En el Festival de Mar del Plata
All Tomorrow’s Parties rewrote the script for music festivals. Sam Davies wonders if Jonathan Caouette’s fan-filmed, end-of-a-decade collage can remodel the concert documentary.
A standing audience, beers in hand. A support band. Tour dates. These are not typically features of a film’s theatrical release, but the people behind the All Tomorrow’s Parties film rarely go about things in the conventional way.
The film celebrates the ten-year history of the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival. All Tomorrow’s Parties began with a one-off event held at Pontins in Camber Sands in 1999, the success of which encouraged promoter Barry Hogan to quietly reinvent the three-day music festival. In the All Tomorrows Parties model, camping, mudfields and portaloos were replaced by the joys of indoor plumbing and warm, dry chalets, set in the seedy cheerfulness of the off-season British seaside at Pontins, Camber Sands and from 2006, Butlins, Minehead. With each festival line-up curated by one of its headlining acts, All Tomorrow’s Parties’ ten years add up to a rough index of the last decade of leftfield music.
Accordingly, All Tomorrow’s Parties is being introduced to audiences this autumn almost as a performance rather than a projection, with bands such as American post-punks Les Savy Fav sharing the bill. “The film’s the headline act,” says Luke Morris, who produced the project for Warp Films. “It’s immersive; it’s about capturing a feeling rather than telling a story. The one consistent reaction is that people watch it and want to be involved and see some music. It’s good to have people watch the film as if it’s a gig.”
All Tomorrow’s Parties began actively documenting the festivals in 2006, as well as encouraging fans to submit footage of their own. The Beastie Boys’ Awesome; I Fucking Shot That!, in which the group distributed 50 camcorders among the crowd to document a gig, may have been an inspiration, but All Tomorrow's Parties’s open call elicited DV, Super 8 and even mobile-phone clips. The choice of Jonathan Caouette as a co-director has a distinct logic: his 2003 debut, Tarnation, was a visionary collage of camcorder footage, edited together at home to produce a verité portrait of his difficult relationship with his mother.
The raw basic materials, collage techniques and occasionally dreamlike drift of the edits connect the two films, but Caouette is keen to stress their differences. “On the technical end, this film and Tarnation were entirely different animals,” he insists. Not least because the sheer volume of footage – roughly 600 hours compared to Tarnation’s 200 – meant that possible structures proliferated dangerously. “At one point, I wanted to do a quasi-narrative with the festival as a backdrop,” he says. “Like a post-post-punk Nashville.”
The finished film’s rhythm roughly corresponds to the three-day arc of a typical All Tomorrow’s Parties , as Caouette acknowledges, somewhat ruefully. “Even the most abstract experimental films have three-act structures if you think about it,” he argues. But within that shape, improvisation became key: “I quickly realized over time that the atmosphere of All Tomorrow’s Parties was so wonderfully chaotic and uncontrollable that it really had to be shot as though we were participating in a relay race.”
The result of this relentless visual ‘relay race’ is at times brilliantly evocative. Folk, hip hop, roots reggae, free jazz, punk and noise from Daniel Johnston, The Boredoms, The Dirty Three, Genius/GZA, Fuck Buttons, Jah Shaka, Patti Smith, Lightning Bolt, Roscoe Mitchell and myriad others come and go in quick exhilarating succession, cut up with crowd shots, interviews, clips from classic music films. But it can also be frustrating, with many acts cut off mid-flow. Often this effect was imposed through lack of usable footage. “You have to make things work and sometime cheat time and space with whatever you have to work with,” says Caouette. “One of my rules of thumb with anything is as long as things make complete emotional sense go with it.”
And as Luke Morris explains, a carefully planned DVD release – synchronized to the public screenings and in all the major territories at once in an effort to limit piracy – has allowed All Tomorrow’s Parties to work round the normally circumscribed time limits of a feature. “On the DVD there’s the option to watch full performances of a lot of the bands, you can watch whole songs by Grinderman, The Stooges, whoever. And the DVD itself acts as a ‘key’ to extra content online.” With the disc in your laptop, more material becomes available via a special website for streaming and downloading, with more to be added once All Tomorrow's Parties ’s upcoming tenth anniversary shows have been filmed.
“The whole film was conceived with a self-distribution model in mind,” Morris says, and this has allowed All Tomorrow’s Parties to think through every aspect of its release, including its digital availability: synchronized with the screenings and DVD release will be a download available in three different file sizes, to suit viewers from mobile devices up to DVD-quality projectors. Like the festival itself, All Tomorrow’s Parties is planning for success based on mobilising a small but enthusiastic fanbase through unconventionally direct means; if successful, it could potentially help set the agenda within independent distribution for all tomorrow’s release schedules.
‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ is released on DVD on November 9. Features: over 60 minutes of full-length performance cuts, commentary by promoters Barry Hogan and Deborah Kee Higgins, a booklet with historical All Tomorrow’s Parties artwork and exclusive online content including further interviews and performances.
LA ACADEMIA DE LAS ARTES Y CIENCIAS CINEMATOGRAFICAS DE LA ARGENTINA, seleccionó a la película " EL SECRETO DE SUS OJOS", de JUAN JOSE CAMPANELLA, en la categoría MEJOR PELICULA HISPANOAMERICANA, DE LOS PREMIOS GOYA, para que nos represente en la próxima entrega de los premios para el 2010, habiendo sido seleccionada por 36 votos.
La segunda película más votada fue LAS VIUDAS DE LOS JUEVES con 10 votos. Le siguieron EL NIÑO PEZ Y ANITA con 6 votos cada una.
By Scott Foundas
“A Pedro Costa musical — now, what would that be like?” I asked in these pages two years ago when the Portuguese filmmaker, appearing at REDCAT for the first-ever Los Angeles retrospective of his work, unveiled a 12-minute preview of his in-progress film about French actress and chanteuse Jeanne Balibar. Last May in Cannes, when Costa premiered the complete, feature-length version of Ne Change Rien, the answer was obvious: not like any musical you’ve ever seen before. Indeed, as with almost all of Costa’s work, the more you try to stick a label on his black-and-white study of Balibar in various stages of performance — “backstage documentary,” “concert film,” etc. — the more it evades capture, each new descriptor seeming at once inadequate and altogether too limiting. Is Ne Change Rien live, or is it Memorex? Only this much is certain: It is an experience.
The project, which grew out of a three-way friendship between Costa, Balibar and the late sound recordist Philippe Morel (to whom the film is dedicated), was shot piecemeal over a period of several years, as Balibar and musical collaborators (including guitarist/songwriter Rodolphe Burger) gigged around Europe and Asia and rehearsed material for her 2006 sophomore album, Slalom Dame. The result is an acutely perceptive film about the process of artistic creation, composed almost entirely of those moments that other films about performers omit or reduce to crassly compressed montages. In short, Costa, who previously documented husband-and-wife filmmakers Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet in the 2001 feature Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie?, focuses on the work — the physical, emotional and psychological toil that goes into writing a lyric, perfecting a melody, interpreting a passage. Where most performance films — indeed, most performances — are about the seamlessness of the end product, Ne Change Rien endeavors to show us the seams. (At its first AFI Fest screening, Ne Change Rien will be preceded by Staub’s latest short, Le Streghe, Femmes entre elles.)
“The first time we showed the film, in Cannes, what I saw was that people started to walk out exactly when the work begins,” Costa told me earlier this month, sipping a beer and smoking a cigarette on the terrace of Lincoln Center’s newly renovated Alice Tully Hall, where Ne Change Rien was screening as part of the New York Film Festival. Tall and slender with mostly gray hair, dressed from head to toe in black, the 50-year-old Costa speaks in a low, ellipses-filled paragraphs that he seems to consider and reconsider even as he is speaking them. “In the beginning, there’s a bit of music,” he continued, “but when shit happens — I mean, when you have to concentrate, and Jeanne is not getting there, and the band is getting worried — that’s when I heard a couple of guys walking out and saying, ‘Oh, it started so nicely, but then. ...’”
