Wednesday, 17 December 2008

5 Classic Trailers

Last Friday Béla Tarr's latest masterpiece, The Man from London, finally 'opened' in the UK, on one screen in, appropriately, London. In place of a rant about why the hell it’s taken the film so long to reach theatres (or, rather, a theatre), I thought I'd write a post inspired by the film's sublime trailer. I first saw the film at Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2007, and in a fit of excitement over the prospect of being able to see it again on the big screen, I scoured the net in the hope of finding a trailer for it, and this is what I found:

Although this shot doesn't appear in the film itself, it still perfectly sums up the mood, the style and the themes of the film. In his review of the film in
Sight & Sound, Michael Brooke talks about a similar shot in the film, commenting on the way that the camera movement has the result of making the protagonist appear like he's going nowhere, in that instance seemingly never getting any nearer a church which looms large behind him. On a metaphorical level, both the shot Brooke discusses and the shot used in the trailer perfectly encapsulate the film's theme of being trapped and of never being able to break free, to 'get' anywhere in life, while at the same time never losing site of the possibility of freedom from the daily grind. In other words, the very essence of the film has been distilled perfectly into the trailer, and thus even here the film's masterful synthesis of form and content are revealed.

As well as getting me excited about what a genius Tarr is, the trailer has also got me thinking about other great film trailers. The two that immediately sprang to mind were the ones for
Bresson's L'Argent and Kubrick's The Shining. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the former online to embed in this post, but its mesmeric montage of cash machines slamming shut is really quite something, and it almost makes a purchase of the DVD worthy by itself. The trailer for The Shining is another one shot affair and is equally mesmeric, and which, thanks in no small part to its excellent use of music, fills the viewer with an ever increasing sense of despair as the shot continues:

Another trailer which I think has a really great use of music is the trailer for Scorsese's The Departed. However, the Scorsese trailer I've decided to include in my list is this one for Gangs of New York:

It may well just be because of my almost infantile love of this particular film, but there's something about this trailer which is just so exciting and thrilling. Or, in other words, it's another trailer which, for me at least, again perfectly encapsulates the film itself.

When I sat down to write this blog about trailers, I wanted to round my number out to five, because, well, it felt like a round number. With this in mind, I knew that I wanted to include something truly classic from the Hollywood of yesteryear. And so, as my final choice, I present you with the truly classic trailer for The Wolf Man. It's really not an exaggeration to say that they don't make trailers like this anymore... I leave it to you decide if that's a good or a bad thing...

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Sunday, 14 December 2008

Quote for the Week

'Words are becoming less and less necessary. They create misunderstandings' – Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti), in Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura.

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Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Cinema as Spectacle

Over the last few months I have heard and read a lot about the latest technological 'advancement' of cinema, aka 3D movies and the Real D process. According to the prophets, in a few years all films will be literally coming at us in all three glorious dimensions. The new process has been variously described as the best thing to happen to cinema since the introduction of colour, the switch to sound, and the spread to widescreen. Personally I find this all rather ironic (and oxymoronic), since the best film ever made is black and white, silent, and full screen. Sure, this is just a personal opinion, but it does raise an interesting question about so called 'advances', and perhaps even the very nature of cinema itself.

While it might all be very well for the money men to be pushing a new process which will help get people into the theatres in a world where the cinema is facing ever increasing competition from alternative platforms, one has to consider to what extent the addition of a third dimension will really 'improve' or 'advance' cinema. In a sense, the answer to this question forces us to reopen the age old debate on cinema as art vs cinema as spectacle. While it's very easy to see how something like
Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D might benefit from the addition of the third dimension, I wonder whether the films of someone like, say, Richard Linklater would really benefit. Some might argue that seeing something in 3D, even if that something is just people talking, would add an extra sense of realism to the onscreen world and thus be of benefit to even the more independent-minded works. In a sense, this is a good argument, and until the use of 3D becomes widespread enough for this to actually happen, it's something that we’ll have to console ourselves with only speculating about.

Lest my comments above appear snooty, I want to make it clear that I do believe there are times when art and spectacle overlap, and in a sense this makes it even more difficult to reach solid conclusions on the introduction of 3D. Steven Soderbergh's recent masterpiece
Che is going to be released in so-called 'road-show' fashion, while I recently caught a screening of Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg with Maddin performing the voice-over live. Both films are clearly works of art, yet this approach to their screenings brings them into the realm of a rare, special event – in other words, a spectacle. It could be argued that turning these works of art into spectacles in this way cheapens them. But that's not an argument that I would make. On the flip side of this, there are mainstream filmmakers whose work one could clearly describe as belonging firmly in the 'spectacle' camp, but who are also great artists. In my opinion, Tim Burton is a great example of this, and indeed he is already working within the 3D medium. I have yet to see the 3D version of The Nightmare Before Christmas and although I must confess that I am very keen to, even here I remain sceptical as to how much of a difference the 3D will make to my enjoyment of the film; for starters, how can one improve on something which is essentially perfect, and secondly, if the glasses remain as uncomfortable as they were on my last trip to the Imax, I'm not sure I'll last more than ten minutes (to be honest, I find the glasses that I have to wear for sight bad enough, without having to wear a second pair on top).

But if all this makes me sound curmudgeonly or resistant to change then I hope you'll forgive me; that's not my intention. To return to what I was saying at the beginning of this post, although I do believe that colour, sound and widescreen should not necessarily be seen as 'improvements', I do recognise the progress their introductions to film have led to, and some of my
favourite films are in widescreen, have colour, and yes, have sound too. But the thing that makes me nervous and which perhaps spawned this post, is not the idea of 3D films, but the idea of all films going 3D. Not all films being made today are in colour, nor indeed are they all in widescreen. Ultimately, all of these 'advances' should be seen for what they really are: tools that all filmmakers, regardless of their artistic intentions, can utilise, or chose to not utilise, in accordance with their visions.

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Tuesday, 2 December 2008

The Dangers of Box Ticking…and not Box Ticking

Like many people with large DVD collections, I have created a database on my computer which lists all the films in my collection. The list helps me index titles and keep track of what I've got and what I've watched, as well as allowing me to pull up lists of all the films by a certain director, or featuring a certain actor, etc., at the click of a button. In order to help me keep track of which ones I've seen and which I haven't there is a column called 'seen' which I literally tick once I have finished watching the film and all its features. Although this is undeniably very useful for someone like me who has far too many discs that they haven't got around to watching yet, it has also had the unfortunate side effect of leading to the early stages of that awful condition from which so many so-called film lovers suffer, and which, for want of a better name, I will call 'boxtickingitis'.

