Archive for Smashing Pumpkins

The Round-Up

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2008 by dcairns


The James Cosmo Experience.

“Production has begun on Morag McKinnon’s ROUNDING UP DONKEYS featuring James Cosmo (BRAVEHEART, TROY), Brian Pettifer (AMADEUS, IF), Kate Dickie (RED ROAD) and Martin Compston (SWEET SIXTEEN).”

This is the second film in Lars Von Trier and Zentropa’s ‘Advance Party’ project, three films using the same group of characters. I thought it was a dumb idea at first, but any excuse to make a film is a good excuse, if the film itself is good, and I have hopes for this one. The writer is gifted word-engineer Colin McLaren and the director is Morag McKinnon, both friends of mine and long overdue for a feature gig.

The scheme was intended for writer-directors (schemers are fond of limiting their options in this way, in hopes of whittling out as many promising candidates as possible), and Morag signed on as such, then found herself a bit stumped and got Colin in to help.

“Is it OK if Colin helps?” she asked.

Then, a little later: “I think we’ll have to give Colin a credit, he’s really collaborating quite actively on it.”

Then: “Colin’s writing it.” 

“A bittersweet, tragicomic tale of making amends, ROUNDING UP DONKEYS centres on Alfred Patterson (James Cosmo), who learns of his impending death and decides it’s time to make amends with his estranged daughter and her precocious 12-year-old.”

The first film in the ‘Advance Party’ scheme was RED ROAD, which won some awards and which I suppose I’ll watch at some point, but which seems, form its reputation, to embody exactly the kind of miserabilist mindset I generally can’t stand in British cinema. But I have to give it a chance.

The exciting difference with ROUNDING UP DONKEYS is the addition of humour, including an opening inspired by Jacques Tati’s PLAYTIME and a lot of tragi-comic black comedy around the feckless central character and his numpty pal. (I’ve discussed the project with Colin and Morag a few times during its looong gestation.)

The same two collaborated on several previous shorts, including BAFTA-winner HOME, available on the Cinema 16 DVD, the film which introduced their lucky donkey motif, and both have collaborated with myself in the past: I produced Morag’s first ever short, THE END, back when we were babies, and edited DIARY OF A MADMAN, starring Colin, who adapted it brilliantly from Gogol’s short story. Colin then starred in two of my films, HOW TO GET UP and CLARIMONDE, proving himself the leading exponent of the Scottish Expressionism school of performance. We wrote a bunch of unmade films together, including such misterpieces as ENTITY BLOUSE AND THE SPY FROM FFABRIC and INSIDE A DOG, and then co-hatched CRY FOR BOBO after an evening spent getting outside of some wine and watching three hours of mind-palpatingly depressing Scottish short films.

So there’s history there, and so I’m no doubt biased, but wouldn’t it be nice to think somebody was making a British film that might be worth seeing? Join me in my world and believe.

“Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins.”

“Homer Simpson, smiling politely.”