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FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE
T H E S E N S AT I O N A L S E Q U E L TO
Issue Nine. July/August 2010
0 4 | Spotlight
Genre Junction: The Road Movie and Journeys of Self Discovery
1 4 | Art & Film
Everything is Illuminated: The Photographs of Eva and Tony Worobiec
24 | Widescreen
Cities of Hope: The Cube Cinema's Haiti Kids Kino Project
IN CINEMAS AUGUST 27
3 0 | 1000 Words
Life Fast, Die Young: Bonnie and Clyde and the Birth of New Hollywood
0 4 | Reel World
The Straight Story
1 8 | One Sheet
cover image five easy pieces (courtesy park circus / sony pictures)
‘You're just like your brother. Ignorant, an uneducated hillbilly, except the only special thing about you is your peculiar ideas about love-making, which is no love-making at all.' Bonnie Parker
On The Road
3 4 | On Location
Route 66, USA
3 8 | Screengem
1970 Dodge Challenger
4 2 | Parting Shot
4 4 | Competition
4 6 | Listings
A roundup of this issue's featured films
The Big Picture ISSN 1759-0922 © 2010 intellect Ltd. Published by Intellect Ltd. The Mill, Parnall Road. Bristol BS16 3JG / www.intellectbooks.com Editorial office Tel. 0117 9589910 / E: email@example.com Publisher Masoud Yazdani Senior Editor & Design Gabriel Solomons Editor Scott Jordan Harris Contributors Jez Conolly, Nicholas Page, Emma Simmonds, Daniel Steadman, Scott Jordan Harris, Marko Martin Wilkinson, Tony and Eva Worobiec, Gabriel Solomons Special thanks to John Letham, Sara Carlsson and all at Park Circus, Jelena Stanovnik, Michael Pierce at Curzon Cinemas and Gabriel Swartland at City Screen Please send all email enquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org / www.thebigpicturemagazine.com l The Big Picture magazine is published six times a year
| Produced in partnership with
f i l m b e yo n d t h e b o r d e r s o f t h e s c r e e n
below richard farnsworth as alvin straight
Alvin Straight’s unusual road trip inspired an unusual road movie, which in turn inspired many unusual admirers. neil mitchell climbs aboard his Flymo to investigate.
Telling it Straight
Alvin dispenses the wisdom of his years to those he meets along the way, and is himself touched by the kindness of strangers.
when frail 73 year old Alvin Straight drove his 1966 John Deere riding mower the 300 miles between Laurens, Iowa and Mount Zion, Wisconsin – to visit his estranged and equally ailing brother – he can hardly have imagined that one of cinema's most unlikely pairings, The Walt Disney Company and David Lynch, would later immortalise his journey on the big screen. News of his trip spread locally before reaching the national press and finally Hollywood. Lynch made Alvin's trip the basis for his own take on the road movie; chance encounters, the visual power of the American landscape and a journey as much internal as physical are given a genteel, humorous and poignant spin. Travelling at a top speed of 5mph, Alvin dispenses the wisdom of his years to those
he meets along the way, and is himself touched by the kindness of strangers. In his final role, Richard Farnsworth was nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars for his portrayal of the stubborn and troubled old man who comes to realise the importance of family, forgiveness and reconciliation. Since Alvin passed away, the Preserve the Straight House Committee has organised, amongst other things, a sixand-a-half mile lawnmower ride to raise restoration funds and to honour their town’s most famous son. Tourists have been spotted visiting Alvin's residence and the Internet throws up the occasional blog in honour of trips made along the route he took. Other riding mower and tractor charity fundraising trips occur around the world, from the UK to New Zealand, and, whether they were inspired by him or not, they certainly bare the hallmark of Alvin Straight’s nowlegendary road trip. [tbp]
[weB ] The Preserve the Straight House Committee online: http://tinyurl.com/2umgqsw
cover feAture Y
c i n e m a ' s t h e m at i c s t r a n d s
left karen black and jack nicholson below jack nicholson is a long way from home
Although we follow BoBBy’s journey ‘BAck home’ with the Aim of fAmily reconciliAtion, it Becomes AppArent just how stuck he is wherever he is.
Five eAsy Pieces (1970)
Dir. Bob Rafelson
Part drama, part probing character study and part road movie, Five Easy Pieces focuses on Bobby Eroica Dupea (Jack Nicholson) who, once a promising pianist from an affluent family of classical musicians, is now living a nomadic existence, wandering from motel to motel, working as an oil rigger, with his waitress girlfriend Rayette Dipesto (Karen Black) permanently in tow. When he learns his father is very ill, he has to return to his previous life. The road in Five Easy Pieces is symbolic of emotional uncertainty. Although we follow Bobby’s journey ‘back home’ with the aim of family reconciliation, it becomes apparent just how stuck he is wherever he is – be it in his dead-end Californian blue collar existence or back at his wealthy Seattle home. Bobby may be on the move but he is caught in a rootless, existential drift. The film ends on an ambiguous note that leaves Bobby much as we first found him: lost, homeless and confused.
