Flatpack 2013 Round Up

Flatpack 2013
The Echo of Astroboy’s Footsteps

Flatpack Festival

21-31 March 2013

Birmingham, UK

Flatpack website

For 11 days in March and April, Flatpack Festival returned to the former industrial spaces of Birmingham, tucked behind the Bull Ring crowds and the hum of traffic passing the coach station. The Easter weekend was an unseasonably cold one as disparate figures formed an orderly queue for Brummies, Boozers and Bruisers: an event promising ‘kebabs and a scuffle’. The venue was an unlikely place for a fight – a small independent art gallery with mugs laid out for coffee and a guestbook to sign – but nevertheless the brawling was soon underway via a slideshow of photographs and news reports. Visual depictions of underground culture were brought together by Ray O’Donnell, a forceful speaker on the history of gangs around Digbeth, an area of the city that hosts the majority of Flatpack’s events. A gang member in his youth, Ray gave an impassioned insight into the mentality, organisation and social circumstances that lead to the emergence of gangs. After digressive tales of stripping copper wiring from disused buildings and of razor blades hidden in Teddy Boys’ lapels, the presentation broadened out into a discussion about the current situation in Birmingham and parallels with American cities. The talk was typical of what I have come to expect of Flatpack after six years of attending the festival. Its events are lively and thoughtful, and they have an elusive quality of unpredictability. Each year, the programming falls into similar categories – there are weird, rare shorts and animations, music documentaries, children’s screenings, walking tours and academic presentations, various explorations of early cinema techniques – but the choices avoid staleness or familiarity, in part because they are driven by Birmingham itself: the city’s problems and triumphs, and its communities and culture.

Another event built around Digbeth – but a far cry from the topic of gang violence – was a screening of animated shorts by Te Wei at Cherish House, a residential home for elderly members of the local Chinese community. Watching with the home’s residents provided another perspective to these beautiful films, which were striking demonstrations in the charm of hand-drawn animation. The first film, The Conceited General (1956), had a similar aesthetic to Western animations from the same period; in effect, we could have been watching a Disney feature from the 1950s. The corpulent body of the General was wonderfully observed as he tried to emulate the movements of an exotic dancing girl, or failed to lift heavy dumbbells. But it was the two later films – Where is Mama? (1960) and The Cowboy’s Flute (1963) – that really stood out. Influenced by Chinese ink drawings by the artist Qi Baishi, Te Wei’s minimal brushstrokes conveyed complex rhythms and subtle characterisation. In Where is Momma?, a group of tadpoles, drawn as simple silhouettes, search for their mother, mistaking a host of animals for their ‘Mama’. Through the skill of Te Wei’s animation, the basic black shapes assume a range of emotions, from excitement to fear and happiness, their tails wriggling or bodies gliding smoothly. The Cowboy’s Flute displayed finer brushwork, but retained the same attention to detail and movement: the buffalo was half-drawn to express its submergence in water, while abstract green and yellow shapes delicately morphed to suggest leaves and butterflies.

Te Wei’s ability to communicate through minimal brushstrokes was mirrored by the Polish poster artists at the centre of a lecture by Daniel Bird, which took place in another Digbeth venue, the Custard Factory Theatre. The talk explained the historical context that gave rise to Poland’s rich graphic art tradition and presented the audience with some potent examples of posters, which sprang up from a culture that turned a poverty of means into a striking aesthetic. There was a wonderful poster for Polanski’s Knife in the Water (1962), with the three protagonists crudely drawn as piranha-like fish. By making it difficult to ascertain which fish represented which character, the artist emphasised the triangular dynamics central to the psychological drama of the film. Daniel Bird explained how a specific style began to develop in Poland, despite the artists working individually. The palette was restricted due to printing costs. Posters were produced by the most basic of means: by painting, cutting or tearing. Bold hues were used to provide flashes of colour on anonymous, grey buildings. The potency of the resulting artwork was visible in the examples illustrating Daniel’s talk, and also in a small exhibition of posters hanging in the festival cafe. Opposite these works by Barbara Baranowska was another small exhibition of posters, flyers and programmes from the archives of the Birmingham Arts Lab, this year’s patron saint of Flatpack. It’s easy to understand why this arts organisation appealed to the festival’s organisers: its community-focused, experimental approach perfectly mirrors what their own programming does so well.