The main symptom of this affliction is, of course, the desperate compulsion to watch as many films as possible so as to simply get them 'ticked off' the list so that next time an obscure black and white silent film from the furthest corner of the globe arises in conversation, one can lean back smugly, smile, and say 'I've seen that'.

Now, to be clear, watching a lot of films is never a problem in and of itself. No, the problem with being a 'box ticker' is that, in the desperate need to consume as many films as possible, no serious consideration is given to any one film or filmmaker. There is no studying of or thinking about a film, only the next film. Hence, the final result of boxtickingitis is in an increase in smugness but a deflation in value and, ultimately, knowledge. Too many people are consuming too many texts without taking the time to attempt any real understanding of the work, and we have to ask 'what's the point?'. The box tickers may have seen a lot of work, but if they haven’t understood or grappled with any of it, then it's all worthless.

Luckily for me, my boxtickingitis has not yet turned terminal, perhaps due to the fact that it is vying within my system with another affliction, which, for now, I will call 'obsessionallyanallycompletitis'. Sufferers of this condition are known to display symptoms almost diametrically opposite to those exhibited by patients suffering from boxtickingitis. To illustrate this, I will take an example from my own life. I have had a number of Bernardo Bertolucci films (which I have never seen) on DVD for literally several years. Of course, as a partial suffer of boxtickingitis, I feel an immense pressure to watch these films, but the obsessionallyanallycompletitis within me won't allow that to happen until I have enough time to sit down and watch all of them within a relatively short space of time (a week or two), while also having time to read about them all in several different books and to exhaustively complete all the special features on each disc. As you can see, a rather large amount of time is needed for this, but that's only part of the problem. You see, a young Bertolucci was a production assistant for Pasolini
on Accattone. So before it is even possible to begin the Bertolucci 'season', it is necessary to see Accattone. But for someone suffering from obsessionallyanallycompletitis, the idea of watching Accattone on its own seems silly, and hence a Pasolini 'season' becomes necessary. But, of course, before moving in to directing, Pasolini wrote for Fellini, who, in turn, started out writing for Rossellini...and so on and so forth...

The ultimate result of this affliction, then, is an almost crippling inability to watch anything due to having insufficient time to do it 'properly', a fate perhaps even worse than those that suffer from boxtickingitis, and perhaps also the cause of an onset of the latter condition.

The debate between what's better – to have seen lots but understand little, or to have seen little but understood lots – is perhaps an issue that is too large to go into here. Of course there is a simple solution for suffers of both conditions: moderation. But the sad truth of it is that 'moderation' is not a word in the vocabulary of many sufferers. For my own part, although I feel the symptoms of my boxtickingitis getting worse with each passing week, I'm glad that obsessionallyanallycompletitis is the worse of my conditions. As a film practitioner I feel it's important for me to actually understand both the history of cinema, and the ways in which certain directors actually create the effects that their film have on their viewers.

That said, the conflict between my two conditions imbue me with a struggle worthy of Kazantzakis. For instance, when I finally find a day or two to sit down and watch the entirety of the
Planet of the Apes Box Set, should I also include Tim Burton's 'reimagining' (which, incidentally, I would like to go on record as saying I love – but more on that another time, perhaps)? The completist in me shouts a resounding 'yes!', while the box-ticker in me shouts a resounding 'no!' (it's two hours during which I could be watching something else that I haven’t already seen!).

I guess it's a struggle that I'll never really get over, but I think it's important to be aware of the dangers both of box-ticking...and of not box-ticking!

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Monday, 17 November 2008

Filmstock 9

One of the main reasons why it's been a while since my last proper post is because of Filmstock. As a click on the link will tell you, I don't mean the actual stock you would use to shoot a film, but Filmstock, a great independent film festival which takes places annually in the heart of Luton, England. I first became aware of the festival through an article in the Film & Festivals Magazine, and was struck by the friendly, passionate and supportive ethos with which the festival was run. Left with this lasting impression, I looked them up, and, when the time came, I submitted my film Canbury in the hope of getting in, but thinking that I might attend the festival anyway (at £15 for a pass for the whole 11 day festival, you can’t really go too wrong!). Luckily, however, my film was accepted into the festival, and I was able to attend the festival not only as a film fan, but also as a filmmaker.

As anyone who has been through the process of submitting films to festivals will tell you, it can become a very trying and depressing experience. It takes a lot of hard work and determination, and of course a thick skin to deal with the inevitable wad of rejections. But even from the off, Filmstock was friendly, personal and approachable – in short, everything that many film festivals are not.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend the festival for the whole 11 days, but I was there for the opening film and the first weekend (dedicated to short films), and I returned for the final day. As a whole, my time at the festival was a little crazy – I saw over 125 films and was out till the early hours every morning. But hey, that's what festivals should be all about: seeing great films and meeting great people. The friendly vibe and approachable ethos continued throughout my time at the festival, with all of the staff at the festival going out of their way to help you out and also to introduce all the filmmakers to one another.

The festival opened with a sold-out screening of
Clark Gregg's Choke, based upon the novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk. The screening was seemingly a big success, and it's an interesting and funny work, though at times a little too ridiculous for my personal taste. That said, even at its most extreme, it was never less than entertaining. The only other feature I got to see during the first half of the festival was Fear Strikes Out, showing as part of the Mind Frames strand, a selection of films dedicated to 'looking at issues surrounding mental health'. Notable for staring a pre-Psycho Anthony Perkins, the film was perhaps a little long, spending time explaining things which didn't need to be explained (and thereby making it a little too obvious), but overall it was really quite something; a truly powerful and captivating film.

