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.

(Nebraska)

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.




Thursday, October 31, 2013

Calling all IFI Explorers!

IFI Explorers is our club for 15 to 18 year olds who want to discover a world of film beyond Hollywood blockbusters. Student Oleg Kuvsincikov came up with the club's name and here he explains why: 

I chose IFI Explorers as a name for the IFI teen film offer because the films that are shown in the Irish Film Institute are unusual and different to the ones in other cinemas.  


In my opinion, ‘explorers’ creates that sense of discovering something new about films. For example, I watched a film called Shun Li and the Poet (pictured above) with my school in the IFI and I discovered that even though the film had barely any action in it, it was still very interesting because of the plot and the conflict in the film.


I personally feel that the IFI teen film offer will help teenagers explore a world of film and that is why I have chosen the name IFI Explorers to reflect that.

Oleg Kuvsincikov (Age 15)

SPECIAL €3 TICKET OFFER FOR NOVEMBER!  
This month we are offering the special price of just €3 a ticket for screenings between 1pm and 6pm to those aged 15 – 18. Don’t forget if you buy a ticket for three films, you get your fourth ticket FREE! Check out this month's films.

Contact Dee Quinlan for more information, or sign up to receive the IFI Explorers newsletter (scroll down page to enter your name and email).




Monday, October 21, 2013

Keeping the summit dreams alive

What is different about seeing a wide-shot Everest, the world’s highest mountain for the first time in The Epic for Everest (1923), to seeing it captured on camera today? To my untrained eye, at least, nothing observable about the mountain has changed but context here is everything. To see the mountain rear up above the cameraman as an pure unconquered frontier of our planet feels entirely different to seeing it now, knowing the mountain is strewn with commercial expeditions, egos, industrial disputes, rubbish, fixed ropes, corpses, and a ladder allowing the most difficult climbing to be bypassed.


It’s not just getting to the top and back that matters, climbers and mountaineers rigorously debate the ‘ethics’ of what they call ‘style of ascent’. That’s why the climbing community made such a fuss last week when Ueli Steck climbed the smaller (though fiercely dangerous) Himalaya mountain Annapurna. Not only had he found a new route on the South Face, he’d gone up and down unroped and alone without supplemental oxygen in one astonishing 28-hour push.


While most modern mountaineers wouldn't object to the tactics used by Mallory and Irvine on Everest, the footage of the Tibetan people that the climbers used as porters and passed through en-route to Everest certainly lacks a different kind of style. The raw Imperialist viewpoint espoused by the intertitles which seems to barely distinguish Tibetan man from baby donkey is enough to make anyone squirm, though this patronising tone gives way in parts to an irrepressible wonder at the ancient monastic civilisation the team passes through in the high valleys of the Himalayas.



One thinks of Steck again, earlier this year the victim of a horrific confrontation between the Sherpas and a group of fast and light Alpine climbers on Everest, possibly exacerbated by the Western team having apparently outgrown the need for traditional Sherpa support. The Epic of Everest shows us this mutually exploitative relationship that shaped 20th Century Himalayan mountaineering in its very infancy.



Do we crave and seek adventure in our own lives? What level of risk do we deem acceptable in pursuing it? For most of us it would fall far, far below the risks that Mallory and Irvine knowingly and paid for with their lives. Even today Everest remains, by any scale of human activity, phenomenally dangerous and yet thousands attempt it, sometimes controversially suppressing the most basic human instincts to aid ailing climbers to avoid harm or to keep their own summit dreams alive.


We’ll probably never know if Mallory and Irvine summited Everest before falling; it seems unlikely. But The Epic of Everest is a great chance to see a real frontier of human exploration.

Patrick Stewart
IFI 

The Epic Of Everest is showing, EXCLUSIVELY at the IFI, from October 18th to October 24th.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Very extremely dangerous Jerry McGill

A year since its debut at last year's IFI Stranger Than Fiction Documentary Film Festival, Paul Duane returns with his feature film, Very Extremely Dangerous, a tragic story of Jerry McGill, an aging rocker and the last American outlaw. So why make a film about him? Director Paul Duane explains.  


Jerry McGill is too obscure to even be called a cult figure.

Only those who've read Robert Gordon's seminal It Came From Memphis or seen William Eggleston's dark, outrageous 'home movie' Stranded in Canton would have the vaguest idea who he is, or those rockabilly completists who own a copy of Sun 326, Lovestruck, recorded by Jerry and his band The Topcoats in 1959, his first and only official release. It's not even a particularly good record (the B-side is better).

So why make a film about him when there are so many other, probably more deserving musicians out there?


Well, back in mid-2009 I was facing a blank wall – my first cut of Barbaric Genius, my film on John Healy, had been rejected, all further funding placed in question & it looked as if it would never be completed.

So when I got an email from Jerry's fiancée Joyce telling me that he'd been diagnosed with lung cancer, had booked a recording session in Memphis next week, and wanted myself and Robert Gordon to meet him there, I grabbed an idea out of thin air.


