Posts Tagged ‘ Filmhouse ’

WESTWOOD;PUNK, ICON, ACTIVIST/ HERE TO BE HEARD:THE STORY OF THE SLITS

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist/
Here to be Heard: The Story of the Slits

In the year which celebrates a 100 years of women having the right to vote it is fitting that two very different tales-with some connecting threads- of how women gained a strength then took that acquired power and used it as a means of expressing this recently found freedom through fashion and music. Athough the stories of Westwood and The Slits are very different and have vastly opposing outcomes in terms of financial success- Westwood has a global business generating millions whilst The Slits have still to recoup the advance on their nearly 40-year-old debut album- they do have a shared and significant starting point: Punk!
Technically Westwood had moderate success before punk but it is her association with Malcolm McLaren and The Sex Pistols –whom McLaren managed- that she first became widely recognised and forever associated with.
Not that this is something that she wants to discuss in the documentary by Lorna Tucker. In fact it would seem that Westwood is reluctant to discuss anything of this era or any other in this documentary by Lorna Tucker as she appears curmudgeon like, awkward, brusque and downright rude whether she is aware she is being filmed or not.
Often the viewer is left wondering why she agreed to participate in this film at all as she waives most questions with a haughty air, rarely even making eye contact with the camera at all. Having since distanced herself from the film it is easy to see why as she is painted in a very unflattering light although this is no fault of Tucker who continually tries to draw out Westwood’s more pleasant side. Despite this car crash quality-or maybe because of it- it is still extremely watch-able whilst the clothes are never anything less than exquisite and her influence can never be underestimated.
Perhaps Tucker should have made the film about Westwood’s husband Andreas Kronthaler as he makes for fascinating subject matter, more than willing to discuss anything even if he is like a comic creation of Sacha Baron Cohen; a figure of ridicule who takes himself so very, very seriously.
The only time Westwood’s icy demeanour melts a little is, ironically enough, when she is discussing climate change. One is left with the feeling that this is a subject she would happily talk about for hours and hours on end.
By comparison Tessa Pollitt and the former Palmolive of The Slits seem more than happy to recount their glory days as members of all girl band The Slits as it at last focussing on their side of the story as previously the media focussed on the perspectives of the late Ari Up- who sadly passed away in 2010- and Viv Albertine. Like Westwood, The Slits have a great legacy and were hugely influential in the punk and post punk era.

Their debut album ‘Cut’ is a classic which transcends the era that bore it due to it sounding nothing like anything else either then or even now (by default they were the first band I ever saw live in my early teens as they supported The Clash on 1977’s White Riot tour and being the opening band therefore makes them my first live music experience). The fact that it was produced by young women with a fierce attitude and a blinding vision was a revelation at the time is this is simply not how women were supposed to behave or look; at least in the nineteen seventies male dominated patriarchal society. Patti Smith may have opened the door for them but The Slits booted it in, and then used that same door as a weapon thus making sure it would never close again.
Albertine makes an appearance and is always a worthy contributor but her side of the story was more than ably told in her 2014 book Clothes, Music, Boys and one feels this is more Pollitt’s and to a lesser extent Palmolive’s film.
Although the overall feel of the film is occasionally disjointed there is some very fascinating early footage captured by Don Letts which raises the interest quotient somewhat. When it does begin to drag around the time of the reunion tour another dimension still remains as some of the last ever clips of Ari Up not too long before she dies give the whole thing a sentimental twist one doesn’t normally associate with The Slits.
Now that the 40th anniversary of punk in 2016 has passed both of these films can stand alone in their re-telling of an era which forever changed the landscape of the country; with things in even more disarray now than they were then perhaps neither are films of sentiment or history but a lesson in how to drag a sexist,racist, backward, bigoted country with delusions of grandeur out of the quagmire it has entrenched itself in.