Seeing such a high number of shorts in such a short period of time makes it hard to have the energy to think about them all, let alone write about them all, as individual works. Overall, as is always the case with collections of shorts, the quality was mixed. I don't think there was anything terrible in the selection, which made a nice change, and there was certainly a lot of quality work on show. Interestingly, it seemed that Fear Strikes Out set something of a precedent for the opening weekend, with many shorts seemingly continuing the theme of mental illness, and a lot of the lesser works suffering from (but not overcoming) the same shortcoming of trying to explain too much. Watching the eclectic programme, I became aware of a clear divide within the works on show; at its simplest, I suppose it's best expressed as a divide between 'mainstream' and 'art house' works. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my taste leaned towards the latter, while the general opinion seemed to be in favour of the former. There was a fair amount of humour on display, and a number of the films were essentially filmic retellings of jokes. Around three quarters of the films which won the audience awards were comedies, proving that humour is still what connects most with audiences. The programme was also notable for its strong selection of animations (mixed in amongst the live action shorts). Generally, I was very impressed with the standard of the selected animations, and I was pleased to see animation being taken seriously for once. Although there were a lot of great shorts on show, the two real stand-out films of the festival were, for me, Alexey Nevolin's The Hit and Antoine Bourges' Hello Goodbye. Both of these films showed an incredible grasp of the filmmaking medium, and what's interesting is that both filmmakers had two different shorts showing in the festival. Bourges' second film, People Were There showed a different, more experimental side to the filmmaker, and the combination/juxtaposition of his two films, in my opinion at least, really singled him out as a filmmaker to keep an eye on.

Due largely to the poor travel services which run on a Sunday, I was only able to catch a couple of films on the final day of the festival,
1 Giant Leap: What About Me? and Puffball, introduced by none other than Nicolas Roeg himself. I was also pleased to be able to see festival organiser Justin Doherty's excellent photography exhibition Look Now and Then, for which he photographed many of the locations used in Roeg's Don't Look Now as they stand today.

Screened in the gallery space,
1 Giant Leap: What About Me? is an impressive and fascinating documentary detailing 'the complexities of human nature on a global scale'. Incorporating philosophical, spiritual and artistic ideas from a host of well known names from the world of film, music, and cultural theory (amongst others), the film played like a musical version of Richard Linklater's Waking Life. It's a sprawling and visionary work, but one whose ideas occasionally get lost amongst the hectic rhythm of its musical emphasis (though this is perhaps beside the point for something which is first and foremost a musical project). Puffball, meanwhile, proved to be a gripping and intriguing return to filmmaking for Nic Roeg. Never having personally connected with Roeg's work in the way that many other people have, I approached the film with something akin to trepidation, especially given its poor reception upon release. However, a few creaky moments aside (there were a few sniggers in the audience), the film drew me in and took me 'all the way'. Perhaps its most moving and heartbreaking moments, however, do not come from the places one would expect. It was not so much the human characters that forged my connection, but the 'character' of the cottage; renovated and whitewashed, it gave a sense of the erasure of the past and of a new beginning which not only so clearly paralleled the emotional and physical journeys of the human characters, but also proved far more moving then their relative plights (perhaps, though, I found this so moving because I was reminded of Olivier Assayas' extraordinary film Summer Hours). In the talk before the screening, Roeg talked about his use of location as character, and it seems that in this respect, as in many others, Puffball does belong firmly in the Roeg cannon.

Unfortunately, I had to leave shortly after the screening of Puffball, and as a result missed the closing party. In all, my inaugural experience at Filmstock was excellent; as the friend I went with said to me, you can 'really feel the love'. The atmosphere was friendly and welcoming, and the selection of films never less than interesting. I can't wait to go back next year.

(L-R: My friend and collaborator Rahim Moledina, myself, festival organiser Neil Fox, Canbury actress Sari Easton, festival organiser Justin Doherty, actress Fiona Geddes)

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Friday, 14 November 2008

Quote for the Week

On the 16th October 2006, I was lucky enough to attend the Guardian Interview with Gael Garcia Bernal at the NFT (now the BFI Southbank). During the interview Bernal said something which I’ve never forgotten, and which, in a way, has permeated my approach to filmmaking ever since. What he said was this:

If you have something to say, you have nothing to lose.

A full transcript of the talk can be found on the Guardian website,

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Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Quote for the Week

I was all set to go with another Quote for the Week, when the new issue of Sight & Sound (December 08) dropped on my doorstep. Opening it up, I was confronted with this gem from none other than Ingmar Bergman himself, and was so blown away that I couldn't help but share it:

I cannot help thinking that the medium at my disposal is so fine and complicated that it should be able to illuminate the human soul more strongly, to reveal more ruthlessly, cover new realms of reality of which we are still ignorant...we who are engaged with filmmaking take advantage of only a fraction of an immense capacity. We use the little finger of a giant's hand and that giant is so far from harmless.

The quote is sourced in S&S as coming from Bergman's Self-analysis of a film-maker, included in the new book
The Ingmar Bergman Archives from Taschen. I'm very excited about this book, having read The Stanley Kubrick Archives from cover to beautiful cover. If the Bergman book is even half as good as the Kubrick one, then I would say that it’s an essential purchase for any Bergman fan. And as the quote above suggests, Bergman is one of the most sublime of all filmmakers, so you should all be fans...

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Wednesday, 29 October 2008

London Film Festival, Part II

What follows are a few thoughts on the films and events that I was able to catch during the second half of the London Film Festival. You can find my thoughts on what I saw during the first half in my previous post, here.

As stated in the intro to the first part, these posts are by no means meant to be a thorough report on the festival as a whole, but more like a few notes on each of the films I saw and the events I attended. Items are listed by the order in which I saw them.

High Treason (1928)
Made in 1928, High Treason was shot in two versions; one a talkie and one a silent. It is now believed that the sound on the talkie version has disintegrated to the point of being unscreenable, and so it was the silent version that was shown. The film screened as part of the 'London Loves' strand of the festival, which shows British silent films at free outdoor screenings in Trafalgar Square. Although it's a great idea, it does, of course, have one inherent flaw: being outside, in London, in October. About a minute into the screening it started raining, and I'd be lying if I said I enjoyed the experience of watching the film outside in the pouring rain. However, I did enjoy the film. It tells the story of the World League of Peace attempting to prevent a war between the Federated States of Europe and the Atlantic States after a 'border incident' occurs. Set in the highly futurist world of (ahem) 1950, the film was supposedly attempting to be a British answer to Fritz Lang's Metropolis. Well, Metropolis it ain't, but that doesn't mean that there isn't plenty to enjoy here. Sure, there are aspects of this future world that don’t quite make sense, some of the character motivations aren't clear, and it has a sense of morality so strong that it feels like a propaganda piece, but it's solidly made and good looking. Furthermore, there are some interesting ideas raised about war and peace which, although perhaps rather simplistic, still seem pertinent today, and at times the film seemed strangely prophetic in some of the details of its imagined future. In my opinion, it's a film which definitely deserves to be seen by silent cinema aficionados.

