Tuesday, January 31, 2012

And the Oscar goes to... the IFI!

It’s that time of year again, Oscars season is in full swing, and film lovers eagerly anticipate February 26th. Irish films have traditionally done well at the Academy Awards, with past nominees and winners including The Crying Game, My Left Foot, Once, Give Up Your Aul Sins and The Secret of Kells. This year Ireland is well represented once again with nominations for Albert Nobbs, Pentecost and The Shore.

The IFI Irish Film Archive is honoured to hold the Oscar statuette awarded to one of the previous Irish winners, renowned set designer Josie MacAvin. Although the Archive’s collection is mainly comprised of more traditional film-related materials (film, tape, dvd, stills, posters and documents) it also contains some unusual and unexpected items including Kevin Costner’s boots, an original poster from the set of Interview with a Vampire, and an Emmy to go with our Academy Award.

Josie MacAvin (1919-2005) had previously been nominated for two Oscars for her work on Tom Jones (1963) and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965), before her win for Out of Africa in 1986 with co-nominee Stephen B. Grimes. MacAvin had a long and distinguished career as a set designer, and worked on Irish productions including  Ryan’s Daughter (1970), Educating Rita (1983), The Field (1990) and Michael Collins (1996) to name just a few.

The Emmy award in the Archive was also won by Josie MacAvin in 1995 for her work on the television series Scarlett , making her the first Irish person to win both an Oscar and an Emmy.

IFI Librarian Rebecca Grant with the Oscar

The Oscar statuette is a beautiful object, and while it may not be obvious from watching the Oscars ceremony and its sometimes lengthy speeches, it’s very heavy. The statue weighs in at 8.5 lb (3.85 kg) and is made of an alloy called Britannium which is gold-plated, and stands on an inscribed metal base. While the Archive is of course very lucky that such a prestigious item was deposited with us, the Oscar isn’t something which can ever be sold for profit by the recipient. Oscars won after 1950 cannot be sold by the winner or their heirs without being offered to the Academy for the price of $1.

When Josie MacAvin donated her Oscar and Emmy statues in 1992, she also gave the Archive an extensive document collection which includes photographs, production stills, transparencies and sketches for films which MacAvin was involved with, including Ryan’s Daughter, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Out of Africa, A Man for All Seasons, Shake Hands with the Devil, This is Dublin and  W. B. Yeats: Poetry 1910 – 1939.

Researchers are welcome to make an appointment to view Josie MacAvin’s collection, or any of the other document collections in the Archive which have been donated by filmmakers including Neil Jordan, Jim Sheridan, Pat Murphy and Tiernan MacBride.

Rebecca Grant
IFI Librarian

  • You can learn more about the IFI Irish Film Archive’s paper collections
  • To make an appointment to visit the Archive, email library@irishfilm.ie
  • The 84th Academy Awards Gala will take place on February 26th from 11.30pm Irish time. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

February at the IFI

Welcome to the IFI’s February programme and a busy month of great new releases and old favourites.  

Two great directors, Polanski and Cronenberg, prove they are still at the top of their game with the release of Carnage and A Dangerous Method respectively. Good news for Michael Fassbender’s ever increasing fan base as February means another chance to see him on screen as he delivers yet another stunning performance as Carl Jung in Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method.

Roman Polanski's Carnage

The IFI regularly brings you the opportunity to experience cinema classics on the big screen and there is a bumper crop in February. As a timely follow-on to our celebration of the Prix Jean Vigo as part of the 2011 IFI French Film Festival we are delighted to be showing a newly restored L’Atalante – the masterwork of Vigo’s short but very influential career. Some of you may have been lucky enough to attend the screening in November which was introduced by Jean Vigo’s daughter Luce; it is an extraordinary film not to be missed. February also sees the re-release in digital cinema format of Casablanca and what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by revisiting this ultimate classic in all its cinematic glory.

