headed by no one less than Vittorio de Sica’s (yes, he who made Bicycle Thieves!) marchese.

As it happens, the Fiori are short of money and see in the count a money-grabbing opportunity since they have two daughters to marry off. Dracula headed to Italy thinking he could find virgin blood in the Catholic country. But how wrong he was and he gets sicker and sicker as he tries different girls only to almost puke his guts out (that’s the reaction to non-virgin blood, apparently). With elements of farce, physical comedy, melancholy, art-house-meets-trash cinema aesthetics, Blood for Dracula is an enthralling, enchanting experience.

Like all 'period' films - and especially this type of period film that adopts a very Brechtian method of distanciation and deliberately artificial acting - Blood for Dracula is a very seventies film (it was made in 1975), with all the tongue-in-cheek eroticism that was en vogue in those days. But he had an eye and good taste and the film is always stunning to look at. Kier, with his homme-fatale, chiseled looks, was born to play the role and, like Dracula, will live eternally in our memories with the image of blood dreeping from his craving mouth.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Worth the hype: Grizzly Man

I saw last night a screening of Grizzly Man, the much-anticipated Werner Herzog’s documentary on Timothy Treadwell, the puerile eco-warrior who spent thirteen summers with wild Alaskan grizzly bears until he got devoured by one in October 2003. Herzog sculpted the film out of 100 hours footage that Treadwell shot himself and the result is a mesmerising piece, full of compassion, wit and insight into the contemporary human psychology. I’ll write a full review when the film comes out on 4 February, but meanwhile you can catch the trailer.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Beastie Boy's fan movie

What a great idea. My favourite rap band ever, the Beastie Boys created a film by handing out video cameras to 50 audience members at last year's gig at Madison Square Gardens. Dogme 95 meets Manhattan coolness. Sounds good to me.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Larry Clark at the ICA

Director Larry Clark will introduce a special screening of Bully followed by an extended Q&A session after the film this Saturday 17 December. The screening starts at 4.30pm.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Woody Allen's London map

Not happy to be almost an emblem of New York, Woody Allen has set his bespectacled eyes on London as well. In the run-up to the January release of his London-set Match Point, starring starlet extraordinaire Scarlett Johansson alongside Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Film London and Visit London have launched a downloadable map whereby visitors can follow in Johansson’s footsteps to discover some of London’s top shops and restaurants as well as familiar London landmarks such as 30 St Mary Axe (also known as The Gherkin), Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament. The map also highlights some lesser-known sites such as the hidden sanctuary of Mount Street Gardens as well as locations off the ‘tourist trail’ in Belgravia, Chelsea and Covent Garden. Match Point is a drama 'about a young man’s rise in society and the terrible consequences of his ambition'. Filming took place for seven weeks in and around London with the production marking Allen’s first feature film to be made entirely outside of his native New York.


Frederick Wiseman at the Tate Modern

Frederick Wiseman, the doyenne of American film documentary- and probably one of the world's finest - will be introducing the screening of his classic Public Housing, an unsparing look at The Ida B Wells development in Chicago, which falls within the most densely populated public housing district in the United States. The film is described as 'a monument to the dehumanising effects of poverty'. I'll be attending and reporting afterwards so watch this space 'cause it will be worth it.
Sunday 11/12 - Tate Modern 3pm

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Review: March of the Penguins

When the penguins go marching in...

If further evidence that documentaries have become serious box-office business, then the 'blockbuster' icebound penguin saga March of the Penguins should provide it. Directed by French biologist Luc Jacquet, the film has grossed US$70 million in the United States alone and arrives in the UK just in time for the Christmas schmaltzy season.

The film was shot over a period of 14 months and was produced by a pool of organisations that includes by Canal +, Buena Vista, Bonne Pioche and the French Polar Institute. It became a resounding a success when it first opened in France and in America it was appropriated by pro-life groups, which saw in it an example of monogamy and family values that fit in perfectly with the Bush-influenced conservative ethos in the Western world.

Despite technically being a nature documentary, March of the Penguins really is a film about human feelings projected on animals, a Disney-style exercise in anthropomorphisation of unwitting creatures. The 'storyline' should be familiar to most by now. Every winter, emperor Penguins in Antarctica leave behind the safety of the blue waters where they inhabit to set out on a 100km journey to one of the most inhospitable regions in the world in order to mate. The penguins march in a straight line against a blast of icy wind, driven by their instinct to reproduce, with unshakeable determination.

The film is designed to pull at the heart strings, with the help of the voice-over that gives human character to the 'protagonist' family of penguins that lead the emotional narrative. There’s nothing too unusual in that and we probably have seen this sort of approach in Saturday morning animal-world documentaries. But March of the Penguins is an ideologically and aesthetically contaminated film that uses typified nature to unabashedly glorify the human spirit. Yes, there are hints that there is violence in nature but this is glossed over by Jacquet in favour of a more ‘positive' outlook.

The irony is that March of the Penguins is set amidst the continent which has become the focal point of the global warming crisis and it would have been much more useful to highlight that this march may not happen for much longer because of the human destruction of the planet. But instead what we get is a narcissistic manipulation of the natural world in the service of 'values'. Shouldn't nature films attempt to divert our attention from ourselves as human animals so that we contemplate nature more closely and be moved to preserve it? By turning animals into metaphors of the human experience, March of the Penguins sadly reinforces the anthropocentric view of the world that is the main cause of the ecological disaster we are heading towards and therefore betrays the basic role of nature films as a call to preservation.

March of the Penguins is out 9/12

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

St Etienne's Hymns to London - Revisited

Those St Etienne people seem to be obsessed with London and tonight they show another fruit of their obsession at the Barbican Centre: What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day? (UK 2005 Dir. Paul Kelly 45 min.). The film is set in the 'vast mysterious pylon-covered wasteland that is the Lower Lea Valley, East London, on the eve of the Olympic redevelopment'. Through the eyes of a paperboy on his first day at work, the band and film crew race against time to document buildings, landmarks and people before they disappear to make way for stadiums, spacious plazas and Olympic villages.

