Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Out 2 September/The Sun

Emperor of the sun: Issey Ogata as Emperor Hirohito

Alexander Sokurov (Russian Ark) is making a name for himself by portraying pivotal historic characters who have passed into history shrouded in myth in a more human light. He turned the lens on Hitler in Moloch and Lenin in Taurus. His new film, The Sun, gives Hirorito, the Japanese emperor, the human treatment. The Sun portrays him while in hiding in a bunker in the summer 1945 after a broadcast to the nation in which he called his people to cease all fighting and allow the Allies to land on Japan’s islands without encountering any form of resistance.

A human perspective on this WWII episode is particularly relevant considering that in Japan the emperor is seen as a direct descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu. Hirohito (Issey Ogata) renounced his divine ascendancy in order to keep the unity of his wrecked country. Despite the fact that his deed saved the lives of millions of people, the leaders of the ruling elite (which included China, Great Britain, the USSR and the US) demanded that Hirorito should be prosecuted by a military tribunal.

The main segment of the film consists of Hirorito’s meetings with the American commander in chief, General Douglas MacArthur (Robert Dawson) who realises that he’s not faced with a bloodthirsty dictator but a gentleman of slightly puerile manners, almost naïve in his discourse. A man whose heart was not set on war-mongering or power, but hydrobiology.

Ogata's performance is one of a kind. His diction is slowed-down as if he was under the effect of sedatives. His body language and facial expressions create an on-screen emperor with the skill of a brain surgeon and the sensitivity of a poet. His Hirorito is quirky, but endearing; a fascinating creature to behold. Another touching aspect of the film is the loyalty and anguish of those who assist him in his bunker, who almost can’t bear the sight of their divine emperor being humiliated, devoid of divinity and looking like he’s losing his sanity.

The Sun proves yet again that Sakurov is the greatest living Russian director. His screen portrait of Hirohito is a masterpiece of minimalist elegance. Shot in dusky lighting with grey and green overtones, Sukorov’s aesthetic good taste is unparalleled in contemporary cinema. Emphasis is always perfectly placed. He also manages to infuse the film with lyrical humour and heartbreaking compassion. The Sun has to be one of the most original films set in WWII. Unmissable.

DVD Watch/Nighthawks

John is a closeted gay teacher by day in 1970's London...


who goes cruising by night in those pre-Aids days.


One day in class he's asked if he's 'bent'. He answers 'yes'.


But getting a 'yes' for a second date is not as easy as a one-night stand...


Like the sound of this time-capsule movie which has just been released on DVD for the first time? It includes an interview with director Ron Peck by Little Britain's Matt Lucas.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Filtered news/Dorothy's shoes stolen!

One of the pair of ruby shoes...


...worn by Judy Garland in Wizard of Oz has been stolen from the Grand Rapids museum. Luckily, Ms Garland wore four pairs during filming of the kitsch-psychedelic movie.


Filtered news/Soho shorts bonanza

Short films for free in Soho. Festival runs between 5 - 9 September


Can't endure very long films? Not to worry. The Talent Circle Super Shorts Film Festival, the first of its kind, is running a festival where the films can be no longer than five minutes in length. The festival comprises 45 screenings over five days in three different venues in central London showing 375 independent films. Good job they are short, then.

After London, highlights from the festival will tour on the BBC Big Screens - giant city screens in Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Hull, Leeds and Wrexham - and in cinemas across the UK. A selection of films will be shown on the Community Channel and on the festival web site from October 2005.

In addition to the free screenings, Talent Circle will be running seminars, speed networking, mini-filmmaking courses and other film industry events - all free of charge - as part of their commitment to nurture and support the UK's film community.

The 375 films have been categorised into thirteen categories, which make up 18 individual screenings, all showcasing the best in British film talent. The categories are Animation (makes up 20 per cent of the whole programme), Comedy, Crime & Danger, Emotion, Experimental, Factual, Life [is a] Drama, Love & Lust, Music Video & Music+Film, Mystery & Horror, Reflection, Visual and Weird & Wonderful.


Friday, August 26, 2005

Filtered stuff/Watch video art online!

The internet is wonderful for people who like video art, which has increased its visibility thanks to sites that streams video pieces. This is good news for London, which despite the size and the number of art galleries, is not very strong on video as art (perhaps the ubiquiitous CCTV cameras suplement that need? A very recommendable site is Montevideo, an archive based in the Netherlands where you can watch an amazing selection without having to download any plug-ins. Fantastic!

Let's have a look.

