REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2008

My Winnipeg

The Electric Sheep team look back at the heroes and villains of 2008.

THE GOOD

Waltz With Bashir/Persepolis
It seems somehow unfair to try and choose between Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir in deciding the best film of the year. Both superbly animated, autobiographical features, they are totally unique, powerful and refreshing in their own ways. Persepolis uses stunning black and white animation to tell Satrapi’s often humorous story about growing up a rebel after the 1979 revolution in Iran, while Waltz with Bashir is a very personal and brave attempt by Folman to come to terms with his role in the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre. Both are emotionally gripping, riveting films that are also terrifically stylish, making them an absolute pleasure to watch. SARAH CRONIN

My Winnipeg
Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg is among his finest work to date, combining documentary footage, theories on psycho-geography and the director’s typical left-field sexual anecdotes to lurid and devastating effect. Maddin has conjured a Canadian Brigadoon that is both lost to the developer’s wreaking ball and to reminiscences of itinerant residents who have long since moved on. My Winnipeg is a beguiling and loving homage to both the news footage and the director’s own home movies of the town itself and an unmissable, metatextual fever dream about places we’ve all loved and lost. ALEX FITCH

Savage Grace
Fifteen years after his critically acclaimed debut feature Swoon, Tom Kalin’s follow-up is another stunning, audacious and dazzlingly well realised exploration of the relation between sex and power, based on a disturbing real-life crime. Shot in deep, lush colours, and with a wonderfully versatile Julianne Moore in the central role, Savage Grace recounts the glittering rise and tragic fall of the aspiring American socialite Barbara Daly. Kalin brings a coolly compassionate spirit to this haunting tale of love and madness while excellent performances throughout lend the film an extra edge of enigmatic power and unsettling perversity. Undeniably graceful, gorgeously photographed but also brutally sharp. PAMELA JAHN

The Orphanage
Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Orphanage marks a powerful escape from the clutches of the ‘torture-porn’ franchises devouring the horror genre in recent years. The simplicity of a look, of the sound of footsteps, a long hallway disappearing into darkness, the sound of children whispering… suddenly the subconscious mind is given some credibility again. The Orphanage is almost entirely preoccupied with the topography of the mind and is extremely successful at evoking the (often frightening) symbolism of the past, of childhood, of memories best left undisturbed. There may have been better films in 2008, but The Orphanage got to me deepest. SIOUXZI MERNAGH

Man on Wire
James Marsh’s Man on Wire shocked and amazed me above anything else I’ve seen in years. It tells the story of French tightrope walker Philippe Petit, who with the help of a small and fearless team, broke into the World Trade Centre in 1974. Taking with him an arsenal of equipment, he staged a feat of iconic proportions by walking between the two towers. If the heist-like nature of the narrative isn’t compelling enough, the emotional bond between the key players seen through modern-day talking heads and archived footage secures the film’s place as one of the most engaging documentaries of recent years. JAMES MERCHANT

Lust, Caution
Ang Lee’s haunting Lust, Caution examines the explicit affair between naí¯ve spy Tang Wei and government official Tony Leung against the backdrop of wartime China. Leung’s performance is a master-class in self-loathing, revealing a supposed embodiment of evil to be a world-weary company man who is aware of the shortcomings of the political power to which he has sold his soul. Lee presents a multi-layered recreation of 1940s Shanghai wherein even a mah-jong game is an exercise in alliance and betrayal. Skilfully adapted from an Eileen Chang short story, Lust, Caution is as suspenseful as it is emotionally complex. JOHN BERRA

Far North
With Michelle Yeoh magnificent in the central role, Asif Kapadia’s follow-up to his acclaimed debut feature The Warrior is another stunning epic folk tale, set amid the savage beauty of the Arctic Circle, in an environment where life is a constant, violent fight for survival. VIRGINIE Sí‰LAVY

THE BAD

Captain Eager and the Mark of Voth
When making a nostalgic film about lost possibilities and childhood heroes on a limited budget, you sometimes end up with a work of genius like My Winnipeg and sometimes you get ill-conceived and tedious claptrap like Captain Eager. Inspired by the classic British comic book character Dan Dare and 1930s adventure serials such as Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, this is a film that tries to be an innovative, funny and affectionate homage to the past but fails on almost every level, while criminally wasting two of this country’s finest comic talents – Mark Heap and Tasmin Grieg. ALEX FITCH

Awake
Awake is a ridiculous thriller that strives for novelty by exaggerating, or exploiting, a medical statistic concerning the number of people who wake up during open heart surgery. When a bland junior business tycoon, portrayed by jobbing Jedi Hayden Christiansen, becomes conscious during a life or death operation, he discovers that he is the victim of a conspiracy masterminded by his new wife and his surgeon. However, his physical paralysis means that Christiansen spends much of the film relaxing on his back while his voice-over attempts to take care of the acting. Not to be viewed without anaesthetic. JOHN BERRA

Angel
Franí§ois Ozon’s first English-language feature, a foolish adaptation of Elizabeth Taylor’s unduly neglected novel Angel (1957), may be his most love-it-or-hate-it film to date. It is a strained, disastrous mixture of camp spoof and lurid melodrama, a would-be satire of Hollywood dramas of the Douglas Sirk variety that completely misses the mark. PAMELA JAHN

My Blueberry Nights
While not necessarily the absolute worst film to come out this year, Wong Kar Wai’s My Blueberry Nights was certainly the most disappointing. The director’s first foray into Hollywood resulted in a film inferior in every way to his Hong Kong-based work, while the most egregious offence was the misguided casting that saw the inexperienced singer Norah Jones and the mediocre Jude Law take on the two leads. The story itself is a mere confection, with Jones waitressing her way across America after she’s jilted by her boyfriend. Thankfully, Wong Kar Wai quickly restored his reputation by re-realising his 1994 film Ashes of Time, a beautiful, elegiac picture that helped dull the painful memory of My Blueberry Nights. SARAH CRONIN

THE UGLY

RocknRolla
Arch-chav Guy Ritchie’s pathetic films are littered with embarrassing caricatures: mockney wide boys, smart-arse gangsters, Fagin-esque thieves and air-head tarts. This ridiculously contrived, self-consciously ‘cool’ macho wankathon was utterly boring, adolescent and stupid. But what’s most reprehensible about it is its glamorisation of the most disgusting elements of male, thuggish society: greed, misogyny, egotism, immorality, narcissism and random violence. JAMES DC

27 Dresses

This film is a triumph of formula, a mastery of the Machine:

1. Distill the identity of the ‘modern woman’ into one crisp, shiny, easily opened package.

2. Extract money from the ‘modern woman’ by marketing a tried and tested ‘always a bridesmaid, never a bride (unless you’re younger and blonder)’ movie to her.

