Archive for the ‘Britain’ Category


Continuing with the essay film form for which he has become so revered (see The Story of Film), Mark Cousins’ Atomic – a BBC Storyville film initially made to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima – is an artful, poetic and haunting, archive film based exploration of the ramifications of nuclear energy, both positive and negative.

The film’s subtitle Living in Dread and Promise accurately describes both the emotional and historical avenues that the film travels and it makes a paradoxical and compelling 69 minutes. The film takes on the subject of atomic energy from several angles, beginning with how to prepare for a nuclear attack and moving on to nuclear explosions, medical advancement, power plant meltdowns and space travel. It is cut together in a post-modern montage, which includes repetitions of material, poetic juxtapositions and horrifyingly beautiful visuals.

The film’s poetic essay style is excellently underpinned with an original score by Scottish post-rock band Mogwai, who provide a keyboard and bass laden soundscape filled with sparse drums that crescendos and diminuendos in hypnotic fashion. The music carries the viewer through this unusually avant-garde BBC production, which sits more comfortably alongside the likes of Adam Curtis’ extraordinary iPlayer epic Bitter Lake.

Missing from the film is Mark Cousins’ now iconic voice over narration, which was so compelling in The First Movie (2009) and The Story of Film (2011), yet Atomic is not a personal project in the way that these former films were. That said, Cousins’ voice as a filmmaker comes across, with his keen eye for finding ‘luminance’ in every frame (as he said of making The Story of Film).

In his Telegraph review of the film, Rupert Hawksley declared that the film “an art installation masquerading as television” due to comprehensive, but non-informational construction, which is a valid point. However, what Cousins has achieved here is a film that is both alluring and memorable on a visceral level; it conjures a complex range of emotions. Nuclear power is an issue about which we must both think and feel strongly and Atomic certainly helps us do the latter.

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Sony Pictures have released the final trailer for upcoming Bond film Spectre, directed by Sam Mendes, starring Daniel Craig, Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux. What do you make of it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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The Voice of A Woman Film Festival is coming to London this weekend to celebrate the creative leadership and risk-taking and originality of women filmmakers. Running from Friday 2nd October to Sunday 4th October at various venues across London, the VOW Film Festival will present rare stories of women globally by women globally – and its impressive programme is not to be missed.

The festival will begin at the ICA with a morning of screenings and talks held in collaboration with the National Film and Television School and led by their Head of Directing Lynda Myles, followed by a master-class at the Apple Store Covent Garden by award-winning digital developer Rebecca Winch (The Project Factory). The prestigious Hospital Club in the heart of Covent Garden will be the main hub of the festival, where dramatic and documentary films and shorts will be screened throughout Saturday and Sunday, with almost each one followed by VOW Talks Sessions with filmmakers, writers, executives, digital artists and more.

Cecile Emeke’s ‘Strolling’

From Deeyah Khan’s depiction of honour violence in Banaz: A Love Story to the Chinese state orphanages in Kate Blewett’s The Dying Rooms (1995) to the raw and honest conversations within Cecile Emeke’s Strolling (2014/2015), the VOW Film Festival features many works that confront the dark truth behind female contemporary existence across the world – told by women creatives who are themselves startlingly underrepresented in their industries.

By amplifying voices too often overlooked, the VOW Film Festival provides a platform for building awareness, discourse and cultural shift. In keeping with this, the festival shines a spotlight on observational filmmaker Kim Longinotto, well-known for the real-life brutality captured within her female-centred works.

Kim Longevitto's 'Eat the Kimono'

Kim Longevitto’s ‘Eat the Kimono’

To mark the festival’s opening night, Dreamcatcher (2015), which follows former sex-worker Brenda Myers-Powell as she helps other women in inner-city Chicago, will screen at the Curzon Cinema Soho and be followed with a discussion between Longinotto and novelist and feature writer at The Guardian, Kira Cochrane and Baroness Lola Young, a member of the House of Lords Committee of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

The spotlight on Kim Longinotto’s works will refresh on Sunday where some of her other films, including The Good Wife of Tokyo (1993), Eat the Kimono (1989), Pride of Place (1976) and Pink Saris (2010) will be screened, alongside works by others.

