Tuesday, April 1, 2014

IFI Librarian Fiona Rigney highlights some additional resources about filmmaking available at the IFI Library

Ahead of IFI Spotlight, our annual focus on film and television made in or about Ireland, IFI Librarian Fiona Rigney picks her top 3 new books about filmmaking now available at the Irish Film Archive and Library.

IFI Spotlight is taking place throughout April with key new Irish film releases and culminates in a day of free seminars and panel discussions at the IFI on Saturday, April 12th. If you are a film student, researcher, academic, filmmaker or simply just interested in the industry, the IFI Tiernan MacBride Library is home to the largest collection of film related publications in the country and is open to all.

Here are some of Fiona's recommended reads (and there are plenty more in the library!):

1. How to Write Great Screenplays and Get Them into Production by Linda M James
This book teaches you all you need to know about how to succeed in writing and making your own screenplay. With great tips and practical advice, this is a must-read for any budding screenwriters and filmmakers.

2. Introduction to Film Studies 5th Edition Edited by Jill Nelmes
This is one of the best core textbooks for anyone studying films or for anybody who would just like to gain an insight into the film industry. This completely revised and updated fifth edition guides you through the key issues and concepts in film studies, traces the historical development of film and introduces some of the world’s key national cinemas.

3. The Technique of Film and Video Editing: History, Theory, and Practice, 5th Ed. By Ken Dancyger
This book contains the best training for aspiring directors and editors and gives a detailed look at the principles and practices of editing for both picture and sound. 

To have a look at these or any of our books, press clippings collection and film journals; call into the IFI Tiernan MacBride Library (located in the Archive Building, at the back of the main IFI building).

The library has over 3,000 books, over 150 different film journal series and over 5,000 press clippings files. The Paper Archive consists of production notes, scripts, storyboards, correspondence, publicity, ephemera, stills and posters, and includes collections from filmmakers such as Neil Jordan, Jim Sheridan, Donald Taylor Black, Pat Murphy, Lord Killanin and Josie MacAvin. It also holds a vast collection of material from the Irish Film Board and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.  

For more information on our extensive Paper Collections Archive please check out the website or contact the Librarian/Document Archivist, Fiona Rigney.

Opening hours:   
Monday: 2.00pm-5.30pm
Tuesday: 10.30am-1pm and 2pm-5.30pm
Wednesday: 10.30am-1pm and 2pm-5.30pm
Thursday: 2.00pm-5.30pm
Friday: closed

Library Charges:                                             
Students €1.50 per visit; general public €2.00 per visit.                                     

Annual Library Membership:
Students €15.00 per year; general public €20.00 per year

Monday, March 24, 2014

Jury Critic Brogen Hayes on why three young actresses stood out in We Are The Best!

The journey from child to teenager is a path that rarely runs smooth; as we change, our relationships with friends, family and the world around us changes too. The journey is often observed in cinema, but rarely with such sincerity and warmth than in Lukas Moodysson’s upcoming film, We are the Best! (Vi är bäst!)  which previews as part of the IFI's Rock' n 'Roll season Saturday 29th March at 18.30 and is released on 18th April.

The film follows three young girls, Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin), who are best friends, in the way that only pre-teen girls can be. The performances of the three lead actresses depend on one another in a truly remarkable way; the chemistry between the three is wonderful and they allow the power to shift between them, leaving room for jealousies, arguments and ultimately, resolutions. The struggle that each of the characters goes through in their family lives is utterly relatable. That said, however, We are the Best is ultimately an uplifting film about the delirium of childhood and the joy of finding good friends.

In the end, it is the chemistry between the three young actresses that carries the film; it is also the reason that audiences will fall in love with the film and the journey these girls go on. It is hard to imagine the film working as well without the strong ensemble performance at its heart, so when considering the film as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival jury, we finally decided to jointly award Best Actress to Barkhammar, Grosin and LeMoyne.

We are the Best! is a careful and precise observation of the journey between childhood and adolescence, and the friends who last us a lifetime. Barkhammar, Grosin and LeMoyne are wonderful in their roles, and utterly support one another. In the end, We are the Best! is charming, warm and a whole lot of fun.

Brogen Hayes, Deputy Editor of Movies.ie and Jury Member of Dublin Film Critic's Circle 2014

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Experimental Film Club presents 'The Train, The Cinema'

"Suddenly something clicks, everything vanishes and a train appears on the screen. It speeds straight at you—watch out!" The perceptual experience of train travel offered several parallels to the cinema experience, and both will be discussed as part of this month's Experimental Film Club selection.