3. Stew the ‘modern woman’ in saccharine juices until her brain is pink and pliable.

4. Await congratulations from film investors.

Unfortunately, 27 Dresses grossed $160 million worldwide, with around 75% of the audience being female (boxofficeguru.com). And this from a female director… SIOUXZI MERNAGH

PHILIP WINTER’S VERY OWN ROUND-UP OF 2008

Unlike most of the other pundits writing this end of year review, I haven’t been to the cinema. 2008 was a grand year for cinema-phobia as far as I’m concerned. Despite my love of the art form I have never been a regular cinema-goer. My preferred time to go to a screening is mid-week, mid-afternoon, with no companions apart from my fellow strangers. Sadly, work and life have thwarted my indulgence in that proclivity, as has the fact that there has been very little fodder on offer that I have wanted to squander my cash on. I haven’t even attended press screenings. Indeed, most of my cinematic consumption has come via conduits such as DVDs and the Web. However, (here’s the me, me, me bit) I have been proactive in producing cinematic events. All of them low-key, thoroughly amateur and jolly good fun in a kind of botched together from Sellotape and twigs way. In the summer, I started an occasional evening entitled Philip Winter’s Lucky Dip (this title permitted me to decide what I wanted to screen the night before). At these events, I screened an eclectic range of films – local history documentaries, British transport films, instructional videos, Super 8 non-sequitur, YouTube chaff. Experimentalists like William English, Oliver Mezger, Fari Bradley, David Leister and Toby Clarkson presented 16mm and video works live, and as master of ceremonies I talked nonsense in between. The screenings took place in a room above a pub adjacent to the pub’s Thai kitchen, which provided a constant background din. Audiences weren’t huge but we all had fun, albeit of the shoddy variety, and best of all, it was free. I am glad I haven’t visited a cinema in 12 months.

BEST OF THE 52nd LONDON FILM FESTIVAL

Hunger

52nd LONDON FILM FESTIVAL

15-30 October 2008

The Electric Sheep team round up their favourite films of this year’s London Film Festival.

Hunger

A gripping, powerful and hauntingly beautiful film, Hunger is artist Steve McQueen’s slow-paced dramatisation of the last months in the life of Irish Republican Bobby Sands, who starved himself to death in 1981 in protest against the British government’s refusal to treat convicted IRA members as political prisoners. Despite an arguably impressive display of physical violence, there are moments when stunning shots of artistic beauty lend the film a grim poetic atmosphere. The result is a mesmerising choreography that demands utter commitment from the actors (an extraordinary central performance from Michael Fassbender), and it is also an inventive bursting forth of McQueen the filmmaker. PAMELA JAHN

Waltz with Bashir

Ari Folman’s brilliant animated documentary about the 1982 Lebanon war was one of the best films at the LFF. This is a brave and powerful movie, both stylistically and in its treatment of Folman’s involvement in one of the most controversial episodes in Israel’s history, the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. The animation beautifully conveys the depth and intensity of Folman’s story as he meets with fellow friends, soldiers and journalists in his attempt to counter the collective amnesia suffered by witnesses of the event. This is an astonishing, unmissable piece of filmmaking with one of the most harrowing and moving endings seen in years. SARAH CRONIN

United Red Army

Koji Wakamatsu’s latest film is by far the most complex, stunning and utterly demanding film I’ve seen in the course of this year’s festival circuit. In 190 visually and conceptually engrossing minutes, United Red Army traces the history of the Japanese militant left from its origins in 1960 to its escalation in the early 1970s. Basing his film on comprehensive research as well as his own memories and connections to some members of the Red Army faction when it was still active, Wakamatsu not merely reveals the gruelling events that took place at the time, he once again pushes the boundaries of filmmaking in almost every take, taking the story from docu-style drama to claustrophobic chamber piece into breathtaking action thriller in the final act. What remains is a profound and painful dissection of ideology itself, rendered with an impressive clarity that is rarely seen on the big screen. PAMELA JAHN

Afterschool

I found myself utterly stunned by Antonio Campos’s feature debut Afterschool. A class video project in an upscale American prep school accidentally captures a tragedy, and we follow the reactions of the school, its pupils, and particularly of the boy, Robert (Ezra Miller), who shot the incident, an alienated and unpopular student who becomes a source of anxiety for the institution. If, as is usually the case, high school/college movies are intended as portraits of America in microcosm, then this is the most bilious, vicious picture of that nation I’ve encountered in years. It’s a tough watch from the outset, with an unsettling montage of internet clips giving way to the face of Robert as he wanks away to some unpleasant porn, and never stops being unnerving thereafter. The dark nature of the story is emphasised by visually inventive, oddly framed photography throughout; imitating both the lopsided compositions of amateur cameramen and the disaffected gaze of a sociopath, it builds its own woozy unhealthy atmosphere, a world viewed through the wrong head. It’s creepy and smart and it may just screw with your head for days. MARK STAFFORD

Home

A happily eccentric middle-class family live in the ideal, open surroundings of the French countryside, right on the edge of a long unused motorway. However, when the motorway is suddenly opened to swarms of traffic, their lives become intolerable as the noise, pollution and danger invades their lives. As the disruption to their normal routine eats away at their freedoms, they descend into semi-primordial behavioural patterns and bizarre somnambulant rituals. Beautifully filmed, with a superb, believable cast (Isabelle Huppert is outstanding), Home explores the deep ramifications of urbanisation and the impact of rampant capitalism upon the human psyche. On one level it’s a witty, modern-day environmental parable, and on another it’s a surreal descent into the subconscious fears and desires of the id. Birthed from the same otherworldly penumbra as classics like Weekend, Themroc and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Home is a unique and strange masterpiece where Kafka meets Ballard on the arid tarmac of the Motorway. JAMES DC

Hansel and Gretel

A South Korean grown-up reworking of the familiar children’s story, Yim Phil-sung’s Hansel and Gretel is a dark, surreal fairy tale weaving themes of lost innocence, dysfunctional families, revenge, trust and love. When a young man driving along a country road crashes his car, he is taken to a ravishing house in the middle of the forest by a strange, ethereal young girl. He is looked after by her family but when he tries to go back to his car the next day, and the following days too, he finds he cannot leave the forest. Forced to remain with the three children and faced with a series of bizarre occurrences, he gradually disentangles the web of mystery that surrounds the children to discover the truth about their identity. The enchanted house and forest are beautifully depicted, the children are suitably ambivalent and the film’s atmosphere is perfectly balanced between sinister and magical. A real treat. VIRGINIE Sí‰LAVY

