Restored in fine style by Studiocanal and the Independent Cinema Office, Italian auteur Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1962 Cannes Special Jury Prize winning L’Eclisse returns to cinemas – with a first time appearance on Blu-ray – 53 years after its initial release. The film remains both a visual marvel, as well as an astute and troubling critique of life in a modern world; it’s a vision that feels eerily timeless.

The final entry of a superlative, yet informal, trilogy also comprised of L’Avventura (1960) and La Notte (1961), L’Eclisse finds Antonioni exploring his existential concerns upon an increasingly grand scale. While La Notte focused on the relationship breakdown of Marcello Mastroianni’s self-absorbed writer and Jeanne Moreau’s wealthy, unfulfilled wife, L’Eclisse finds a similarly hopeless pair as they encounter one another in the midst of a stock market crash.

Monica Vitti, returning for the third time in the trilogy (and on routinely brilliant form), leaves her older lover and soon encounters a young stockbroker played by the annoyingly stylish Alain Delon (Plein Soleil, Le Samouraï.) In Antonioni’s trademark style, the two drift into each other’s lives, in a casual, non-committal manner and this is how their relationship remains. It is the petit flirtation that makes the pair so enticing to watch, but their city lives and aspirations limit them from forming a meaningful connection.

Such lack of humane engagement is best displayed in one would-be-tragic sequence, in which a drunk steals Delon’s sports car and comes to an unfortunate end in a river. The characters respond to this ostensibly tragic moment with frivolous discussion of the repair costs for the vehicle. Yet, Antonioni’s approach is never particularly critical of this behaviour; it is as if the director regards this as the natural state of people in this time and sets out to at least enjoy it with his detached (and technically virtuosic) image of cool.

While the film is perhaps less captivating in it’s depiction of the failings of modern relationships as La Notte, L’Eclisse truly endeavours to deal with something bigger: the transience of the human story. Just as the impeccably cool leads forget the ill-fated drunk driver, the film itself eventually disregards the protagonists themselves (and perhaps for the best, given Vitti’s character’s less-than-enlightened colonialist behaviour in an early scene and Delon’s detached moral outlook.) It is this bold disregard for character and plot that leaves us as an audience in a genuine state of crisis and makes the film so powerful.

Contrary to the life goal often attributed to James Dean (and actually spoken by John Derek in Knock on Any Door (1949) – to “live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse” – Antonioni seems to tell us not to put faith in our more superficial desires. What mark can we hope to make on a world of stock markets, fast cars and good looks? L’Eclisse is a fascinating essay on this question and it’s all the more profound due to the master director’s refusal to offer us an answer.

In 2010, Seth Grahame-Smith published his novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The subsequent movie in 2012 adequately filled a need for the role of vampire hunters, after the popularity of vampires spiked due to the Twilight series. But it’s important to note that Abraham Lincoln—the fictional, vampire-hunting character, not the real American President —was certainly not the first cinematic hero fighting to protect the human race against villainous blood-suckers.

There were several before him that have been overshadowed in recent years; think the seminal Abraham Van Helsing from Dracula, or Peter Vincent of the satirical Fright Night. Amid ongoing speculation about a long awaited 4th installment to the film series, it only seems right to give a nod to the iconic – and comparatively contemporary, wrapped in Gothic sci-fi tropes not far removed from Dredd 3D – vampire hunting hero, Eric Brooks, a.k.a. Blade.

Blade hit the comic book scene in 1973 as a supporting character in the #10 issue of Marvel’s The Tomb of Dracula. After his debut, he was featured in Quincy Harker’s Vampire-Hunters, Nightstalkers, Daywalker, and issues of Spider-Man among others. This was all before he starred in his own successful series, Blade: The Vampire Hunter, in 1994. From there, his reputation and fanbase continued to grow, not least owing to the arrival of the cult film Blade in 1998, starring the iconic Wesley Snipes, followed by Blade II in 2002 and Blade: Trinity in 2004.

