The Scouting Book for Boys: A Profile of Tom Harper

The Scouting Book for Boys

Format: Cinema

Date: 19 March 2010

Venues: Curzon Soho and selected cities

Distributor: Pathe

Director: Tom Harper

Writer: Jack Thorne

Cast: Thomas Turgoose, Holly Grainger, Rafe Spall, Steven Mackintosh

UK 2009

93 mins

‘I am not interested in telling miserabilist stories,’ says Tom Harper, relaxing with a coffee during a break from colour grading. It’s a bold statement given that, in his own words, his first feature film The Scouting Book for Boys is about how ‘each man hurts the thing he loves’. It’s bolder still considering that the two short films that helped make his name, while not bleak in a kitchen sink fashion, feature the estates, CCTV and inner-city deprivation.

Cubs (2006) is a pacy, hand-held depiction of a young teenage boy getting initiated into a gang of hoodie-wearing urban fox hunters. It gleaned a BAFTA nomination, but to this day attracts messages from internet viewers who love animals and hate the film, perhaps failing to grasp the subtle themes of class prejudice and peer pressure.

The opening shot of Cherries (2007) is of a school surrounded by grey sky, impossibly high fences and overarching CCTV towers. Within the school, teenage pupils expecting a normal class gradually realise they are being drafted to fight in the Iraq war.

Read our earlier feature on Tom Harper‘s short films.

Both films seemingly fit into the school of British cinema represented by Noel Clarke, Shane Meadows and Andrea Arnold. In fact, Clarke is working on a feature-length version of Cherries, Scouting Book‘s lead character is played by Meadows’s protégé Thomas Turgoose, and Arnold’s Red Road cinematographer Robbie Ryan is director of photography.

But though he admires them, Harper believes he does something different from his British peers. ‘I have a love/hate relationship with British film. I really like the majority of it and we have had a great year. But I think too much of what we do is a bit depressing. There are certainly depressing elements in Scouting Book but I hope there’s a bit of magic there as well,’ he says.

This magic comes from the chemistry between the two teenage leads David and Emily, played by Turgoose and newcomer Holly Grainger, and the sun-tinged setting of a caravan park in the Norfolk country to which they run away and set up home – surviving with the help of David’s trusty Scouting Book For Boys (the use of which was approved by the Scouting Association, Harper notes).

‘It eventually is a tragedy,’ continues Harper, ‘but it gets there via a love story and a magical summer holiday. We were really lucky as we filmed in October last year and it was just glorious. I really wanted it to feel poetic and nostalgic rather than grey and bleak – I find that much less interesting.’

Filming in October was not the only requirement brought on by the £1 million budget. Holiday-makers doubled as extras, accommodation was in caravans, and Steven MacKintosh had to replace Tony Curran, who pulled out as cameras were about to roll after being offered a more lucrative part abroad.

However, budget did stretch to 35mm cameras, which give Scouting Book, filmed mainly outside, the bright nostalgic feel of celluloid. Combined with its painterly aesthetic, Scouting Book signals a departure in style from Harper’s shorts. ‘Both Cubs and Cherries were hand-held and aggressive whereas this has a bit of that but it is much more composed and graphic. It’s a different approach to telling a story,’ Harper states.

And while Scouting Book also shows a leap in setting from the urban environment, and the fences, walls and barbed wire prevalent in the two shorts, its coming-of-age story reveals a commitment to teenage characters. Aged just 30 himself, and with boyish good looks that wouldn’t look out of place in a sixth form common room, does Harper think his subject matter might change as he grows older? ‘I don’t know,’ he says, slowing down. ‘I keep saying I’ll move away from films about teenagers, but I keep on finding them interesting. It’s a turbulent time in people’s lives and it’s the time you make these massive decisions, and I’m drawn to that, but I think at some point I’ll tell other stories as well.’

It seems appropriate that 18-year-old Turgoose has been cast as the film’s lead, since he has effectively come of age on the screens of UK cinemas. Picked up from a youth club near Grimsby, Turgoose demanded a fiver from casting agents to audition for Meadows’s This Is England and answered ‘no’ when they asked him if he would like to be an actor. ‘Clearly he never entertained the thought of being an actor,’ laughs Harper, who refers to him affectionately as ‘Tommo’, ‘ but somewhere along the way he’s made that conscious decision to take it seriously and put hard work into it. That’s what will make him stand out. And of course the fact that he’s fucking good! Really, really, really good.’

Turgoose’s performance is central to the film. ‘This is very much a one-boy story,’ Harper explains. ‘It’s important the audience stays with the main character even though he does some things that aren’t very nice. Tommo’s got such a wonderful, likeable quality I think he’d have to do something really vile for people not to like him. He starts a scene and ends a scene and you will watch his face for 90 minutes. That’s a really tall order but he is exceptionally good.’

The film was produced by Celador, the company behind Slumdog Millionaire, so that Harper now stands in the Oscar-shaped shadow cast by Danny Boyle’s big hit. If he finds this daunting, he hides it well. ‘The film will live or die on its own merit but because the producers have that much more clout and influence, it will be seen by more people, and that’s a good thing. It’s so nice that a really good film with British money is doing so well, and that most of the money is coming back to the UK so Celador can make more films,’ he says.

And if that can’t encourage some more magical British films then nothing can.

Lisa Williams

PhotoFilm: Taking Film Apart

Arthur Lipsett's Very Nice, Very Nice


5-14 March 2010

Tate Modern, London

There is an element of surprise when a still image appears in a film; it creates an incongruous interruption in the endless rolling of 24 otherwise imperceptible frames. Still images offer the filmmaker a change in pace; a climax; an aside; a punch-line. It is often the frozen frame that lingers and floats before your eyes as you leave the cinema. So it creates a certain incongruity when the punch-line becomes the story itself.

Tate Modern’s current film season, PhotoFilm, presents an assortment of films that are all composed from still photographs. The selected works are stripped of the gradual unfolding action that characterises much of cinema, making the filmmaker’s craft immediately more apparent. The juxtaposition of still images reveals the filmmaker’s decisions and choices; and it also makes the audience a more active participant, allowing more time to reflect, make connections and let imaginations wander.