Il Divo

Winner of the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Il Divo sees director Paolo Sorrentino apply his trademark formal beauty to the life of one of Italy’s most notorious politicians. Seven-time Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti was tried on several occasions for murder, corruption and Mafia involvement, but defended himself successfully each time. The characters accused along with Andreotti are many and difficult to distinguish – expect a re-edit before the theatrical release – but rather than try to establish the facts, Sorrentino chooses instead to focus on the aegis of ambiguity that Andreotti forges for himself. In this character study he could have no better co-conspirator than his The Consequences of Love star Tony Servillo, who is hypnotic as Andreotti. ALEXANDER PASHBY

Momma’s Man

On paper, Momma’s Man doesn’t necessarily hold that much appeal: a thirty-something man visits his parents at their New York loft and finds himself incapable of returning home to his wife and baby in Los Angeles. But director Azazel Jacobs’ film is much more than a sum of its parts. Jacobs cast his own remarkable parents (influential experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs and artist Flo Jacobs) and shot the movie in the same Manhattan apartment where they’ve lived for the last 40 years. Matt Boren puts in a great performance as their son, who’s desperate to be a little kid again. The location itself is terrific, packed with the eccentric ephemera collected over a lifetime, and while the film’s laid-back pace demands some patience, this funny and poignant film has that indefinable something that marks out the most memorable films. SARAH CRONIN

Beautiful Losers

Pulled from this year’s EIFF line-up at the very last minute, Beautiful Losers was a welcome addition to the small number of worthwhile documentaries included in the LFF programme. In an unashamedly nostalgic but extremely likeable fashion, co-director Aaron Rose looks back in affection at his own achievement, New York’s Alleged Gallery, and the loose-knit group of American artists who became involved in the creative movement that grew around the small storefront space in the early 90s. It features artists such as Barry McGee, Chris Johanson, Ed and Deanna Templeton, Jo Jackson, Margaret Kilgallen, Mike Mills amongst others, with Harmony Korine being no doubt the most weirdly charming contributor. PAMELA JAHN

Not Quite Hollywood

Not Quite Hollywood is music promo director Mark Hartley’s affectionate no-holds-barred-pedal-to-the-metal salute to Ozploitation cinema, charting its rise in the late 60s, fall in the late 80s, and recent resurgence with the likes of Wolf Creek. It rounds up an impressive roll call of talking heads from the scene, who, in true Aussie style, are refreshingly blunt about their experiences and each other, and intercuts them with a generous helping of clips from the films. It’s great fun: Hartley seems to be terrified of boring his audience and packs out his 102 minutes with insane stunts, montages of naked Sheilas, automotive carnage and explosions, and countless outrageous stories, all edited to a zippy sprint. The archive footage of Dennis Hopper scrambling for his life from his burning stunt double would justify your time and money on its own. It’s divided into three sections, sex, horror and action, and the movies can also usefully be divided into three types: familiar late night /video library classics (The Long Weekend, Patrick, Turkey Shoot, Road Games, and of course Mad Max ); films that you can safely avoid (Oz sex comedies of the 70s look just as toe-curlingly Christ-awful as British sex comedies of the 70s, which is some kind of achievement); and, and here is where NQH really scores, the numerous neglected, lost and largely forgotten films which the film makes you desperately want to see. As well as having a high population density of insane stuntmen the country was also clearly never lacking in spectacular outback scenery or 70mm lenses to shoot it with, and from the clips included here alone, the likes of Fair Game and Dead End Drive-In all look glorious. If I must quibble, I’d say that the pacy style of the film excludes any real discussion of the social context, aesthetics or especially the grisly sexual politics of ozploitation cinema; which is sorely needed, especially when the inevitable Quentin Tarantino keeps popping up enthusing about one woman-bashing scene after another. Hartley’s default setting is breathless, shameless celebration over analysis, and NQH often seems to actively avoid deciding whether the films are actually any damn good or not (Though I think it’s a pretty safe bet that Howling 3: The Marsupials sucks koala cock). Apparently, the director has launched his own line of ozploitation DVDs so any viewers wishing to familiarise themselves with some authentic Australian sleaze will soon be able to judge for themselves. Happy hunting. MARK STAFFORD

52ND LONDON FILM FESTIVAL PREVIEW

Hansel and Gretel

52nd London Film Festival

15-30 October 2008

Various venues, London

Programme

The last major event on the festival circuit, the BFI London Film Festival showcases some of the best films of the year, celebrating diversity rather than big budgets and red-carpet stars, unrestrained by the high-profile awards ceremonies that dominate coverage from festivals like Cannes and Venice.

Under the umbrella of ‘history, memory and politics’, the 52nd edition of the festival kicks off with the world premiere of Ron Howard’s latest film, Frost/Nixon, an adaptation of Peter Morgan’s successful play revolving around the legendary interview granted by the disgraced Nixon to a young, ambitious David Frost. While the parallels with Bush’s own ignominious eight years in office are plainly clear, Oliver Stone’s latest tragicomedy W. hits the nail more squarely on the head. Starring Josh Brolin as George W Bush, the film charts his rather inglorious career from drunken college kid to president of the United States.

Shifting the spotlight to the Middle East, one of the festival’s undoubted highlights is the powerful, brilliant Waltz with Bashir, Ari Folman’s animated documentary about the nightmare futility of Israel’s 1982 war with Lebanon. This film should not be missed. The exploration of history, memory and politics continues with two highly anticipated films that delve into the radical terror groups that sprang out of Germany and Japan in the 1970s: veteran TV director Uli Edel’s The Baader Meinhof Complex, and Koji Wakamatsu’s United Red Army, a hit at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.

The themes of retribution and redemption appear in Austrian director Gí¶tz Spielmann’s Revanche, about an ex-con seeking revenge for the death of his girlfriend in a bungled robbery. Matteo Rovere directs an Italian film noir in A Game for Girls, centered on a teenage femme fatale, while Denmark’s The Candidate is a taut and suspenseful thriller about a desperate man hunting down his blackmailers. Moving away from Europe, Hansel and Gretel is an eerie fairy tale-based thriller directed by South Korea’s Yim Phil-sung. More politically charged, Indonesia’s The Secret is a metaphysical thriller set on the mean streets of a brutal police state as two men hunt down a phantom killer.