In a recent exchange between experimental filmmakers Rouzbeh Rashidi and Maximilian LeCain, Le Cain outlined the degree to which he now feels out of sync with a 21st century moving image culture. Le Cain continued to be engaged instead with what he describes as a “very 19th century sense” of image culture; of the train approaching the station and the original sensation of “cinema as miracle”. Le Cain is referencing here the Lumiere’s film Train Arriving at La Ciotat one of the most well known, and frequently revisited scenes in cinema history. Many point to this as the key formative moment for the cinema, what Tom Gunning refers to as its ‘primal myth’, alluding not just to the film itself but to the frequently-cited image described in relation to early audiences and their extreme reactions to the film. This image of audience members who became so excited by the image of this approaching train that they either hid under their chairs or ran screaming from the room has by now become all too familiar. It provides us with a suitable distance for our more removed relationship to the screen, to the moving-image, and to the naiveté of those audiences. Re-watching this film now we are unlikely to experience these same hysterical reactions, less likely to confuse an onscreen reality with our own everyday perpetual reality. This distance between our current relationship with the screen, and with cinema and the moving image, and the image of those first audiences experiencing a mechanised moving-image for the first time is striking, but, as is too often the case, there may be more to it than we think. 

Gunning outlines that scene as the first of many myths that would spring up around the cinema throughout its history. As he acknowledges it is a scene that may never have actually even taken place, at least not in the manner it is typically described. Early accounts are hard to verify and the film is not believed to have appeared among the Lumiere’s very first screenings, Workers Leaving The Factory is instead the film more typically cited as the first. As Gunning acknowledges however this has done little to reduce the power or the longevity of this mythic image, an image that gets to the heart of many of cinema’s potentials and possibilities. In a famous essay entitled The Kingdom of Shadows Maxim Gorky offered his own impressions of the scene: 

"Suddenly something clicks, everything vanishes and a train appears on the screen. It speeds straight at you—watch out! It seems as though it will plunge into the darkness in which you sit, turning you into a ripped sack full of lacerated flesh and splintered bones, and crushing into dust and into broken fragments this hall and this building, so full of women, wine, music and vice." 

Gorky’s quote captures a lot of the early anxieties that existed in relation to the cinema. Often considered a den of iniquity the cinema was initially considered only to appeal to the basest of instincts, it blurred class distinctions, it catered to an unedecated and unrefined crowd and its darkened rooms seemed to invite and suggest all kinds of illicit behaviour. The cinema was dangerous, it suggested a real and considerable threat to civil society and to the psyches of those that experienced it. Early accounts of the cinema’s impact were equal in their hysteria to those that sprung up around the Lumiere’s Arrival film, describing a profound and disruptive impact these experiences were likely to have on an impressionable, corruptible populace. In spite of the questionable veracity of these accounts the distance between our current relationship with the screen and the experiences of early audiences would seem all too clear. In these early reports the cinema appeared ‘suddenly’ at the turn of the 20th Century as a potentially revolutionary force, an untameable machine and for some time to come this would remain as both the promise and the threat of cinema. 

For the cinema to thrive this perceived threat and potential would have to be reduced, diminished, domesticated. For its more mainstream iterations, some of these rougher edges, and for some much of its potential, would be reduced and managed. This cinema experience began to strive for invisibility, attempting to create a closed, secure world which its audiences could inhabit safely. Any techniques that disrupted this immersive illusion, that reminded audiences that they were watching a film were reduced, made ‘invisible’, in favour of a narrative form which audiences could lose themselves in for a set period of time. This was a cinematic impression of reality that carefully mirrored our own perceptions of reality and with these changes in place the cinema could become a more pervasive force. It became inescapable and it would help shape how the twentieth century was experienced. This was of course however only one cinema, only one potential direction taken and an avant-garde also emerged as a possible corrective to this more general tendency and a reminder of some of cinema’s still uninhabited possibilities.

The Lumieres had succinctly grasped many of the key potentialites of the moving-image at the moment when they placed their camera to the right of an approaching train in the small French town of La Ciotat. Their framing of this machine captured the breath of cinema’s depth, and exploited a variety of exciting possibilities for foreground/background juxtaposition. Audiences immediately recognised themselves in the passengers they saw on the platform and alighting from the train. More than this however the cinema in its looking at a train had found a way, at this early stage, to look at itself. The train had become the perfect on screen stand-in for the cinema and its processes, mechanical and otherwise, making visible what was often felt as an invisible presence. The train could now serve as a reflexive device for the cinema, a means for reflective self-examination. The cinema then, and throughout its varied histories, would return to this scene repeatedly.  