The original film is still widely considered the best, with a 7.1 rating on IMDb, but if you’re a real fan, they’re really all worth indulging. You could also check out the live-action series that was created in 2006, starring Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones. But unfortunately it was short-lived with only one season and 13 episodes, so don’t get too invested.

With dozens of Marvel projects hitting the shelves in recent years, Blade’s efforts as a superhero have been overshadowed. However, even though the market isn’t flooded with his merchandise these days, there are products made in the vampire hunter’s image that deserve a look. If you’re interested in games, the slots on Betfair are one way to go. Among the other nods to superhero projects, the collection features Blade as portrayed by Snipes. Here you can fight vampires by matching symbols and obtaining winning combinations. Just don’t play with the volume too loud. It’s deceptively quiet until you win, at which point you get an earful of hardcore rock n’ roll — of which Blade would surely approve.

After you spend your next free afternoon binge-watching various movies and episodes, you may feel inspired to pick up an old comic or two. If so, you can find several different issues of the newer series available from Marvel’s store. Most available online are digital copies, so if you need the feel of the comic paper between your fingers, use their print issue finding feature to locate copies in your surrounding area. Characters like Blade paved the way for the vampire hunters of today, and will no doubt continue to influence the darker avenues of the superhero genre into the future.

For our latest featured short we’re glad to share this year’s Sci-Fi-London 48 hour challenge winner Interlude – made by a creative team called Starcrust – led by London based Cypriot director Savvas Stavrou and produced by Jo Michael. The SFL 48 hour challenge is a competition of exceptionally high quality and it takes no shortage of creativity and technical skill to compete let alone win.

Heading up the other departments are writer Nathan D’Arcy Roberts, Cinematographer Edgar Dubrovskiy, Production Designer Daniel Draper, Editor Robbie Gibbon, Sound Designer Jordan Laughlin and Composer Angus MacRae.

The film brings together the elements to tell a succinct and emotionally engaging story of an inventor attempting to bring his young daughter out of a coma (with the aid of a super cool mechanical snail), whereupon he is interrupted by a visiting civil servant. Stavrou creates an authentic and intense scenario between actors Brian Tynan and Ruby Thomas, laying the groundwork for a bold and troubling conclusion.

Found footage and hidden camera movies have become quite popular in the past few years, evolving from being nothing more than a genre for horror movies, to now encompass everything including family movies. There have been mixed opinions regarding the genre, with some saying that it needs to die, and others claiming that it could herald the future of independent filmmaking.

The hidden camera genre has been quite popular with independent filmmakers, mostly because it is among the most inexpensive genres to film. After all, the most important feature of these films is believability, and the fewer special effects used, the more realistic it all becomes. One filmmaker, Byron Q from No Film School, has used the genre to create a film that tries to blend narrative fiction and reality by telling the story of a family in Las Vegas.

The film, called Las Vegas Story encountered many of the problems often encountered by films in the genre, from finding the right cast to creating the right atmosphere. Perhaps the biggest problem encountered by the crew, however, was that Las Vegas casinos don’t often allow any sort of filming to take place in their gaming rooms.

In an interview, the director said, “We couldn’t get permission. We literally called up every casino and they all turned us down before even any discussion of money. They just don’t want to deal with it unless you’re filming Hangover 2. I was inspired by that Sundance film Escape from Tomorrow where they secretly filmed inside Disneyland. I decided to do it in the casinos in the same way.”

Byron then goes on to explain that the whole process was nerve-wracking, “almost like some undercover secret agent stuff.” “We scouted extensively, and made sure we chose places to film where the lighting was already lit. Being in Vegas, it wasn’t too hard to find these spots, he continued. “Then we had to go undercover, everyone dressed like they’re ready to party. (We should win best-dressed indie film crew, if there’s such an award.) Buy a couple drinks, tip your bartender, do a few whoops and hollers at passing people, blend in.”

Blending in wouldn’t have been difficult, because as Intercasino explains, “Live casinos will surely have tons of people inside, meaning you will have to contend to the noise and distractions they make, especially if you are playing against them.” There was always someone there to keep the bartenders and dealers distracted, but the crew still felt worried about the repercussions of the film they made, afraid that they would get sued.

