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Tag: film

Film of the Year 2018

Saturday, 29 December, 2018

The award goes to L’Apparition, Xavier Giannoli’s story of a journalist (Vincent Lindon) investigating a young woman (Galatea Bellugi) who claims to have seen the Virgin Mary. The film is divided into several chapters, which follow the war-worn hack Jacques as he travels back to France from the Middle East, where a a combat photographer friend died at his side, leaving Jacques with a constant pain in his ears. Out of the blue, he’s summoned to the Vatican and in a beautifully-shot sequence set in its archives, Jacques learns that an 18-year-old girl named Anna claims to have seen an apparition outside her village in the mountains of southern France. Since then, the place has become a pilgrimage destination where believers travel from around the world to witness the visionary that is Anna. The Vatican wants Jacques to find out whether the apparition occurred, or whether she made it all up.

If Dan Brown were in charge of the script, Jacques would quickly uncover a conspiracy involving Satan, the Illuminati, Donald Trump, demons and an evil Latin-speaking cardinal. Xavier Giannoli, however, takes a different path, but he tips his hat to fans of Catholic corruption with the role of Father Borrodine (Patrick d’Assumcao), whose parish has benefitted from Anna’s “vision”, and Anton (Anatole Taubman), a networked Christian guru who hopes to turn the apparition into global marketing gold. Giannoli should have made L’Apparition into a statement about religion in our era, but he opted for a thriller that ends being resolved like a whodunnit. That’s disappointing, but in a year that offered an excess of cinematic rubbish, L’Apparition was a winner.


Paris is Burning

Monday, 3 December, 2018

We’ll deal with the oleaginous Monsieur Macron tomorrow, but today’s post is given over to the film that inspired a thousand headlines this weekend. Paris Is Burning is a documentary directed by Jennie Livingston that chronicled the “voguing” culture of late 1980s New York City and how gay, transgender, African-American and Latino artists lived out their glamour fantasies in a world that had its own vocabulary: house, category, mother, shade, legendary, walk


They shall grow not old

Saturday, 10 November, 2018

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

Laurence Binyon (1869 – 1943)

For the centenary of the First World War, Academy Award-winner Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) reveals the conflict as people have never seen it. Using state-of-the-art technology to transform audio and film archive footage that dates back more than a century, They Shall Not Grow Old brings to life the people who can best tell this story: the men who were there.

Each frame was hand-colourised by Jackson’s team and the footage 3D-digitised and transformed with modern post-production techniques, enabling the soldiers to walk and talk among us. Using only the voices of those involved, the film explores the Great War on the front lines. The veterans who survived tell their stories and recall the humility and humanity of those who represented a generation forever changed.


Time Trial in France

Wednesday, 11 July, 2018

When it comes to sport these days, all eyes are on Russia, where the World Cup is approaching its climax. For those who aren’t that into football, there’s always tennis and Wimbledon right now offers a more genteel alternative to the mania in Moscow. If neither small ball nor big ball satisfies, the Tour de France ticks the remaining boxes.

Today’s stage from to Lorient to Quimper glides past the citadel of Fort-Bloqué and through Pont-Aven, the city of the painters Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard. The focus will be on Ménez Quélerc’h, a famous climb in Breton cycling, and the last 35km includes the medieval village of Locronan and the challenging côte de la chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Lorette.

Couch-based Tour fans are treated daily to spectacular landscapes steeped in history but what’s usually missing from the picture is the pain of the participants. Finlay Pretsell, the award-winning Scottish filmmaker, places pain at the centre of his film, Time Trial, and his anti-hero is Scottish-born David Millar, a Tour stage winner, who was suspended for doping in 2004. If the World Cup is ecstasy and Wimbledon is elegance, the Tour de France is human, with all the heroic and horrible facets of humanity exposed. Time Trial is a valuable contribution to our understanding of sport.


Un Chien Catalogne

Tuesday, 8 May, 2018 0 Comments

Classic reference in the headline there to Un Chien Andalou, a silent surrealist short film made in Paris in 1929 by the Spanish artists Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí.

The Catalan Dog


Learning with English Prime

Thursday, 25 January, 2018 0 Comments

Sam H. Buchanan describes himself as a “UK based filmmaker. Interested in making good stuff.” His short, THE LION, shows what happens at a corporate recording session when an experienced voice-over artist is pushed over the edge. Neil McCaul, the much put-upon speaker, is superb. The scenario depicted here is not autobiographical, btw.


Master and Commander Boccherini: 5

Friday, 15 December, 2017 0 Comments

And so we come to the end of our week of interpretations of Boccherini’s Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid, which became famous through its use in the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World starring Russel Crowe and Paul Bettany. So far, we’ve had the original from the film, a family performance, a violin/viola duet and an orchestral version.

Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid was written around 1780 by Luigi Boccherini and he scored it for two violins, a viola and two cellos. It’s exuberant music and depicts the night life of Madrid near an 18th-century military outpost. Drums can be heard and various nocturnal sounds, including cats calling and church bells ringing, are woven into the piece. Boccherini was quoted as having said: “The piece is absolutely useless, even ridiculous, outside Spain, because the audience cannot hope to understand its significance, nor the performers to play it as it should be played.” Given that, it’s only appropriate we end with the Master and Commander segment being played by el dúo Bagatela, featuring Javier Abraldes on guitar and Plamen Velev on cello. ¡Olé!