While the road movie is an iconic genre in itself, it is often used as just one ingredient in a potent genre cocktail. j e z conolly examines six road movies that are more than just road movies.
Five Easy Pieces is back in UK cinemas from 13 August. For more details see page 46.
Images Courtesy Park Circus / Sony Pictures
spotlight genre junction
Dir. Edgar G. Ulmer
A second-rate pianist, Al Roberts (Tom Neal), is hitchhiking in pursuit of his singer girlfriend, Sue (Claudia Drake), who has fled the sleazy club-land of New York to find fame in Hollywood. Roberts is picked up by a man named Haskell (Edmund McDonald), with a pill-popping habit and some nasty scratches on his hand. Haskell promptly dies at the wheel, panicking Roberts into assuming Haskell’s identity so as not to be blamed for the ‘murder’. Soon after, he picks up another hitcher, Vera (Ann Savage), the femme fatale who inflicted Haskell’s scratches and who now tries to blackmail Roberts. A brilliant synthesis of film noir and road movie, Detour’s opening credits, looking backwards down the highway, foreshadow the film’s fatalistic sense of entrapment. Since we cannot see where we are going, these pre-narrative shots emphasize how the road haunts the destination in the road movie, just as the past in film noir haunts the future.
detour ’s opening credits, looking BAckwArds down the highwAy, foreshAdow the film’s fAtAlistic sense of entrApment.
y tu Mamá también uses the premise and formalities of the road movie love triangle to fuse gritty social comment and a comingof-age sex comedy.
y tu MAMá tAMbién (2001)
Dir. Alfonso Cuarón
Having seen off their girlfriends, who are travelling in Europe, two young Mexicans – Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) – are stuck for something to do for the rest of the summer; they decide on a road trip to find the mythical beach known as ‘Heaven’s Mouth’. At a family wedding they meet Luisa (Maribel Verdú), an older woman from Spain, who surprisingly agrees to accompany them on their trip. The boys compete to seduce the more experienced Luisa, whose presence brings out both the best and the worst in them. They learn things about each that they never knew, despite having been best friends for years, and as their journey progresses, all three companions find themselves confronted with their innermost demons and desires. Y Tu Mamá También uses the premise and formalities of the road movie love triangle to fuse gritty social comment and a coming-of-age sex comedy.
above left ana lopeZ mercado and friends opposite tom neal and ann savage
spotlight genre junction
tHe HitcHer (1986)
Dir. Robert Harmon
Ignoring his mother’s advice not to pick up strangers, Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) picks up more than he bargained for when he stops to give a lift to a psychotic drifter by the name of Ryder (Rutger Hauer). Nothing can stop Ryder playing his evil mind games; he usually murders the drivers with whom he hitches lifts but, when Jim decides to eject him from the car, Ryder engages him in a deadly game of tit for tat on the Texas highways. Both thriller and road movie, The Hitcher is a claustrophobic, neo-noir, loss-of-innocence, homoerotic, paranoid western strapped into the back seat with Hitchcock at the wheel. Hauer’s performance emphasizes the isolation of the road and serves to reinvent the maniac-at-large strand of chiller by transplanting the threat into the most confined of spaces: the passenger seat of Halsey’s car. Watch out for some finger-licking Texan French fries.
Feux rouges / reD LigHts (2004)
Dir. Cédric Kahn
Adapted from the novel by Georges Simenon, Red Lights stars Jean-Pierre Darroussin as Antoine, an insurance clerk married to Helene (Carole Bouquet), a beautiful and successful lawyer. On the hottest day of the year, the bickering couple decides to take a road trip across France in order to pick up their holidaying children. Already fuelled by alcohol, Antoine makes frequent stops to take a nip or two of whisky, and eventually returns to his car to find that Helene has decided to go on by train. However, when he rushes to the next stop to try and catch her, she cannot be found. An extraordinary search ensues. Kahn creates an unnerving fusion of road movie and European existential drama, and one that arguably also sets out to make a point about the ‘Americanization’ of French culture by shifting the location of Simenon’s novel from the U.S. East Coast to the North East of France.
the Hitcher is a claustrophobic, neonoir, loss-of-innocence, homoerotic, paranoid western strapped into the back seat with Hitchcock at the wheel.
above jean-pierre darroussin
Kahn creates an unnerving fusion of road movie and european existential drama... by shifting the location of simenon’s novel from the u.s. east coast to the north east of France.
c i n e m a ' s t h e m at i c s t r a n d s
roAD to singAPore (1962)
Dir. Victor Schertzinger
The first in the popular series of ‘Road to…’ movies – starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, with Dorothy Lamour as the love interest – Road To Singapore featured Bing and Bob as Josh and Ace, a pair of pals who run off to Singapore to escape forced marriages. The boys are determined never to bother with women again until they run into Lamour, a sarong-wearing dancer suffering through a relationship with a bullying musical partner. Josh and Ace rescue her and fight with each other for her hand as they try to elude a wacky variety of pursuers. Besides spoofing the action adventure and romance genres, the ‘Road to…’ movies are a parody of Hollywood itself, with a sprinkling of references to other actors and the occasional swipe at Paramount Pictures. Despite its title, this is a comedy first, a musical second and a road movie third. The minimal road trip plot provides Crosby and Hope with plenty of excuses for their requisite songs and ad-libbed gags. [tbp]
left dorothy lamour, bing crosby & bob hope
the minimAl roAd trip plot provides crosBy And hope with plenty of excuses for their requisite songs And Ad-liBBed gAgs.