Terence Davies’ The House of Mirth  

Victor Erice’s The Spirit of the Beehive

Peter Tscherkattsky’s L’Arivee   

The perceptual experience of train travel in the 19th century offered several parallels to the cinema experience, an all too similar uncanny combining of movement and stillness that mirrored the mechanics of film. A steady rhythmic flickering of objects passing too close to a window that stood in for the flicker of the screen, especially in those early days. An invisible turning of cogs and wheels that mirrored the cinema’s own, rarely visible, cogs and wheels and the views from a train, which upon entering a tunnel for example, could suddenly shift from window to mirror, providing another essential analogy for on the one hand cinema’s immersive/realist capacity and the reflexive/reflective functions favoured by an emergent avant-garde. 

Henri Chomette Jeux des Reflets et de la Vitesse

Cinema history should never be conceived of as a straight line, it should instead be thought of a plurality and it is full of divergent paths and roads not taken, its progress was never predetermined. All of its histories sit on top of each other and intersect in unexpected and surprising ways, and the cinema’s forgotten pathways are frequently rediscovered and unearthed. The train provided the cinema with a subject and a means through which it could explore some of these divergent possibilities and the films included in this programme present a number of potentialities in this regard. Stan Brakhage’s Wonder Ring, a film full of reflective surfaces which subtly warp and alter our perception, was also an important document of impending obsolescence, recording a path through the city by a Third Avenue elevated train that was soon to be destroyed. Tscherkassky’s ‘found-footage’ film L’Arivee returns us directly to the Lumiere’s origin point, only here everything is visible, the scratches, pops and stabs of celluloid, even the ‘track’ along the side of the celluloid strip, an aspect of the film machine designed to only ever be heard and not seen. Eventually, after various manufactured collisions, the film jumps to a close-up and suddenly from the film (the medium) and the train (the machine) emerges Catherine Deneuve (‘the star’). 

Henri Chommette’s Jeux des Reflets et de la Vitesse (Games of Reflection and of Speed) also plays with reflective surfaces and superimposition, only here we are placed in the subjective position of the train, just as we were in the early ‘phantom ride’ films, we no longer watch the train we are the train, we internalise its processes. Chomette described it as a ‘pure cinema’, not images for images sake and a variety of techniques and operations are on display here, double exposure, negative printing, accelerated speeds, resulting in a ‘cinema of sensation’, freed from any of the bounds of representation. 

Ken Jacobs takes us on a similar journey working with a 1906 film and using an optical printer and split screen processes to disrupt and undermine any normative sense of space and time we might still retain. Donal O'Ceilleachair’s ‘single-frame’ film returns us to Oscar Fischinger’s ‘city symphony’ films collapsing a journey from Istanbul to Berlin, fourteen days, down to three breath-taking minutes. Finally Pip Chodorov with Faux Movements creates a sense of motion, of moving through space through what are often unexpected means, yet another ‘phantom ride’.   

This programme of films is the third to consider the train, others included James Benning’s farewell to the filmic medium RR and Sarah Turner’s attempt to update the train film for the digital age Perestroika. As Maximilian Le Cain’s comments acknowledge the train seemed to tie the cinema to a set of concerns inherited from the 19th Century. The degree to which these concerns can remain central to the moving-image culture of the twentieth century remains to be seen. There are also several other obsolescences on display here, most visibly that of the medium itself. The correlations between train and film outlined in these films and elsewhere will not necessarily continue into an age dominated by the digital image. In Tom Gunning’s essay on that early Lumiere screening of a train’s Arrival he reminds that early audiences were likely far more aware of what they were experiencing than we care to admit. These audiences were not astounded and astonished by the train that was apparently about to burst through the wall and tear them asunder, in fact it was something far more remarkable. These early audiences remained fully aware that what they were watching was ‘cinema’, early screenings often began with a still projected photographic image, an image which slowly burst into life, introducing moving-image, movement and animation, were there had previously only been stasis. It was all the possibilities that this image/these images contained that filled these audiences with awe and wonder, as hard as it may be for us to now grasp this was in and of itself enough and it is this distance that we might now sharpen ourselves to in comparing ourselves to those early audiences, to think otherwise would present us as the only naïve participants within this exchange. 