The hidden camera and found footage genre has already become a great venue for experimentation for many independent filmmakers, and Byron Q’s attempt at infiltrating casinos in order to tell a fictional narrative is just another example of how it can be used outside the field of horror. With a bit more refinement, we could see this genre finally seeing the recognition it deserves.

Meet Patrick Byrne, full time Elvis impersonator from Southend, England. Patrick has reached the European Elvis Tribute Championship finals eleven times in his career, always falling short of first place, but coming second five times.

In partnership with Grolsch Film Works, London based filmmaker Jon E Price (Vimeo Staff Pick Wander With Me) has just released The King’s King, a documentary which explores the effort and conviction necessary to pay tribute to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Traditionally the advice “never meet your idols” refers to the probable realisation that they will disappoint you. The image you construct in your head of a person you greatly respect rarely matches the reality, as they unexpectedly turn out to exhibit an entirely different persona to the one you assumed from their work. But what if your idol turns out to share and encourage the very worst exploits of your own personality, and you welcome that ego boost?

This is the central question to Alex Ross Perry (Impolex, The Color Wheel)’s third feature Listen Up Philip which follows burgeoning novelist Philip Lewis Freeman (Jason Schwartzman) who on the release of his second novel, is taken under the wing of his literary hero Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce), to achieve an artistic seclusion, rather than mindlessly promote his novel in the traditional press-circuit.

Philip is, as far as we can tell, a talented writer, but his increasing self-confidence from his book’s promised success, means he begins alienating his social circle and strong willed girlfriend Ashley (Elisabeth Moss). Ike actively supports Philip’s self-isolation in search of achieving a greater creative process by offering him his country house in up-state New York, without bothering to mention it to his daughter Melanie (Krysten Ritter) who is staying there, largely to feed his own ego as an ageing, post-relevant writer.

If this sounds familiar, it is, most recently and notably in Damien Chazelle’s good-but-troubling Whiplashbut the clear difference here is the increased level of nuance in Perry’s film which while shares a spirit of “talented people being awful to themselves and each other to create art”, the surrogate father-son relationship between Ike and Philip diverts expectations in having them be both criticised yet sympathetic despite their cruellest indulgences.

Equally, the film isn’t merely about this relationship. Listen Up Philip expertly highlights the general alienation of living in a major metropolis like New York, with the film’s narrator (Eric Bogosian) pointing us towards the loneliness and vapidity of a creative city, where an individual is surrounded by similar people all the time. It is also arguably, and perhaps surprisingly, a feminist film, as Ashley takes a strong, central role during the film’s middle act, as a young talented woman who is constantly struggling with being defined by the men around her, while Philip disappears from the narrative’s focus to show the separate lives of these characters in more detail. It is a neat, well rounded trick which is consistent with the film’s “literary” theme, allowing a real sense of place amongst these interacting, talented, yet struggling people, as well as having a narrator who gives the audience details from the film’s past and future; we see Ashley’s memories in flashback, which colours our understanding of the characters even further.

The film’s style equally makes bold but practical choices, with the cinematography repeatedly focusing on these characters’ faces and their reactions rather than the wider mise-en-scene. This technique is well utilised, especially on Elisabeth Moss’s terrific performance as Ashley – in one shot she manages to convey about five different emotions in around ten seconds – using only her face, after an especially liberating moment for her character. Or the ill-fated party scene where Ike and his old friend Norm attempt to woo two younger, middle aged women. The cinematography really capturing the drunken pressure of Ike’s semi-desperate attempts to appear impressive and in control of the situation.

Perry gets some wonderful performances from his ensemble cast too, which drives the whole narrative home precisely. As well as the aforementioned Moss, Jonathan Pryce is excellent as the initially charming but deeply resentful older writer. It’s difficult to ignore the comparisons to Wes Anderson’s Rushmore when the titular Philip could be a “grown up” version of Schwartzman’s equally bratty, talented and yet sympathetic Max Fischer. It is important that while this is a film about somewhat misplaced male egotism and narcissism, both Pryce and Schwartzman give enough vulnerability to their roles to properly exhibit how frustrating the lives of highly talented individuals can be.