The programming provides a mixture of languid introspection and high-speed playfulness. Perhaps the most intensely contemplative film screening over the season’s first weekend was Ken Jacobs’s Capitalism: Child Labor (2006). A claustrophobic 14 minutes of relentless strobe flickering, the film consists of a single Victorian photograph of a factory floor. Jacobs focuses in on specific aspects of the picture – the cotton bobbins, the young boy’s bare feet, the stare of an older worker – always threatening to move beyond the single image but never able to leave it behind. Confronted with this interminable concentration on a single picture, the audience has no choice but to consider the serious implications of a seemingly non-descript, everyday image. Similarly, Toshio Matsumoto’s lyrical film on the work of Japanese stonemasons – Ishi no uta (Song of Stones, 1963) – presents us with a beautiful sense of time passing and history as the workers labour with the enduring, imposing rock-face. The more light-hearted films played with juxtaposing images to create humorous rhythms and connections, like Pas de repos pour Billy Brakko (No Rest for Billy Brakko, 1983), an early comic-strip animation by Jean Pierre-Jeunet, or De Tuin (The Garden, 1999), which cuts between different characters at a country residence to create a melodramatic soap opera of sexual tension, all merely suggested by constructing a knowing sequence of images.

The best films showing over the season’s first weekend managed to combine both serious observation and joyful whimsy. Arthur Lipsett’s Very Nice, Very Nice (1961) was a frenzied Pop Art short that created a critique of consumerist society while retaining a comic and celebratory love of montage. Der Tag eines unständigen Hafenarbeiters, (A Day in the Life of a Casual Dock Worker, 1966) may have had a more serious political or social aim in presenting the life of someone at the bottom of the labour hierarchy, but it also had a playful edge with its moving image interludes and nice set sequences presenting the dock worker’s morning routine. Agnès Varda’s Salut les Cubains (Hi there, Cubans, 1963) also had a political undertone with its love of ‘lyrical revolutionaries’, ‘romantic revolutionaries’. Its lingering still images allow the audience to reflect on Cuba’s political history; but the film does not separate its more sober aspects from beautifully lively montages of cha-cha-cha dance sequences. Cutting the photographs to a lilting voice-over, Varda’s pacing is extraordinarily perfect.

Loosely collected into different strands – the dancing photo on film, the photo novel, the filmic photograph – the films presented across the PhotoFilm season provide a great example of innovative and individualistic filmmaking, highlighting the processes and decisions that go into making cinema. Unfortunately, the thoughtful consideration of the programming is not reflected in its presentation: as the curators choose to introduce each individual film rather than providing a general introduction, the flow of the screenings becomes frustratingly fragmented. As the form of the photofilm encourages the audience to actively make connections within films and across works, it would be nice to allow the audience more room for contemplation. However, this problem aside, the curators have done a great job in bringing together rare works and drawing out some very interesting common threads within the genre.

Eleanor McKeown

Music and rebels at Rotterdam 2010

Red, White and Blue

International Rotterdam Film Festival

26 January – 6 February 2010

IRFF website

Indie punk horror rules in Rotterdam

If the term ‘slacker revenge’ seem oxymoronic, tell that to Simon Rumley, director of festival discovery Red White and Blue, a film featuring some nifty genre-shifting and a killer soundtrack, which set the tone for a Rotterdam festival featuring many musical delights.

Set in Austin, Texas, Red White and Blue starts as a character study of the ravenously promiscuous Erica, whose existence consists of picking up random men in bars and trying to hold on to the cleaning job at the guest house where she stays. Despite her frosty attitude, a tentative friendship blossoms with fellow lodger Nate, who, as it’s quickly apparent, is both disapproving and slightly unhinged.

Cut back to punk hipster Franki, an earlier Erica conquest, trying to get his band a European tour, giving his boss grief at his burger-flipping job, and looking after his ailing mother. On her death, Franki and Erica’s paths become entwined again in a twist that would jump out as controversy-baiting, had the preceding scenes not treated the characters in such a non-judgmental way.

From then the film shifts gear, unleashing a vicious streak of inventive violence that will satisfy gore-seekers (death by gaffa tape – the ultimate indie way to go?) but still retain the less squeamish brand of cinephile. ‘I liked the idea of making a horror film that people would enjoy but wasn’t an out-and-out horror film; almost subverting the concept of what is scary and what makes people disturbed,’ Rumley says. ‘With Red, White and Blue, it was about how to make a film with a killer, who’s not a traditional killer in that they don’t go round with a knife. I thought the idea of a person who uses their body as their lethal weapon was an interesting place to start.’

To talk more about the plot would spoil the film’s unfolding, but we can say much of the charm lies in the snappy pacing, a certain austerity of tone and an impeccable sense of place. Authentic feel was an important factor for Brit Rumley: ‘New York, LA and London all have their scenes. They’re different and they’re punk in their own way. There’s an Austin look too. It’s very much earth mother punk – a lot of tattoos, a lot of long hair, a lot of big beards. Marc Senter (who played Franki), is from LA and I don’t think he’d ever been to Austin before. We were discussing how the character and the band in the script are basically punk. I was saying I maybe wanted him blonde, and he was saying, “I see him more as Iggy Pop”, which I disagreed with. So I took him to Emo’s, the club in the opening scene. When I was filming there I saw the New York Dolls, Henry Rollins and Gallows play. It’s a very punky club. We went down the first evening he was in Austin, and he was like, “Oh my God, OK, now I totally understand what you mean”.’

The addition of Franki’s feather earrings, alongside a soundtrack of unknown Austin bands seals the film’s world. ‘While it’s not necessarily the look I would go for, I think a lot of people there look really cool. I was trying to recreate that,’ states Rumley.

Read Kate Taylor’s feature on Redmond Entwistle’s short film Monuments, which also screened at Rotterdam.

Further subversive slackers

This seam of music and a stylised discontented youth was highlighted most obviously in two other films with indie credentials and unlikely genres: Hiroshima (hyper-realist/surrealist slacker) and The Sentimental Engine Slayer (slacker incest fantasy).

In Hiroshima – Pablo Stoll’s Uruguayan paean to the joys of the discman – we follow unemployed Juan as he drifts through a day of encounters with friends, family and a life drawing class. There is very little dialogue, and what there is is delivered through witty use of intertitles, while the film plays with its post-punk audio to cracking effect. It’s a film that’s in no hurry, and occasionally drifts out of interest, yet it packs a surprising amount in. And the opening scene sets a stylish tone that will swell the heart of any music fan with a pair of headphones in their pocket.