Daniel Fitzpatrick
Experimental Film Club

The Train, The Cinema is this month's presentation of the IFI & Experimental Film Club, and will screen on Wednesday, March 19th at 18.30. Tickets now on sale - BOOK NOW.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Adrian Wootton explains the background to his upcoming illustrated talk, The Rolling Stones on Screen 1963 - 2012, on March 4th

The Rolling Stones’ fame (some would say notoriety) and enduring popularity for 50+ years is inextricably linked, not just to releasing records and live performance but to their appearances on television and film. Just like the Beatles, the Stones capitalised on burgeoning opportunities of TV exposure in the UK and the US and honed their image and stage personae, not just in front of live audiences but within the context of television studios. 

The Rolling Stones on ABC in 1964 (by Terry O'Neill)

They also rapidly saw the potential of film to give them even greater exposure, although their more outlaw, maverick identity pushed them towards documentary and art movie, rather than the musical entertainment vehicles initially developed by, for example, the Beatles. This means that the story of the Stones on celluloid is fascinating, idiosyncratic and unsurprisingly, often controversial.

Gimme Shelter (1970)

As a huge admirer of the band and intrigued by their forays into both small and large screen, I want to trace that history to explore the stories behind the legendary appearances on things like The Ed Sullivan Show and the quirky and often shocking revelations given in films like Godard’s Sympathy for the Devil and the Mayles Brothers' Gimme Shelter. Thus, my talk whilst working through a chronological filmography, also describes the sometimes extraordinary circumstances of the different conditions that films got made (partly based on research and partly on conversations I have had with some of the people involved) and also hopefully reveals how the Stones were changed by how they were depicted on screen. 

Sympathy for the Devil (1968)

Nevertheless, the talk is both an exploration and a homage, with a plethora of clips and images that reaffirms just how great 'the Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World' can truly be.

Adrian Wootton
Chief Executive 
Film London and the British Film Commission

The Afternoon Talk, The Rolling Stones on Screen 1963 - 2012, will take place on Tuesday, March 4th at 16.00. Tickets €5 (on sale now).

Jean-Luc Godard's Sympathy for the Devil will screen directly after the Talk, at 18.30, as part of the IFI's Rock 'n' Roll season in March. Tickets are on sale now.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Kasandra O’Connell, Head of the IFI Irish Film Archive, talks about erotic films from the archives as we launch the first of three months of seasons dedicated to excess, presenting examples of how cinema has taken on sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. January focuses on sex on film.

Sex in the Archives
Films with erotic content are as old as the medium itself, not long after the Lumière Brothers’ first public screening of moving images in December 1895, French filmmaker Eugene Pirou produced Le Coucher de la mariee (1896) in which Louise Willy performed the first strip tease on screen. Even the well-respected Georges Méliès was in on the act, being one of the first filmmakers to present nudity on screen in Après le bal (1897) which he advertised in his film catalogue as being ideal for bachelor parties (Robinson, 1993). The silent era of film was a time of great experimentation and discovery for viewer and creator alike and the success of these early risqué films encouraged the creation, in parallel with the mainstream movie business, of a lesser known, but almost as prolific industry producing erotic one-reel films for private consumption.

Le Coucher de la mariee

Having discovered a lucrative market for this suggestive material, by the mid-noughties directors in France, Germany and the United States had progressed to making one-reel films that included live sex acts with prostitutes, which were shown at bachelor parties and in brothels. The earliest surviving examples of these explicit films are Argentina’s El Sartorio (1907) Germany’s Am Abend (1910) and the American stag movie A Free Ride (1915). These one-reels were often bought by wealthy private collectors, who in turn commissioned more erotic movies and so fuelled a secret industry. Collections of this nature can be found in most affluent countries with a tradition of filmmaking and surprisingly some of the largest collections exist in predominantly Roman Catholic nations such as Mexico, France, Spain and Austria (Swanson, 2005).