“The newly-minted captain admits the irony between the gold on his shoulders and the lack of gold in his pockets. The newly-minted captain is told to let nothing stop him but to do nothing that would risk his ship or his crew.” — Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander


Master and Commander Boccherini: 4

Thursday, 14 December, 2017 0 Comments

Jaesik Lim studied music at Hanyang University, one of the leading private research institutions in South Korea, and then moved to Madrid to continue his studies, saying: “I didn’t want to fly to Italy like everyone else does. I wanted something different.” Furthermore: “Both Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras are from Spain, so I thought this country must be special,” he told the Korea JoongAng Daily. There was a phase of culture shock, however, when he discovered that most Spaniards spoke Spanish instead of English. Still, he didn’t shirk the challenge of survival so he set up a stall at a flea market “for earrings and women’s underwear.”

Perseverance pays. Here, the maestro conducts the Master and Commander segment of Boccherini’s Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid performed by the Orquesta de Cámara y Grupo Vocal Millennium in Madrid’s Teatro Monumental.

“‘Are you very much attached to money?’ asked Stephen. ‘I love it passionately,’ said Jack, with truth ringing clear in his voice. ‘I have always been poor, and I long to be rich.'” — Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander

Tomorrow, we end our series on the Master and Commander Boccherini with an interpretation by el dúo Bagatela from Galicia.


The startling murmurations of starlings

Saturday, 2 December, 2017 0 Comments

Jan van IJken is a filmmaker from the Netherlands and the relatively warm winter of 2015 gave him a rare opportunity to observe the “murmurations” of Sturnus vulgaris, the common starling, because the birds stayed in the Netherlands instead of migrating southwards. A “murmuration” is a mass aerial stunt with thousands of birds swooping and diving in unison and these mysterious flights create one of the world’s most spectacular natural phenomena. Theories about murmuration suggest that by grouping together the starlings create safety in numbers so that predators such as falcons find it hard to target one bird in the middle of a flock of thousands. It’s also possible that the gatherings help the birds to exchange information.


The Barcelona of Whit Stillman

Saturday, 19 August, 2017 0 Comments

The 1994 film Barcelona by Whit Stillman deals with the romantic and political adventures of two American cousins in Catalonia during what the director described as “the last decade of the Cold War”. The energy left over from the post-Franco revolution is being diverted into hostility to the US and it’s onto this dangerous stage that Fred (Chris Eigeman), a Navy officer on assignment from the visiting American fleet, strolls.

For the local intellectuals and wannabe terrorists, the supremely self-confident Fred is a symbol of all that’s wrong with “America Abroad”. He deflects their attacks, though, with fast talking and glib wit. Along the way, he entertains and infuriates his cousin Ted (Taylor Nichols), who works for a US corporation in Barcelona, and the two of them fall in love with the enormously attractive local women.

The clash between the Old World and the New World Order is played out on many levels in Barcelona. Ted dreams of big business and quotes management guru Peter Drucker, while Fred wants the infantile Marxists to get a life. The two characters resent the paranoid view of America that Europeans indulge in, but they also make use of the American stereotypes when circumstances dictate.

Whitman has an excellent feel for dialogue and in a film that is both hilariously funny and painfully accurate.

Ted: “I was trying to convince them to look at Americans in a new way and in one stupid move you confirmed their worst assumptions.”
Fred: “I did not confirm their worst assumptions…I am their worst assumption.”

Mira: “You can’t say Americans are not more violent than other people?”
Fred: “No?”
Mira: “All those people killed in shootings in America?”
Fred: “Oh, shootings, yes. But that doesn’t mean Americans are more violent than other people. We’re just better shots.”

On this day of mourning in Barcelona, it’s important to remember that the city has always provided a panorama for those who have sought to view themselves and the world through its magical lens.


Dunkirk: A cinematic and auditory masterpiece

Friday, 28 July, 2017 0 Comments

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is a cinematic masterpiece. The legendary World War II story — where 330,000 Allied troops, surrounded by Germans, were evacuated from the northern coast of France — is terrifying, poignant and visually stunning. Central to the on-screen atmospherics is the score by Hans Zimmer, which uses an auditory technique caused by “Shepard tones”.

Named after cognitive scientist Roger Shepard, the sound consists of octave after octave layered on top of each other. As the bass fades in, the treble fades out and the tone sequence loops back again and again and again. Because the listener can always hear at least two tones rising in pitch at the same time, one thinks that the sound is constantly ascending. It’s eerie and unnerving and ideally suited to Nolan’s drama.

In an interview with Business Insider, Nolan said that the soundtrack was created to evoke a feeling of ever-increasing intensity that would unite the film’s three storylines. And it does. Brilliantly. Dunkirk is a cinematic masterpiece and its soundtrack is an auditory masterpiece.