The directorial debut of Omar Rodriguez Lopez (of At The Drive-In and Mars Volta fame), The Sentimental Engine Slayer is a psychedelic odyssey with an enviable score and an El Paso setting shot with dizzying urgency by Michael Rizzi. However, the scenario, of which has Barlam (played by Lopez) as an unlikely virgin geek with a crush on his drug-addicted sister, is way too pleased with its characters to fulfill its premise. Thus an exploration of the transgressions of grief and resulting sexual confusion falls lazily into a hateful machismo that regales us with the philosophy that ‘all that matters is pussy’, bolstered by a string of violent transactions with prostitutes, while the plot gets tangled in its own quasi-experimental flourishes.

Let Each One Go Where He May

Cinematic sound delights

Aural pleasures with post-rock flavour were to be found in the bursts of indie distortion from Thai musician The Photo Sticker Machine in Anocha Suwichakornpong’s Mundane History. A Tiger award- winner, the film makes a choppy segue from a delicate relationship drama unfolding between an sick young man and his nurse into a full-on existentialist romp complete with journey into the sun and full birthing scene.

Bursts of ska, Spanish ballads and the Country & Western of a prison request radio show set a quirky tone that punctures the often brutal world of Samson & Delilah, an emotional punch in the face of a film about two Aboriginal petrol-sniffin’ misfits trying to get by. While momentarily undermined by the inclusion of a bombastic cover of David Gray’s ‘Nightblindness’, much of the score was composed and played by director Warwick Thornton and his children.

A beautiful moment of non-diegetic sound occurs in Ben Russell’s experimental FIPRESCI winner Let Each One Go Where He May. The film consists of 13 ten-minute takes, as a Steadycam follows brothers Benjen and Monie Pansa going about life in Suriname. Using the language of visual anthropology with a fine art sensibility, it becomes a work about ways of seeing and the viewer’s relationship with the observed. In one shot we are looking back at the crowded rows of passengers on a bus, when a woman takes the seat directly facing the lens. There is a palpable sense of the brothers trying not to smile or acknowledge the camera, and then some music starts (composed by Monie himself), and for a few minutes the bus bounces around in an upbeat rhythm and with a shy joy as Monie puts on his best poker -face and looks out the window; his expression that of a man in a film pretending to be a man who is in a film but doesn’t know it.

While festival scheduling meant that the Where Is Africa? focus at IFFR started as many delegates were heading home, it felt timely that several of the wider festival’s standouts were set on the continent including Claire Denis’s superb White Material and the Tiger award- winning short Atlantiques by Mati Diop (herself the star of Denis’s earlier 35 Shots of Rum).

Live performance and furniture humping

On the live front, the festival offered eclectic pleasures, including Lovid’s mind-warping circuit-bending AV performance Light from the Dark Ages, and the soul-nourishing experience of Luke Fowler’s 16mm accompaniment to Alasdair Roberts’s folk singing. Both occurred in the Break Even Store, a pop-up concept shop selling filmmakers’ books and DVDs and hosting talks and happenings throughout the festival.

Sonic experiments from Mike Cooper fused with Greg Pope’s projections in Cipher Screen, a slow build of dots and scratches: a tasty piece of expanded cinema that, while not ground-breaking, did the trick of talking to the brain with a language that only live projections can achieve. It was a fitting highlight in the closing programme of Kino Climates, a summit of independent cinemas from across Europe (including the UK’s Cube, Star and Shadow, Side and 7Inch Cinema), which discussed the future of alternative exhibition.

Finally there was Cameron Jamie’s short film Massage the History. ‘The single greatest dance film ever made!’ ‘Better than The Red Shoes!’ So proclaimed a hyperventilating Harmony Korine (in town pimping his own Trash Humpers with such oddball gusto that people were walking out during the introduction), taking time out to whip the crowd into a frenzy for Jamie’s premiere.

It’s a mind-boggling piece, based on a group of tattooed young black men in Montgomery, Alabama, that Jamie first encountered online. Bored and surrounded by soft furnishings, they make up little erotic dance routines, occasionally don white gloves, and basically hump the armchairs in a semi-balletic fashion. Jamie’s addition of a Sonic Youth soundtrack elevated the would-be YouTube curio to a warped state of grace.

Kate Taylor

Alucarda: The Seed of Panic

Ilustration by James Stringer

Format: Cinema

Screening date: 26 March 2010

Venue: Electric Cinema, Birmingham

Flatpack Festival

23-28 March 2010

Flatpack Festival website

Director: Juan López Moctezuma

Writers: Alexis Arroyo, Tita Arroyo, Juan López Moctezuma, Yolanda López Moctezuma

Original title: Alucarda, la hija de las tinieblas

Based on the short story ‘Carmilla’ by: Sheridan Le Fanu

Cast: Tina Romero, Claudio Brook, Susana Kamini, David Silva, Tina French

Mexico 1978

85 mins

Electric Sheep are very proud to present Alucarda as part of two late-night special screenings at the Flatpack Festival. See also the special preview of Dogtooth.

Having produced Alejandro Jodorowsky‘s incendiary first feature Fando y Lis (1968) as well as El topo (1970), Juan López Moctezuma went behind the camera in 1971 to make The Mansion of Madness (released in 1973), which was loosely based on an Edgar Allan Poe story. He followed it up with two vampire stories, Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary, shot in the USA with John Carradine in 1975, and Alucarda in 1978. Like Fernando Méndez and Carlos Enrique Taboada, Moctezuma was one of a handful of well-read Mexican directors who were interested in making horror films infused with cultural references and artistic ambitions. In Mexico, the genre was dominated at the time by populist lucha libre movies such as the Santo series, which pitched heroic costumed wrestlers against monsters, vampires and mummies. However, Chano Urueta’s take on Frankenstein, El monstruo resucitado (1953), and Méndez’s influential El vampiro (1957) had opened the way for a richer vein of horror, and the 50s and 60s were marked by a wave of delirious visions of terror that are still lauded for their visual beauty and atmospheric qualities.

Visit illustrator James Stringer’s website.

Moctezuma was part of the Panique Theatre, which Jodorowsky had founded in Paris in 1962 with the Spanish playwright Fernando Arrabal (on whose play Fando y Lis was based) and the French artist Roland Topor. The name was a reference to the god Pan, and the movement (or anti-movement, as Arrabal would have it) was defined by a combination of terror and humour. Influenced by Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, Panique embraced disorder, madness and excess, the grotesque and the irrational, to create an anarchic celebration of life. From Artaud they also inherited the interest in a magical and ritualistic kind of theatrical spectacle, which used violent sensory assault to open up new perspectives in the audience.