At the screening, High Treason was preceded by a great little comedy short from 1924, called
The Fugitive Futurist. It's available on YouTube through the BFI (here), and I certainly recommend a quick look.

The Ethical Problem of Violence on Film
A free panel discussion on the topic of the title, between the filmmakers
Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire, Pat Holden, Richard Jobson and BBFC examiner Hammad Khan, hosted by film professor and writer Linda Ruth Williams. Although the discussion was always interesting, I didn't find it particularly insightful (in that I don’t feel like I walked away necessarily knowing anything more than what I knew when I went in, a few specific example asides). However, an interesting point was made by Hammad Khan about what he perceives as the distinction between the Hollywood treatment of violence and the way that it is treated by independent filmmakers. Hollywood, he suggested, presents the violence in a way that will be passively accepted by the audience, while independent filmmakers often attempt to get viewers to engage with what they are seeing, and to think about both the violence on the screen and their own reactions to it (and thus we get the mainstream wave of so-called 'torture porn' as opposed to, say, Michael Haneke's damning critiques of violent cinema).

Benicio Del Toro Screen Talk
Benicio Del Toro was in London to promote the UK premiere of his new film Che, and, as a result, a lot of this talk understandably centred around the film (for more on which, see below). Throughout the interview, Del Toro came across as affable and amiable, with a tendency for rich, self-deprecating humour ("I'm one of those fucking 'hair' actors!".) However, although clearly intelligent and articulate, he frequently broke off his answers with "brah brah brah brah", stating that he felt he was talking too much! It often seemed as if he didn't want to say too much, or, perhaps, that he wasn't able to comment on something which is, to him, an internal process (for example, when asked about his use of facial expressions, he replied "I don't think about it. It just happens".) In this way, he reminded me of Woody Allen. All in all, the talk was a good accompaniment to the screening of Che, but perhaps a little disappointing within itself.

Che (
Part I and Part II, 2008)
[For clarity, I refer below to the film as Che, and the man as Guevara].

Despite its perhaps unconventional approach to the genre,
Steven Soderbergh's two-part epic must, essentially, be understood as a biopic. As a result of this, much of what has been written and said about Che has focused (perhaps rightly, perhaps unfairly), on its portrayal of Ernesto "Che" Guevara (played here brilliantly by Benicio Del Toro). Some, it seems, are outraged that the film was made at all, feeling it to be another example of 'Hollywood leftism' going too far in glorifying a murderer, while others, it seems, are criticising the film for not glorifying him enough. Whatever one thinks of Guevara as a man (and personally I feel ambivalent and under qualified to make a staunch judgment), one cannot deny that he has become a cultural icon. Furthermore, it must be admitted, on both sides of the argument, that his image is far more widely seen (and sold) than it is understood. And it is this reason – as opposed to an unbridled glorification – that both Soderbergh and Del Toro have given for embarking on the project: to help people understand the man behind the icon.

Soderbergh has stated, moreover, that the intention behind the project was simply to give a sense of what it was like to 'hang out' with Guevara. From my viewpoint, I felt that the film achieved this perfectly. Predominately framing in long and medium shots, Soderbergh's camera acts almost as a casual observer to Guevara's actions. The effect of this on the film is what feels like an objective, nonjudgmental stance: we, as viewers, are left to interpret Guevara's work and actions as we see fit (and the film's meditative pace gives the viewer plenty of time in which to do this). At the Screen Talk the night before the screening, Del Toro firmly stated, much to the derision of some in the audience, that there were many things that he respects in Guevara, but also things in him with which he disagrees (like his support of the death penalty). This ambivalent sentiment, which admittedly does reflect my own stance on Guevara, seemed to be embedded within the film. Although I believe that the objectivity towards Guevara continues throughout both parts of Che, Part II does perhaps lean our sympathy more pointedly towards Guevara and his cause, by painting the Bolivian government as blacker than black. However, despite pointing our sympathy towards Guevara, I don't believe that the film ever glorifies his actions.

By taking a distant and cerebral stylistic approach to the material, Soderbergh shows us the inherent tedium of guerilla warfare, while also showing us its sheer brutality. At no times revelling in its violence, the film shows us the cold, remorselessness of war (thus giving lie to the silly idea that all war films inherently end up glorifying war, as recently discussed on Shooting People). At no time did I feel like the film was embracing Guevara as a hero, because, quite frankly, its style constantly keeps us at one remove. For some this is the film's greatest problem, and people have seen it as a sign of the film's failure (and indeed I could sense a growing restlessness around me in the cinema). It is, however, precisely this seemingly apathetic treatment which stops the film from descending into hero-worshiping propaganda.

As always with Soderbergh's films, Che looks amazing. I honestly believe that Soderbergh, besides being a great director, is also one of the most accomplished and underrated cinematographers working in mainstream cinema, and this film clearly supports that belief. Much has been made elsewhere about the difference in style between the two parts (later to be released as separate films), but in my opinion the difference is more in tone than in style: Part II has a narrower, more claustrophobic aspect ratio, a different, more emotive type of score, and a simpler, more focused, linear structure (Part I flashes back and forth between Guevara's campaign in Cuba and his trip to New York years later). Along with the increased sense of sympathy for Guevara as mentioned above, the tonal differences in the second part lead to an increasing sense of jeopardy in, and engagement with, the work. That said, I think that, perhaps because of the non-linear structure, Part I is potentially the more impressive and interesting of the two. However, that aside, I do believe that the films should be taken as a single work, and I'm certainly glad I had the opportunity to see them in this way. At the Screen Talk, Del Toro stated that Soderbergh explains the two part structure as Guevara making five moves which work on one girl, and then trying the same five moves on another girl, only for them not to work. Thus the first part supports the second, and vice versa.

As one whole, single piece, the film has the epic feel and scope of the auteur cinema of the 1970s. Indeed,
Terrence Malick was on board the project for a while, and, whether remnants of his contribution or pure coincidence, there are times when his work is invoked (most notably in a beautiful shot of the revolutionists crossing the river in Part II which recalls the striking opening shot of Malick's The New World).