Casablanca - 70th Anniversary Trailer 

February is the month of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival which takes place citywide from the 16th to 26th with a packed programme of screenings and special events connecting films from all over the world. We are delighted to be collaborating with JDIFF again with two very special programmes. Andrew Kötting is one of the U.K.’s most distinctive and inspiring experimental film makers. His work as an artist is not defined by any discipline and encompasses sound art, installation pieces, avant-garde theatre, short films, artists' books and full-length features. The very individual nature of his film work has led him to be described as the heir to English dissidents such as Derek Jarman and Peter Greenaway, and his claim that films “should show signs of the berserk or slightly psychotic, an attempt to reflect the human condition” may give you a flavour of what to expect. Kötting will be joining us for a discussion with GradCAM fellow Martin McCabe following screenings of his new film This Our Still Life and his critically-acclaimed debut feature Gallivant.

Andrew Kötting in This Is Our Still Life

We are also delighted to be screening films by the prolific amateur Derry filmmaker Terence McDonald for the first time, as part of the JDIFF Out of the Past programme, which brings treasures from international film archives to Dublin. The Terence McDonald film collection, part of the IFI Irish Film Archive, is an extraordinary body of work that defies any previously held perceptions of amateur filmmakers. Critically acclaimed at the time, it has rarely been seen in public since, despite the influence McDonald’s work has had on subsequent Northern Irish directors such as John T. Davis.

From Casablanca to rare Archive films – it is a diverse and very busy month at the IFI and we hope you enjoy it!

Sarah Glennie

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Is There Anybody Out There?

The first fatalities of cinema’s digital metamorphosis are dropping all around the world. From Deli to Dublin, Hollywood to Helsinki, projectionists are being rubbed out, en masse. This has not come as a surprise to us, as this digital revolution has been on our particular horizon for at least a decade. Most multiplexes you now visit are automated. There is nobody anymore watching your backs from above. Sure, somebody will (eventually) come running should you have cause to complain, but you are ultimately at the mercy of the IT specialist and his firmware.

The IFI  is a particular exception. The nature of an institute and archive is that we have to be able to facilitate all formats. This includes digital in all its forms, such as Digibeta, DVD, Bluray and DCP. And indeed film, whether it be 8, 16, 35 or 70mm. Such places throughout the globe will become the last talent pool for our particular skill set. 

So, then, it is a skill, but is it art? Projectionists often talk about film the way sailors talk about the sea, as an unpredictable heartbreaker you could easily drown in. Every one of us have war stories to share and scars to show. But it’s not just about the skill:  it’s the caring. If it is an art, I think that’s where it lies.  Projectionisim may be my job, but I love cinema, and I endeavour to bring a personal touch whenever possible. How is that possible?All you’re doing is sticking on the movie. 

Well, a recent example of this would the The Artist. Our programme begins with the screen opening to full size to show you the trailer for War Horse in Cinemascope (I think we are the only cinema in Dublin that tries to run trailers in their proper format. It’s not always possible to run them this way, for technical reasons, but ideally there really should be no black bars on movie screens). The lens on the projector changes, our masking closes halfway for the obligatory adverts and remaining trailers. In The Artist’s case, we have a surprise, when the masking closes further to the film’s original aspect ratio there’s Casablanca: a brand new glorious preview of the forthcoming 70th anniversary re-release. Then, the lights dim completely, the volume rises and our feature begins...

All of the above is done by hand. As is every show in all our screens. We may not get it perfect each time, but know this: there is still somebody up there watching over you, and they love cinema just as much as you do.

Paul Markey
IFI Projectionist

Friday, January 13, 2012

Guest blog: THE ARTIST

The Artist is not so much a silent film as a sound film that keeps its mouth shut. We accept that this is a choice, a gimmick, a deliberate discipline, because we are made aware of this self-limitation early on and at several key moments in the film when the ‘sound barrier’ is violated. It’s a masterful decision. Because director Michel Hazanavicius draws our attention to this vow of silence, the film opens up for a contemporary audience. We are seduced. We don’t need to know that the story is historically well researched. 

Its story of a male and female star whose careers move in opposite directions with the arrival of sound resembles that of John Gilbert and Greta Garbo. (When the great Swedish actress appeared in sound films in 1930 it gave rise to one of the great PR headlines in film history: ‘Garbo Talks!’). We don’t need to recognise its parallels and intersections with other great Hollywood treatments of its setting and themes: A Star is Born (1937, 1954), Sunset Boulevard (1950), Singin’ in the Rain (1952). We don’t need to know that this homage to American film’s Golden Age is, in fact, largely the creative product of a French cast and crew. What was essential about silent film, the human face, is here the primary point of engagement that draws us in, involves us deeply in a story about beautiful strangers and allows us, ultimately, to experience why silent film, before the Babel of sound, so quickly and comprehensively conquered the world as the art form of the masses. 

