“Barry Lyndon” is a story which does not depend upon surprise,’ Kubrick told Michel Ciment in one of his rare interviews, nailing the film’s re-found appeal. ‘What is important is not what is going to happen, but how it will happen. I think Thackeray trades off the advantage of surprise to gain a greater sense of inevitability and a better integration of what might otherwise seem melodramatic or contrived.’
Likewise, as time goes by, Kubrick’s own contrivances – the technical obsessions, the outwardly puppet-like performances, Ryan O’Neal’s seemingly endless wanderings, adventures and increasingly futile ambitions – have themselves fallen away to reveal something quite extraordinary: the shape of a life, a human’s rise and fall, rendered as an epic, mesmeric, suffusing slow dance of immersive cinema – and therefore, not only Kubrick’s most beautiful but also his most empathetic and understanding work
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Watchmen the Movie is going on general release next month. However much I am looking forward to the Zack Snyder version, I still wish that it had been made by Terry Gilliam. The great maverick director failed to make the movie – twice. Indeed Terry Gilliam (right) has had more than his fair share of film failures. He has released just one movie, the Brothers Grimm, in a little over a decade.
But wait. Hope is at hand. There are signs that the former-Python’s career is about to take a positive turn. Here’s why:
1) June see the release of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – which was delayed two years because of the death its original actor: Heath Ledger.
2) The word on the web is that Terry Gilliam’s movie after that will be an adaptation of Pat Ruskin’s The Zero Theorem – and that it promises to be his strangest since Brazil. Billy Bob Thornton is to star. Shooting starts in May.
3) Beyond that, Gilliam has said that he finally reboot The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, with Johnny Depp and, possibly, Michael Palin in the title roles.
Is it time to suggest that the curse of Terry Gilliammight finally have be exorcised or am I tempting fate?
Disney’s Tron is like the Dorian Gray of science fiction: it just never seems to get any older. It’s beautiful, neon-lit vector graphics have left a long legacy on contemporary design (Motorola’s RAZR / the architecture of Liverpool Steet’s Broadgate / even the fashion for Nu-Rave). It also imagined what virtual reality might look like, a full two years before William Gibson’s Neuromancer
Next year sees the release of Tron 2, with Jeff Bridges reprising his lead role. Last week test footage of the sequel was screened at Comic Con in San Diego and leaked onto the web by someone in the audience. It’s amazing how, even though the footage is both blurred and unsteady (its apparently taken on a mobile phone) I feel compelled to watch it.
As William Wiles has pointed out in Icon Magazine, the sequel’s failure is probably inevitable. As hew says, “no remake could match the enormous and lasting importance and influence of the original.
“Tron was a technological milestone and a cultural breakthrough that cannot be replicated.”
A bit of visual candy: Disney designer Eric Tan makes posters for new films in the old style. Taking inspiration from the work of the artists of the German UFA studios of the 1920s, Tan’s posters are used within Hollywood (The X-Men poster was produced for Stan Lee’s birthday), but have yet to be given a full theatrical release.
My recent post on the Guardian Film Blog tells the story of Nuru Rimington-Mkali (above left), a young 21-year-old filmmaker from Peckham in South London. His film And I Refuse to Forget has just won the grand prize in the inaugural Filmaka Competition which is co-founded by Deepak Nayar (the producer of Bend it Like Beckham). The prize will fund Rimington-Mkali’s first full-length film to the tune of $5 and will be produced by Nayar
The young filmmaker, who used to be a technician at Southwark City Learning Centre and be an usher in his local cinema, won the approval of a judging panel containing the likes of Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, John Madden, Colin Firth and Paul Schrader. Neil LaBute, one of America’s most excellent storytellers, said the film was a “wonderfully impressive paranoid thriller told with great economy and vivid imagery.” Indeed it is. And I Refuse to Forget is a short burst of science fiction, reminiscent of Willam Gibson and Philip K Dick. It’s also, despite its three minutes, a tender love story. Which is probably why it won.
He has been credited with foreseeing the Regan administration, the arrival of gated communities, the architecture of Canary Wharf and widespread ecological disaster, but has the most prescient science fiction writer of the last three decades, also anticipated something else? Did JG Ballard also anticipate YouTube?