Although I don't think that Che stands as Soderbergh's greatest film, I do believe that it is a landmark achievement in modern cinema, providing a fascinating and unbiased examination of an important and controversial cultural icon. I hope that, in time, it will overcome the mixed reaction it received at Cannes, and come to be genuinely regarded as the masterpiece of cinema it so clearly is.

The Living Corpse (1929)
The Living Corpse, is not, as its title might suggest, a Caligari-style horror piece, but is, instead, a rare, silent melodrama about the limiting of personal freedom under a state-controlled society (and indeed it takes this to a propagandist extreme, showing just how unhappy state laws which limit freedom can make people be). The story revolves around Fyodor Protasov's (excellently played by none other than
Vsevolod Pudovkin) attempts to get divorced from his wife, who he believes is in love with another man, so that she can be free to live happily with this man (it has to be said, though, that the film muddles this a little bit, implying at one point that Protasov and his wife's sister might have feelings for one another, implying at another that it's Protasov who's responsible for the disintegration of the marriage and not his wife, and inconsistently suggesting several times that his wife loves only him and not the other man – it's also unclear if it's the characters or the filmmakers who are confused). Directed by Fyodor Otsep, the film was the first international coproduction between Germany and Russia, and the style of the film seems to draw from both of these traditions, mixing muted expressionism with moments of flashy and effective montage (with many striking uses of cross fades and double exposures, and some great practical implementations of Eisenstein's intellectual montage theory). The film has a beauty and a physical texture to it that one can only find in silent cinema, and it's certainly a well made and enjoyable film. However, in addition to the confusion I’ve already noted, there is also a major flaw in its central plot point, which is hard to discuss without giving too much away. Suffice it to say, then, that the central plot development on which the whole film hinges is, unfortunately, unbelievable and unconvincing (and also not fully explained). In all, I think it has enough good and interesting things in it to make it worth recommending (and it may also be of interest to cineastes as Martin Koerber's first restoration), but ultimately it remains an unsatisfying experience.

Despite not ending on the high with which it began, my experience at this year's festival has been a great one, and the only shame is that I didn't get to see more. Other people I've spoken to have agreed that it's been a strong year for the festival, and recurring highlights from others include
Hunger and Lake Tahoe.

Roll on LFF 2009!

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Monday, 27 October 2008

London Film Festival, Part I

What follows are a few thoughts on the films and events that I was able to catch during the first half of the London Film Festival. As this post has gotten rather lengthy, I will post the second part – about the screening and events I attended during the second half of the festival – later in the week.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to afford tickets for anywhere near the number of films that I would have liked to have seen at the festival, but luckily I did manage to get tickets for everything I tried for. Due to the idiosyncrasy of the final selection, this post is by no means meant to be a thorough report on the festival as a whole, but more like a few notes on each of the films I saw and the events I attended.

Items are listed by the order in which I saw them.
As I have alluded to elsewhere, one of things I like most about Joe Swanberg's work is that each piece he does has a strong idea behind it. Here the idea was to explore a long distance relationship, and especially its more unpleasant side. Furthermore, within this outer idea, there are, embedded within seemingly throw away lines, many other ideas, and it is one of these which has really caught my attention: the question of what role we will play in someone else's story. As the saying goes, there are two sides to every story, and Nights and Weekends plays as a strong two-hander between Greta Gerwig's Mattie and Swanberg's James. In years to come, Mattie asks, if they are no longer together, what role will she play in James' versions of events? Will she be forgotten and not mentioned at all in the telling of his life, or will she form a poignant memory? The moment she asks this in the film is certainly a poignant moment, and it's one of many in a film built upon the types of moments which many films leave out altogether.

Once again, Swanberg has created a world populated by real people. One of the best things about his films is, for me, the way that his people look like people – their skin is not airbrushed Hollywood perfection, and the film’s penetrating close-ups allow us to see these real faces looking real. I've
recently expressed my positive views on the close up of the human face, and, quite frankly, what faces these are, because they are real faces. As the quote on the poster rightly states, the film is 'so close to real life, it's barely a movie', and seeing life captured in this way not only allows us a glimpse into the lives of the characters, but, most importantly of all, also allows us a reflective glimpse of ourselves (and let’s not forget what it tells us about the filmmakers and actors behind the film).

Birdsong (aka
El Cant dels ocells, 2008)
There is a line near the beginning of this film, which tells the story of The Three Wise Men travelling across the desert to visit the baby Jesus, when one of the Kings says to the others 'At times we’re awe-struck by the beauty of things'. As the film unfolds, the statement begins to seem almost like a reflexive manifesto, or perhaps like a viewer’s response. For, whatever people say of
Albert Serra's film, and I’m sure that the film will have its detractors, I defy anyone to claim that it's not beautiful.

The film unfolds in a series of long, static shots. With minimal use of dialogue and editing, and only one use of music, the film certainly won't be for those short on patience (indeed, several people walked out of the screening I attended). Many of the scenes play out in one or two shorts, and the majority of these shots are wide enough to keep us at one remove from the facial expressions – and thus the inner thoughts – of the characters. In its wordless scenes of the Kings wandering the desert, the film called to my mind the similar endurance-testing lethargic beauty of
Gus Van Sant's Gerry. The film’s sheer refusal to compromise also bought to mind the films of Michael Haneke and Béla Tarr, and indeed the static nature of Serra's camera could almost be read as a response to Tarr's waltzing kineticism. Despite their differences (and there are many) what these two filmmakers do share is an eye for creating images of crisp black and white perfection, and sometimes seemingly never-ending duration.

However, if all of this makes Birdsong sound overly dry, then I've misled you: there's a strong, rich vein of humour throughout the film.

In the question-and-answer session which followed the film, Serra revealed that he thinks of Birdsong as a spiritual film (which 'shows a very innocent version of religion'), but, although admitting that he is 'ultra' Catholic, stated that he sees it more as 'a work of art' than a polemical religious text. When I asked him after the session what the influences on his film were, he answered by naming the neorealist directors (and especially their religious works, such as
Rossellini's God's Jester and Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew). Like the films of those neorealist masters, Birdsong struck me as a very human film, very down to earth and very, well, 'dirty'. Although some of the shots in the film are almost abstract in their lightness or darkness, there is a constant foregrounding and emphasis on the physical world around the characters. This emphasis results not only from the choice of long shot as the predominant shot size, but also from the fact that the extreme duration of the shots allows for clouds to move far enough overhead that the lighting conditions are often visibly changing. As a consequence of this focus on the environment, the film grounds the action on earth, and in the mud, the perfect framing all the while making it beautiful.

