Friday, 12 October 2012


15, 2012, Directed by Michael Haneke
Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert

In cinema, there are directors who churn out film after film; directors who pay more thought towards cash in their pockets than how to make their current feature unique… But there are those directors who treat filmmaking like a jigsaw; a jigsaw with the most minute pieces, taking utmost care to deliver something standalone that merges traits used before, with additions, so that by the time said film is unveiled upon the world, an excessive amount of hype has been generated for a ready-made quintessential slice from that director's filmography. Whether you like him or not, Michael Haneke is one of these directors, and Amour is one of those films.

Garnering considerable hype largely due to the 2012 Festival circuit, not to mention its coveted Cannes Palme d'Or win, style is embraced warmer than ever here. Jean Trintingnant appears in his first appearance for 9 years as Georges to Emannuelle Riva’s Annes. The two are long-married retired music teachers whose lives are upheaved when Annes suffers a stroke. The central performances are, for want of a better word, spectacular. So much so, that Amour could be a documentary and Trintignant and Riva its subjects. The film commences with a flash-forward, and ensuing scenes which occur as the film works its way to the conclusion are incredibly emotive; tasked with picking a standout scene would be an impossibility.

 Like his films before It (Hidden, fellow Palme d’Or winner The White Ribbon), Amour is equally as bleak, hard-hitting and compelling, but perhaps to a greater extent due to the feeling of inescapable inevitability that effuses from the Austrian auteur’s work. His latest, one of which many could - and will - make a statement as his best, isn't just a film but a snapshot of the brutality life can throw your way, without even leaving your front door. Haneke’s presence is felt in the canny way he fixes the camera in position and tracks his characters, permitting his actors to do everything that suffices. Haneke tackles tough subjects in a characteristically unflinching but honest manner, heightening the integrity of all involved. Georges and Annes could be somebody you know, or you in the future; everybody can relate. This is remarkable filmmaking of the most understated form, and for this, Amour warrants all the respect it will undoubtedly receive.




Wednesday, 10 October 2012

LFF: Frankenweenie Press Conference

Today, I was fortunate enough to attend the press conference for Frankenweenie ahead of its premiere tonight at Odeon Leicester Square, marking the start of the 56th BFI London Film Festival (LFF). In attendance were director Tim Burton, alongside the film's cast Martin Short, Catherine O'Hara and Martin Landau. Completing the line-up were producers Allison Abbate and Don Hahn. Winona Ryder, expected to attend, was forced to pull out due to scheduling conflicts. Here's the highlights of what was said:

Tim Burton described being back in London as 'amazing' considering he started making Frankenweenie here when there was no Olympic park. Now it's been and gone, it highlights how long it has taken to make it.

Looking at the original drawings, as well as Hahn proposing the idea, made him want to re-do his 1984 Frankenweenie short. He describes the film as a 'memory piece,' continuing by saying that 'black and white stop-motion is an exciting progress,' aided by working with a cast he loves.

When the present cast members are asked about their first impressions of the director, Tim exclaims 'Don't ask Martin Short!' Short, who worked with him on Mars Attacks!, comments that he recalls being thrilled to meet such an 'unbelievably collaborative filmmaker.' He states that Burton creates an ideal situation for an actor. Hahn worked on Fox and the Hound alongside B
urton during his early days at Disney. He explained that Tim was miscast with the family studio in the 80s, for they didn't know what to do with him. He admits that Disney celebrating him now with the release of Frankenweenie is quite odd, but likes how things have come full circle. Landau, who starred in Ed Wood, highlights seeing Beetlejuice as a particularly memorable experience. On his Oscar-winning turn in Ed Wood, he says he had a joyous time with Johnny (Depp) and Tim, who 'created a playground for the actors.' He adds that he would drop anything for the director, jokingly adding 'even my pants,' to laughs from the press.

A member of the press ask Burton about his experience of being fired from Disney, to which he comments it wasn't your average firing; 'it was more Disney-friendly; like, "let Goofy show you the door!" ' He recollects it being a strange period but notches it down to being a low point for animation. When asked if he is surprised his outlook has become part of mainstream cinema, he simply replies 'I'm not so sure that's true.'

