Monday, April 30, 2012

May at the IFI

Welcome to the IFI’s action-packed May programme which includes a special focus on German film.

Paul Verhoeven's Robocop (May 27th, 16.30)

It gives me great pleasure to write my first welcome note as the new Director of the IFI. I’m delighted to be taking on this new role and to be given the opportunity to lead the organisation into its next exciting phase. Having worked here for the past four years in a different capacity, I am in the privileged position of already knowing the many strengths of the organisation, in particular the fantastic and dedicated team that I get to work alongside, and our loyal and dedicated audiences. Our departing Director Sarah Glennie has passed me the baton in immaculate condition, and I’m now looking forward to building on all the recent successes and continuing to ensure that the IFI remains as one of Ireland’s most dynamic and relevant cultural institutions.

Terry McMahon's Charlie Casanova

Talking of recent successes, we recently launched plans for a new IFI Irish Film Archive Preservation & Research Centre at NUI Maynooth. Last November, the IFI officially launched the IFI Irish Film Archive Preservation Fund to expand access to, and preservation of, our national film archive collection. The Irish Film Institute, together with NUI Maynooth and key funding partners the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, have now announced plans for the development of this new Preservation and Research Centre at NUI Maynooth. We would like to thank each and every one of you who supported this fundraising campaign. From donations large and small to people purchasing items at the IFI Film Shop whose proceeds directly went into the Fund, the shortfall in funding would not have been met without your support, so thank you! The Centre will allow the IFI to ensure that future generations can continue to learn from, and enjoy, Ireland’s moving image heritage.

Back at the IFI in Temple Bar, we have plenty to keep you on the edge of your seat in May. To coincide with the release of The Raid, we’ve put together a season of seminal action classics for you to enjoy. So if you’re dying to see JohnMcClane, Rambo or Neo back on the big screen, or want to reacquaint yourself with some classic ‘hunger games’ in Battle Royale, then look no further!

German Film Week: Cracks In The Shell (May 11th, 18.50)

Also this month, in partnership with the Goethe-Institut Irland, we’re pleased to present a season of new German films, which includes new works by two of contemporary cinema’s finest directors, Volker Schlöndorff (Calm at Sea) and Andreas Dresen (Stopped on Track). The season also highlights work by some emerging new talents in German cinema.

And don’t forget to try out our new lunch and evening menus at the IFI Café Bar!

Ross Keane

A month of action classics back on the big screen:  Bang for your Buck: Action Movies 101 season continues throughout May at the IFI.

German Film Week continues at the IFI from May 10th - 16th. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

UCD Film & Video Society Donation

This year, here at the UCD Film & Video society myself and my committee members decided to raise money for the IFI Irish Film Archive in an attempt to help the IFI and the Archive preserve our national heritage, culture and history through the moving image.

Natasha Waugh and Kasandra O'Connell

It was important for us to partake in raising money for the Archive; for many of us that study film in UCD, it is a valuable educational resource. Students of film use the library there on a regular basis, and those of us that will go on to study for an MA in Film Studies will need to use the Archive for research purposes. After seeing the ad featuring Saoirse Ronan and learning more about the fund, we decided to raise money to help out.

We got in touch first with Kasandra O’Connell (Head of the IFI Irish Film Archive) as we wanted to put together a special event that raised awareness of the importance of the Archive and the historical significance of much of what is kept there. We aimed for an event that showed people footage from the Archive from various moments throughout Irish history and that also showed people the importance of keeping the Archive properly maintained and preserved.

I met with Kasandra to go over the event details and she was kind enough to give me a tour of the Archive; the tour included the highlight of my year as the Film Society Auditor which was to hold the Oscar that is kept down in the vaults!

The society got busy organising the event and on March 28th Kasandra came into UCD and presented footage from the Archive that ranged from Ireland in 1910 through to the ‘60s, ‘80s and also included some amateur footage; notably footage from Vietnam War and an amateur sci-fi called The Thing and Them, filmed on Super-8. We were also joined by UCD Film Studies lecturer Harvey O’Brien, also on the IFI Board, who spoke at length about the IFI’s history and the significance of the moving image in Irish culture and education today. The event was a huge success, and it encouraged many of our members to donate and to find out more about the Archive for themselves.

Before this event however, we collected money at our other Film Society events including our weekly film screenings, guest speaker evenings and social events, including an Open Mic night on Valentine’s Day.

At Filmsoc, we were extremely grateful for Kasandra’s visit and we were delighted to present the Archive with a cheque for €130 that we hope will help the Archive with its aim to restore and preserve Irish Film!