For much of Ne Change Rien, Costa takes us inside Burger’s home recording studio, near the French-German border, as Balibar and company try out multiple variations on the Slalom Dame material (including, appropriately, one song titled “Cinéma”). It is, Costa said, where the idea for the film truly began to coalesce, “because those were more than rehearsals. They were inventing and trying things. Some songs you hear in the film are not on the record.” Then, in a a remarkable nine-minute shot, Costa shows Balibar taking detailed notes from an offscreen vocal coach while rehearsing for the title role in a 2008 production of Jacques Offenbach’s 19th-century opéra buffe, La Périchole. The teacher frequently interrupts Balibar’s performance, breaking it down line by line, measure by measure, to the singer’s — and some audience members’ — visible frustration.
“I thought she was very, very courageous in this singing,” Costa said. “I mean, this is an opera that Teresa Berganza sings; you can buy the EMI CD. But it takes a bit of courage just to sing. Singing is ... yeah, you could almost say that it’s the first thing, it’s even before language, and that connects back the Straubs, because they’re very suspect of language.” And like Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie?, Ne Change Rien is also, by turns, a love story. “These looks they give to one another, Rodolphe and Jeanne ... everybody in Cannes thought they were lovers,” he said. “That’s okay. They are not. They’re good friends, but something happens ... it’s the work that creates a little bit this loving thing.”
Costa’s films have never been — and never will be — for everyone. Stationed somewhere between documentary and fiction, they demand an active, critical viewer willing to consider moving images in the same complex, constantly evolving terms that Costa does, whether he is observing a creative personality at work, or illustrating the realities (and fantasies) of dispossessed Cape Verdean immigrants in the crumbling Lisbon housing slum of Fontainhas. The focus of Costa’s three best-known features — Ossos, In Vanda’s Room and Colossal Youth — and two subsequent shorts, it is a terrain he has now mapped as indelibly as John Ford’s Monument Valley, complete with its own resident stock company. Commercial distribution has proven elusive for the filmmaker. Early next year, the Criterion Collection will release a DVD box set of Costa’s complete Fontainhas works, all of them available for the first time in the U.S.
Like the Straubs before him, Costa is consumed by the ethical and political implications of putting a camera before another human being. When he began filming in Fontainhas, he soon gave up the comforts of a traditional crew in favor of shooting by himself, less disruptively, on a small, digital video camera (a method he carried over to Ne Change Rien). Above all, he searches for the proper distance between filmmaker and subject. In the case of Balibar, that means an intimacy close enough to see every twitch of her neck muscles, yet entirely lacking in the intrusive vulgarity of so much music video.
Costa cited a source of inspiration in a musical number from Jean Renoir’s final feature, The Little Theatre of Jean Renoir, featuring actress Jeanne Moreau. “It’s just two shots — one where she’s standing on a stage and you see her whole body, and the second half of the song is a close-up. And you see a lot of things — it’s amazing what you see in two shots.”
He also has high praise for 1957’s celebrated “The Sound of Jazz” episode from the CBS television series Seven Lively Arts, featuring Billie Holiday (accompanied by Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young) performing a heartbreaking rendition of “Fine and Mellow.” “They have three cameras, perhaps, and they don’t abuse that. The distance in that show is amazing — especially with a person like Billie Holiday, you have to be careful.”
Indeed, in his films and in his conversation, there is a feeling that Costa aims to recover a purity of expression — a primacy of image, sound and meaning — inherent in the work of the earliest cinema pioneers. “When the Lumière brothers did a shot, the movement inside the shot is almost impossible to re-create today,” Costa said of the French siblings who were the first to publicly exhibit motion pictures. “I am always very afraid when I see a little dog crossing the street in a Lumière brothers film, afraid it’s going to be crushed by a Model T. It’s something very concrete, this menace. Then Chaplin did the same thing consciously, and Stroheim took it further. We could see so many things in those films that, today, you only see in some Filipino or Chinese films, or sometimes on TV, in some documentaries. Everything beautiful and everything dangerous and everything that has to do with society disappeared a little bit from films. I’m becoming very reactionary, but Straub would say you have to go back to the past to push things forward.”
To that end, Costa’s next project will take its partial subject the work of Jacob Riis, the journalist and social reformer who used early flash photography to create an enduring record of New York City tenements and slums at the end of the 19th century. But the film also promises to revisit the rubble of Fontainhas and its many walking wounded — the methadone addict Vanda (“star” of In Vanda’s Room), the dissolute construction worker Ventura (who occupies the central role in Colossal Youth). “It’s very fresh and I don’t know how it will be organzied, but it’s a good moment to go back and show what existed there,” Costa said as he took a last drag from his cigarette. “I think Riis is somebody who should meet Vanda and Ventura.”
Ne Change Rien screens on Thurs., Nov. 5 at 10 p.m. at the Mann Chinese 6. In addition, Pedro Costa will present Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie?, Ossos and Colossal Youth Nov. 12-13 at the UC Irvine Film and Video Center. Complete schedule at www.humanities.uci.edu/fvc.
A changing film world — and hard times — means comp tickets
By Scott Foundas
They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but what about a free film festival? “We were looking to make a bold move,” says AFI Fest artistic director Rose Kuo. She wasn’t kidding: The American Film Institute’s decision to transform its venerable fall film showcase (October 30-November 7) from a paid event into a gratis one is an unprecedented gesture for a festival of this size and stature. “Since last year, the conversation among indie distributors and festival programmers has been, ‘Is the sky falling?’ ” Kuo continues, on a recent afternoon at the festival’s rustic office (dubbed the “manor house”) on AFI’s Hollywood campus. “It was time to turn the conversation around, to do something somewhat audacious, and to get people excited about indie film.”
Indeed, depending on where you stand, AFI’s free festival arrives at one of the best or one of the worst moments for the health of “indie” movies — for the purposes of this discussion, anything not released under the banner of a major studio. On the one hand, thanks to the explosion of the DVD market and the proliferation of Web-based and on-demand viewing streams, audiences now have greater access to more films than at any other time in history. On the other hand, an overcrowded marketplace for “art house” movies, coupled with a recessing economy, has left everyone from exhibitors and distributors to festivals themselves struggling to stay in business. The past year alone saw the shuttering or dramatic downsizing of many of the studio-owned specialty divisions (Paramount Vantage, Warner Independent, et al.) that had sought to replicate the golden touch of Miramax in its 1990s heyday, while the ether has percolated with reports of Harvey Weinstein’s own imminent demise. The recent Toronto International Film Festival — traditionally a seller’s market — was as slow on wheeling and dealing as real estate offices in San Bernardino. Then, just as Toronto was drawing to a close, word arrived that Las Vegas’ decade-old Cinevegas festival — widely considered a rising star among U.S. fests — would be taking an indefinite hiatus due to economic factors.
As far back as January, Kuo tells me, she and other AFI executives began discussing their own festival’s bottom line and the challenges of meeting it in a recession year. “We were uncertain as to what was going to be the state of sponsorship and how individuals were going to be feeling the economic crunch,” she says, noting that AFI Fest, like most U.S. festivals, has traditionally been budgeted on a combination of corporate sponsorship and projected ticket sales. So Kuo and her colleagues began to think about removing one variable from that equation. At the time, three of AFI Fest’s longtime corporate partners — Audi, Absolut and Stella Artois — had already pledged their support for the 2009 edition. “We knew we had them,” says Kuo, “and the idea was floated that if we know we have this amount of money, what about doing this size of festival and not worrying about what kind of revenue we’re going to get?” That in turn relieved anxiety about possibly going into the red. Still, the question remained: What if people can’t afford to come to a film festival this year? Kuo posed the matter to a colleague, Telluride Film Festival co-director Gary Meyer. “And his response was, ‘Well, make it free and then they’ll all come.’ ”
The result is a sleeker, smaller AFI Fest (67 feature films, down from a little more than 100 last year) that, one week before opening night, had already sold out advance tickets to all but two screenings — although Kuo was quick to note that there will be a same-day standby line for all movies. “We don’t want anyone to be discouraged. Fifteen percent of people [who reserve advance tickets] don’t show up,” she says. (For the deep-pocketed, a $500 “Patron Pass” guaranteeing admission to all festival screenings is also on sale.)
