Archive for Bill Forsyth

The Mysterious Mr If, Part the Fourth

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on June 27, 2011 by dcairns

But first, a Vincent Price limerick, co-athored by your friend and humble narrator, here.

In episode four, the various “narrative strands”, if I can so dignify them, start to draw together at last, into a dank tangle. I attempt my first ever “meet cute”, leading to what one appreciative reader called “the crap, faux-Bill Forsyth stuff.” But I think the story needed some calm, less psychotic stuff, especially since my impatience with writing straight-man characters leads me to try and do for Lothian and Borders Police what David Lynch did for/to the FBI.

Now read on…

INT. DORMITORY, POLICE STATION – NIGHT

A BED. The plump, middle-aged INSPECTOR DUFFLE shifts uncomfortably in his sleep…

EXT. ZOO – NIGHT

Howie finds a notice pasted on his cage, covering the “human” sign. He peels it off and looks.

DRIVE THE CAPYBARAS FROM OUR SHORES!

CAPYBARAS UNFAIR TO PENGUINS!

KILL! KILL! KILL THEM ALL!

He frowns.

INT. INTERVIEW ROOM, POLICE STATION – DAY

Sheena is shown in by the idiot PC Thrower. She has Edward Woodward contained in a plastic case (or “pet taxi”).

Inspector Turner looks through the barred front of the pet taxi and scribbles in his NOTEBOOK.

TURNER

I see what you mean.

SHEENA

(angry)

And what are you going to DO about it?

TURNER

Well, he – it is a he? – he doesn’t seem to be in any distress…

Edward Woodward meows. A banjo is plucked.

Sheena and Turner argue.

SHEENA

He’s been blacked up! He looks ridiculous!

TURNER

(uncomfortable)

I’m more concerned about how someone could get into your flat without breaking any locks.

SHEENA

I think he’s a contortionist.

TURNER

Hmm. Look, this is an unusual case for us, but since you work for the Blue Museum I want to make sure we do everything we can. Plus… for reasons I can’t go into, we’re paying particular attention to any unusual incidents at the moment.

SHEENA

And so…

TURNER

I think we should go and see Detective Inspector Duffle. He has his own methods. Unconventional, but sometimes effective.

INT. DORMITORY, POLICE STATION – DAY

Duffle still snoozes.

TURNER (OS)

Gerry Duffle suffered a nasty brain wound in 1997 while trying to apprehend, er, a cat burglar. No offence.

SHEENA

Go on.

TURNER

The accident left him with – that thing where you fall asleep in the middle of a sentence. Narcolepsy. Well, it looked like his career in the force was finished. But then a funny thing happened. He would fall asleep studying the files, and then dream up the most extraordinary solutions. Since his conscious mind couldn’t exercise its crime-solving prowess, his unconscious mind took over.

SHEENA

That’s amazing.

TURNER

It gets amazinger. Duffle’s conscious hours have been getting more scarce. He’s almost in a full-time coma. But we play him tape recordings, over and over, of the details of our problem cases, WHILE HE’S ASLEEP. If he wakes up for five minutes, he often has an answer.

SHEENA

So what are you suggesting?

TURNER

Tell him about your cat. Just whisper in his ear. When he next wakes up, he may have the culprit’s name and address for us.

Sheena approaches the bed. Then she stops and turns.

SHEENA

Look, are you taking the piss?

INT. MUSIC HALL – NIGHT (DREAM)

In the eerie glow of the limelight, a huge old bakelite radio accompanies Sheena, dressed as a blackface minstrel, singing operatically:

SHEENA

Meeoowww! Meeoooooow! Meeeeeeow!

A shot rings out. Sheena spasms and staggers over to a stand, upon which sheets of paper announce each act in ornate Victorian lettering.

Written on the first sheet is the name EDWARD WOODWARD.

The Minstrel Sheena clutches the sheet and drops dead. The paper tears, revealing the bill underneath – “The Mysterious Mr. If.”

INT. DORMITORY, POLICE STATION – DAY

Duffle stirs in his sleep as Sheena whispers in his ear.

KNOCK KNOCK.

Constable Thrower pops his head round the door.

PC THROWER

Inspector Turner – there’s a great disturbance at the zoo!

Sheena straightens up and looks a question at Turner.

TURNER

Yes. It could be related. Care to come along?

EXT. ZOO – DAY

The Zookeeper hurries about wielding a large butterfly net, and an expression of panic. Penguins rampage generally.

Hate literature blows around – DEATH TO CAPYBARAS, DOWN WITH PENGUINS, LOCK THEM UP, SEND THEM BACK…

Forensic Nerds take pictures and dust the cages. Zookeepers and Constables try to round up the marauding arctic birds.

TURNER

What the hell happened here?