Natasha Waugh
UCD Film & Video Society Auditor

To learn more about the IFI Irish Film Archive, please visit our website: IFI Archive
Read a full story on the new IFI Preservation and Reaserch Centre to be build at NUI Maynooth here

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Whit Stillman and Damsels in Distress

Defender of the American upper crust and Comedy of Manners virtuoso, director and screenwriter Whit Stillman has gained considerable acclaim for his witty depictions of youthful elites in crisis. Thirteen years after the release of his last film, Stillman returns with Damsels in Distress – a college caper romance with panache – which conforms to the style of his earlier films but with some trademark features noticeably more pronounced...

Damsels in Distress

Whit Stillman was 38 when he made his first film, Metropolitan, an expertly scripted chamber piece which went on to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 1991. His second feature, Barcelona, featured similar characters that made Stillman’s first so distinctive – humorously drawn, loquacious and privileged young adults – and this too was well received. However, it was another four years before Stillman finished his third film, Last Days of Disco, about a college graduate called Alice, a virtuous heroine played with well-considered ambiguity by Chloë Sevigny who moves in to an apartment in New York with Charlotte, a ruthless socialite drawn out with surprising depth by Kate Beckinsale.

While much has been made about the class of Stillman’s moneyed protagonists, as well as their erudite conversation, little attention is devoted to other recurring trademarks that define the film worlds he evokes. The highly stylised aesthetics of a Stillman film, from the retro-design typefaces used in his credit sequences to the classically tailored outfits worn by his actors, all promote an idealised vision of the upper class. Another common aspect is that almost all of the characters in Stillman’s films are young adults struggling to come to terms with their identity, and as such display a vulnerability that would be more difficult to convey in an older, possibly more rigid set of personalities. In a recent interview, Stillman explained how characters between the ages of 16 and 20 are of particular interest; “... that’s a really interesting period in people’s lives because it’s sort of a petri dish of identity formation.” By focussing on these precocious but nevertheless uncertain individuals, Stillman presents a deliberately incomplete picture of the wealthy by drawing singular attention to their offspring.

The youthful spirit of his films can also be seen in his playful use of music and, in particular, dance – a form of expression Stillman holds up as a mirror to the coded rituals that he explores in his meandering plots.  In Damsels in Distress, there is also little doubt that he uses the central role of Violet, portrayed with pitch-perfect absurdity by Greta Gerwig, as a means of conveying autobiographical elements from his past. Violet is the self-appointed queen bee among a group of girls at the fictitious Seven Oaks College, determined to use tap-dancing and improved hygiene as a means of increasing the social prospects of her colleagues as well as preventing their demise through suicide. Gerwig’s Violet is dominant, idealistic, sympathetic and determined to start her own dance craze. She’s also a believer in the therapeutic qualities of a particular brand of hotel soap which she finds while on a jaunt away from campus. It is when she returns from this trip, which she takes after being cruelly heart-broken, that Violet reveals the profoundly melancholic aspect to her nature, which up to this point has only been suggested. It is this sensitivity that audiences identify as Stillman’s own which makes Damsels his most outlandish as well as his most compassionate and authentic film to date. 

Alice Butler

Damsels in Distress opens at the IFI this Friday, April 27th. For more information and bookings, please contact our box Office on 01 679 3477, or book online:

Watch film trailer here:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

IADT Filmathon

On Tuesday March 13th, our class at IADT hosted a Filmathon to raise money for the IFI Irish Film Archive Preservation Fund which is going to help the Archive to repatriate Irish films from around the world and help preserve their vast collections for future generations. 

Saoirse Ronan starring in the IFI Irish Film Archive promotional film

As Film students, when we were told about the fund on a class trip to the Archive for a project, we were instantly interested when our lecturer suggested that we do something to help the fund along. Our class decided to do what we could to help and a handful of students organised the Filmathon. We each received a sponsorship card, and asked family and friends for small donations for us to watch a range of movies from 9am until 9pm in the Chapel, a converted Church that functions as a recreation area in our college. 

Armed with coffee, bean bags and a projector, we stayed for the day and enjoyed films from Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, classics such as Laurel and Hardy and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Irish film Kisses, to Japanese animation Paprika. To raise more money for the fund, we also had donation boxes at the coffee dock, as well as one stationed at the SU shop, and we held a raffle in the evening for cinema tickets and DVD’s. Students from the rest of the college were able to come in and watch with us and encouraged to donate what they could to the fund. 

We managed to raise €300.63 for the fund and really enjoyed doing it. We sincerely hope we helped out in some way, as we know that Irish film is an integral part of our heritage and culture.

Gita Lalloo
2nd Year English, Media and Cultural Studies

Read more about the launch of the IFI Irish Film Archive Preservation & Research Centre at NUI Maynooth here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Le Havre

The first in a trilogy of stories about life in port cities, the award-winning Le Havre, by the celebrated Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki, features some familiar themes and characters from his earlier films, but these re-enforce rather than repeat ideas about experience outside the mainstream.