[weB ] Road Movies Media Resource: www.lib.berkeley.edu [Book ] The Road Movie Book edited by
Steve Cohan and Ina Rae Hark [Book ] 100 Road Movies: BFI Screen Guides by Jason wood
visual art inspired by film
Neon lit cinemas epitomised the American dream of the 1950s and 1960s - and while much of it is now faded glamour - photographers Tony and Eva Worobiec still see it as a celebration of small-town America.
All words and pictures by to n y a n d e va w o r o b i e c
j The Cliftex Cinema
Clifton, Texas 'The Cliftex Cinema is apparently the longest continuously running cinema (since 1912) in the whole of Texas (if not the U.S). It's amazing, as it is such a small town. When we were there it was undergoing refurbishment, but the owner and his daughter altered the signing to make it look as if it was open, then put on the lights for us. This time it attracted an old guy in a Stetson who was passing in his white Cadillac, and we managed to capture him at the (empty) box office. Unfortunately we didn't have the presence of mind to get him to park his Cadillac in front of the theatre!'
The Washita Cordell, Oklahoma 'The Washita is a lovingly-restored movie theatre in the small town of Cordell, Oklahoma (population about 2900). In order to ensure that we had an uninterrupted external view, the owner stood in the middle of the road and directed the minimal passing traffic round us. When we eventually finished, we were not allowed to go without taking an enormous bucket of popcorn with us.'
Art & film icons of the highwAy
The Fox Taft, California We didn't meet the owners of The Fox but were nevertheless given access to photograph it. It's a good illustration of a small town cinema which truly comes alive at night once the illuminations come on. As we have gradually gone from mainly medium format cameras to digital SLRs, we've been able to use zoom lenses which can take us into the neon detail on the marquee, as can be seen with The Fox. Previously for close-ups we would have to stand in the middle of a road and risk being run over or, more truthfully, be delayed by a curious car-load of teenagers wondering what on earth we were doing. There were times when we felt as if we were caught up in a scene from an old movie such as American Graffiti!
The Rogue Theatre Grants Pass, Oregon 'At the Rogue Theatre I had to work around a guy who I assumed to be one of the stagehands for the act performing that evening – I even met him in the green room later. Only when we were invited to stay for the gig later that evening did it emerge that he was Joe Bonamassa, probably the best blues/rock guitarist around! He was incredibly modest and unassuming.'
'there were times when we were taking pictures that we felt as if we were caught up in a scene from an old movie like American graffiti.'
Icons of the Highway: A Celebration of Small-town America by Tony and eva worobiec
seemore... [Book ]
deconstructing film posters
Ever since celebrated writer Jack Kerouac wrote his most memorable work, road trips have been commonplace in American movies and the posters they inspire. nichol as page looks at four very different examples, courtesy of The Reel Poster Gallery, London.
just like the indomitable stretch of asphalt known these days as Route 66, American road movies have been a prominent feature of the country’s cinematic landscape for decades now. From stopoff diners to vast, wind-swept plains, the road movie has always been an effective way to show off the United States – or, at least, several of them – as well as some of the country’s most iconic automobiles. The road trip has also become a way to show characters leading some kind of personal odyssey, and has thus come to represent a basic form of escapism to which many can relate. In Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider (1969), it was motorbikes rather than cars propelling the characters across the country, and two personal odysseys rather than just one. This intriguing poster was created by acclaimed Czechoslovakian artist and designer Josef Vyletal (1940– 1989), and features one of the film’s stars, Peter Fonda, standing in front of a mirage of images that represent his hazy road-tripping experience. A renowned painter of surreal imagery (hence the horseheaded man seen in the poster), Vyletal was forced to add a black cloud here to obscure the U.S. flag on the back of Fonda’s jacket.
On The Road
easy rider / beZstarostna jiZda (1969) original cZechoslovakian / art by josef vyletal ➜
www.reelposter.com [Book ] Josef Vyletal: Painter of Death by Rostislav Sarvas
w h i l e e as t e r n European artists were providing their part of the world with much more striking and abstract movie-related artwork, poster design in the West was moving in a different direction. Here, creativity gave way to marketing, so that while posters were still being drawn and painted by human hands, they were more obviously selling a product. This British poster for Robert Stevenson’s The Love Bug (1968) illustrates the approach rather well: note the clear featuring of all the film’s characters and, perhaps more importantly, its champion Volkswagen Beetle. Also note the prevailing use of tag-lines. Another successful approach to marketing movies in the
West, especially where mature audiences were involved, has long been to focus on sex appeal. This U.S. one-sheet for Peter Collinson’s Minidriven caper movie The Italian Job (1969), starring Michael Caine, shows just how much skin and leather one can get away with showing on a single poster. Soon enough, with the evolution of computers and graphic-editing software, single artists were replaced by entire design and marketing companies, where movie posters were created by the click of a mouse rather than the stroke of a paintbrush. This U.S. poster for Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise (1991) can be attributed to Intralink Film Graphic Design. [tbp]
While eastern european artists were providing their part of the world with much more striking and abstract movierelated artwork, poster design in the West was moving in a different direction.