Several noteworthy UK films are making an appearance at this year’s festival. Gerald McMorrow explores an intriguing (and stylish) alternate reality in his sci-fi film Franklyn, starring Ryan Phillippe and Eva Green. Two other British debuts are devoted to pop music culture: Nick Moran’s Telstar charts the rise and tragic fall of the influential music producer Joe Meek, while 1 2 3 4, directed by Giles Borg, is another pop-enthused film about an aspiring indie band that promises a great soundtrack.

The indie aesthetic is also at the heart of the documentary Beautiful Losers, which celebrates a loose collective of DIY artists who did their own thing on the fringes of the New York art scene in the early 90s. Another highly anticipated documentary is American Teen, something of a real-life Breakfast Club directed by Nanette Burstein (The Kid Stays in the Picture), while Not Quite Hollywood by Australian director Mark Hartley delves into the ‘ozploitation’ films of the 1970s.

The Experimenta section of the festival offers a rare opportunity to see two 35mm films by the Situationist leader Guy Debord, one a 1959 anti-documentary on the Situationists and the other Debord’s final film, an attack on both society and cinema made in 1978. For a lighter treat after such revolutionary fare there is The Good, the Bad and the Weird, a homage to Sergio Leone set in 1930s Japanese-occupied Manchuria from director Kim Ji-woon (A Tale of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life); and screening in the French Revolutions section is Louise-Michel, the follow-up to the outrageously funny, bad-taste road movie Aaltra.

There are countless other films with intriguing storylines screening at the festival and the only challenge will be finding a way to see them all. The festival starts on October 15 and public booking is now open.

Sarah Cronin

INTERVIEW WITH OLLY BLACKBURN, JAY TAYLOR AND ROB BOULTER

Donkey Punch

Format: Cinema

Release date: 18 July 2008

Distributor Optimum Releasing

Director: Olly Blackburn

Writers: Olly Blackburn, David Bloom

Cast: Robert Boulter, Sian Breckin, Tom Burke, Nichola Burley, Julian Morris, Jay Taylor, Jaime Winstone

UK 2008

95 minutes

Olly Blackburn’s debut feature, Donkey Punch, recently had its UK premiere at the 2008 Edinburgh International Film Festival. Shown alongside other British films such as the trite, sentimental and miscast period drama The Edge of Love, Shane Meadows’s gritty black & white Somers Town, and Steven Sheil’s schlocky Mum and Dad, Donkey Punch stood well above the rest for its slick production values, witty intelligence and its finely-tuned ensemble cast of young, virtually unknown talent.

In the film co-written by Blackburn and David Bloom, a budget holiday in Mallorca goes horribly wrong when a drug, sex and ego-fuelled party on board a luxury yacht ends in the violent death of one of the girls. Still tripping, and grappling with the brutal reality of the shocking accident, the young, male crew must decide how far they’ll go to protect their precarious futures.

Olly Blackburn talked to Electric Sheep‘s Sarah Cronin at the Edinburgh Festival about genre cinema and the making of a British thriller. Sarah also caught up with actors Jay Taylor and Rob Boulter to ask them about the characters they play in the film and the moral dilemmas they face.

Sarah Cronin: Talk about your motivation and the inspiration behind this film.

Olly Blackburn: Well, I really like genre film, and that’s what I wanted to make. It’s very hard to make a first movie, and I thought it would be good to try and figure out a genre film with a small group of characters that was set in a confined space, because you can shoot that for very little money. My co-writer and friend David Bloom was on holiday in the south of France, and he had seen that all of the luxury yachts in the marina there were crewed by very young guys from England, so he called me up because he thought this could make a really great story. We met up and we sort of mind-melded and came up with this idea for the film. It flowed very rapidly, and the more we did research on crews on these boats, the more it fitted in with what we wanted to do. So that was the inspiration for the film. I also just really like films like Alien or Knife in the Water, where you have people in isolated spaces and they have to get out of a terrible situation, but there isn’t any help available. That’s what this story offered up.

SC: There’s a sub-genre of disaster-at-sea movies and the confined space of the ship really works to your advantage.

OB: You’re right. We wanted this boat to be as isolated as possible and just be lost out at sea. We researched communications on those yachts, how easy or hard it would be to get help, how easy or hard it would be to actually pilot the boat. It was all geared to the idea that these people are just stuck, that they might as well be out in space.

SC: What was it like working with Warp X and their low-budget initiative?

OB: Brilliant. I think what Warp X is doing is really exciting for British cinema, because they’re allowing people like me and Chris Waitt (A Complete History of My Sexual Failures) to make quite edgy, challenging films and they’re doing it in two ways. The first is because they’re low-budget, it means that they can raise the funding very fast and just motor these projects through. Also, because they are really skilled, tasteful producers, and they really do everything they can to make the project work, both in terms of what the filmmaker is trying to do, and in terms of reaching an audience. We all agreed that the film should be able to show next to American films, but with the budget the question was, how could we make something that would stand up and punch above its weight and not embarrass us all. They were very keen that we achieved those production values.

SC: I think that your experience in music and commercial directing really influences the film. It does look very slick and quite commercial, very American – it doesn’t look low-budget.

OB: The biggest thing about making commercials and music videos is that they’re focused on image, on making things look good, and you learn very quickly that you don’t need that much money to do that. Technology is really great these days, things like grading; so if you’ve got a very good camerawoman, in my case, it’s actually quite easy to achieve something on a very low budget. It’s about having the experience. I would recommend that all young filmmakers learn about that kind of stuff.

SC: There’s a very luminous feel to the beginning of the film when they’re in Mallorca, and you seem to have used that to help build up the tension as things become darker and darker.

OB: Well, that was a very big thing for me. I really wanted the story to start off very naturally, and suck the audience in, the same way that the characters get sucked into this ever darker situation. And obviously that is reflected in the fact that the film starts in daylight, goes through to sunset and ends at night. When we were writing the script there were lots of sparks happening between me and David, and a lot of stuff was very instinctive and that was just one of those things. It just seemed natural.

SC: Talk about the nature of power on board the ship between the characters, and the power that the male characters try to exert.

OB: We love Neil LaBute, and his films In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbours, because he’s very good at tapping into a particular side of the male psyche, a dark side, which people don’t like, maybe because it’s very accurate. And I think when we were writing a group of young guys who are kind of on the prowl, and then get into a situation with these girls, it just made us think of Neil LaBute. And the other thing was all this stuff in the press, this kind of culture where footballers were picking up these girls and going to hotel rooms. What was interesting to us was this very LaBute-ian scenario, where you have five naked men in a room and they’re all commenting on each other’s performances, and it’s more about them than the girl. That’s kind of the movie in a nutshell.