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO

I Am Not Your Negro

This Oscar nominated documentary by Raoul Peck focuses on author and civil rights activist James Baldwin and his personalised recounting of the struggles and assassinations of three of his close friends, allies and fellow civil rights campaigners and/or activists: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Unfortunately he died several months after embarking on this project in 1979 so we will never know what conclusions he eventually reached regarding some of the changes that took place in his lifetime.
It is a stunning and utterly captivating piece of work which highlights the struggles of the African-American in 1960’s culture when it seemed anything was possible and change was not only inevitable but necessary. It was going to be long, hard fight however.
Baldwin’s fictional work at this stage was beautifully written prose and his stand out works- Go Tell it on the Mountain, Giovanni’s Room and Another Country- tackled taboo subjects, both racially and sexually motivated, in a fashion that furthered his beliefs without ever being didactic. His message was always very clear however and that message was one of injustice and that survival meant a change in both moral and racial codes.
Baldwin also published poetry and short stories to further that message even further and also appeared on the TV and lecture circuit where he called out the racist standards inherent in American culture at this time. An interesting excerpt on the Dick Cavett show in 1969- Cavett looks as nervous as he did five years later when confronted with a drug addled David Bowie in his most outlandish and talked about interview- sees him pitted a right-wing conservative ‘expert’ and subsequently demolish him most eloquently and elegantly; making a point without having to force it.
His interesting analogy that black Americans were brought up being force-fed white heroes such as John Wayne and Gary Cooper and rooting for them in the movies as they obliterated the Native tribes was an eye opener for Baldwin when he realised that the native tribes were in fact him and his culture and that he was already being conditioned to oppose them.
The fact that he was also homosexual was a double whammy but that is only looked at briefly in this documentary as it is not the central theme of the work.
The most interesting and poignant thing about this documentary is how far things actually did change. At one point there is talk of a black President in the next forty years and the idea is thoroughly ridiculed. If in fact the two decades leading up to the Obama years were neglected and history moved sharply into the Trump administration it would be easy to say that little change had been effected at all as the racial divisions which drove the civil rights campaign fifty years ago are as wide as they ever were. Or perhaps they are just as apparently obvious again.
This documentary although it looks at a particular time in history is just as relevant as ever. In fact as much can be learnt today from the viewpoints it contains and similarly they can also be acted upon and things can hopefully move forward yet again.

WHISKY GALORE

Whisky Galore
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Many, myself included, will balk at the idea of a remake of this classic film believing it really shouldn’t be tampered with. However director Gillies MacKinnon has wisely decided to stick with the winning formula and has merely updated it seemingly by flicking a switch which has transformed it into colour. Drawing in a cast which includes Gregor Fisher, Eddie Izzard James Cosmo, Kevin Guthrie and many others it emerges triumphantly as an ensemble piece with everyone seemingly having as much fun in their roles as it is to watch.
For anyone not familiar with the story it centres on a small, remote Scottish Island, Todday, which due to wartime rationing has had its whisky allowance slashed. For the island’s small community this is akin to being deprived of food. However fate lends a hand when a ship on its way to New York crashes on a rock with a cargo of 50,000 cases of the amber nectar.
Of course to the island’s residents this is beyond fortuitous and they embark on an after dark mission to retrieve the boat of some of its precious cargo. What follows is a cat and mouse game between customs and excise, the pompous home-guard captain, well played by Eddie Izzard, and many of the island’s inhabitants who are determined to hold onto as much of their haul as possible.
By not adding anything unnecessary or contemporary to the mix the film emerges as a triumph in that it doesn’t detract from the much loved charming original. As a closer to this year’s festival proceedings I don’t think it could be bettered as it provides more than a fitting finale.