He talks about working with Short and Catherine O'Hara again (of whom he worked with on Beetlejuice), stating they play several characters in Frankenweenie because he loves them - not because he can't afford other actors! Short discusses himself and O'Hara actually acting out the part of the parents as opposed to simply voicing them, commenting that that was a very specific idea from Tim. O'Hara adds that she was 'so happy with those scenes.' Short adds that Burton's instruction is to 'go with your instinct and divide it by 7.'

When asked about the merging of stop-motion with the black and white, Burton mentions that 3D is a 'crucial element' for more emotion is created. He is adamant that the medium helps support the work the artists did, for the hand-made puppets have a reality added to them through three-dimension. Alison Abbate pinpoints the press to BFI Southbank's Art of Frankenweenie exhibition taking place from the 17th-21st October, whereby several of the sets and puppets from the film will be available to witness for yourself. Burton finds it important to point out that 'all forms of animation can flourish.'

Someone from the press then asks Burton about the horror references in Frankenweenie, of which he admits there are a lot of them - but insists the film is not dependent on these. He points out that he wanted to create a feel for that genre even if you don't really know much about it, meaning people who are unaware of horror can still enjoy their film-going experience. Landau feels that Tim was attracted to Ed Wood because of his love for horror icons Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price.

Someone from the press controversially asks if they were aware that Hitchcock has been 'getting a bad rap with misinterpretations' of late, to which Landau cheekily exclaims 'he certainly made no advances to me!' He claims that Hitchcock was a practical joker and nothing more, and he got on well with him; he adds that he never saw any of the advances he was said to have made on actresses the filmmaker worked with.

Burton admits that he does not find Frankenweenie dark in the slightest, and when asked if he would make an out-and-out horror feature, he queries, 'Saw VII in stop-motion?' to laughs from the audience. He's asked if he has a 'fascination with bringing dead characters back to life,' but Burton dismisses this by saying he finds that creepy and that it is 'more about creation and making things.' He feels that this is what filmmaking is - 'it's not about box office or reviews.' He brings the conference to its end by saying that - to him - film is a 'more pure version of why I live.'

And with that, Burton and co head off to prep for their LFF Opening Night Gala screening of Frankenweenie. Out in cinemas October 17th.


BFI London Film Festival picks: 5-1

The 56th BFI London Film Festival is finally upon us, kickstarting tonight with Tim Burton's Frankenweenie! Following Part 1 of my Top Ten picks of the Festival, here is what I feel are the big dog films to look out for over the next 11 days. Enjoy, and get involved.

5. Crossfire Hurricane

Directed by Brett Morgan
Starring: The Rolling Stones

Receiving its world premiere at the Festival is Crossfire Hurricane, Brett Morgan's 50th anniversary documentary on legendary rock stars The Rolling Stones. You don't need to be a Stones nut, just a music lover. If you are a fan mind, you should know they're going to be hitting the red carpet for the screening.

4. The Sapphires
Directed by Wayne Blair
Starring: Chris O'Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy

Here we have what I predict will be one of the more underrated showings at the festival, but one whose very appearance will raise its profile enough so as to make a dent at the box office upon its release. Australian film The Sapphires is about the rise of a Supremes-esque Aborigines girl group mentored by Chris O'Dowd's Dave, who entertain US troops during Vietnam. From the clips that have been released, this is gonna charm even the most hard-centred folk.

3. Argo
Directed by Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston

With just two films, Ben Affleck has carved himself out as a director whose films  warrant getting  excited about. With The Town a step forward after the also-brilliant Gone Baby Gone, here's hoping he can make it third time a winner with Argo, a feature already being mentioned alongside the word Oscar. The plot seems to merge political thriller with satire in an attempted serious manner - a strange one for sure. But I'm pretty excited to see how Affleck pulls this one together, for if the credible male cast are placed into the story successfully, this has the makings of a modern classic.

2. Sightseers

Directed by Ben Wheatley
Steve Oram, Alice Lowe, Tony Way

Ben Wheatley's follow-up to the deranged Kill List promises to be equally as deranged, albeit with a bucketful of laughs put in for good measure. If the early festival appearances and reviews throughout the past year are anything to go by, Sightseers could be the film of 2012. The fact it is showing at the LFF enhances this, not to mention it's backing by BFI Film Fund - best of luck getting a seat for this one.