While it seems that the intention behind this beautifying of nature may well have been to imbue the film with some kind of
teleological spirituality, the ultimate result of it is, for me at least, a humanising of the story: instead of mystical transcendence, I felt that – despite the references to and the appearances of angles – the film was almost secularising the story through its constant emphasis on Earth's physicality.

To illustrate my point, I offer an example of almost the antithesis:
The Passion of Joan of Arc. Here, Dreyer achieves transcendence by reducing the background of the (often close-up) images to as plain a canvas as he could, and fragmenting the film’s grammar, thus placing the action of the film on a spiritual, metaphysical plane (apologies, but I am again drawing upon Rudkin here). Although the plane of Birdsong is indeed plain, it is also nature, life, beauty, and here we are reminded not of the spirit, but of the body.

Although it might sound like it, I by no means wish this to come across as a criticism of the film. The film is clearly a masterwork by a truly visionary director, and my point is only that, when all is said and done, the film seemed (to me) closer to the secular, depopulated landscapes of Antonioni than it did to the transcendent spaces of Dreyer, Bresson or
Bergman. Indeed, I wonder if, in some ways, the Jesus of Birdsong is more human and less God than even the Jesus of The Last Temptation of Christ.

Indiewood Is Dead... Long Live the New, True Indies
Indiewood is Dead... was an excellent panel discussion about the state of American Independent cinema, featuring
Ramin Bahrani, Azazel Jacobs, Barry Jenkins (see also below), Kelly Parker and Joe Swanberg (see also above), and chaired by LFF programmer Michael Hayden. The panellists entered the discussion with full gusto and insight, with only Kelly Parker perhaps getting a little sidelined.

When discussing what the term 'independent' means to filmmakers today, they all seemed to agree that it was about a refusal to compromise, with Jacobs suggesting that this should be taken to the extreme: to be independent, he suggested, is to make a film without thinking about your audience, and to make the film first and foremost for yourself. Swanberg, meanwhile, suggested the truthful albeit cynical point of view that the term has become a marketing tool used to help filmmakers sell their films.

Bahrani suggested that the market for independent US cinema is not as strong as it once was. With the proliferation of digital filmmakers, many territories now have their own sustainable markets and are therefore not importing as many titles, while the multitude of choice means that the audience is thinner spread, making it harder to have a true breakout film. Seemingly on the flipside of this, Jenkins thinks that the new digital platforms for films will open up a range of choices for filmmakers which were not previously available. Both Jenkins and Swanberg suggested that independent filmmaking needs to learn from independent music, with Swanberg also suggesting that filmmakers should learn to be okay with 'touring' and then 'coming off the road' in order to work a day job for a few months to make a living. Furthermore, they should learn to be okay with their films only playing to a limited audience, and keep working in the hope that the audience will grow with each successive film and each successive 'tour'. Jacobs offered support to this mindset, by positing that there is no longer a stigma attached to not securing a distribution deal, and pointing out that self-distribution is an option (though it’s not an option that Bahrani would approve, suggesting that it takes too much energy away from the filmmaking itself). Indeed, Swanberg suggested that if filmmakers keep working, and each film makes a little bit of money, they will, over time, be able to create a sustainable career. Finally, Swanberg also talked about the immediacy of making content for the internet, the freedom it offers, and its direct line to the audience (which also therefore acts as publicity for other work).

From my perspective, as audience member and filmmaker, the talk was entertaining, insightful and informative (and more so than my notes above suggest). All of the panellists spoke very well, and I look forward to seeing the films of those whose work I'm not yet familiar with.

Medicine for Melancholy (2008)
Medicine for Melancholy marks
Barry Jenkins' first foray into feature filmmaking, and it's a startling, breathtaking debut. Mixing racial politics with great characters who we can actually believe in, the film plays out with love and humour. Love for the characters, yes, but also for the city that they spend a day and a night wandering around, and at times the whole thing seems like a love letter to San Francisco. But as lead character Micah says, although he loves the city, he also hates it, and the film doesn't shy away from exploring some of the city's political problems. Visually accomplished and always absorbing, the film is beautiful and heart-warming, with a fascinating use of near black and white filmic colour supporting the narrative's emphasis on Micah's obsession with race. Brilliantly acted and stunningly shot, the film is one of the strongest debut films I've seen from recent years, and I hope that the film manages the success that it deserves.

[Update 29/10/08: click here for Part II of this report]

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Friday, 24 October 2008

Quote for the Week

I’ve recently started reading In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu (seems I’m still a little bit in Vampyr mode), and this quote, from the story Green Tea, seems, to me, to support the ideas behind my post from earlier in the week:

‘There are certain expressions of that powerful organ of spirit – the human face – which, although I have seen them often, and possess a doctor’s nerve, yet disturb me profoundly’.

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Monday, 20 October 2008

In Defence of the Close-Up of the Human Face

Over the last fifty-or-so years there has developed a notion that the close-up, and especially the close-up of the human face, is 'uncinematic'. The reason for this notion seems to be, principally, as follows: the size of the screen on a television set is significantly smaller than the screen at the cinema. Wide, panoramic shots therefore hold up less well on television, as one can't see the details (due to the small size), and so, in the syntax of television, the close-up is king. If this holds true, then the close-up becomes 'uncinmetic' by nature of being a 'televisual' device (for the cinema has a want and need - both artistic and economic - to distance itself from television). Moreover, of course, the size of that giant screen should be used to full effect (so the argument goes) and show us a jaw-dropping panorama in awe-inspiring detail. Although it could be argued that things are changing as the size of television sets and the use of home projections increases, so too must mention be made of the increasing number of people whose primary screening medium is the minute online stream.

I feel it necessary, therefore, to briefly comment in defence of the close-up, before it becomes not only 'uncinematic', but also 'untelevisual'.