(opposite)the italian job (1969) original us / artist unknown (above) the love bug (1968) original british / artist unknown
AfricAn / nigeriAn AmericAn – Hollywood AmericAn – independent ArAb AustrAlAsiAn Directory of britisH cAnAdiAn cHinese eAst europeAn frencH germAn Directory of WorlD cinema: irAniAn australia & neW ZealanD indiAn itAliAn JApAnese russiAn swedisH turkisH the website to find out more about Intellect’s Visit Directory project and explore the volume spAnisH / portuguese for free soutH AmericAn / brAziliAn WWW . WorlDcinemaDirectory. org rest of tHe world (including isrAel, koreA, denmArk, finlAnd, norwAy And icelAnd,
This ambitious new volume from Intellect offers an in-depth and exciting look at the cinema produced in Australia and New Zealand since the turn of
the twentieth century. Though the two nations share cultural and economic connections, their film industries remain marked by differences of scale, as well as levels of government involvement and funding. Through discussion of prominent genres and themes, profiles of directors, and comprehensive reviews of significant titles, this user-friendly guide explores the diversity and distinctiveness of films from Australia and New Zealand including Whale Rider, The Piano and Wolf Creek.
thelma & louise (1991) original us / artwork by intralink
The Directory of World Cinema: Japan and Directory of World Cinema: American Independent are now available. Forthcoming volumes include Directory of World Cinema: Russia.
film in a wider context
Cities of Hope
Six months after the devastating earthquake that tore the country to pieces, marko wilkinson reflects on a film initiative set up by Bristol's Cube Cinema that sought to bring a glimmer of hope to Haiti's displaced children. words and pictures by marko wilkinson
j This photo was taken at our very first screening. After the fund raising, getting the kit together and the long journey it was really exciting for everyone in the team to realise that the idea we’d come up with in the UK actually worked in Haiti. The crowd here are watching Cheik Doucouré’s Le Ballon D’Or a film from Guinea made in 1995 about a village boy who wants to become the best football player in Africa. Each night before the main feature film we’d also play several international children’s short films.
n 12 January the Haiti earthquake killed 250,000 people, and overnight left a million people homeless. A week later there was a meeting held at the Cube Cinema in Bristol, a radical volunteer run cinema and arts space, to discuss what we could do to offer solidarity to the Haitian people. Rather than donate to a faceless NGO we wanted to take some direct action. Out of the meeting came the concept of the Haiti Kids Kino Project – a mobile outdoor children’s cinema that would travel around camps, tent cities, schools and hospitals providing fun, entertainment and feeding children’s imaginations, plus offering temporary childcare for parents and carers – at least for a few evenings. There would also be children’s video workshops where kids in Haiti and the UK could make and exchange messages and ‘video postcards’ – videos about their lives and environments. From the beginning we wanted the project to be defined specifically as a cultural exchange rather than an aid project. Six weeks later I was stepping off a bus in Portau-Prince with fellow Cube volunteer David Fitzsimons,
struggling with heavy luggage that included a projector, a laptop, a generator and a portable sound system. The small but incredibly focused Haiti Kids Kino team had raised the money for the project by putting on fundraising films and gigs at the Cube, and calling for donations from the cinema’s members and friends. Our first show in Haiti was on a Friday night in a camp on some wasteland in Cité Soleil, the most notorious neighbourhood of Port-auPrince, with an audience of about 300 children and adults. The reaction was more than we could have hoped for with the audience singing and clapping along to the theme tune of Aardman Animation’s Shaun the Sheep, and cheering and roaring with laughter at Le Ballon d’Or, a feature film from Guinea about a village boy who wants to become the best footballer in Africa. We’d brought with us a collection of the best international children’s shorts and feature films we could assemble. Within the team we had the programming experience of Kari Nygård who runs the Cube Nanoplex children’s cinema, and outside help came from several guest curators, including film critic Mark Cousins, whose
k The longer we stayed the more friends the Kids Kino made and the more the cinema expanded. This is Stanley and Luxon of the great Haitian comedy troupe Les Rescapés doing a performance for kids and parents before one of our shows at a camp in Delmas 33. The company’s motto “Les Rescapés ont tout perdu, sauf leur humour!” (“The Rescapés have lost everything, except their sense of humour”) is literally true since the earthquake – Stanley and Luxon are living in tents in another camp not far from this one. Les Rescapés have made several short films which we screened many times.
