Tag Archives: Edinburgh Fringe

Last night’s viewing

A common phrase on the school report cards I gingerly handed to my parents some years back was “easily distracted”. Some teachers elaborated on that by saying “has potential but is easily distracted”. The latter phrase really wound up my guardians as it suggested I could do well, but didn’t want to. The heated discussions following such occasions are not remembered with a huge amount of fondness.

Why am I sharing this with you?

Following a successful screening of my recent documentary THE LAST DROP (which is currently going through a re-cut) and a busy stint at the Edinburgh Film Festival and Fringe, I’m left without a project in recognisable pre production, therefore I have to WRITE.

The Last Drop

Now I’m not without ideas, far from it. There’s 3 shorts, an idea for a feature, a documentary and an experimental piece bouncing about in my brain just now, all fighting to get out. Trouble is, I’m easily distracted. I’ve made 3 attempts this weekend alone to sit and get it flowing, but have always been lured onto the rocks by the sirens of attention deficiency.

I should maybe just take a pair of wire clippers to my internet cable and donate my DVD collection to charity.

…….. Anyway.

Yesterday’s attempt at productivity was hampered by a few things, all of them films. My good friend and fellow director, Zach Rosenau sent me a script which he’s hoping to get made at the end of the year. He’s asked me to assistant direct so, having wanted to work with Zach since I met him and because I love the script, the decision to commit to his project wasn’t a hard one. A point of reference for the film is Hitchcock’s SHADOW OF A DOUBT, having not seen it for a while I thought it only right that I revisit it immediately.

On raking the interweb for a movie poster (I love to get the poster in the post, you may have noticed) I came across a blog that described the picture as a “minor Hitchcock classic”. How does one go about making a “minor classic”? Answers on a postcard.

SOAD is actually Hitchcock’s personal favourite and it’s easily in my top 5 Hitch pictures. Joseph Cotten plays a deliciously villainous role as Charlie Oackley, a misogynistic killer of rich widows, who in an attempt to flee the rap for his series of murders, returns to his family home in the hope that small town America will provide refuge from the threat of the chair. The family initially hold him in complete reverence, in particular his niece and namesake young Charlie Newton, played by Teresa Wright. The girl has her uncle on the highest pedestal but it is this bond that proves to be his undoing. A few strange actions by Oackley seem inconsequential until detective and admirer Jack Graham, lets her know just what her perfect uncle is accused of. This leads to a piecing together of previous clues and a rapid deterioration of their relationship which eventually put her life in danger.

Joseph Cotten: Bad Egg

Teresa Wright: She’s got him sussed

In addition to this being a tremendous picture in terms of dramatic progression over 3 acts, it also has all the supplementary characters that add humour to this most terrible of situations. There’s Joe Newton (Charlie’s Papa) and Herbie Hawkins (featuring Hume Cronyn of BREWSTERS MILLIONS and the COCOON films fame in his first role). Both are crime novel enthusiasts who, throughout the film, hold hilarious conversations about how they’d kill each other and get away with it. There’s Ann Newton, the incredibly smart and sarcastic kid who spawned a thousand cinema imitations and Patricia Collinge as Emma Newton, the perfect portrayal of a Middle American matriarch.

I’ve found the first ten minutes of the film on youtube, you can actually watch the whole thing there if you simply can’t wait to get hold of a DVD…….

Second up was a film I remember for its notoriety in my teens. I never saw it on its release….. I have now.

This film has a lot of sex in it, that much is well known. I remember it being labelled pornography back in 1992 but I have to disagree with that. It falls into the category Michael Winterbottom‘s horrifically boring 9 SONGS does in that it shows a relationship and all its elements. For those of us in relationships that still have a hint of passion in them, that includes sex. Where director Jean-Jacques Annaud succeeds and Winterbottom fails is that we actually care about the characters in THE LOVER.