Après le bal

Amateur Erotica
The IFI Irish Film Archive collections, however, are not renowned for their scandalous content and unlike many other national film archives we have no home-made or semi-professional erotica lurking in our vaults. Of our amateur collections the most provocative material we hold is from the collection of Lord Desmond Leslie. Lord Leslie, whose family estate is at Glaslough, County Monaghan, was a novelist, filmmaker, composer, Spitfire pilot and spiritualist (Daily Telegraph, 2001). Leslie was known as a bit of a philanderer and his love of women certainly translates into his filmmaking activities. One his films, Sally, features a kittenish young lady whom Lord Leslie met on a skiing holiday in 1955. He films her in various stages of playful undress while she strikes cheesecake glamour poses and the sequence finishes with her wearing nothing but a see through nightdress. The film while certainly suggestive could hardly be described as more than mildly erotic.

In the main the only time we encounter objections regarding the sexual content of films in our collection is when they are exhibited in foreign territories. The Archive sends Irish films to venues all around the world and we have to be mindful of the mores and restrictions in each country. In 2004, a significant cultural festival called ‘China Ireland’ proved very difficult to programme with China’s strict censorship laws precluding almost every modern Irish film from being shown. Things were taken to the extreme when a festival print of When Brendan Met Trudy was unceremoniously relieved of its sex scenes in Kuala Lumpar. The projectionist physically cut them out of the film and they had to be painstakingly re-inserted by Archive staff when the print returned from its travels. Occurrences such as these are uncommon, with little of the material in our collections giving cause for moral outrage, however our collection does contain two films that on their release failed to receive certificates from the Film Censor of the day. 

She Didn’t Say No
In 2001 the Irish Film Archive acquired a print of She Didn’t Say No (1958) thanks to research of American Academic Ann Butler. Based on Fermoy-born Una Troy's novel, We Are Seven, the film depicts the lives of the Monaghan family, six children and their unmarried mother Bridget, in the town of Doon, County Waterford. The children's various fathers are local men - who attempt to find a way to rid the town of their embarrassment.  

Although She Didn't Say No was scheduled to be produced in Ireland, permission was refused just weeks before shooting was due to begin and production was moved to Cornwall and Elstree Studios in the UK. According to Ann Butler, who under took extensive research into the making of the film while researching a biography about Troy, the film is disconcertingly based on a true story. In reality Moll McCarthy from County Tipperary was denounced by the local parish priest for fathering children by a variety of men and accused in court of being an immoral mother. Although she kept her children, her home was burned to the ground, leaving her fighting for compensation for many years. She was murdered in 1940 allegedly by Harry Gleeson, who was believed to be the father of her final child. The case caused great controversy at the time, with many believing that Gleeson, who was eventually hanged, had been wrongly accused.

The furore that occurred when the film received its first outing at the 1958 Brussels World Film Festival resulted in headlines denouncing the film as immoral and a slur against the Irish. The Irish Department of External Affairs called for it to be banned and due to this media and government outrage the film was never submitted to the Irish censor. The unconventional Monaghan family circumstances aside, the film itself is an enjoyable piece of whimsy and one wonders if the strength of feeling that prevented it being made or released in Ireland would have been so strong if it had not been based on such a controversial true case.

Lee Dunne
Several of the more controversial films in the Archive collections are adaptations of works by the Dublin author Lee Dunne, who has been described as ‘the most banned author in Ireland’ and deposited in the Archive by American/Irish film collector, Paul Balbirnie.

Lee Dunne

I Can’t I Can’t..., or Wedding Night as it was called in the USA, is a curious drama that is very much of its time (it screens at the IFI on January 22nd). It features popular British stars of the day Denis Waterman and Tessa Wyatt as a newly married Catholic couple unable to consummate their marriage due to the young wife’s fear of sex, which is a result of her mother dying in child birth on her own wedding day. The inclusion of topics that were generally off limits to Irish audiences, such as birth control, miscarriage and the sexual obligations of women within marriage, resulted in this film not being screened in Ireland after the year of its release until 2011, when the IFI Irish Film Archive accepted a print from Paul Balbirnie and screened the film as part of the IFI’s annual Open Day programme.

I Can't I Can't...

Paddy, Lee Dunne’s film adaptation of his controversial book Goodbye to the Hill was banned by the Irish censor due to its sexual frankness. As with I Can’t I Can’t... a copy of the film  was found in America by film collector Paul Balbirnie and it was added to the IFI Irish Film Archive collection. The risqué story depicts Abbey actor Des Cave as a sort of ‘Irish Alfie’ who spends most of his time seducing a succession of women around Dublin. No-strings sexual exploits including three-in-a-bed antics, whips and paid afternoon romps with Maureen Toal are the order of the day. Its carefree depiction of sex and on-screen nudity resulted in Paddy being refused a screening certificate when it was submitted to the Censor in 1970.


