Archive for Maja Borg

Future Attractions

Posted in FILM, Politics, Science with tags , , , on June 22, 2012 by dcairns

Maja Borg is an ECA graduate so I know her, so I’m prejudiced. Naturally I wanted to see her debut feature, FUTURE, MY LOVE, a documentary in the running for the Michael Powell Award at this year’s EIFF.

The film concerns the ideas of Jacque Fresco, who has a vision of a “resource-based economy” which will do away with money and use science to provide all of humanity with everything they need. Maja interviews Fresno at length, and speaks to other futurists who share some of his vision — automation could in theory free mankind from toil and create an age of plenty, or so it’s argued. We’re encouraged to look at money as a form of interference between people and their needs. Remove money from the equation and everything gets better!

The Sanskrit word for war translates literally as “not enough cows.”

Fresco is an appealing character — he’s 96 right now, but was a few years younger when Maja first started filming him. Age has made him a little less fierce (he’s quite a forceful character in the archive clips) but no less determined and passionate. I wanted to believe him.

I also wanted to embrace the film’s other strand, a poetic, personal voice-over about a relationship, described in somewhat abstract terms. The narrator’s lover might be, I suppose, The Future. But I couldn’t quite fit this together. Visually and aurally the crisp video and grainy 8mm work very nicely together, bonded by Per Störby’s pulsating score, but conceptually they didn’t seem to gel, although I love the IDEA of merging a traditional documentary with an experimental, meditative work. But without the specifics that make a relationship real, the personal story lacks affect, and thus felt trivial compared to the saving mankind stuff. But something about it nags at me — it does balance the certainties of Fresco’s philosophy with something more diffident and mysterious, and I’m still wondering if a second viewing will result in a Eureka! moment.

A Festival of Film

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2012 by dcairns

Edinburgh International Film Festival launched its new programme this week. I’m hardly a disinterested spectator, having viewed submissions this year, but I’m happy to report that under Chris Fujiwara’s direction, the hoped-for renaissance seems well underway.

I already knew three films I voted for during the submissions process — DEMAIN?, EVELYN and EXIT ELENA — had been selected, as I’d been asked to write about them for the brochure and catalogue, but I was chuffed to discover that several more, including FRED (with Elliott Gould) and BRAKE (with Stephen Dorff) are also screening.

After no real retrospective last year, this year we have TWO — one on Shinji Somai, highly regarded in Japan but little known elsewhere — a great choice because even in the twilight world of bootleg downloads, NONE of his films are available with English translation — and one on Gregory La Cava, a favourite of mine. I’ve written pieces on two of the La Cavas, and this retrospective will actually continue after the Fest, with Filmhouse running the remaining six films in the series.

Other old stuff — the old/new WE CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN, which I’m extremely curious to see in its restored condition, digitally restored LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, and Humphrey Jennings’ THE CUMBERLAND STORY (the first film ever screen at Edinburgh Film Festival.

There’s new work from Johnny To, James Marsh, Harmony Korine, and Gakuryu (formerly Sogo) Ishii. And celebrations of the exciting recent cinema of Argentina, Chile & Uruguay, plus the Philippine new wave. And the usual strong programmes of fiction, experimental and documentary short cinema.

Filmmakers in attendance to talk about their work will include William Friedkin (technically as a guest of Filmhouse the day before the Fest begins), Shinya Tsukamoto, Viktor Kossakovsky and, it is hoped, documentary legend Wang Bing.

Documentaries are in a stronger position this year: for the first time, the awards (reinstated after last year) will see documentaries competing alongside fiction film. Arguably the documentary sector is in better shape than drama in the UK right now, and it’s certainly right that the Michael Powell Award should be open to features of any kind. Even if Powell himself did refer to documentarists as “failed poets”. (I can’t imagine a better career than “failed poet.” So wonderfully dismal-sounding! You can be a successful poet and starve to death, imagine the glamour of being a failed one!)

One exciting consequence of this policy shift is that Maja Borg, an ex-student of mine from ECA, is in the running with her documentary feature FUTURE MY LOVE. Although I’m stretching a point by calling her “my” student, since Maja was always clearly a creative documentarist, and I teach fiction filmmaking, but you’ll allow me a little proprietary pride, I hope.