SC: Josh, who’s responsible for the girl’s death, really retains an aura of innocence, even as he gets nasty and violent. I think that’s very effective, so how integral was that to the film?

OB: The whole thing about the film is that these are normal people, so how far do you need to push things for them to do really abnormal, crazy things? Now that’s going to divide the audience, I’m sure a lot of people will watch the film and say ‘oh, that’s nonsense’. But that’s the purpose of making a film, you want to push people and see how they respond. A big part of the film is that the characters get pushed, they do something that has really bad repercussions and then things get even worse, and they have to make an even more difficult set of decisions with even worse outcomes and it just keeps escalating. That is something that I really wanted to explore in the film. It starts off psychological and then becomes physical and then even more physical.

SC: The film straddles different genres, from horror to thriller and slasher films, but it’s also quite funny. The humour provides some relief.

OB: The humour is definitely intentional. I have enough respect for the genre to be able to screw around with it and do a few different things. First of all there are no rules. For example, the biggest laugh line comes towards the end, at about the most disturbing point of the film. I felt that we should keep the line in there because it’s almost like a release. Likewise, just speaking as a punter, I like to go see films where I’m surprised, where you can’t see what’s happening, or you are kind of shocked, and I just wanted to do that, because there’s no better gauge than to try and do something that you would want to see yourself. There’s this theory about horror films that they’re actually a great way for releasing our worst nightmares, because you’ve got them in a safe space, up on a screen, with a group of people, and you can share in them and then walk away from them. That’s kind of, I hope, what that second part of Donkey Punch does, just throws things at people, and, like you said, at the end there’s this kind of relief, ‘I got through that one’.

Jay Taylor and Rob Boulter play two of the young crew members on board the yacht. Rob, who plays Sean, is the sensible, level-headed guy, who also has the misfortune of being Josh’s brother. Marcus, played by Jay, is the ship’s skipper, in charge of the yacht and the ultimate decision-maker. Embroiled in the sexual act that causes Lisa’s death (played by Sian Breckin), Marcus has too much to lose to allow her death to get in the way of his future.

SC: Your characters in the film provide quite different functions, they play off each other. Talk about your roles.

Jay Taylor: Our characters have quite an important relationship because if the situation was different, they could have made quite good allies. It becomes the downfall of the whole lot. Marcus is the leader of the pack, has this authoritarian quality and Sean has a real sense of diplomacy and what’s right and what’s wrong. That could have really worked but it doesn’t because Marcus is involved in what happens. And Bluey (the on-board DJ and drug dealer, and instigator of the violence) is a good mate of his.

Rob Boulter: That’s the thing really, Bluey is the little devil on his shoulder.

JT: It’s almost a case of good versus evil, and Marcus doesn’t really have this huge decision to make. The big moral dilemma is Sean’s, what to do, the right thing by his brother or do the right thing essentially. Those are the stakes.

RB: Sean’s whole life, his dreams, everything he’s worked for – he wants to crew boats and he wants to own his own boat and live honestly. That’s the life for him.

JT: All the characters have their own idea of the way they see their future, certainly the boys anyway. Josh is off to law school, Bluey maybe less so, but he’s just intent on living the life, being a DJ.

SC: He seems like the one unredeemable character.

JT: There doesn’t seem to be a moral conscience on his part, he’s obviously come from this fairly twisted place, a fairly disturbed upbringing.

RB: He’s just a bit of an asshole, and Marcus is supposed to be mates with him. He brings him along.

JT: Yeah, that’s the thing, Marcus has brought him along for the ride, it’s all his fault almost. Yes, Josh is the one who commits the title act, but it’s more about the way that Bluey takes the situation and develops it all and coerces and manipulates people. He’s obviously the most destructive element on the boat.

RB: He’s a provoker as well, isn’t he. The whole thing happens off of questionable human decisions, and faced with huge life-changing consequences, the chance to brush it all aside and get on with your life is so tempting. They don’t have the perspective to think it through and see that they’ll have to deal with this for the rest of their life. At that time they might find it the lesser of two evils, but obviously they make very wayward decisions. But I totally buy those decisions, they’re very human. It’s what makes the film exciting.

SC: I think there’s a sense that the men have more valuable lives than the women. The girls are down there partying, whereas Marcus is about to join the military, for example. Does that impact their decision-making?

JT: I think the boys certainly regard the girls in that way, or sorry, disregard them in that way. They don’t hold them in very high esteem. It’s a typical kind of macho bullshit male attitude. When they were trying to get lucky with them, they were treating them like princesses, showing them the boat, telling them what they wanted to hear, and then suddenly when their presence becomes a problem they’re cast aside, and they’re suddenly nothing. It’s all about the boys and you see the interesting side of Rob’s character, Sean, because he doesn’t do that, he still sees the girls as people. I also think Nicola is the only one to come through, she’s definitely the strongest character in it in terms of her perseverance. The guys outnumber the girls as well, four to two in the end, and that’s a hell of a thing for anyone to deal with.

SC: Psychologically how difficult was it for you to be a part of the violence?

JT: Well, there is some pretty extreme stuff, sex and violence. Even though Rob’s character is not involved in the sex, he has his fair deal of the violence and the emotional trauma. But to talk about the actual sex scene, it’s a very strange thing to be asked to do, and it’s quite a challenging thing for actors, and I guess relatively inexperienced actors. I don’t think any of us had ever done anything quite like that. It was treated with absolute respect and Olly made it quite clear that we wouldn’t have to do anything we weren’t comfortable with, and I think the proof is in the pudding. I think it’s a really great scene, and I think it looks pretty sexy, to be honest with you.

SC: It is very explicit, I think more so than in other mainstream, commercial films. It had to contribute to the realism of the film.

JT: And it is a realistic film. When you see a lot of sex scenes they’re in this beautiful setting, on a Greek island, with the curtains blowing in the wind, and that’s not what it’s about, especially for characters our age who go on holiday. This is what happens, and maybe it’s a heightened realism, they’re on this amazing boat and there’re more of them involved than just a couple in a room, it’s a group scene, but it’s quite realistic, I think.

SC: How did you find filming in such a confined space and out to sea?

RB: That just contributed to the film and the psychology of it. It’s very much an ensemble piece, and we all got on really well. It got very intense because it was a very short shoot. But we did it in sequence, which helped a lot.

JT: It was quite a small area to work in, you could go a little stir-crazy at times. But being on that boat and being a part of that was quite conducive to creating a really fantastic atmosphere in the film. We all got in the zone, as they say.

Interview by Sarah Cronin

For more Edinburgh Festival coverage see: See also EIFF 08: Best of the Fest, EIFF 08: Under the Radar and Standard Operating Procedure.

