Tuesday, February 28, 2012

March at the IFI

Welcome to the IFI’s March programme and a truly global selection of films that spans Iran, Algeria, Turkey, Austria and Russia as well as a special profile of some outstanding home-grown talent.


In recent years Fastnet Films has emerged as one of Ireland’s most ambitious and dynamic production companies, working with some of this country’s most talented young filmmakers as well as linking Dublin to Europe through inventive co-productions. This month sees the release of its latest production, The Other Side of Sleep, which was selected for the prestigious Directors’ Fortnight programme at Cannes. We are marking this great achievement with a short season of some of the many highlights from Fastnet’s catalogue. We are delighted to be joined during the season by special guests Jim Sheridan, Stephen Rea, Lance Daly, Rebecca Daly and Robert Flanagan, as well as producers Macdara Kelleher and Morgan Bushe. The season and surrounding events offer a fascinating insight into what it takes to build an international production company in Dublin from the perspective of some of the leading figures in Irish film.

The Other Side Of Sleep

The observant amongst you will notice two new additions to our monthly programme. Following on from the success of our monthly film club, The Critical Take, we are introducing Afternoon Talks, an informal programme of free talks by IFI staff that offers a chance for cinema lovers to delve further into aspects of our programme, whether it’s a new release, a monthly season, a festival or a special event. We kick off this month with a fascinating talk by IFI Curator Sunniva O’Flynn about Ireland’s extraordinary history of priests and film which inspired Stella Days, and is central to the IFI’s own rather unique history. 

Stella Days

You will also notice amongst our new releases a new programmer's recommendation of a film that should not be missed. We are aware that we bring you so many new features every month and, as much as you would like to see everything, life intervenes and this is not always possible!  Our IFI programmers, who have the luxury of seeing them all, are best placed to give you tip-offs on films that you will really regret missing. This month they have selected Once Upon a Time in Anatolia which opens on March 16th.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

It was with great sadness that we learnt of the death of David Kelly, one of Ireland’s best-loved and finest actors. To international audiences, he embodied a quintessential Irish rogue – a humorous, work-shy scoundrel. To Irish audiences he was admired more perhaps for his fine acting talent (as he demonstrated as Rashers Tierney in Strumpet City) and it was a great joy to watch new audiences experience his warmth and wit as the grandfather in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He was a great friend of the Irish Film Institute and we are honoured to dedicate our special IFI Irish Film Archive St. Patrick’s Day screening of QuackserFortune to his memory.

Sarah Glennie

For more information, please contact the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or visit www.ifi.ie

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Curious Case of Laura

Though frequently described as a “classic film noir”, Otto Preminger’s Laura is, in fact, a strange and almost unclassifiable hybrid: part whodunit, part high society melodrama, part police procedural – all blended together with just a dash of necrophiliac obsession to keep things interesting. 

While various commentators have devoted considerable attention to the latter theme, it must be noted, on re-watching the film, that it is not perhaps quite so obvious as might be supposed; indeed, for most of the story prior to the sudden return of Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney), Lieutenant McPherson (Dana Andrews) is seen doing nothing more than a conscientious detective might be expected to do in investigating a victim’s past: asking uncomfortable questions, poking through drawers, reading private correspondence, and so on. Various characters, such as Laura’s maid, may object to his methods, but the viewer is unlikely to discern anything unusual, never mind abnormal, in his approach. As he puts it himself, “Murder victims have no claim to privacy.”

Even the famous scene in which McPherson is alone in Laura’s flat at night and begins searching through her bedroom, sniffing her perfume and opening her wardrobe, could be interpreted as nothing more than a depiction of his mounting frustration with the case and his failure to construct a convincing mental portrait of Laura Hunt. It is only when Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) arrives that the suggestion of an unhealthy obsession is made explicit; “You’d better watch out, McPherson, or you’ll end up in a psychiatric ward. I don’t think they’ve ever had a patient who fell in love with a corpse.” Rather regrettably, however, this scene is followed almost immediately by Laura’s return, which abruptly brings McPherson back to a reality in which he will eventually be able to express his (now perfectly normal) desires openly, while also allowing the disturbing implications of his fixation on a “dead” woman to be conveniently dropped.

Such delicacy in the matter of obsession seems rather out-of-place in a film which otherwise goes to great lengths to emphasise the degeneracy of its high society milieu, and one rather doubts whether other leading practitioners of what would become known as film noir (for example, Fritz Lang or Robert Siodmak) would have been quite so restrained in exploring the more morbid aspects of the material. Indeed, it is interesting to learn that producer Darryl F. Zanuck felt that McPherson’s obsession should be more strongly conveyed in visual terms, proposing a scene in which the detective, while watching a newsreel, “sees” the real-life female subjects of the film repeatedly dissolving into images of Laura. It is also curious that Preminger chose to avoid the obvious, but still – one would have thought – effective intercutting of close-ups of McPherson and the painting of Laura in order to connect him more strongly with the object of his fascination.