So while it could be argued that Listen Up Philip is a touch too long at just short of two hours – I’m not convinced the Yvette strand is really all that necessary – it is otherwise an extremely enjoyable and insightful dark comedy about the increasingly alienated lives of creative types in the big city. The film avoids clichés, indeed it even pokes fun at them, to show a range of attitudes from those privileged with wealth and talent, to those who are hard-working and self-determined. It is refreshingly relate-able, where it could have been merely a film about “awfully talented people being awful” (ala the aforementioned Whiplash.) It’s literary feel is a neat gimmick in the medium of cinema, and it will be interesting to see what director Perry does next.

Adam Turner-Heffer

There is something very refreshing about the way many East Asian directors approach genre in film. While Western film makers often have a very rigid, stubborn idea of the one genre film, many Japanese and South Korean film makers seem to play around with the concept. I think back to Shinji Aoyama’s Eureka as an articulate example of this; a family drama-cum road movie- cum serial killer thriller. Bringing such disparate genres together, melding and splicing them, brings the chance of new tones and feelings that a staid singular genre film cannot reach. Of course it doesn’t always work out, but isn’t there a beauty in the risk of glorious failure?

Which brings us to Shion Sono’s latest oddball extravaganza, Tokyo Tribe. Sono has a reputation as a cult director of dizzying invention and offbeat ideas. So I’ll throw this one out there and you try and catch it: Gaspar Noe directs a remake of The Warriors as if it was a sci-fi hip hop musical. Voila. Based on a series of manga books, we are thrown into an alternate Tokyo where the city is ruled by street gangs. The head honcho of the city Buppa (Riki Takeuchi) decides he wants to eradicate all the other gangs, initiating an all-out street war. A comically bullish and horny thug, he enlists the help of the peroxide-haired psychopath Mera (Ryohei Suzuki) to carry out his ruthless plans.

Fighting the good fight are the plucky Musashino clan, a wholesome street gang who preach peace and love. They enlist all the other city gangs in order to unite against the Buppa Town posse and save the city. In all honesty, there are a dizzying array of characters and plot threads to tend to; Sono has a gung ho, all-or-nothing approach to film making. As this is a hip hop musical, each character communicates in a stream-of-consciousness rap, backed by heavy, relentless beats and hazy synths.

It has the feel of an extended music video, but it never becomes tiring. The film is splattered with odd, surreal touches; a beatboxing maid had the audience tittering and bewildered.A gangster’s son has created his own art gallery of sculptures using people he has captured off the street. An ancient granny provides ominous interlude warnings as the resident DJ and MC. It is relentless in its mind boggling invention and desire to thrill. The music is joyously brassy and obnoxious, with Sono leaving restraint at the door. Sono films with a marauding handheld camera reminiscent of Noe’s Enter the Void, the city streets gleaming in neon lights and rain spattering down constantly.

Unfortunately the film sags a little in the third act as the wave after wave of street battles commence. This was never a film to go for half measures, but the initially exciting fight scenes become a little tiresome after the 333rd karate kick. The film works much better when it is more focused on the music and the attitude of the gangs, the ridiculous ceremony and ego boosting of hip hop. The ending, however, is only a minor bum note in the outrageously entertaining, invigorating, absurd circus that is Tokyo Tribe. 

Of late, Norwegian, Danish and Swedish television and film has – deservedly – received a lot of attention and adoration. The countries have their masters in crime, drama and comedy genres, yet few of us would know their names. Hopefully with Force Majeure, the name Ruben Östlund will start to become commonplace, and the rest of his career will continue to impress.

Force Majeure [Turist] is an example of very high-class filmmaking, elegant yet simplistic. Whereas some films use the medium to present vistas of sheer beauty, others choose to quietly tell a tale. This is a mixture of both, focusing on a family holidaying in the French Alps, experiencing some drama once an avalanche incident spotlights some shaky parenting. östlund brought the film to Cannes 2014 where it was awarded the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize – it got many critics talking (and laughing), proving its worth before general release. It looks terrific and centres on some fantastic performances.