As far back as 1984, the Oracle of Shepperton was quoted in an interview as saying, “I’d like to organize a Festival of Home Movies! It could be wonderful — thousands of the things… You might find an odd genius, a Fellini or Godard of the home movie, living in some suburb. I’m sure it’s coming…” Indeed it was. In 1984 Ballard’s obsession with home movies might have seemed a little perverse and yet today watching them on YouTube is as routine as switching on the telly.
Ballard foresaw his festival as, “using modern electronics, home movie cameras and the like” and now a group of his devotees have instigated The 1st Ballardian Festival of home movies, a kind of belated realisation of the legendary author’s vision using nothing more than a video-enabled mobile phone. You can watch the entire collection at Ballardotube (“the net’s only dedicated Ballard channel”).Ballard has always revelled in the mundane underside of contemporary culture, once remarking that the Los Angeles Yellow Pages was “richer in human incident than all the novels of Balzac”.
The festival organisers admit that they have yet to find the Fellini of the very small screen, but its early days for the nascent festival. “Next year, who knows?”, reads a statement on the festival website. “Perhaps we’ll get entrants to simulate the filmed ratissages in Super-Cannes, or Bobby Crawford’s home porno movies in Cocaine Nights.”
*Please feel free to comment on a subsequent version of this article, over at the Guardian Arts Blog
Variety is reporting that Warner Bros is reported to be developing two live action adaptations of Akira, a masterpiece of manga written and drawn by the legendary Katsuhiro Otomo. The remake will be produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and set outside Japan, instead being set in a New Manhattan, a city rebuilt by Japanese money after being destroyed 31 years ago. Typical Hollywood, re-setting Akira outside Japan is like relocating Quadrophenia outside Brighton. In my opinion it just doesn’t make sense.
Even so, the live-action Akira will be set outside Japan, former ad-director Ruairi Robinson should ensure the film has a strong visual style and the budget will sufficiently blockbuster.
Holy bungled distribution Batman! The wrong trailer has been sent out! Or was it? Audiences in America who turned up to see an Imax preview of I am Legend, this week, have been treated to an apparent accidental taster of the forthcoming Batman movie, The Dark Knight, which is not due to arrive until July next year.
Six minutes of the film were “accidentally” screened in Imax cinemas and the bootleg quickly leaked on to the internet. The scene shows an intense bank robbery, not dissimilar bank-heist sequence from Michael Mann’s Heat, in addition to shots of the Heath Ledger’s Joker and some extra scenes from the movie (you can see the official trailer here).
But although Warners pulled the bootleg preview from YouTube earlier today, you can’t help but wonder if this was accident or design. Set designs and short clips are routinely leaked months before the theatrical release (just take these recent shots of the set from the upcoming adaptation of The Watchmen). Seeing that Dark Knight has already one of the most elaborate viral campaigns for a forthcoming movie, it does make you wonder. For all those that saw it reported that the six minutes of raw action didn’t half leave them panting for more. The Joker couldn’t have planned it better.
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I have just reached the end of Cormac McCarthy’s utterly tragic The Road, which is possibly the most relentlessly despairing work of dystopian fiction that I have ever read.In some senses, the book’s vision of the apocalypse rests in the 1980s. It follows a father and son as they trudge along a ruined interstate highway under the dense clouds of a nuclear winter like wretched ancestors of Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath. But as they make their long way through the landscape of a burned America, you cant help but recognise global warming as the focus for the book’s bleak warning.
The movie of the book is in pre-production with the English-born actor Guy Pearce rumoured to play the leading role. It will be fascinating to see how he deals with playing a man who is starving to death. I have been reading a lot of contemporary dystopian fiction of late and what strikes me about it all is how much more despairing this generation of writers is when compared to those I read in my childhood (Huxley, Orwell, Wells et al). The last few years have not only given us McCarthy’s ashen sepulchre, but also Margaret Atwood’s forewarning of the dangers of playing god with Oryx and Crake and David Mitchell’s Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After, the pinnacle story in his magnificent Cloud Atlas. If dystopia is really just a form of contemporary satire, what do these foreboding stories tell us about our present?
Above right: Cormac McCarthy – De Weg
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