Other filmmakers include Lauren Greenfield, Carol Morely, Debbie Tucker Green, Franny Armstrong, Esther Anderson, Joy Elias amongst others.

Don’t forget to book tickets, even for the free events:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1110825965612132/

See www.thevoiceofawoman.com for more details and a full listing of events.

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We’re very pleased to launch the official trailer for the short film Blue Borsalino, directed by Mark Lobatto and executive produced by Christopher Smith (Creep, Black Death). The film stars Emmy winning David Warner (Titanic, The Omen), Olivier nominee Margot Leicester as well as Bart Edwards, Laura Dale & Amanda Drew.

Blue Borsalino is a neo-noir drama that tells the story of a retired private investigator, whose first and only client wakes from a coma, revealing a secret that has cast a shadow over his life. Check it out below:

The trailer showcases the strong visual sense of director Mark Lobatto, reminiscent of the paintings of Edward Hopper, as well as the rich cinematographic talents of DOP Eben Bolter and production designer Daniel Vincent. The film was also edited by Dave Silver and the musical score was composed by David M. Saunders.

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Lobatto says of the film: “Blue Borsalino would not have been possible without the support of over 300 individual backers from around the world, who believed in the project enough to make it a reality through crowd-funding. We were grateful to be a Kickstarter ‘Staff Pick’ within a couple of hours of our campaign launch, followed by being featured as the ‘Project of the Day’ just days into the campaign. We look forward to representing the film at film festivals as we hope to find it as wide an audience as possible!”

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Upon coming into contact with the book The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins by John Pearson, Legend producer Tim Bevan wasn’t initially convinced to make a film. He understood that a certain ‘hook’ was necessary to transform the material into a film of sufficient interest. Upon viewing Legend, it is quite easy to identify that deciding coup: Tom Hardy.

This is not the first time the notorious gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray – the fearsome gangland operators of 1960’s East London – have been portrayed on film. Back in 1990 brothers Martin & Gary Kemp, actors and musicians of Spandau Ballet, played the pair in The Krays by Hungarian director Peter Medak (The Changeling.) That film, in spite of its gritty and rather eerie sense of atmosphere has certainly aged in 25 years, so Legend is not unwelcome in 2015.

Aided by state-of-the-art post-production, Tom Hardy performs a fantastically entertaining double act as both Reggie and Ronnie Kray. In Reggie Kray, Hardy finds a measured, patrician character with a life that teeters dangerously between the rational and the outrageous. In Ronnie there is no such rationality; he is mentally unstable, fanciful, enormously dangerous, yet endearingly sensitive and curiously open about his homosexuality.

While the film is unashamed in it’s larger-than-life – and pleasingly hammy – conception of these characters, there is plenty to be surprised by. Not least by Tom Hardy’s remarkable ability to create a rapport between the twins (often seen in immaculately constructed two shots) that is continuously compelling to watch. It is often said that good acting is in fact truthful reacting; so quite how Hardy managed to provide both the action and reaction in so many scenes will remain a compelling reason to watch the film.

The film feels less accomplished in its handling of the history, although the setup is good; narrated from the point of view of Reggie’s young wife Frances Shae, the film features a welcome female view on an otherwise overwhelmingly macho scene. The issue here is that – other than establish the story and highlight Frances somewhat – this perspective never truly affects the rather predictable vision of obscene violence and macho posturing that the film happily indulges in generic fashion; perhaps this was to be expected from a film called Legend.

The film is most interesting in its dealing with Ronnie Kray’s relationships with men. While reveling frequently in distinctly old-fashioned gay jokes, the film makes no bones about his queerness: a refreshing attribute in a British gangster flick. The most admirable view of the Kray Twins available here is in their ability to defend one another, no matter how they personally transgressed the norms of their time and place.