Out 26 August

This week's releases are:

Pather Panchali*****

Summer Storm***

The Intruder***

The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl 3D*

The Cave**

The Mighty Celt*

No Rest For The Brave**

West Side Story****

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Repertory watch/Pather Panchali

Pather Panchali

This is a must-see movie. Pather Panchali, the debut of the great Bengal director, Satyajit Ray, runs for a week-only season at the Chelsea Cinema between 26 August and 01 September. Ray is to Bangladesh what Roberto Rosselini is to Italy and both created some of the most memorable films in world history. Ray was very much influenced by the simplicity, documentary quality of the Italian Neo-Realists. In Pather Panchali, he tells the story of a poor, but loving family living in a rural Bengali village, with focus on the boy of the family, Apu. Apu’s father, a priest and poet, leaves for the city to pursue his dream of becoming a playwright. His mother is left struggling to take care of his sister and elderly aunt, an amazing image of old age on the screen. The bond between the mother and her children as well as the relationship between Apu and his sister is one of the most touching portraits of family life on the screen. Pather Panchali is often ranked as one of the ten best movies ever, alongside Carl Dreyer’s a The Passion of Joan of Arc and Jean Luc Godard’s Breathless. And for good reason. Pather Panchali is cinema at its purest. Unmissable.

Can’t make it to the cinema? Support The Filter by purchasing DVDs online:

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Filtered news/Interesting gay film alert

New York indie darling Craig Chester has directed a comedy romance with a strong gay appeal starring one of my favourite indie queens, Parker Posey. The films follows two couples, one gay and the other one heterosexual. The gay couple met at the famous post-punk Danceteria club in New York in the early 80s, then meet again 15 years later. Sounds right up my street. Oh yes, Courtney Love has laid down vocals in one of the tracks featured in the movie, produced by Faith No More's Roddy Bottum. Read more here about their collaboration. Now, if anyone is wondering when this film is coming out in the UK, so am I. I couldn't find its release date anywhere.


Love lays down the soundtrack

Filtered news/Summer of Love ranking high

British flick My Summer of Love appears at number 2 in a Top Ten Best of 2005 So Far list. Read more here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Filtered news/The West Wittering Affair

West Witt main nt
Carrot bottom: The West Wittering Affair

The Filter's newswire has been kindly made aware of the pre-release screenings of 'the sexy, bedhopping' The West Wittering Affair up in Edinburgh everyday until the 29th of August at C-Electric.

An established writer/actor in theatre (for directors Sir Alan Ayckbourn, David Glass, the RNT and a slew of Fringe appearances), film (Leon the Pig Farmer), with a novel in the works and a stage show heading for London’s West End (The Tale That Wags The Dog), Danny Scheinmann together with other cast members took his loose short story idea and improvised live on camera throughout the entire shoot. He developed the project as a 50-minute TV drama before production partners Ben Timlett and Bill Jones decided to raise funds to make it into a full length feature. Bill Jones' father, Monty Python Terry Jones, has been heard showering praise on the project, but I wouldn't count on the impartiality of Mr Jones' paternal artistic taste. It sounds good anyway. Here's the quote I've been fed:

“Terrific performances teamed to a highly original piece of film-making. Had me in stitches.” - Monty Python’s Terry Jones

Wow! He really likes it...

To book tickets, call 0870 701 5105 - £6.50/£5.50 concessions.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Out 19 August

This week’s releases are about people trying to connect with other people, a woman who likes to twitch her nose, animated people fighting terrorists, time travel, the perfect man and people on the Alps.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Filtered Bits/Guy Ritchie's more of the same

Empire is streaming a trailer of Guy Ritchie’s new likely flop, Revolver. By the way, I’m only interested in this because I heard that part of the shooting took place in my hood of Bethnal Green, although it’s likely to look as much like the original as Mr Madonna’s gangsters do. Silly old Guy.

The filmic streets of Bethnal Green

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Filtered news/Geeks are cool...but only on film

The New York Post has published an article article on the advent of 'geek cool', courtesy of some new film releases where the hero is, er, a geek. One of them is 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin'. It sounds naff, but there's something endearingly old-fashioned about it. And the marketing punchline is: 'The older you get, the harder it becomes.' Irrestible.


Still from the 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin'

Filtered report/Lord of War film premiere

Last night I dragged myself to charming Leicester Square to attend a screening of the new Nicholas Cage testosterone vehicle Lord of War (due out in October). Films with titles like this are definitely not my thing and I wouldn't expect much from the 'acclaimed' director Andrew Niccol (The Truman Show, Gattaca). As a film writer who prefers arthouse and independent cinema, I tend to forget how low Hollywood can sink. Lord of War, with its pretence to be a denounce of the hypocrisy of first world countries who sell arms to third-world warlords, is so racist and misogynist that it's almost impossible to believe. The women all look like they exist in a Brazilian beer ad (the organisers of the screening even hired some girls in tight camouflage shorts to hand out the film's press kit. So much for political seriousness...). Nicholas Cage, who increasingly looks like he's been embalmed, seems to have lost his acting skills; and poor arty-at-heart Ethan Hawke looks lost as an Interpol agent. Really. I have this theory that directors who started out in the London advertising world, like Niccol did (following in Ridley Scott's steps) make the worst type of films. Their films tend to look glossy, but in that car-advert sort of way; the imagery is designed for instant gratification, not to linger in your imagination and create a life of its own. At the end, some people had the nerve to applaud the film (always a terrible faux-pas) when the figures about the arms trade appeared on the screen. When I looked back, I saw a bunch of straight boys, nerdy in appearance, doing the applauding. Then it hit me who this type of film is for.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Filtered news/London Eye most popular film location