Moctezuma implemented these ideas in The Mansion of Madness, in which the patients of an insane asylum are allowed to run free as their doctor adopts an Aleister Crowley-influenced approach to their treatment. Set in the similarly confined environment of a convent, Alucarda took the director’s interest in strange cults and rituals further. Alucarda’s birth opens the film, her wretched mother, having been impregnated by the devil, delivering the baby in a crypt surrounded by diabolical, horned, half-goat statues. To protect the newborn from her terrible father, she asks a bizarre-looking gypsy to take her daughter to the convent. Fifteen years later, Justine, a young, orphaned ingénue, arrives at the convent to find herself sharing a room with the raven-haired, black-clad, wild-eyed Alucarda.

Alucarda is clearly out of place in the convent and her holy abode has not been able to suppress the devil in her blood. She draws Justine into her world, taking her to the derelict crypt of her birth where she proposes they take a blood oath, so they can be friends forever, ‘even after death’. The ritual is performed in their room at night, which, this being the 70s, involves both of them being naked as the gargoyle-like gypsy from the opening scene magically appears to make cuts on their breasts from which they drink each other’s blood. They find themselves in the forest, where a ritual performed by witches ends in an orgy. Intercut with this are images of Sister Angélica, who welcomed Justine into the convent, praying intensely until her face becomes bloodied and she levitates, apparently able to conjure up some sort of power that strikes down the gypsy witch leading the ceremony.

The clear lesbian undertones of the film come from Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘Carmilla’, on which Alucarda is very loosely based (the other literary reference is obviously Bram Stoker’s Dracula), but Moctezuma and his team of writers have made the story their own. The friendship between Alucarda and Justine has the devouring intensity of first love, but in the enclosed, all-female convent/hothouse, the girls’ repressed desires translate into demonic possession. The figure of Sister Angélica adds an interesting twist, turning the story into a spiritual lesbian love triangle. Her attachment to Justine is as dubiously excessive as Alucarda’s and is sublimated into a frighteningly exalted religious practice. The love triangle is complicated by Alucarda’s satanic nature and Sister Angélica’s self-sacrificial (‘angelic’) Christian figure, meaning that there is a lot more at stake than Justine’s affection: demonic Alucarda and holy Sister Angélica are battling over nothing less than Justine’s soul (the character is named after Sade’s unfortunate heroine, whose virtue is repeatedly assaulted by one group of perverted tormentors after another).

Alucarda has been seen as anticlerical, yet the depiction of religion comes across as very ambivalent, confused even. For a start, the convent is a very unusual religious edifice, a womb-like cave carved inside the rock. The nuns are dressed in off-white, red-stained robes and tight-fitting bonnets that make them look like mummies. Initially, there are intimations that Alucarda may be an adept of a natural religion, a religion of life opposed to the Catholic worship of death. The witches’ orgy contrasts with a later display of self-flagellation among the half-naked nuns and priests. An early, sumptuously sinister, almost painterly sermon takes place against the backdrop of a multitude of crucified Christs, creating an oppressive, macabre atmosphere. This is echoed in a later scene where Alucarda and Justine, naked, are tied to crosses for an exorcism ceremony. The dark, rich colours, the high camera angle and the cruelty of the ritual again conjure a memorable vision of religious maleficence.

And yet, Dr Oszek, who interrupts the exorcism and calls the officiating priest barbaric, is soon confronted with a gruesome supernatural phenomenon that destroys his scientific certainties and validates the priest’s beliefs. In one of the film’s most striking scenes, an undead (and again naked) Justine comes out of a blood-filled coffin to attack the devoted Sister Angélica. Alucarda proves a worthy daughter to her father when she unleashes hell upon the convent, stopped only by the body of the Christic Sister Angélica carried cross-like by the other nuns. All in all, you could say the Christian characters come out of this looking fairly reasonable in the circumstances.

The truth is that Moctezuma seems much more interested in extreme rituals of all kinds than in putting across an anticlerical message. The devil here appears in the form of Pan, as seen in the statues in the crypt and later in the goat’s head that presides over the orgiastic celebration in the forest, which clearly ties in with the ideas underlying Panique Theatre. The same actor, Claudio Brook (a Buñuel regular), plays both Dr Oszek and the gypsy, so that reason’s representative is also our mischievous guide into the occult and spiritual world, further undermining the rational standpoint. The many rituals, whether Christian or satanic, the orgy and the flagellation, the blood oath and the exorcism, are all marked by excess and strangeness, violence and beauty. The contrast between the beliefs that inform them is not what matters here; rather, the overall effect of their juxtaposition as grotesque and startling spectacles may well be designed to shock the audience into a new mode of perception.

Virginie Sélavy

This article was first published in the autumn 09 issue of Electric Sheep Magazine.

Buy Alucarda [DVD] from Amazon

Snowballing Secrets: Guy Maddin’s Careful


Format: DVD Region 1

Release date: 17 October 2000

Distributor: Kino

Director: Guy Maddin

Writers: Guy Maddin, George Toles

Cast: Kyle McCulloch, Gosia Dobrowolska, Sarah Neville, Paul Cox, Brent Neale

Canada 1992

100 mins

‘Careful, Arthur’, intones the narrator at the beginning of the prologue to Guy Maddin’s third film. His warning to a child seen lifting the lid off a steaming pan of water is one of many that follow. Each is accompanied by a scene illustrating the hazards of living in Tolzbad, a mountain community threatened by the imminent risk of avalanche. Any unprovoked noise could unleash catastrophe on the town. Such is the fear that its inhabitants talk in hushed tones, all the town’s animals have had their vocal chords severed and children are made to play in silence. The narrator ends the prologue, however, by pointing out the existence of certain ‘nodes’ in the mountains, spaces where sounds are cancelled out and where the folk of Tolzbad can pursue their more noisome activities without the danger of catastrophic snowfall. Nodes notwithstanding however, the town lives in constant fear of flocks of geese flying overhead on their yearly migration…

The Electric Sheep Film Club will screen The Saddest Music in the World at the Prince Charles Cinema on Wednesday 10 March. More details on our events page.