INTERVIEW WITH ANAMARIA MARINCA

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

Format: Cinema

Release date: 11 January 2008

Distributor Artificial Eye

Director: Cristian Mungiu

Original title: 4 luni, 3 saptamini si 2 zile

Cast: Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu, Vlad Ivanov, Alexandru Potocean

Romania 2007

113 minutes

Winner of the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Festival, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and Two Days is a powerful, psychological thriller about the agonies of obtaining an abortion under the brutal, repressive communist regime in Romania. While the cast is uniformly talented, Anamaria Marinca is utterly compelling in the role of Otilia, the young woman who takes on the burden of arranging the undignified, distressing back-street abortion for her friend Gabita. Below, Marinca tells Electric Sheep why it was so important for her to make this film.

Sarah Cronin: Your first major role was in Sex Traffic. Do you find yourself attracted to these gritty, brutal parts?

Anamaria Marinca: They came to me, but I’m very interested in being useful as an artist. They’re both stories about my country, my history, my roots, and I need to tell these stories. I think they are useful today, and if just one person takes something out of them then that’s enough.

SC: One of the really appealing things about 4 Months is that it doesn’t make any moral judgements – the film is really a blank canvas.

AM: That was our intention. It was quite difficult for me because it’s hard not to have a personal opinion. Your personal truth is limited by life. We tried to go beyond the boundaries, to see more. Maybe because it’s twenty years later we now have the wisdom and clarity to tell the story. If we’d told it in the years after the revolution in 1989, it wouldn’t have been so objective.

SC: Cristian has said that the film is really not about abortion, or even communism. What do you think the heart of the story is? Is it about oppression and lack of freedom?

AM: It’s about pursuing truth, freedom, values – it’s about friendship, it’s about sacrifice. I don’t want to use big words, but you have to be driven by values in order to make a work of art. You have to transcend this literal reality that we’re living in. You don’t look at the film, you look through it and see other things beyond the film – at least you should.

SC: The film really revolves around your character, Otilia, even though Gabita is the one who has the abortion. Why do you think Cristian decided to focus on her?

AM: That was one of the things that attracted me to the story. His perspective is different. Visually, everything happens to the main character, and here we have this story that is parallel to what we would consider to be the main story, the abortion. Otilia is the one who understands what’s happening. I was very interested in taking part in telling the story in this way. I think that is why, for me, this is an optimistic story. At the end of the day, the film is about twenty-four hours in someone’s life, and she’s changed by the suffering she experiences. Sometimes you can’t always understand things, but suffering is not always bad, in my opinion. Otilia grows, becomes mature. And in that context, in that time and space, unfortunately, that’s how she had to learn things about life – it was very harsh.

SC: In the film, the so-called doctor, Mr Bebe, demands sex from both girls as payment for the abortion. Rather than show what is essentially rape, Cristian focuses on your character after the act, washing herself in the bathroom. It was quite an interesting way of showing the trauma. Was it quite difficult to prepare yourself for that scene where you’re really conveying the character’s ordeal through very small gestures?

AM: Yes, because it’s much more painful for a spectator to see that then to see the sexual act itself. We all know what’s going on in the bedroom. You don’t need to show it – this is the beauty of the art. The language of cinema is abstract. If the film offers you all of the answers, then there is not much point in making it. I don’t believe in films that project a reality for you, and tell you what you should think. Life is a mystery, and I believe in mystery. The world is so much bigger than the camera, the frame, we just show a fragment of it, but in your head you can see everything. It surrounds you. The story is a mirage, a paradox.

SC: The long takes in the film work fantastically well at capturing the psychological drama. Did you find that you had to be more personally involved in the story, because you really had to be into the character for such relatively long stretches of time?

AM: I am always personally involved, no matter how long the take is. Coming from theatre, I immensely enjoyed doing this. I had wonderful partners – it’s like playing a game, you’re always on the edge. At the theatre you have one month, six weeks, eight weeks to rehearse and here you have a few hours in the morning. It’s like a hunt, because you have to remember everything. It’s in the moment. Everything is limited, time is limited, your film is limited, and you know that, and this works on your adrenaline. Though I need to say that Cristian is one of the most relaxed artists I have ever worked with. He gives you the impression that you have all of the time in the world, and that is very important.

SC: Romanian filmmakers have received a lot of attention in the last year or so, with films such as 12:08 East of Bucharest, and The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, on which Oleg Mutu, the DOP on 4 Months, also worked. Yourself, Cristian and Oleg are all quite young. Is this a new resurgence in Romanian cinema?

AM: There is something going on over there. It’s a whole new generation. It’s a generation who I think – we hope – hasn’t been corrupted. We’re searching for the truth. We’re not interested in a moral message. We just need to find our own way of telling stories, and we have nothing to lose. There was so much pain in our past and there is so much need to understand what happened.

SC: I think Romania really suffered one of the worst dictatorships.

AM: It was terrible, and we can see that in our parents and grandparents. The scars they left – the invisible scars which you can see every day. I wish that one day I can forgive the regime for doing this to my family, and to a whole generation of Romanians. Taking their dignity away from them, their right to be free spirits, and giving them instead the fear that is present for life, that accompanies them wherever they go, whatever they do. That is very difficult for me to cope with.

SC: It must have been quite a surprise to find yourself in a film that has done so well, winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

AM: Yes. For me, it also means that there is hope. When Cristian accepted the Palme d’Or, he said that if we did this with no help whatsoever, then anyone who has an idea and something to tell can make a movie, and it can be recognised and it can be seen. You can tell the story – we’ve been to 10-15 countries so far, and we will probably cover about 60 just promoting and presenting the movie.

SC: I think in some ways it’s quite a universal story – it’s something that other countries have gone through – for example other Catholic countries.

AM: There are still countries where this goes on. There is Poland, and there is Mexico. We’ve been there, and it’s been difficult and inspiring. You feel like you’re wanted. You become the voice of the people that have no voice. And when you have the feeling that you are doing something so important, you have to go on doing this. That’s the most rewarding thing. The film works because it echoes in our collective subconscious.

SC: Romania is still on the fringes of Europe. Do you worry that there is still this prejudice against Eastern Europeans, that films like David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises perpetuate these clichés about crime, gangsters, etc?

AM: Like you said, they are clichés. If someone wants to steal or rape or kill they will do it no matter what the colour of their skin or their nationality. The problem is that we do it on a bigger scale – of course the wars that we’re engaged in are far more dangerous for society. We need to focus on the bigger issues.