I mostly packed my days at this year’s Flatpack with Birmingham-related activities, but a couple of events that really stuck with me were screenings of two recent documentaries: The Echo of Astroboy’s Footsteps (2011), a portrait of the Japanese sound artist, Matsuo Ohno, and Only the Young (2012), a film that follows three teenage Christian skateboarders, Kevin, Garrison and Skye, growing up in Canyon County, California. The description of the latter doesn’t give much sense of the lyricism achieved by Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet, the two CalArts film students who made Only the Young. There is a soulful beauty to the cinematography, as Kevin and Garrison swerve on their skateboards, juxtaposed with two birds of prey soaring on thermal streams. There are lots of shots of abandoned places – a disused water slide or an empty house – and gorgeous, wide panoramas. There is one particularly uplifting sequence that shows Garrison and Skye messing around with an abandoned shopping trolley, which reminded me of the tracking shots of French New Wave classics, a technique infused with youth and freedom. The trust forged between the directors and their subjects resulted in intensely intimate moments that were funny and poignant; the filmmakers let the teenagers speak for themselves, resulting in a raw mixture of tumultuous emotion and insightful wisdom. Masanori Tominaga’s The Echo of Astroboy’s Footsteps was less focused on beautifully-composed shots, but it had a similarly languid feel as it conjured up a rounded portrait of Matsuo Ohno. The structure of the film highlighted the gulf between the myth and reality of a famously elusive artistic figure, as interviews with former colleagues finally gave way to time with Ohno himself. It was an inspiring and complex portrait that revealed a humble man, devoted to experimenting with sound and spending his time with residents in a home for disabled adults.

Flatpack is full of treasures, whether events that are directly linked to the city in some way, or films, like these documentaries, which come from all corners of the world, but share the same quality of unpredictability. I’m already looking forward to the next festival in 2014.

Eleanor McKeown

A Bleak Picturesque: Nicola Piovani’s score for Le orme

Le orme

In the 1970s, Nicola Piovani was dogged by rumours that his name was just a pseudonym for Ennio Morricone – something he liked to make great play of at after-dinner speeches. If true, it would’ve meant that the one man, Morricone-Piovani, was responsible for 675 film soundtracks. But one thing the two Roman composers do share is the suppleness to switch seamlessly between auteurist productions for Fellini or Marco Bellocchio, and the grislier fare of gialli and nunspoitation films. Luigi Bazzoni’s Le orme, also known as Footprints on the Moon (released on DVD by Shameless as Footprints), fits into the latter category, albeit not unproblematically. The film is concerned with the peculiar lunar dreams of a professional translator-interpreter, Alice Cespi (Florinda Bolkan), who seems to have lost several days from her memory.

About twelve minutes into the film, Cespi starts to recall the events leading up to her fugue. The image switches to black and white and we find ourselves in a large conference centre as a deep organ drone enters on the soundtrack with a series of discordant notes added in the middle voice of the keyboard, offset only slightly by a sparse, gentle melody on the piano. As the camera pans across a series of cubicles containing translators for different languages, strings enter tremolando with a grating sound verging on scratch tone. We hear a series of glissandi played – by the sound of it – using the screw of the violin bow, recalling Helmut Lachenmann. A flutter-tongued flute briefly enters, and the percussion drifts and rolls softly as if somewhere in the distance. It’s only a brief composition, played low in the mix under a number of multilingual voiceovers saying things like, ‘Our computer has also shown us that in the year 2000 it will be almost impossible for men to live on planet Earth’, but in its brief span of minutes this piece showcases several extended instrumental techniques then being popularised by modernist composers like Lachenmann, Krzysztof Penderecki and Luciano Berio, to startlingly atmospheric effect.

The score to Le orme was one of those cited (in numerous interviews) by director Peter Strickland as inspiration for his recent Berberian Sound Studio (it’s name an homage to Berio’s wife, the singer Cathy Berberian). But it was the melancholy opening theme which inspired James Cargill and Trish Keenan of Broadcast in the composition of their own score for Strickland’s film. The principal melody for flute and acoustic guitar is used at several moments in Le orme, its instrumentation evoking the folk records of the time – or perhaps rather the odd combination of folk and easy listening that was becoming a feature of albums of library music at the time. But there is a sadness to it, suitable for that bleak picturesque peculiar to beach resorts out of season, the setting for most of the film. It sounds nostalgic, but with a sort of cloudy, sunken feeling, like a half-forgotten memory.