I can't decide whether that sounds interesting or not, actually, but I decided to tell the world about it anyway, just in case.

Lady Bunny's new video

Speaking of devil dolls, here's Lady Bunny!

Show me Lady Bunny!

Repertory watch: The Devil Doll


This is a must-see cult classic from Tod Browing, who also gave the world the truly wonderful Freaks (quoted by Robert Altman in The Player). Made in 1936 and starring Lionel Barrymore, Frank Lawton and Maureen O’Sullivan, The Devil Doll is a camp cacophony of mad scientists, mind control, shrinking people and Lionel Barrymore in drag. Paul Lavond (Barrymore) decides to take revenge on his three business partners after being framed and imprisoned on Devil’s Island for 17 years. He hooks up with Marcel, an elderly deranged scientist, whose master plan is to save the planet by shrinking all men and beasts. Lavond simply wants retribution on his crooked bankers and when Marcel unexpectedly dies of a heart attack, he becomes the proprietress of a doll shop, the murderous Madame Mandelip – ready to take on her victims. Delicious!
Curzon Soho Sunday 11 9pm

George Michael says the right thing

George Michael

It's mega-stars documentary season now. After Madonna launched her cheesily entitled I'm Going to Tell You a Secret (really?), now it's George Michael's turn to rip his heart apart to the world in his more cleverly titled A Different Story, which is having advance screenings in London this week.

In a story run by the UK edition of, George Michael is quoted saying he is a difficult person to get on with, at the launch of the documentary.

The quotes were lifted from the trash-pile known as Evening Standard, but I have to admit being smitten by Michael's views which contrast so sharply with the ones dispensed by that other famous English queen, Elton John. Michael said he does not anonymous sex as wrong, or cruising 'dysfunctional... But I don’t cruise anymore, believe me. It is one thing to be self-destructive and then try to be cool about it; it is another for it to happen again and you just look stupid.'

He also said his open relationship with partner Kenny Goss had produced more trust and helped stabilise their relationship.'Gay men don’t have a higher sex drive than straight men; the latter are merely restrained by women,' he said.

But best of all is to come. After rumours circulated that he intended to benefit from the introduction of the civil partnerships, he said that it was something was 'something we might do in the future. I have a different opinion to Elton’s. All I want is the legal protection Kenny and I both deserve. Marriage is such a difficult institution at the best of times…if we were to get married, we would be apeing an institution that is not built for us.'

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Hidden triumps at European Film Awards

Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche in Hidden
Austrian director Michael Haneke'S acclaimed French language thriller Hidden (Caché), starring Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche, garnered five awards at the European Film Awards in Berlin on Saturday (3 December). The awards for were:

Best European Film 2005 - Caché
Best European Director 2005 - Michael Haneke
Best European Actor 2005 - Daniel Auteuil
Best European Editor 2005 - Michael Hudecek and Nadine Muse
Members of the European Film Academy judged 47 films this year. The awards, voted by the academy's 1,600 members, have been handed out since 1988 and are considered Europe's equivalent of the Oscars.
Hidden is released in the UK on 27/1/2006

Monday, December 05, 2005

Film review: The Store

Still from The Store (1982)

Those of you who have never heard of Frederick Wiseman should take yourselves to the Tate Modern for the ongoing mini Wiseman festival that's taking place there in conjunction with the Jeff Wall show. Wiseman is often dubbed the greatest American documentarian and there seems to be truth in that. I saw his classic The Store (1982) yesterday and I was astounded by the intelligence that Wiseman displayed in the construction of this masterpiece. The Store is a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the day-by-day at Neiman Marcus department store in Dallas. Shot on film stock, the camera is never acknowledged and never hand-held as it usually is these days, which creates the impression of this being a fiction film. Wiseman's smooth editing and visual puns manage to create a visual essay on consumerist society that is more beautiful and eerier than anything David Lynch ever made. Yes, life is stranger than fiction, especially in America. Wiseman will be present for a Q&A session on Sunday, 11/12.

La Dolce Vitta in pictures

I just bumped into this fantastic site crammed with pictures taken by Italian post-war photographer, Giuseppe Palmas. A tresure trove of cinematic black and white glamour.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Film review: Lower City

Alice Braga in Lower City

Brazilians used to joke that national films always had to feature 'naked women'. That comment was particularly relevant in the 1970s, when an erotic/comedic genre known as pornochanchada marked the national industry with a very strong sexual element. The comment also stems from the dubious relationship the country has with its sexually-charged image as a nation, which mixes pride with shame.

Novo Cinema Novo, the new phase of Brazilian cinema started in the mid-90s with the success of Central Station, hasn’t resorted to much eroticism to market its films, although the new film Lower City (out 2/12) seems to usher in a wind of change. Produced by Walter Salles’s company, the film seems to hark back to the ‘good old days’ of naked breasts and colour-saturated sex scenes, while also adopting an international visual grammar of ‘indie cinema’ with hints of road movie. It also features the mandatory coke-snorting scenes.

The story is hinged around a love triangle formed by Karina (Alice Braga), who picks up best friends Naldinho (Wagner Moura) and Deco (Lázaro Ramos) on her way from Vitória to Salvador, Brazil’s most African city as well as the symbolic cradle of the country. Karina has sex with both men and they both fall in love with the sexy-but-tender beauty who becomes a prostitute in Salvador in order to make ends meet. Prostitution is not used as the source of any conflict or the launch pad of a social-realist discourse on class exploitation. It’s just a given and its representation is rather authentic. Given Karina’s choice of work and the fact that she can’t make up her mind about which of the boys she loves more, all that is left to Naldinho and Deco is to fight over their muse. Literally.