In Legend, director Brain Helgeland has made a curious film, not without the qualities of a ‘guilty pleasure.’ This is a film to be enjoyed for Tom Hardy’s overwhelming, but never boring, domination of screen time and space.

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Pathé and Suffragette Producer Faye Ward have collaborated with The Industry Trust to produce an effective trailer promoting the importance of Copyright and Creativity in the Film Industry.

In order to support creative endeavor, creative professionals should be paid for the moments they create; this message, combined with the theme of women’s liberation in Suffragette makes for a strong juxtaposition. Check it out below:

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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.

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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.

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After last year’s success, the Festival of the Moving Image (FoMI) returns with a thrilling new programme. FoMI will run for four days between February 27th and March 2nd. The theme for this year’s festival is “Truth and Lies.” This theme has been chosen due to recent issues surrounding government surveillance and secrecy, such as WikiLeaks, the Snowden files, and the Guantanamo Diary. FoMI hopes to bring this kind of debate and discussion to the films chosen for this year’s festival. To ignite debate a distinguished group of speakers and films have been assembled.

The Q&A with director Mike Leigh will be a definite highlight of the festival. The BAFTA and Palme d’Or award winning director of Mr. Turner and Vera Drake, will be answering the audience’s questions following the screening of his film Secrets & Lies. This, perhaps his most acclaimed and loved film, will show how the theme of the festival corresponds to personal and everyday issues in this portrait of a highly recognisable reality.

There will also be a Q&A with director Jaco Van Dormael following the screening of his critically-acclaimed debut Toto le Heros. His films are often defined by physiologically complex and imaginative stories, and should correspond directly the issues the festival hopes to raise.

Other speakers include; Paul Donovan, the CEO of ODEON, Alissa Phillips the producer of Moneyball and Dracula Untold, and Jan Harlan the executive producer for both Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg.

The festival aptly opens with Laura Poitras’ extraordinary documentary Citizenfour, which centers around Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal. This acclaimed documentary recently won the Oscar for Best Documentary, as well as the Best Documentary Award at this year’s BAFTAs and will be followed by a discussion panel on the film.

The ethos of FoMI is to create an environment which fosters enjoyment and critical discussion around film. Festival-goers can expect a highly diverse and exciting line-up: from foreign language masterpieces, to indie shorts, to cult classics. Even those with the most eclectic tastes will find plenty of interest.

To buy tickets and day passes for the festival please click here. Please remember to read the terms and conditions for any purchased tickets.

(Disclaimer: The Festival program may change due to unforeseen events)

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In a recent Indiewire interview, director Peter Strickland requested that he not be compared to David Lynch. His reasoning? It was a limited reference for “strangeness” used, he felt, by the younger constituency of his audience. Strickland, not afraid of comparisons though, seems happy providing his audience is looking for a wider context in which to discuss his films. The Duke of Burgundy, out this week, is the most recent.

Amongst more experienced cinemagoers, the frame of reference used to describe Strickland widens with every film. When the Transylvanian set Katalin Varga was released in 2009, it was received very favourably. In his review, Peter Bradshaw drew comparisons with the Hungarian auteur Béla Tarr, citing the film’s environment and cast as similar (although he called Katalin Varga more “taut” and less “indulgent.”) At the time Strickland himself was very keen to highlight his reverence for Georgian iconoclast Sergei Parajanov, particularly the magical Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1965).

When dealing with an interesting first time indie director, such critical connections are not entirely unexpected. Less predictable is the way in which Strickland’s subsequent films seem to have revived a fascination with underappreciated directors of bygone subgenres. This is precisely what has happened with film number two and three. The story for his second film Berberian Sound Studio (2012) is set inside a 70’s Italian dubbing theatre, dedicated to churning out soundtracks for Giallo films; Giallo (Italian for Yellow) refers to the 1970’s Italian horror films, based on cheap paperback novellas.