From the beginning we wanted the project to be defined specifically as a cultural exchange rather than an aid project.
widescreen hAit kids kino project
brilliant The First Movie was inspirational to the project. Although there are virtually no children’s films in Kreyol (the Haitian language), Kreyol shares a lot of words with French so the children could understand our French language versions of The Jungle Book, My Neighbour Totoro,Wallace and Gromit, Disney’s Robin Hood and the Kirikou films. One exception which became a firm audience favourite was Ti Sentaniz, a Kreyol language animation based on a monologue by Haitian poet Maurice Sixto about a little orphan girl working as an unpaid domestic servant, a situation that a quarter of a million Haitian children are currently in. During the next 40 days we travelled around Port-auPrince in our hired pick-up truck with team members, 18-year-old translator, Jhon, and our driver, Sergo. In all, the Kids Kino did 22 screenings in eleven locations to an audience that totalled about 5600 people. We regularly saw people living in brutally harsh conditions, but what struck us was the incredible strength and kindness of ordinary Haitians. Because there is so little functioning infrastructure in Haiti, people have had to create a society built on mutual help and support between friends, neighbours and extended family – and the disaster only seems to have made these bonds stronger. This isn’t the story that gets told by the international media, which often appears to only be interested in sensationalist stories of violence and tragedy. Several of the members of the project including myself are filmmakers and artists, and there was a real curiosity amongst us to investigate if film could have a real beneficial effect on people’s lives. Living in a media saturated environment like the UK its easy to feel that video, TV and film are having a deadening, atomizing effect on our existence rather than enriching it. To see the delight
j Kids around the pick up truck at a camp on the grounds of l’Athlétique in Cité Soleil. Although Cité Soleil is a neighbourhood with a bad reputation and we were constantly warned about it, we never encountered problems there and the audiences were definitely amongst the most fun and appreciative we had. In fact in six weeks of screenings all over Port au Prince we didn’t have one piece of equipment go missing. L’Athlétique d’Haiti is a sports club set up by Haitian activist Boby Duval to give sports training, education and nutrition to young people in the area.
Kids dancing k Very quickly we noticed what a powerful reaction any music in the films got from our audience. Incidental and end credit music would have the whole crowd clapping and singing along. Youssou N’dour’s theme to Kirikou et la Sorcière was a particular favourite. Out of this the idea for the children’s disco evolved and soon became a regular feature before the evening’s films. In fact the whole Kids Kino rapidly expanded to become a bigger social experience including music and dancing, live comedy performances by Les Rescapés and video interviews with the audience.
k This is a children’s video workshop we ran in Leogane, the town that was closest to the epicenter of the earthquake. We’ve just watched footage on the laptop that the kids had shot the previous afternoon and Klina, in the purple top, is making a drawing of what she wanted to video that day ( a motorbike and a house). Before we left the UK we did workshops with Bristol children getting them to film messages for Haiti which we then projected at our screenings.
We regularly saw people living in brutally harsh conditions, but what struck us was the incredible strength and kindness of ordinary Haitians.
a film like The Red Balloon can cause in children (and adults) in a situation where the cinematic experience is a rare treat makes you realise what a beautiful and powerful medium film still is. Our last screenings before returning to the UK were four nights at a big camp called Tapis Vert back in Cité Soleil. Unlike the smaller camps we’d visited there wasn’t an obviously established tight-knit community in place – instead there were a lot of displaced people from different neighbourhoods who didn’t know each other. Over the four days we stayed we could feel a sense of social celebration build around the cinema – until it started to feel like a festival. During the afternoon we would put on a kids disco and record interviews with children that we would play as part of the evening’s programme of films. It dawned on us that something exciting was starting to happen that we hadn’t expected – around the Kids Kino a new community was getting to know itself and celebrating itself. [tbp]
j When it wasn’t practical to do structured children’s video workshops, where children could make their own films, we would interview children in the afternoon, edit them quickly on the laptop, then play them between the films that night. Here Euskine is saying hi to his mum and friends in the audience. Because of mobile phone technology children are already familiar with video capturing and it caused a lot of excitement and hilarity in the audience to see people they knew projected on the big screen.
k Setting up would often become a spectator event in its own right. After watching us do it once, the children would have the process memorised and help out the next day. We stayed at this camp, Tapis Vert in Cité Soleil, for four nights and it turned into a mini-festival. On the Sunday afternoon the kids’ disco transformed into a full on rave when a local teenager got us to play his cd of Haitian hip hop over the soundsystem.
to see the delight a film like the red balloon can cause in children (and adults) in a situation where the cinematic experience is a rare treat makes you realise what a beautiful and powerful medium film still is.