Lower City ticks all the boxes of the modern slick independent feature: it looks good, the acting is good too (especially Moura’s) and it nods to the stylistic mannerisms of the Novelle Vague. But for some reason, the film seems to be devoid of any depth or real psychological dimension. Perhaps the same factors that make it technically good fail Lower City in artistic terms. It’s the kind of film that will please readers of Sunday supplement magazines as well as fans of boxing as a metaphor.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Venue tip: Greenwich Picturehouse

Looking for something off the beaten track. Then head to the Greenwich Picturehouse, which is in Greenwich, therefore off the beaten track. There's always something going on there on Sundays and here's where you can find out more.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Six years without Quentin Crisp

Gosh, hard to believe it's been six years since the wonderful Quentin Crisp (pictured) passed away at the age of 90. So here's The Filter's homage to this unforgettable character who inspired the John Hurt-starred film, The Naked Civil Servant.


Friday, November 25, 2005

Norwegian film festival

Still from the film Tinkers
Ever felt an overwhelming desire to see Norwegian films? Here's the chance. The Barbican and the Norwegian Film Institute present the Norwegian Film Festival, one of a number of events marking the centenary of Norway as an independent nation, following the peaceful dissolution of the union with Sweden. The festival includes a screening on Saturday 3 December of Sara Johnsen's Kissed By Winter (Vinterkyss), the Norwegian entry for the foreign language Oscar this year and which was awarded the International Feature Competition's Grand Jury Prize at the recent AFI FEST 2005 awards ceremony.
Also on Saturday 3 December at 2pm, director Karoline Frogner will introduce and do a q&a for her fascinating documentary Tinkers (Tradra - I gar ble jeg tater) (Norway 2004 88 min), which follows the plight of Bjørn who discovers at the age of 45 that the Norwegian State removed him from his biological parents at just one day old, because his parents were Travellers.

On Thursday 1 December at 7.30pm, the Festival opens with An Enemy of the People (En Folkefiende) (Norway 2005, dir Erik Skjoldbjærg 91 min), followed by a Barbican Screen Talk with director Erik Skjoldbjaerg. An Enemy of the People is a modern version of Ibsen’s classic play. A TV celebrity intends to revitalise his native village in partnership with his brother by marketing the local spring water. However, their venture stumbles as traces of a banned pesticide are found in the water, bankruptcy threatens and the brothers are divided on the best course of action. Director Erik Skjoldbjærg first gained international recognition with his 1997 feature debut Insomnia which was followed by Prozac Nation.

The Norwegian Film Festival runs from 1-4 December at the Barbican. See links for details.



Jorgito & Malu in Viva Cuba

The Discovering Latin America Film Festical arrived at its fourth edition last night with an emotional opening speech by Yos Rivas, one of the co-founders of the organisation (DLA) that not only acts in the film arena, but in other cultural and intellectual spheres as well and applies any revenue from their events into projects across Latin America. Peru is the beneficiary this year. DLA has raised £30,000 in its three and a half years of existence.

The film chosen for the opening was Juan Carlos Cremata's Viva Cuba (2005), a humorous road movie starred by two children. A realist piece on the surface, it draws on elements of the African heritage of the country and sprinkles the narrative with visual puns that are reminiscent of Latin American children's TV. Although a bit too cute at points, the overall tenderness won the audience over.
The story is very simple: Malu and Jorgito (played by eponymous actors) are best friends, kind of childhood sweethearts living in a neighbourhood of Havana. Their respective mothers don't like each other very much. Malu's mother (Larisa Vega Alamar), a petit borgeoise, does not approve of her tomboyish daughter hanging out with Jorgito's gang. But the children love each other and even bury a box with a promise they will remain friends forever.

When Malu discovers her mother is planning to take her abroad to live with a foreign lover she's constantly on the phone with, she runs away in the company of Jorgito and the duo start on a road trip to Malu's father's lighthouse in the farthest corner of the island, Punta de Maisi. Their journey turns out to be a discovery of friendship with the typical adventures involved, but it is also a love poem to one's land and roots. Malu doesn't want to leave Cuba, her friends and her school. And why would she? Her life is surrounded by so much sweetness that it makes you wish you could have a childhood like that. She even uses the word comrade at one point when she asks a cave explorer not to turn her in (the duo become national news while on the run), which drew laughter from the audience.

But Cremata is not interested in complex 'adult' politicking as it becomes very clear at the end. Viva Cuba is an ode to the sincerity of children's feelings, their view of the world around them and how much wiser than adults they can be. Never patronising, Viva Cuba treats children as they should be treated: as sensitive, creative and imaginative beings who are much more intelligent than we credit them for.

Check the site for more information of the programme, which runs until 4/12.

Out 25/11

There are the new releases gracing screens across London this weekend. However, if none of these film releases seem appealing enough, there still is time to catch some Balkan cinema being shown as part of the Art in the Balkans event and which continues until the 28th of November. The ten films on offer come from Bulgaria, Macedonia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Brazilian view at 291 Gallery

Next Wednesday, the 291 Gallery (the church on Hackney Rd, E2) will present a programme of Brazilian short films dealing with politics of the country, the diaspora and its London focus plus animation. The event also includes live music and a DJ.

291 Gallery, Wednesday 30/11 7pm


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

German Film Festival in London

The 8th Festival of German Films returns to London for one week from Friday 25 November to Thursday 1 December 2005 with a 'programme that tunes into the German psyche of today and yesterday'. The festival also includes a masterclass with cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, who will give a Kubrick Masterclass, co-presented by The Script Factory and NFT, plus a retrospective of his work.

The opening film is Barefoot (2005) an offbeat comedy come tender love-story, written and directed by Til Schweiger, who also stars, about an unlikely couple who embark on an extraordinary road romance. Leila (Johanna Wokalek) is an institutionalised young woman who’s spent her life in almost total isolation while Nick (Til Schweiger) is a responsibility-shy drifter who moves from job to job. Leila attaches herself to Nick, after he prevents her from committing suicide and despite themselves they take to the road.
The festival ends on a different note with Zeppelin! (2005), directed by the veteran of German cinema Gordian Maugg, which dramatises the mysterious circumstances of the fire which destroyed the LZ 129 Hindenburg on 7 May 1937, taking with it crew members including Robert Silcher. Grandson Matthias Silcher is determined to lift the shroud of secrecy surrounding the crash of the world’s biggest spaceship.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Double Lunar Trouble at the Whitechapel Gallery

The event is the first in a series of four guest-curated screenings focussing on 'the best of British artists' films.' Inspired by Joan Jonas' Double Lunar Dogs (1984), this programme presents the multi-layered, high-digital practices of Benjamin Callaway and Hilary Koob-Sassen. Each artist uses the materiality of the video medium to address memory, uncertainty and dislocation. Incorporating performance, biopolitics, surveillance, future-gaming and SFX, they 'challenge the production and organisation of images and our orientation towards the future'. Curated by Stuart Comer.

