Archive for Kate Dickie

Because There Are No Donkeys In It

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2012 by dcairns

At last — DONKEYS, written by my friend Colin McLaren and directed by my friend and fellow alumni Morag McKinnon, hits the streets today in DVD form. Order it via the link below.

The follow-up film to RED ROAD has taken so long to secure a release that Morag has almost completed her next feature, BREATHING, a documentary co-directed with the mighty Emma Davie, about which more soon. Two years between first festival appearance and DVD. Almost as if someone weren’t quite sure how to sell it.

That trio on the DVD cover provides one clue. Brian Pettifer was in IF, O LUCKY MAN! and BRITANNIA HOSPITAL. Martin Compston was in SWEET SIXTEEN. James Cosmo was in TRAINSPOTTING. So DONKEYS is like SWEET SIXTEEN crossed with O LUCKY MAN! and TRAINSPOTTING. Kate Dickey, recently seen as a mop-topped space doctor in PROMETHEUS, is also a key character. And Brian Pettifer was also in AMADEUS. So maybe it’s AMADEUS meets PROMETHEUS. But that would imply that it featured an old man with a rubber head. It doesn’t.

Look: James Cosmo was the voice of the orang utan in BABE: PIG IN THE CITY. Martin Compston is in STRIPPERS VS WEREWOLVES. You do the math. Any way you look at it, this is a must-buy.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been an advertising copywriter after all. Although I submit that had anybody used my slogans “Goodness Gracious Great Bolognese!” and “Lurpak Spreadable: it’s so spreadable, it’s incredible!” I would be able to retire and live on the moon in a palace made of diamonds and chocolate.

In DONKEYS, compulsive liar James Cosmo learns he’s dying and tries to make up with his estranged daughter (Dickie) while avoiding owning up to his unacknowledged son (Compston) by trying to convince his not-very-bright best friend (Pettifer) that he is the lad’s father. If farce is tragedy played at double speed, DONKEYS is farce played a two-thirds speed. They don’t have a category for that yet.

Contains mild peril.

The concept behind Sigma and Zentropa’s “Advance Party” scheme is that different filmmakers make up their own stories about a group of characters created by Lone Scherfig. A loose concept allowing for considerable freedom of movement — but my chums still recast actors, rewrote life stories, and reduced some roles to walk-ons. Good luck squaring the events of DONKEYS with the events of RED ROAD — it’s fun coming up with theories to make sense of the lacunae. But more fun just to watch DONKEYS, which is as THE CRIMINAL LIFE OF ARCHIBALDO DE LA CRUZ is to EL: crazier, funnier and plottier.

Colin writes:  “Donkeys is a heartfelt look at the human condition, containing Brian Pettifer’s (to date) sole outing as Mahatma Gandhi. Well, now you can own it. And him. It’s out on DVD on Monday. One pence from each purchase goes to keeping me in pens. £1.49 would buy me pens for up to six months. Please give what you can, as long as it’s nine pounds, the cost of the DVD. Thank you.”

Oh wait, I’ve got a slogan for it: “As funny as cancer! No — funnier!”

To continue the supernatural blaxploitation theme, limericks on BLACULA by Hilary Barta, the lord of limerwrecks, are here and here.

Buy DONKEYS here –

Donkeys [DVD]

Morag and Colin’s BAFTA-winning short HOME is included on this –

Cinema 16 – British Short Films [DVD]

Children of a Messier God

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2012 by dcairns

It’s Prometheus! Hello, Prometheus! (From MACISTE IN HELL)

I’m going to avoid spoilers as much as possible while discussing PROMETHEUS, but if you want to see the film with totally fresh eyes, you’re better off not reading anything about it until afterwards, aren’t you?

Although, once you’ve seen it, you’ll be struck by how it’s largely a remake of the original ALIEN — the same story beats, but with interesting / horrific variations. The whole thing is put over with great style, and is very exciting and icky and everything you’d want it to be. Really, it not only acts as if the last two ALIENS films didn’t happen, it mainly ignores James Cameron’s highly-regarded sequel also, and certainly there’s no loose talk of the PREDATOR crossovers. This is, essentially, a prequel/replay of Scott’s original monster movie.