If free screenings are the biggest news at the festival this year, they’re far from the only change. After being based since 2002 in the ArcLight complex at Sunset and Vine, AFI Fest will this year spend seven days in the Grauman’s Chinese and adjacent Mann Chinese 6 theater at Hollywood & Highland, before moving to Santa Monica for a final weekend at the Monica 4-Plex. Following on last year’s successful retrospective of French director Arnaud Desplechin, staged in tandem with LACMA, the festival has opened its arms even further to L.A.’s year-round specialized film venues, offering a slate of screenings presented in partnership with REDCAT and Los Angeles Filmforum. In addition, Kuo has a new partner in the form of programming director Robert Koehler, a veteran Los Angeles film critic. Koehler joined the AFI Fest team this past spring in the latest move by Kuo (who came aboard in 2007) to bring new blood into a programming department that had largely atrophied under the festival’s previous leadership. And, in person, Koehler comes across very much like the yang to Kuo’s yin — excitable where she is a voice of calm, hyperbolic where she prefers understatement.
Of their working relationship, Kuo notes, “Bob and I have been talking about films for ages, and from the day I started here, we’ve had regular conversations — sometimes daily conversations — about films, certainly during and after film festivals. There was a way, even before he came on staff, in which it almost felt like he was an additional programmer.”
“Our first conversations about this [job] really began almost at this time last year,” Koehler adds. “From my end, I just wanted to get much more involved with programming. Not programming film series, which I’ve been doing, or coming up with a juicy little wish list and then phoning it off to the folks who really do the spade work in terms of getting the films. What I wanted to do was blend the conceptual side of it with the spade work.”
Koehler’s appointment was not without its share of raised eyebrows. Writing about the hire last April, Cinematical blogger Peter Martin (himself a former AFI Fest employee) deemed it an “odd move” while quoting at length from a Koehler essay in the Canadian film quarterly Cinema Scope that chided North American festival programmers for their laziness and herd mentality: “The essence of interesting, vital festival programming is an intelligent argument for a certain kind of cinema — this kind, not that kind.” With his new job, Martin surmised, Koehler would get a chance “to put his money where his mouth is.”
Implicit in Martin’s provocation was the bane of every film programmer’s existence: how to challenge an audience without alienating them? How, in Koehler’s case, for a passionate champion of radical and avant-garde filmmaking (his “certain kind of cinema” in a nutshell) to program a festival with movies that Joe the Plumber might also want to see? As Koehler himself puts it, it all comes down to “finding a balance of tendencies, of kinds of films. You certainly want to avoid both a vanilla drift toward the middle on the one hand, and you also want to avoid an ideological purity that veers on the obnoxious on the other.”
To these eyes, this year’s AFI Fest lineup walks that tightrope ably, with the audience-pleasing likes of Wes Anderson’s stop-motion Fantastic Mr. Fox and the Robert De Niro road movie Everybody’s Fine at one end of the spectrum and the more rigorous likes of Pedro Costa’s black-and-white anticoncert film, Ne Change Rien (see related story) at the other. In-between, an assortment of Oscar bait, political documentaries, world cinema discoveries and midnight movies fill out the bill. “Even if we wanted films X, Y and Z, sometimes we didn’t invite them because they would have tipped the program too much in one direction or another,” says Kuo. “At the same time, it’s not a popularity contest either.”
Oh, really? Don’t tell The New York Times. Included in AFI Fest are exactly half of the 28 films recently screened at the New York Film Festival (where this critic serves on the selection committee) — a selection lambasted by Times critic A.O. Scott as overly grim and esoteric in an October 6 editorial memorably titled “Wallowing in Misery for Art’s Sake.” “What was once a wide and crowded middle ground between popular taste and high art has eroded,” Scott opined, while marshaling such unlikely evidence as Pedro Almodóvar’s comic melodrama Broken Embraces and Michael Haneke’s Cannes-winning The White Ribbon — two of the New York festival’s most heavily attended attractions — to support his claim.
To be fair, there hasn’t exactly been a surplus of sparkling cinematic farces on the festival circuit this year, which may say more about the state of the world (which art, after all, is supposed to reflect) than about the specifics of festival programming. Even Juno director Jason Reitman’s lauded Up in the Air, one of the highlights of this year’s Telluride and Toronto festivals, is a “comedy” about unemployment and existential dread, while Sundance and Toronto Audience Award winner Precious (also screening at AFI Fest) is a grueling portrait of an obese, illiterate, physically and sexually abused teenager coming of age in Harlem in the 1980s. Still, Koehler understandably chafes at the suggestion that festival programmers intentionally favor “obscure” or “difficult” films.
“I honestly never look at it that way,” he says. “I just think about the films that I like, the filmmakers who I love, and then I ask, ‘Well, have they shown very much in Los Angeles?’ Philippe Grandrieux [director of AFI Fest selection A Lake] has never shown in Los Angeles — okay, that’s wrong. That has to be redressed. This city is frankly so far behind in catching up with so many filmmakers who matter right now. You could have a 300-film festival of works by important filmmakers who have almost never shown in Los Angeles. You could do that easily. You could do that in your sleep.”
“Some of these films are challenging — I’m not going to say that they aren’t,” counters Kuo. “But I think in the context of a film festival, you should have a range of everything, from films that are accessible to a broad audience all the way to those that push the audience to some other end. When you’ve attended a festival like the BAFICI in Buenos Aires and you see some of these obscure, challenging films and the house is completely packed with 600 or 700 people, you realize it’s possible. So why not here in Los Angeles? I don’t expect everyone who goes in to say, ‘Oh, that was a wonderful film,’ but I hope they walk out and say, ‘Well, I didn’t totally get that, but I wonder why that film was in the program and what its place is in the canon.’ At the end of the day, it’s a leap of faith. If we’re doing it right and people come back year after year, hopefully their trust and their loyalty in us grow.”
There’s one subject, I find, on which Koehler and Kuo see completely eye to eye. At a time when so many festivals (including, increasingly, the summer’s Los Angeles Film Festival in Westwood) chase after world or U.S. premieres of studio films and starry American indies, they have resolved to bring L.A. audiences the best available films, regardless of where they may have shown before. (To that end, Koehler and Kuo this year lifted a rule that had previously limited the festival’s “New Lights” competition section to U.S. premieres.)
“I took it from my own perspective of living in Los Angeles, reading about certain films endlessly and then coming to the end of the year, when critics are putting out ‘10 best’ lists and year-end roundups, and thinking, ‘I haven’t seen over half of these films. When are they going to play in L.A.?’ ” Kuo says. “When Bob came on, we just decided we should become a festival of festivals. It’s what Toronto used to be, but they’ve now become more of a market festival that debuts new product. Especially in Los Angeles, it makes sense that we would be a yearbook of the year prior.”
“In some ways, it’s simply a return to the beginning of Los Angeles film festivals, with Filmex, which was also a festival of festivals,” Koehler says of AFI Fest’s ancestral predecessor, whose inaugural 1971 edition likewise took place at Grauman’s Chinese.
“Hopefully, we end up at the end of the year with the films that are essential to see,” Kuo concludes. “So, if you haven’t seen these films, run, don’t walk.”
Reconstructed Original Cut of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to Celebrate its Premiere at the Berlinale 2010
Fritz Lang’s original cut of Metropolis from 1927 will return to the screen at the 60th Berlin International Festival in 2010. At a gala presentation in the Friedrichstadtpalast on 12 February 2010, the classic silent film - reconstructed and restored by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Foundation – will celebrate its premiere 83 years after the original version had its world premiere. Based on the original score by Gottfried Huppertz, the screening will be accompanied by the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin under the direction of conductor Frank Strobel. Minister of State and Commissioner for Cultural and Media Affairs Bernd Neumann will attend the event.
Parallel to the Berlinale, the film will be premiered on 12 February in the Alte Oper in Frankfurt am Main; the music for this screening will be performed by the Staatsorchester Braunschweig under the direction of Helmut Imig.