Whitechapel Gallery, 22/11, 7pm


Interview with François Ozon

I interviewed French director du jour, François Ozon, during the London Film Festival, when he came to London to promote his new film, Time To Leave, due out early 2006.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Out 18/11

Not a great film release weekend, unless you like Harry Potter.

Follow my advice and see William Eggleston in the Real World.
There's more magic in reality than in silly fantasy movies.

Jake Gyllenhaal: Yeah, right

Jake Gyllenhaal is on the cover of Details magazine this month to promote the gay cowboy flick Brokeback Mountain. Here's the quote on the cover:

"I approached Brokeback Mountain believing these guys are actually straight guys who fall in love"

'My character is not gay...and neither
is his boyfriend'

Erm...okay... I wonder what the definition of straight is these days. Has it changed? Or have the studio bosses told Jake to start saying rubbish like that lest his female public does not think he is actually...what's the word?... gay?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Brokeback Mountain poster Titanic connection

They say that the poster of the eagerly awaited gay cowboy Ang Lee film, Brokeback Mountain (out in the UK on 29/12) was inspired, among other films, by the poster of Titanic.



Skin's new video

You've been wondering where Skin (ex-Skunk Anansie) is these days?
Here she is.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Pipilotti Rist at the Tate Modern

Pipilotti Rist, Sip My Ocean, 1996

Swiss video art pioneer Pipilotti Rist will be giving a talk at the Tate Modern on Thursday (17/11) at 18:30 when she will discuss her work with the aid of screen samples. Rist's 'digital utopias captivate, float and shimmer with saturated colour and animated camerawork, just as they reveal the darker dimension of their own desires and aspirations', says Tate. Rist is a bid admirer of video clips and she often resorts to their visual grammar to compose her own feminist works. The event coincides with the opening of Rist's show at the Hauser & Wirth gallery, between 16 November and 17 December.

Discovering Latin America

Latin America is hot these days and one of the nice consequences of that is the number of films from that part of the world we get to see in London these days. The latest addition to what seems an endless roster of mini festivals and screenings is the Discovering Latin American Film Festival, which takes place between 24 November and 4 December. The programme includes 18 features and shorts, nine documentaries and 11 events that also include film screenings. The venues involved are all over town and these include the Chelsea Cinema, Ritzy, Tate Modern (where a couple directors will be interviewed live) and Odeon.

Festival site

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

British film online

The BFI has put together a comprehensive online database dedicated to British cinema and television called Screenonline. For fans and buffs alike.

Review: William Wiggleston in the Real World

William EgglestonHuntsville,
Alabama 1978.
The influence of American photographer William Eggleston is all-pervasive: from the realist fashion photography of Juergen Teller to the downbeat films of Gus Van Sant and Harmony Korine, Eggleston's eye for the detail and detritus of modern America has become emblematic of a certain trend in the visual arts that focuses on what classical photography would leave out of the frame, that is, the ‘ugly’ and seemingly trivial.

In a way it is strange that photography took so long to turn its attention on the details of life, or realia, when literature had been doing that since the 19th century. That may be because until Eggleston came into the art world fray, colour photography, without which photographic realism is much more difficult to achieve, was seen as the technique of amateurs. His show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in the mid-seventies was the second time the institution hung colour photo prints on its walls. Controversy ensued and critics panned the show as banal and boring.

Nowadays Eggleston is hot property and his name is securely engraved in the pantheon of modern art, hence this mini-season dedicated to him at the ICA in London. Michael Almereyda's visual essay on the artist, William Eggleston in the Real World, does a fine job in creating a vivid, candid portrait of the man, who comes across as a sweet poet with a love of music and an almost child-like enchantment with the world. His idiosyncratic personality is miles away from the often pretentious art world that idolizes him. Eggleston, who hails from Memphis and still lives there, is more like a character in a Korine movie; is basso, growling voice adding makes his quirky persona even more endearing. In short, he's a picture of authenticity and this revealing film portrait adds an extra layer of verity to his work.

Spanning roughly over four years, the film follows Eggleston on one of his photo sprees and then takes us to his home, friends and a lecture at an unspecified venue. The footage is interspersed with Eggleston’s art photographs and family memorabilia. The style of the film is rough, the camera is as unstable as in a home video, but this visual approach fits perfectly the subject because anything too polished would have resulted in something incongruous. Almereyda succeeded in putting together an unobtrusive documentary that gets as close to the truth as possible. In this age of fakes, Eggleston is a fresh sight of genuineness and humility.

'William Eggleston in the Real World' plays at the ICA from 18 Nov to 1 Dec.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The mother of American independent cinema


If the word pioneer can be applied to some artists, then Maya Deren certainly deserves the description. A vanguard female filmmaker in the 1940s, in a period when women certainly were scarce in the film world (and, proportionally, still are), Deren made some of the most widely seen experimental pieces in American independent cinema history. She lept to artistic prominence with the 1943 'Meshes of the Afternoon', which was referenced to by David Lynch in Mulholland Drive. Born in the Ukraine and raised in New York, Deren often performed in her own films, which often had a dreamy, surreal feel. In 1947 she was awarded a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation to travel to Haiti to make a film about Vodou and the result of her meeting and subsequent involvement with the religion is the film Divine Horsemen: Living Gods of Haiti. Deren died in 1961 at the age of 44 from a brain haemorrhage.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Magic realism

I found a link to my review of Innocence in an interesting site called Angel Fire dedicated to magic realism. Well worth a look.