The story of a man who blew all his chances the first time round, who turned his back on a promising music career in favour of a criminal life,  trying to redeem himself while staring death in the eyes. I knew Jerry was charismatic and a great storyteller from my phone conversations with him, but could he carry a film? Who knew?

Out of nothing more than that idea, and Jerry's insistence that he wasn't going to go quietly into the night, that he was finally going to follow up his one and only record, myself and Robert Gordon dragged this film, kicking and screaming and fighting us every inch of the way, into existence. Was it worth it? You tell me.

Paul Duane
Film Director

Very Extremely Dangerous opens on Friday, October 18th, 2013, exclusively at the IFI. There will be a post-screening Q&A with director Paul Duane following the 20.30 screening of the film. BOOK NOW!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Stories about women and by female directors at IFI Stranger Than Fiction

IFI Stranger Than Fiction returns to the IFI this week, and I was delighted to learn that more than half the films in this year’s impressive lineup have a female director. This news is particularly encouraging, given recent reports on the woefully low representation of women directors in fiction filmmaking and across the water in TV drama.

Salma

Clearly the ladies are not just representing themselves in the world of factual narrative but very much rising to the top of their game. This can only be good news for industry and audience – competition may be a rude motivation, but it’s always effective – and we all benefit when the best person is behind the camera.

Aisling Gheal

So what have this year’s STF audiences to look forward to? Well, quite a lot actually, thanks to some insightful programming, an exciting series of workshops and a wealth of compelling new stories from viewpoints on both sides of the gender divide. Audiences will be treated to Irish premieres of festival darlings The Great Hip Hop Hoax, Smash & Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers, Leviathan, and Dragon Girls, as well as home grown greats Here Was Cuba, Close to Evil and Aisling Gheal.

After Tiller

After Tiller also gets its Irish premiere at STF – never more timely – as it powerfully addresses the abortion debate, albeit in America. When will someone be brave enough to back an Irish examination of this subject matter? Kim Longinotto’s Salma presents another strong feminist viewpoint – the story of a Muslim woman who writes her escape out of family servitude.

Jeanie Finlay (The Great Hip Hop Hoax)

Another interesting and practical aspect of the festival is the planned series of workshops, in particular Breaking into Documentary (FREE event) and Building an International Documentary Company. Documentary makers and film lovers alike will have the opportunity to engage with panels of internationally renowned documentary makers, including Sundance winner Havana Marking, Jeanie Finlay, as well as our own hugely talented Emer Reynolds, Andrew Freedman, Cathal Gaffney and Risteard Ó Domhnaill.

Reality Bites Documentary Shorts

Feature documentary is experiencing something of a golden age internationally, and is without doubt an area for continued growth and support here at home. The future is bright for new Irish talent (whose work can be seen in the Eat My Shorts strand), and with a diverse range of stories and voices coming to the fore, audiences have a lot to look forward to. So, whether it’s sean nós, kung fu or the Cuban Missile Crisis you’re after, get down to IFI Stranger Than Fiction and join the conversation.

Rachel Lysaght
Women in Film & Television Ireland

Friday, September 20, 2013

When a Film Surprises You...

With the 10th IFI Stranger Than Fiction Documentary Film Festival opening next week, the festival programmer, Ross Whitaker, writes about some valuable lessons that he's learnt when picking films for this year's selection.


This is my second year with IFI Stranger Than Fiction and I’m still pretty new to this film programming game and learning all the time. I’m sure there are plenty of things that I’m about to learn at this year’s Stranger Than Fiction - I’m just not sure yet what those lessons are going to be!

One thing that really stood out last year from the feedback of audiences is that quality counts over everything else. Thankfully the reaction last year was generally very positive but I remember one punter coming up to me at the end of the festival to say that she thought one film just didn’t quite hit the mark. She had loved the rest of the festival but just wanted to let me know that there was one dud in there. It was a friendly reminder that nothing gets past audiences.

The Great Hip Hop Hoax

A couple of other points were made to me. One lady told me that the programme was a little male - perhaps I was generally feeding my own male taste a little too much - and another told me that I should be keeping an eye out for more documentaries that intersected with animation in their storytelling. I’ve tried to keep both of those things in mind when it came to this year’s programme!

One thing I’ve already learned this year is to leave my preconceptions at the door when it comes to watching a film. In putting together this year’s list, there have been films that I expected to love that didn’t hit the mark in the end and there have been films that weren’t at the top of my DVD pile that really impressed me.

Aisling Gheal 

I hope the filmmaker, Dónal Ó Céilleachair, won’t mind me saying that his film Aisling Gheal didn’t grab me at first. As an urban-dwelling Dubliner, films like The Great Hip Hop Hoax and Smash & Grab really jumped out at me for selection but I figured that a film about child Sean-nós singers in rural Cork was not one that I thought I would necessarily like. That was before I watched it.

