Monthly Archives: June 2008

It’s been a long time…..

The last week and a half has been a whirlwind of movies (up to 6 a day) drink (up to 10 a day) and chats with the kind of people that can really get you somewhere (up to 1 a day, I’m shy). I am ,of course, referring to the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

It really has been a feast of the best cinema around. From the Jeanne Moreau retrospective (which led me to the most extreme cinema experience ever) to a wealth of documentary and features from all over the world.

As it’s past midnight I’ll refrain from banging on and let the film do the talking. The trailer below is for MAN ON WIRE (2008 ) which for me has been the zenith of breathtaking documentary. The rumour is that this film will be getting a release, if you notice it in a cinema near you, GO SEE IT. Normal service will be resumed in the next few days.

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No Glamour Here.

The work of Sidney Lumet has become more and more of an obssession for me of late. The latest offering I’ve had the pleasure of looking at is DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975). This picture, like 12 ANGRY MEN and NETWORK is on the whole, set in one location, but follows a very complex set of circumstances and characters. The story of DOG DAY AFTERNOON is a true one, as the film poster and the title at the begining of the film inform us.

The year is 1972, August 22nd to be precise, the place is Brooklyn, New York. 3 guys walk into a bank with a view to holding the place up and getting out within a few minutes, it didn’t quite work out like that. The incident became a hostage situation covered by national news channels and watched by crowds of baying onlookers. Lumet captures the happening in a raw documentary style, the title sequence is real footage of 70’s New York life. Dirty sidewalks, bums lying sleeping and boats reversing into the Hudson gives the start of the picture a genuine feel that carries on throughout. You can have a look at it below, the music playing is an Elton John track, the first and last time music is heard in the film. no soundtrack, no incidental music. This absence is another powerful tool to heighten the realism of the piece, a realism both praised and criticised by John Wojtowicz, the real life robber, see a piece he wrote regarding the picture here.

Al Pacino plays Sonny Wortzik (Wojtowicz) with John Cazale playing the sidekick who doesn’t chicken out (One guy did a few minutes into the raid) and flee, Sal (Sal Naturale in real life). This is an interesting piece of casting as Naturale was only 18 at the time of the incident whereas Cazale was 40 when the picture was made. Cazale is fantastic here however as the underplayed, understated sidekick. Pacino does all the talking but you always get the feeling that Sal is the one most likely to do real human damage if the situation demands it.

This is only Cazale’s 4th feature and he was only to make one more due to having bone cancer, a disease he worked through on his final feature. No one could have hoped to have achieved more in a 5 picture career. He had notable parts in THE GODFATHER, THE CONVERSATION, THE GODFATHER pt. 2, DOG DAY AFTERNOON and THE DEER HUNTER.
Sal’s journey in this movie is, of course, not the primary concern. The motivations of Sonny are infinately more interesting, as any preconceptions you have are blown out the water in the final 3rd of the movie forcing you to re-examine Sonny as a person. Lumet photographs and stages the various sections of this development wonderfully as the stills below show.





In Sidney Lumet’s book “MAKING MOVIES he says that DDA was one of the most difficult pictures he’d taken on due to a multitude of location problems and hundreds of extras to coordinate. The scene below gives a taster of both the feel of the movie and lends weight to what Lumet is talking about. There is a kinetic quality to the picture despite no one going anywhere. Seeing this movie as an introduction to Lumet will leave you wanting more, I guarantee it.

What’s Up Doc?

My documentary THE LAST DROP is almost complete and will be posted here at JIC as soon as the final cut is done…. should be sometime next week. Last night I took in a beautiful doc that is a good example of how it should be done. If you’ve not seen it already ETRE ET AVOIR should be on EVERYONES lovefilm lists. The subject mater is simple, a look at life in a small French school. What is complex and interesting are the eccentricities and human traits of both the individual pupils and the teacher. Being a mixed single class school in rural France, children of different ages are taught in a single inclusive environment. This leads to a beautiful cross pollenation of ideas and attitudes across the different levels of learning.

A film of this kind could easily slip into the realm of sentimentality, Plilibert’s purely observational style prevents it from doing so. There are many wonderful moments that could be shown in this film that cover everything from the wide eyed inquisitiveness of early childhood to the awkward, uneasy journey into adolescence.
In this scene, Jojo (the star of the show) attempts to wash his hands. It’s a joy to watch.

Saturday Night Clive

Being Saturday night I thought I’d keep it recent and take in a couple of Clive Owen films that had found their way into the “dvd’s to watch” pile that is currently growing on my lounge table. Owen, for my money, is one of the best we have at the moment, the movies I’ve seen him in have an integrity and always attempt to elevate themselves above the dirge of the day. The famous examples of this would, of course, be CHILDREN OF MEN (2006), INSIDE MAN (2006) and SIN CITY (2005).

First up was DERAILED (2005) in which Mr Owen stars as Charles Schine, a businessman who finds himself in a somewhat tricky blackmail situation after allowing himself to become involved with (a rather impressive) Jennifer Anniston’s character “Lucinda”.

The perpetrator of this blackmail is the genuinely frightening LaRoche played by notable French actor Vincent Cassel. I had some problems with the picture in the first half including the implausibility of the meeting, Aniston pays for Owens ticket on a train after he forgets to pick up some cash before boarding. This, of course, could just be a cinematic “meet cute” I thought, but it does become apparent why this needs to be. In fact, many of the nagging questions I had about the storyline were answered in the final third. It is indeed a fine ending to thoroughly decent movie with good performances all round. Rap stars Xzibit and the WU Tang Clan’s RZA get in the act on both sides of the fence. X is LaRoch’s muscle Dexter while RZA is the reformed mailroom man Winston at Schine’s office. Although this picture will never get into any of those best 100 movies lists, you won’t come away thinking you’ve wasted a part of life sitting through it.

The second picture of the Owen double was SHOOT EM’ UP (2007) and I have to be honest, I thought this effort would give question to Clive’s choice of direction.

The plot is rediculous, the one liners are corny and the action grotesque, violent and relentless, this is the kind of film I rarely watch and if I do, find something else to do or switch it off 20 minutes in. This however, was really good fun and at only 86 minutes, it zips along to a fairly satisfactory conclusion. I think what saves the film is that it never attemps to take itself too seriously and is well shot. Another plus is that Paul Giamatti is great as Owen’s nemesis.

I’ve managed to find the opening 3 minutes to the movie. NEVER IN MY LIFE have I seen a picture open like this. The more I think about it, the more it makes me laugh.
Watch the clip before reading the “what happened next below…….

So, Clive has shot a few people by this point. Why?…… well exactly. You do find out later but it takes a lot more bodies to get to that point. just after this point he helps the woman give birth to a baby boy, how does he cut the umbillical cord? ….. Well the movie IS called Shoot Em’ Up…. Owen then, with considerable help from Monica Bellucci, spends the rest of the movie trying to keep the baby alive (Giamatti’s gang are hell bent on killing him) although his parenting skills leave a lot to be desired. I’ll leave you with the hillariously rediculous roundabout scene where Owen tries to leave the baby to find a good home. He really should have known better.