Fraser McFadzean -the Grosvenor Cinema’s very own poster boy- gives us a second installment of his second looks at movie paraphernalia for upcoming talkies which will be coming to the Grosvenor Cinema.
All artwork courtesy of Fraser McFadzean
Fraser McFadzean -the Grosvenor Cinema’s very own poster boy- gives us a second installment of his second looks at movie paraphernalia for upcoming talkies which will be coming to the Grosvenor Cinema.
All artwork courtesy of Fraser McFadzean
In Sideways Paul Giamatti plays Miles, a struggling author, juggling his job teaching English to high school kids and the emotional void left when the love of his life left him with a broken heart two years previous, does what we would all do in his situation: he turns to the bottle. But what could be construed as borderline alcoholism is in fact a thoroughly middle-class penchant for wine-tasting. As Miles takes his friend and failed actor, Jack (Paul Haden Church), on a wine tasting trip to San Ynez wine country in the week leading up to his marriage the pair share laughs, memories, some of their successes, all of their failures and of course a glass of pinot or two.
The witty dialogue produced in the eponymous novel by Rex Pickett is thrown up onscreen producing a poignant and droll panorama on the lives of people wearied by life but who rejoice in it all the same. When it was released to widespread acclaim in 2004 it picked up 107 awards including the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. 10 years later and like a vintage red, it has aged very well.
Sideways at the Grosvenor Cinema will be accompanied by a wine and cheese tasting, along with mouth-watering canapés in the Grosvenor Café on Wednesday 24 April, which altogether comprise ‘A Thoroughly Sideways Evening’.
The cheese for the evening will be provided by IJ Mellis, Glasgow, the West End’s best artisan cheesemongers. In its twentieth year, Mellis have a rich history of specialising in the maturing, retailing & wholesaling of farmhouse cheeses from Britain & the Continent. With five cheese shops and one wholesale department with maturing rooms, they offer a wonderful blend of the traditional and modern delivering an unrivalled cheese experience.
Their current manager, James Stuart arrived at Mellis, Glasgow via sojourns in Naples and Sicily. This sturdy, modest man does not claim to be an authority on cheese, nor does he carry the air of a superior when he discusses his products with you. He offered to taste with me a selection of cheeses in the run up to ‘A Thoroughly Sideways Evening’ so that I, at least, will have a better understanding of the true place of cheese in a cheese and wine evening. Given my experience in film, and with wine, I yearned for the rounded completion a crash-course in cheese would bring. And I fancied a few free samples.
As I thought about the cheese tasting I toyed with the question: just how important is the cheese portion (pardon the unintentionally delivered but intentionally retained pun) of a cheese and wine tasting evening is. From my own perspective I often find the cheese-tasting the most interesting part, because the sheer variety of cheese out there means that there are not just taste differences but aesthetic differences, differences in texture, and of course differences in smell, which gives cheese-tasting a highly varied quality which wine doesn’t obviously yield, even it cashes out into an equal- or indeed greater – pleasure principle for those tasting it. But I found myself convinced that while wine tasting spoke for itself, the pleasures of cheese-tasting required a strong voice. So, to James, I turned.
Before we began, James offered a few helpful insights into my conundrum. ‘Having hosted a few cheese tastings myself in the past I can say that there isn’t as much baggage when it comes to cheese-tasting when compared to wine tasting which I think helps’, he said. ‘and this means people are willing to talk to each other rather than listen to me, and I don’t claim to be an authority on what they’re tasting’. He did however offer some inside tips for cheese-tasting, including crushing the cheese between your finger and thumb. Although it may appear strange there is certainly method in the madness. Crushing the cheese allows the taster to involve as many of the senses as possible and can help to release the aromas of the cheese, to heighten the smelling sensation so crucial to cheese tasting. ‘You can really involve as many of the senses as you like when tasting cheese’, he suggested, ‘although I haven’t quite worked out how to listen to the cheese myself’. He also recommended tasting at room temperature to release the aromas and flavours, provided that the room is not stuffy and sweaty with the heating on full blast. With that I felt thoroughly versed in the dark arts of cheese-tasting and was ready to begin.
So what cheeses should we expect at the Grosvenor’s ‘Thoroughly Sideways Evening’?
James’s provisional cheese board – which in showing me he seemed hesitant to call it the finished article – was comprised of a heterogeneous bunch of cheeses from places as far away and as different in character as Cashel in Co. Tipperary, the Isle of Mull and Sussex.
James started off with a goat’s cheese from Golden Cross, a small operation specialising in goats’ and sheep’s cheeses based in Sussex. It is interesting that James chose to start with a goat’s cheese. Often used in starters, whipped or in tarts, with balsamic vinegar or with walnuts, goat’s cheese seemed like a poetic, even natural place to start the Grosvenor’s ‘Thoroughly Sideways Evening’.