For decades crucial scenes from the film - whose restoration in 2001 led to it being the first film recognized as belonging to the UNESCO World Documentary Heritage – were considered lost. Due to the sensational discovery of a 16-mm negative in Buenos Aires in 2008 and its current restoration, Metropolis can now be shown in its almost completely restored - more than 30 minute longer – original version.
“Just about no other German film has inspired and influenced film history as greatly as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. We are especially pleased and honored to be able to present the reconstructed original cut of this legendary and seminal film classic at the festival’s 60th anniversary,” says Berlinale Director Dieter Kosslick.
The restoration and reconstruction of Metropolis is currently one of the world’s most important film restoration projects. It is being carried out by the Wiesbaden-based Murnau Foundation in cooperation with ZDF and arte, and the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen (Berlin), and with the Museo del Cine Pablo C. Ducros Hicken (Buenos Aires). The original music by Gottfried Huppertz will be re-edited by the European FilmPhilharmonic / Die Film-Philarmonie GmbH. Restoration and re-screening are being funded by the Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media, the Gemeinnützige Kulturfonds Frankfurt Rhine-Main, by the Verwertungsgesellschaft für Nutzungsrechte an Filmwerken mbH , as well as the DEFA Foundation. Transit Film GmbH ( Munich ) will be in charge of internationally distributing this most recent reconstructed version of Metropolis.
“Metropolis is a classic of film history and it set the standard for cinematic art worldwide. For this reason the UNESCO chose Metropolis to be the first film ever included in its “Memory of the World” register. It symbolizes the tradition and high quality of German film heritage, and its preservation is one of our top priorities. Which was why I felt it was very important to support the completion of Metropolis and in so doing close a huge gap in Germany ’s film heritage. The Murnau Foundation has thus received 200,000 euros in funding from the BKM to help restore the silent film classic Metropolis,” states Minister of State and Commissioner for Cultural and Media Affairs Bernd Neumann.
Even today, Metropolis fascinates and affects contemporary film artists. The legend surrounding the film has also been kept alive by the fact that for decades, from a large number of sources, people had known about a longer version, but no prints of it could be found. Until footage – totaling some 30 minutes - was discovered in Buenos Aires, essential scenes from Metropolis were still missing, and this was the case even though a great deal of research had been conducted by generations of film historians and archivists. And so the restoration carried out just a few years ago by the Murnau Foundation and its former partners, and which presented Metropolis in unprecedented quality, remained incomplete.
This monumental film was first shortened a brief time after its premiere at the Berlin Ufa -Palast am Zoo on 10 January 1927. Approved by the Film Board, the 4189-meter-long version screened at this venue without success for four months; as a consequence, the Ufa withdrew the film and produced a much shorter version, 3241 meters in length, for release to movie theaters in the summer of 1927.
“The unwavering desire and unflagging efforts to restore what was believed to be Fritz Lang’s lost original cut of Metropolis epitomize the Murnau Foundation’s commitment to save and preserve our rich filmic heritage and make it accessible to the public. With the restoration and re-screening of Metropolis a dream has been fulfilled,” comments Eberhard Junkersdorf, Supervisory Board Chairman of the Murnau Foundation.
Since being established 43 years ago, the Murnau Foundation has applied itself to saving and preserving a large portion of Germany ’s film heritage and making these outstanding cultural and film historical works accessible to the public. They range from the early days of motion pictures to the early 1960, i.e., 2000 silent films, 1000 talkies, and some 3000 short films (advertising, cultural and documentary films). In addition to Metropolis, they include some of the great classics of German cinema, such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari), Die Nibelungen, The Blue Angel (Der Blaue Engel), Three Good Friends (Die Drei von der Tankstelle), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Münchhausen), Great Freedom No. 7 (Große Freiheit Nr. 7), and Helden.
– 28 October 2009: The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival announced its winners at the high profile awards ceremony held at London’s Inner Temple this evening. Hosted by journalist and broadcaster, Paul Gambaccini, the six awards were presented by some of the most respected figures in the film world.
In recognition of original, intelligent and distinctive filmmaking, the new award for Best Film was judged by an international jury chaired by Anjelica Huston and fellow jurors , Jarvis Cocker, Mathieu Kassovitz, Charlotte Rampling and . The Star of London for Best Film was awarded to Jacques Audiard’s A PROPHET and was presented by Anjelica Huston..
On behalf of the jury Anjelica Huston (Chair) said:
“A masterpiece: UN PROPHETE has the ambition, purity of vision and clarity of purpose to make it an instant classic. With seamless and imaginative story-telling, superb performances and universal themes, has made a perfect film.”
The jury also gave a special mention to John Hillcoat’s THE ROAD, praising the film’s breathtaking vision, extraordinary performances and profound political statement.
BEST BRITISH NEWCOMER
Presented for the first time, the award for Best British Newcomer celebrates new and emerging film talent, rewarding the achievements of a new writer, producer or director who has demonstrated real creative flair and imagination with their first feature. Dominic Cooper and Jodie Whittaker presented the Best British Newcomer Star of London to Jack Thorne, screenwriter of the film THE SCOUTING BOOK FOR BOYS. The jury said:
“Jack Thorne is a poetic writer with an end-of-the-world imagination and a real gift for story-telling. Thorne’s substantial authorship is revealed in the unique voices of the film’s characters and the rich, soulful and playful layering of the story.” The jury also gave a special mention to J Blakeson, the writer and director of THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED, commending his accomplished, original and ambitious filmmaking.
The longstanding Sutherland Award is presented to the maker of the most original and imaginative first feature screening in the Festival. This year, Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani took the award for their film AJAMI, which was presented by Alfonso Cuarón. Jurors included Paul Greengrass, Kerry Fox and David Parfitt. The jury said “A bold and original piece of filmmaking, AJAMI tells an important story in a thoroughly engrossing and cinematic way. A fantastic achievement, Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani have made a film with a heart and a vision that speaks for a common humanity.”
GRIERSON AWARD for Best Documentary in the Festival
This award is co-presented with the Grierson Trust, in commemoration of John Grierson, the grandfather of British documentary. The jury included Molly Dineen, Ellen Fleming and Christopher Hird, and was presented by Broomfield to winner Yoav Shamir for his film DEFAMATION.,
On behalf of the jury Nick Broomfield said:
“A fantastic film, Defamation does exactly what documentary, at its best, can do, making us re-examine our assumptions about an important and complex subject, in an absorbing and funny way. The film’s intellectual courage, boldness of conception and the excitement of the journey on which it takes you make this a winning film.”
The highest accolade that the Souleymane Cissé for their significant achievements in the fields of acting and directing. Hurt, whose films 44 INCH CHEST and THE LIMITS OF CONTROL, were featured in the festival, received his award from producer Jeremy Thomas and director Michael Caton-Jones both of whom have worked with Hurt on a number of films. Cissé’s TELL ME WHO YOU ARE had its UK premiere at the festival this week and his award was presented to him by actress Charlotte Rampling. bestows was awarded tonight to distinguished British actor John Hurt and renowned Malian filmmaker
The inaugural Star of London awards were commissioned especially for the Festival and designed by leading sculptor Almuth Tebbenhoff.
Guests at this evening’s festivities included Best Film jurors Sutherland Trophy jurors Mark Cosgrove, and Gillian Wearing; Best British Newcomer judges Lenny Crooks, , Tessa Ross and ; and Times BFI London Film Festival Grierson Award jurors , Jarvis Cocker and Iain Softley; Ellen Fleming and Christopher Hird. Other guests included Josh Berger, Hugh Bonneville, Peter Buckingham, Greg Dyke, John Fletcher, Lizzie Francke, Steve Jenkins, Cameron McCracken, , Lynda Myles, Stephen Poliakoff, Ken Russell, Sam Taylor-Wood, Ridley Scott, Stewart Till and John Woodward.
In the five films that Wes Anderson has directed, from his 1996 debut feature Bottle Rocket to 2007’s picaresque The Darjeeling Limited, he has managed to assemble a constellation of actors who might best be described as “Wes’s Gang.” This tragicomic fraternity includes Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Anjelica Huston, Luke Wilson, and, of course, his college friend and longtime collaborator OwenWilson. Like Woody Allen before him, Anderson has constructed his own immediately identifiable cinematic landscape, one so distinct that certain clothes, music, expressions, and cleverly awkward situations in the real world can be dubbed as being “very Wes Anderson.”
This year, however, the 40-year-old Anderson seems to have given the slip to his frequent playmates—at least in bodily form—by swapping human actors for puppets and the concrete world for an imaginary one in his latest effort, Fantastic Mr. Fox. The film, due out in November, is a stop-motion animated adaptation of the Roald Dahl book about a family of foxes that is besieged by a group of angry farmers and forced to outmaneuver them in order to survive. Anderson tapped some of his usual collaborators—along with George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Jarvis Cocker—to record the dialogue. He then used those vocal tracks to inspire a mesmeric fantasyland of puppet performances brought to life by a team of animators on an elaborate soundstage in London.
Fantastic Mr. Fox certainly marks a departure for Anderson. French filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin recently sat down with Anderson at the Cinéma du Panthéon in Paris—one of the city’s oldest movie theaters—to discuss the ever-evolving architecture of Anderson’s idiosyncratic universe.
ARNAUD DESPLECHIN: When do you finish shooting?
WES ANDERSON: We finish shooting tomorrow.
DESPLECHIN: Tomorrow? Are you depressed?
ANDERSON: We’ve been shooting for one year, so I’m not depressed yet.
DESPLECHIN: And you don’t have a wrap party?
ANDERSON: We had a wrap party.
DESPLECHIN: You already had it?
ANDERSON: Yeah. The wrap party had been scheduled in advance, and we went over schedule. It’s been a very long time shooting. The thing is, with the animation, you finish shooting, and then the whole thing is done. Everything else has already been put into place, so shooting is the last step, although we were mixing today on rue d’Enghien.
Photo credit: Wes Anderson in London, July 2009. Bespoke suit, shirt and pocket square: all Anderson’s own.
I do feel a bit like my characters from one movie could walk into another one of my movies and it would make sense.—Wes Anderson
DESPLECHIN: The weather in Paris is terrible now, quite depressing. I was just wondering, while sitting at my desk depressed by the weather, what kind of weather you had growing up in Texas.
ANDERSON: Well, Texas is hot. I went to school in Austin, but I grew up in Houston, which is on the Gulf of Mexico. It’s hot, hot like India, and humid, and full of mosquitoes.
DESPLECHIN: And you don’t miss it? [Anderson laughs] I ask because I am looking out the window and this city is all gray, and I don’t understand how you could stay in such a city. It’s quite different from where you are from. So you went to school in Austin?
ANDERSON: College in Austin. Then I lived in California for a while. Then in New York.
DESPLECHIN: Where did you meet Owen Wilson?
ANDERSON: In Austin. We must have been 18.
DESPLECHIN: And you both wanted to work in cinema?
ANDERSON: I guess we did. I don’t know. I was studying philosophy, and he was studying English. But we met in a playwriting class. We first started talking about writers, but we also talked about movies right off the bat. I knew I wanted to do something with movies. I don’t know if he had realized yet that it was an option.
DESPLECHIN: I think I read somewhere that in college, you were working on Proust?
ANDERSON: No, I was never working on Proust, but I read Swann’s Way, which made a big impression on me . . . At that time, literature students in America didn’t seem to read Proust—at least not where I was going to school. It took me a long time to finish reading the first book, and I only read the one.
DESPLECHIN: I never read it at all.
ANDERSON: You didn’t? [laughs]
DESPLECHIN: Because in my family it was a snobbish thing—you know, to read Proust. I thought if I read this book, it would take something like one year. Instead, I could spend the year reading strange, odd books that my father or sisters wouldn’t read. Plus I wanted to work in cinema, so I didn’t feel that I should start with a serious thing. I was supposed to focus on futile things that belong to popular arts. It was really an impression that I imposed on myself. I will never read Proust as a commitment.
ANDERSON: You still hold to that?
DESPLECHIN: Yeah. I read 10 or 12 books about Proust to know the different books. I mean, it was a sort of stupid decision to make as an adolescent— against the teacher and for the cinema. But it has to do with the fact that I’m French. Proust was sacred, so I didn’t want to be a part of it.
ANDERSON: The opening of Swann’s Way is about being on the verge of falling asleep. The book is filled with images that have never left my mind.
DESPLECHIN: So when you started to write films, was that the moment you and Owen split parts, where one would be the director and the other would be the actor?
ANDERSON: Well, we started writing together. I was always going to be the director, but he didn’t really want to be an actor—or I don’t know if he knew he wanted to be an actor. As far as he was concerned, he was strictly a writer.
DESPLECHIN: Does he still consider himself strictly a writer now that he has become such a big movie star?
ANDERSON: Nope. [laughs] Now he considers himself an actor, too. But he’s a very good writer.
DESPLECHIN: You wrote Fantastic Mr. Fox with Noah Baumbach.
ANDERSON: Yes. We wrote most of it in New York, some of it in Los Angeles, some of it in England. Actually, we wrote for a little while at Roald Dahl’s house, in Buckinghamshire. And we wrote a little bit in Paris, too.
DESPLECHIN: I thought you were trapped here, that you couldn’t escape from this rain. But you still can escape to New York and places like that.
ANDERSON: I can go to different places, yes. I live in New York most of the time.
DESPLECHIN: Would you call what you are experiencing—jumping around from one city to another—nomadism? Or would you call it an exile? Either way, to me, it is a typical American thing, these ideas.
ANDERSON: The thing is, you’re French. You’re French for generations. You’re genuinely French.
DESPLECHIN: I’m not that French.
ANDERSON: Well, you’re quite French. But most Americans will say, “I’m Swedish.”
DESPLECHIN: Are you Swedish?
ANDERSON: Yes, I’m half Swedish, half Norwegian. If somebody asks you what your background is, you don’t have to go back very far before it’s outside of America—unless you’re part Cherokee or something. Anyway, I certainly don’t think I’ve chosen to be nomadic. I always wanted to live in New York, and it took me a long time before I got there. But once you start moving around a lot . . . I don’t know. The difference between exile and nomadism is probably just your mood.
DESPLECHIN: You’ve seen a lot of movies. I wonder if you learned to watch a lot of films from someone like Martin Scorsese. One could say that there are two kinds of directors: those who love to see films and those who actually don’t see that many.
ANDERSON: If you are going to pick directors that make you feel like you should watch old films, I think that would be Martin Scorsese and Peter Bogdanovich. There are so many films I was introduced to by them in one way or another. For example, on the laser-disc commentary of Raging Bull ,Scorsese mentions something about MichaelPowell, and I had never heard of the Powell and [Emeric] Pressburger films before. From Bogdanovich, I think I first learned about Howard Hawks and LeoMcCarey. Bogdanovich saw everything. He had this metal file cabinet with drawers filled with notes. Every time he saw a movie, he typed up a little card that would list the title, director, writer, description, the date he saw the movie, and what he thought. He’d give it a rating. Then if he saw it again, he’d take the card and add a note: “I saw it again, and actually I thought it was a little better this time.”
DESPLECHIN: Do you do that?
DESPLECHIN: I think it’s a critic thing.
ANDERSON: Bogdanovich started it when he was, like, 15 years old. But I think he stopped the week that he went to Texas to make The Last Picture Show . He stopped as soon as he really became successful as a filmmaker. I think the first director I was ever aware of was Alfred Hitchcock—before I even understood the idea of a director. I was aware of Hitchcock because of The Alfred Hitchcock Collection. That was the first time I was aware that there’s a guy who is not in the movie who’s on the front of the box. He’s responsible. I loved those movies.
DESPLECHIN: Those were the first films that mesmerized you as a kid?