To explain the story would spoil the pleasure in watching the scenes unfold naturally. It is, to synopsise it as briefly as possible, a look at a family dynamic eroding after a distressing event. Much like Funny Games, there is a twisted glee to seeing a WASP family lose their dignity over something they never expected. Johannes Kuhnke as the father Tomas is simply wonderful. A very handsome, intelligent father, he looks like the perfect role model. When our perception of him changes, as it does for his wife (Lisa Loven Kongsli) and kids, you can see him play on that external judgement. It is a gradual alteration, spanning over the 120 minute runtime, but it is judged perfectly. The time elapses without many superfluous elements felt, concluding eloquently, with a very realistic (and comedic) presentation of a domestic dispute having preceded it.

Chapters [Ski Day X] are punctuated by the controlled explosions of the Alps, set to the frantic violin of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons III. In many respects it’s an obvious artistic play to show tension and outbursts – common tropes of the film – yet it also links to the playfulness all round. There is a beauty to the film, but at its core, it is a low-budget black comedy. So, it uses symbolism in due part, still preserving its domesticated, grounded heart. The drama that pulsates through the film is so recognisable for anyone who has had some familial outburst on holiday. And so you watch on with heightened attention, curious to know how things will be resolved, and entertained by the hurdles that impede Tomas and his wife and children.

It is not a film that has any twists or spoilers to wow the audience (and even though this review reads like it wants to detract you from knowing much, it is only to keep the film fresh upon viewing), but it is constructed around very stark images and themes. Force Majeure will stay with you – tickling you or itching at you (depending on how you react to the neuroses on show). Whatever your perception may be, you will certainly remark on the superb talent– cast and crew – able to make such an unadorned movie laden with insightful, enjoyable moments.

The story of Kurt Cobain is a well trodden one, immortalised several times in the film medium – such as Nick Broomfield’s murder investigation Kurt And Courtney (1998), Gus van Sant’s semi-ficticious imagining of Kurt’s Last Days (2005) and AJ Schnack’s more faithful documentary in About a Son (2006) – as well as in biographies, as people remain endlessly fascinated with the enigmatic front man and one of American rock music’s key icons. One would ask what, in 2015, a whole 21 years after the singer-songwriter of Nirvana’s suicide, is left to say about the subject, but the answer in Brett Morgan’s Montage of Heck, is that this is the first fully authorised account, with full access and backing from wife Courtney Love and daughter Frances Bean Cobain who serve as executive producers and in the case of the former, as an interviewee.

Much like Kurt’s posthumously published diaries, this instantly contains a pretty questionable situation in whether it is right to invade the privacy of a dead person, regardless of their celebrity status, especially when said person struggled so publicly with being launched into the brightest of media spotlights. One of the clearest things we ascertain from Montage, if it wasn’t well known already, is that Cobain struggled massively with being heralded as some sort of voice of a generation, when he largely hated the generation he was supposed to be leading, which is displayed through archive footage of his awkward interviews and glib sound-bytes. So one can’t help but wonder that the reclusive artist would most likely not approve of having his life sprayed out on a screen, but in death it was perhaps a sad inevitability.

Moral questions aside, Montage of Heck is a questionable piece of film making in style and form, let alone in problematic, potentially invasive footage. To it’s credit, the film introduces Kurt’s upbringing excellently through home video footage and interviews with his parents and first girlfriend, scored by a sweet, lullaby version of Nirvana’s classic “All Apologies”, giving us Cobain’s difficult childhood and adolescence with great, interesting detail. This gives us an interesting context which, again, while perhaps not that surprising to anyone, paints a well rounded picture of what growing up in Aberdeen, Washington was like.