Over the opening credits, however, this instrumentation is augmented by a steady pulse beat on a drum and bursts of organ, suggestive of church music and, in its trills, particularly reminiscent of certain works of Bach, but in the context of the film also associated with images of the moon. Also, we find again that flutter-tongued flute – a technique popular with the 60s avant-gardists (Berio’s first Sequenza, in particular, makes great use of it), which first entered the mainstream of classical composition at the turn of the twentieth century, with works like Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, and Pierrot Lunaire, Schoenberg’s moondrunk monodrama from 1912. ‘Piovani’s central flute and string chord progression lulls one into the loneliest of reveries,’ wrote Strickland of the score in a blogpost back in 2011, while his Berberian Sound Studio was still in production. ‘Brooding and full of yearning for something that maybe never was, this is a tender and beautifully understated soundtrack.’

Robert Barry

Beatrice Hitchman is Irma Vep from Les vampires

Irma Vep 2
Les vampires

Beatrice Hitchman was born in London, studied in Edinburgh, lived in Paris for a year and then headed back to the UK to work as a documentary film editor. Her debut novel, Petite Mort, is set in the languorous Deep South and Belle Epoque Paris, and features a mysterious silent movie, with a missing scene, an ambitious seamstress, a starry actress and an illusionist husband. Petite Mort (Serpent’s Tail) is out now at £12.99 (ebook/hardback). Beatrice Hitchman’s filmic alter ego is Irma Vep from Les vampires. Eithne Farry

Paris, 1915: the city is in the grip of a deadly band of criminals, Les vampires. A severed head is found in an air duct! A stage performer is murdered with a poisoned ring! A hundred aristocrats are sent to sleep with gas and their jewels stolen! And at the epicentre of this dizzying crime spree is anagrammatic mistress of disguise, ringleader Irma Vep.

In an early scene, Irma’s dressed as a Breton maid, complete with lacy head-dress – a look that takes guts, I’m sure you’ll agree, to pull off. In this outfit she infiltrates the apartment of the useless journalist who’s trying to unmask her, Philippe Guérande, and then makes a midnight escape out of his bedroom window. He’s too frightened to follow, and stands shaking his fist at her as she retreats. Later, she’ll expand her costume repertoire to include: exotic dancer, secretary, cat-suited sneak thief and – in a too-brief scene that set my cold heart racing – 1915 men’s lounge wear. But through it all, Vep is instantly recognisable – the eyes have it, flashing at the camera, utterly distinctive, utterly threatening, defying us to outwit her.

But it isn’t about the fabulous outfits. It’s not even about the enviable way Paris becomes Irma’s personal playground: a world of sliding bookcases, vertical climbing and operatic hideouts. It’s that, although Vep is a woman surrounded by men, she doesn’t seem to notice, or care. She’ll just keep on doing what she’s going to do – stealing, cheating, upsetting people – indifferent to who’s watching, and with complete conviction. When she creeps away from Guérande’s apartment across the rooftops, Breton headgear shining in the light of the moon, she doesn’t look down once.

Beatrice Hitchman

Monument Film: Interview with Peter Kubelka

Peter Kubelka (New York, 1967)

Format: Cinema

Screening date: 9 April 2013

Venue: BFI Southbank

Director: Peter Kubelka

It was meant to be the highlight of the London Film Festival’s Experimenta Weekend last October, but a broken projector prevented Austrian avant-gardist and experimental filmmaker Peter Kubelka from presenting his ambitious Monument Film project – a double projection of his works Antiphon (2012) and Arnulf Rainer (1960), back to back, side by side, as well as superimposed. Both works explore the four cinematographic elements – light and darkness, sound and silence – effectively stripping cinema down to its bare essentials as well as offering ‘a countermeasure to the dominating emotional motion picture’ (Jonas Mekas). What’s more, Antiphon literally presents the answer to Arnulf Rainer: what was white before is now black; where there was sound there is now silence. Monument Film is a response to what Kubelka describes as the ‘hostile takeover’ of analogue cinema technology by digital media, and hence might be best understood as a ‘last call to dogged resistance’. This month, Kubelka will be back in London to accomplish his endeavour, which he himself considers to be a culmination, the grand finale to his cinematic labors.

