“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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My new favourite illustrator is Jon Klassen, an LA-based Canadian who has recently worked on Coraline, the new stop-motion (ie not digital) animation based on a novella by Neil Gaiman. Klassen worked on the film’s visual development and did some drawings for the sets and props. You can see more of his work on his website, the Burst of Beaden.
Lots of influences in his work, 50s animation and surrealism, for sure, and something of Friz Freleng, the Warner Bros animator who created the animated version of the Pink Panther (thank you Anna). Interestingly, Klasson lists his influences as Pieter Breughel (the elder), the musicians Harry Nilsson and Burl Ives, as well as the great Stanley Kubrick. The picture you can see (above) is actually inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s dystopian novel, The Road.
You can buy prints of his work right here.
I’m intrigued to learn that the life of Lucien Carr is to be made into a film. Carr was the man who introduced writers Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg (to be played by British actor Ben Whishaw).
Kill Your Darlings revisits an infamous night in 1944 when Carr stabbed his friend David Kammerer to death. He was later convicted of the manslaughter. Kerouac spent a night in the clink for helping Carr dispose of the knife.
It’s difficult to gauge how good it will be; films about the Beat Movement have been so uniformly dire, which is strange because you’d have thought that the movement would be made on the silver screen. All that great music; those wide open roads; the scenes of bohemian hedonism have somehow never been successfully translated to the cinema.
+ Incidentally there is a decent-looking Kerouac documentary is doing the festivals circuit.
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First Showing is reporting that David Mitchell’s masterful Cloud Atlas will be adapted for the big screen. The film of the book (that should have won the 2004 Booker Prize) will be produced by the Wachowski Brothers and directed by Tom Tykwer, who previously directed Run Lola Run.
My first thought is that Cloud Atlas is pretty un-film-able. The book is a literary jigsaw puzzle: something both entertaining and difficult at the same time. It takes a long time to ponder, without ever being too heavy. So much of that will surely be lost in translation.
What will remain, I think, will be highly entertaining,. Like Danny Boyle’s re-making of Trainspotting, it will romp along nicely enough; hopping through different adventures and riffing along different genres. Think of Timothy Cavendish’s misadventures, for instance, and how they would make for a tight little Ealing-style comedy.
But it will be a fluffier Cloud Atlas on offer. Of course it will. The Brothers Wachowski can only carry it up to a point. Their V for Vendetta simplified much of Alan Moore’s political message after all and it made for a frustrating adaptation, despite excellent performances from Geoffery Rush and Natalie Portman (the latter an evens-bet for Luisa Rey in Cloud Atlas). The brothers also famously failed to give the Matrix Trilogy much sense in the end. Could they do better with Cloud Altas with just two hours to play with? I wonder.
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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.
Waltz with Bashir is an animated documentary (trailer is here) telling the story of Israeli soldiers fighting the Lebanese War of 1982. Screened in competition at Cannes this year, it is being touted as the first feature-length animated documentary. The Times (of London) has called it “a voyage of discovery into Folman’s uncharted subconscious,” as it deals with the suppressed memories of those fighting in the war.
Software is so lowering the cost of animation that the barriers to making it continue to fall. Using animation in documentary also allows you to portray things, like memories, that you can’t with ordinary footage, it also offers the opportunity to stage things the camera missed first time around. Will Kim’s In Search of the Colors (above right), for example, uses various hand-drawn and painterly animation to tell a story drawn from his own experiences at a home for people with developmental disabilities. While the work of east London’s Bold Creative uses animation to tell stories straight the mouths of British teenagers. They told me that this approach – recording the kids’ voices but animating their faces later – allows the kids to open up much more, not least because they know they are not on camera. We have seen some extraordinary comic books dealing with complex adult issues in recent years. It looks like their animated relatives are following suit.
Thanks once again to the wondrous Things Magazine for pointing me towards The London that Nobody Knows, a wonderful documentary from 1967 narrated by James Mason (a fellow lad of Huddersfield). The film is a favourite of Bob Stanley of St Etienne, who describes the film as “No horseguards, no palaces, but Islington’s Chapel Market, pie shops, and Spitalfields tenements … Carnaby chicks and chaps, the 1967 we have been led to remember, [is] shockingly juxtaposed with feral meths drinkers, filthy shoeless kids, squalid Victoriana. Camden Town still resembles the world of Walter Sickert. There is romance and adventure, but mostly there is malnourishment.”
Although I wouldn’t agree with him that “London looks like a shithole,” even the fluttering washing above a tenament in the East End looks beautiful when arranged above a courtyard of excited children playing in the midday sun. The London that Nobody Knows is based on a book by Geoffrey Snowcroft Fletcher of, funnily enough, The Daily Telegraph. Stanley calls Fletcher “the great forgotten London writer” and the book was first published in 1962.
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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.
Video Sniffing might sound like a punk fanzine for a generation weaned on YouTube and in a way, that is exactly what it is. The Guardian’s Film and Music section today published my report on the practice of tuning into the wireless frequencies used by CCTV cameras in order to use the images for short films. The article also talks to Manu Luksch of Ambient TV about her film Faceless, which was made by using your legal right to claim CCTV footage of your own image.
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.
This trailer to this summer’s eagerly awaited film adaptation of Alan Moore’s Watchman has yet to arrive (although the one above gives us a glimpse of what it might look like). I have been looking forward this film ever since I read the excellent graphic novel in the late eighties. The various shots of the set so far released show that the film’s director Zack Snyder has done well to mimic visual style of the Dave Gibbons, the book’s illustrator, but elsewhere all is not well in the world of the Watchmen.
Alan Moore, the novel’s creator, is not happy and has said that he wants nothing to do with the film. Moreover, he recently told Wizard Entertainment that he got sent a contract from the film company a couple of months ago asking for his signature beneath words. “I, the undersigned, hereby give you permission to take my name off of the film and to send my money to Dave Gibbons.” So no filthy lucre, either.
Rumour has it that Moore got his fingers burned with the Wachowsik brothers adaptation of V for Vendetta, which wore the clothes of his characters and and spoke the words of his plot, but watered down his anarchist politics (although nevertheless featured a sublime performance from Hugo Weaving as V). Still something of a buzz still lingers around the adaptation of watchmen. Some fans have already having a bit of fun with the cast, images of the set are leaking out of Hollywood on a weekly basis and the first official poster has been released. I’m still looking forward to the movie, but without Moore’s endorsement, my excitement is being tempered.