That noted, however, one can only be grateful that another of Zanuck’s proposals was also discarded, namely a final scene in which “everything turns out to be a dream” – a horrible Hollywood compromise ending imposed on both Lang’s The Woman in the Window (like Laura, also made in 1944 and featuring a protagonist spellbound by a woman’s portrait) and Siodmak’s The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945). As with those two films, Preminger’s Laura can be seen as one of the first, tentative steps towards the full-blown film noir style that would emerge shortly thereafter, and to which Preminger, aided and abetted by both Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney, would contribute so strongly, with Fallen Angel (1945), Whirlpool (1949), and Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950). And although Laura itself may not, on close inspection, be entirely deserving of its high reputation, it nonetheless remains a fascinating, if flawed, excursion into the dark side.

John Exshaw 

Laura continues exclusively at the IFI until Thursday, March 1st. For more information and bookings, contact our Box Office on 01 679 3477 or book online [here].

Watch the film trailer here:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Waiting for Margaret

While promoting The Iron Lady in Berlin earlier this month, Oscar hot ticket Meryl Streep bemoaned the shortcomings of the awards season and its lamentable tendency to ultimately focus upon a very narrow field of contenders – a damn shame, it should be noted, in a truly standout year for female performances. One turn in particular impressed Streep: "Anna Paquin made a film called Margaret that very few people have seen. In any other year, it would have won every single award".

We’re with Meryl on this one: Paquin’s incandescent performance in Margaret (continueas exclusively at the IFI until March 8th) is indeed something truly remarkable to behold - the finest screen work to date from a performer who, lest we forget, bagged a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, aged eleven, for her film debut in Jane Campion’s The Piano. As for the film itself, well, it’s a Manhattan-based coming-of-age tale, positively infused to the core with post-9/11 anxiety, not to mention one of the most intriguing American movies of recent years, an ambitious work that frequently flirts with disaster, and emerges a masterpiece. It demands a second viewing. And possibly another after that.

There’s a very good reason, however, that Margaret remains a movie that, as Meryl puts it, ‘very few people have seen’ – its release is sorely belated, to say the least. Writer and director Kenneth Lonergan’s film, his eagerly anticipated second feature following the sublime You Can Count On Me, was shot in 2005 and originally scheduled to premiere in 2007: a seemingly irreconcilable difference of opinion between Lonergan and Fox Searchlight Pictures, who financed the picture, resulted in a legal stand-off that dragged on for some years, and at various points threatened to abort its release entirely. An impasse has been reached, and Margaret, we’re delighted to note, screens at the IFI for a limited period from February 24th. We heartily recommend that you avail of the welcome opportunity to catch it on the big screen.

The main source of contention was reportedly the film’s running time: Fox insisted upon a running time of no longer than 150 minutes, while the filmmaker’s preferred cut ran closer to three hours. It’s telling that the version that Irish cinemagoers will finally see this month, although officially endorsed by Kenneth Lonergan, runs exactly 150 minutes on the nose. It’s been suggested that this cut was supervised by Martin Scorsese, for whom Lonergan penned Gangs Of New York – even in a compromised form, Margaret is an extraordinary work, albeit one that leaves the tantalising prospect of a Director’s Cut further down the line. Tales of creative disputes between studios and filmmakers – usually resulting in the martyrdom of the misunderstood mad genius behind the camera – are as old as Hollywood itself, from Erich Von Stroheim’s Greed to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. In this case, it’s the same old story: Fox gave Margaret a perfunctory run in a few major US cities, with a minimum of publicity, until a web-based grass roots campaign, coupled with the protests of several noteworthy US critics (themselves an endangered species these days), kick-started a movement, of sorts; slowly, steadily, the film continues to accumulate fervent champions, your humble correspondent included.

Matt Damon and Anna Paquin in Margaret

As it stands, Margaret already offers an intriguing time capsule of sorts, capturing as it does an era when serious-minded American artists struggled to articulate the profound existential dread infusing the culture following the events of 9/11. It also captures a cast who have already subjected themselves to the merciless vicissitudes of time, from Paquin – better known these days as the sultry Sookie Stackhouse in small-screen smash True Blood – to co-star Matt Damon, who in subsequent projects like The Informant and We Bought A Zoo has already gamely embraced middle-age. Here, the sight of their notably younger selves, forever frozen in time, offers a poignant reminder of film’s immortality: sure, people get older, but hey – movies last forever.

