Archive for March 20, 2008

Hungarian Roulette

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on March 20, 2008 by dcairns

Hey Mickey 

Miklós Jancsó is touring the UK talking about his work, with his son Nyika translating for him. As the great man explained, by way of translation, when he was young he never learned English because everybody thought French was going to be the Universal Language. “So think yourselves lucky you’re not speaking French.”

Having been doing this for a while, Jancsó and son have developed a very nice tag-team comic timing, in which the pauses for translation accentuate the humour.

Introducing THE ROUND-UP:


“I hope you enjoy the film.”


“I would say, ‘Have fun,’ but maybe it’s not that funny.”

Rounding Up Donkeys

Jancsó is in the odd, schizoid position of being fairly well-known to young audiences in his native Hungary for the slightly vulgar, frank-speaking comedies he’s been making recently, which have enjoyed good box office at home but remain largely unseen elsewhere, while in Britain and America, at least, he is known almost exclusively for his ’60s and ’70s films. So there are two Miklós Janscós.


“I am a very old man.”


“And all I can do now is laugh at the world.”


“And I suggest you do the same.”

(More soon.)


The Thousand Eyes of Dr. MacBuse

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2008 by dcairns

Screen Test 

RED ROAD, chapter two. Good thing the filmmakers helpfully divided their movie into episodes so I could watch it over several days.*

Last seen, Kate Dickie was starting to sort-of-stalk a fellow called Clyde (Tony Curran) newly released from prison. After another 24 minute installment, that’s still all that’s happening, but she is now doing her stalking at (very) close quarters, rather than relying on her security cameras. There’s been more extremely nice, atmospheric photography, and the revelation that while she knows who he is, he’s never seen her before in his puff. So the plot has coagulated just a touch.

The Yellow Wallpaper

Co-stars Martin Compston and Natalie Press have appeared. The latter dumps half a tin of dog food directly onto the kitchen floor for her puppy to chow down on, and I am genuinely impressed by the inventive squalor of this. Almost everybody in the film still seems to be suffering from clinical depression. Kate Dickie is actually one of the liveliest, with Compston bringing some of his colossal charm to bear, and Press has a spasming, out-of-control face that seems to be obeying the dictates of some alien power, which makes her disconcerting yet pleasurable to watch, as she was in MY SUMMER OF LOVE (I do like SOME modern British cinema).

Press the button 

The pace is starting to wear me out — the relentlessly SLOW pace. Not that events are spectacularly drawn-out, or that nothing’s happening, but nothing of clear significance is happening. If we’re heading for an amazing revelation, one feels that it had better be amazingly amazing. My spirits are at a low ebb, and then Kate Dickie throws up in an elevator. Lovely. A basic staple of entertainment, something no truly Scottish film can be without: somebody heaving their guts up in a confined space.

I stop the disc and run off to see Jancsó’s THE ROUND-UP at Filmhouse. More later.

On the Buses

*They did no such thing.

Crossing the border

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2008 by dcairns

Cast and Crew 

People of Britain — go and see George A Romero’s DIARY OF THE DEAD! It got mostly wretched reviews here but it is pretty damn interesting. Certainly if you’re a Romero fan you’ll dig it, possibly more than LAND OF THE DEAD (hardcore gorehounds were disappointed with the 15 certificate levels of violence in that one, but I enjoyed it’s anti-neo-con satire and the Hawksian relationship between the three leads).

DOTD is plenty grisly, and packs in a lot in narrative terms as well. Seeing it in the midst of RED ROAD was certainly a lesson in what can be achieved in a low-budget digital feature. In the evening, I saw THE ROUND-UP with a q&a afterwards with octogenarian film god Miklós Jancsó, and he explained how his film’s long-take style enabled him to make it in 26 days. “Hah! DIARY OF THE DEAD was shot in 23 days,” I thought. And it has a higher body count, too. Plus, Romero is 68!

(Nevertheless, Jancsó and his film were amazing. Much more on Mr. J. later.)

Criticism of DIARY has centred on supposedly unlikable characters and the mockumentary technique whereby said characters, a team of film students, are seen making the film we’re watching, capturing the mayhem as it unfolds. Of course, CLOVERFIELD has already delivered the big-budget version of this trope, and rogue spanker Brian DePalma’s REDACTED uses a similar approach. It’s a zeitgeist thing, I guess, especially as the elephant in each film’s room is Iraq/Guantanamo Bay/Abu Ghraib, with only BDP’s film tackling the theme overtly. I’m guessing the reason the style and subject are coming together in this way is a reaction to the ubiquity of the war on YouTube, as well as the photographic documentation of atrocities at Abu Ghraib by the perpetrators themselves.

Horror Hospital

Romero’s fictional filmmakers are really not that unpleasant — compared to the fleshwads who litter THE COTTAGE, waiting to be disemboweled, they’re positive paragons of humanity. Their worst trait is their tendency to film everything, but it’s a good job they’re ruthless with the cameras, as how else would we get to watch? (But unlike in CLOVERFIELD, they have realistic travails with battery power.) One of Romero’s themes is how filmmaking is passed along like an infectious disease, parallel with the spread of the zombie contagion, so that the characters who morally reject the urge to document every tragedy are gradually tainted with by the process, and end up carrying on the film after the originator has gone.

Apart from the compromised heroes, some of the supporting figures are very appealing, or at least memorable. The deaf Amish guy with the sticks of dynamite ought to have a movie of his own. Hell, he ought to have a daily prime-time show. There’s a brilliantly scary National Guardsman-turned-looter, played by someone whose credit I can’t even find, but who ought to be a star. And there are cameos by Romero himself, Romero associate John Harrison (read of my encounter with the delightful Mr. H. here) and audio contributions by Stephen King, Wes Craven, Simon Pegg, Quentin Tarantino and Guillermo Del Toro. Guillermo’s sound-byte is the best value, partly because he has a recognisable voice, and also because of his distinctive Mexican take on the zombie phenomenon: “What we have to worry about now is all these people crossing the border between life and death.”

The Mummy Returns

It’s kind of rare to see a film that basically gets better as it goes along. At first the mockumentary effect is rather unsatisfactory — you can’t have verité camera style unless you’re performances match it, and Romero’s are a touch too broad. The decision to use music (justified by one of the student’s explaining she’s added it because “I want to scare you”) seems a little cowardly, and Romero has never been great with music — it required Argento’s lurid skills to bring DAWN OF THE DEAD to full life in that respect. But as the action develops, taking the usual slow downturn into anguished despair (a big motif in all the Romero DEAD flicks), the film picks up increasingly, with sharp satire, surprising gore effects (a scythe through two heads at once? New to me!), and some disconcerting crazy humour. The post-modern version of gratuitous nudity struck me as naff — it may be a joke, but it’s still demeaning — but aside from that I was all in favour of this damn thing.

Pretty in Pink

Interesting to note that it was forty years ago that the zombie invasion began, in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. And in the new film, it’s still beginning. Message: the zombie invasion is a constant in our lives.