Fellow critic, blogger, filmmaker and friend Dan Salitt will attend with what could be his breakthrough film, THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT, and I’m looking forward to catching up with him — so long as I’m not filming in Paris, which is a vague possibility. Well, missing out on a film festival because I’m making a film isn’t something I can exactly complain about…

Lawrence of Arabia [DVD] [2011]

Three Disappointments and a Whoopee

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2008 by dcairns

Disappointment 1: the lack of a really great critical study of Powell & Pressburger. Ian Christie’s Arrows of Desire was a fine starting point, and the coffee-table quality of the book, with glossy and lurid colour stills, makes it a nice visual companion to the Archers’ films. But Andrew Moor’s Powell and Pressburger: A Cinema of Magic Spaces just seemed too DRY to evoke these lush romances, and Scott Salwolke’s The Films of Michael Powell and the Archers is hampered by the fact that he hasn’t seen all the films. Several times in the book we get the phrase “is hard to see nowadays”, which I might believe if I didn’t have copies of them on my shelves. I guess I’d admit they’re hard to see, but not IMPOSSIBLE. The author doesn’t admit to not having seen HONEYMOON, but since all he does is reproduce some contemporary reviews of it, it’s pretty clear he never managed to track it down. I guess since the book is ten years old, things were tougher then, but I can’t believe THE BOY WHO TURNED YELLOW would be completely inaccessible: Raymond Durgnat sold me a copy for a fiver.

Disappointment 2: What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting by Marc Norman. Norman wrote the script for SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, which was then revised by Tom Stoppard (Norman professed himself delighted to have had Stoppard’s assistance), and this is his first non-fiction work. I was hoping to find some kind of thesis lurking in it, but it reads like a stack of anecdotes so far. It reads like *I* wrote it!

The early chapters on silent cinema fall for the old one about Mack Sennett not using written scripts (the half-page or page-long outlines have in fact been found — Frank Capra’s autobiography is not the most reliable source for ANYTHING) and he talks about BIRTH OF A NATION having a scene breakdown prepared from the book, but which was never seen on the set, but he misses my favourite Griffith script story: Griffith’s first short, THE ADVENTURE OF DOLLIE, had its scenario jotted down by Griffith and cameraman Billy Bitzer the night before shooting, on a piece of cardboard that came from the laundry with Griffith’s shirt wrapped round it.

Norman also refers to Chaplin’s first director as Henry Pathé Lehrman, missing the all-important inverted commas around “Pathé” (Lehrman got a job with Mack Sennett with a tall tale about having worked for Pathé: when the ruse was discovered, the name stuck) and says that Herman Mankiewicz worked on “some trifle” called CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY. It may sound like a trifle, and the casting of Deanna Durbin and Gene Kelly might have lead contemporary audiences to expect one, but CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY is a very dark film noir romance, and authors should resist making such statements about films they haven’t seen.

I’d still like this book to turn into an impassioned and informed account of the screenwriter’s role, so I’m going to persevere a little further — this isn’t a proper book review since I haven’t finished the thing. I will report back if I end up more impressed by it.

Disappointment 3: Hanno’s Doll by Evelyn Piper. I picked this up after belatedly realising that both THE NANNY and BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING, films I like a lot, came from Piper novels. I wanted to read something else by her. Although it does have a nice, twisty plot, the book took me ages to finish, being written in an irksome baby-talk that’s supposed to simulate the thought processes of the protagonist, a fat German actor (Piper must have had an eye of Curt Jurgens for a possible movie adaptation, or Gert Fröbe).

Whoopee 1: Maja Borg, a recent graduate of the Edinburgh College of Art film course where I teach, has a show on next week, Thursday 21st August, 8.30 pm on More4 in their First Cut series. Happy Birthday, You’re Dead takes its inspiration from the fact that a fortune teller once told Maya that she’d die in a car crash before her 25th birthday. The documentary charts the “last” weeks of Maja’s life leading up to her 25th.

I’m rooting for her to survive.