The Haiti Kids Kino Project is returning to Port-au-Prince in the autumn with two new teams. If you would like to donate or find out more information there is a website at tinyurl.com/38paax4
f i l m b e yo n d t h e b o r d e r s o f t h e s c r e e n
Stranger than Fiction: Stieg LarSSon and the MiLLenniuM triLogy
all images courtesy picselect and momentum pictures
It cannot be denied that a good deal of the interest that surrounds the internationally successful ‘Millennium Trilogy’ of books by Stieg Larsson, as well as the current film adaptations, is due to the premature death of the author and the subsequent conspiracy theories that have arisen. Practically unknown outside of Sweden prior to the book releases, Larsson was widely admired in his homeland for his stance against extremist groups and as a result received many death threats. When he died in 2004 at the age of 50, many speculated that what was deemed a massive heart attack was, in truth, murder. Poisoning
Have reports of the cult writer's death been greatly exaggerated? jez conolly gets in close.
was rumoured. Larsson’s sixty-a-day cigarette habit was almost certainly the cause of his death but, as can often be the case, there was little public appetite for medical assessments when a suitably clandestine plot against his life could be entertained. The fact that the narrative of his novels deals in part with the risks taken by an investigative journalist in his attempt to uncover corruption at the heart of the country’s orthodoxy only served to intensify the belief that the consequences of Larsson’s own journalistic research had led to his premature demise. Larsson’s own story has
been carefully woven into a marketing mythology. His death presented his publishers, Norstedts, and their international partners with both a challenge and an opportunity; with no author to interview, to present at book shop readings or market through media appearances, Norstedts invested over a million Swedish crowns in promoting advance copies, building a detailed website about Larsson and the book series, and working with advertising companies to maintain the focus of the launch on word of mouth, ensuring that the question marks over the author’s death were allowed to linger, and thereby provide readers with the sense that clues to Larsson’s fate may be traceable in the text. Bloggers were the first to pick up on this and consequently the reputation of the series rose rapidly. Exposure became more prominent, enough to make The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo the first novel by a Swedish writer to debut at number four on The New York Times bestseller’s list. The interest has not lessened in the time since the books were first published. Barely a week passes still without some new sales record being broken somewhere in the world. The film versions have gone on to win awards and smash box office records around Europe. When Larsson died, he left behind the two sequels to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, plus an unfinished manuscript for another on his laptop. He did not, however, leave behind a will, which means that under Swedish law, Larsson's longterm partner, Eva Gabrielsson, has no recourse to Larsson’s now-substantial estate. While the money sits in the hands of
Larsson's father and brother, Gabrielsson is trying to change the law in Sweden so that unmarried partners can pursue an inheritance in court. With the success of the Swedish-made films – Niels Arden Oplev’s Swedish version of Dragon Tattoo ranked as the world’s second biggest earning independent film of 2009 just behind Slumdog Millionaire – and heavy hints that David Fincher is set to convert at least the first novel into an English language movie, possibly starring Daniel Craig, Larsson's estate is set fair to get a whole lot bigger. It remains to be seen whether a U.S. film version can retain the ingredients that have made the home grown films stand out for international audiences. They possess an unfiltered characteristic, bringing viewers starkly and often brutally to the centre of the story in ways that most Hollywood thrillers fail to. They are also especially faithful to the original texts on which they have been based. The careful viral word of mouth campaign that has jumped from print to film has tapped into Larsson’s devoted fan following, converting the readership into viewers very successfully. The rapid release of parts two and three in cinemas will surely keep this momentum going. What of the incomplete fourth instalment? Will it see the light of day? Can we expect a film version? Larsson’s blood relatives, who currently own the rights, reportedly don't want to see it published, and Gabrielsson won't comment. She plans to commit her opinions on this and many other things to a memoir she's writing about her experiences. When this book comes out, it will only add to the fascination with Larsson. ‘People still whisper about the mysterious
‘We know that [foul play] is not the case, but it adds to the drama and mystery of who he was and what he did: the juggernaut that is now the Millennium trilogy.’
(top) noomi rapace as lisbeth salander (above) michael nyQvist as mikael blomkvist
circumstances surrounding his death,’ says publicist Paul Bogaards, referring to the conspiracy theories that have circulated since Larsson passed away. ‘We know that [foul play] is not the case, but it adds to the drama and mystery of who he was and what he did: the juggernaut that is now the Millennium trilogy.’ [tbp] The Girl who Played with Fire is in UK cinemas from 14 August.
Bonnie and Clyde brought unprecedented sex, violence and vitality to the screen, and became the catalyst for Hollywood’s Second Golden Age. s c o t t j o r da n h a r r i s hops up on its running board.