When I did watch Ó Céilleachair’s film it was a big lesson for me. This deftly made observational film is utterly beguiling from beginning to end. From the encouraging teachers to the charming kids to the stunning backdrops that give an amazing sense of place, the film is a wonderful piece of work from a clearly very talented filmmaker. Having shown the film to colleagues in the IFI, I’m happy to say that I am not alone in thinking this.

The film arrived on my desk with no fanfare but we are delighted to be celebrating its first screening outside of the county of Cork and to welcome the director Dónal Ó Céilleachair along to introduce the film. It also represents the closing of a circle as Ó Céilleachair first pitched the film a few years ago at IFI Stranger Than Fiction.

Dragon Girls

A nice companion piece to Aisling Gheal is another film that shows children working hard towards a goal. Dragon Girls is set in the altogether tougher environment of China as young girls try to make it at a Kung Fu school. Filmmaker Inigo Westmeier has made a film of great beauty and we are delighted to welcome him to the festival.

Cinematographer Westmeier has applied significant visual capabilities to his directorial debut combining incredibly composed set-pieces with tender portraits of young kids. It’s a really impressive piece of work and Westmeier won the award for Best International Documentary at the prestigious Hot Docs International Documentary Festival in Toronto.

These two films really won me over and I’m sure they will audiences too.

Ross Whitaker
Festival Programmer

 IFI Stranger Than Fiction Documentary Film Festival runs between September 26th and 29th, 2013. Visit our website for more details or download our Festival Brochure (PDF).

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Film scholar Daniel Fitzpatrick has curated the IFI and Experimental Film Club programme for September, and here he discusses its theme: Re-evaluating British documentary cinema 

British cinema has always gotten a bad rap. Ever since Truffaut made the claim that the words ‘Britain’ and ‘cinema’ were incompatible it has struggled to be taken seriously. For Truffaut and many others this was a cinema that was “boring”, lacked “enthusiasm, zeal and impetus”; it was a cinema that reflected “a submissive way of life”. Britain’s cinema has been continuously dismissed for being dull, safe and ‘realistic’, in the pejorative use of the term, but this screening of short films taken from various points within Britain’s history of documentary film production quickly puts paid to those claims. What is revealed instead is an evolving tradition of experimentation and innovation. It is a history full of contradictions and often apposite positions. The Free Cinema movement for example, and its figurehead Lindsay Anderson, rejected outright the influence of John Grierson and the formative British documentary film movement, opting instead for a low budget form with no ties to industry or government and little or no editorialising commitment. Their film O Dreamland (1953) is included here. The film was shot on, what was then, newly affordable 16mm stock and it takes us on an almost hallucinatory trip through the Margate funfair, taking in, among other things, a terrifying cackling clown and a ‘Torture Through The Ages’ exhibit.



The Free Cinema movement took their primary inspiration from Humphrey Jennings, often considered the true poet of British documentary cinema. Jennings films stripped away everything that was deemed unnecessary in the documentary form, replacing the narrative voice with a collage of sounds that far more effectively captured the specifics of a time and place. Included in this programme is his film Spare Time. Originally created for the New York World Fair of 1939, it offers us a picture of Britain at work and at play in the interwar period. This deeply evocative film also reflected Jennings involvement with the Mass Observation movement, removed as it was from the kinds of editorialising and condescension that often dogged documentary cinema and its engagement with the ‘working classes’.

Len Lye Trade Tattoo (1937)

Going back to British documentary’s formative period and John Grierson’s reign as head of both the Empire Marketing Board and later the GPO Film Unit we find here an equally dazzling embrace of formal experimentation and playful innovation. Within his stated objective of making films that would speak directly to the masses, that would educate and inform, Grierson managed to surround himself with a truly eclectic group of creatives, many of whom were drawn from an emergent European avant-garde. These would include Alberto Cavalcanti, Len Lye (two films by Lye are included in this programme), Norman McLaren (his short Love On The Wing is featured here), Basil Wright and Edgar Antsey. These filmmakers often truly functioned as a collective with various influences present across a wide number of films. The films themselves, particularly those included here, were full of ideas, highly adventurous, and certainly never dull.

Hans Richter Every Day (1929)

This programme also includes Hans Richter’s Every Day (1929), a scarcely seen film which features a rare screen appearance by the great Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein. The film depicts a day in the life of an increasingly industrialised and mechanised existence. Geoffrey Jones’ film Locomotion (1975), which also effectively combines human and machinic rhythms, is a masterpiece of creative editing, and it closes out this exciting programme.            

The IFI & Experimental Film Club’s N or NW: Experimental Lineages within British Documentary Cinema will take place on September 25th at 18.30.  BOOK NOW.  
  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"You can never forget you're a dedicated film fan first" - Matt Micucci on his experience at the 70th Venice Film Festival

As the IFI reporter from the Venice Film Festival, for the last couple of weeks I have been posting news, reviews, interviews and overall gossip from the Lido – I hope you have been following my updates featured on the IFI Twitter account? It’s has been a lot of work, but enjoyable work, which sadly is coming to an end – for now.