Watching The Artist, we encounter cinema as those early audiences did and realise that, without dialogue, we enter more fully into the experience. Asking what just happened is meaningless. But the film’s effect is not derived from mere nostalgia. It is also a timely fable on a modern topic: human obsolescence by technology. In the film, the arrival of sound almost fatally undermines George Valentin’s status and success, but it might as well be automation, downsizing or outsourcing. This is no coincidence. 

Silent film (particular in the period in which The Artist is set) very often sought out universal themes, or more particularly themes that paradoxically questioned the modernity of which it was such a glowing emblem of. You’ll find similar themes in F. W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh (1924), King Vidor’s The Crowd (1928) or Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) all masterpieces by silent-era artists, but only one of whom made the successful transition to sound.

Tony Tracy

The Artist runs at the IFI from January 6th - 26th. For more information and bookings, visit www.ifi.ie.

Due to phenomenal demand an extra late-night screening of The Artist will take place at 11pm on Friday 13th January at the IFI. For more information and bookings, contact the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or book online [here].

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

On Spielberg, Sinyard and EMPIRE OF THE SUN

There are several reasons to celebrate the Irish Film Institute’s season of selected works by Steven Spielberg, programmed to coincide with the release of War Horse

Steven Spielberg on the set of War Horse

First and foremost there are the films themselves, back on a big screen where they truly belong: the IFI season takes in a quartet of his most celebrated works — Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan as well as a lesser-seen Spielberg that serves as a perfect companion piece to War Horse, his 1987 adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s WWII memoir Empire of the Sun.

War Horse

Secondly, any opportunity to invite renowned author and academic Neil Sinyard to Dublin is a welcome one. Neil will give a talk at the IFI this Saturday at 3.10p.m., discussing Spielberg’s career to date with a particular emphasis on the titles screening in this season. His illustrated talk on Woody Allen was a highlight of last year’s IFI events, and Neil’s 1987 tome The Films of Steven Spielberg remains a seminal work, one we can only hope he plans to someday update. We’ll be cornering him on that one.


Despite continued commercial success, Spielberg’s work has generated considerable derision over the last four decades. Critics in particular continue to take issue with his endeavors in ‘serious’ filmmaking and are already sharpening their knives in anticipation of next year’s biopic of Abraham Lincoln, currently filming with Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role. It often appears that he’s damned for his ambitions to flex his artistic muscles and doomed to disappoint admirers of his iconic ’70s and ’80s classics, when eagerly anticipated returns to popcorn moviemaking like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull fall flat.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

At the same time, no other filmmaker casts as tall a shadow over modern cinema: Spielberg didn’t just create a body of work, he crafted a language — one winningly channeled by J.J. Abrams in his loving homage Super 8. As mogul and super-producer, he’s transformed the cinema beyond recognition, while retaining a boyish enthusiasm for a medium he still adores. When firing on all cylinders, and fully engaged by his source material, few filmmakers can conjure sheer cinematic magic like Spielberg still can. Longtime admirers revelled in his recent animated debut, Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, an unfairly maligned romp which culminated in an extraordinary — and gleefully extended — chase sequence that proved beyond question that he’s still got game.

Empire of the Sun

This iconic filmography still contains some unheralded gems, which is why we strongly recommend that you avail of the rare opportunity to catch 1987’s Empire of the Sun, presented at the IFI in glorious large-format 70mm. Featuring a stunning performance from a young Christian Bale — no other filmmaker directs children like Spielberg — this tale of a young boy’s coming of age in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp is a truly extraordinary and grown-up work, and to this day a sorely underappreciated one. Arguably, it’s Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece.

Derek O’Connor

For further details on the Steven Spielberg season, click HERE.