m o m e n t s t h at c h a n g e d c i n e m a f o r e v e r
Bonnie and Clyde and the Birth of New Hollywood
left faye dunnaway and warren beatty as the titular anti-heroes above the end of the road
no film made in the second half of the twentieth century proved as pronounced a turning point for American movies as 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde. Many of those people important to the project (Warren Beatty, Robert Towne, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Dede Allen, etc.) would later make many of the most radical and effective films of the New Hollywood era (Reds, The Godfather, Chinatown, Network, The French Connection, Dog Day Afternoon) But, monumental as those specific films are, they are far less significant than the impact Bonnie and Clyde had upon U.S. cinema in general. As with practically all moments that changed film – or, indeed, anything – forever, Bonnie and Clyde could perhaps have been predicted. The sexual and social liberation of the 1960s, paired with souring of American optimism brought about by the mounting horror of the Vietnam War, meant that the mood for such a movie had been spreading for several years. Equally, while Bonnie and Clyde’s style – most obviously its rapid and abrupt editing – may have appeared entirely original to audiences un-versed in international cinema, it was appropriated from the French New Wave and marked an almost inevitable importation of some of the movement’s values. (The influence of Francois Truffaut and JeanLuc Godard, and particularly of the latter’s A bout de soufflé, is evident from quite literally the film’s first seconds to quite literally its last). But, while the elements of Bonnie and Clyde were already floating in the cinematic atmosphere, it took a special crew of filmmakers to combine them into an urgent and entertaining masterpiece that sparked vast and irreversible change in American film. Bonnie and Clyde took an obviously European style and paired it with an unmistakably American story; it took advantage of receding prudery and presented an unpleasant
1000 words Bonnie And clyde
left the getaway below left william holden in the wild bunch
portrait of societal decay. The result was a work that did not seem ahead of its time, but absolutely of its time: it made the films with which it shared cinemas seem listless and suddenly outdated. Bonnie and Clyde’s most obvious departure from filmic norms was the insistence of its director, Arthur Penn, upon defying the convention that an image of a gun being fired and its bullet hitting its human target be separated by a cut. (Think of the classic shootout in westerns. Typically, a gunslinger draws and fires in one shot; there is then a cut, and the victim of the shooting is seen clutching the injured area and collapsing). In Bonnie and Clyde, we see characters – including Faye Dunaway’s beautiful and fragile Bonnie – shot onscreen as we would see them shot in life; the impact, on them and us, un-cushioned by any editorial sleight of scissors. Producer-star Warren Beatty’s original idea that the film be shot in black and white would have robbed it of its colour both literally and figuratively. Here, for once, was blood that was red and profuse, that was not hidden by the self-censorship of the filmmaker, and could not be
avoided by the eyes of the audience. The ‘Bonnie and Clyde effect’ altered not only the films Hollywood was willing to make, but also those it was willing to honour as its best work. Although Clyde did not win its year’s Academy Award for Best Picture, it was heavily nominated at the ceremony. (From ten nominations for nine awards, it won twice; Estelle Parsons took Best Supporting Actress and Burnett Guffey Best Cinematography). Its influence on the ideas of Oscar voters, however, is evidenced not by the Academy Awards it won, but by the shift in the kinds of films that won in subsequent years. A couple of years before Bonnie and Clyde, the fluffy family musicals My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music had back-to-back wins for Best Picture. A couple of years after it, the top Oscar went to Midnight Cowboy, a tragic X-rated drama about a penniless male prostitute and his crippled companion. What’s more, this began a
Image courtesy leclisse.wordpress.com
bonnie and clyde’s most obvious departure from filmic norms was the insistence of its director, Arthur Penn, upon defying the convention that an image of a gun being fired and its bullet hitting its human target be separated by a cut.
decade that brought Best Picture wins for explicitly adult-themed films – like The Godfather Parts I and II, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Deer Hunter – that simply would not have been made pre-Bonnie and Clyde. This is not to imply that the film only inspired change by bringing about major studio features that were suddenly gritty and newly grubby: its anti-establishment sensibility inspired films far softer than it; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid being the best example. Nor was its impact felt only at the top of American movies. That same anti-establishment sensibility, combined with the film’s pioneering representation of violence, created the conditions for the explosion of exploitation pictures in the 1970s, and for Blaxploitation in particular. (The influence of Penn’s picture on the most influential of Blaxploitation films, Sweet Sweetback’s Badassss Song, is obvious and unrelenting). Furthermore, the film’s overt expressions of sexuality (a key subplot follows Bonnie’s attempts to cure Clyde of impotence; a key scene shows oral sex) were crucial in leading to the adjustment in attitudes that briefly moved pornography into the American mainstream. The sexual frustration that gives Bonnie and Clyde much of its charge (and is practically its first concern: the opening scene shows a naked Bonnie lying alone and thumping
ROLL UP, ROLL
her bed with undisguised frustration) was fully released in hardcore classics like 1972’s Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door and 1973’s The Devil in Miss Jones. What makes Bonnie and Clyde an important film now, rather than simply a film that was important then, is that it remains utterly untarnished. Bonnie and Clyde is one of the greatest triumphs of American moviemaking, a film vivid and thrilling and funny and frightening and entirely unforgettable. It is a cliché to write of a film ‘that still feels fresh’ decades after it was made (and, in this case, decades after it opened pathways down which other films went far further than it did) but sometimes clichés are unavoidable. No matter how often we watch it, or how aware we are of its influence, Bonnie and Clyde still shocks us with the excitement of the undiscovered. So many of the movie’s merits are summed up in its last minutes. Bonnie and Clyde’s final, horrendously violent and intensely sexual sequence was the reference point for James Caan’s classic death scene in The Godfather, and the inspiration for the aesthetic that quickly created The Wild Bunch and went onto influence all screen violence thereafter. Subsequently, it remains one of the most important scenes in cinema: a perfectly appropriate climax to one of the most important films in the world. [tbp]
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opposite alberto closas below lucia bosé
Cutting straight through the heart of America, Route 66 is a man-made wonder that has become synonymous with the idea of travel and triumph. n i c h o l as pag e takes a brief road trip down this lengthy memory lane.