Before it does, I would like to do a couple of things. One of them is to publicly thank the wonderful people at the Irish Film Institute who made this possible for me. I would particularly like to thank Alicia McGivern and Shauna Lyons, as well as Anna Pas in the last stage of my Venice adventure, with whom I had direct contact and whom I hope to remain in contact with in the future. I hope to have repaid their trust with dedicated reports on Twitter and from my website. I also hope to have represented them well in this 28 Times Cinema project, a programme set up by the European Parliament for young cinephiles – one from each European country – to come together and discuss cinema.

Cinema is something I have always connected with and something that has always meant an awful lot to me. This passion and love I feel for it led me to study Film and TV in GMIT, a course which I successfully completed in 2010. While I started the course with an idea of becoming a filmmaker, I realised that perhaps what I really wanted to do was talk about film and open cinematic debates by pursuing a career in film journalism.


While at the 70th Venice International Film Festival, I collaborated with CineEuropa, who set up a blog for us and our reports and reviews, and also linked the IFI to all my shorter reviews for all the screenings I attended. I also kept a daily Venice diary which I compiled for Film Ireland. My three interviews were with the director of the festival Alberto Barbera and the filmmakers Bruce la Bruce and Costanza Quatriglio. So far, I have had a chance to meet many interesting people and to network.

I always carried my audio recorder with me at every screening, just in case the filmmaker attended and spoke about the movie, giving me the chance to include his or her thoughts and stories. To complete my self-training on the ‘report’, I practiced the art of sneaking into press conferences without a press badge, or standing next to the door and overhearing what was said. The main one of these was the one for Philomena, the film by Stephen Frears which at the time of writing looks set to win the competition. At the time, I hadn’t seen the film, so I just posted what was said at the conference directly transcribed. Another priceless experience I received here in Venice was in interviewing, which I think is the ultimate promotion that the press and media in general can offer to a filmmaker and his creation.


Certainly the most important thing I learned about this job is that you can never forget that you are a dedicated film fan first. Film is a wonderful form of art, perhaps the most impressive, but it is so mistreated that sometimes it is hard to watch. If journalists start acting superior to cinema, then we can all kiss its credibility goodbye. On a personal level, I want to be involved, and I will work very hard to build a reputation as a good and hard-working promoter of film.

So, that’s what I have learnt so far in my experience in Venice. At the risk of seeming incredibly pretentious, I would really like to open a debate particularly regarding Irish cinema from what I learnt here in Venice. It is crucial not to underestimate the value of film reporting, film interviewing and film critique. Ireland needs a good film magazine. Ireland needs more critique circles. Ireland needs more talks before special screenings. This type of film promotion is exactly what can moderate film culture, promote film passion and certainly, when done right, generate more money in the industry.

Matt Micucci

For the fourth year in a row, young film-lovers representing each of the European countries have attend the Venice Days. Matt Micucci has been selected by IFI Education as this year's representative from Ireland and he's been tweeting tirelessly from the Lido on behalf of the IFI. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattMicucci89!



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dr. Eoin Devereux talks Moz Angeles

In advance of the release of Morrissey 25: Live  exclusively at the IFI, Eoin Devereux writes an IFI Blogpost about Morrissey’s Latino/Chicano Fans:
In the early 1990s a fan subculture focused on Morrissey emerged in the eastern suburbs of Los Angeles.  Undoubtedly inspired by Morrissey’s own relocation to Los Angeles, the Chicano/Latino fan subculture played a significant role in reviving his career in commercial terms.  The Chicano/Latino fan subculture has attracted widespread media interest.  Such media coverage has tended to focus on what it perceives as its cult-like, fanatical and obsessive aspects rather than seeing it as I do as a really interesting example of fan creativity.
The Latino/Chicano fans localize certain aspects of fan culture associated more generally with Morrissey. This is in evidence in dress code e.g. mimicking Morrissey’s earlier Rockabilly style; tattoo artwork; t-shirts with slogans like ‘Mexican Blood/American Heart’ and ‘Moz Krew: LA from Westside to the South Bay’. A group of Mexican immigrants play in a Smiths/Morrissey tribute band called Sweet and Tender Hooligans.  As a tribute to their (anti) hero, Morrissey’s Chicano/Latino fans have re-named their adopted hometown as ‘Moz Angeles.’ 
Many of his Chicano/Latino fans refer to how his songs have strong redemptive qualities, often describing their icon in quasi-religious terms.  One fan told documentary maker Kerri Koch in her film Passions Just Like Mine (2010) “What appeals to me most about Morrissey is his look on life… how there can be a depressing side but still find hope and live life to the fullest I guess” with another stating “His music is the soundtrack of my life, he reaches my innermost thoughts and fears and aspirations and longing. For a long time, I felt isolated and alone. Only Morrissey comforted me.”
The Chicano/Latino subculture is an obvious example of the glocalizing tendencies of popular culture.  Morrissey’s own status as the outsider’s outsider and particularly his second generation (Irish) immigrant and lapsed Catholic status are obvious points of connection between him and his Chicano/Latino fans.  His singing style has been compared to the Mexican ‘Ranchera’ genre and he has engaged directly with Chicano/Latino experience in songs like ‘The First of The Gang to Die’ and ‘Mexico’. Morrissey’s authenticity and ambiguity allows for a wide range of fan interpretations of his work.  His Latino/Chicano fans, as is in evidence in Morrissey 25: Live demonstrate the sheer scale of passion that fans have for this most reluctant and controversial icon.
Dr. Eoin Devereux is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at University of Limerick.  He is the co-editor of the book Morrissey: Fandom, Representations and Identities (Intellect Books: 2011).
Morrissey 25: Live will screen EXCLUSIVELY at the IFI on the 26th, 27th, 29th and 30th August.BOOK NOW.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The queues continue at Cannes... Cannes Film Festival 2013 blog: Part Five