But once the film moves towards the success of Nirvana, context and narrative more or less goes on the window. While Morgan does well to avoid martyring Cobain, and with it his biggest problem with becoming a celebrity, he instead relies way too heavily on the idea of using Kurt’s diaries as a gateway to his genius. In the film’s way too long second half, a staggeringly wasted amount of screen-time is devoted to visualising Kurt’s scribblings, be they lyrics, phrases or drawings, as some sort of explanation for Nirvana’s against-the-odds world conquering music. This happens to the point of tedium, especially as the disappearance of context or a narrator to guide us through these tormented images. While I respect the choice of excluding a narrative voice for fear of wanting to impose a direction of thinking upon his audience, Morgan loses almost all impact by just simply relying on re-creating Cobain’s “Montage of Heck” (which we learn is a audio collage he created during his early days as a musician and artist).

This means, returning to the questionable personal footage, by the time the big reveal of Kurt and Courtney’s home life is given to us, there’s little to no effect left to be had, so exhausting is the endless animations or out-takes of music videos and sound-checks, sound-tracked by saccharine, operatic covers of the band’s most famous songs. While there are some revealing moments; largely that a couple addicted to heroin still seem mostly legitimately happy and stable bringing up a child, the general effect of this is pretty numb by the time it arrives on screen.

In the end, Montage of Heck, fails to leave much of an impression as an original piece of work. The film’s best moments are generally found in already familiar footage, the place where Nirvana and especially Kurt Cobain always looked his most comfortable; on stage, performing. There is amusing and enjoyable archival footage to be had from the band’s interviews, as well as some revealing answers from present-day Courtney Love and Kurt’s mother, but in the end, the focus of Montage of Heck does not highlight how the band came to be such an influential force, changing the face of rock music forever, but on the sad mental condition of the genius artist Kurt Cobain.

While there is nothing wrong with focusing with the band’s (at the time) easily most recognisable member, the idea that we are supposed to gain entry to man’s mind from endless animations of his notes is ineffectual when very few of us ever really knew the man himself. While Cobain comes off as sympathetic and humane in the footage, his whole ethos (as highlighted by the film) is not to be concerned with his creative process, but to appreciate and relate and judge his published work only, which this film is frustratingly at odds with.

A brilliant portmanteau picture from Argentine director Damián Szifron (exec produced by Almodovar), Wild Tales is consistently thrilling, hilarious and horrifying throughout its numerous unrelated (but thematically linked) sections that make up the complete film. Built out of short stories that would traditionally provoke shock, the film finds a dark humour in numerous outrageous circumstances, to crowd-pleasing and simultaneously disturbing effect.

Wild Tales is at its finest when playing to the most relatable, cathartic circumstances. In one early section two drivers on a remote, mountainous road, square off against one another; one is a suited city-slicker (Diego – played by Leonardo Sbaraglia) in an expensive car, the other a rural tough guy (Mario – played by Walter Donado) in a beaten up old banger. After an exchange of insults, the city dweller experiences a flat tire. Unsurprisingly, he is dealt less than charitable gestures from his partner in road rage.

In perhaps the most frustrating, and simultaneously liberating sequence, a demolition expert called Simón Fischer (Ricardo Darin) finds himself dealing with local government bureaucracy as he attempts to make his way home to his daughter’s birthday party. After a series of run-ins with the law, his specialist training begins to seem useful in ways that do not line up with the imposed social order of which he is an unwilling participant.

The film’s most gloriously outrageous sequence, however, is a more personal affair. Taking place at the wedding of a particularly sickly pair of people, the wedding party is treated to a display from the most excessive, attention seeking kind, when the wife suddenly discovers news of her new husband’s infidelity. The scene is staged extravagantly, with an enormous ballroom, loud music, strobing lights and hundreds of guests and locations throughout the rest of entire venue (including the roof) for the staging of various memorable, sordid moments.

The film’s weaker segments suffer only slightly from excess dialogue – for example, an amusing, but somewhat lengthy legal scenario, in which a wealthy businessman attempts to convince his employee to take the fall for his son’s hit and run accident – and yet on the whole, Wild Tales is a hugely successful tragi-comedy.

As the anthology format goes too, this is also a rare triumph, due to the dramatic promise and satisfying closure of each section. With moments of sheer horror in spite of the laughs Wild Tales is certainly not a film for the faint-of-heart, but for those with the stomach for it, it’s a wild ride indeed.


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