ANDERSON: Well, they were the first films I took note of and thought, This is interesting, and it was directed by this particular man. Before that I was interested in Star Wars  and The Pink Panther . Actually, the first movie I saw when I got to Paris was one of the Pink Panther movies. I remember because I remember having to figure out how to say “Un billet pour La Panthère Rose . . . ”
DESPLECHIN: I’m not able to name the moment I wanted to be a director because I also didn’t know the word for that. I couldn’t distinguish between producer, director, and author. I just wanted to be the guy in charge—the guilty one! [Anderson laughs] But, you know, as a kid I was not precocious at all. I had such bad taste. I loved Hitchcock but for the wrong reasons.
ANDERSON: What are the wrong reasons?
DESPLECHIN: I don’t know. Today I try to see some of his films and, you know, I’m failing him because I’m not moved. But other times I’m shivering and crying because what he tried to achieve is so amazing. It’s such dedication. I think he’s almost a saint. I can see all the unbelievable emotion in it. Before, I thought the big thing with him was that he was clever. Actually, I don’t know what I love about him. Is it that he accepts that he’s stupid? That he’s clever? That’s he’s vulnerable?
ANDERSON: He follows the thing that he’s drawn to over and over again. Sometimes, if I have to do a scene that involves suspense or drama or just some basic genre storytelling, I think, What’s the Hitchcock way to do it? There’s a Hitchcock solution that’s clear and simple and sort of professional and says, I want the audience to feel something specific. Usually when I’m doing a scene, I don’t want it to feel specific—I want to make something that different people will feel in different ways. But the greatest thing about Hitchcock is that his scenes do have very specifically intended effects—even while the overall film would still be interpreted wildly differently from person to person.
DESPLECHIN: Are there other directors who you think about like that?
ANDERSON: Yeah. I mean, it depends on the thing I’m working on. One other director I feel thatI always think about when I don’t know how to approach something is Steven Spielberg. He would know how to do it. But, ultimately, if you’re asking me which director I think about in terms of just living my life—maybe this is crazy, but I’m going to have to say Stanley Kubrick, which I think is a bad sign because that is someone whose whole thing was about controlling his life. I mean, he apparently had a great family life, and he had his work arranged in a way that fit into the way he wanted to live. And people went to see his movies. And he only did the movies he liked to do. He didn’t do one movie for the money, so he could do the next one because he liked it. He only did the ones he wanted to do. He had total, utter, complete creative control over not just the movies but also the life of making them. He had a system, which you need because there are too many things to keep track of.
DESPLECHIN: I have a friend who visited Hitchcock’s house when he was really old. My friend had written a famous book on Hitchcock and was so proud to visit. Hitchcock showed him his basement. At this time, he wasn’t allowed to eat anymore because he was too fat. But he was keeping food in a basement storage area. He had enough to feed, like, 100 people, just to be sure he wouldn’t ever lack any food, which was absurd because he wasn’t allowed to eat it. He was just visiting his food. That’s beautiful, no?
ANDERSON: That’s beautiful, yes.
DESPLECHIN: I wanted to talk to you about music in your movies. You have a very personal way of working with scores—such an exact taste and combination of songs.
ANDERSON: I like working on the music for my own movies—which is about the only music I’m interested in working on.
DESPLECHIN: Do you play an instrument?
ANDERSON: A little bit, but barely anything. For Fantastic Mr. Fox, we had Jarvis Cocker make a great song—he’s also the voice of one of the animated characters in the film. And, right now, we have Alexandre Desplat in the middle of doing the score. There’s much more music than I had any idea we were going to need. It’s like an hour or more of music that he’s written.
The first director I was ever aware of was Alfred Hitchcock—before I even understood the idea of a director. That was the first time I was aware that there’s a guy who is not in the movie who’s on the front of the box.—Wes Anderson
DESPLECHIN: Were you with Jarvis Cocker when he recorded the music?
ANDERSON: Yes. We recorded it in Jean Touitou’s basement studio. We have a French banjo player who’s very good. I don’t think there are that many wellknown French banjo players, but we found the best one.
DESPLECHIN: I was surprised when you said you studied philosophy and read Proust, because it sounds so serious. But your films are also quite entertaining. The first time I had to introduce one of your films in Paris, it struck me that that you are to American cinema what J.D. Salinger is to American literature. You create a sort of pure cinematic world and the characters connect from one film to another and the films together are drawing a world that is constantly expanding. It seems so close in style to what Salinger did.
ANDERSON: I do feel a bit like my characters from one movie could walk into another one of my movies and it would make sense, whereas people from other peoples’ movies would probably feel a bit uncomfortable there. [both laugh]
DESPLECHIN: But it’s quite rare, no? To have created such a collant world. It reminds me of Francois Truffaut because you need to create life, jokes, cries . . .
ANDERSON: Your movies have the same thing, except they’re more realistic, so it becomes more subtle.
DESPLECHIN: I wouldn’t say that.
ANDERSON: Well, I suppose I mean the characters in A Christmas Tale  and Rois et reine —I can’t really say the r’s right in Rois et reine—they are part of an imagined world, but those characters feel more like real life to me.
DESPLECHIN: You have all these guys who are really big fans of your movies because there is something so intimate about them. Even if we don’t know a thing about you, there is something so revealing in your films, something we see about your life there. If there is another director who gives me the same feeling, it’s Quentin Tarantino. To me, you and Tarantino are two brothers in the American cinema.
ANDERSON: I feel like with Tarantino, when he was doing Pulp Fiction , there’s all this genre that he’s working with in this inventive way. But you also kind of get the feeling that he’s been traveling in Europe and he’s never been there before and he has just come back to town to report on some of the things that have happened in his life. Your film Ma Vie Sexuelle  has the complete feeling of somebody reporting about their life, but it’s not like a documentary-style movie. Was your life at the time anything like that movie?
DESPLECHIN: Not at all. But there is a truth that when you learn a character or write a scene for a film, you can make it part of your life. I had an actor who didn’t smoke before he was cast as a chain-smoker in my film. Now he does. But even from a line in a film—writing it or acting it—you can think, “I could say this and also be funny. The girls might stop and laugh and I could get laid.” It’s true: You find a good line and after that you try to use it in real life. So, in a way, you are taught by your own films and the characters you impersonate. When people see the results of your work, they guess they can see something about your private life.
ANDERSON: But when your experience of making the movie turns into your life—what Kubrick called “pure cinema” then—that’s probably a bad sign.
DESPLECHIN: Well, thank you, Wes. On va manger?
Arnaud Desplechin is an award-winning French director, screenwriter, and cinematographer.
A Buena Vista Intl. Argentina release of a Patagonik Films production. Produced by Juan Pablo Galli, Juan Vera, Alejandro Cacetta. Executive producer, Juan Vera. Directed, written by Paula Hernandez.
With: Valeria Bertuccelli, Ernesto Alterio.
A chance encounter during a torrential downpour allows a couple of strangers to reconnect with life around them in Paula Hernandez's accomplished and deeply satisfying two-hander, "Rain." More mature in theme and style than her debut, "Inheritance," this second feature starts off resembling (in a good way) Claire Denis' "Friday Night" and then moves into its own territory, using superb sound design and restrained lensing to slowly expose her protags' dampened turmoil. Though ticket sales at home last year were muted, the pic is deservedly garnering attention on the fest circuit.
A massive evening rainstorm creates bumper-to-bumper traffic in Buenos Aires. Alma (Valeria Bertuccelli, "XXY") leaves her car's sanctuary just long enough to take a pregnancy test, then goes back to the driver's seat, when she's suddenly joined by Roberto (Ernesto Alterio), looking for temporary shelter. Though both characters closely guard their recent past, the film gradually parcels out information: She's just split with her b.f., and he's returned to Argentina from Madrid to look after his estranged, comatose father.
In essence, that's the plot: two people adrift yet immobile, thrown together by happenstance on a stormy night. What makes "Rain" stand out is what Hernandez does with her script and how she works with her crew. Minimizing exposition, the helmer-scripter builds the background story via subtle clues that progressively cohere until just enough of a portrait is revealed. Adding exactly the right amount of humor also saves the film from being a study in miserablism, assisted too by the strength of personality conveyed by the two thespers.