Pamela Jahn talked to Peter Kubelka about the essence of cinema, stealing films and losing friends when making them.

Pamela Jahn: You once said that you’ve lost most of your friends because of your film Arnulf Rainer. Why did you decide to produce another film, which is the polar-opposite version of it, as you’ve done now with Antiphon?

Peter Kubelka: To be honest, I love it when people enjoy my work, but I don’t really care if they leave the cinema. My intention when making films is not a wish to entertain, but rather that of a scientist who does his research. I use my medium – though use is also a too-cool word in this sense – I love my medium, and I use it as a ship to go on a journey to places that I haven’t been to, or nobody has ever seen before, and whatever will be found there is fine. I made my film Arnulf Rainer without having a precise idea of what it would look like on the screen, because I couldn’t project it or look at it on an editing table, because I had no means. I was very poor back then. And as with almost everything, when you are poor, you are more courageous because you have nothing to lose.

But to answer your question, I am overjoyed when people share my satisfaction. But if they don’t, I won’t change my mind because of this. And if some people leave now when they see my work, whether it is Arnulf Rainer or Antiphon or Monument Film, that really gives me pleasure, because it proves that they can evoke a reaction from the audience even after more than 50 years, when so-called ‘art’ has turned into something that is closer to social entertainment, where people accept anything, and it has practically become impossible to get people to admit that they are shocked, because they really don’t feel it anymore, or worse: they don’t care. People are not really interested in what it is they are experiencing any more, they just participate in the social epiphany. But again, I never really had a relationship with the public. I work for myself. And I strongly believe that if I do the best I can for myself, according to my standards, then other people will understand my work, and stay.

But particularly the people you worked for in the beginning didn’t share that opinion. Your first films Adebar and Schwechater were originally commercial films that your clients – a Viennese bar and a brewery – refused to approve.

I consider my position towards the commercial side of cinema, and by that I mean commercially produced films and the industry around it, as that of a parasite. I had to fight a lot in order to squeeze out some pieces of hardware and material for my work. Again, in a way, it’s a very similar position to that of a scientist or explorer, in that you have a wish, or a strong ambition, and in order to get where you want to be, you need to have some sort of a relationship with those who pay for the medium. And the only way I thought I could do this was to become a criminal – I stole all my films. I accepted commissions, but then didn’t really execute them in the way that those who paid for them had anticipated. But what gave me the moral assurance that I was right was to believe that I gave them something that was much better than what they really wanted. So when I worked in the 50s, I had that same attitude.

Were you sued by the brewery, Schwechater?

Yes, I was sued and I had to leave the country. I went to Sweden and worked as a dish washer and god knows what else. It was the only way for me to survive. Schwechater was very influential, so I couldn’t stay and work in Vienna. Even the film lab would no longer do prints for me, because Schwechater was their client and they would tell me: ‘They pay us a lot of money every month and you are nothing. You just create problems because your films are so difficult to print with a thousand cuts in one minute, so go away.’ All in all I paid very dearly for my films, because I lost all my friends, I lost my social and my work environment many times. I lived about 14 years of my life without a clue how to survive until I came to America and started teaching.

Which partly explains why your entire body of work comprises barely 90 minutes of actual film, but you have become a very well-respected lecturer around the world. What do you teach your film students, or your audience, about filmmaking based on your own experience?

Well, I am very strict in declaring that what I do in my films has nothing to do with what I say in terms of my authority. When I talk about my films, I do it in a way as if I wasn’t the maker of these films. And when the films are fresh, as my new work is, I actually talk very little about them, because the verbalisation is of course a completely different medium, and it takes some time to digest what you have done in a medium that, as film does, excludes the medium of speaking and excludes literature, for example. On the other hand, the whole spectrum of what the human being is experiencing in its conscious life is bigger than what one single medium can show. It’s a fact that music is a very important medium that is extremely rich in content, but this content remains within the medium. No one is able to fully explain a piece of music to people who haven’t heard it. It’s like the phenomenon of ‘deaf-mute’. If you are deaf, you are mute because you don’t know what speaking sounds like. So, it’s practically impossible to translate the content of films like mine into another medium like language. So what I do in my lectures is to try to help people to find a non-verbal entry into my work by leading them into my thinking. For me, speaking is just another medium I exercise. It’s not like the filmmaker translates what he has to say. In fact, for me the phrase ‘what do you have to say’ already expresses the dictatorship of language over all the other media which now exist. So, in essence, my lectures are ‘talk’ work, which I have pleasure in exercising.