ZOOKEEPER

Jings, it’s a good job they’re flightless. They just ran amuck, when I was giving them their walk. Laid siege to the capybara pen, so they did.

TURNER

This is unusual behaviour for penguins?

ZOOKEEPER

Unheard of! We never had any hassle from them before. Someone must have STIRRED THEM UP!

He glowers at Howie, who’s watching from his cage in fascination.

Turner looks over, sees the human exhibit, and then dismisses it from his mind. It couldn’t be…

He leans for support against the cage. Sheena approaches, concerned.

SHEENA

Are you alright?

TURNER

Fine. It’s just…I’ve always had a horror of flightless birds. They’ve got no hands! And those pointy faces… you can’t tell what they’re thinking…

He composes himself and goes off to supervise the last of the penguins being loaded into a Black Maria van.

Sheena notices Howie and approaches him.

Edward Woodward looks through the bars of his pet taxi.

Howie looks through the bars of his cage. An understanding seems to pass between them.

SHEENA

Umm. I’m Sheena McQueen.

HOWIE

Howie.

SHEENA

Hello. What you doing in there?

HOWIE

Oh. I live here.

Pause.

SHEENA

Well…WHY?

HOWIE

Umm. I didn’t have anywhere to stay. But wild animals have a place to stay, don’t they? So I moved in here. It’s like Noah’sArk, they had everything except people, so I though they could use one. I’m the human exhibit.

The Zookeeper staggers past, wrestling several penguins.

SHEENA

Do they know about you?

HOWIE

Most of them don’t seem to mind. They keep threatening to tell the boss, but nobody’s ever seen him. You go into his office and there’s just a curtain with a shadow on it.

SHEENA

Is that true?

HOWIE

No, I made that bit up. Look, have you got any chocolate on you? I’m getting a bit tired of monkey nuts to be honest.

SHEENA

How long have you been here?

HOWIE

Three days.

SHEENA

And is this what you wanted to do?

HOWIE

What about you? When you were a kid, did you want to be a -

(looks her up and down)

- tartan clad minstrel cat carrier?

SHEENA

If you must know, I wanted to be a detective. But there’s a height restriction. So I’m a police tour guide, which is very…

She struggles to finish the sentence in an empowering but convincing manner.

HOWIE

Crap?

SHEENA

Yes.

ZOOKEEPER

Hoy! Feeding time!

He chucks Howie a fish supper wrapped in newspaper.

ZOOKEEPER

I shouldn’t be doing this. Encouraging a nutter.

He waddles off.

HOWIE

I think he’s just happy I didn’t climb in the lion’s den. Chip?

SHEENA

Mmm!

HOWIE

Come on in, it’s not locked.

EXT. ZOO – DAY (LATER)

Howie and Sheena sit on the floor of the cage, devouring the fish supper.

HOWIE

It’s the work of an outside agitator. Penguins and capybaras are not natural enemies in the wild. They live side by side in peaceful coexistence.

SHEENA

On different continents.

HOWIE

Well, that always helps, doesn’t it? I get on much better with my mum since she fucked off toAustralia.

They eat on, watched by a SCHOOL OUTING.

HOWIE

So what’s with the cat?

SHEENA

His name’s Edward Woodward. Someone sneaked into my flat and blacked him up. I went to the police and they gave me a lift here.

HOWIE

Oh. Why?

SHEENA

“Why?” to which part?

HOWIE

“Why?” to the lot of it. It’s bollocks, it’s completely crazy.

SHEENA

You live in a zoo.

HOWIE

I may live in a zoo, but I don’t walk the streets with a feline minstrel act under my arm.

Sheena feeds Edward Woodward bits of fish between the bars of his taxi.

SHEENA

I like you. You’re strange.

HOWIE

Here’s the secret: every day, do something you’ve never done before. What have you done lately for the first time?

SHEENA

Hmmm… Yesterday I took my work home with me. That is, I stole a file and brought it back to my flat.

HOWIE

Not bad. I taught a parrot to say “I’m innocent! Get me the Brazilian ambassador.”

The zoo clock chimes: BONG!

SHEENA

Shit. I have to go to work. Can I trust you to look after Edward Woodward?

Howie “mmm”s through his last mouthful of chips and scrunches up the wrapping. We glimpse a headline: LIGHTHOUSE POISONED, with a photo of a queasy beacon.

INT. DORMITORY, POLICE STATION – DAY

Duffle wakes up sharply and pulls a bell cord by his bed.

Turner rushes in with Constable Thrower and a POLICE NERD.