On acquiring copies of these films the Archive submitted them to the current Censor John Kelleher in order to allow them to be include in the Archive’s programme of screenings at the IFI. In 2006, Paddy was able to receive its Irish premiere when the Irish Film Censor’s office issued the film with a 12A rating, while commenting that ‘by today’s standards it is charmingly old–fashioned’ and that ‘it was banned in a different era, a very different time’ (Sunday Independent). She Didn’t Say No was presented with a PG rating in 2003 allowing it to be legitimately screened for the first time in four decades - surely a sign of changing Irish attitudes to sex on film. 

Kasandra O’Connell
Head of the IFI Irish Film Archive

Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll is a three-month season dedicated to examining how cinema has taken on sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. January focuses on sex on film.

I Can't I Can't... will show at the IFI at 18.30 on January 22nd as part of From the Vaults, our monthly screenings from the IFI Irish Film Archive.

This article was originally published in Film Ireland.

Bibliography and further reading/viewing
Georges Méliès: Father of Film Fantasy - David Robinson (London: BFI/MOMI, 1993) 

Good Old Naughty Days - Polisson et Galipettes - DVD

Home Viewing: Pornography and Amateur Film Collections, A Case Study Dwight Swanson, 
The Moving Image - Volume 5, Number 2, University of Minnesota Press - 2005

Pornography - The Secret History of Civilisation - Marilyn Milgrom, Channel 4 Press, 2001

Leslie Obituary - Daily Telegraph -22/11/2001

Paddy Rides Again and Again and Again - Sunday Independent - 13/8/2006

Material relating to the She Didn’t Say No outcry can be found in the paper collection of the IFI Irish Film Archive, the originals are in the National Archives and National Library

Thanks to Ann Butler for her help in finding She Didn’t Say No and uncovering its fascinating history

Monday, December 9, 2013

IFI Head of Programming Michael Hayden discusses the career of Bruce Dern to coincide with a focus on his work and his new film, Nebraska

In The Wild Angels (1966), Roger Corman’s brash precursor to Easy Rider, Bruce Dern plays a character called Loser, a rebellious biker in a gang of swastika sporting Hells Angels. He’s dead inside the first 30 minutes of the film, a victim of The Man, of course. When Loser’s funeral becomes an anarchic happening inside a church, his corpse is dragged out of its coffin and passed around the party like a leather jacketed rag doll, fags and booze put in its mouth. It is some credit to Dern that he can command a screen he shares with Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra while playing dead meat.

(The Driver)

Much of the press that has greeted Dern’s great performance in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska has focussed on how underrated he has been as an actor, and it’s true that the only significant recognition he has had prior to the Best Actor award at Cannes this year, a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for Coming Home in 1979, seems meagre reward for a career as enduring and distinctive as his. It’s likely this has something to do with the roles that he’s most famous for, characters characterised as “wackos and sickos” by David Letterman in an interview, more poetically described by Dern himself as guys who “live just beyond where the buses run”, though neither description does justice to the variety of his roles he has taken. He has been cowboys, cops and criminals, soldiers and swindlers, straight men and fall guys. Dern appeared in Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964), though it was in TV and with Roger Corman’s low budget gems where he really cut his chops, emerging from the Corman stable alongside the likes of Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson into a cynical 1970s Hollywood and a generation of filmmakers who were far from happy with the status quo. He worked with Nicholson on Drive, He Said (1971) and The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), and is particularly brilliant as the bunco artist failing to convince his brother to come in on a dodgy deal in the later of these two BBS productions. Silent Running (1972) became a platform for cult hero worship rather than further leading roles, and he became defined as a character actor, playing opposite the genuine movie stars of the period; Nicholson, Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby (1974), Ryan O’Neal in The Driver (1978). Coming Home and the Oscar nomination were expected to be another stepping stone to bigger roles, and while these never materialised, he never stopped working, and by the 1990s, a younger generation of filmmakers were casting him with due reverence. His performance in James Foley’s underrated Jim Thompson adaptation After Dark, My Sweet (1990) is pitch perfect, sleazy and outsmarted, a character less clever than he thinks he is; playing an alcoholic vet willing to give serial killer Aileen Wuornos (as portrayed by Charlize Theron) the time of day in Patty Jenkins’ Monster (2003), he emerges from the film as its one unambiguously sympathetic character; and he’s along for the ride in Quentin Tarantino’s slavery romp Django Unchained (2012).

