Independent Cinema Office Blog

News and views on the world of independent film

Posts from June 2012

Welcome!

Posted Wednesday 20 June 2012 by Sarah Rutterford in General

Neon cinema sign
Photo from weegeebored via Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Welcome to the ICO's new blog.

Previously the ICO team has blogged from film festivals only, but now we're expanding our net to cover all kinds of news, opportunities and interesting info from the film world and beyond.

As well as general industry news we'll be covering new trends and hot topics; funding opportunities and calls for submissions; reports from training courses, conferences and festivals; top tips and inspirational case studies; with interviews with industry experts and occasional posts by guest bloggers... highlighting the activities and expertise of the many wonderful and varied independent film exhibitors we work with across the UK.

If you're visiting our website for the first time, you can read more about the ICO's activities here.

And if you'd like to propose a topic for us to cover in the future, please email sarah@independentcinemaoffice.org.uk with details.

EIFF 2012: More Than Pretty From A Distance

Posted Wednesday 20 June 2012 by Kate Taylor in Festival Reports

While others are discovering the joys of the midnight train to Edinburgh, and looking forward to the pleasures of a pint at the Filmhouse bar, it’s sadly an armchair experience of the Edinburgh International Film Festival for us this year, as we follow the hashtag #edfilmfest from afar.

It Looks Pretty From A Distance
It Looks Pretty From A Distance by Wilhelm and Anka Sasnal.

Last year, in town to present Project: New Cinephilia, highlights included opener The Guard in the Festival Theatre, a packed Cameo guffawing through the restoration of Whiskey Galore!, scratch’n’sniff 30th anniversary Odorama screening of Polyester, Bela Tarr’s curated strand of Hungarian cinema and the discovery of Dieter Auner’s Off The Beaten Track and Celine Sciamma’s Tomboy.

This year’s programme looks to be a cracking selection, all the more enticing for how diverse and little known many of the films are – the impression is certainly that the festival has scoured the international cinema landscape for a selection that encourages audiences to take risks. This makes navigation a pleasure of diving in at random, trusting in the curation and picking up threads between films as they emerge. Of the official strands the individual filmmakers in focus look particularly juicy, especially the Shinja Somai Retrospective and the Spotlight on documentarian Wang Bing, who will be at the festival as a guest.

For hungry cinephiles the Films On Film strand looks like fertile ground, featuring Susan Ray’s Don’t Expect Too Much, her account of Nicholas Ray’s experience making We Can’t Go Home Again (also screening), plus films from two leading lights of infectious cine-love Mark Cousins and Peter von Bagh.

Poster for Girimunho

Of the films already seen, my tips would be a trio of favourites from Rotterdam; the exuberant Girimunho, with the most striking older female performance on screen since Poetry, the creepy It Looks Pretty From A Distance from artists Anka and Wilhelm Sasnal, eking out dread in rural Poland, and the controversial The Invader, which for all its unevenness is a volatile and thought-provoking meditation on race, imperialism, and desire.

Films I’d be eager to catch include Denis Côté’s safari park portraiture Bestiaire, violent Aussie drama Hail and the intriguing anthology oddity V/H/S. Meanwhile, audiences across the UK can look forward to several of the highlights of the British films in the Michael Powell Award strand, which will be released in cinemas over the next few months, including The Imposter, Shadow Dancer and Peter Strickland’s hotly anticipated follow up to Katalyn Varga, the Giallo-flavoured Berberian Sound Studio.

Cannes 2012 - Simon's reviews part 2

Posted Tuesday 19 June 2012 by Simon Ward in Festival Reports

In Another Country
Hong Sangsoo’s 13th feature is another trademark meta-textual puzzle in this prolific director’s ongoing exploring of place and identity in contemporary South Korea. Hong, brought to the UK by the ICO in 2010 for a complete touring retrospective, and never before formally distributed in the UK, is officially on record as Claire Denis’ favourite working director. France is his biggest territory outside home turf, so it was probably only a matter of time before heavyweight French actors sought him out. Here Isabelle Huppert plays three different women all visiting the same seaside town in Korea and experiencing it in different ways, within a further framework of a young filmmaker writing and rewriting the scripts which we watch unfold. It’s witty and as insightful as ever from Hong, but despite playing in the main competition, it didn’t feel as strong as his previous couple of terrific films (Oki’s Movie and The Day He Arrives). Slim prospects for surfacing in the UK.