Ace d.p. Guillermo Nieto ("Rolling Family," "Born and Bred") masterfully controls tight spaces, getting the most out of the opening sequence's limited shots while capturing the car's position within the gridlocked mass. Especially noteworthy is Martin Grignaschi's richly atmospheric sound work, exemplified inside the car when the calm of hearing only the buffered music of Alma's CD player jarringly shifts to a cacophony of sounds when she removes the headset.
Camera (color), Guillermo Nieto; editor, Rosario Suarez; music, Sebastian Escofet; production designer, Mercedes Alfonsin; costume designer, Roberta Pesci; sound (Dolby Digital), Martin Grignaschi. Reviewed at Rio de Janeiro Film Festival (Latin America), Sept. 27, 2009. (Also in Reykjavik, Montreal World, Jeonju, Istanbul film festivals.) Running time: 103 MIN.
Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank is leading the nominations for the 12th British Independent Film Awards (BIFAs), which were announced today (October 26).
The film received eight nominations including best film, best director and two for Katie Jarvis for best actress and most promising newcomer.
It is closely followed by Ducan Jones’ sci-fi thriller Moon, which scored seven nominations including best British film, best director and best debut director.
Lone Scherfig’s An Education, Armando Iannucci’s In The Loop and Sam Taylor Wood’s Nowhere Boy all received six nominations, whilst Jane Campion’s Keats biopic Bright Star was nominated in four categories. Other films with multiple nominations were Katalin Varga, which received three, and Bronson and Bunny & The Bull receiving two nominations each.
Daniel Day Lewis will be honoured with the Richard Harris Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Film by an Actor.
The BIFA Pre-Selection Committee of 70 members viewed more than 200 films, out of which they selected the nominations via ballot. To be considered, a film must be intended for theatrical release and had a public paid screening or UK festival screening between December 1 2008 and November 30 2009.
Films must have either been majority co-produced by a British company, British qualifying under Department of Culture, Media and Sport guidelines or have more than half its financing from a British source. Where there is any major studio substantially funding a film the total budget must not exceed $16m (£10m).
This year’s jury members include actress Jodie Whittaker, actors Idris Elba, Liam Cunningham, Eddie Marsan and Peter Mullan, directors Sarah Gavron and Eran Creevy and producers Dixie Linder, Anita Overland and Adrian Sturges.
The awards ceremony will be hosted by actor James Nesbitt on Sunday December 6 at The Brewery in London.
The 2009 BIFA nominations are:
BEST BRITISH INDEPENDENT FILM
In The Loop
Sponsored by The Creative Partnership
Andrea Arnold – Fish Tank
Armando Iannucci – In The Loop
Duncan Jones – Moon
Jane Campion – Bright Star
Lone Scherfig – An Education
THE DOUGLAS HICKOX AWARD [BEST DEBUT DIRECTOR]
Armando Iannucci – In The Loop
Duncan Jones – Moon
Peter Strickland – Katalin Varga
Sam Taylor Wood – Nowhere Boy
Samantha Morton – The Unloved
Sponsored by BBC Films
An Education – Nick Hornby
Fish Tank – Andrea Arnold
In The Loop – Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
Moon– Nathan Parker
Nowhere Boy – Matt Greenhalgh
Sponsored by M.A.C
Abbie Cornish – Bright Star
Carey Mulligan – An Education
Emily Blunt – The Young Victoria
Katie Jarvis – Fish Tank
Sophie Okonedo – Skin
Sponsored by Stolichnaya Elit
Aaron Johnson – Nowhere Boy
Andy Serkis – Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
Peter Capaldi – In The Loop
Sam Rockwell – Moon
Tom Hardy – Bronson
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Anne-Marie Duff – Nowhere Boy
Kerry Fox – Bright Star
Kierston Wareing – Fish Tank
Kristin Scott Thomas – Nowhere Boy
Rosamund Pike – An Education
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Sponsored by Stolichnaya
Alfred Molina – An Education
Jim Broadbent – The Damned United
John Henshaw – Looking for Eric
Michael Fassbender – Fish Tank
Tom Hollander – In The Loop
MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER
Christian McKay – Me & Orson Welles
Edward Hogg – White Lightnin’
George MacKay – The Boys Are Back
Hilda Péter – Katalin Varga
Katie Jarvis – Fish Tank
BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION
Bunny & The Bull
Sponsored by Raindance
They Call It Acid
BEST TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT
Sponsored by 3 Mills Studios
Bright Star – Cinematography – Greig Fraser
Bunny & The Bull – Production Design – Gary Williamson
Fish Tank – Cinematography – Robbie Ryan
Moon– Original Score – Clint Mansell
Moon– Production Design – Tony Noble
Sponsored by Chapter Media
The Age of Stupid
The End of The Line
Sons of Cuba
Sounds Like Teen Spirit
BEST BRITISH SHORT
Christmas with Dad
Love You More
BEST FOREIGN FILM
Let The Right One In
THE RICHARD HARRIS AWARD (for outstanding contribution to British Film)
Daniel Day Lewis
THE VARIETY AWARD
To Be Announced
THE SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
Sponsored by The UK Film Council
Announced at the British Independent Film Awards on Sunday 6 December
Thomas Bartlett is a busy guy. When he’s not making his own records as the leader of Doveman, you can probably catch him playing keyboards for someone famous or indie-famous– Yoko Ono, Bebel Gilberto, David Byrne, Antony, Grizzly Bear, and the National, to name a few. When you play with such a range of musicians, it helps to have a personal style to retreat to when you make your own music, and over his first two albums (and his full-length cover of the Footloose soundtrack, which buzzkill lawyers and industry types have forced him to stop giving away on his website), he’s established one. It can be summed up in a word: quiet.
Bartlett’s vocal style seems to have been developed singing infants to sleep– breathy, soft, hardly more than a melodic whisper, really. The music follows suit, but he manages to find a pretty amazing variety at a low decibel level. The guys in his band– Dougie Bowne, Sam Amidon, Shahzad Ismaily, and Peter Ecklund– have backgrounds in a wide swath of music including mountain folk, Moroccan trance, punk, jazz, blues-rock, avant-garde, and neoclassical, and you hear bits and pieces of all of these on the record, even as it remains resolute in its mission to remain hushed. The band’s own website calls it “lamp rock,” whatever that means– my guess is they’re referring to the way the music spills into the room like light from an area lamp, providing ambiance and a bit of illumination.
The Conformist bridges the album era and the mp3 era in a weird way– it hangs together well, but sounds better broken down into individual tracks. When any of these come up in a shuffle, they sound great (and it’s likely to sound different from whatever comes before and after), but the album as a unit requires quite a bit of patience due to its lack of peaks and valleys. The diversity comes from the backing tracks, which range from burbling, slow-core electro on “Memorize” to oozing, textural string arrangements that shift with György Ligeti-ish fluency on “Tigers”, an American Analog Set-ish pulse on “Hurricane” (slathered in spacey synth), and basic strumming on closer “Castles”, which ultimately takes on a country tinge.
It’s hard to pick standout tracks, because the quality is as consistent as the level of intensity, meaning everything more or less comes out equal. The shifts from minimal passages to bigger arrangements and ultimately to a drum-led coda that hints at free improv elevate “From Silence”, while Bartlett’s vocal on “The Best Thing”, doubled by a very quiet Matt Berninger of the National, offers one of the best melodies. “The Cat Awoke” is another candidate– the brisk pace, led by banjo and some atmospheric guitar work, builds to a restrained climax that… well, it moves to another pretty quiet section. I don’t mean for that to sound so facetious, but your enjoyment of this album will likely depend on how much attention you can devote to its subtle shifts and varied textures, as it moves from one muted moment to the next.
— Joe Tangari, October 15, 2009
AT the beginning of Richard Kelly’s new film, “The Box,” a mysterious parcel is delivered to a suburban family’s doorstep. Inside is a device with a button, which Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur Lewis (James Marsden) soon learn will earn them $1 million if pressed. It will also cause the death of someone they don’t know.