Out 11/11

are the films coming out today.
Should you want something
more stimulating
than this,
try the ICA,
where they are showing
Serbian films as part of the
NO EXIT season.
If you can't be bothered with
going anywhere, you can watch
some movies

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Filter goes to Brazil

I suppose the good thing about weblogging is that you can blow your own trumpet too so here I go: I got two of my own short films selected for two different festivals in Brazil: Love in the Time of the Dog Collar will be presented at the Mix Sao Paulo, a major lesbian and gay showcase in the Brazilian megalopolis, and 'Job Interview', my Warhol-esque foray into improvised performance, will be seen at the Vitoria Cine Video.

By the way, Lobo Pasolini is my pseudonym as videomaker.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Beat That My Heart Skipped's UK Box Office Success

UK indie distributor Artificial Eye is having a good week. Its latest release The Beat That My Heart Skipped by Jacques Audiard grossed £85,410 on its opening weekend when it was shown across 25 screens, 13 of which in London. This places the film as the fourth biggest opening weekend figure for a foreign language film this year.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

DVD Review: Summer Storm

Camp as a rower in tents: Summer Storm
If you are one of those people who wonder how you should define a 'gay film', Summer Storm (Sommersturm) will provide all the answers since it ticks all the boxes of the sub-genre. No, it's not porn and there are no drag-queens. But if there is one type of gay film that really epitomises the genre is the coming-out movie because it puts 'being gay' (or, as they used to say, 'homosexuality') at the heart of the conflict.
Gay films tend to be quite conventional since they have a story to tell and some preaching to do. Summer Storm is no exception and followa all the rules in the book, so experimental cinema lovers can look for their wobbly camera work and elliptical editing elsewhere. Directed by Marco Kreuzpaintner, it is set in the world of German high schools and summer camps (I know). Robert Stadlober plays Tobi, the leader of the rowing team who is in love with his best friend, Achim (Kostja Ullmann - that's a boy's name, by the way). The friends wank and smoke pot together and poor Tobi has to endure the obscure object of his desire talking about a girl. In short, typical teenage stuff with a very strong influence of American teen movies, both in terms of narrative and style - there's even some soft rock music in the soundtrack, a fact that gives further ammunition to those who like to detract the German taste in pop music.
Tobi's big coming out moment will take place al fresco, by a beautiful crystalline lake. It just so happens that one of the competing rowing teams at the summer camp is gay: they hail from Berlin (this is Germany, after all) and are called Queerschlag. A stolen kiss from one of the queer rowers and Tobi is off on his path t0 gay happiness, not before having to confront his girl-suitor Anken, who turns out to be very understanding indeed, and have a bonding moment with Achim, who looks more gay than he does.
Summer Storm looks like the gay film Leni Riefenstahl would have made if she had grown into an old lesbian auntie while retaining her penchant for youth in action and love of the body beautiful and the mountains. The naivete of the film at first irritates those who need their daily dose of irony, but somehow the film wins you over as it progresses. Perhaps we still need films with basic lessons like this one, after all.
Summer Storm is release on DVD on 14/11/05.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Runa Islam and Isaac Julien: video installations

Two video installations currently showing in London are coming to the end of their run this week and are well worth a visit. Runa Islam's How Far To Fårö at the Camden Arts Centre is a poetic and technically accomplished piece on the nature of narrative. Borrowing heavily from Ingmar Bergman (who lived on the island of Fårö mentioned in the title), Islam makes full use of the possibilities of triple screening to compose an open-ended piece that is better than most films you'll see on the big-screen.

How Far To Fårö

Over at the Victoria Miro gallery Isaac Julien is showing Fantôme Afrique and True North, which continue the artist's trademark preoccupation with African diaspora and dislocation. Julien is not as apt as Islam is at maximising the potentiality of the installation medium and these pieces could just as well be single-screen works. But they do convey great lyricism that not even his penchant for too much gloss manages to compromise.

Fantôme Afrique

Runa Islam's How Far To Fårö is on until 13/11.
Isaac Julien's Fantôme Afrique and True North is on until 12/11.
Both can be seen free of charge

Friday, November 04, 2005

Vincent Gallo sells his sperm


If you're having trouble getting pregnant and would like your child to have an indie-film actor manic look, help is at hand, or better, in tubes. Seminal actor Vincent Gallo is selling his sperm, which he promises to be healthy since he is 'drug, alcohol and disease free'. Funnily enough, 'gallo' means 'cock', the bird, in Latin languages.


Out 4/11: Black Orpheus

Black Orpheus
One of the most curious releases this weekend is the reissue of the classic Franco-Brazilian film Black Orpheus. A splash of colour that paints on the screen some of the most postcard images that Rio de Janeiro will ever get, Black Orpheus introduced to the world the Bossa Nova and won the 1959 Palme d'Or at Cannes and the Oscar for best foreign language film in 1960.
Directed by Marcel Camus, the film is set on the heights of a rock mountain in Rio where the dwellers of a 'favela' (slum) are getting ready for the carnival celebration. The cast is led by the handsome Breno Mello (Orpheus) who falls in love with Marpessa Dawn's Eurydice against the backdrop of romanticised shacks and broad-smiled noble-savages straight out of a vintage Coca-Cola advert.
The Cinema Novo (Brazil's neo-realist film movement) people hated this film because of its foreign, romanticised view of the poor as naive Olympian gods living in the firmament (the film is set on top of a mountain and the sky is often the background). They were right about this as Camus did cast a very Gallic, stylised and stereotypal look at that universe that looks like a Pierre et Giles photograph. However, the film did take samba outside the ghetto at a time when it was still taboo to enjoy the music, which the white middle-classes perceived as a subversive, low-brow expression. It had been banned from the Rio Carnival until the 1930s.
The film has not survived the test of time without looking like a kitsch relic of Rio de Janeiro memorabilia, but it does look beautiful. The scenario by Vinicius Girl from Ipanema Morais is messy and the re-contextualisation of the Greek story in a modern setting is often contrived. But the music alone justifies watching this film, which is very evocative of a more naive world that died during the 1960s.
Black Orpheus is showing at the Tate Modern , the ICA and selected venues.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Repertory watch: Brazilian Contemporary Arts

Still from Narradores de Javé

More Latin stuff: the Brazilian Contemporary Arts' cineclub will show next Tuesday, 8/11, the film Narradores de Javé, directed by Eliane Caffé. The illiterate population of the small town of Javé charge Antônio Biá with the mission of writing the story of the town, in an attempt to stop the construction of a hydropower dam that would destroy the village. They start remembering (or making up) great local personalities and events.