To celebrate the opening of War Horse at the IFI from Fri Jan 13th, we are delighted to offer a copy of the original novel on which the film is based to 5 lucky people! Simply vote for your favourite Spielberg movie in our Facebook poll before 11am on 13th Jan to be in with a chance of winning. Winners will be chosen at random after the poll closes. Courtesy of The Walt Disney Company, Ireland.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Silent Scores – Scores of Silents

The Artist isn’t the only silent masterpiece to screen in IFI this week. On Monday, January 9th we launch a new series of must-see cinema from the IFI Irish Film Archive with Come On Over  – an absolute cracker made in the original silent era in 1922.  

The film which we acquired recently from our friends at MoMA, New York, is a lively comedy about a young man who emigrates from a thatched cottage in the bucolic backwater of Lisdoonvarna to a rooming house in the bustling metroplis of New York leaving behind his beloved, Moyna, and his clay-pipe-smoking mother. Full of romantic misunderstanding and merry japes and peopled with society dames and drunks and smiling Irish cops, Come On Over features a brilliant cast of Irish and Irish American players including the dashing Ralph Graves, the indomitable ingénue Colleen Moore, and the wonderful comedienne Cork-born Kate Price. 

It’s a joy from start to finish, not least for the inter-titles written in a bizarre Oirish brogue. Some of my favourites include “But, Shane darlin’, you’re making me your widdy before you make me your wife!”; “It’s my little Moyna or her fetch – Only your voice is taller than it once was”; “It’s yourself that’s had the use of the May dew on her cheeks” and there’s lots more where those came from.

Adding to the entertainment and creating a live musical soundtrack will be the clever musical underscoring by pianist, Morgan Cooke and the lively jigs of piper Maitiú O Caiseide.

Sunniva O'Flynn
IFI Curator

All proceeds go to the IFI Irish Film Archive Preservation Fund
For more information on Monthly Must-See Cinema and Come on Over, please visit www.ifi.ie or call the IFI Box Office on 01-679 3477.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

January at the IFI

Happy New Year and welcome to the start of the IFI’s 20th anniversary celebrations!

2012 is an exciting year for the IFI as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the IFI the film centre and IFI Irish Film Archive being in Temple Bar. During that time the IFI has played a very important part in the lives of generations of film lovers and with the support of a very loyal audience, has grown to being one of Ireland’s busiest and most relevant cultural organisations. We look forward to celebrating 20 years of great film with you over the course of the year.

Come On Over

As part of our 20th anniversary celebrations we are starting a new monthly programme of great films from the IFI Irish Film Archive. We are beginning on January 9th with one of our newest acquisitions, Come on Over, a 1922 silent film that we have brought back to Ireland with the help of the Film Department of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. With live musical accompaniment this is not to be missed and all proceeds from the screening will go towards the IFI Irish Film Archive Preservation Fund.

War Horse

There must be few amongst us that haven’t been gripped at some point by Steven Spielberg’s extraordinary power as a story-teller. To mark the release of his new film War Horse, we are showing a small selection of his films, focusing on two of his recurrent themes: war and childhood. Spanning from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Schindler’s List, it is a great chance to see some old favourites on the big screen (and on 70mm) and to re-evaluate the work of one of the most successful and popular film directors of all time. Esteemed film critic and writer, Professor Neil Sinyard will be giving an illustrated lecture on January 14th about the extraordinary legacy of Spielberg’s career.

Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender on the set of Shame

Steve McQueen made an extraordinary transition from film artist to feature director with Hunger in 2009 and his second film, Shame, fully delivers on all the promise of that debut. His collaboration with Michael Fassbender continues with another staggering performance by this very, very talented actor. The result is an extremely powerful and compelling film that will stay with you long after it finishes, if only for the mastery of the filmmaking. It opens on January 13th but there will be a special preview on January 10th with a live satellite Q&A with Steve McQueen.

The Artist

Michel Hazanavicius’ ‘silent’ film The Artist was the unexpected hit at Cannes in 2011 and has received a host of Golden Globe nominations and is being hotly tipped for a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards. It captures all the glamour, passion and drama of Hollywood’s silent era and offers respite from what may be a less than glamorous 2012!

It’s cold outside so what better place to be than in the cinema… so come along and lose yourself in these and some of the other wonderful films that we have screening this month!

Sarah Glennie

For more information on the IFI Irish Film Archive Preservation Fund, please visit our website http://www.ifi.ie/support/donations/.