After queuing for well over an hour for Yolande Moreau's Henri (are you sensing that I'm over queues yet, or do I need to be less subtle!), there was no room at the inn and the majority of the line was turned away...

The Last Days on Mars

Next up on my list (and another queue was awaiting) was Ruairi Robinson's science fiction film The Last Days on Mars which was part-funded by Bord Scannan na hEireann/Irish Film Board. It was great to hear the huge cheer that the Film Board logo received when it appeared on screen during the opening credits. A routine excavation goes horribly wrong for the crew of Tantalus Base on Mars, just hours before their mission was due to come to a close. As the group get picked off one by one, the remaining group hold out for the arrival of the relief ship Aurora. Robinson's film is an extremely accomplished piece of work and a fine addition to the sci-fi genre. It keeps you on the edge of your seat and builds momentum nicely as time starts running out for the constantly reducing-in-number crew. It got a great response from the Cannes audience too. 

Mohammad Rasoulof

Playing in Un Certain Regard was Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof's Manuscripts Don't Burn. Based on real events, it follows the persecution of intellectuals in Iran and the determination of writers to get their work published without censorship. Khosrow and Morteza are hired to carry out an assassination to keep a writer's manuscript from being published, but they need to make it look like a suicide. But things don't go according to plan and there are other copies of the unpublished work being held by friends which also need to be tracked down and the minders silenced before their job is complete. It's a compelling film by Rasoulof (who also wrote the screenplay) highlighting the difficulties experienced by artists and writers in Iran. 

Only Lovers Left Alive

Jim Jarmusch returns with Only Lovers Left Alive, a vampire tale set in Detroit and Tangier. Adam and Eve (Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton) have been lovers for centuries. Living separately as the film opens he's depressed by the state of the human race (or 'zombies' as he calls us!) so Eve feels the need to leave her beloved Tangier to be with him. There's a long build-up to the lovers being reunited and the pace is rather slow. Jarmusch clearly enjoys all the references to their amazing pasts and to their artistic creations that they handed onto others (Shakespeare included!) so that their work could live but they could remain in the shadows. While this joke gets overly laboured, it does help to define the tone of the film. The story gets going when Eve's sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) turns up and unsettles their world. The lighting is dark throughout and the fine actors aren't overly stretched but many will love Jarmusch's take on the now familiar world of vampires on film. 

Jeune et Jolie/Young and Beautiful

And then no sooner had it all begun than it was all coming to an end and I found myself in a queue (where else?!) for Francois Ozon's Jeune et Jolie/Young and Beautiful. It's a coming-of-age story of a 17-year-old girl during the course of one year of her life. Broken down into 4 chapters/seasons, we begin in summer where Isabelle (a wonderful Marine Vacth), on holidays with her family, meets fellow holidaymaker Felix from Germany. After losing her virginity to him on the beach, the complex Isabelle retreats from him, coldly brushing him off. What develops over the next three seasons is a development of this sexual awakening where the troubled and distant Isabelle makes some surprising life choices. It's a story that's been told in different ways before, but Vacth is simply captivating. Perhaps one of the best things that can be said for a film at this stage in Cannes is that it completely holds your attention (as fatigue is setting in for everyone at this stage), and this film did just that. A good choice of film to close Cannes 2013 for me. 

Until next year Cannes...

Ross Keane
IFI Director

Cannes Film Festival 2013 - read Ross' blogs: Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.  



Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cannes Film Festival 2013 blog: Part Four

Unmade films, fine performances and false advertising. It's just another day at Cannes...

As the films were mounting up, I decided it was time for another doc, and playing as part of Quinzaine des Realisateurs was Jodorowsky's Dune, the story of the greatest film never made. Directed by Frank Pavich, it's largely a heads-to-camera doc, with Jodorowsky himself relaying his vision for the film that would "change humanity"! With input from many of his collaborators on the project, Pavich provides a detailed account of all the work that went into the film. Jodorowsky is a charismatic character and a raconteur extraordinaire. One also gets the impression that you may have to take some of his stories with a grain of salt as many appear to have fallen prey to some enthusiastic embellishment. However, the documentary is a fascinating insight into the obsession and determination that drive Jodorowsky in his ambition and vision, and it's a thoroughly entertaining and amusing watch to boot. 