The Golden Cross has several distinctive characteristics alongside its choice cheese companions. Like a cross –section of a cylinder the rounded goat’s cheese has a bloomy, white rind which contains a dark layer underneath, which, explains James, can give you clues into how the cheese is made. The dark layer is the remnants of ash, traditionally used to help the cheese age in a particular way, but it is also multifunctional, helping to develop a certain type of rind which helps draw out extra moisture to create a slightly drier centre, and lastly it acts as a pesticide.
The texture of the Golden Cross is firmer than more common varieties of goat’s cheese, with a mellow taste holding citrusy, even zesty notes. In the mouth the Golden Cross had a texture akin to praline which James summed up to a tee, describing it as the inside of a Fererro Rocher.
Moving on to the second of the five cheeses, James produced a segment of cheese he revealed was a ‘Berkswell’ from the Ram Hall Farm in the Midlands. James used this cheese as exemplar of modern cheese-making as a craft and, increasingly as a science. The Berskwell is an original cheese which draws upon a range of influences including Caerphilly cheeses and Italian and Spanish pecorino cheeses. A cheese of an orange, dusty hue which made it distinct from a cow’s milk cheese, this sheep’s milk cheese had a dry, grainy and weather-beaten look to it, protected from the elements by its own natural rind, which is scrubbed off when the cheese has matured.
The Berkswell is a real taste explosion, something altogether surprising given its outward appearance. ‘I chose this cheese – a part from it being a personal favourite of mine – because it goes well with a few different types of wine, particularly sweet wines’, revealed James, ‘it has the right amount of fruitiness and tanginess to retain its taste without overpowering the wine it is accompanying – so it will go well on the evening’. His words however came with a warning: do not eat the rind.
The third cheese in James’ provisional selection was a French Camembert. A popular cheese with a white, bloomy mould Camembert has found great success in cheese-making, people can come to this cheese with a relative pedigree of knowledge and experience James’ sample was pale, yellowish, and sporadically golden colour characteristic of cows’ milk with a dry, somewhat chalky centre. So what does the Camembert cheese taste and smell like? James suggested that it smelt of raw mushroom, with a sweet taste that develops with age. He did point out that often it could have hints of cabbage. Personally speaking the Camembert was delicate and delicious and worthy of its popularity.
Next up was an Isle of Mull cheddar. Distinct in character and manufacture than a West Country or a Somerset cheddar and hailing from Mull, this cheddar comes from cows who graze on the lush grass of the Scottish Island and draff, which is the left over grain after fermentation in the whisky making process. This unique grazing process is evident in the distinctive taste of the Mull cheddar. It is deliciously smoky, peaty and musky. But it is known to change in taste, texture and colour over the year. The sample James sampled with me was made from summer milk, giving it a brighter colour given a more savoury experience. For a variety of reasons including hailing from Scotland and its versatility, explained James, the Mull cheddar proves the most popular in I.J. Mellis’s Glasgow store and continues to give Scotland an excellent and worthy reputation among cheeses from the most prestigious cheese-making regions of Europe.
The last cheese was well worth the wait, and was expertly left to finish. Cashel Blue cheese from Co. Tipperary. Cashel looks soft, creamy but with a paste-like consistency peppered by blue specks with veins of blue running down its centre. To taste Cashel is creamy and salty, ans much milder than other blue cheeses that IJ Mellis stock. Its aroma is sweet, suggesting aniseed and cardomom. This milder flavour gives it a delicacy which makes it the ideal accompaniment for wine, even whisky, because it doesn’t overpower the taster. But in finishing with the Cashel James was keen to stress that all things in the world of cheese are provisional and the line-up for tasting could change as he looked to find interesting and provocative combinations with the wines that will also be used.
My ‘partially Sideways’ experience left me eager and keen to experience James’ cheese being tasted by a wide variety of people, all explaining their own personal thoughts on the cheeses they were tasting. One thing that can be said to the credit of cheese-tasting is that is an anarchic endeavour, set apart from wine-tasting by its lack of social baggage, by its multifarious nature and by broad range of flavours, smells and textures it can produce. It is an experience to be replicated and relived, with wine surely, but with friends: certainly.
IJ Mellis will be providing cheese–tasting at the Grosvenor Café as part of ‘A Thoroughly Sideways Evening’. To book your tickets for the event click here.
Pedro Almodóvar: A visionary. One of the few Spanish-language filmmakers to have experienced such international acclaim and success, and quite rightly in my opinion. For a man with a wealth of successful film credits to his name, his own production company, and countless awards on his shelves (including an academy award) what is the next step? Having built his name on his distinctive style, inspired by melodrama, pop culture, strong colours and vibrant women, Almodóvar returns to his roots, as he brings us the quick witted, light hearted comedy I’m So Excited (Los Amantes Pasajeros). In the lead up to it’s UK release on May 3rd, we look back over Almodóvar‘s cinematic journey and discover what has made him such a prolific name in contemporary international cinema.