Filtered anticipation: Truman Capote, film star

Hoffman (right) as Truman Capote
Fans of the writer Truman Capote (author of Breakfast at Tiffany's) will be treated with a Capote revival soon. A new biopic is already generating the 'Oscar buzz' we normally start to hear about at this time of the year, the recipient in this case being the skilled Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the shoes and bow-tie of the high pitch-voiced, celebrity-loving writer. A film version of his other famous book, In Cold Blood, is currently showing in the US. All hail the queen, then.
By the film:

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Filtered homage: 30 years without Pasolini

Pier Paolo Pasolini

If you undertand Italian, click here for a radio webcast on the 30th anniversary of the death of Pier Paolo Pasolini, one of the most important Italian post-war directors and intellectuals. Pasolini was murdered by a teenager on this date in Ostia, just outside Rome, as a consequence of foul play, although there has always been strong suspicion that he may have been killed by the fascists because of the strong content of his last film, Salo.

Still from Salo

Filtered news: Short films online

First, there was the festival in September and now it's all online. The organisers of the Talent Circle Super Shorts Film Festival 2005 are have announced the launch of their web site containing what they say is the UK's largest collection of British-made short films. 375 shorts across 13 categories can be webstreamed and none is longer than five minutes.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Filtered event: Rock n roll cinema

If you like cinema and you like rock n roll, you'll find your soul mates at Rocknroll Cinema
at the 93 Feet East venue in Bricklane, east London. The next event edition takes place on Sunday (6/11).

Friday, October 28, 2005

Filtered last minute news: Jewish video art at 291 Gallery

The 291 Gallery at 291 Hackney Rd, E2 shows at 7:30 pm tonight video works by Jewish artists from Europe, America and Israel. The focus is on experimental fare, 'tackling Jewish issues in brave new ways'. Curated by Josephine Burton, Avi Pitchon and Charlie Phillips. Oy video!

Filtered icon: Johnny Knoxville


Johnny Knoxville
photographed by
Terry Richardson
for Genre Magazine

Out 28/10: Battle in Heaven


There are films that are intrinsically linked to the ethos of the city where they are made. Battle in Heaven is an example of such films. Feeding off the jittery, unstable energy of the megalopolis Mexico City, Carlos Reygadas's follow-up to his well-received debut Japon, is an ambitious project, with some daring moments of ecstatic realism and other not-so-successful ideas that are deflated by Reygadas's slips on a knee-jerk attraction to confrontation with the audience, which can be easily misinterpreted as 'shock value'.

The film revolves around Marcos (Marcos Hernandez), a chauffer who kidnaps a baby with the help of his wife, a street-vendor. Both are overweight, laconic types with an air of impenetrability about them. The baby dies under their hostage, but they decide to just carry on with their lives (we never get to see the baby or find out what they do with the body). Then the daughter of his boss enters the fray as the catalyst of the events that will ignite Marcos apotheotic and tragic end against the background of Mexican Catholicism.

Reygadas succeeds several times with some of his formal experiments (the use of a roaming camera in a post-coital sequence; the use of sound in the underground station at the beginning of the film) and he shot the film with a lens that gives the film almost a Cinemascope amplitude and the look of an aquarium. It's visually striking at points.

Conversely, the glitches of the film seem to derive from Reygadas's use of non-professional actors in a film that seems to require a certain amount of skills since it is, by and large, a very stylised and mannered piece. You get the impression Reygadas thought up some of the less inspired moments in the film as subversive gestures, but they have an opposite effect and invest the film with a ‘cinema of appeal’ varnish that undermines his intentions. It’s easy to see what he's trying to get at: challenge prejudices about beauty and class differences. The ideas are good, but the execution is, at points, misconceived.

Still, you can't be too harsh on a new director trying, and to a certain extent, succeeding, in creating a non-genre film that evades formulas and pushing the boundaries in terms of what cinema can do. Battle in Heaven is no pleasure ride, but it is stimulating fodder, despite its flaws.

Read my interview with Carlos Reygadas

And the rest of this week's releases

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Filtered news: Clockwork Shorts

Short film makers (who can also be tall, by the way): Clockwork Shorts is inviting makers to submit films for a bi-weekly event that will take place on Mondays and Tuesdays at Clockwork, close to Angel tube station in Islington. The idea is to provide an inexpensive venue to show work to invited industry professionals, crew, cast, friends, family and members of the general public in 'a cool and informal setting' with a fully licensed bar open until late. You can premiere your film or have your own special event.

Contact Julie about it

Repertory watch: Estamira

Still from Estamira

From the director of the acclaimed Brazilian documentary Bus 174, Marcus Prado, comes Estamira, which will be screened twice as part of the London Film Festival. Here Prado turns his camera onto 63-year-old Estamira, a schizophrenic mother of three whose traumatic past constructed from her anecdotes and commentaries displays a life beset by rape, infidelities and indifference. Solace now comes in the form of a living eked out on the giant Jardim Gramacho refuge heap where she salvages debris from the waste discarded by the society around her. Estamira harbours few illusions about the world but her commandments, missives, treatises, rants and raves provide a compelling commentary on her present, past and future. The film is juxtaposed with a commentary from her family that fills in some of the many gaps and questions that her story throws up.
Fri 28 Oct 18.30 Brixton Ritzy
Sat 29 Oct 13:45 NFT

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Repertory Watch: Julien Temple at the Ritzy


Calling all punks! The Ritzy cinema in Brixton will show on Monday 31/10 at 7pm a double of two seminal documentaries on punk, THE FILTH & THE FURY and THE GREAT ROCK N ROLL SWINDLE, both by Julien Temple. Mr Temple will be present for a post-screening Q&A. The event is the grand finale to the Artful festival organised by the Music Tourist Board.