Michael Kohlhaas

I was very excited to see Mads Mikkelson on screen again this year after his performance in The Hunt which was one of my highlights at Cannes 2012. This time he returned in Arnaud de Palliere's Michael Kohlhaas where he plays the titular character in a film set in 16th century France. After suffering an injustice, and being a man of principles, Kohlhaas looks for justice (initially through legal means and then choosing to take the law into his own hands) with massive repercussions. It's an epic story and, once again, Mikkeksen doesn't disappoint. The story at times seems familiar even with hints of Robin Hood but with such a capable actor at the helm it's still worth a watch. 

James Gray's The Immigrant

Next up was James Gray's The Immigrant. Set in 1921, Ewa Cybulska (Marion Cotillard) and her sister Magda leave their home in Poland in search of the American dream and a better life in New York. However, her dreams are shattered from the outset when her sister is quarantined with suspected TB and Ewa is threatened with immediate deportation due to actions of 'low morals' during the boat trip over. Enter Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix) who she begs for help so that she can remain in America. At what price, however, does his help come? Also starring Jeremy Renner (as Bruno's charismatic cousin), the film is a marvellous vehicle for Cotillard, who is spellbinding. While the film doesn't have anything new to say, its leads are interesting and Gray manages to avoid black and white characters, with each having shades of good and bad, making for a much more interesting story. 

Nothing Bad Can Happen

A title like Nothing Bad Can Happen arouses suspicion at Cannes where, let's face it, something (very) bad is happening at the vast majority of the films on offer! Well, if a film could be sued for false advertising due to a misleading title then Katrin Gebbe's offering would warrant a court appearance. Based on true events, a young man Tore (played by Julius Feldmeier) joins an extreme religious group called the Jesus Freaks and is desperate to cling to a belief. So when he meets Benno (Sascha Gersak) and his family, he begins to believe that it is God's way that brought them together and he soon moves in with this strange family. What follows is a series of increasingly manipulative and abusive behaviour from Benno (and then also his wife) which makes for very difficult and uncomfortable viewing. While it may be hard to watch and (personally for me) a struggle to identify with what compels Tore to stay, the performances are undeniably good. Gersak gives an intriguing and powerful portrayal of a character who goes from someone who initially appears to be venting some of his frustrations with his life on the new arrival but gradually becomes more psychotic and evil. Regardless, I learned something vital - never trust a title at Cannes!

Ross Keane
Director 

Cannes Film Festival 2013 - read Ross' blogs: Part One, Part Two and Part Three

Monday, May 27, 2013

Silent film no more!

“Not long to the tour now...” I hear my fellow musicians declare! Well, it's been an interesting journey that began over 12 years ago when I first researched ideas for a movie with a new score. Sunniva O’Flynn helped me select the film Willy Reilly and His Colleen Bawn, and it proved to be an exciting project for me as a composer so I began to create a voice for each character reflecting the theatrical performances you will see on the screen... 


The feature begins with a holdup… Squire Folliard is held up by the Highwayman Red Rapparee and his gang. Our hero Willy Reilly comes on the scene and rescues him, and the grateful Folliard brings Willy to his home where he meets and falls in love with the squire's daughter, Helen, the Colleen Bawn. Folliard opposes the liaison between Helen and Willy because of their different religious backgrounds, and seeks to encourage Helen to marry the bigoted, anti-Catholic Sir Robert Whitecraft… What will happen? Will the scheming Whitecraft get his way or will the Colleen Bawn find her true love?

Composer Bernard Reilly

After two performances in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, and our debut at the National Concert Hall last summer, we are sooo excited about our three city tour in June where we will perform the 'live to screen' film concerts in Paris (Cinema Le Balzac, 10th June 8.30pm), Berlin (Kino Babylon, 8th June 8pm) and Madrid (Ciné Dore, 12th June 7.30pm). Please come and join us for our final pre-tour Dress Rehearsal with the CinéTheatre Ensemble on June 5th at 6:30pm Irish Film Institute,Temple Bar.

See you there!

Bernard Reilly
Composer

Willy Reilly and His Colleen Bawn with a magnificent new score composed and conducted by Bernard Reilly and performed live by the Irish Cine Theatre Ensemble will screen on Wednesday, June 5th at 18.30. Tickets available at the Box Office (016793477) and online


This event is presented by the Irish Film Institute as part of the International Culture Programme to celebrate Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and is supported by Culture Ireland and The Arts Council of Ireland.  

Cannes Film Festival 2013 blog: Part Three

Day Four in Cannes and it's all about queuing. Long queues. Despite being full of industry professionals who you'd imagine would be the most reverential of audiences, Cannes audiences seem to have the worst cinema etiquette! Phones are constantly lighting up - it's half understandable as people are often logging on to check on ticket availability - but even at the bigger competition screenings, when they announce that all phones should be switched off, there's a constant glow of mobile phone activity. 