In Another Country by Hong Sang-Soo
Hong Sang-Soo's In Another Country.

Antiviral
Brandon ‘son of’ Cronenberg delivers a film which feels like something his father, David, could have made 25 years ago. It’s an intriguing premise where fans of celebrities buy infected cells from their heroes and live vicariously through their diseases... While entertaining enough for those who like their body horror it feels a little too familiar, drawn out and somewhat on-the-nose given the family genes.

Mystery
Lou Ye’s (Suzhou River, Summer Palace) thriller about a philandering husband whose wife discovers he’s having an affair with another woman. Meanwhile the police are investigating a dead woman and slowly the two strands come together. It’s a well made film which unfortunately ratchets up the melodrama a notch too much. It would have been much better without the somewhat hokey murder elements. Unlikely to make much impression theatrically.

Amour
Michael Haneke’s (Hidden, White Ribbon) Palme d’Or winner needs little introduction. A riveting, gut-wrenching examination of an elderly couple (coming to terms with death while their daughter (Isabelle Huppert) nips away at their ankles. A key must-see title which will no doubt be accompanied by acres of adoring press.

Jack & Diane
Bradley Rust Gray’s post-mumblecore follow-up to The Exploding Girl, which was never released in the UK, but topped many US critics' lists a couple of years back. This has a similar focus on young love, but this time from a lesbian perspective. With perfectly modulated performances, its kooky über-cool NYC protagonists fumble through their first love affair. The film is hampered by a curious body horror undertone which clearly is intended to express the turmoil of a teenager discovering their sexuality for the first time, yet comes across as heavy handed and a little silly. But there are lots of good things in this and it could well find itself a cult niche following.

Dr. Ketel
A low budget Berlin set German sci-fi film set in a (very!) near future where medical care has been completely privatised. Disgraced medic Ketel scrapes a living by day as a caretaker in a run down apartment block, but by night steals drugs and provides free illegal medical care to the poor. Slowly he comes under scrutiny and himself falls mysteriously ill. A pretty decent microbudget sci-fi film which will likely surface on the genre festival circuit and make its way to DVD but is unlikely to have a theatrical outing in the UK.

Paradise Love
Ulrich Seidl’s (Dog Days, Import/Export) latest powerful, scabrous, witty examination of human weakness, corruption and the mechanics of exploitation does exactly what you expect from the Austrian provocateur. It won’t win any new admirers, is much less ambitious than say Import/Export, but is a treat for fans of his previous films. No UK distributor at the moment.

Paradise Love by Ulrich Seidl
Ulrich Seidl's Paradise Love.

Lawless
John Hillcoat’s (The Proposition, Ghosts of the Civil Dead) much anticipated moonshine gangster drama, written by Nick Cave, with a starry cast including Guy Pearce, Tom Hardy and Jessica Chastain. It looks great, has some wonderful moments, but for me was ultimately unengaging and flat. No doubt it’ll open strongly but I suspect the press won’t be very strong and it will struggle in cinemas to sustain itself.

Killing Them Softly
Andrew Dominik’s (Chopper, The Assassination of Jesse James) starry crime thriller with (Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, Sam Shephard, James Gandolfini) is a real pleasure. A pair of petty criminals rob a mob card game hoping to pin the blame on the game handler. Of course it all goes badly wrong and the pleasure is in seeing fate play its bloody hand. It’s not a film of any real depth and stands firmly in the genre camp – but it is exquisitely made and already garnering heady reviews (5 stars in the Times, 4 in the Guardian) so promises to do well on its September release through Entertainment in the UK.