SC: Would you be interested in making a film about the war in Iraq?

AM: Definitely. For me, talking about it, or making movies, or doing theatre, or painting, or composing new music – any way of expressing yourself through art is another step towards understanding, and we need to understand, because we’ll destroy each other if we continue in this way.

Interview by Sarah Cronin

REVIEW OF THE YEAR: 2007

La Antena

The Electric Sheep team look back at the heroes and villains of 2007.

VIRGINIE Sí‰LAVY:

THE GOOD

Exiled
Johnnie To’s most accomplished film to date combines punchy direction with a well-knit, pleasingly convoluted script while the unusual Macau setting, with its colonial buildings and desert landscapes, is utilised to magnificent effect. With Exiled, To is openly emulating Sergio Leone, and this is a great riff on the Italian master’s trademark mix of playfulness, melancholy and spectacular violence.

Ten Canoes
A wonderful folk tale set in an Aboriginal community, Ten Canoes is about the eternal story of mankind – a repetitive tale of love, lust, jealousy, conflict, food, farts, shit and death. Although it presents itself as a morality tale, the film is anything but, the ending being a joyfully inconclusive illustration of the messiness of human life. One of the most thoroughly enjoyable films of the year.

Inland Empire
There is an experimental, uncompromising feel to this three-hour dream tale as well as a structural and thematic ambition that make it one of David Lynch’s best films in a long time. Lynch uses the set-up of the film-within-the film not as an empty self-reflexive device but as a way of exploring the idea of different levels of reality. The film is very much concerned with time, a fluid, non-linear kind of time, with doors, windows and TV screens providing the gateways from one dimension to another. This is no virtuoso demonstration of temporal complexity, however, and the echoing fragments of time are all connected to an eternally repeating tragic love story.

Far North
With Michelle Yeoh magnificent in the central role, Asif Kapadia’s follow-up to his acclaimed debut feature The Warrior is another stunning epic fairy tale set amid breathtaking landscapes. Against the savage beauty of the Arctic Circle, in an environment where life is a constant, violent fight for survival, an increasingly tense triangle develops between two women and the escaped soldier they have rescued. At a time when there is so much angsty questioning about the state of British filmmaking, it is baffling that such a beautifully accomplished film should still be awaiting distribution.

Frozen
A graceful, elegant film, both visually and thematically, Frozen is a slow-paced evocation of a rebellious young girl’s life with her father and brother in the remote Himalayan mountains. When one day the Army disrupts the desolate peace of their surroundings and erects a camp opposite their house in order to fight some vague terrorist enemy, it is the first sign that the family will be forced to change their way of life. Elliptical and subtly suggestive, infused with thoughtful spirituality, filled with memorable images, it is a deeply affecting, soulful film.

La Antena
In this magical fairy tale from Argentina a megalomaniac TV boss has stolen the voices of the city’s inhabitants. In a delightfully playful homage to silent film, blonde heroines and intrepid, if slightly bumbling heroes on bizarre flying implements bravely stand up to the fascistic villains. The wonders of early twentieth-century mechanical inventions are mixed with surreal touches to create a cautionary tale about brutally repressive power-hungry media moguls. Enchanting, quaintly charming but also very timely.

THE BAD

The Fountain
Peddling mystical rubbish of the most literal kind, The Fountain has nothing but tiresome special effects to guide us on the path to enlightenment. Sadly, this atrocious new-age mumbo-jumbo comes from the director who gave us the brilliantly inventive Pi in 1998.

TOM HUDDLESTON:

THE GOOD

This Is England
Shane Meadows cements his position as Britain’s finest living filmmaker with this savage, sympathetic, angry, nostalgic, hilarious and heartbreaking study of his own conflicted childhood, in which a poignant study of England’s past becomes a stark warning for our collective future.

I’m Not There
There’s no doubt that it helps to be a Dylanophile when viewing Todd Haynes’ magical, fractured take on the great man’s life and work, riddled as it is with in-jokes, references, and entire plots and sequences inspired not by real life but by Dylan’s lyrics, lies and exaggerations. But as an exploration of the relationship between creator and creations, between truth, fantasy and self-expression, I’m Not There is truly worthy of its subject.

Zodiac
The best journo-procedural since All The President’s Men, this is by far David Fincher’s best film since Se7en (not that there’s been much in the way of competition). Expansive, involving and gorgeously photographed while still managing to be genuinely disturbing, Zodiac is prestige filmmaking in the classic sense.

The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros
A giddy, gender-bending, bizarrely loveable take on City of God, replete with corrupt cops, shabby small-time crooks and wayward street punks, all in orbit around the titular cross-dressing twelve-year-old, a dayglo whirlwind in high heels and his dead mother’s dresses. Ghetto fabulous, in a very literal sense.

Knocked Up/ Superbad
In a year bereft of a decent studio blockbuster it was left to Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow to save our summer. And they succeeded admirably, with a pair of crass, juvenile, deliriously heart-warming indie-stoner comedies, reuniting the casts of Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared and marking a high point for American comedy unseen since Bill Murray was king.

THE UGLY

Death Proof
In a bumper year for badness (300, Exodus and Pirates 3 were all strong contenders) one film effortlessly clawed its way to the top of the dung heap: Death Proof is boring, crass, pretentious, totally wastes Kurt Russell and offers yet another unwanted insight into Quentin’s bizarre, conflicted, adolescent view of women as either whores or heroes, preferably both.

SARAH CRONIN

THE GOOD

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
An edge-of-the-seat psychological thriller, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a riveting film about oppression in Communist-era Romania, told through the eyes of two young women entangled in a backstreet abortion. Excellent performances and brilliant cinematography help make this Palme d’Or-winning film one of the best of 2007.

The Counterfeiters
Stylishly shot and superbly acted, The Counterfeiters is a film set during the Holocaust that manages to be suspenseful, entertaining and provocative, perfectly capturing the agonising decisions that tormented the men in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, who were recruited by the Nazis for the largest-ever counterfeiting operation in history.

THE BAD

I Don’t Want to Live Alone
Tsai Ming-liang’s reputation is based on creating artistic works diametrically opposed to the bland, lowest-common-denominator junk churned out by Hollywood. Unfortunately, his latest film I Don’t Want to Live Alone is a dreary, unspeakably dull film that sinks under the weight of its own pretensions.

LISA WILLIAMS:

THE GOOD

This Is England
Another stylish addition to the country’s canon of social realism. Meadows abandons his hardcore revenge fixation and replaces it with a tenderness delivered through a coming-of-age story. It soars from the highs of sexual awakening to the lows of a racist’s squalid flat and has an excellent ska-soaked soundtrack to boot.