From the start, the steaming pan of water alerts us to physical processes, in particular what happens to water when it’s agitated. Steam has its complement in the avalanche, which is what happens to frozen water when it’s disturbed. And humans too are subject to such processes. Little Arthur’s ‘lifting the lid’ on the pan is what Maddin proceeds to do with the townsfolk of Tolzbad, showing us a weird world of raging but repressed desires, and the rest of the film gleefully and preposterously plays out one Freudian tableau after another. Johann, a young man betrothed to his beloved Klara, has disturbing dreams about sleeping with his mother. After drugging her and kissing her breasts, he kills himself. The mother, the widow of a blind swan feeder, reveals she has always loved Tolzbad’s local aristocrat, the wonderfully named Count Knotgers, whom Johann’s brother Grigorss fights in a duel when he discovers her perfidious desire. In a nod to the eccentric Swiss author Robert Walser (who died, by the way, walking out one day into a snowstorm), Grigorss has also for a while been training to become the Count’s butler. Since Johann’s death Grigorss has moved in on Klara, only to find out she has already been deflowered by her own father. There’s also a mute brother hidden away in the attic. This is all presented as melodramatically as can be, though with a fairy tale or folk gentleness it’s hard not to like, due in great part to the fantastically intricate and kitschy sets and to what looks like the use of hand-coloured film processing throughout. It’s all distinctly otherworldly.

Indeed, there’s a contrast between the apparently cosy world of the town nestled in the valley and the high mountains beyond, where the extreme action of the film occurs. Here Johann commits suicide by throwing himself off a precipice, Grigorss and the Count duel (silently with knives, of course) to the death and Grigorss deliberately fires a pistol in the air to precipitate the dreaded avalanche in the end. At these moments of high drama, Maddin reverts to shooting in blue monochrome, an effect taken from Arnold Fanck’s silent film The Holy Mountain. Careful, as it’s often pointed out, is indebted to the Bergfilme, or silent German mountain films of the 1920s, and in particular to Fanck’s 1926 feature in which a young Leni Riefensthal plays a dancer pursued with tragic consequences by two mountain men, a downhill skier and a climber. At the end of the film, the two men spend a fateful night on a bare mountain, which Fanck shoots in blue to dramatise the freezing conditions and the intensity of their exploits.

Effects aside, it’s instructive to consider how Maddin transforms many of Fanck’s themes. In The Holy Mountain, the mountains are the sublime domain of men. Whenever Fanck shows mountains they are looming pillars of solid rock. Snow clings to their sides and it’s the solidity of rock and snow that enables men to ski down them, man and nature in perfect harmony. By contrast, Riefensthal is a woman of the lowland shore. She lives by the sea, and her dancing mimics the movement of the waves. As such, she is clearly very attractive to men of the uplands, but of course also a threat. When the inevitable avalanche happens towards the end of the film, the swirling snow is meant to mimic the unpredictability and deadly allure of Riefensthal’s dancing.

Maddin’s view of the mountains is far less black and white. For one, it’s not an exclusively masculine domain – Klara has a mountain hideaway – and there’s none of Fanck’s overriding phallic symbolism and certainly no recourse to the sublime. Maddin’s mountains are obviously made of papier mâché (he himself lives on the Canadian prairies), and although he employs the melodrama of silent film it’s undercut by an absurdist wit; for example when Grigorss and the Count fight their duel, each must first unbutton the other’s coat to get at their knives. Nor is there with Maddin such an overt division between male and female spheres of action. His sexual politics are much more fluid, and with hindsight he can read gender ambiguities into the expressive gesturing of silent film.

Of course, Maddin’s fondness for the anachronistic vocabulary of silent cinema (including the use of intertitles) also flies in the face of Hollywood’s doctrine of technological progress. Paradoxically, his own films might be placed in one of the silent mountain nodes to which the narrator alludes in the prologue as an example of ‘calm’ amidst the overwhelming ‘noise’ of mainstream cinema. He constantly plays with effects that conventional filmmakers would consider ‘mistakes’ such as blurred and flared shots, and by turning up the static when the dialogue lapses. It’s also interesting that Maddin returns to the Bergfilm genre in which the ideology of progress is writ large, especially in terms of the development of cinematography. Fanck, for instance, was famed for his insistence on filming on location in adverse conditions and thus setting a cinematic precedent for outside shooting (Maddin, by contrast, is famous for his meticulously constructed indoor sets). And one can’t forget the course that Riefensthal’s career would take in the name of progress over the next decade.

In the end, Careful is something delicate and strange and it made me think back to the snowy paperweight in Citizen Kane. It’s as if Maddin managed to find his way inside the glass orb stopping time to shoot an entire film in the seconds before it broke open, the name ‘Tolzbad’ ringing in our ears as weirdly as that other name that has become part of the mythology of mystery in cinema. Maddin shows no real interest in mythmaking – he’s Canadian, from Winnipeg for goodness’ sake – but Careful is presently as radical a redefinition of the possibilities of cinema as I can think of.

Jeff Hilson

This article was first published in the winter 08 issue of Electric Sheep Magazine.

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Afterschool: Interview with Antonio Campos


Format: DVD

Date: 8 March 2010

Distributor: Network Releasing

Director: Antonio Campos

Writer: Antonio Campos

Cast: Ezra Miller, Addison Timlin, Lee Wilkof, Michael Stuhlbarg

USA 2008

100 mins

Twenty-five-year-old director Antonio Campos’s debut feature Afterschool, set in an elite East Coast boarding school, is not the easiest film to sit through. Long takes, a static camera and the subjective point-of-view shots mean that action and dialogue often take place off-screen. But despite its unconventional, almost documentary-like style (the director cites Frederick Wiseman as an influence), the film is a riveting picture that builds in intensity as Campos captures the adolescent agonies endured by the lead character Robert (Ezra Miller), a misfit dealing with the deaths of two of the school’s most popular girls, which he unwittingly captured on video. A sparse, at times difficult film, it is an original and compelling addition to the high school genre and a strikingly assured directorial debut for Antonio Campos. Sarah Cronin talks to the director about high school myths and YouTube kids.

Sarah Cronin: Like Robert, you also attended an elite prep school. Is there something of you and your experiences in Robert? What inspired the film?

Antonio Campos: Yes, there were elements of my own experiences and the experiences of those around me that made it into the film. What really inspired the film, though, was my last year of high school, which began with 9/11 and the death of my best friend’s father that day; at the end of the year, a close friend died in a freak accident while travelling through Europe. As an 18-year-old at the time, all my previous ideas for movies and all the things that preoccupied my teenage life suddenly seemed very trivial. It was at that time that I had the idea of a boy witnessing the death of two girls by a drug overdose in the bathroom at a person’s party. That was all I had at that point, and over the course of the next four years, the story continued to grow and develop into what the final film is.