Right from the beginning, with his 1988 breakthrough feature length, Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown (Mujeres al Borde deun Ataque de Nervios), it is clear that Almodóvar has a strong sense of style. The bold colours, sweeping camera movements, and sharp cuts, which have become such staples of his work, are all incorporated in abundance. Yet despite this strong identity of mise en scene, Almodóvar ensures that the themes of the film are accessible to everyone. Ok, so maybe the majority of us have not been a voice over artist who has fallen for a married man, whose wife has spent time in a mental institution, whilst our best friend has been held hostage by terrorists, but we can all relate to the general scenarios. A time when our love life is not going the way we thought. When a friend has been in need of help. Or when we simply have our priorities in the wrong place. Almodóvar’s creative choices, stylistically, and story wise, enable him to take such everyday scenarios and makes them incredible, therefore creating an audience for the unexceptional, wherein lies the extraordinary.
In creating such scenarios from the unremarkable, Almodóvar empowers his characters to be decisive, act upon their situations, and drive the story forward. This type of character is another of his signature characteristics. The strong, decisive, leading lady. It is evident, even from his early works, that the females are the focus, and driving force behind the narratives, such as Pepa from the afore mentioned Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown, and Talk to Her’s Lydia.
It is 2006’s Volver, however, which truly exhibits this, as not only is the film led by the headstrong Raimunda, but she is surrounded by an almost entire cast of unfaltering women. Initially, Raimunda, played by Penelope Cruz, seems uncharacteristically subdued due to the wealth of strong females around her. However, upon the murder of her husband Paco, the only male to impact upon the story (even if he is nothing more than a narrative device), she takes decisive action to do something with her life, changing the course of not only her own life, but everyone’s around her. A sort of ripple effect if you will. Being the leading lady of her family, the absence of Raimunda’s leadership directly impacts the family unit, as her sister, daughter, and eventually mother are forced to take action in their own lives. Which brings us to the final staple of Almodóvar’s work. The importance of the family unit.
Most of Almodóvar’s works are centred around one family, with the storyline being directly affected by the state of that family. This is why we rarely see a complete family unit (or the nuclear family) within his works, as we would only have one simple narrative to follow, lacking in depth, intrigue and suspense. Almodóvar’s 2011 offering The Skin I Live In (La Piel Que Habito) is anything but simple however.
Here, we uncharacteristically follow the story of the man of the family, Antonio Bandaras’ Robert, as he attempts to cope with the loss of his wife and daughter. With the family unit in desolation, the storyline becomes disjointed and non-linear, relying on multiple flashbacks in order divulge the full story. Not a typical narrative technique of Almodóvar, he adapts his stylistic choices in order to suit. The film is stripped of colour, reflecting the tone of the piece, and the usual quick fire dialogue is replaced with long, often uncomfortable silences in the absence of people to converse with. And of course the usual strong, empowered women are missing, causing the world of the man to collapse around him, resulting in his ultimate demise.
With The Skin I Live In taking such a different tact from Almodóvar’s previous works, it will be interesting to see what I’m So Excited will present us with. Whether Almodóvar continues to explore and pursue a new style, or return to ‘tradition’ and his much traversed stylistic identifiers , one thing can be said with prophetic confidence: we can expect a visual spectacle with laughs, some tears, and a great deal of entertainment.
I’M SO EXCITED! UK Gala Launch Screening followed by a Satellite Q&A with Pedro Almodóvar Live from Hackney Picturehouse will be hosted by the Grosvenor Cinema on Tuesday 23 April. Tickets for the evening can be purchased here.
In twentieth-century literature, Roald Dahl is the most influential, exciting and beloved of children’s authors, whose back catalogue has enthralled generations of children and spawned a long selection of film adaptations – some certainly better than others. Our faces still stained with chocolate from the eggs we’ve indulged in, the best post-Easter solution for aching tummies is more sweetie goodness. With kids off school for a fortnight and parents looking for the perfect way to keep everybody happy, maybe the Grosvenor Cinema and Grosvenor Café have the solution with a delicious, special showing of the delightful 1971 classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on Friday 12th April.
The special screening at the Grosvenor Cinema is part of the ‘Grosvenor and the Chocolate Factory’. This spectacular way to round off the Grosvenor’s ‘Family Easter’ includes the Grosvenor Cinema’s screening of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory before trekking up the soda-stream steps so that little kids and big ones too can enjoy hand-crafted peanut butter fudge lollies, blueberry gobstoppers, real fizzy lifting juice, chocolate teacups and passion fruit tea all -not to mention the crowning glory: a 10-foot chocolate river complete with marshmallow boats! – all ingeniously prepared by the kitchen-boffins and chocolatiers of the Grosvenor Cafe.
The film follows young, innocent, poor little Charlie Bucket, who lives with his mother and four bed-bound grandparents in an awful one-room home. Meanwhile, the world is coming together in excitement as the famous Wonka Chocolate Factory promises to open its doors for the first time in years to five lucky competition winners. Charlie’s family can only afford one chocolate bar a year, so he thinks he’s out of luck, but when he finds the final ticket he, along with four far nastier spoiled children, enter a wonderland and come face to face with the owner Willy Wonka himself. The film follows the five children in their adventure round the factory and the exciting inventions that await them.
Gene Wilder as the enigmatic Willy Wonka is the centre piece of the film. He doesn’t appear in person during the first half, but still maintains a presence through the awestruck stories of the townspeople, such as in the opening song, “The Candy Man”, in which Aubrey Woods‘ candy shop owner describes Wonka with powers to make dreams come true through his confectionary. When he finally does appear, about to begin the children’s tour of the factory, Wonka limps slowly forward towards the gate, leaning on a cane. The massive crowd outside who have been cheering all fall silent at the sight of the mystery. There are no fireworks, no musical cue, and not even eye contact, and the disappointment ripples through the onlookers right down to the audience in their seats. Then suddenly, with no wink or nod to warn us, Wonka starts to fall forward before effortlessly moving into a roll and landing straight back on his feet. With a smile to confirm the ruse, the crowd erupt into cheers and the viewer is left excited and unsure of what awaits them with this tricky tour guide. The execution of this moment makes the scene iconic and sets up the tour and character brilliantly.
Wonka’s dream-weaver image is shattered by Wilder’s portrayal of a sometimes apathetic, sometimes mischievous, often sarcastic businessman, who cares only for flamboyant stunts and his precious factory. He relishes in stirring disputes between the children and their parents and is disarmingly disrespectful to the adults on the tour. When the children decide to disobey, he doesn’t try and stop them sincerely, preferring to wait for their always-poetic punishments. There is an assuredness that things are going to sort themselves out, that he does not need to intervene, and that he holds no responsibility for the winner’s actions. He remains calm throughout the film and only raises his temper when his factory is negatively affected. It shows where his priorities lie and makes for a performance that only gets better with age as you re-watch and notice all his eye rolls, cane swinging and comebacks that will have gone over your head as a youngster.
Gene Wilder plays the part perfectly. He throws in tiny details throughout that keep your eyes on him which, given some of the sets, is an incredible feat. There aren’t many people who could be both a clearly flawed human yet someone you are drawn to and actually want to side with in anticipating what will happen to the next awful visitor.
The songs throughout the film play second-fiddle to Willy Wonka but are by no means far behind. The film opens with “The Candy Man” which charms all listeners and stands incredibly well as a tune outside the context of the film. Wonka’s dreamlike “Pure Imagination” in the candy garden scene twinkles beautifully, especially in contrast to the anarchic, greedy behaviour of the children during it. The “(I’ve Got A) Golden Ticket” theme is as iconic a victory motif as any other tune. Finally, there are the hum-worthy, morale-teaching, dry-witted, brilliant, cheeky, badly choreographed Oompa Loompa songs, sung when the children leave the tour one-by-one in appropriately ironic ways.
The dark side to the film keeps it completely in line with Dahl’s own style which was never patronising to children and often relished in pushing expectations. It is comparable to The Wizard of Oz in its child-friendly scares. The frenzy over finding tickets, when Charlie is crowded by greedy adults when he finds his ticket and when tickets are faked by grown men hints at the worrying grasp of consumerism in the real world. The factory itself is grey and rotting. The gates are locked and only the letters on the side of a smog tower suggests any life inside at all. It is unappealing and barely hints at the magical world that might lie inside, much like Wonka himself. The surprising and twisted endings that each of the ticket holders find themselves victim to are amazingly cruel for being a family film and are all dealt with an incredible amount of flippancy by Willy and the Oompa Loompas. The children, once they exit the film and their parents are escorted from the scene, are never seen again. When asked whether they are alright, Wonka refuses to give a definite answer and it is the ambiguity which is truly terrifying. The most explicitly scary scene in the entire movie is the boat-trip scene. Floating down a tunnel, the scene, which follows directly from the beautiful candy garden, is strange and mind-bending. It’s a claustrophobic scene, in which Wonka chants a sinister song through a poorly-lit tunnel with frightening images of bugs on the walls. The guests’ panic is palpable as the boat speeds up and Wonka, in a trance-like state does nothing to relax them. It’s simultaneously challenging to watch while being too fabulous to look away, but when the lights turn back on Wonka has switched his persona again and is back to being his jolly self.
The sets hold up remarkably well for being a forty year old film. The physical garden still looks absolutely wonderful, particularly the famously real chocolate river (which apparently spoiled quickly and had to all be thrown out). The design of the Oompa Loompas is flawless. Their matching appearance – green hair, orange faces and white dungarees – is a weird visual, as they are all played by different actors. Even the camera and perception tricks hold up well, such as when Mike Teevee shrinks in the Wonkavision room. The two striking colour palates of the interior of the factory and the world outside provide a contrast which emphasises the fantasy of Wonka’s world.
Whether this is your first time seeing the film, or you haven’t seen it in years, or if this is your chance to introduce a younger relative to one of the most remarkable children’s tales ever created, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at the Grosvenor is this spring’s Golden Ticket. Indulge in Gene Wilder’s incredible performance, celebrate as the spoilt brats receive their comeuppance, and bite your fingernails in excitement as the factory gates open for the lucky few. This one-off screening will also give you access to a post-film chocotastic collection of treats upstairs in The Grosvenor Cafe all provided by the local, wonderful, Chocolate Factory. If you thought your chocolate fill for the holiday was over with the end of your eggs, then think again.
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At what point do an awful series of events begin, and how can they brought to an end? Derek Cianfrance toyed with such questions in his previous feature Blue Valentine – the difficult story of two lovers bound to one another for reasons beyond immediate understanding, despite the intense misery their life together entails. His latest film goes beyond the claustrophobic intensity of a dysfunctional relationship to examine the inevitability of fate and of failed attempts at redemption across a tapestry of tragically connected stories. The Place Beyond the Pines is the story of a carnival daredevil (Ryan Gosling) whose failed bank robbery leads him to a tragic episode with an idealistic cop (Bradley Cooper), changing the fate of both men, and their families forever.
It is Cianfrance’s genius in Beyond the Pines is to explore, through these intricately and intimately woven stories, the unfolding tragedies that, through human weakness, cannot be confined to a discrete moment in time. As the narrative unfolds the audience is constantly drawn to look closer at the chain of events in perspective, towards the minutiae of the circumstantial and seemingly trivial happenings from the beginning of the movie, that suggest that if things had been different the terrible fate of that befalls the two men – and their sons – could have been avoided.
Ryan Gosling plays Luke Glanton, a nomadic motorcycle daredevil whose work on the carnival circuit brings him into fleeting contact with Romina Gutierrez (Eva Mendes), with whom he has a son, Jason. The new found knowledge of his paternity drives Luke to attempt to provide for all three; first through employment as a mechanic and then through a series of bank robberies inspired by his employer Robin, played ably by Ben Mendelsohn. The bank robberies themselves provide short, spasmodic scenes of intense, dizzying and nauseating action, the speed of helps to portray the fundamental recklessness and impulsiveness of Gosling’s character.
When taken at face value, Gosling’s part in the narrative of Beyond the Pines chimes familiarly with his role in Drive – a mechanic-cum-bank-robber drawn to care for a mother and her child – an it is tempting to make the equation. Yet the character of Glanton is very different to the Meursault-esque character played by Gosling in Drive. Glanton is sociopathic, talkative and highly emotional young man, whose reasons for caring for the welfare of the mother and child are obvious – somewhat the reverse of Gosling’s part as ‘Driver’, despite their obvious similarities.
Bradley Cooper plays Avery Cross, who enters the film during a stand-off with Glanton. Heralded first as a hero, the idealistic young police officer becomes entangled in the corruption of his fellow officers, only to emerge as someone unrecognisable from his former self, transformed by guilt.
The story then migrates from one generation to the next, focusing on Jason (Dane De Haan), Glanton’s son and the unhappy circumstances which have become his life given what to him are the unexplained circumstances of his father’s death. This final transition completes the circle as Avery’s wayward son, AJ (Emory Cohen), befriends Jason after arriving
Cianfrance must be credited for managing to hand the plot, like a terrible burden, from character to character through a series of memorable breaks which serve to enrich rather than punctuate the films storyline. In taking pages from the American cinematic playbook – bank jobs, broken homes, car chases, crooked cops and violence – Cianfrance imbues them with an intense realism that accentuates the film’s gritty, somewhat vulgar feel, putting the human suffering that these things cause at the centre of the story, rather than as a peripheral concern.
The emerging director’s penchant for bringing to the surface the regrettable side of human nature can, at times, make The Place Beyond the Pines uncomfortable to watch, but this is surely a part of its engrossing effect. Trading on themes of catharsis, responsibility and guilt, fate and inevitablity, as well as masculinity and the role of a father, Cianfrance manages to make a film that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. With Ryan Gosling recently announcing an indefinite hiatus from acting it places an imperative on his fans to catch the last glimpse of an actor whose direction is far from certain.
The Place Beyond The Pines will be released at the Grosvenor Cinema April 12. For ticket information visit www.grosvenorcinema.co.uk
The 6th-17th of March was an exciting time for world cinema fans as the Pan-Asia Film Festival ran for it’s fifth year in London. Organised by festival director Sumatro Ghose, the festival features challenging films which reflect the changing nature of Asia from Iran to Japan. Along with bringing films by both established and young directors to the UK for the first time the festival also features events and Q&A’s with directors and the films’ stars.
Twelve films ran spanning a wide spectrum of genres including comedy, drama and even animation with the best chosen from a short-list of six on March 18th as the winner of the festival’s Best Film Award. While most of the action took place in venues across London there were also special satellite screenings which took place in Glasgow, Brighton and Leeds.
The festival opened with the UK première of Gf*Bf by Taiwanese director Ya-Che Yang followed by premières of Headshot (Dir. Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Thailand), Poor Folk (dir. Midi Z, Burma), Patang (dir. Prashant Bhargava, India), The Revolutionary (dirs. Irv Drasnin, Don Sellers, Lucy Ostrander, USA) and the Hong Kong Young Filmmakers Shorts Programme in conjunction with the Fresh Wave Film Festival which also included and international discussion via Google Hangouts. The première which eventually went on to win the PAFF Best Film Award though was 111 Girls by Iranian director Nahid Ghobadi.
Aside from premières the festival also featured a screening of Outrage Beyond, the latest work by Japanese director Takeshi Kitano as well as The Reluctant Fundamentalist (dir. Mira Nair, India), Material (dir. Craig Freimond, South Africa), animated feature The King of Pigs (Yeon Sang-ho) and the festival’s first ever late night screening with Tormented 3D by Japanese director Takashi Shimizu (The Grudge).
There were two films shown at the GFT in Glasgow. The first was Gf*Bf which tells the story of a love triangle between rebellious high school friends Aaron, Mabel and Liam. Aaron likes Mabel, Mabel likes Liam but Liam only has eyes for Aaron. The film spans just over a decade which begins in 1985 Taiwan, during a time of martial law, then through to 1990 and ending in 1997 showing how the relationships between the three friends has held up during a time of political unrest.
The second film was Patang which is set in the Indian city of Ahmedabad and gives viewers an insight into India’s largest kite festival. While the festival sets the backdrop of the film, the storyline revolves around a successful Delhi businessman bringing his daughter back to his home town and being forced to face up to the family troubles he left behind. Performances are provided by both professionals and non-actors but both are eclipsed by the bright and colourful cinematography as millions of kites take flight during the day and fireworks light up the sky at night.
The Pan-Asia Film Festival seems to have enjoyed a very successful run in 2013 and it will be interesting to see what they have in store next year.
This Sunday the Grosvenor Cinema will be hosting a screening of ‘It Happened One Night…’ a true Hollywood classic starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. She is a spoiled heiress determined to escape her family and marry her truelove. He is a roguish reporter she meets on the way who eventually charms her. A romantic, screwball comedy with twists and turns it won the Oscar ‘grand slam’ namely Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Writing. The screening is in association with Glasgow’s biggest burlesque night Club Noir, and will be accompanied by Dear Mr Gable a performance from blond bombshell Katie Crossbones.
I chatted with Tina Warren, one of Club Noir’s founders, about burlesque, the silver screen and her love for Clark Gable. First, some introductions. Club Noir is in fact the biggest burlesque club in the world today and in March celebrates its 9th birthday. Based in Scotland it also holds nights London and frequents Edinburgh’s Fringe. DJ’s, bands, performers and acts come together around four times a year to create unique nights of magic and to ‘spread the burlesque gospel.’
The idea of a burlesque club may be off-putting for some but Club Noir invites all and sundry to join in the fun. There is a dress code but it simply requires effort rather than all out-fabulousness. ‘We say dress to impress but don’t not come because you’ve not got an amazing outfit. I know that once they get there they’ll love it and get inspired, confident about what they might want to do next time,’ offers Tina.
‘I love our crowds,’ she says fondly, ‘they are always amazing and up for fun’. So who exactly comes along to partake in this fun? ‘They are the most diverse audience you will ever get into one room. Literally. Eighteen-year olds and upwards, students to millionaires.’ Apparently Tina’s accountant has even put in an appearance. Why does burlesque in particular appeal to so many, and why does defy generalities? Tina credits the quality of the performance, the range of performers and the underlying idea of fun. And not unlike the weather in Glasgow if you are not sure about one act just wait three minutes.
Each night is themed; ‘“The Blitz” in association with Poppy Scotland is happening on the 25th of May featuring music and acts from the 1940’s. ‘We’ve already a lot of people going mad for it, and especially very young people who want to find out more which is really heartening.’ Not one for resting on its laurels I ask how Club Noir intend to create an evening of magic out of something with fairly negative connotations. ‘I think that the whole night will have quite a romantic but sad element, it will be emotional but still with room for laughs.’ She points out that life didn’t stop during the Blitz, nor did fun, an love stories and scandals continued as they had before. ‘More than ever people took care with their appearance. To keep some sense of control over your own little world it was perhaps more important than ever.’ It seems as if there was a very real spirit of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ animating people during this difficult time, one that Club Noir wants to recapture.
This is not the first time that the Grosvenor Cinema and Club Noir have come together; previous showings have included The Producers and The Seven Year Itch. Tina says of the pairing ‘I just think the Grosvener is such a fantastic little cinema, a dream cinema. I couldn’t think of anywhere nicer to do our film nights’. A natural home from home then? She nods ‘it’s cosy, there’s no pressure to fill a huge cinema. It’s like having your having your friends along’.
So why It Happened One Night, and why Clark Gable? Tina becomes slightly starry eyed at the mention of his name. Masculine is the first word that springs to mind according to my exhaustive survey of six people. Tina agrees. ‘I just adore Clark Gable, he is the king to me he really is. So handsome and masculine, but above being sexy. You don’t fancy him, just a God, so beautiful and charismatic’.
Nostalgic screenings of Hollywood: The Glamour Years are increasingly popular and the stories remain wonderful and inexhaustible, but as Tina points out some have aged better than others. ‘Claudette Colbert (Gable’s leading lady) is dated, she looks very old fashioned in her mannerisms and her look and I love her for that, but Clark Gable doesn’t. He’s just as fresh and exciting now as he would have been then’. Gable is charming, strong but sensitive: the ideal man. And even in the days of untouchable screen icons one who wielded impressive influence on-screen and off it. In It Happened One Night he removes his shirt and is not wearing the regulation vest underneath. The vest was ditched because it was causing problems with sound, but as a direct result, sales of vests plummeted. The Grosvenor Cinema opened in 1921 and Tina talks of her excitement at being able to dress up and watch It Happened just as her grandmother would have done. A little piece of magic not possible in the newer cinemas.
Katie Crossbones describes the act as ‘very elegant and reminiscent of the time. Showing the love and devotion many fans had for such an icon of screen.’ To travel back to the glamour years come along to the Grosvener this Sunday, March 24, at 6.30pm. All shapes, sizes and dress codes welcomed.
Tickets for Club Noir’s ‘It Happened One Night’ can be bought at www.grosvenorcinema.co.uk
The Paperboy feels a long time coming. It was released nearly a year ago in the US and received a cool reception at Cannes in 2012. But now here it is, sweat soaked and urine stained.
Nicole Kidman plays Charlotte Bless, a sexually charged ageing blonde with a ‘thing’ for bad men. Her would be lover Hilary (Cusack) is in jail for a murder he may or may not have committed and Charlotte persuades Ward Jansen (McConaughey) to return home with his writing partner Yardley (Oyelowo) and tell the real story. Ward’s younger brother Jack (Efron) acts as driver for the investigation and becomes besotted with Charlotte. Set in Florida during a heat wave and in the age of polyester, it is humid in every sense.
As director, Lee Daniels has pulled no punches in amped up action that revels in colour. High angled, bright lit camera work uses the glare of the everglades to great effect in moments of lustful dreaming or loss but elsewhere it feels overdone. The plot and pace jar with each other and as one holds back the other surges forward sloppily. The smaller scenes that require intimacy, notably between Jack and Anita (played by Macy Gray) are better pitched and the story as whole still comes together. Adding to this is the fine wardrobe choices create a cohesive aesthetic and crystalise the standing of each character.
A lot has been said of the “jellyfish scene” (that’s where the urine comes in) but really it is less shocking than the tension surrounding the less than complete de-segregation of the swampy town around it. More eye-popping is the very public conjugal visit between Charlotte and Hilary. Some spectacular violence that doesn’t shy away from guts in the most literal sense weaves in and out, underpinning the visceral nature of the story on a swamp.
Excellent performances all round, and especially Kidman as a woman oozing sex whilst remaining vulnerable. Zac Efron has thoroughly shrugged any Disney overhang lithely lounging as Jack and the McConaughey resurgence continues in fine style.
Some laughs, more shocks, a great story with unexpected turns slightly overblown plus buckets and buckets of fluids.
The Paperboy is now playing in the Grosvenor Cinema. For ticket information visit grosvenorcinema.co.uk
On March 17 at 3 pm 43 cinemas across the Britain, from Southampton to Aberdeen, will be screening Ken Loach’s new documentary feature The Spirit of ’45. The one-off screening will be followed by a live simulcast Q&A with the director, author Owen Jones and the National Pensioners’ Convention general secretary Dot Gibson. The simultaneous screening across the country is one of the most eagerly anticipated cinematic events of recent times. Indeed, rarely has a documentary feature prompted such a national debate before its release as has The Spirit of ’45.
For those few who have escaped Ken Loach’s television and radio appearances or the awesome social media campaign that has accompanied The Spirit of ’45 it is worth going over just what exactly the documentary deals with. The Spirit of ’45 is, according to its official synopsis, ‘an impassioned documentary about how the spirit of unity which buoyed Britain during the war years carried through to create a vision of a fairer, united society.’ It is a documentary about how the collective sufferings of war galvanised the British people and manifested itself in a welfare society, buttressed by a welfare state predicated on a national health service and nationalised industry. The documentary aims to capture and rejuvenate the beginning of a truly social epoch in British history – an epoch that many today believe to be confined to a lost past or a semi-fictional, black and white existence on the dusty reals of British Pathé archives.
But The Spirit of ’45 has served a dual function. For the left in British politics it provides a visual polemic against Osborne and Cameron’s policies of austerity and cuts. The documentary is as much an alternative social and political narrative for contemporary Britain as it is an ode to a spirit of the past. This narrative is that what we have achieved once we can achieve again and create a better society in 2013. Indeed this subtle, yet powerful, rallying call for all socially minded citizens owes much to The Spirit of ‘45’s awesome social media campaign. Following @TheSpiritof45 or #Spiritof45 has circumvented the political debate carried in our traditional media and allows people to imagine not only what life would be like for them in 1945 but also what can be achieved through a unity of purpose in bleak economic times, like those we face today.
An outspoken champion of the working classes, Ken Loach is not afraid to make political arguments through his work, nor is he a stranger to creating a legacy through his films. The homeless charity Shelter owes much to his 1966 BBC Wednesday Play Cathy Come Home which inspired a generation of middleclass Britons to deal with social problems they were previously wilfully ignorant to. While many pundits may be uncertain as to what lasting legacy The Spirit of ’45 may leave, it is clear that Loach himself considers the safeguarding of the future of the National Health Service to be the focal point of any such legacy, the real gain from a documentary he calls ‘an act of rebellion’. Whatever is to come out of The Spirit of ’45 this March 17 it is clear Loach and his team have done enough to put the spirit of ’45 on the political agenda in 2013.
The Spirit of ’45 and simulcast Q&A will be screening in a one-off event at 15.00, Sunday March 17.
For ticket information visit grosvenorcinema.co.uk. Follow @TheSpiritof45, #Spiritof45 and @cinemadownalane on Twitter to join in the debate.
When you hear the term ‘Spring Break’ what do you think of? Sun? Sea? Swimwear and spirits? I personally envisage an American version of the BBC3 show Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents (minus the parents, with darker tans and whiter teeth). However, Spring Breakers takes things much further than the drunken antics of us Brits, exploring what happens when spring break is over, and all but a few students have returned to their studies, leaving those determined to live the life of a ‘Spring Breaker’ forever.
Spring Breakers follows four young college students determined to break free of their mundane routine, and willing to do anything to achieve this, and I do mean anything. In order to get to Spring Break, they are willing to rob a diner, simply to pay for their frivolities. An experience which they later choose to re-live, both through role-play, and replication.
The sudden violence of this scene took me by surprise, as the girls are seen smashing tables and cash registers with a mallet, and holding hostages at gunpoint whilst ransacking the diner. It brings into question the argument of whether violent video games really do influence our behaviour, as we hear the line “Pretend like it’s a video game…” repeated over and over, both on the journey up to this attack, and whilst later reliving the experience, as they laugh and joke about it. But it’s not for me to judge. However, this blatant disregard for the repercussions of their actions exhibited by the girls, at this early stage, sets the context for what dangerous situations they find themselves in later in the film.
There are plenty of the usual party scenes expected of a film about a spring break, such as pool scenes, beach concerts, and drug-fuelled parties. But the real story does not begin until the girls are arrested for an illegal rave, and are bailed out by the sickly sweet Alien (James Franco). Using the pretence that he just wants to spend some time with the girls in return for their freedom, he slowly reveals his world of gangs and gun crime, and how it allows him to live the so called ‘American Dream’, a life far from anything the girls know back at college. A life of rebellion, where anything you could want is in your grasp if you simply take it. The temptation of this kind of freedom and lifestyle, along with Alien’s careful grooming of the girls, keeps most of them from returning to college, and soon Alien is able to coax them into doing just about anything he wants them to.
The film grows darker, and darker, the deeper the girls are dragged into Alien’s world. It goes from bikini clad beauties and muscular Adonis’s, to three little girls, well out of their depth, wielding knifes and guns in a uniform of bikinis and shocking pink balaclavas, killing strangers with no motivation other than a chance to “see something different”.
We watch as the boisterous characters created by the girls become all consuming, making them believe they are unstoppable. Invincible even. And it is not until they have to face up to Alien’s rival gang, led by Gucci Mane, that the reality of this new way of life, and the repercussions of their violent actions hit them, hard, resulting in a final scene which exhibits the kind of violence which would not seem so out of place in a Martin Scorsese title.
It is impossible not to return – perennially- back to the youth and naivety of the characters. With such a young and up and coming, all star cast, Spring Breakers could be considered a ‘coming of age film’, both for the characters, and indeed, a number of the young stars. In witnessing the characters being forced to change and grow up as they are thrust into unfamiliar surroundings, so we see the young starlets experience the same.
This is the first feature film where we see both Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez turning their backs on the clean cut Disney princess characters they so often portray, in exchange for darker, more rebellious roles, and, indeed, successfully proving that they can be more than just the girls next door. As for Rachel Korine and Ashley Benson, this could well be their breakthrough roles. Both exude charisma, and ooze sex appeal throughout, precisely what anyone in the new, young Hollywood needs to kick-start their career.
And then of course there is Franco, who uses this role to remind us just how versatile an actor he can be, as he effectively breaths life into the character of Alien. A character with all the money and worldly knowledge of a gentleman, albeit with a ‘gangsta’ twist. A Lolita style Humbert for the twenty-first century.
In my opinion, Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers will be well received overall, due in part to the big name stars in the cast, and the high profile collaborations from the music industry, including the likes of Gucci Mane and Skrillex.
Sadly their will be a tendency from some to overlook Spring Breakers believing that some of the young actors will be unable to carry off such diverse roles. And to them I say, you should try everything once. Allow these actors to explore their range, and go and watch a film you may normally avoid. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Spring Breakers hits UK cinemas on April 5th.