It is hard to sum up in words the powerful effect that the human close-up can hold, or the transcendence it can achieve. In his monograph on Vampyr, (which I referenced recently here), David Rudkin mentions that
Benjamin Christensen 'locates the cinema's true landscape of ecstasy and suffering in the human face' (page 8) and I think this goes a long way to capturing my point perfectly. Rudkin goes on to to comment that Carl Th. Dreyer 'spoke of the face as a 'land that one never tires of exploring'' (ibid), and again this supports my point. Through studying the human face the very essence of our being becomes visible, and I find it hard to see how anyone could find that 'uncinematic'. This ability, to make visible the very nature of being, is what defines cinema as an art form, what makes it alive, and what gives it its power.

To illustrate my point, I leave you with four images, two from acknowledged masters of cinema, and two from contemporary directors who I believe could well prove themselves also to be all time masters:

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Monday, 13 October 2008


Being a self-confessed, and shameless, 'Scorsese fan boy', I have, several times now, had to endure a conversation which goes along the following lines:

Me: Yeah, I'm actually a big Scorsese fan.
So-Called Big Scorsese Fan: Oh yeah, me too! He's actually my favourite filmmaker!
Me: Oh, cool. (Beat). What did you think of The Last Temptation of Christ?
SCBSF: Oh, I didn't see that one.
Me: Oh, okay. Did you like The Age of Innocence though?
SCBSF: Yeah right, like I saw that one!
Me: Kundun?
SCBSF: Kun-what?
Me: New York, New York?
SCBSF: Come on…
Me: Gangs of New York?
SCBSF: Didn’t see it. Heard it was rubbish.

By this point I've normally given up, but if I'm in an argumentative mood, I'll carry on the conversation, and it'll play out something like this:

Me: You do know that The Last Temptation of Christ and Gangs of New York were both long-cherished projects of his, right?
SCBSF: So what. I saw GoodFellas and Taxi Driver.
Me (despairing): You know, all the films I've mentioned are amongst his best work...
SCBSF: Piss off. Everyone knows his best films are GoodFellas and Taxi Driver.

And this is the point at which I sigh, hang my head in (their) shame, and walk away...

The problem with these 'So-Called Big Scorsese Fans' is by no means with the works that they like. Scorsese is a great filmmaker who makes great films, and, to date, he's only made one film which has left me cold. As a body of work, his oeuvre is immense, full to the brim with towering achievements and full of staggering variety. And in this lies my point. A study (hell, not even a study: a quick glance) at his body of work as a whole shows a depth and breadth all too often overlooked. To be absolutely clear about this, I am by no means wishing to belittle or insult the achievements of the more popular works; my point is simply that there's a lot more to Scorsese than gangsters and guns. And this is what gets missed by people, even by his so-called 'fans'. Furthermore, Scorsese is, was, and probably always will be first and foremost a spiritual filmmaker.

Sidestepping the fact that, as a child, Scorsese considered entering the priesthood, to concentrate on the films themselves, Scorsese's religious vein can be detected right from his very first feature, most commonly known as Who's That Knocking at My Door? (which actually shows exactly how fully-formed Scorsese's themes and style were right from the off). The film itself is tied up through and through with Catholic guilt, and already shows the outside world clashing with faith (and, what's more, through the use of candles!): in one scene, the Girl lights some candles for dinner, only for J.R. (a young Harvey Keitel) to inform her that these are 'holy' candles and to be used only for religious purposes.

Scorsese's next film was Boxcar Bertha, one of his lesser works and often acknowledged as one of the least personal of his films. But even here there is a use of religious iconography, notably in Bill's crucifixion (which, of course, foreshadows nothing so much as The Last Temptation itself).

Boxcar was followed by Mean Streets, which I suspect is the earliest of his features to be seen by the SCBSFs, and, in my opinion, one of the keys to an understanding of Scorsese as primarily a spiritual filmmaker. I say this because not only do the opening words of the film provide us with the framework through which to understand the film, but also with the framework through which to understand Scorsese's entire oeuvre:

You don't make up for your sins in church – you do it in the streets.

These immortal words, seemingly spoken by the film's protagonist Charlie (Keitel again), but actually recorded by Scorsese himself, say it all. Although he strangely doesn't make the connection with this quote, David John Graham talks in his essay Redeeming Violence in the Films of Martin Scorsese (found in Explorations in Theology and Film, ed. Marsh and Ortiz) about how Jake La Motta's beating at the hands of Sugar Ray Robinson in Raging Bull should be seen as 'redeeming'. Although I found the essay a little disappointing overall, this is a key point, and illustrates perfectly how the quote from Mean Streets can help with an interpretation of Scorsese's other works: by not fighting back, La Motta is receiving punishment for – and thus annulment of – his sins, and he is doing this 'in the streets' as opposed to 'in church'.

(Interestingly, it's my opinion that this quote can also be applied to Crime and Punishment, and that Mean Streets can be understood as a reinterpretation of Dostoyevsky's work, with Charlie, standing in for Raskolnikov, seeking his own redemption through his relationship with Johnny Boy's Sonya. A self-confessed Dostoyevsky acolyte, Scorsese would later go on to loosely adapt The Gambler for his section of New York Stories, so it's possible that he was indeed influenced by Crime and Punishment when formulating Mean Streets.)

Of course, to say that Mean Streets is Scorsese's most religious film would not only be ridiculous but also a blatant oversight of the fact that his oeuvre contains two religious biopics: The Last Temptation of Christ and Kundun, and indeed the former of these is perhaps the other key text necessary for a true understanding of Scorsese's tortured (anti)heroes.

“The dual substance of Christ –
the yearning, so human,
so superhuman,
of man to attain God...
has always been a deep
inscrutable mystery to me.
My principle anguish and source
of all my joys and sorrows
from my youth onward
has been the incessant,
merciless battle between
the spirit and the flesh...
and my soul is the arena
where these two armies
have clashed and met.”
Nikos Kazantzakis
From the Book
“The Last Temptation
Of Christ”

So begins one of the best films of all time: with a quote from one of the best books of all time. And here, perhaps, in Jesus, do we find the prototype for the Scorsese (anti)hero: a conflicted individual torn between the pleasures of worldly delights and the calling for/of something higher. Perhaps it is here that we find a way to understand Jimmy Doyle, caught between his music and his love for Francine (in New York, New York). And thus, although it's often overlooked, I believe it's genuinely possibly to find as much spiritual angst and confusion in the works of Scorsese as it is in those of Bergman, Tarkovsky or indeed Dostoyevsky.