That Strickland made reference to such a distinct and overly ‘cult’ genre like Giallo helped adorn him with a reputation as a film buff’s director. Owing to the film’s use of underexposure and a heavy sound design, the David Lynch references rolled out, but the key generic touchstones were Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and Mario Bava. Strickland had traded-off the elegant poetics of Tarr and Parajanov for the visceral retro style of Giallo, meaning bold camera moves, prog rock soundtracks and baroque special effects.

Early on in the arrival of his latest feature The Duke of Burgundy, cinematic references were central to the discussion. The surprising name – less fashionable than the horror directors of the former film – was the late Spanish director Jess Franco. Franco was famed for his bold sex films, known for their exotic locations, stark nudity and unashamedly voyeuristic visual style. His filmography includes such outrageous titles as: Nightmares Come At Night (1970), Vampyros Lesbos (1971) and A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973). Like Fulci his films reveal a visual flare, which is perhaps limited by the lowbrow genre in which he worked.

In these post-Tarantino years, there is a danger of treating a filmmaker like Strickland as one who exists exclusively inside a framework of intertextual references. This is a problem however, because found within each of his films is an intention not at all in line with that of their respective genre. While the Giallo genre’s major intent was to deal with spectacularly staged murders as Freudian outlets, Berberian Sound Studio is about becoming lost in a celluloid reality; tapping into the very modern theme of media overexposure. While Franco’s films primarily concern sexual stimulation, The Duke of Burgundy predominantly avoids exploitation, in favour of cyclical events that explore the dynamics of manipulation between two people; in fact the dynamic between the two female protagonists is much more reminiscent of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s radical gay melodrama The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972).

But there is something else that has emerged consistently in Strickland’s films that transcends the subgenre trappings: the use of avant-garde film techniques (like those of Stan Brakhage – see Mothlight, 1963) to interrupt the film’s coherent language and assault the psyche of the viewer. Sometimes in Katalin Varga the sound design takes over from the visual narrative, zoning in on pure atmospherics, before proceeding with the story. In Berberian Sound Studio clips from the film that protagonist Gilderoy is working on (The Equestrian Vortex) interject into the story destroying the boundary between film and film-within-a-film. In The Duke of Burgundy there are stunning montages of Duke of Burgundy butterflies and their larvae, which forcefully invade the tense romantic plot between the two female lovers, creating a nightmarish first person experience.

In Strickland’s films there is room for fantasy of a bold and visionary kind too. The Duke of Burgundy is a film made up entirely of female characters that inhabit a lush and isolated world, with the plot revolving around two lesbian lovers. Like the largely male-dominated novels of writer William S. Burroughs (think 1959’s Naked Lunch or 1981’s Cities of the Red Night), the single gender dynamic creates for a reality of an entirely different nature – never banal, rich with conflict, yet somehow utopian. The film, like Burroughs’ books, asks us to look outside the heterosexual normalcy of society; this has a powerful, liberating and otherworldly effect.

Strickland’s films are very much inspired by the ideals of the radical artists of former decades. They may adopt generic blueprints of earlier styles, but only as a means of resurrecting a conscious expanding attitude towards art; an attitude that is often displaced in contemporary culture, by narrow, neat, satisfying entertainment value, which parasitically uses the facade of the ‘radical’ to repackage the familiar as something new (a staple method of advertising.)

Peter Strickland is a director keen to transport us to a place where cinema is a powerful art form that challenges our way of seeing. It is interesting to note that so far he has resisted from setting a feature in Britain. Katalin Varga was set and filmed in Romania, Berberian Sound Studio in Italy (although it was filmed in London’s Three Mills) and The Duke of Burgundy in Hungary. Sometimes you have to travel beyond your own space and time to discover something truly enlightening and cinema is the appropriate vessel for that voyage.

Read our review of The Duke of Burgundy by Rob Arnott here.

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