Why did you choose to shoot the film primarily using a stationary camera – both film and video – with much of the dialogue and action occurring off-screen or at a distance? Was it a tool to emphasise Robert’s alienation or is there more to it than that? At times you capture his point of view, at other times it’s much more ambiguous.

There were many reasons that were dictating those choices when we were making the film, like the one you pointed out, and thinking back, they make sense. But looking back on the film, I like to not remember them and just let them be part of the film and ultimately part of Robert.

Did you draw on any other films or filmmakers as an inspiration for this technique? And did you worry that the film’s aesthetic might alienate some people in the audience?

There is a scene in The Conversation early on where Gene Hackman walks into his apartment, sits on a chair, gets up and walks off-screen—the camera holds on an empty frame for a few moments and then, as though the man filming had suddenly woken up after falling asleep on the job, the camera pans left to find Hackman sitting on the couch. Then a conversation proceeds where Hackman gets up and is in and out of frame. The idea that the camera is present and someone is watching our character was something that I wanted to convey throughout Afterschool. Fortunately or unfortunately, I never thought about whether that choice would alienate some people; I had a greater hope that people would be excited by something different.

What is behind Robert’s attraction to anonymous, violent porn? In some ways it’s the most disturbing thing about his character.

Most teenagers are exposed to hardcore porn early on. I imagine Robert has seen most of the other porn out there and like he says in the film, the sites he watches don’t seem fake. In a world where it’s so easy for things to be called real but be completely manufactured, Robert seems interested in finding examples of raw emotion and authenticity, though his perception is a bit skewed at times.

Do you think of kids now as part of a YouTube generation? And has YouTube helped de-sensitise kids to violence? In the film’s first clips you show Saddam being hanged and dead American soldiers alongside silly human and pet tricks.

I feel like kids are inundated with images now more than ever, but it just seems like a natural progression in a way — just more, more, more of everything, especially in the United States. I imagine one big grab bag and you can stick your hand in and pull out a cute kitten or you can pull out cell phone footage of Saddam hanging; the fact that they all exist side by side changes their significance and how people can perceive them.

Do you think teachers and parents are struggling to keep up with the implications of new technologies? They seem happier to medicate their children than confront reality.

Medicating kids has become a consistent trend in the past couple of decades; I’m not sure if you can connect it directly with the technology. Obviously, in some cases, it is absolutely what is needed, but in many cases, it is like putting a band-aid on the problem and not allowing the person to actually deal with whatever it is that is bothering them. In some cases, it is a total mistake and then you have a kid who was actually fine but now on medication that is chemically altering his brain. Parents and teachers definitely are trying to keep up with the technologies, but the fact is they probably won’t be able to.

Towards the end of the film, after the fight between David and Robert, Robert’s effectively punished by Burke, the headmaster, while the twins and David are referred to as ‘good kids’. Are the adults so easily blinded by good looks and popularity? Is high school nothing more than a popularity contest? In the memorial video, the students all claim that they wanted to be just like the twins, even though they end up dead.

For Burke, the best thing for the school would be to remember the girls as good kids who made a mistake; it makes the school look good and the rich parents of the girls feel better, which in turn will help the school. The popular idea of what a memorial should be is to remember the positive, which is evident with every recent celebrity death. The idea to focus on who the person really was or the complexities of their life gets lost.

The fight between Robert and David ends up on the internet, echoing the cat fight that he watches in the very beginning of the film. Do you think kids are too easily giving up their privacy? That everything, even the deaths of the twins, is in the public domain?

Absolutely. The information that kids are sharing on their Facebook and MySpace accounts or in their blogs is dangerously personal at times. I feel now more than ever kids have become obsessed with watching themselves and their friends, and in their quests to define themselves online, they compromise themselves and their privacy. It’s been proven that the more you embarrass yourself or expose yourself online the more people want to watch; and teenagers in general think in the moment without considering what they’re actually doing.

Is the film’s downbeat view of high school partly a reaction to the idealised portrayal of adolescence in the John Hughes movies, and the high school genre in general? High School Musical and Gossip Girl have proved to be wildly popular.

The film can be seen like that, but for me, it was simply the film I wanted to make. Though the lack of a soundtrack in Afterschool and my other shorts dealing with adolescence was a reaction to the over-use of music in teen films.

What are you working on now?

I’m finishing my script for Momma, which deals with a boy and his mother over the course of about 30 years in New York. I’m producing the feature Martha Marcy May Marlene for Sean Durkin, who was one of my producers on Afterschool, along with Josh Mond. And hopefully in the next few months, people will be able to see a film that we produced called Two Gates of Sleep, directed by Alistair Banks Griffin and starring Brady Corbet.

Buy Afterschool [DVD] [2008] from Amazon

Short Cuts: Redmond Entwistle’s Monuments


Format: Cinema

Screening date: 28-29 January 2010

International Rotterdam Film Festival

26 January – 6 February 2010

IRFF website

As long as art is seen as creation, it will be the same old story. Here we go again, creating objects, creating systems, building a better tomorrow. I posit that there is no tomorrow, nothing but a gap, a yawning gap. That seems sort of tragic, but what immediately relieves it is irony, which gives you a sense of humour. It is that cosmic sense of humour that makes it all bearable.
(Robert Smithson in Lucy Lippard, Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object)

Robert Smithson (1938–1973) is looking into the half-distance. Resurrected, having emerged from an underground car park into a 2009 suburbia and wearing an exceptionally bad wig, he contemplates post-minimalist art with his equally glacial buddies Gordon Matta-Clark (1943–1978) and Dan Graham (b. 1942). In a landscape of greys and blues the trio slope around, deadpanning theory and journeying into a reverie of architecture and cinema.

A beguiling oddity, Redmond Entwistle’s short film Monuments stood out as a highlight at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. A thoughtful, funny, sad film. A film with a bibliography. A film about New Jersey. ‘New Jersey was where my grandparents settled and lived after moving from Poland,’ Entwistle explains. ‘It is the counterpart to the visible New York. New Jersey feeds the city with materials, construction and invisible labour. At first New Jersey was the working-class suburbs of the city, then it became the white-collar suburbs, and now it’s something else. It’s a new hinterland. It’s a corporate park.’

Overlapping in time spans, all three artists created seminal works in New Jersey: Graham’s Homes for America photographic series was largely shot there; Matta-Clark carved up suburban houses with a power saw in Splitting and Bingo; and NJ-born Smithson’s Monuments of Passaic essay was a journal of a trip he took there, creating a series of photographs along the way. ‘In it, he talks about the cinematised landscape,’ Entwistle explains. ‘The landscape in New Jersey for him is already a filmic landscape.’