Holy Motors
The return of Leo Carax (Mauvais Sang, Les Amants du Pont Neuf), one of the key 80s Cinema du Look filmmakers, after a 13 year hiatus from features is a big deal in France. Together with his regular star Denis Lavant (Beau Travais, Mister Lonely) it’s an even bigger deal. The film itself is a curio. Undoubtedly original, quirky and gorgeous looking, it’s a series of abstract shorts bound together by its star Lavant who plays a mysterious wealthy man of multiple identities from a leprechaun who kidnaps a super model (Eva Mendes) to a VFX motion capture ninja. It all seemed a bit shallow and indulgent to me, but critics seemed to be at once bemused and bewitched. Artificial Eye are releasing later in the year.

Cosmopolis
David Cronenberg’s long gestating adaptation of Don DeLillo’s famously unfilmable novel divided people strongly. A strong cast including Robert Pattinson (he’s good!), Juliette Binoche, Samantha Morton and Paul Giamatti. Many (including our own Catharine here at the ICO) found it a tedious uncinematic talkfest. Personally I thoroughly enjoyed it and found myself chuckling along at the parade of oddballs, slew of anti-capitalist jabs, and general audacity of making a film set 70% of the time in a stretch limo about an imploding, unlikeable young CEO trying to cross Manhattan through an anti-capitalist protest in order to get... his hair cut. Hubris and the politics of fascism take a wry pasting in Cronenberg’s smart but deeply uncommercial offering.

The Angel's Share
Ken Loach took the Jury Prize (Cannes 4th most prestigious award) for his likeable funny shaggy dog tale which comes across as Wallace and Gromit social realism. A group of youths on community service cook up a scheme to siphon off a few bottles of the world’s rarest whisky to try and escape the cyclical poverty trap in which they find themselves. It’s unlikely, but well written by Loach regular Paul Laverty and has reasonable commercial prospects in the right cinemas.

Cannes 2012 - Simon's reviews part 1

Posted Tuesday 19 June 2012 by Simon Ward in Festival Reports

Cannes this year was a pretty good one. While with the exception of Carlos Reygadas who delivered the highlight of the festival for me with easily his worst reviewed film to date..., there weren’t really many surprises or discoveries. Having said that, there was a really high quality threshold from a number of familiar and less familiar names. Out of the 40 plus films I saw, I was sorry I went to only 2 or 3 – the really dull Chinese version of Dangerous Liaisons for one! Which is not bad going!

Post Tenebras Lux
The best film of the festival for me... this allusive masterwork from Reygadas (Japon, Battle In Heaven, Silent Light) stood head and shoulders above everything else (perhaps bar Haneke’s Amour) for sheer imagination, ambition and visual inventiveness. A complex tale about, class, money, human nature, the meaning of life (I kid you not!) and how it all fits together told largely through the prism of a wealthy middle class family coming to terms with their disintegration through failing intimacy and a horrific act of violence. Despite winning Best Director, so far, no UK distributor has picked this up – due in part to UK critics' largely cold reception (bar Jonathan Romney). A crime against cinema!

Post Tenebras Lux by Carlos Reygadas
Carlos Reygadas' Post Tenebras Lux.

The Day Mishima Chose His Fate
Wakamatsu’s (United Red Army, Caterpillar) doc about Mishima covers a rather taboo subject for the Japanese – namely one of their most prestigious writers making a very public criticism – ending in his ritual suicide – of the post-war Japanese politics and spirit. An ultra conservative right-wing man, Wakamatsu, as left-wing as Mishima is right wing, details the context and events leading up to Mishima’s death. For those westerners interested in this, Schrader’s biopic is a far more intriguing and imaginative take. I can’t see this travelling much beyond home turf – and, as a portrait of a fascinatingly conflicted figure, it significantly leaves out Mishima’s homosexuality which informed much of his writing and thinking.

The Paperboy
Lee Daniels (Precious) Southern Gothic tale of two brothers investigating a death row case captured Pete Travis’ novel with abandon. It’s a heady mix of tones and style, which for many failed miserably, but for me, worked a treat. It’s scabrous, witty, violent, anarchic and very entertaining indeed for those that like their Southern Gothic very hard boiled. Matthew McConaughy is fast reinventing himself as the go-to sleazeball these days...

