Tag: film

DA Pennebaker (15 July 1925 – 1 August 2019)

Wednesday, 7 August, 2019

A bit late with this. The American documentary filmmak DA Pennebaker was one of the most important chronicler of Sixties counterculture. The performing arts and politics were his primary subjects and in 2013, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized his body of work with an Academy Honorary Award or “lifetime Oscar”.

Bob Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, approached Pennebaker about filming Dylan while he was touring in England in 1965. The resulting work, Dont Look Back (there is no apostrophe in the title) became a landmark of both film and rock history, “evoking the ’60s like few other documents”, according to film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum. The opening sequence alone (set to Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” with Dylan standing in an alleyway, dropping cardboard flash cards) became the role model for modern music videos.


Roger Ebert: media coverage of mass shootings

Sunday, 4 August, 2019

On 7 November 2003, the late, great film critic Roger Ebert reviewed Gus Van Sant’s Elephant. Said Ebert, the film is “a record of a day at a high school like Columbine, on the day of a massacre much like the one that left 13 dead. It offers no explanation for the tragedy, no insights into the psyches of the killers, no theories about teenagers or society or guns or psychopathic behavior. It simply looks at the day as it unfolds, and that is a brave and radical act; it refuses to supply reasons and assign cures, so that we can close the case and move on.”

And then Ebert recalled the following:

“Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. ‘Wouldn’t you say,’ she asked, ‘that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. ‘But what about Basketball Diaries?’ she asked. ‘Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?’ The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.

The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. ‘Events like this,’ I said, ‘if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.’

In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of ‘explaining” them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.”


Facial recognition in the multiverse

Thursday, 16 May, 2019

Urban environments, with their never-ending interactions of individuals and groups, fascinate the Tokyo-based filmmaker Hiroshi Kondo. And he captures this restlessness perfectly in his fast-moving short films. His latest work, “multiverse”, focuses on scooter commuters in Taiwan as they travel in swarms, but Kondo never loses sight of the faces of the individuals in the mass.

“A crowd moving in one direction. People who flow in a moment.
A scene where the difference with other people disappears and looks uniform.
There are many different kinds of life there.
You can feel invisible energy when you see a large mass of individuals.”

Hiroshi Kondo


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.