MOON DOGS

Moon Dogs
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This original coming of age story directed by Philip John is actually a delight of a film. A talented and attractive young cast carry the bulk of the film but they are ably supported by an experienced supporting cast which gives the film am all round consistency lacking in a few other offerings at this year’s film festival.
Michael (Jack Parry Jones) and Thor (Christy O’Donnell) are step brothers from Shetland who despite their physical proximity share little common ground nor ,it would seem, are interested in finding any. Michael is uptight, impulsive , irritating and reactionary whilst Thor locks himself away making music and is contained and controlled.
After a series of close to home events however they both take off together on a trip to Glasgow for wildly different reasons: Michael to win back his recently departed girlfriend and Thor to try to track down the mother who abandoned him as a baby.
Their journey gets off to a bad start after gate-crashing a wedding by posing as the band hired to play. They are rescued by Caitlin(Tara Lee) who stops them from being almost lynched not once but twice but before long she is dragging them into even more serious situations of her own ,making.
By the time the three of them actually reach their destination relationships have been even further complicated by sexual tensions between the trio leading to a full on physical fight between the two step-brothers which leaves their brief attempt at unity and opening up to each other, the latter at Caitlin’s prompting and probing, at something of an impasse.
Both Parry Jones and O’Donnell bring an extra dimension to their characters (O’Donnell’s brooding, good-looking and natural film star looks also help in this respect) and although Lee is just as accomplished in her role unfortunately her character is not as defined as the two male parts and thus she often comes across as flighty and lacking in depth. The supporting cast includes Tam Dean Burn, Shauna MacDonald and Denis Lawson who also bring humour and pathos to their respective roles.
Able to shift from comedy to despair and heartbreaking melancholy without missing a beat the film is coherent and smooth.
Definitely a highlight of this year’s film festival you should get to see this film if you can.
Moon Dogs is showing at Cineworld on Fri 17th June at 20.50, Saturday 18th June at 15.40 and as Best of The Fest on Sunday 26th June at 20.25

BURDEN

Burden
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Immortalised on David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ album in the track ‘Joe The Lion’, performance artist Chris Burden caused quite a media splash with his wayward attitude to what passed for art in the heady and inventive nineteen-seventies. Whether it was being shot, electrocuted or crucified on the back of a Volkswagen Beetle- the inspiration for the aforementioned Bowie track- his attitude and daring made him simultaneously notorious and ridiculed.
Directed by Tim Marriman and Richard Dewey the film covers the whole transition of Burden’s varied and fascinating career: from its outrageous beginnings to mainstream acceptance and recognition from the art world’ Later in his career he revisited his original sculpture beginnings to create exceptional works and installations with exquisite precision which entrance and intrigue even today.
Sadly Burden passed away five days before his last work went on public display but lived long enough to see it was properly installed and in full working order capturing what he loved to refer to as ‘The Moment’.
His personal life was no less colourful as he moved from the stability and encouragement of his first wife and her calming influence to the erratic, sex and drug fuelled relationship with the young assistant he cheated on her with. As the drugs took more and more of a hold on him his behaviour became wilder and wilder until those around him feared not only for his sanity but their safety.
This film will be of interest to anyone who appreciates the changing art scene of the late twentieth century which Burden became a pivotal figure in. Amusing moments come from the elderly plummy-vowelled art traditionalist who rejects Burden’s work as a scam to simply gain notoriety. Burden himself emerges as a fascinating character who was always willing to take things to extremes and not only present his art but immerse himself so far into it that in his later career became almost invisible as the art gained the attention he had once sought for himself.
Burden is showing at Cineworld on Thursday 16th June at 20.40 and again on Friday at 18.15.

THE COLONY

The Colony
Colonia_poster
Despite being based on true events surrounding Pinochet’s takeover coup in 1973 this Florian Gallenberger directed film often feels totally implausible and most certainly relies on a fictional take and created scenes.
Starring Daniel Bruhl who after involving himself in anti-Allende protests in Chile, finds himself arrested and sent to a remote religious cum experimental colony where he undergoes torture and Electroconvulsive Therapies which his captors believe have rendered him mentally retarded. However this is not so and he is hiding behind this façade until he works out a way to escape.
Meanwhile his air-hostess girlfriend played by Emma Watson decides to check herself into the sinister facility with an aim to finding him and getting him out.
What follows is a series of missed opportunities, random occurrences-in one scene Bruhl picks up a pole in gesticulation and taps on a barn floor only to discover a trapdoor which hides a series of well-lit tunnels which will aid their escape- and other unlikely situations.
Although the film is based on the real life Colonia Dignidad where many very real horrors occurred-torture, child abuse and indoctrination to name a few- the film never encourages you to suspend your disbelief therefore nothing ever really adds up. Even the most brutally gruesomely scenes seem overly staged, so you never feel any real empathy or fear for any of the victims.
Bruhl is convincing enough in his role but Watson seems to be playing her part by proxy. Wide eyed and innocent she never really convinces as someone who would put herself into this situation never mind be able to go through the horrors which follow.
As for the supporting cast they all seem to resemble pantomime villains, lacking only masks and capes.
It is not an un-enjoyable film however. Fast paced and attractive to look at it passes by and catches you up in its energy even if you do find the scenes being played out quite unbelievable. It is unfortunate that such a gloss has been applied to this film as I believe there is a very good story waiting to be told and a very good film to be made out of it. Sadly this film doesn’t quite hit the heights it aims for.
The Colony is showing at Cineworld on Wednesday 22 June at 18.05 and again on Sunday June 26th at 18.05