Margaret offers the thrill of discovery that any movie lover feels when they happen across (or better still, seek out) a neglected work, a misunderstood celluloid orphan seeking refuge in your dark little heart. Kenneth Lonergan himself maintained a dignified silence throughout his prolonged artistic ordeal; if at all possible, we suggest you see the film and pay your utmost respects. His struggles have not been in vain.

Derek O'Connor

Margaret is opening at the IFI this Friday, February 24th - to book your tickets, contact our Box Office on 01 679 3477 or book online [here]. 

Watch The Trailer:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Award-winning DVDs from the IFI Film Shop

From the IFTA's best Irish film The Guard, to the triumphant Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - all available on DVD from the IFI FIlm Shop.

Brendan Gleeson in The Guard

His and Hers: Ken Wardrop’s delightful documentary is composed entirely of interviews with over 70 Irish women of all ages, from a three month old baby to a ninety year old woman reflecting on her pass. The subject of their conversations is the (always-unseen) men in their life, building up a vivid image of the fathers, brothers, husbands and sons that everyone can relate to.
The Guard: This black crime comedy forms an unlikely team of an unconventional small-town Irish policeman (a wonderfully profane Brendan Gleeson) with a strait-laced FBI agent (Don Cheadle, star of Hotel Rwanda and Crash) who reluctantly work together to track down an international drug-trafficking gang operating in the Connemara Gaeltacht.
Pina: A Best-Documentary Nomination for the 2012 Academy Awards, Wim Wenders latest film is an affectionate tribute to the legendary dance choreographer Pina Bausche, who died suddenly in 2009. Wenders’ mesmerising documentary features many of Pina Bausche’s greatest works, performed by the Tanztheater Wuppertal ensemble.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams: Legendary film-maker Werner Herzog was given unprecedented access to Chauvet Caves in Southern France, where his documentation of 35,000 year-old cave paintings is interspersed with typically random asides (an archaeologist is interrupted mid-interview as Herzog quizzes him on his past life in the circus). Forgotten Dreams marks the director’s first (and possibly last) foray into 3D film-making is a thought-provoking, meditative work that transports you back to a world when humanity was young, and art was timeless.

The White Ribbon: Austrian writer-director Michael Haneke followed up his enormously successful thriller Caché (Hidden) with this chilling Palme D’Or winner set in a small German village on the eve of World War I. A series of mysterious accidents befall the villagers, becoming increasingly sinister and pointing to a bizarre form of “punishment”. But who is responsible, and why?

The Lives of Others: The outstanding debut by German filmmaker Florian Henckel Von Donnersmark (Winner of the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Feature) is set in the shadowy world of state surveillance in East Berlin during the 1980s. A coldly efficient Stasi officer is assigned to monitor a controversial playwright and his actress girlfriend, but finds his loyalties divided when he starts to empathise with their passionate outlook on life.

IFI Film Shop, 6 Eustace Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Phone: 01 679 5727 

Opening hours
Monday and Tuesday: 11am – 7pm
Wednesday to Saturday: 12pm – 9pm
Sunday: 1pm – 7pm 

Follow @IFI_FilmShop on Twitter for new releases, sales and special offers.

If you have a specific query or need further help, please ask our staff who will be happy to assist you with all your shopping needs and specialist searches!

Friday, February 10, 2012

New and Upcoming Releases from the IFI Film Shop

From Errol Morris' TABLOID to Ryan Gosling  in DRIVE - New and Upcoming Releases from the IFI Film Shop.


Tabloid: Errol Morris’ previous films have included such ground-breaking works as The Thin Blue Line, A Brief History of Time and The Fog Of War and his latest is no less illuminating. Tabloid tells the story of Joyce McKinney, a former Miss Wyoming, who was accused of kidnaping and raping Kirk Anderson, an American Mormon missionary; the case became a major tabloid story and triggered a battle between The Daily Mirror and The Daily Express in Britain. 

The Theo Angelopoulis Collection, Volume III: The cinematic world was stunned by the sudden death of Greek master-filmmaker Theo Angelopoulis on the set of his film The Other Sea. Angelopoulis had been working since 1965, and many of his greatest works had been recently reissued; the third Volume of his work (including Ulysses' Gaze and Eternity and a Day, amongst others) will be on sale from the end of February.

Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist

The Conformist: Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1970 masterpiece has been unavailable for years, but that’s all set to change at the end of next month. The story of a weak-willed bureaucrat who is persuaded to murder his old mentor by the Facist secret police, it has been routinely described as one of the most sumptuous films ever made.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: The success of Let The Right One In allowed director Tomas Alfredson to assemble one of the most impressive casts seen in recent years; Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Ciaran Hinds, Mark Strong... All of them are on top-form in this Cold War thriller whose period detail is such that one can almost smell the tobacco smoke coming off the screen.