(The King of Marvin Gardens)

Tarantino recently referred to Dern as a “national treasure”, and his appearance in two of the year’s key releases, as well as all the seasonal awards buzz around Nebraska, give that claim credibility. Notoriously, Dern was the only actor to have killed John Wayne on screen, shooting Wayne in the back in The Cowboys (1972). After that film, Dern received death threats. It seems that enough time has passed and now Hollywood can forgive him for messing with The Duke.


Michael Hayden
IFI Head of Programming

A focus on Bruce Dern's career runs at the IFI from December 14th to 22nd. His latest film, Nebraska (directed by Alexander Payne) is currently showing.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Three generations of Lithuanian Cinema during the IFI Lithuanian Film Focus

Santa Lingevičiūtė, Artistic Director of the Vilnius International Film Festival, talks about three generations of Lithuanian cinema ahead of the IFI Lithuanian Film Focus (Dec 6th – 8th)

Gytis Lukšas is one of the last of the Mohicans of the so-called ‘golden’ generation of Lithuanian cinema. He is a jack of all trades: director, screenwriter, chairman of the Lithuanian Association of Cinematographers, and member of Culture and Art Council. His films, Autumn of My Childhood (Mano vaikystės ruduo, 1977), Summer Ends in Autumn (Vasara baigiasi rudenį, 1981), and English Waltz (Anglų valsas, 1982), are considered his best and already belong to the Lithuanian classics archive. Lukšas is one of those directors who perceived the cinematic potential of Lithuanian literature therefore most of his films are adaptations. Very often he questions the concept of morality; his films are very intimate and this intimacy forces the spectator to seek connections with one’s biography. Lukšas‘s cinema is a rare example of unity: music supplements the image or acting, or vice versa. His latest film Vortex (Duburys) is an adaptation of a novel written by Romualdas Granauskas, the winner of the Lithuanian National Prize. It is traditional, black-and-white drama where the relationship between people are watched very closely and attentively. As Lukšas himself put it “it is not simply a story of one man’s life, but also of my own generation.”

Šarūnas Bartas is one the most internationally acclaimed Lithuanian film directors, whose career started in the early ‘90s. As most film people of the former Soviet Union, Bartas graduated from the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography, aka VGIK. During Soviet times VGIK was considered as one of the top film schools. Šarūnas Bartas gained international recognition for his first feature-length film Three Days (1991), which was awarded the prize of the Ecumenical Jury and Special Mention of FIPRESCI in Berlinale in 1992. This festival was a major breakthrough for the director. His following films were also screened in such A-class film festivals as Berlinale, Cannes (Un Certain Regard Section), Rotterdam, Karlovy Vary, Locarno, London etc. Bartas is a true auteur who rejects traditional narrative. All his films are of loose structure, minimalistic, raising philosophical questions. Bartas’ oeuvre is little known and analysed in Lithuania, but he has a lot of fans outside his homeland. In his latest film Eastern Drift the director tries a genre of classic crime film with some deviations: it is a mixture of peculiar existential drama with stylistics of action film and film noir. Bartas uses his trademark – a non-linear montage. The spectator is transferred to the magical world of the film, leaving one’s space of mundane existence.

Kristina Buožytė represents the young generation of Lithuanian filmmakers. She is probalby most hard working and much more mature in terms of filmmaking among her contemporaries. She has made two feature-length films and both achieved wide international recognition. Buožytė already has a distinctive style. She is interested in the confrontation of double-sided reality. Characters of her films are tortured and betrayed by their own thoughts. Kristina Buožytė is like a surgeon who dissects human character and consciousness with the camera. The subject of examination of inner world is supplemented with subtle feminist nuances. Her first film The Collectress (Kolekcionierė, 2008) was the antithesis of poetic realism, so popular in Lithuanian cinema. Her latest film Vanishing Waves (Aurora) is called a fantastic-psychological-erotic techno-thriller. One can recognise references to Stanley Kubrick, Andrei Tarkovsky and David Lynch but without feeling plagiaristic. Buožytė professionally uses a method of appropriation so popular in contemporary art.

Santa Lingevičiūtė

The IFI Lithuanian Film Focus runs at the IFI from December 6th to 8th. Director Kristina Buožytė will attend the screening of Vanishing Waves on December 6th and take part in a Q&A.