DUFFLE

(drowsy)

If! If! He’s back! Oh knickers…

How’s that for a cliffhanger? TO BE CONTINUED…

Trouble Speaking

Posted in FILM, Politics, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2008 by dcairns

Eddie Dick is an Edinburgh-based film producer and former head of Scottish Screen, the organisation for the promotion of film in Scotland. Fiona and I have known him for a few years, but only just this last week actually started sort-of working with him, with a horror screenplay called CELL 6.

Eddie’s most recent film, TROUBLE SLEEPING, directed by Robert Rae and made in association with Edinburgh’s Theatre Workshop, has its TV premier on BBC2 Scotland tonight at 10pm. I emailed him some questions about himself and his movie, and received the following fantastically frank answers:

Edinburgh!

Q: Who are you and where did you come from?

A: I TAKE IT THAT THIS IS NOT A CABBAGE-PATCH QUESTION.  EDDIE DICK, FROM A VARIED EDUCATIONAL/CULTURAL/FILM INDUSTRY BACKGROUND.
 
Q: How did you come to be a film producer?

A: A COLLISION OF ACCIDENT,OPPORTUNITY AND INTENTION.   I CAME AT IT FROM A EDUCATIONAL AND THEN CULTURAL ROUTE WHICH LEAD ME GRADUALLY TO THE FILM INDUSTRY ITSELF.   
 
You’ve rubbed up against both the sacred Bills, Douglas and Forsyth, via your book about BD’s COMRADES (which is easier to get hold of than the film itself) and a much-publicised-locally “row” with Forsyth during your time at Scottish Screen.

(Forsyth, having briefly served on the Scottish Screen committee, accused the organisation of “cronyism” and a “lack of transparency”, words which the media, particularly The Scotsman newspaper, soon had attached to Scottish Screen the way the word “bogus” is always attached to the words “asylum seekers”. The “Dear Bill” correspondence quickly became notorious, although I’m disappointed to see it doesn’t appear to be on the Internet.)

Q: Any anecdotes, or anything you learned from those experiences? It must be pleasing to you to see the Bill Douglas Trilogy out on DVD at last. 

A: RE BILL FORSYTH, THE MAIN THING I LEARNED WAS TO TRY TO AVOID GOING INTO FIGHTS WITH ONE HAND TIED BEHIND YOUR BACK; FAMOUS FILMMAKER VERSUS LOCAL BUREAUCRAT – THERE’S ONLY GOING TO BE ONE “WINNER”.   WITH THE OTHER BILL, THE MAIN THING IS THAT TALENT (ESPECIALLY THAT WHICH IS TROUBLED) DOESN’T PROTECT YOU AGAINST DEFEAT AND ANGUISH.

Shooting TROUBLE SLEEPING.
 
Q: How did you come to be involved with TROUBLE SLEEPING?

A: I WAS ASKED TO GET INVOLVED IN ITS DEVELOPMENT BY ROBERT RAE.   MY FILM’S BLIND FLIGHT AND TRUE NORTH MADE ME THE OBVIOUS, ALTHOUGH NOT THE ONLY, CHOICE.
 
Q: How was the finance raised?

A: PARTLY THROUGH TW’S SOCIAL/DRAMA CONTACTS AND PARTLY VIA MINE (SCOTTISH SCREEN AND BBC).
 
Q: What were the greatest difficulties in making the film?

A: FINANCE AND CONSTANT FIGHTS BETWEEN ME AND THE DIRECTOR.

Wow.
 
I’m very glad that a film has tackled this subject — asylum seekers — from a humanitarian standpoint. Modern Britain often feels to me much like the dystopias of V FOR VENDETTA and CHILDREN OF MEN (which features TROUBLE SLEEPING’S disabled actor Nabil Shaban in not so much a walk-on as a carry-through performance), and it was good to see that tackled in a less fantastical, more down-to-earth way.


 Gary “GANGS OF NEW YORK” Lewis appears in TROUBLE SLEEPING.

Q: The film mixes experienced professional actors with lots of screen experience in short cameo roles, with lots of newcomers in the major roles. (In this way it somewhat resembles Douglas’s COMRADES.) What was casting like, and was their any difficulty unifying the acting styles.

A: THE FILM WAS CAST FROM THE WORKSHOP’S COMMUNITYAND OPPORTUNISTIC WALKBYS( FOUAD, THE WAITER-CUM-SHOPWORKER SAW A NOTICE IN TW’S WINDOW, FOR EXAMPLE).  ROBERT RAE WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN THE CASTING; I ASKED GARY LEWIS AND ALISON PEEBLES, TO DO US A FAVOUR.

I THINK THAT THERE WAS DIFFICULTY IN UNIFYING STYLES.  THERE REMAINS AN UNEVENNESS IN PERFORMANCE, WITH SOME CLEAR WEAKNESSES.
 