Film London released last week a list of London’s most popular film locations. The BA London Eye topped a list of the most popular film locations in London released last week by the organization Film London. Battersea Park in Wandsworth came second and the Millenium Bridge third. According to Film London, an average of 30 film crews were working in the capital on any one day last year.

Here's the full list:

1. BA London Eye
2. Battersea Park
3. Millennium Bridge
4. Potters Field Park, Southwark
5. Bethnal Green Town Hall
6. Woolwich Island Business Centre, Greenwich
7. Kingsland School, Hackney
8. Crystal Palace Park, Bromley
9. Building 1000, Newham
10. Tower Bridge

Review: Me and You and Everyone We Know (out 19/8)

Me and...a shoe: John Hawkes in Me and You and Everyone We Know

Out of the Sundance Screenwriting and Filmmaking 2003 labs comes Me and You and Everyone We Know, directed by multi-media artist Miranda July. Dealing with the eternal theme of human interaction, July puts a contemporary spin on the topic. The result is a warm, sun-kissed, feel-good movie with no genre affiliation and a string of intelligent, funny episodes.

Me and You... is centred on Richard Swersey (John Hawkes), a newly-divorced shoe salesman and father of two boys, Robby and Peter (Brandon Ratcliff and Miles Thompson). Richard is a wiry, esoteric man in the Californian sense of the word. He has a wild-eyed Jesus Christ face and he wants life to amaze him - this translates, for example, into his burning his own hand at the beginning of the film while trying to entertain, or better, 'amaze', his sons. Christine (Miranda July) is an aspiring video-installation artist who earns a living as an 'Eldercab' chauffer. She starts hounding Richard after meeting him in the department store where he works on a shopping trip with a client. Meanwhile Richard's sons are on their own discovery journeys: the 14-year-old Peter becomes a subject of sexual experimentation in the hands of two neighbourhood girls while seven-year-old Robby is having a sexually-charged 'affair' on the internet.

Fortunately, the film never turns into a parallel narrative game where different strands of the story converge at the end. There are elements of that, as in the resolution of Robbie's internet affair, but July chose to simply weave together some small, 'insignificant' events and invest them with a thin layer of magic and poetry. July intelligently avoids any type of directorial bravado. As a multimedia artist, she seems to have chosen film as one choice among many. Unlike 'professional' film directors, she is not awe of the medium and its history. This apparently casual approach to film-making imparted Me and You… with lightness and accessibility.

Having said that, she did draw some fine performances from her cast, especially the children. In fact, part of the charm of Me and You... is the focus on children without the usual clichés that mar a lot of similar works. The title also has a puerile ring to it. Special mentions should go to the non-moralising way July handled the seven-year-old Ratcliff internet romance, one of the best micro-stories in the movie. Carlie Westerman, who plays the unblinking Sylvie, has a strong screen presence, as if a 1,000-year-old person inhabited her 10 year-old tom-boyish frame. It's a very sweet film, but free of conservants and artificial flavourings.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Out 12 August

“Summertime…and the films are not easy” to watch. This week’s bad news are football-obsessed people and something about a crash and being trapped. But you can rise above all this and take refugee on an island with your perfect catch, who could be Eugenio or even your dentist. Yes, I’m afraid even the dentist is better than cinema these days…

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Filtered news/Miranda July

The director of Me You and Everyone we know, Miranda July, will be doing a Q&A at the Curzon Soho (see links) tomorrow, Friday 12 July, at 6:30. July, a multimedia artist, created a feel-good quirky film about how people try to connect in the world today. I loved it. Full review next week.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Out 5 August

Film releases on Friday 5/8 sound a bit spooky. There seems to be an obsession with guns and beetles as well as evil things to do with the devil.
If all that sounds a bit too much, why not turn to a classics, get to know a famous Japanese photographer better, or perhaps indulge in your pilot uniform fetish? Yes, this is what’s on offer this week. Enjoy it.