Another Cannes staple is the constant in and out as people come and go - again this is partly understandable as time is precious, so if you find yourself at a dud screening, there's always something else just about to start elsewhere that you could hedge your bets on instead. But what is completely infuriating is the constant chat. During L'Inconnu du Lac/Stranger by the Lake, three people had a full-blown conversation and then proceeded to giggle like nervous children at every sex scene. At The Great Beauty/La Grande Bellezza, the people beside me - who clearly weren't getting into Sorrentino's crazy world - were unable to keep their frustrations to themselves and had to critically debate the film there and then. At Grisgris my neighbours managed to combine a lot of my pet peeves - they left the sound on their phone on, took and sent texts, and decided to give a running commentary of the whole film!


Rant nearly over! Today, being the day of queues, Cannes etiquette once again took me by surprise. With all the talk about Nicholas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives, this morning's screening was always going to be in demand, and as Cannes goers realise, that means queuing. For a long time! So two hours in advance of the screening time, I had my place in the queue. However, for the next 90 minutes, new arrivals barged in front with no shame or skipped the queue to join friends. Where is the Cannes Cinema Etiquette? Survival of the fittest?!

So onto Only God Forgives. This divided audiences and critics at its first screening yesterday. But I was pleasantly surprised. It doesn't deserve the vitriolic response it's received in some quarters. Yes it's flawed, resembles a Greek tragedy and has many thinly developed characters. But it held my attention. Set in a Bangkok boxing club which acts as a front for drug business, Julian (a non-emotive Ryan Gosling) is pressured by his mother Crystal (Kirsten Scott Thomas) into avenging the death of his brother who was killed after murdering a young prostitute. Scott Thomas must have had great fun with her OTT role and it's a beautifully lit film. But boy is it violent? Let's just say it gives a whole new meaning to 'see no evil, hear no evil'. That was quite a lot of blood to stomach so soon after breakfast!


And from one queue to the next. As we draw towards the latter stages of the Festival there are reruns of some of the official selection, giving everyone a chance to see some of the bigger titles that they may have missed earlier in the week. So, for another two hours, I stood patiently in line (when else do you think I'd have time to write blogs!) for Arnaud Desplechin's Jimmy P. Based on a true story it follows Jimmy Picard (Benicio Del Toro), a Native American Blackfoot who fought in World War II in France. Upon his return and suffering from a range of symptoms including headaches and temporary blindness, Jimmy is admitted to a mental institution for soldiers. But when no simple medical solution can be found, the hospital management drafts in Georges Devereux (Mathieu Amalric), a French anthropologist and specialist in Native American culture. The relationship between doctor and patient forms the basis of this simply told story. With no huge dramatic climax, it's a gently engaging story with solid performances from both the leads and supporting cast (Gina McKee gives a lovely understated performance as George's partner Madeleine). 

Inside Llewyn Davis

Next up was a change in tone as I grabbed a late opportunity to see the Coen Brothers' latest, Inside Llewyn Davis. After a lot of very sombre films with challenging subject matters, it was a refreshing change of pace to enter the world of Ethan and Joel Coen for their story of a young folk singer in Greenwich Village in 1961. Struggling to make a living from his music and living on the kindness (which may be about to wear thin) of friends and family, Llewyn Davis is a little lost in life! Oscar Isaac is a wonderful lead and ably carries the film on his shoulders. The film starts brilliantly but somewhat loses its way during a road trip to Chicago with John Goodman in the back seat! But overall it's an enjoyable watch. There's the usual wonderful soundtrack that one has to come to expect from the Coens, but you'll even get to tap your foot along to a rendition of The Auld Triangle performed in Aran sweaters! It may not go down as a Coen classic but it's still a very enjoyable ride. 

Ross Keane
Director

Cannes Film Festival 2013 - read Ross' blogs: Part One and Part Two

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cannes Film Festival 2013 blog (Part Two)

Day 3 at Cannes began with glorious sunshine and ended with a lot of rain! Would the films follow the same path and start full of cheer and end on a damp note?

My first film of the day - and possibly my favourite to date - was La Jaula de Oro/La Cage doree (unofficial English title: The Golden Cage). This film by Spanish director Diego Quemada-diez was a beautiful and powerful story of three young teenagers trying to flee Guatemala towards Los Angeles. When they meet an Indian boy who joins their group, things begin to change within their group dynamics. Their struggle can be heart-breaking at times and I found myself so drawn into the story that I was just willing them to get a good break. It's tender, moving and beautifully shot and I can't wait for more people to get to see it so I can talk with them about it!

La Jaula de Oro/La Cage doree 

The theme of Wednesday seemed to be people down on their luck and Grisgris - which was playing in Competition - could certainly fit the bill. Despite a paralysed leg, 25-year-old Grisgris dreams of being a dancer. But when his stepfather becomes ill and the family cannot afford the medical bills, he resorts to desperate measures to try to help his family. The actor Souleymane Deme, also paralysed in real life, puts in a moving performance. He scored a lot of points from the Cannes crowd after he danced for everyone on the red carpet before the screening! It's a touching tale by director Mahamat-Saleh Hardoun. 