DVD watch: The Hitchcock Collection

Alfred Hitchcock is back. Universal pictures is releasing on DVD 16 titles of the suspense god and arguably of the greatest film directors ever. Hitchcock was indeed a very rare animal: an auteur working within the confines of Hollywood. The jewel on the crown of this collection is the re-issue of Psycho, which comes in red board packaging with a bonus disc, The Hitchcock Legacy’. This includes a Masters of Cinema interview and the American Film Institute Salute to Alfred Hitchcock, the footage of the ceremony in which he was awarded a lifetime achievement gong. Ingrid Bergman and James Stewart are two of the old-school legends talking luvvie to Hitcock, who watches the praise-showering while sitting still as a stone, wearing his characteristic deadpan expression while Hollywood melts around him. It makes for very funny viewing, and quite moving as well. When he takes to the microphone, he entertains the audience with his dry wit. This rare footage alone makes this package worthwhile for any fan of his work.

And then there's the Psycho. It's almost impossible to write anything about this film, which arguably contains one of the most memorable scenes and score in the history of Western cinema (the shower scene in which Janet Jason Leigh gets stabbed to death), that hasn’t been said before. Among the many elements that make it great, such as the cinematography, the minimalism of the narrative and the flawless wit of the dialogues, is Hitchcock's superb direction and the psychological sphere he creates, the sense of guilt and paranoia that tap into the subconscious of the viewer from the very beginning.

Hitchcock discovered a very elusive element in the art of film-making, which is to create a profound sense of identification with the audience. With Psycho, one could argue that he hypnotises us and we gladly surrender to his directorial voice as the film progresses artfully from take to take. Janet Jason Leigh (Marion Crane) is perfect as the jittery, ‘liberated’ all-American woman on the run with US$40,000 while Anthony Perkins (Norman Bates) is wondrous as the psychotic victim of a lethal oedipal complex running a roadside motel where Crane meets her ghastly end. To put it in a nutshell, Psycho is cinema at its most seductive.

The Hitchcock collection also includes Family Plot, Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Frenzy, Marnie, the Trouble With Harry, Rope, Torn Curtain, Mr and Mrs Smith, Foreign Correspondent and Topaz. A 15-disc box will be available from November.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Filtered news: John Waters in Court

So bad he's wonderful: John Waters

King of ironic trash cinema and pop culture icon, John Waters, is hosting American Court TV's first scripted series, a murder-mystery anthology titled 'Til Death Do Us Part.' According to a
Broadcasting & Cable article, Court TV has ordered 12 episodes of the show, which will dramatise real-life cases of spousal murder. TV Fodder said 'it has sort of an Alfred Hitchcock/Twilight Zone' feel to it. Sounds great.

Filtered opportunity: UK production company welcomes unsolicited scripts

Aspiring script-writers with a flair for genre: Davey Inc Production, based in Bournemouth, has posted on its website that it welcomes unsolicited manuscripts for projects with budgets between £500k to £2million.


DVD watch: Flash Gordon out on video

To mark the 25th anniversary since its release, the camp sci-fi classic Flash Gordon has been made available on DVD. You know, the one with that Queen's score.

Cool video shop in Brick Lane

As a supporter of local businesses, I loved to find out Close-Up, a video shop at 139 Brick Lane with a wide selection of arthouse titles as well as tapes and DVDs of artist's videos.
Tel 0207 739 3634.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Filtered kitsch: Disney is hip

What are you wearing Alice?: Disney classic
movie inspires high-end fashion

Blame it on Dolce Gabbana and Gwen Stefani for taking it to the mainstream, but what started as Hoxtonian irony and its equivalent in the trend-setting cities of this world, has now been caught by the business radar of the top-hats at Disney Corporation. Earlier this year the company premiered at the Fashion Week in Los Angeles its Alice in Wonderland-inspired range of clothing, household goods and accessories. The reason is simple: fashionistas have been buying vintage Disney products for a while now and the company decided to buck the trend itself. especially after seeing the money Dolce and Gabbana made with their Micket Mouse tees. According to a Reuters report, Disney is aiming at the high-end of the consumer market, with crystal-studded Mickey Mouse T-shirts priced US$1,400, Tinkerbell earrings for US$630, and a Cheshire Cat wrap with a $500 price tag. The report also said that the company has sold 'US$200 million in high-end and adult apparel featuring classic images of Mickey Mouse and his cartoon friends since 2003, and says it sees no sign that interest is flagging. '
See what
the fuss is
all about:

Filtered TV: Peasoup TV looking for submissions

Fed up with television as it is? A new web-based television channel called is inviting aspiring programme-makers to contribute to its content, which will be totally generated by its viewership. Now, this is what I'd call open-acess, reality TV, not the manipulative rubbish they show on Channel 4.

Tune in

Out 21/10

Not a vintage weekend of film releases in London. Jim Jamursch fails to save it with his Broken Flowers. Frankly, I for one am tired of Bill Murray playing the same 'oddball' characters over and over again, all based on his irritating 'shopping -mall philosophical deadpan look'.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

DVD Watch: The Man Who Fell to Earth

Nicolas Roeg's 1976 classic David Bowie-starred The Man Who Fell to Earth is now available on video. Bowie plays Thomas Newton, the assumed name of an alien who came to our planet to finds ways to save his home planet, which has become a desert wasteland. Newton achieves great sucess in business during his quest, but gets disillusioned with the world of business. The disc includes a commentary and a bonus disc with interviews.

Filtered news: Time Out readers favourite London film announced

Time Out magazine asked its readers which their London favourite movies were and, true to form, Londoners voted for a gangster flick. 'The Long Good Friday' starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren was the 'runaway winner' according to TO. Before we despair at Londoners' bad taste in film, it came as a relief to find out that Antonioni's Blow-Up trailed in the second place.

Full list:
1 'The Long Good Friday'
2 'Blowup'
3 'Wonderland'
4 'Withnail and I'
5 'Performance'/'An American Werewolf in London'
6 'Mona Lisa'
7 'The Last of England'
8 'Naked'
9 'Notting Hill'
10 'The Ladykillers'/'28 Days Later'


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Filtered news: Stephen Daldry's Stanley Kubrick masterclass

Stephen Daldry directs Nicole
Kidman in The Hours

Thespian-turned-film director Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours) will give a masterclass 'about the tension between theatre and film, the skills needed to direct actors and about maintaining a political edge in mainstream movies.'


DVD watch: Land of the Dead

Legendary filmmaker George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead), the father of the modern zombie horror franchise, is back with another 'tour de hell'. Land of the Dead comes to DVD in Unrated Director's Cut. The films bears all of Romero's trademark humour, wall-to-wall mayhem and social commentary, in other words, a treat for fans. In the new instalment of the series, zombies now dominate the world. The few remaining humans have taken refuge behind the walls of the city, a fortified compound that holds the cannibalistic cadavers at bay. When the walking corpses evolve into killing machines with human intelligence, Riley (Simon Baker), a mercenary employed by wealthy speculator Kaufman (Dennis Hopper), is ordered to combat the fearsome gang of berserk marauders. With the very survival of the city at stake, an additional threat builds within their ranks, as Cholo (John Leguizamo) attempts to spark a revolution against the wealthy while they hide in the safety of their skyscrapers. The DVD extras include a behind-the-scenes film called Undead Again: The Making of 'Land of the Dead'. Instant-classic is one of those hackneyed expressions, but it does apply to Romero's latest contribution to the genre he invented.

Filtered images: Luis Bunuel by Salvador Dali


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Filtered viewing: Predrag Padjic

London-based video artist Pedrag Padjic is showing his video Ritual on the Hurluberlu site, dedicated to showcasing short films. Click on and watch a drag queen dollying herself up.


Filtered freebie: Screen on Trafalgar Square

In a fit of marketing generosity, the LFF is showing this week in Trafalgar Square a selection of short films from UK makers as a courtesy to passing Londoners and tourists. Tonight there is a presentation of three newly restored Charlie Chaplin short films, The Keystone Silents, with live musical accompaniment by silent film composer Neil Brand.


Monday, October 17, 2005

Filtered espionage: Daniel Craig is the new Bond

Bond to be famous: Daniel Craig aims at stardom

After a good deal of procrastination and media manipulation, it was announced that Daniel Craig is the new James Bond. Bad choice.


Filtered web: Ingmar Bergman's new site

The great Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman, finally got the classy web presence he deserves. The new site is in Swedish and an English version will be launched in January 2006. Well worth a look anyway.


DVD watch: The Brown Bunny

Vincent Gallo's much-maligned The Brown Bunny is finallly available on DVD. Starring Gallo himself and Chloe Sevigny, it tells the story of a biker crossing America and his empty existence.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Review: Lord of War (out 14/10)

War is stupid: Nicholas Cage (left) and
Eamonn Walker in Lord of War

Susan Sontag, when writing her famous 1964 article called Notes on Camp, coined up the phrase 'So bad it's good', which has become the post-modernist's mantra to justify guilty pleasures. But sometimes, 'so bad' really is only that, or worse: it can be horrible. Lord of War, out today (14/10), is one of those films. Directed by Andrew 'Gattaca' Niccol, it's starred by Nicholas Cage as Yuri Orlov, a Brooklyn international arms dealer of Russian ascendancy, Cage's face looking strangely embalmed, and Ethan Hawkes as the morally correct agent Jack Valentine (yes, that's right) trying to stop Orlov from facilitating carnage in impoverished and war-prone banana republics.
The film is told in flash back, with Cage's Orlov's dispensing his pearls of wisdom about international politics and the hypocrisy of the Western world on the issue of arms dealing. The intention of the film is noble, but the delivery is not. We learn that 80-90% of all illegal small arms start in the state-sanctioned trade; 16 billion of ammunition are produced each year; eight million more arms are produced every year. It's a good idea to give this information to the dead-brained crowd to whom this type of action film is aimed at.
However, it's not probable that a film full of stereotypes, stinking of mysoginy and with some of the worst dialogue exchanges an audience will ever have been subjected to will advance the humanist cause by an inch. Arthouse muso Hawkes is a fish out of water in this big-bugget production (Uma Thurman must be an expensive ex-wife) while Cage is in his territory, as the angst-ridden anti-hero. The world should declare war on films like this.

Also out this week...

Filtered chat: François Ozon in conversation

The Ozon layer: Francois Ozon

France's most feted contemporary auteur, François Ozon, will be in conversation with journalist and broadcaster Leslie Felperin. Ozon's most recent film Time to Leave is playing in the Festival (Thursday 20 October 21.00 Odeon West End 1) and Ozon fans will have the opportunity to hear him talk about his approach to film-making (clue: Catherine Deneuve said in her recent Guardian interview that working with Ozon in 8 Women was like working with a commander-in-chief).

A little bio info: François Ozon was born in 1967 in Paris. He studied cinema both at the Université de Paris I and at FEMIS, under the tutelage of Eric Rohmer and Les Cahiers du cinéma critic/filmmaker/actor Jean Douchet. Throughout the 90s, he made 14 shorts and a 52-minute-film (Regarde la mer/See the Sea, 1997), experimenting with super-8, video, 16mm and 35mm, until he made Sitcom, his first feature film, in 1998. He has since shot an additional two shorts and seven more feature films including Under the Sand, 8 Women, Swimming Pool and last year's 5x2.

21st October 2005 - 19:00, BAFTA, David Lean Room