1. Seven Psychopaths
Directed by Martin McDonagh
Starring: Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell

Top of my personal list of films to get excited about at the festival was always going to be Martin McDonagh's long-overdue follow-up to the hugely revered In Bruges. Re-casting Colin Farrell, this time as Marty, the film boasts the cast to beat: Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, to name but a few. And the trailer further proves what was already known: this is destined to be just as revered and quoted as his debut. What’s it all about? A struggling screenwriter becomes embroiled in the LA criminal underworld when his friends kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu. If the Coen Brother-esque plot doesn’t get you enticed, chances are nothing will.



Tuesday, 9 October 2012

BFI London Film Festival picks: 10-6

The 56th BFI London Film Festival is almost upon us (it’s about time an’ all!), boasting a fresh new layout courtesy of new Festival director Clare Stewart. With over 200 films set to be shown over an 11-day period across Central London, here is Part 1 of my pick of what screenings you should be down as attending. Part 2 follows tomorrow…

10. Quartet

Directed by Dustin Hoffman
Starring: Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly

Mon 15th: 19:30 OLS / Sat 20th: 13:00 OWE2 (American Airlines Gala)
It may be difficult to comprehend that Quartet boasts Dustin Hoffman's first directorial credit, his debut in the field. This largely is the reason why the film has garnered plenty of excitement, although the respected cast that the screen legend has compiled will impress many. Ranging from Dame Maggie Smith to Billy Connolly, here is The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for orchestra lovers. If the plot doesn’t manage to tickle your fancy, just remember the name ‘Dustin Hoffman.’

9: Frankenweenie
Directed by Tim Burton
Starring: Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara

Wed 10th: 19:00 OLS / Wed 10th: 19:00 IMAX (Opening Night Gala)

This year’s Opening Night Gala comes courtesy of Tim Burton’s latest foray into stop-motion animation 28 years after his short of the same name saw him fired from Disney; Frankenweenie, the black and white 3D comedy horror which sees the director delve back into what he does best; merging the hilarious and the terrifying into an all-round ball of charm. A variation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the plot sees a young inventor named Victor devise a way of bringing his beloved dog back from the deceased. Even if Burton of late hasn’t fulfilled your expectations (Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows), a new film from the prolific guy is always something to tinge the movie world with some excitement, especially when themes hark back to his best work: Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride.  

8. The Hunt

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp

Thurs 11th: 15:30 OWE2 / Sat 13th: 18:30 OWE1 / Mon 15th: 15:00 VUES

If there is one reason to see this, it is for Mads Mikkelsen – a performance for which Le Chifre himself won a Best Actor gong at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Starring as primary school teacher Lucas, a man wrongly accused of abusing his best friend's daughter, Thomas Vinterberg's best film since Festen is a hard-hitting reflection upon what consequences can be had due to one girl's statement, be it truth or false.

7. Celeste and Jesse Forever
Directed by Lee Toland Krieger
Starring: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Ari Graynor

Sat 20th: 17:30 OWE1 / Sun 21st: 12:30 OWE2

A small-time comedy about the pitfalls of divorce between a couple who are still best friends, Celeste and Jesse Forever's inclusion in this year's Festival proves this is not your run-of-the-mill offering, instead raising the hype and boosting writer and lead actress Rashida Jones as a force that should be reckoned with. Saturday Night Live regular Andy Samberg plays Jesse to Jones' Celeste, and having been fortunate enough to see the film, their on-screen partnership is layered with honest humour and emotion; it’s been a while since a comedy has had this much heart. Seek it out.


Directed by Michael Haneke
Starring:Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert
Thurs 11th: 20:45 Mayfair 1/Sat 13th: 12:15 Mayfair 1 (Love Gala in association with Time Out)

Arguably the most hyped film from outside the UK, Amour- a tale of a long-married couple who are forced to deal with devestating news - has already made a name for itself throughout 2012. Winning the coveted Palme d'Or at Cannes (the second for Michael Haneke), it appears that the divisive Danish auteur has broadened his appeal to the masses without changing a thing. Though his style may be polarising to some, his films are mesmerising to many, and for this reason Haneke's Amour needs to be witnessed.