The Argentian comedy Diablo was next on my list but coupled with a few technical hitches and soaking shoes (yes, the rain had started at this stage), perhaps I wasn't in the right frame of mind for it as it didn't do anything for me. 

The final film of the night was a special screening of the 1972 documentary Weekend of a Champion which had been re-edited and updated with new material. It follows Roman Polanski and his friendship with Formula One driver Jackie Stewart and focuses on the sportsman's attempt to hold onto his title at the Monte Carlo Grand Prix. For anyone with an interest in motor racing, this film is an absolute must. For the non-enthusiasts, it does go into a lot of detail about which gear you should be in at each turn during the circuit! It was a very special screening however with lots of guests in attendance including Polanski and stars of two of his films' stars Christoph Waltz and Adrien Brody (both sitting just 5 seats away from me!) and lots of people from the motor racing world including Jackie Stewart, Damon Hill and Alain Prost.

Weekend of a Champion

So despite the earlier sunny weather, by the time I dragged myself home at the end of the day after lots of queuing in the rain, I looked like a drowned rat. This Cannes business isn't all glamour you know!

Ross Keane
Director

Read Part One of our Cannes blog. 

IFI's Ross Keane at Cannes 2013: Part 1

I arrived in Cannes this year, for my second visit to the Festival, a few days after its official opening and was instantly playing catch up! With five nights already under the belt for many people, and with reviews flooding in, I quickly scrambled to figure out what I had to see. 



By the time I got settled and registered, there was only time for one screening on Monday, and since we often find many films for the IFI French Film Festival at Cannes, I decided to begin proceedings with Les Rencontres d'apres minuit. It's a film many have been talking about - largely due to its controversial subject matter. The film is set over the course of one night as a variety of guests arrive for an orgy. With guest names including The Slut, The Stud and The Teen, it's not your average dinner party! The cast includes Eric Cantona and Beatrice Dalle. All put in good performances but I wanted the film to engage me more overall. 

Les Rencontres d'apres minuit

Tuesday saw a marathon day of five films. The morning started with another French film and one that had also generated a lot of talk and interest. Playing as part of Un Certain Regard, L'Inconnu du lac/Stranger by the Lake is also causing a bit of controversy. Set in a cruising spot for gay men, the film contains a lot of explicit scenes, but the tone changes when the main protagonist witnesses a murder and the film suddenly becomes a whole lot more engaging. It's beautifully shot and utilises just three locations throughout the film - the car park, the lake and the woods. It's a thought-provoking film by Alain Guiraudie and one that we're all still discussing. 

Cast and crew of L'Inconnu du lac/Stranger by the Lake

Fresh from a lot of media attention, Pussy Riot are the focus of Mike Lerner's doc, Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer. The film follows the band in the build up to their performance at the Orthodox Cathedral, their subsequent arrest, court case and appeal. With good access to the band and their families, it presents a fairly balanced view of the situation, at times with the girls coming across as extremely naive and foolish, while at the same time exposing religious extremism. 

Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer

Steven Soderbergh may have said he had made his last film, but Behind the Candelabra - which was made for TV - gives us a good chance to see his work back on the big screen. Telling the story of virtuoso pianist Liberace (Michael Douglas) and his secret five year love affair with Scott Thorson (Matt Damon), it's a thoroughly entertaining watch. The first half is an enjoyable romp, fairly frivolous with its fair share of chuckles. But as their relationship begins to spiral and the cracks begin to show, it starts to become a darker affair. The two leads give great performances. Michael Douglas clearly relishes the opportunity to play the effeminate Liberace, while Matt Damon has the bigger character arc to portray going from wide-eyed country boy to a near-replica of his camp older lover, with a drug habit on the side to add to the effect. A mention has to go to Rob Lowe, the plastic surgeon who works on both leads - his facial paralysis, squinting eyes and inability to take a sip due to his own amount of surgery gives for a wonderfully comic performance. 

Behind the Candelabra

Youth /Jeunesse is a French film from first time director Justine Malle dealing with first love and the looming loss of a parent. It's a good first film and particularly shines during the protagonist's attempts to discover her sexual identity. 

La Grande Bellezza/The Great Beauty

The final film of the day was the red carpet gala of Paola Sorrentino's La Grande Bellezza/The Great Beauty. The whacky world of Sorrentino was a joy to spend just over two hours in. The opening ten minutes - including a frenzied party scene - was a joy to watch and set the tone for the whole film. Toni Servillo was fantastic as main character Jep Gambardella who celebrates his 65th birthday and looks on at the world and characters around him. While it could do with an edit, and doesn't all quite make sense, if you let it wash over you and don't ask too many questions, it's an absolute pleasure. 

Ross Keane
Director