The Lewises take the risk and push the button, plunging themselves into a world filled with zombielike mobs, a rash of bloody noses and one disturbingly deformed messenger (Frank Langella). Mr. Kelly has taken a risk of his own in making the film, and the consequences may well be more real if not so frightening. “The Box,” a Warner Brothers release with a mostly straightforward, linear story, is deliberately calculated to be commercial and, he hopes, keep him viable within the Hollywood studio system. “I have a lot riding on this film,” Mr. Kelly, 34, said over lunch at Greenblatt’s Deli, a Sunset Boulevard staple. “Until I have a theatrical hit, people aren’t going to keep giving me chances.”
It’s a sentiment that’s hard to imagine coming from Mr. Kelly, whose previous movies could never be described as straightforward or studio-friendly. Mr. Kelly, a University of Southern California film school graduate, earned cult status with his first feature, “Donnie Darko,” a 2001 psychodrama about a sleepwalking teenager (Jake Gyllenhaal, then unknown) who receives messages of the pending apocalypse from a man in a giant bunny suit. But six years later a three-hour rough cut of “Southland Tales” — an ambitious, postnuclear mishmash about commercialism, war, homeland security and Los Angeles, among many other things — made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival to a chorus of boos. The slimmer finished product fared little better with domestic critics (the words “fiasco,” “self-indulgent” and “disaster” were common, although Manohla Dargis in The New York Times found it a “funny, audacious, messy and feverishly inspired look at America and its discontents”) or audiences (it took in just $275,000 in the United States).
“It was incredibly painful,” Mr. Kelly said. He conceded that the film was self-indulgent but insisted he had no regrets. “It’s one of those things you can do only once in your career,” Mr. Kelly said. “I’m very proud of the movie.”
But he quickly realized that he needed to change perceptions about himself. His trippy films have made people assume he’s “like Edward Scissorhands living up in some weird castle,” he said, alluding to the Tim Burton-Johnny Depp film. “But that’s certainly not who I am.”
In person Mr. Kelly comes across like a former fraternity guy, his torn jeans and gelled hair complementing a T-shirt that reveals an obsessive weightlifter. “My dream is to be able to have thought-recognition software that, as I’m exercising, will just write the script,” he said.
His Twitter feed (with more than 5,000 followers) has revealed his love of University of Southern California football, beer pong and the Coen brothers’ movie “A Serious Man.” (“Oy vey! This goy is beyond smitten!” he tweeted.)
Everyone interviewed for this article mentioned the dissonance within Mr. Kelly. “A contradiction would imply something that would be understood,” Mr. Gyllenhaal said, “two things that would be a yin and a yang. He’s not that.” Mr. Gyllenhaal then took a moment to formulate an accurate description. “I sometimes feel like he’s out of the mind of John Hughes. He’s like the missing character in ‘The Breakfast Club.’ “
Though “The Box” is intended to be a crowd-drawing thriller, it returns Mr. Kelly to the setting and some of the themes found in “Donnie Darko”: Both are set in upper-middle-class Virginia suburbs (Mr. Kelly grew up in Newport News and Richmond) and pose questions through tales of a traditional family in an unusual circumstance. “The suburbs are emblematic of the life we pretend to enjoy,” he said. “All those houses that look like a gigantic machine just squirted them out. Obviously some people do enjoy that life, others do not, but they all try to pretend to.”
The screenplay is based on a 1971 short story by the sci-fi writer Richard Matheson (“I Am Legend”) called “Button, Button.” (The movie also evokes 1970s conspiracy theory movies like “The Parallax View” and “Three Days of the Condor.”) Mr. Kelly optioned that 11-page tale, which has also been adapted into a 1986 “Twilight Zone” episode, but he added a new layer to its minimal plot.
“I decided to take this gift of a short story and make it about people I care about and respect,” he said. “I’m not interested in telling a story about a couple of selfish jerks who push a button.”
So he adapted details of his parents’ lives. He set the film in 1976 because that’s when his father helped design the camera for the Viking project, which sent a robot to Mars. “I was in awe of my dad’s work,” said Mr. Kelly, who lobbied for a year to be granted the rare privilege of shooting on the Langley campus of NASA.
He mined a more personal aspect of his mother’s life for the film. When she was a teenager, Mr. Kelly’s mother had an X-ray taken of her foot. This normally routine assessment took a bizarre turn when the doctor left the room, accidentally leaving the machine on. Extended radiation exposure left Ms. Kelly in the hospital for months and without a number of her toes. “My mother actually endured and lived through something from a horror film, essentially,” Mr. Kelly said. “One of the reasons I wanted to make this movie was to pay tribute to that experience, pay tribute to her.”
“Richard has really commercial taste,” said the producer of “The Box,” Dan Lin, a former production executive at Warner Brothers, which has a tradition of making mainstream movies with artistic directors, like Spike Jonze’s “Where the Wild Things Are” and Steven Soderbergh’s “Oceans Eleven” series. “He can elevate the material without selling out. He still has his own style.”
Mr. Lin added, “There’s a real grounding in who these characters are as people, and I think actors really respond to that.”
Getting the go-ahead for the movie was helped along immensely by Ms. Diaz, the star of “What Happens in Vegas” and “In Her Shoes,” among others, agreeing to sign on. A close friend of Drew Barrymore, who produced and had a supporting role in “Donnie Darko,” Ms. Diaz was dating Justin Timberlake while he was shooting “Southland Tales,” so she was familiar with Mr. Kelly’s work. “I loved ‘Donnie Darko,’ ” she said. “Richard is an artist; he has such huge ideas.”
And having Ms. Diaz on board helped ground Mr. Kelly. “Cameron would police me,” he recalled. “She would say, ‘Richard, now you need to keep this focused, you need to explain this because this logic doesn’t work.’ ”
“I constantly have these voices — my manager, my agent, my producing partner — to make sure people can follow it, make sure it’s not too long,” Mr. Kelly added. “Make sure that it’s not self-indulgent.” He doesn’t mean that he’s going to water down his ideas, but he’s making sure to get his point across clearly.
“When he tries to pile too many ideas on top of each other — when he can’t explain it himself — that’s when you’ve got him,” said his producing partner, Sean McKittrick, who runs Darko Entertainment, which has made non-Kelly films like the recent comedies “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell” and “World’s Greatest Dad.” “Richard’s greatest strength is his imagination, and sometimes it’s his biggest hurdle.”
Mr. Kelly’s immersion in his work has meant he has often neglected his need for a stable home, opting to crash on friends’ couches for extended periods, as he is now, rather than rent an apartment. “It’s a good thing to be emotionally invested in your work,” Mr. Kelly said, “but I can’t keep doing it to a point where it consumes my entire life anymore.”
Mr. Gyllenhaal has his own take on Mr. Kelly’s willingness to work inside the studio system. “I think what Richard’s saying is, ‘I kind of have to wake up every once in a while, live in reality and not just explore my dreams.’
“I’m amazed by Richard’s courage By how he really believes in something and even when he’s doing something for the studio, he can’t do something not from who he is.”
Mr. Kelly is already deep in preparing for the film he hopes to make next, which he describes as a “post-9/11 reconstruction thriller set in Manhattan in 2014.”
“It’s right from my bone marrow,” he said. “It’s absolutely what I want to do next.” At the same time, he said, it’s quite commercial. “It’s also provocative and risky and very much reliant upon a very big star who could anchor it.” Mr. Kelly won’t reveal more, but he knows that getting backing to make it depends on the success of “The Box.”
“I would like to stay in the studio business,” he said, naming Christopher Nolan, who’s moved from “Memento” to “The Dark Knight,” as a model. “Because having to depend upon a film festival and trying to get a distributor, having acquisition executives hem and haw over this and that — I’ve done it, it’s scary and I just don’t want to do it anymore.”“Ultimately you can’t beat the studio,” he added. “Maybe Spielberg can because he owns a studio. They’re the bank, so you’ve got to just figure out how to work with it. I’ve learned that the smart way to go about it is to learn how to play ball.”