Control
While nothing can get close to explaining the last moments of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis’ troubled life, through its measured characterisation and telegraphic storytelling Control comes close. Corbijn evokes the aesthetics of the period through moody monochrome, but his characters are anything but black and white.

Eagle vs Shark
The last few years has seen a glut of pastel-hued kooky movies such as Little Miss Sunshine and Eagle vs Shark never pretends to be anything different. But the unrelenting geeky arrogance of its male lead juxtaposed with the sheepish sweetness of its female lead makes for a successfully offbeat rom-com with the perfect ratio of emotional moments to funny ones.

Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten
This documentary about the life and times of the Clash’s infamous lead singer feels more like an extended television programme than a movie but how else could Julien Temple fit in so many testaments to the musician’s wit and wisdom? Archive footage spliced with interviews with Strummer’s friends and associates cleverly asserts his sound musical and cultural legacy.

Opera Jawa
It is centuries-old and its musicians can play overnight concerts without a break but no one thought of using gamelan on a film soundtrack until Javan film director Nugroho earlier this year. The eerie sounds and patterns unfamiliar to a Western ear accompany this love story to its tragic end while the art installations, lively dance sequences and a good use of colour make this film the most visually spectacular of the year.

THE UGLY

Hairspray
Although John Waters gave it its full blessing, this remake is a poor interpretation of the original. Its theme of racial integration and the idea of accepting oneself no matter one’s size are undeniably healthy for the younger audience, but the un-PC sleaze and flamboyant style and most importantly, the music of the original are shamefully missing.

ALEX FITCH:

THE GOOD

Persepolis
A perfect animated version of the popular graphic novel, which mixes terrific caricature and subtle chiaroscuro shading. A touching coming-of-age story about an Iranian girl who never feels at home in her own country or studying abroad is the best animated film in years and one that’s attractive to older children and adults alike.

Drawing Restraint 9
Matthew Barney’s latest cinematic masterpiece is a memorable epic that confirms his talent not only as an artist but also as a filmmaker. Mixing his usual esoteric but beautiful imagery of sexuality and daily routine Barney brings the ritual and paraphernalia of whaling into sharp relief.

30 Days of Night
Continuing this year’s trend (300, Persepolis) of turning cult graphic novels into films that capture the aesthetic of their original format, 30 Days is the best vampire movie since the original Blade and the best horror film set in the frozen North since John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing.

Zodiac
David Fincher continues to bring the finest thrillers in a generation to cinema screens. Here, he has made an almost flawless melodrama that mixes Robert Downey Jr.’s finest performance to date with a perfect policier of the French tradition that has as many evocative temporal stylings and red herrings as you could possibly hope for.

Brand upon the Brain!
Cynics might accuse Guy Maddin of being a one-trick pony – producing obscure silent movies full of deviant sexuality and exaggerated performances – but no one else does it so well! In his latest, a lurid tale of orphans, mad (naked) scientists and a haunted lighthouse combine to produce another memorable phantasmagoria that could make Lemony Snicket jealous!

THE BAD

Running Stumbled
John Maringouin’s self-indulgent and exploitative verité movie is a mixture of real life and staged performance that brings to the screen a depressing tale of drug addicts in pre-Katrina New Orleans. There’s enough material here for a diverting short film, but at feature length, the director’s stunt seems to be mainly concerned with trying the audience’s patience…

CLAUDIA ANDREI:

THE GOOD

The Lives of Others
The film deservedly scored a foreign language Oscar: It’s 1984 in Communist East Germany, and Big Brother is watching its citizens. More precisely, Stasi top dog Weisler oversees the surveillance of George Dreyman, under suspicion for being the only non-subversive playwright in the land. A bleak tale of how state and secret police control the masses, and of how little has changed.

Two Days in Paris
This DIY affair from Oscar-nominee Delpy (who wrote, produced, directed and starred) is the ultimate antidote to saccharine love stories. Razor-sharp dialogue, oddball characters, twisted humour and political undertones make for a spicy anarchic soufflé.

Joe Strummer – The Future Is Unwritten
Julien Temple is no amateur when it comes to making music documentaries. Combining archive footage with rare interviews and other snippets, the film celebrates the late Clash frontman as a legend whose punk ideology is here to stay. With contributions from the likes of Johnny Depp and Martin Scorsese, this is as cool as it gets!

The Bow
A poetic tale of love and betrayal on the high seas – and not a pirate in sight. An old fisherman and a young girl live on a boat – isolated from the mainland. He boosts his income by acting as a clairvoyant – using the girl and a magic bow as his tools. Magic is pushed off the plank, however, with the arrival of a young stranger…

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Forget the gun-wielding, bank-robbing James gang… for this is more American Gothic than Wild West. In fact, it’s a Shakespearean tragedy that de-mystifies the legend of Jesse James (Brad Pitt) and portrays his killer (Casey Affleck) as a psychological wreck. Superb!

THE UGLY

Rabbit Fever
Hailed as the most hilarious Brit comedy of the year, Rabbit Fever tells of sexually frustrated females who find nirvana via the aid of, ahem, the Rabbit vibrator! The humour is as low as an exhausted Duracell battery bunny, and cameos by an all-star cast do nothing to stimulate the G-Spot!

BEN DOOLEY:

THE GOOD

I For India
A truly impressive and emotionally complex film memoir about life for a family of Indian migrants settling in Britain in the 60s and trying both to maintain contact with their faraway relatives – with increasing desperation – and to understand a Britain in the age of Enoch and Maggie, of mass poverty, unemployment and racism. Director Sandhya Suri displays creative intelligence in her use of a Super-8 diary sent back and forth between her doctor father and his family in India in combination with archive TV footage, bringing to the fore a multiplicity of voices that speak of the contradictions inherent in the immigrant condition.

Inland Empire
David Lynch undoubtedly remains the modern master of suspense and horror. While many directors are content with setting us up in a believable world and terrifying us with the monsters that lurk beneath, Lynch is really only ever interested in ripping reality apart to tear into the psyche and the world of cinema itself. Terrific stuff!

Funny Ha Ha
First-time actress Kate Dollenmayer is captivating as Marnie, suffering through the doldrums of post-university loneliness; unemployed, single and floating through pointless parties and dull temporary jobs. Director Andrew Bujalski is clearly indebted to Cassavetes’ emphasis on improvised interactions between actors, but nevertheless offers up a smart and funny script that hones in on a time of life close to his heart with a documentarist’s eye for detail.

A Deviant View of Cinema – Features, Essays & Interviews