The striking Jane Marsh

The film follows the sexual awakening of a girl in Indochina, 1929. Travelling on a ferry one day she meets The Chinaman, played by Tony Leung Ka Fai. The two immediately fall for each other but cannot realise this coming together in any other way than the physical. He is destined to end up in an arranged marriage, she throws a barrier between them fuelled by social prejudice her family upbringing. It’s an incredibly tense and beautiful film. Other than the moral questions thrown up by the age difference (she’s 15, he’s 32) the question of love itself is investigated.

Tony Leung Ka Fai

This was Jane Marsh’s first film with her career being restricted to only 9 further roles since 1992. Although nowhere near an award winning performance, I think she handles the subject matter well. Seek it out.

Right, back to this script…….


I’ve been away

The usual cinematic musings have been on the coolest of back burners due to an unprecedented amount of time spent hanging about theatre types at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I’ve been working with the 30 Bird production company on their fantastic show PLASTIC, which they asked me to film.

Theatre doesn’t get a lot of press on the blog, not surprising considering it’s cinematic allegiances but I have to say folks, if you’re in Edinburgh just now and are looking for something to go see, don’t go watching the usual ridiculous amount of comedy on offer, you can get that any time, get yourself down to the Pleasance Undergrand and check out what is a very unique visual experience. Mehrdad Seyf has created a piece which lingers in your consciousness long after you leave the space, which is not the norm for a fringe show. A special mention should go to my ex flatmate and good friend Claire Hicks who has produced the show, god that girl works hard. (She drinks tea in nightclubs you know)

Check a review HERE.

I can’t let the post pass without mentioning at least one flick. During some rare and much needed free time I took in the 1992 Robert Altman film THE PLAYER starring Tim Robbins as Griffin Mill, a hot shot Hollywood producer and features cameo appearances from…. well just about everyone. During the making of documentary, it’s revealed that had all the stars been paid their normal fee for appearing in a film, the picture would have cost in excess of $100m in salaries alone.

I make no apology for the size of the movie poster, it is HUGE though, there can be no doubt about that. I particularly like what this poster does, it actually tells you something about the picture. The strip of celluloid fashioned into a noose captures the nature of the film. Hollywood has no soul and no moral. No matter how powerful you may think you are, there’s constantly someone behind you looking to take your place by giving you enough rope to hang yourself.

The way that Altman uses cameo appearances from the likes of John Cusack, Angelica Huston, Jeff Goldblum and Burt Reynolds as themselves, casually seen dining in the restaurants that Griffin frequents, is a clever authentication of Griffin’s world. Richard E. Grant also turns up (with Dean Stockwell as his agent) playing a ridiculously overplayed but highly believable scriptwriter who’s trying to get his film made. The shallow nature of Hollywood is portrayed perfectly as initially, he’ll not allow his self proclaimed work of art to be altered in any way but later on in the picture, we find out he’s sold his soul to progress himself by allowing the studio to butcher his work.

The film is full of these little comments on the “system” of Hollywood.

The main premise of the film however is Griffin’s obsession to find a disgruntled writer who, in an effort to repay him for ignoring his (or her) work, sends him increasingly threatening, anonymous notes. This series of hostile correspondence unnerves the normally callous executive so much that he decides to seek out the perpetrator.

This element of the film, although the main focus, is probably the weakest. The comments and observations of the selfish movie merry-go-round are far more engaging and interesting than the search for the poison pen. There’s so much going on in this picture however, that you forgive this weakness in appreciation of what it actually accomplishes.

THE PLAYER could have easily been used in a recent essay I wrote on postmodernism in film. The first 8 minutes is one of the strongest examples of homage in cinema. (Gus Van Sant’s version of PSYCHO maybe takes that prize) Not only does Altman use the same one shot opening that Orson Welles used in TOUCH OF EVIL, he actually has the characters reference the film in conversation during the shot.

I’ve uploaded the full scene onto youtube for your enjoyment. Just for the record, he apparently used take 3.