I'm aware that I'm not necessarily breaking any new ground with these comments, but I felt compelled to write this blog as it still astounds me how many people overlook this aspect of Scorsese's work in favour of admiring them only for their violence (for, if we're being truthful, that's what SCBSFs like about his work). By ignoring this aspect of his work and by overlooking his 'smaller' pictures, the SCBSFs are not only missing out on some of Scorsese's best and most interesting works, they're also missing out on a true understanding of his work as whole, GoodFellas and Taxi Driver included.

- - - - - - - -

To pre-empt the criticism: I am aware that by focusing on the spiritual side of Scorsese's work this post is overlooking that other key aspect of his work: its inherent intertextuality and its revelling joy in the history of cinema. It has indeed been argued by others that Scorsese's films rewrite and rework those of others, and I intend to discuss this in full in a future post further down the line.

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Sunday, 12 October 2008

Quote for the Week

As it happens, the most powerful and pertinent quote from what I've been reading this week comes from Andrew Sarris' 1966 review of Carl Th. Dreyer's Gertrud ('The academicians are right, of course. Dreyer simply isn't cinema. Cinema is Dreyer', quoted in The Village Voice Film Guide, ed. Dennis Lim, page 121), but I'm aware that nominating that as my Quote for the Week would equate to too many Dreyer-centric posts in too short a space of time (if there can ever be such a thing!). And so, instead, I decided upon something I noted down a long while back, from the opening monologue of Douglas Coupland's JPod:

'You're always hearing about "following your dream," but what if your dream is boring? What if you had a dream to sell roadside corn – if you went and sold it would that mean you were living your dream? Would people perceive you as a failure anyway? And how long would you be happy doing it? Probably not long, but by then it's too late to start something else. You're fucked'.

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Sunday, 5 October 2008

8½ Suggestions for Double Bills

In their August 08 issue, Sight & Sound celebrated the 'lost world of the double bill'. As well as alerting me to new films and pointing out similarities between films I already knew, the article also got me thinking about what double bills I'd have chosen or would chose, should I ever need to. And so, without further ado, I present you 8½ suggestions for double bills…

1) King of the Hill (1993) and Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Although The Spirit of the Beehive would clearly be a more obvious choice to pair with Pan's Labyrinth, I've chosen Steven Soderbergh's criminally over-looked King of the Hill. In very different ways, the two films both show child protagonists using their imagination to help deal with the world around them (okay, so in Pan's Labyrinth it's likely the fantasy elements are real, but that's beside the point for the purpose here!).

2) The Trip (1967) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Upon it's release, Kubrick's film was advertised as 'the ultimate trip', and rumours abound to this day about people going to see the film merely in order to be able to drop acid during the Star Gate sequence. So, what better to accompany 'the ultimate trip', than, well 'The Trip'. Written by Jack Nicholson, directed by Roger Corman and staring
Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper (and made two years before Easy Rider) the film tells the 'story' of a TV commercial director (Fonda) having his first LSD trip (and yes, that's basically the whole story).

3) Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970) and The Company of Wolves (1984)
Both ostensibly horror films, these two classics each deal with the transitional period of a young girl on the verge of adulthood, and as such can be seen as clear companion pieces perfect for a double bill.

4) The Parson's Widow (1920) and Smiles of a Summers Night (1955)
Both Dreyer and Bergman have reputations as being directors of difficult, serious, and, dare I say it, austere works, but as these two films show, these reputations weren't fully justified. Not only touched with the genius and trademarks of their creators, these two films also show just how funny (and accessible) the filmmakers could be when they wanted.

5) People on Sunday (1930) and Before Sunrise (1995) and Quiet City (2007)
Okay, so I'm cheating a little bit here by suggesting a triple bill, but a double bill of any of the three films listed above would work equally well. Essentially, all three films tell the same story: two people meet at a train station (or, in the case of Before Sunrise, on the train) and then proceed to spend the next 24(ish) hours hanging out together. However, each film handles the narrative in a different way, and offers the story filtered through a different decade (20s, 90s and 00s respectively).

6) American Graffiti (1973) and Dazed and Confused (1993)
Again, two films with similar narrative outlines, set in different decades: here, a group of teenagers spend a final night together before heading off for college in the 60s, and the last night of school for the class of '77. Again, there are more differences than similarities, and a juxtaposition of the works offers us an insight into life as a teenage during the two periods in which they're set.

7) La Belle et la bête (1946) and Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Two fairytales about outsiders which are as powerful and as poignant for adults as they are for children.

8) Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) and Mean Streets (1973)
Although Scorsese's love of old James Cagney films is well documented (not least by himself in A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies), I've never been able to find anything in which he directly talks about Angels with Dirty Faces, certainly the most clearly and typically 'Scorsesean' of the one's I've seen (if anyone reading this knows of anywhere where Scorsese has mentioned this film, I'd be grateful if they could let me know). The plot of Curtiz's film, about a group of 'dead end' kids caught between admiration for
James Cagney's hoodlum and the attempts of Pat O'Brien's priest to keep them on the straight and narrow, sounds not only like perfect territory for a Scorsese film, but also like something straight out of the milieu of his early life. In a way, the choice of Mean Streets is a little arbitrary, and could easily be replaced with, say, GoodFellas or Who's That Knocking at My Door. However, as I intend to discuss in a future post, I think that Mean Streets contains a key to allowing an understanding of Scorsese as a spiritual filmmaker, and hence the suggestion of pairing it with Angels.

8½) Boccaccio '70 (1962) and RoGoPaG (1963)
The reason for this being a 'half' suggestion is twofold: one, I am only half suggesting it, and two, and I am perhaps only suggesting half of it (and of course the presence of Fellini also gave rise to the idea doing eight other suggestions). The problem with presenting this as a suggestion for a double bill is, moreover, also twofold: one, the two films have a combined run time of almost five and half hours, and second, well, some of the sections in these two portmanteau films aren't very good (RoGoPaG, for instance, contains the least interesting work I have seen by Rossellini). So, why suggest it at all? Easy: Fellini's The Temptation of Dr Antonio, De Sica's The Raffle, Pasolini's La Ricotta, and, to a lesser extent, Gregoretti's Il Pollo ruspante. Perhaps, therefore, the answer, as alluded to above, would be a partial screening, containing half of each film.

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