Widely recognized today as one of the leading talents in Finnish cinema, Aki Kaurismäki has built a career on highly stylized portraits of marginalised communities and individuals. Emerging as a powerful force in the early 1980s when he started making films with his brother Mika, the two drew inspiration as much from their experiences working menial jobs and drinking in tawdry bars as they did from French New Wave directors like Godard and Truffaut. While Kaurismäki’s films initially drew criticism from Finnish contemporaries, his droll and affectionate depictions of unsophisticated outsiders (roles which often gain sympathy from European cinema audiences) soon won critical acclaim, particularly abroad and especially in France. Le Havre then, a film about a shoe-polisher who risks everything to help a young Senegalese boy refugee gain safe passage to London to find his family (opening this Friday, April 6th at the IFI), sits comfortably alongside Kaurismäki’s other seriocomic titles such as The Match Factory Girl, La Vie de Bohème and The Man without a Past.

As well as using the same group of actors in his films (“why bother with new actors when the ones you have can do the job?”, he asked in an interview in 2003), Kaurismäki’s films are also marked by dead-pan performances, a feature which has drawn comparisons with directors ranging from Bertolt Brecht to Jim Jarmusch. Actors, Kaurismäki explains, are forbidden from laughing or shouting during takes. This controlled aspect to his work is exaggerated by the precise language with which Kaurismäki writes his scripts, a fact demonstrated in the scene where Marcel Marx, the protagonist in Le Havre, is asked if he’s taking the evening train home to which he responds, “Of course. Money moves in the shadows.” 

While the actors themselves are deprived of laughter, Kaurismäki’s films are often comical, displaying the director’s appreciation for the absurd which he effectively highlights in the form of visual gags. There is no shortage of the ridiculous in Le Havre, particularly in the scene where Jean-Pierre Darroussin’s poker-faced Inspector Monet, dressed head to toe in black, inexplicably buys a pineapple on his way to a bar, where, upon entering, he casts a lengthy stare at the silenced crowd and then sits at a table alone. When the world weary barmaid facetiously asks if the tropical fruit is for her, Monet unsmilingly answers, “Non”.

The pineapple is a good example of Kaurismäki’s ingenious use of props to generate comedy but his deliberate placement of particular objects is also used to convey some aspect of the uniquely retro environments in which these characters live. Kaurismäki has confessed that he is searching for “the perfect red kettle”, the Japanese director Ozu’s signature prop, and this goes some way towards explaining the recurring appearance of juke boxes and record players in all his films (besides the unmistakably nostalgic quality that both these objects possess). Kaurismäki also makes a point of drawing our attention to his characters’ unsophisticated diet; there’s a shot devoted to the small dish of three olives that Marcel devours with hasty gulps of white wine, the camera lingers on the enormous cream pastries that sit untouched beside his wife Arletty’s hospital bed and boiled eggs feature in almost every interior scene. Similarly, the costumes in Le Havre, designed by Frédéric Cambier, are not quite outdated enough that they are not believably contemporary but they are reminiscent of a particular trend in 1980s France for motorbike fashion; sleeveless denim waistcoats, silver chains, black leather jackets, and ill-fitting high-waisted jeans all of which are set off by mullets and sideburns. Needless to say, this does not apply to the women in the film. In contrast, they are dressed in elegant clothes that have nevertheless seen better days. 

All of these details are used to conjure up what critics elsewhere have described as a half-invented reality, half-imagined vision of the past but whatever the case, cumulatively, they represent what A.O. Scott describes in his New York Times review of the film as “almost defiantly antiquarian, a protest against the speed and slickness of the digital age.” As well as this, Kaurismäki’s films can also be read as critiques of modernization and all that it implies. In Le Havre, Marcel is the classic Kaurismäki protagonist; an outcast unable to take part in commercial exchange of any value. Marcel’s previous role as what he describes in the film as a bohemian in Paris reaped only ‘artistic’ success. With no marketable skill, he now works on the street, shining shoes for tips, but even this trade is outdated – fewer people wear leather shoes and even less stop on the street to have them polished. In one scene in the film, a shoe shop-keeper violently objects to Marcel’s presence outside his business. Because Marcel has no licence to work he has no means of defending himself and is forced to move on. In just a couple of scenes Kaurismäki offers us justification for his rejection of the capitalist values inherent in contemporary culture. However, while Kaurismäki makes these political sentiments apparent, they feature more as undercurrents than as any explicit element of the story. The film’s main objective is to convey the quasi-communist values displayed by Marcel and his tiny community of barflies, street workers and backstreet shop-owners in an effort to stress the importance of egalitarianism, hospitality, loyalty and protection. It is no coincidence then that Kaurismäki chose to set the film in Le Havre, a town with a distinctly socialist history, originally called Le Havre de Grâce or The Haven of Grace. 

Alice Butler

Le Havre opens this Friday, April 6th - 19th at the IFI. For more information and bookings, please contact our box Office on 01 679 3477, or book online:

Watch film trailer here: