Archive for Andrea Arnold

Donkey Work

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on June 20, 2010 by dcairns

It’s frustrating that I’m good friends with several of the personalities behind DONKEYS, particularly writer Colin McLaren and director Morag McKinnon, both of whom I’ve worked with in various capacities, because I’d like to tell you how marvelous DONKEYS is but you’re duty-bound to not believe me. I declare my prejudice in favour of the movie to be near-total, but promise to confine myself to the facts.

Recap: I’ve spoken about this before here, but this movie has an unusual origin it’s worth knowing.

DONKEYS, originally called ROUNDING UP DONKEYS, is a sequel of sorts to RED ROAD, a Scottish arthouse hit based on a scheme devised by Lars Von Trier and Lone Scherfig: three writer-directors were given a group of characters and told to make three movies using them. Morag asked LVT what she should do if she couldn’t find ways to use all the characters from RED ROAD. “Oh, just use the ones you want and have the rest go by in a bus.”

She then set about cheating even more. First she brought in Colin to help with the script. He’s the genius who scripted her BAFTA-winning short HOME, and co-wrote my own hit CRY FOR BOBO. Then she told her employers he was helping. Then she told them he was collaborating. Then she told them he was writing it.

Meanwhile, Colin elevated a bit-player from the RED ROAD cast list to leading man status. This eventually led to the part going to the great James Cosmo (Ewen MacGregor’s dad in TRAINSPOTTING), and Brian Pettifer, a familiar face from Lindsay Anderson’s work, was brought in as his hapless friend. One of the RED ROAD actors threatened to sue. Then he dropped dead. Problem solved.

Colin tinkered. Kate Dickie’s Jackie no longer works in front of a thousand monitors, surveilling Glasgow by CCTV. She now works in a supermarket. She suddenly has a daughter. Natalie Press, a teenage runaway in RED ROAD, is a doctor in this one. This is the alternate universe sequel to RED ROAD. Also, it’s a comedy.

Due to the kind of machinations and screw-ups actuated whenever a film is made, especially with multiple producers, various gags did hit the cutting room floor during the journey to the screen. This resulted in an odd, but ultimately pleasing phenomenon. DONKEYS is a very black comedy, so by not announcing the tone up front, it spectacularly wrongfooted the critics and filmmakers at the industry screening. The audience, expecting a grim slice-of-life in the Loach vein, following on from Andrea Arnold’s rather glum debut, slowly began to suspect that something was up. Titters were heard. “Ah, it’s the comedy of the everyday,” they thought. “A bit of naturalistic comedy in the Mike Leigh tradition.” (I was there, I heard them thinking this. I’m still just reporting the facts here.)

When Cosmo, who may be terminally ill, tries to win back his estranged daughter by extemporizing a dreadful song at her late husband’s grave, you could practically see the suspicion shading into certainty that this was an actual funny film. The song is very poor. It continues for a long time. The laughter built. And then the film was home free.

Cosmo, a rugged, ragged man mountain with a face apparently hewn from granite, then dropped from a great height, contrasts physically with the small, smooth and round Pettifer, creating a sort of Laurel and Hardy effect. And I did actually think of the immortal L&H when I read the script. Even though this happens in a world closer to documentary reality, where the kind of flaws shown by slapstick clowns have altogether more tragic consequences. Morag’s gift for getting great performances and navigating the tonal switchbacks of Colin’s writing is much in evidence. There were tears and laughter and tears of laughter.

Here’s a clip from Morag and Colin’s previous triumph, HOME:

BAFTA time

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2010 by dcairns

So, I live-tweeted the BAFTA awards, mainly as a form of defending myself against them. The evening was planned to “climax” with an Academy Fellowship bestowed on Vanessa Redgrave, who can always be relied to drone on humorlessly until the assembled dignitaries have formed a geological strata. She did not disappoint.

Here are the tweet highlights (this is a low-budget low-effort blog post).


Duncan Jones. First award, first weeper, start as you mean to go on.

3D is the wave of the future. Films used to be 2D, and before that they were 1D. Every movie was just a little dot.

“With no traditional cameras capturing the action” — AVATAR is a bit like a book, then.

James Cameron wins BAFTA, boldly resists the urge to yell “I’m King of the UK!”

I can’t believe they gave best supporting actor to a NAZI.

Good to see Harvey Weinstein putting that weight back on. He’ll soon be back to his old gross national product

Harvey’s mojo is cellulite-based. His fat is like Samson’s hair.

And the BAFTA for MOST costumes goes to…

They should just call Best Costume “the Sandy Powell Award.”

Sandy Powell is the Edith Head of modern Britain. She has more gold masks than the vizier in GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD.