Monuments echoes what Entwistle sees as an underlying structure within their work. ‘Even though it’s sculpture and exists in that kind of space, it felt like there was an underpinning of narrative to their work. The narrative I recognised was this movement out to the fringes to collect material that you bring into the centre, as a means of authenticating society again. The way they’re going out to these environments and using raw materials, I think to some level there’s a reiteration of that narrative, of modernism, where one goes and finds the authentic materials and brings them back to the centre again, and that relates to their interest in context as well.’

Formerly a projectionist at the ICA in London and currently based in New York, Entwistle cuts a serious but restless figure. He has been making moving image work for 10 years, often switching between cinema and gallery exhibition. Paterson – Lódz (winner of Best International Film On-Screen at Images 2008) is an expanded sound piece for a seated audience in a cinema and Belfast Trio (also shown at Rotterdam) consists of three short films that were originally displayed in a gallery but also screened in three cinemas simultaneously in Belfast – each one a short staged scene that doesn’t necessarily relate to the dialogue on its soundtrack. ‘None of the pieces sit comfortably in a cinema or a gallery setting. They’re always between,’ he states. ‘I’d say neither space is adequate, so it’s partly a process of trying to provoke some sort of dialogue about the alternative ways of showing and making work. The cinematic experience has not always been a fixed one, it’s been one that’s open to new possibilities of screening. But I wouldn’t say that the works I’m making are defining what that should be. They are not just critical, but they do construct a certain way of viewing.’

For now though Entwistle has a pressing concern, how the very-much-still-alive Dan Graham will respond to the adventures of the zombie-esque photocopy of himself in the film. ‘I was concerned how he would react to it. I didn’t want to ridicule him. I think maybe it’s slightly unavoidable. He has his persona and I’m ridiculing that persona in some ways.’ Entwistle recalls the post-screening Q&A at the IFFR premiere: ‘I think a couple of people felt that I was mocking the artists’ work. But I really feel that if there is a humour in there it’s directed rather at the industry around the artists. Their mythic status isn’t of their own making, it’s something that’s happened as a process of a cultural industry around their work. I wanted to separate their work from this hagiography that developed around it.’

Kate Taylor

Reel Sounds: The Power of Silence

Cowards Bend the Knee

This Reel Sounds column takes the form of a dialogue as it is an edited extract of an episode of Resonance FM’s visual culture show I’m Ready for my Close-Up broadcast in September 2008, in which Alex Fitch and Virginie Sélavy discussed modern silent movies, including the work of Guy Maddin.

Alex Fitch: Before we discuss Guy Maddin, I want to bring up the episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer called ‘Hush’, which – suitably as it celebrates a form of filmmaking that most people think is anachronistic – was the last episode to be broadcast on TV in the 20th century. It won many awards and is based on German nightmarish tales like Struwwelpeter; by removing the dialogue from the soundtrack Buffy’s creators have brought something very primal and nightmarish to the storytelling.

Virginie Sélavy: Yes, it is a bit like one of those nightmares that everybody has at some point: you’re running away in slow motion from something scary that is chasing you! It’s the same idea in ‘Hush’: the characters scream as they are attacked but no one can hear them. The other interesting thing is that it shows how powerful the human voice is when Buffy finally gets her voice back and screams, breaking the silence and killing the evil guys.

AF: Maybe it’s because we grew up on a diet of MTV, or rather TV influenced by MTV, where the combination of music and visuals became a new language for film. That said, people from the ‘MTV generation’ are increasingly reliant on bad dialogue rather than visual storytelling to drive the plot of their movies, which is bizarre.

VS: It’s not surprising that someone like Guy Maddin is attracted to primarily visual storytelling. I think that it’s much easier to create surrealist types of narratives or fantasy worlds with silent film because dialogue can make certain scenarios seem a bit trite or too literal. I think Maddin avoids the excesses of melodrama by not having dialogue. Through silent film you’re able to create a more poetic world, because it is not purely representational. It’s a bit like animation: it can’t be realistic, it doesn’t attempt to recreate the real world, which makes it a lot easier to create a convincing fantasy world.

AF: I thought Maddin’s first film, Tales from the Gimli Hospital, which does have dialogue, wasn’t particularly good. It could just be because he was learning as a filmmaker, but I think he found his voice – ironically – when he started making silent movies. He started using dialogue again a few years ago in The Saddest Music in the World, but that works really well because it feels informed by his silent work. It is as if his development reflected the history of cinema itself: he had to learn how to make sound movies by doing silent films first. He doesn’t need dialogue to tell a story, but The Saddest Music in the World is as much about music as it is about pictures, and I guess that also came from his work on the ballet Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary the year before.

VS: These modern silent films are different from the films from the silent era because old silent films didn’t have a synched soundtrack – it was generally played live in each cinema, and improvised by the pianist. In a film like Cowards Bend the Knee, the soundtrack is very important and so suggestive and well used that you don’t feel the need for dialogue at all.

AF: It makes me think of animation, from Fantasia to episodes of Tom and Jerry and Looney Tunes – the ones that won awards were quite often the ones without dialogue, I’m surprised people haven’t noticed this correlation over the years! Film is such a visual medium; particularly when you’re making something like a cartoon, when you’re drawing a character 24 times every second, to have to then think about how the mouth might move and dub over it seems a needlessly convoluted way of telling a story.

VS: Definitely. Hitchcock once said something like ‘silent film is the purest form of cinema’, and I can really understand that, it’s often a much more poetic form than sound film. It is unfortunate that modern silent films, like Guy Maddin’s movies, or Esteban Sapir’s La Antena, are categorised as ‘arty’ movies, and therefore only get the attention of a minority audience, because if more people got to see them they would realise that not only are they stunningly beautiful, but they’re also really entertaining…

audio Listen to the podcast of the discussion of modern silent movies.

Alter Ego: Mythogeographer Phil Smith is Mick Travis

O Lucky Man!

Phil Smith is a British academic, writer, performer and playwright in experimental, physical and music theatres. His new book, Mythogeography: A Guide to Walking Sideways is a collection of diaries, letters, narratives, notes and other documents, written by artists and various practitioners of the art of walking that explores its modern uses, from meditative to subversive. To find out more, visit the wonderful Mythogeography website or the Triarchy Press website. Below, Phil Smith explains why he would be Michael Travis if he was a film character.