Trois Monde
From Leaving director Catherine Corsini. An efficient, well made and acted, if somewhat narratively contrived tale of a young man set to marry the daughter of his boss and inherit the family business he works in. Drunk, celebrating his imminent promotion, he is witnessed behind the wheel of a hit-and-run accident leaving him open to possible blackmail. As he becomes increasingly guilt-ridden and dislocated from his life everything starts to crumble around him. It has a good chance at being picked up and delivering a reasonable box office for French film fans.

Like Someone in Love
Kiarostami (Ten, The Wind Will Carry Us) delivers a good looking but relatively slight, and for me, hopelessly naive and sentimentalised tale of a retired professor hiring a teenage prostitute, taking under his wing and becoming something of a father figure in a rather unlikely but very watchable tale set in contemporary Japan.

7 Days In Havana
A largely successful portmanteau feature comprised of 7 short films based in Havana. The main draw is the directing talent with among others, Elia Suleiman, Gaspar Noé, Benicio Del Toro and by far the weakest, Julio Medem. It’s colourful, lively and the Suleiman is particularly successful with his trademark wry humour and strikingly composed and paced imagery. Should see modest returns for Soda Pictures.

Rust & Bone
Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Read My Lips, The Beat My Heart Skipped) delivers a bonkers-sounding tale of a killer whale trainer (played with emotional brio by Marion Cotillard) in an aqua park who loses her legs in a horrific accident only to be lifted out of her ensuing depression by her love for a bare knuckle fighter. In a less capable director’s hands this sounds risible – but Audiard delivers a non-stop barrage of incredible images underpinned by an acute eye for the emotional inner-life of his tenderly imagined characters. One of the strongest films of the festival and a likely arthouse hit for the autumn from Studiocanal.

Rust and Bone by Jacques Audiard
Jacques Audiard's Rust & Bone.

Dario Argento's Dracula 3D
Oh dear! Argento (Suspiria, Tenebrae) does a pale limp Hammer-style version of Dracula with some old school 3D. One for die-hard Argento fans who still hope against hope the ex-maestro of the macabre will one day pull something visionary out of his threadbare hat.

Mekong Hotel
A long gestating featurette from Palme d’Or winner Apichatpong (Tropical Malady, Unclee Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives) looking at the titular hotel in the northeast of Thailand and using it as space through which to headily explore past, present and future, fact, fiction, politics all tumbling through the physical space of the hotel, a pair of young lovers, plus a mother and her vampire daughter. It’s a dreamlike work existing, as with much of Apichatpong’s non-feature work, in a place between cinema and art installation.

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Winning awards at Sundance and Cannes, this terrifically fresh US indie debut follows a young girl faced with her father’s fading health. Set against a backdrop of an ailing southern delta community living outside the law following a Hurricane Katrina-esque natural disaster triggered by man-made pollution, it’s really something special. Poetic, recalling early David Gordon Green’s use of landscape and idiosyncratic portraits of people on the margins of society, mixed with a spectacular dash of magic realism conjuring an adult take on Where The Wild Things Are. Like nothing else out there.

Laurence Anyways
Xavier Dolan’s (I Killed My Mother, Heartbeats) third feature is further evidence of his precocious talent – he’s still only 23 years old! A near three hour, inventive, heartfelt and poignant story chronicling the on-off love affair between a woman and man who chooses to change sex. It’s perhaps a little too long but nonetheless a remarkable piece of filmmaking confirming Dolan as a major talent.

On The Road
Walter Salles (Central Station, Motorcycle Diaries) returns with the much anticipated adaptation of the classic Beat novel – only it’s not. Instead we get Neal Cassady’s journey leading up to his writing and publishing perhaps the most emblematic novel of his generation. It’s a handsomely good looking and great sounding film, but which seems content to be a nostalgia vehicle rather than a literal exploration of the book and times. Disappointing for some, but impeccably made and likely to be a big hit with independent cinemas.

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