I like Marc Steitenfeld’s music, which continues the fine tradition of terror honking exemplified by SHUTTER ISLAND, but does so much more — including presenting a nice sombre religious grandeur theme, which plays in all sorts of unexpected scenarios.

The best way to talk about it, giving teasers rather than spoilers — might be in the form of a broken radio transmission –

KRRZZZT!

– Begins in Scotland! (where BATTLESHIP ends!) –

– very ALIENS-like spacecraft design –

– very 2001 interiors, continuing the ALIEN series’ odd conceit that as we get further into the future, everything gets danker and rattier –

– “Weyland” — mythic reference, but can’t work out signif –

– Skull Island sphinx statue –

– for once, Fassbender’s penis not largest serpentine organ on view –

– not only watching LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 3D, but dying his hair to look like O’Toole –

– in old age make-up FOR NO REASON –

– BRRZT! –

– guy getting all Crocodile Hunter with newly discovered alien species. Not smart –

– actors hitting their character’s single dimensions as HARD as they can: “Stupidity with confidence” –

–can’t believed they showed this IN THE TRAILER –

– kzzt!

One of the film’s strangest pleasures for me was the appearance of Kate Dickie, a Scots actress of some standing, who seems rather out of place — not because we can’t accept Scots on a spaceship — there’s Scottie, after all — but because I think she’s struggling with the American dialogue, which is very clipped and snappy, while her delivery is very emphatic and precise (while still in a very broad accent) — this might not be an issue for non-Scots, but I can assure you I’ve never heard anybody talk like this, ever. I suspect the idea was to keep the authentic accent but ensure clarity by stressing everything quite hard and leaving clear spaces between each word — whereas everybody knows that Scots communicate in a succession of continuous vowels. This is like a cross between Scots and morse code.

There’s also the fact that Noomi Rapace is delightfully Swedish, but in a dream-flashback she has an English accent as a child, which fits her character name, Elizabeth Shaw (deep space chocolatier!) but is a little puzzling. Couldn’t they have changed the character name and hired a Swedish child?

This is obviously Erich Von Daniken year — the comparative mythology Was God an Astronaut? stuff here (which serves the same role as the distress signal/warning in ALIEN) also turns up in JOHN CARTER — and would’ve been central to Del Toro’s AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS if that had happened.

What might frustrate some fans is the fact that the film doesn’t really set out to provide answers to the new questions it poses, though it does give information about the nature of the “Space Jockey” species found dead in ALIEN, and the origins of the titular creature itself. Those are questions that nobody really needed answers to, so the new mysteries we’re left with are much more intriguing. And I kind of hope they remain unanswered, but I guess there’s little chance of that — there’ll be a 2010-style sequel along sooner or later to explain everything to death.

We went with our friends Kim and Egg, and Egg was freaked to see that the geologist character looks exactly like the first geologist he ever met (and it’s quite a distinctive look: shaved ginger tattooed head and goatee). Do all geologists look like this?

King Lear in space” was how Fiona described one set of characters, who introduce a theme of age and succession. “Rupert Murdoch in space,” was how I described it. I can’t think why else they cast an Australian and then covered him in old age makeup. Given that this is a Fox film, it does suggest that old Rupert is losing touch with his empire…

I enjoyed this movie and may write more on it when there’s less fear of spoilers.

Hopefully that wasn’t too spoilery, but I make no promises about the comments section. Though it’d be nice if folks keep it misty re major plot points.

Geology, litigation, gender, cinema: my Saturday night.

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2008 by dcairns

The Rat-Infested City of Glasgow

The glamour of film-making — the unit assembles for ROUNDING UP DONKEYS.

Just back from the rat-infested city of Glasgow, which I plunged into in order to attend some birthday celebrations. I was also on the look-out for info that might help me land another film or TV job, though it was unlikely that anybody at this party would be able to grant me one directly, and I was also looking out for any little items of interest for the blog.

The 40th birthdays belonged to Travis and Helen Reeves, whom I know from way back. They are that rare phenomenon, non-identical twins who look alike, though not so much now. I shall explain — while not genetically identical, they have a strong facial resemblance and similar build. But not so much now, since Travis, who used to be Helen’s sister, is now her brother, which makes a fair difference.

