Archive for Bruce MacDonald

Festival Fizzle

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

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Edinburgh. Photo by Chris B.

Essentially a limp rag, I contemplate the end of this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival largely from outside. I head that Johanna Waegner, a student from my film department at Edinburgh College of Art, has won the Scottish Short Documentary Award supported by Baillie Gifford, for her film PETER IN RADIOLAND, which is excellent news. The last day of the event is also The Best of the Fest, which translates into “what prints do we still have knocking about that we can show again?” But sometimes these films really ARE among the best, so don’t think I’m knocking any.

I’m feeling a bit silly because I slagged off the science in MOON, and it turns out there really IS something called Helium3 which you use for fusion power, and it’s to be found on the moon in great abundance. We could potentially power civilisation for thousands of years, cleanly, if we could harness it. I do slightly blame the filmmakers for inspiring my disbelief with the line “the energy of the sun, harvested from the dark side of the moon,” which does seem rather counter-intuitive. Helium3 is created by the impact of the sun’s rays on the lunar surface, so the dark side isn’t where I’d go look for it. I suspect that the director, who is the artist formerly known as Zowie Bowie, just wanted to have the phrase “dark side of the moon” in his film.

Weather was outstanding, in a weird way, throughout the fest. Intermittent showers were nuked by brilliant sunshine that had me slapping the old factor 30 0nto my pallid Scottish skin. The heat became so intense even festival director Hannah McGill bared her legs, as beautifully slender and white as noodles. Then a fog descended with a thump, making the city look like a glass that had been breathed on.

Shadowplayer and filmmaker Paul Duane passed through town, very briefly, and we touched base over chili at the Filmhouse. Paul told me an excellent ALIEN story which I must remember to pass on to you.

5106_562076749371_284001094_3678668_6856870_nThe back of my neck gets to meet Roger Corman, who signs my copy of How I Made A Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime, one of the finest movie-making books ever committed to paper. Unfortunately, in an understandable hurry (he’s 83) he signs it “Pen Emm”. Still, it was extremely gracious of him to do that much, and I’ll now treasure my first edition even more.

Corman’s tribute ended with a screening of the explosive BLOODY MAMA. It had been rumoured that the festival heads hadn’t realised Corman had been here before, with the same film, in 1970, but on this occasion a brochure from the 1970 show was produced, along with two tickets, and presented to the Great Man.

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Interviewed Joe Dante the same day, which was an utter pleasure, and will be editing our conversation down this week to produce a consumable literary good out of it. Shadowplayer Chris B was houseguest for the week, and he snapped me and Joe together, smiling blurredly.

Attendance was UP this year.

Went back and saw PONTYPOOL a second time, enjoying Bruce MacDonald’s Q&A, the audience’s extremely vocal enthusiasm, and Fiona’s pleasure at the film, which I’d avoided telling her anything about (except, “It’s not Welsh. It’s Canadian.)

After that, we grabbed a cab with filmmakers Jamie and Talli and Johanna and managed to gain access to the closing party, held in a huge abandoned church. Had time for one drink and some quality mingling before being ushered out onto the street, where a man kept falling over. I’m no expert, but drink may have been involved. It’s generally best if I don’t stay long at these kind of things, since the concept of free drink appeals to two aspects of my Scots makeup, the thrift and the alcoholism. I remember one party in Portobello Funfair which degenerated into a FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS trip-out sequence, ending in myself being adopted by a tribe of fire eaters. At one point I found myself arm-wrestling a man covered in gold paint. It’s quite an experience to arm wrestle someone without actually touching them (we were at opposite ends of a five-foot table), but it made for a vivid memory.

Today the only films really calling to me are CRYING WITH LAUGHTER because I know and like the people involved, and GIALLO, because Argento is Argento, even if he’s not really anymore. But I have quite a bit of life to catch up on so I don’t know if I’ll make it. By the time I post this, today will be yesterday anyway…

Let’s Talk!

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on June 27, 2009 by dcairns

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My interview with my new best buddy Bruce MacDonald, director of minimalist apocalypse movie PONTYPOOL, can now be read over at The Auteurs’ Notebook. Here.

Ideally you should see the movie first — while we avoid heavy spoilers, this is a movie which is hugely enjoyable when viewed in total ignorance.

Festival Burnout

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2009 by dcairns

More Edinburgh goodies.

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Some of the movies showing here are eligible for an audience award — you tear a special cardboard tab to register your vote. The lowest category is “Not My Kind of Thing.”

UNMADE BEDS — a youth film about London squatters and little else. Tempting to nickname it “UNMADE FILM” but it’s beautifully shot, and has the most madly photogenic cast of any recent Brit flick. In theory it should be very watchable, but alas it has no reason to exist, no dramatic tension, no structure, and not really any distinct point of view. Not My kind of Thing.

FISH TANK — Andrea Arnold’s slice of social realism builds on the critical success of RED ROAD and is more convincing but no better structured. It pads solemnly on for two hours without delivering a single surprise, but there are compensations in the fine photography and superb performances. Not My kind of Thing.

ANTICHRIST — Lars Von Trier’s marital horror movie is weird, which is fine, but incoherent, which is not so good. I asked the cinematographer if it was deliberately funny, and he said it wasn’t, strongly hinting that there’s something the matter with me if I find it so. Not My Kind of Thing. More later.

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Regular Shadowplayer Chris B, wearing the face of Peter Greenaway upon his abdomen, stands athwart the great Joe Dante.

By contrast, Joe Dante and Roger Corman’s public appearances have been a joy, and I’ll write more on them later too.

Interviewed Bruce MacDonald, director of the excellent PONTYPOOL, for the Auteurs’ Notebook, and hopefully you’ll be able to read that soon.

LITTLE RED HOODIE — my friend Joern Utkilen’s jet-black comedy about the sexualisation of little girls in modern society covers much of the same territory as FISH TANK, but in 15 minutes. It’s sick, funny, compelling and makes a serious point. I’m not sure the point is enough to justify the very dark territory it gets into (via a modern-dress recounting of the Little Red Riding Hood story), but the film earns the right to be considered seriously.

THE ST VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE — a Corman I’d only seen a few moments of before, and hadn’t fancied, but it proved to be a dry, factual, brutal, amoral and compelling little history lesson in capitalism and homicide. Especially pleasing to get faces like Bruce Dern, Dick Miller and Joe Turkel popping up, and the essentially gentle Jason Robards and George Segal make the most of their psychopathic scenery-chewing roles. Jack Nicholson has one line, and delivers it in a comedy gangster voice.

Quote of the day came from a friend of a friend of a friend of the late David Tomlinson, who is said to have said, “Sodomy’s overrated. I mean, I’m not knocking it. It got me work at Disney.”