GARY NUMAN; ANDROID IN LA LA LAND

Gary Numan: Android in La La Land
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Admittedly I have never been a huge Gary Numan fan; the sub Bowie posturing always felt second-hand and dated while his music, although electronic, seemed to be one-dimensional, clunky and droning as opposed to the liquid fluidity, crisp conciseness and melodically organic works of Kraftwerk.
Some of my disdain may have come from the universally and unrelenting awful press he received at his peak- let’s not forget how huge he was at this time- where he was slated almost on a daily basis but Numan did little in interviews to change my views coming across as arrogant, stiff, overly serious and lacking in humour with conservative- and Conservative- views. The fact that he married his number one fan did little to endear him any further merely confirming him as a little sad and desperate.
It transpires that this aloofness was in fact due to him being a lifelong Asperger’s Syndrome sufferer prone to bouts of panic and extended periods of depression and within the opening minutes of this film I am surprised to find myself warming to him as he presents a far more human, warm and compassionate person than I could ever have imagined.
This film by Steve Read and Rob Alexander finds him in a period of transition about to release a new album while also negotiating a move to Los Angeles with his wife and three daughters. It is also a period where him and Gemma have both recovered from extended bouts of depression and are piecing their lives and relationship back together again.
There is not much focus on Numan’s past successes and instead the film deals with the present day and how Numan needs to make a mark on the current scene in order to survive.
In this instance a move to America is a canny move as he always had more acceptance there as his music , not dragged down by his android image, found a new audience too young to catch Bowie and a hip hop crowd who found his robotic beats and sounds perfect for sampling; providing the perfect soundscapes for their futuristic ideals. Fans such as Trent Reznor also played a part in his resurrection, making him more acceptable to a younger audience.
Both Numan and Gemma come across as warm and comfortable with each other and it is this which makes the film watchable even if they overplay the depression angle a little too repeatedly. At the end of it I would even openly admit to liking such Numan tracks as ‘Cars’ ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric’ and ‘Me, I Disconnect From You’ –which I would never have conceded back in the day- and found myself wanting to check out his new album.
Gary Numan: Android in La La Land is on at Cineworld on Tuesday 21st June at 20.50.

THE MODEL

The Model
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Sixteen year old Emma- an impressive debut performance by Maria Palm- leaves her Danish hometown for Paris with high hopes of becoming a successful model after landing a contract with an agency. However her naiveté and innocence are of little use to her in the cut throat world of modelling and on her first assignment she messes up big time and almost finds herself on the first flight home.
Later that evening finding herself coerced into a night out by her roommate Zofia she spies the handsome, successful and older photographer Shane (Ed Skrein) who dismissed her from the aforementioned photo shoot and feeling bolstered by a new-found confidence and determination makes a move on him.
Before long her career is back on track and with Shane treating her as his muse it goes from strength to strength with prestigious publications and designers all clamouring for a piece of the hot new girl in town.
Still emotionally unstable however it doesn’t take long for the cut throat world of the modelling and fashion industries to leave her insecure, unsettled and unstable. Too young to recognise who her real friends and allies are, making her open to manipulation, she makes several misguided judgments and before long both her life and career are in a tail spin.
Director Mads Matthiesen coaxes a worthy performance out of Palm; she exudes the right amount of vulnerability, innocence and later unhinged madness, but at all times keeps a blank mannequin’s façade almost impossible to scrutinise. This lack of emotive detail on her face is perhaps the character’s greatest strength; we never quite know what she is thinking.
The supporting cast provides a suitable beautiful backdrop for the dramas to play themselves out although the performances are all noteworthy too.
The fashion and modelling industry doesn’t come out of it all too well, with a lot of slippery characters at the helm of all the major moves and decisions; but surely that will come as no surprise to anyone these days. At the end of the day The Model merely confirms that the industry which manipulates these young girls expects them to be wise beyond their years if they want to survive but unfortunately that is very rarely the case and often they end up damaged. This film highlights the damage done not only to the young girls but to those they come into contact with.