What was your main intention when making Arnulf Rainer and, subsequently, Antiphon?

Arnulf Rainer is the logical consequence of my previous film travels, so to speak. It’s like when Schönberg started 12-tone music: he didn’t invent it as people always say, rather it was a logical consequence of musical history up to that moment that opened the door to 12-tone music. In the same way, Arnulf Rainer uses the most simple and essential elements that constitute the medium of cinema, namely light and the absence of light, sound and the absence of sound. These four elements are the bare essence of cinema, you cannot go beyond that.

Do you differentiate between the absence of light and darkness, for example?

No, but I prefer the absence of light in this context, to take the thoughts of a person who hears the word ‘darkness’ away from its other connotations, for example, fear or even a romantic kind of darkness. It’s a more neutral way of saying ’darkness’. I don’t want to work the spectator’s brain in that way. Again, it goes back to an essential situation of the human being. We have our senses and with their help we react to changes in the situation we are in. In fact, every sound is the message of a movement, of a change in situation. And that sound is a warning that wakes us. We start to analyse the situation in order to decide what we will do, how we will react, and if it is actually necessary to react. But the important thing to understand is that the change in situation is what makes us feel that we are alive in the here and now. And since the earliest days of mankind, there is a desire to artificially create such moments, to create a ‘now’ experience, like clapping hands, for instance. And then comes, let’s say the artist, who extracts the element, who uses those ‘now’ moments, and by this intensity and rhythmic condensation, ecstasy is given to the audience. So when I made Arnulf Rainer my intention was to use these most simple elements of cinema to create this ecstasy for the movie goer, for the people who cannot dance, and drink or take drugs or party for days, but quite the opposite, they sit very well educated in their cinema seats. In a way you could say with Arnulf Rainer the pole of the cinematic universe has been reached, the point of its most simple form of existence. But it might not be as clear when you look at the film alone. Its counterpart, Antiphon, which I have now made, completes the work in that way. It’s comparable to the philosophy of yin and yang in that both films complement each other to create a whole. This is what I was trying to achieve with Monument Film.

Did you need to go through a process in order to come to that conclusion, or did you always intend to make Monument Film after Arnulf Rainer?

The idea was already there in the very beginning, and it was first of all an economic question at the time. But then, all my metric films are only prototypes, where I realise only one phase that defines that kind of cinema. For example, in Adebar, I had already had the thought that light and darkness should be equal, and I achieved this by showing all the elements in positive and negative for the same amount of time, so by the end of the film, the screen has received the same amount of light in all its parts. So this was my first metric film, an idea that I then followed up with Monument Film. And another point is important here, which is that with Monument Film, I wanted to create a memorial to cinema that explains the materiality of film.

How would you describe your idea of a cinema?

For me, the idea of a cinema is a machine, not a place of entertainment. It’s a machine that has the aim to bring the work of the author to the public in the least disturbed way. And my model of a cinema is the interior of a classic camera, namely complete blackness, where in the place of the lens there is the screen and in the place of the negative in the back of the machine is the brain of the author, represented by the projector and the film strip, and in between is darkness. So the ideal cinema for me would be a black space in which you don’t even feel that there is a space. You should only feel that it’s black and the only element of reference would be the screen and what happens on the screen. As for my films, I call my cinema normal cinema, I make normal films and the industry makes commercial films. The real filmmakers are those who work for a result without compromising.

Interview by Pamela Jahn

Alexander’s Festival Hall’s Film Jukebox

Alexander's Festival Hall

Not a Dry Eye in London is the debut album from Alexander’s Festival Hall, an elegantly styled electronic pop confection that begins behind a venue curtain and ends some 40 minutes later, dusting itself down in a field. The brainchild of Alexander’s Festival Hall, former Kompakt recording artist (Baxendale), and producer to Piney Gir and other indie luminaries, the record is an urbane journey through love, loss and the possibility of dancing. With nods as various as Cologne’s nightclub sound and 1930s jazz vying for your affection, Mr Festival Hall decided to have fun colliding form and function but without ever losing sight of that perennial virtue – the instantly hummable tune. (from the press release) More information on his website. Below, Alexander’s Festival Hall gives us his top 10 films.

1. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
Who wouldn’t love an Algerian war romance set in a French port town with all dialogue sung to a non-stop jazz score? I’ve always loved Michel Legrand’s music and this is a wonderful tribute to the colourful American musicals of MGM. Basically a teen romance gone awry, but with the music and ingénue Catherine Deneuve’s smile vying for lead status.

2. Shoot the Piano Player (1960)
Bit of a new-wave film noir goodness now. French chanteur Charles Aznavour plays a piano player who gets caught up with the mob. Aznavour is a kind of god in France (and still touring I believe) and, as a non-professional actor, puts in one of those rare things from pop stars in films – a really ace, and actually partly improvised performance. Turns out non-sequitur-strewn discussions by mobsters officially belong to Truffaut, not that arriviste Tarantino…

3. Sleeper (1973)
This always seems like Woody Allen’s crossover movie, as he moved from parodying other films into his own upscale Manhattanite satires. That it also manages to be both an homage to the physical comedy of the silent-film era and a pisstake of the late 1960s/early 70s vogue for dystopian sci-fi at the same time is pretty amazing. Miles Monroe, who runs a whole food store in the 1970s, wakes up a couple of hundred years later to be used as a revolutionary by scientists resisting a 1984-like state. Diane Keaton excels as a bratty socialite slash poet who of course he falls in love with.

4. Alphaville (1965)
I remember seeing this when I was about 19 and that was a great age to be struck by the ambition of new wave film – when you haven’t yet seen so many films that you’ve tired of post-modernity’s way with inversion of cinematic tropes. Actually, what I probably thought at the time was ‘that was cool!’. But the point stands. A secret agent must pursue a case in the strange city of Alphaville, ruled by the computer Alpha 60 (the cinema’s first and only chain-smoking computer, it seems – the voice is terrifying). Jean-Luc Godard’s bizarre use of music in the wrong places is playful and the whole thing is clearly shot at night in modernist offices to stay in budget – but it is a great example of using your limitations to your advantage.

5. What’s New Pussycat? (1965)
Quite a curio this. It’s that least loved-by-critics genre, the ‘caper’ movie. And yes, it is a mess. I’d heard Woody Allen talking about it in a recording of one of his early standup routines (though he claimed to be ashamed of it after his own directorial career took off). But a combination of the now-bizarrely-outré sixties premise – Peter O’Toole is so beautiful, women just can’t stop falling in love with him. and he struggles to remain faithful to Romy Schneider – music by Burt Bacharach, and Peter Sellers as an insane psychiatrist are a total winner. Daft but fun.

6. Yi Yi (2000)
If you have three hours to spare and want to immerse yourself in the lives of others, this film is just transporting – a family saga of immense honesty that’s just beguiling. I can’t explain how or why it works.

7. Holy Motors (2012)
You remember those rare films that seem to reach out of the screen and bypass all critical or rational functions and address your unconscious directly? This is one of those. A series of appointments for ‘Oscar’, a professional performer who zig zags across Paris in a stretch limo, seemingly commissioned to play pivotal scenes in other people’s lives. I felt like my brain had been rewired for days after watching it.

8. Blazing Saddles (1974)
A family favourite, this. I think probably the most consistently funny film I’ve ever seen, and I must have seen it over 40 times by this point. Actually I’m smiling just thinking about this film. I’m pretty sure Seth Macfarlane owes his entire career to this movie. Every Mel Brooks schtick is in place and working overtime – nods to vaudeville, pre-PC gags about race, sex and pretty much everything else. The theme tune is a killer too.

9. A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
I could have picked any film by Powell and Pressburger – they pretty much all possess their own vision of what cinema could be. A Matter of Life and Death manages to be one of the most theological/philosophical/romantic war films with a young WWII pilot (dashing David Niven) killed over the English Channel – yet somehow he survives as the organisation from the next world can’t find him in the fog. An academic battle is staged to keep him in the world of the living as he’s fallen in love with June, the operator who tried to help land the plane. It’s thought-provoking, eccentric and also just plain delightful in equal measure.

10. Sweeney Todd (2007)
Sondheim’s dark operetta brought to life by Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter. One of the finest musical movies I’ve ever seen – the non-singer-but-singing actors actually manage incredibly well in what’s acknowledged to be one of the most challenging scores to sing.