Archive for Brian Pettifer

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]

Pets Win Prizes

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on October 25, 2011 by dcairns

Naturally, my first posting published from Hollywood concerns… Scotland.

The BAFTA Scotland awards are doled out in November — so this is a shameless “For Your Consideration” type notice plugging my friends Morag and Colin’s DONKEYS, the best Scottish feature film I’ve seen in recent years. Of course I’m biassed, and I haven’t seen NEDS or PERFECT SENSE, so my word isn’t of much value here — I just wanted to remind anybody who has seen the films and who’s planning in voting — DONKEYS is REALLY GOOD, remember?

Remember how you laughed, were moved, laughed and were moved at the same time, resulting in a strange holographic emotion that doesn’t have a name? Remember how Morag drew sensitive, convincing and funny performances from her actors, including James Cosmo and Brian Pettifer, both of whom are BAFTA nominated? Remember how Morag’s acute eye for humorous detail made a surreal wonderland of Glasgow? She’s nominated as best director. And remember how Colin’s BAFTA-nominated script interwove tangentially related characters into a tight, compact tragi-comedy?

James Cosmo is a Scottish legend, an incredible figure for whom the word “rugged” was invented and then discarded as pitifully inadequate. His long career encompasses the cult horror DOOMWATCH, plus HIGHLANDER, BRAVEHEART and TRAINSPOTTING. In other words, he’s the man they call on when they want a Scottish film or a pseudo-Scottish film to have a bit of integrity. And in DONKEYS he gives a career-best performance of previously unseen vulnerability and comic skill.

Brian Pettifer’s been a fixture in British cinema for even longer. He’s in all three of Lindsay Anderson’s Mick Travis films, IF…, O LUCY MAN! and BRITANNIA HOSPITAL, as well as AMADEUS and THE HOUSE OF MIRTH. Often cast for his distinctive features, here he has the meaty role of a lifetime as the Laurel to Cosmo’s Hardy, one-half of a co-dependent double act of tragic no-hopers.

A conclusive set of wins for the film and filmmakers would send a nice message, I feel, about the kind of Scottish cinema we want to see.

Speaking of which, saw WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN just before leaving, but notes on that’ll have to wait until I come back.

Donkey Show

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 25, 2008 by dcairns

Say Anything 

It seems appropriate to write about my trip to Glasgow while still hungover from the experience. In brief, my great good friend Morag McKinnon is directing a feature film, ROUNDING UP DONKEYS (there are no donkeys in it), written by my other great good friend Colin McLaren, and with my other other great good friend Stephen Murphy doing makeup duties. Stephen designed my clowns for CRY FOR BOBO, made  my prosthetic uncle for INSIDE AN UNCLE, has worked on all the HARRY POTTERS and CHILDREN OF MEN and transformed Jude Law for SLEUTH.

I met Colin and his lovely partner Anita Vettesse at the home of producer and goddess Angela Murray. Stephen joined us. Absent were Morag, too frazzled from her shoot, and Fiona, who has a nasty cold.

Brian Pettifer

I promised you gossip, but as ROUNDING UP DONKEYS is classified as a Film In Production, much must be shrouded in secrecy. I can tell you that the film stars that impressive chunk of Scottish beef, James Cosmo, whose career takes in both TRAINSPOTTING and BRAVEHEART (as well as voicing Thelonius the orang-utan in the mescaline nightmare known as BABE: PIG IN THE CITY) and Brian Pettifer, who appears in all three of Lindsay Anderson’s Mick Travis films. The movie is a follow-up of sorts to RED ROAD, but is half a comedy, which lifts (or lowers) it into a different category. The scheme is intended to produce three movies about the same small group of people, slightly like the concept of Kieslowski’s DECALOGUE, but although it works from the same set of character descriptions, Colin’s script might best be considered an alternative universe version — some characters have different careers and families and sometimes personalities.

Morag met Lars Von Trier, founder of the scheme, and asked him what to do if the story evolved in such a way that not all of the characters could be included. “Oh, just use the ones you want and have the rest ride by on a bus,” he advised. Buses being expensive and this being a modestly budgeted digital short, they are having to go on foot.

Prick Up Your Ears

The shoot sounds pretty strenuous, with six-day weeks and 50% night shoots. Some scenes are being shot night-for-night purely for cost reasons — without enough funds to black out the windows of a church, the production was forced to shoot after nightfall. But — and I wouldn’t say this if it wasn’t true — it also sounds like it’s going really well. One to watch for.

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