Michael Travis, the pilgrim ingénue of Lindsay Anderson’s 1973 O Lucky Man! is who I would be if I were a film character.

Travis because, when I can, I walk in his shoes. He’s an accidental explorer in a corrupt and magical England. And I like his corrosive psyche.

Malcolm McDowell plays Travis as a generous-hearted amoralist. He’s psychogeographic, feeling what his surroundings feel and playing the parts these worlds demand. In sales class he’s eager, among the rich acquisitive, under interrogation defiant. His lovers include Helen Mirren, but he leaves her the moment the road calls.

So what is Travis? Empty on the inside, he sucks in what he finds: a trainee coffee salesman who gets a big break. Driving a brown hatchback across North East England, he goes from thankless cold calls to the warm bosom of municipal corruption. Then a nuclear disaster sends him stumbling across a burning moor in a gold lamé suit to the bosom (literal this time) of a vicar’s wife in a harvest-bedecked country church. But this ‘green and pleasant’ soon opens onto a motorway, a lift in a Bentley and a medical institute’s voracious experiments.

I like this unfolding journey through paranoid landscapes where encounters with damaged mythic characters (bent coppers, mad designers, nomadic musicians, vulpine financiers) assemble themselves in a matrix of self-pleasuring order.

Making the film at the height of trade union power in Britain, leftist Anderson and writer David Sherwin eschewed collectivism, leapfrogging a generation to make a hero we are only just catching up with; a nomadic sleeper cell in the heart of shock-capitalism. Mick Travis pushes conformity and ambition to the point of chaos, an optimistic, anti-spectacular consumer-radical with an ache of hunger behind his chameleon smile; he helps as he destroys as he enjoys. I’d like to introduce you…

Phil Smith


Film Jukebox: Josiah Wolf

Josiah Wolf

Why? are one of the most interesting US bands of recent years, combining pop, folk and hip hop to create lovely lo-fi gems. Now their drummer and multi-instrumentalist Josiah Wolf releases his debut solo album Jetlag (Anticon – 29 March). The album glides through folk, psychedelia and 60s pop, but as it is produced by his younger brother and Why? frontman Yoni, will still sound very familiar to the band’s fans. You can find out more on his MySpace. Wolf takes us through the story of his life through movies and talks of his admiration for Gene Hackman and Bruce Willis. LUCY HURST

1. The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Coen brothers are probably my favourite directors and I would add more of their films to my list if it were longer than 10. The dialogue and the interpretation of these characters come across so naturally that it seems as if this film could have been improvised. I love every character so uniquely that it’s difficult to send props to just one, but if I were given that challenge Walter Sobchak is my man. It’s as if John Goodman were made for this role. He is a fine actor and I’m proud to include him in this list.

2. The Unforgiven (1992)
I’d never really watched a Western until I saw this film. Having watched many since then, I realise this was quite different from the rest. I saw this film in the theatre when I was a kid. There are no real good guys or bad guys in the film, so it raises a lot of interesting questions about karma and the cycle of violence, which Eastwood often addresses in his films. Gene Hackman is one of my favourites in this film as in many others.

3. Superman II (1980)
As a younger child this movie played a large role in my life. For years, my brother and I quoted this movie although it’s hard to say exactly what it was we liked about it as after seeing it recently I realise that it’s not actually very good. At the time, I think it had something to do with the three super-villains and their pseudo-British accents, not to mention I’ve just been a fan of Superman practically since the day I was born. Props to Gene Hackman again, I’ve always loved how his character, Lex Luther, wanted to own Australia and nothing more.

4. Twelve Monkeys (1995)
I’ve always been a fan of Bruce Willis ever since Die Hard. I’m a sucker for movies that deal with the brain-twisting elements of time travel. Props of course to the Back to the Future trilogy, which unfortunately didn’t include Gene Hackman and couldn’t be included on this list. Visually this movie is awesome, and the way the plot unfolds really took me on a rollercoaster ride. It was my first year in college and I was just getting into psychedelics, it was the perfect time to see a movie like this.

5. Pinocchio (1940)
They don’t make ’em like they used to. I read about this film years later and I found out they upped the cells per second for this movie specifically, and you can really tell how beautiful this film is as a result. Every cell is hand-drawn, something you can’t replicate with computer animation. The plot is classic: always tell the truth if you want to be a real man in this world.

6. Mary Poppins (1964)
This may have been the first movie I ever remember seeing. My father loved musicals and we saw many growing up, including my brother’s favourite, The Court Jester, starring Danny Kaye. I have always loved Burt the chimney sweep played by Dick van Dyke (the Gene Hackman of his day). ‘Feed the birds’ is a beautiful and haunting song and someone like Rufus Wainwright should cover it.

7. Little Big Man (1970)
For years, my good friend Matt Meldon recommended this film to me and then I finally saw it. Matt’s taste is very specific in a way that is hard to describe, his other favourites being Dead Man and The Big Lebowski. The deadpan storytelling and Hoffman’s character as a bystander in his own life made me think of Matt the whole time I watched it. All three movies include a ‘wise Indian chief’ who plays a crucial role in guiding the protagonist through his journey; Old Lodge Skins in Little Big Man, Nobody in Dead Man and even the Stranger aka the Old Cowboy in The Big Lebowski. I’ll have to ask Matt about this connection.

8. Koyaanisqatsi (1982)
I watched this movie many times without any sound while working at a restaurant in the Bay Area. One day, I finally watched it with sound. The beautiful soundtrack is by Phillip Glass. Not a typical documentary, nor a typical film in general. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, the images tell the story, there is no dialogue. I loved it. Amazing cinematography with very thought-provoking images.

9. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Not the biggest fan of Tarantino since this but Pulp Fiction did it for me. Props of course to Samuel L Jackson and to John Travolta’s comeback. And of course let’s not forget my man Bruce Willis. You’ve all seen it. You know the deal. On tour we stayed at someone’s house, and in the morning they were watching the gimp scene when Bruce Willis is choosing his weapon to save his enemy, Marcellus Wallace, from his ass-raping (the moral peak of the movie), and I will say it was hard to pull ourselves away into the van and onto the next city.

10. Rushmore (1998)
It was not easy to choose this over The Royal Tenenbaums for obvious reasons (Gene Hackman) BUT Bill Murray desperately needed props. This is one of my favourite of his many great roles. Wes Anderson created a great world full of eclectic characters that at times seem so familiar and yet so impossible. The soundtrack is great. The style is great. The ending is great.