Repertory watch/NFT

Still from Black Narcissus

To celebrate the centenary of Michael Powell, arguably the greatest film director to come out of Britain, the BFI is releasing his classic Black Narcissus, one of the many films he made in partnership with Emeric Pressburger . Powell was a prominent director in the 1940s and 1950s (he directed the surrealist A Matter of Life and Death), but the world wasn’t ready for his voyeurist Peeping Tom, which came out at the same as Hitchcock’s Psycho, and his career was ruined. Michael Scorcese has been a key figure in the Michael Powell revival; Scorcese quotes Powell as a major influence and source of inspiration.

Black Narcissus tells the story of the young Sister Clodagh, who is appointed Superior of a new convent in a remote region of the Himalayas. Things go wrong almost immediately after the nuns arrive at the House of Women, a former harem given to them by the local ruler, whose son is more is more interested in a dancer than in his studies. To complicate things further, Sister Ruth falls in love with the ruler’s agent, an Englishman with little time for nuns. Sister Ruth sees Clodagh as her rival for his attention. Passions arise and the nuns find themselves fighting for their sanity and faith. UNMISSABLE. (see NFT link for details)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Filtered news/London bombs don't alter film plot

A film starring Hugh Grant and Dennis Quaid will feature Pakistani suicide bombers, despite the recent tragedies, reports the BBC. Director Paul Weitz told the Beeb that the storyline of his black comedy American Dreamz will not change in the face of events. He said: "The plot of my film has not changed, nor is a change being contemplated."

Out 5 August/YES

Simon Abkarian and Joan Allen in YES

After a hiatus of five years since The Man Who Cried, Sally Potter is back with Yes, a nicely packaged love affair between an American female scientist (Joan Allen) and a Lebanese doctor (Simon Abkarian) who works as a chef in London. Potter says in her press notes that she wrote Yes in response to 9/11 and the 'rapid demonisation of the Arabic world in the West to the parallel wave of hatred against America.' Her response translated into the romantic attachment between the two protagonists as a metaphor for the complicated relationship between the West and the Middle East.

Potter is a prodigious talent - she can dance, sing, direct movies and make them look and sound good - but Yes would have required more intellectual depth than technical proficiency. It lacks sophisticated ideas. The film never goes on beyond the clichés, which is strange since her intention seems to be shedding light on the misunderstanding between two different cultures. For example, often when Abkarian's Lebanese man (the characters have no names) appear in the film, the soundtrack breaks into some 'ethnic' music as if his moustache and slicked back curly hair were not enough to denote he is Middle-Eastern. Allen's character is also very stereotypically Western bourgeois. She is 'repressed', her marriage to an English politician (Sam Neill) as cold as the minimalist tomb they live in.

But as I said before, Potter is a competent artist and the film is saved by its lush cinematography, which reverbs with light tension, and she employs Brechtian distanciation (Verfremdungseffekt) techniques with mixed results: the Minnie Mouse-voiced Shirley Henderson plays a cleaner who talks to the camera, commenting on what's happening in the background, and injecting some humour into the film. Another peculiarity of the film is that the dialogues are mostly delivered in rhymes (which can be irritating as well).

Perhaps the major mistake is to centre this potentially good and intelligent film around a love story. Love stories and relationships have been so overused that they seem to have lost their metaphorical power. Despite all this, I would still recommend Yes, though, mainly on Potter's credentials as an auteur and her willingness to experiment.
Sally Potter will be doing a Q&A at the Curzon Mayfair, Friday 5/8 at 6:30. See links for details.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

DVD watch/Saint Ettienne's Finisterre

Those of you who missed the presentation of Saint Etienne’s Finisterre movie last night at the London ICA, worry not. The film is available from Amazon. Finisterre is a 60-minute journey through London set over a period of 24 hours. Very arty and experimental, which is what you would expect from Saint Ettienne’s Paul Kelly and Kieran Evans. London has for long been the subject of artistic scrutiny. Peter Ackroyd, in his London, A Biography, researched the history of the city as if he were investing the life of a person. Sain Ettienne say they use Finisterre to ‘identify the dreams that London holds for many, and the reality of the city.’

Monday, August 01, 2005

DVD Watch

A few of my favourite American indie movies are available on Amazon at reasonable prices, all of which light-hearted comedies to blow the clouds away from London’s ghastly summer of 2005. I’ll start with Living in Oblivion, one of the best comedies ever about the process of making a film. Directed by Tom DiCillo, one-time Jim Jamursch cinematographer, this is East Coast indie cinema at its best. ///A similar type of college-friendly East Coast indie is Walking and Talking , a small scale New York romantic comedy about female friendship with echoes of Woody Allen, or perhaps even a forerunner of Sex and the City with better dialogues and a more artful heart. Anne Heche stars in it.//Finally, and still in New York, this time in the Latino corner of the city, is the superbly-paced, sun-kissed Raising Victor Vargas, a coming-of-age story of a boy discovering his sexuality in a housing project in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Real and poetic, it deserves to be seen.