A PATCH OF FOG

A Patch of Fog
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This thriller directed by Michael Lennox is murky in its ambitions and what it is trying to say even if the two central leads Michael Graham and Conleth Hill bring gravitas to their performances which lend the film some kudos and believability.
It is a thoroughly engaging ride which follows the awkward and unlikely relationship between a lonely security guard, Robert (Graham) who vacillates between desperate childlike innocence and psychopathic stalker with comparative ease, and Sandy Duffy( Hill) who, having made a splash with his debut novel which he has been unsuccessful in following up, now teaches creative writing classes and appears on television review shows.
Despite having the trappings of fame and wealth Duffy still needs to shoplift to add an extra thrill dimension to his apparently idyllic life where he is deeply respected and admired.
Matters change when he steals a pen in a bargain shop where Robert works as a security guard and in order to avoid prosecution agrees to go for a drink with him after he is apprehended. Thinking that if he does this once then the matter will be forgotten and Robert will hand over the CCTV footage disc and life will continue pretty much as before.
Robert however has different ideas and is determined that their tenuous relationship will blossom into a deep and meaningful friendship. The situation swiftly spirals out of control however and takes on an ever more sinister aspect as Robert tries to insinuate his way into every nook and cranny of Sandy’s life until eventually it ends in tragedy.
There are several plot holes in this film not least would a minor shoplifting charge for the theft of a pen really throw someone of Sandy’s supposed intelligence and standing into such a tailspin where they would risk so much more by entering onto a path of destruction that is not so easy to back away from once the journey has begun? Surely he would realise his crime is minor to the point of negligible and he is hardly a star of such standing that it would make headline news; so the film is fatally flawed from this perspective alone.
However despite this it is still a gripping and absorbing thriller which never lets up throughout. Graham’s character is particularly hard to read and he carries off his role with a convincing nasty intensity combined with childlike hurt depending on how he wants to manipulate the situation.
All in all despite the flaws in the story the film is a success and the ending when it comes is as unexpected as it is somewhat inevitable.
A Patch of Fog is showing at Cineworld on Monday 20 June at 20.35 and again on Wednesday 22nd June at 20.50
A Patch Of Fog gets a full UK cinema release on July 8thn and a digital online release on July 11th.

ADULT LIFE SKILLS

Adult Life Skills
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This offbeat comedy drama is probably the most enjoyable film I have seen thus far at this year’s EIFF. Both funny and moving in equal measure it crosses the divide between comedy and drama successfully in a way others can only dream about. Written and directed by Rachel Tunnard and a top-notch cast including Jodie Whittaker, Brett Goldstein, Lorraine Ashbourne at the helm but buoyed up by an equally strong supporting cast including promising young newcomer Ozzy Meyers as Clint a troubled young boy that the film’s central protagonist Anna (Whittaker) bonds with in an unlikely alliance.
Unable to cope with her twin brother’s death Anna has retreated into her mother’s garden shed which she now inhabits and spends her time making videos with her thumbs as imaginary characters who articulate her inner turmoil. Refusing to engage with the real world this retreat into a fantasy life causes friction with her mother who is close to the end of her tether.
The return of old friend Fiona briefly restores some of her old persona but eventually even this starts to pall for her while the attentions of the handsome and kindhearted Brendan(Brett Goldstein) also have little effect on her moribund nature.
Assigned the task of keeping an eye on troubled youngster Clint, whose mother is terminally ill, at the child-minding group she works at initially seems as fruitless a relationship as any other she has but over time and getting to realise how she is not alone in feeling troubled an unlikely bond is formed which helps to bring her out of her apathy and able to reconnect with the outer world again.
At times funny and at others sensitive Adult Life Skills cleverly negotiates its way through the divide with clarity, insight and sensitivity. Never does it feel mawkish or forced and the central character is frustrating and sympathetic in equal measures. Definitely a success story for EIFF Adult Life Skills is definitely worth catching.
Adult Life Skills is at Cineworld on Saturday June 18th at 20.45 and again at Cineworld on Sunday June 19th at 15.30