There should be a special Alfred Molina award for Alfred Molina. Or Jim Broadbent.

It seems like British films now scoop up the smaller awards, the way genre films do at the Oscars. Yuck.

Fiona reckons that the short dresses which are worn by some at the BAFTAs prove that it’s not taken as seriously as Oscars.

Still, Britain did well to get a gold face as its award. The body parts were divided around Europe. Estonia got the knees.

“Our vewwy own Wupert Evewett…” the line Jonathan Ross was born to say.

They should make the BAFTA in the likeness of whoever they’re giving it to. Only a hideously distorted likeness. Keep it real.

What’s Andrea Arnold wearing???

Actually, I warm to Andrea Arnold now that she’s started recounting her dreams as part of her acceptance speech. MAD.

(A fellow tweeter tells me that’s AA actually making an effort.)

Green biker jacket. “Effort”? What does she normally wear, topsoil?

They’re rationing their Mickey Rourke reaction shots, but when they use them they really fucking count.

Who’s that with Kate Winslet? Is it Dick Van Dyke?

Have you ever hefted a BAFTA? they weigh a ton. they give Liz Taylor one and it nearly killed her.

You could crack somebody’s skull with a BAFTA. Whereas Oscars are only good for penetrating them sexually.

Fantastically shambolic Kristen Stewart speech. Which I kind of like. You shouldn’t look too much like you know what you’re doing.

Fiona reckons Guy Pearce is looking like Mickey Rooney in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S.

DISTRICT 9 won’t win anything. They didn’t give anything to Districts 1 thru 8.

Jeez, best animation — they ALL deserve BEST FILM

Scary seeing Terry Gilliam applaud. Short arms, huge hands. Can hardly get his hands far enough apart to clap.

Peter Docter has a head like a pinkie. But from within that pinkie came a GREAT FILM.

Why “best film not in the English language”? Why not “best film not in an English multiplex?”

Actually, the BAFTA only has one eye you can peek thru. They should give one to Peter Falk.

Gabourey Sidibe should win the Most Actress Award.

Yay! BAFTA for Deuce Bigelow, the first male gigolo to win best director.

Firth thanks the fridge repairman, which is nice. But what did he dream last night?

Carey Mulligan shouldn’t win, they should give it to somebody who actually NEEDS a gold mask. Like Mickey Rourke.

Mickey Rourke’s topknot is the only thing holding his face up. Can’t read autocue because his eyes are just drawn on.

Rourke: “and genuine…a plum.” He means “aplomb.” GENIUS!

Carey Mulligan mimes barfing when she wins. Possibly as a strategy to avoid snogging Rourke.

Thought for a mo Dustin H was here to give Vanessa Redgrave her gong. But he’d have put his back out handing it up to her.

It’s THE HURT LOCKER’s night! In your aged face, Cameron! rare to find prizes going to good films in major categories & wrong films in small.

Did Kathryn Bigelow CURTSY? seems odd, but nice.

(Prince William takes over Dickie Attenborough’s old BAFTA post. Uma Thurman introduces Vanessa Redgrave.)

“Born into one of Britain’s great theatrical dynasties…” is she talking about Prince William?

Serkis is drifting off.

Is Vanessa Redgrave going to talk for three hours as usual? They’ve allowed 20 mins for her bit…

Vanessa KNEELS before Prince W? I thought she was supposed to be a frickin Marxist revolutionary?

Vanessa should give Gilliam the use of part of her arms, which are long enough to reach through time & tickle her younger self.

(Gilliam’s arms are so short they’re actually indentations. Like opera gloves going into his torso. Negative arms.)

Audrey Tautou has been staring in incomprehension for this whole evening. “Who? What? Eh?”

Redgrave! STOP!! Think of the starving children!

I knew this would happen.

One wants to believe that Redgrave is senile or drunk, but she’s always like that.

Redgrave apparently thought the lifetime achievement acceptance speech should LAST a lifetime.

Shooting Fish

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on June 29, 2009 by dcairns


Over at the Auteurs’ Notebook I deliver my verdict on Andrea Arnold’s FISH TANK. While I was a bit down on RED ROAD for being kind of glum and depressing, this time I seem to be saying her movie isn’t depressing enough. It’s entirely possible that I’m just never going to be satisfied with modern British realism. I leave it to you to decide is this is Caliban’s rage at seeing his face in the mirror, petty jealousy because AA is making features and I’m not (and I do worry this might be true, I seem to hate everything new here), or some kind of gosh-darned CRITICAL INSIGHT, unlikely as that may seem.

The Auteurs would love it if you join the discussion over there.