Tyrannosaur: Paddy Considine’s blistering study of violent anger and redemption is framed around an unusual love-triangle; Joe Mullan’s portrayal of an alcoholic widower is strong as always, but Olivia Colman’s seemingly fragile Christian shop-worker steals the show. Recommended.

Jane Eyre: Yet another adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel is given the big-screen treatment, with Australian Mia Wasikowaska in the title role and the ubiquitous Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester. Director Cary Joji Fukunaga heightens the gothic elements of the tale, injecting it with vigour and a close eye for emotional detail.

We Need To Talk About Kevin:  Lynn Ramsay made her name with the critically-acclaimed Ratcatcher and darkly-quirky Movern Callar, but it took another nine years before she made her third feature. Based on Lionel Shriver’s novel about a mother coming to terms with the aftermath of a school massacre committed by her son, this chilling drama stars Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and an impressive Ezra Miller as the titular teenage killer.

Drive: Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn made his name with the Pusher Trilogy, a violent, high-octane series that delved deep into the ugly heart of the Copenhagen underworld. Drive mines a similar vein; a stylish, low-key adaptation of a pulp crime novel by James Sallis, it stars a blank-faced Ryan Gosling as a Hollywood stunt-driver who moonlights as a getaway driver.


IFI Film Shop, 6 Eustace Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Phone: 01 679 5727 
Email: filmshop@irishfilm.ie 

Opening hours
Monday and Tuesday: 11am – 7pm
Wednesday to Saturday: 12pm – 9pm
Sunday: 1pm – 7pm 

Follow @IFI_FilmShop on Twitter for new releases, sales and special offers.

If you have a specific query or need further help, please ask our staff who will be happy to assist you with all your shopping needs and specialist searches!

Cronenblog: A Viggo-Rous Approach

Love him or hate him, a new film by David Cronenberg always gives the discerning punter cause for celebration: if, after all, a resoundingly cerebral – not to mention gloriously perverse – filmmaker like Cronenberg can continue to find gainful employment four decades into one of the most profoundly out-there careers in modern cinema, then there is hope. 

Those who are quick to dismiss Cronenberg’s latest work, A Dangerous Method (opening at the IFI this weekend), as further evidence that a true celluloid renegade has muted his edgier instincts are examining this fascinating picture on the most superficial of levels: make no mistake, it’s innately Cronenbergian to the core. Here, the literal body horror of his earlier, showier works has been supplanted by something deeper – the mind as slave to the body’s ferocious, insatiable appetites. For all its restraint, there’s a delicious sense of chaos lurking beneath its seemingly benign surface.

Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen 

David Cronenberg is often renowned for getting career-best work from his actors, from Jeff Goldblum in The Fly (1987) to Ralph Fiennes in the still underappreciated Spider (2002): while much attention has been devoted to A Dangerous Method stars Michael Fassbender (in is his third noteworthy movie role in less than a month) and Keira Knightley (her work here is revelatory, and divides audience right down the middle), the true star of A Dangerous Method is Viggo Mortensen, a welcome presence in his third consecutive Cronenberg film, after A History Of Violence (2005) and Eastern Promises (2007). In the seminal Faber tome Cronenberg On Cronenberg – last revised in 1997, and sorely in need of another update – much is made of the quintessential Cronenbergian male, prone as they are towards ill-advised temptation, masochistic tendencies, and pathos-filled martyrdom. Über-intense method actor Viggo has proved more than up to the role; this time out, arguably, the position is split three ways - it’s like The Fly in reverse, utilising transference as opposed to teleportation. There are elements of our quintessential Cronenbergian protagonist to be found in Fassbender’s eccentric Carl Jung, Knightley’s disturbed Sabina Spielrein and Mortensen’s benign Sigmund Freud: while the latter’s performance is the least showiest on offer (particularly when you factor the always entertaining Vincent Cassel, playing to the cheap seats with tangible relish as a fellow analyst), it’s the one that truly resonates. His connection to the material is absolute, and tangible; ironically enough, Mortensen only joined the project when the initially cast Christoph Waltz dropped out. It’s hard to imagine the film succeeding without him.

Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender

As for Cronenberg (can he really be 70 next March?), he’s already moved onto his next willing victim, gamely offering himself up for celluloid dissection - teen idol Robert (Twilight) Pattinson, who stars in his already completed adaptation of Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis. It’s safe to say that R-Patz has a tough act to follow.

Derek O'Connor