I liked Nabil Shaban in the film. From what Eddie told me, I could see that they’d “hired a volcano then told it not to explode,” as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins complained to Jim Jarmusch re his role in MYSTERY TRAIN. But I like the sense of barely controlled ham, and he DOES keep it in check.
 
Q: What next? From out conversations, it seems like you’re moving towards more genre-based filmmaking? Is this a deliberate policy, or just the result of the projects you’ve found recently?
A: IT IS A DELIBERATE POLICY, BUT NOT AN EXCLUSIVE ONE.   I WANT TO MAKE A BROADER RANGE OF FILMS (HAVING MADE 3 SOCIO-POLITICAL ONES).  I’VE BEEN SEEKING GENRE MATERIAL SUCH AS CELL 6.
Many thanks to Eddie for helping out here.

Red Roadblock

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2008 by dcairns

Red Skies of Montana 

Well, the evening sky is bluing deeper, with a shapeless chunk of half-chewed moon glowing all the brighter in the orangy post-sunset light, and it’s time to try to watch RED ROAD. I ritually dust the TV screen — no sense letting this be any more unpleasant than it has to.

Andrea Arnold’s RED ROAD is an extremely attractive film, which is obvious from the get-go. An opening title announces GLASGOW and my prejudices kick in. But the imagery is really nice, making excellent use of the particular qualities of digital. Kate Dickie works in a room full of TV monitors, as a kind of benevolent Big Brother, watching the video piped in from the city’s security cameras. The cameras can zoom and pan in jerky, computerized motions, while the “live” footage of Dickie is loose and hand-held. Both kinds of material exploit the photogenic qualities of long-lens photography. Both partake of the observational aesthetic of Ken Loach, which I’m not to keen on. It’s a definite look (RED ROAD is much more concerned with creating a pleasing cinematic surface than Loach) and it fulfills a clear function in terms of realism, I just usually prefer being involved in a scene, as opposed to spying on it from afar.

Red in the Face

Seven minutes in and we get the statutory joyless intercourse scene, which no Scottish film can be without. I suspect The Film Council is trying to make the Scottish people vasectomize themselves out of existence in sheer horror at the ugliness of human procreation. The most radical and shocking thing a Scottish film could do nowadays would be to create the mood of romance you can find in early Bill Forsyth. But even he doesn’t do that anymore: GREGORY’S TWO GIRLS opens with the terrifying spectacle of John Gordon-Sinclair’s “Oh Face,” followed by a closeup of the damp aftermath of his wet dream on bedsheets. Thanks for that.

So far the only thing wrong with the film, per se, is a tendency to overemphasise Dickie’s reactions to the security camera footage. A man has a funny dog: she smiles warmly. It’s not bad acting, it’s bad direction, I think. REAR WINDOW uses this kind of situation, and proves that the person watching needn’t show any particular reaction at all, since the context gives us the meaning. Kate Dickie laughing at a dog won’t make the dog any funnier. Although it’s nice to see she CAN laugh.

Videodrome

Fiona reminds me that our chum Morag McKinnon, who’s directing the Dickie in ROUNDING UP DONKEYS right now, says that she has a really good sense of humour, is fun, etc. “Yes, but she keeps it off the screen,” I say.

There’s a good bit when Dickie finds herself on the street next to a man she’s spied on earlier. There’s an edge to the encounter and the handheld look really works for it, and the ability of digital to film basically by streetlight makes for glossy, strangely coloured beauty, augmented by eerie Muslim show tunes on the soundtrack.

Road Trip

A mystery is announced! Dickie is obsessed with a man she sees on cam, who’s on early release from a ten year prison sentence (Dickie keeps the old newspaper with the headline in a bag in her closet). This puzzling set-up, emerging twenty minutes in, seems rather late to act as a plot motor (it’s a common misinterpretation of the three-act structure that the story starts at the END of the first act, rather than the beginning) and evokes only a vague curiosity. The central character seems to have no successful relationships or clear goals, so apart from the desire to figure out why we’re watching this, it’s hard to figure out why we’re watching this.

I’m pretty sure an American movie would start by coming right out and telling us what the mystery man did and why it effects Dickie’s protag, and then we’d be watching not to get the puzzle cleared up, but to see what consequences this will all have. But it’s too early to say whether this film would work with that approach. All that can be said is that there’s not enough going on to create a compulsion to watch: at 24 minutes I feel an ocean of gloom closing in with the night, so I stop the disc. But I didn’t hate it, I will return for more tomorrow. Stay tuned. 

The author after 24 minutes of Red Road

(Old people — a boon to any film, because they have learned to be themselves.)

Footnote: my DVD suffers appalling combing when I try and frame-grab images, so apologies for the distorted stills, which don’t give an accurate portrayal of the lustre of Robbie Ryan’s photography.

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