It’s all prefigured weirdly in my film CLARIMONDE, I think, where Travis, then outwardly female, provided the voice for a male character (a ghost). The same scene featured another male ghost who was actually a woman in drag, looking like a cross between Ringo Starr and a Mexican bandit.

Along with his gender reassignment, Mr. T has also changed careers — apart from his writing and directing, he used to be a production designer, arranging objects within the three-dimensional space of a set, and is now a sound designer, arranging noises within the three-dimensional space of a cinema (or TV viewer’s lounge). This comparison between the two jobs originates with Walter Murch, and it’s the reason he invented the job title “sound montage designer”.

Helen Reeves is a “diminutive antipodean singer-songwriter” who used to duet with Travis under the unofficial heading “The Twindigo Girls”, though Travis’ deepened voice has made their harmonizing trickier, and rendered the nickname inaccurate.

I did find out a few things that might prove useful in my film-hustling, and caught up with several old friends, such as Bert Eeles, editor of CRY FOR BOBO, and John Cobban, sound designer of same. I also picked up fascinating insights into forensic archaeology from Travis’ friend Friga (sp?), with whom I also co-invented a futuristic dwelling space (the kind of thing I tend to do after a few pints). Friga was bemoaning the fact that geological drill cores, which are basically cylinders of rock, are often very beautiful, what with the interesting laminations in sedimentary stone, but if you’re a geologist you get too many of them to keep. I suggested building a house out of them. Friga initially thought this impractical, since the cores are cylindrical, not brick-shaped, until we jointly realised they could be assembled into a STONE LOG CABIN.

So when you find yourself spending your retirement years in an edifice constructed from little cylinders of laminated sedimentary rock, you’ll know it’s my fault.

The night was spent in Morag McKinnon’s spare room. Morag is fresh from directing her first feature, ROUNDING UP DONKEYS, but I can’t tell you much of anything about that because it’s all at a sensitive stage, rough cut and all. I’m still very much psyched to see it, but there’s a no-DVD policy in force at the moment to stop unfinished edits falling into THE WRONG HANDS, i.e. probably mine.

I can tell you about the LAWSUIT though, because that’s been in the papers. As I mentioned before, ROUNDING UP DONKEYS is the second film in a trilogy, following on from Andrea Arnold’s RED ROAD. While the films are supposed to deal with the lives of a common group of characters, the fact that each movie is the work of a different writer and director means that this was never likely to have the uniformity of Kieslowski’s DECALOGUE. In fact, screenwriter / mad god Colin McLaren refitted the characters to suit his dramatic purposes, giving Kate Dickie a new daughter, and having her meet Martin Compston for the first time, even though she meets him in RED ROAD. So it’s an alternate universe sequel to RED ROAD. (There should be more of those!)

Following in the same spirit, Morag recast a minor character in RED ROAD — Dickie’s dad — since he’s the major character in ROUNDING UP DONKEYS. James Cosmo, a distinguished player who also embodies a dad in TRAINSPOTTING, takes the role. This has upset the actor from RED ROAD, Andrew Armour, who apparently feels that by taking the part in film 1, he was effectively contracted to play him in all subsequent films, should the character appear. I don’t think he has a legal leg to stand on, but there’s a terrible pathos to his position: he’s said that this is his only chance at a leading role, which is tantamount to admitting nobody would ever cast him in a star part except by accident.

I like Armour in RED ROAD — he seems like a real old guy who’s kind of wandered in front of the camera, rather than like an actor, which is surely a good thing. But the character written by Colin is a new person in all but name, and requires a different sort of player to bring him to life. It’s just one of those things.

If you want a really sad casting story, consider the case of the actor originally cast as Sonny in THE GODFATHER. In order to get Paramount to agree to cast Al Pacino (an unknown who had underperformed in screen tests), Coppola had to agree to take James Caan as Sonny and let the original guy go. Not only had the guy already celebrated getting the part with his family… I can’t remember his name. Because he’s not famous. He never got another break — that was his shot.

(Maybe I’m inclined to depressing tales because I’m hungover. More cheerful stuff tomorrow!)

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