t h e p l a c e s t h at m a k e t h e m o v i e s
tHe grAPes oF WrAtH (1940)
Dir. John Ford USA, 128 minutes Starring Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine
Before becoming the backdrop for many a memorable road trip, Route 66 was the main path for poor Dust Bowl migrants in the 1930s. Director John Ford highlights this in The Grapes of Wrath (1940), which was adapted from John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prizewinning novel of the same name. The film stars Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, an ex-convict and head of a desperate Oklahoma family, who lose their farm during the Great Depression and are forced to move across America to California in order to find work.
Pee-Wee's big ADventure (1985)
Dir. Tim Burton USA, 90 minutes Starring Paul Reubens, Elizabeth Daily, Mark Holton
t h e p l a c e s t h at m a k e t h e m o v i e s
clockwise from below two lane blacktop kalifornia pee wee's big adventure
tWo-LAne bLAcKtoP (1971)
Dir. Monte Hellman USA, 102 minutes Starring James Taylor, Warren Oates, Dennis Wilson
Despite not being a commercial success when first released, director Monte Hellman’s road movie Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) is these days considered a cult classic. Featuring a gruelling race across the southwest between a ’55 Chevy and a ’70 GTO, the film stars James Taylor and Dennis Wilson as an unnamed driver and mechanic. After pitting their grey Chevy against many unworthy opponents, they meet Warren Oates’ GTO and set off on a race towards Washington with the winner set to take home both cars.
Marking the debut of acclaimed director Tim Burton, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) sees actor Paul Reubens reprise his popular stand-up character of odd man-child Pee-wee, whose tranquil yet bizarre home life is interrupted when his prize red bicycle is stolen. After initially suspecting that a particularly mean neighbour is the thief, Pee-wee then turns to a psychic to help him. From here, he sets off on a trip across America in search of his lost bike, encountering many equally strange and wonderful characters.
Dir. Dominic Sena USA, 117 minutes Starring Brad Pitt, David Duchovny, Juliette Lewis
Music-video director Dominic Sena’s debut film, Kalifornia (1993), features Michelle Forbes and David Duchovny as a photographer-writer couple who plan to road trip their way across the USA to California, creating a book about known serial killer sites in the progress. In order to share on travel expenses, they invite along another couple played by Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis. What starts as an amicable journey soon turns into a nightmare, as the young researchers begin to realise just how close they are to their serial killer topic.
go further... [FILM ] Cars (John Lasseter, 2006)
[Book ] Route 66: An American Bad Dream (Stefan kluge, 2004) [FILM ] The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 1980)
e vo c at i v e o b j e c t s o n s c r e e n
Casually chosen by a producer returning a favour, this four-wheeled mean machine was the souped-up star of a 70s classic beloved by B-movie enthusiasts and pertrolheads alike. da n i e l s t e a d m a n slides behind the wheel.
Vanishing Point (1971)
t h e d o d ge challenger is the kind of car that unmistakeably evokes its era. Although Richard C. Sarafian’s nihilistic 1971 road movie has no shortage of period detail – jive-talking soul brothers; killer folk/ funk soundtrack; almighty Woodstock hangover – nothing locates us more firmly in the swinging Seventies than the muscular cool of the Challenger. The 1970 model’s cult status was achieved largely by accident when Fox executive Richard Zanuck decided to repay years of cut-price Chrysler rentals by making his next picture a pretty straightforward commercial for the company, with the latest Dodge as the focal point. As with any great sell, the reveal is slow. Minutes of run-time elapse, deep in the Nevada dusk, before the object hurtling across the lonesome highways takes shape. As night becomes day, a police chopper descends on a speeding suspect. As it closes in, filmmaker and viewer unite in leering at the automobile: the characteristic white body; the sleek, compact frame; the thunderous, stirring engine roar. Mysteriously watched by pirate DJ Super Soul – who describes it as a ‘soul machine’ – the Challenger mirrors the unknowable cool of its driver, Kowalski (Barry Newman). Here, the road isn’t a cheap metaphor or a romantic escape: it’s a bleak and heartless reality. After loss, dishonour and injustice, Kowalski’s journey is an affront to everything and a solution to nothing. Like its driver, the Challenger intrigues without ostentation and inspires without explanation. [tbp]
Bullitt (Peter Yates, 1968) / The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 1980) / Death Proof (Tarantino, 2007)
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curiosity-fuelled folly has driven narratives throughout the history of cinema. The gaga-noir Kiss Me Deadly (Aldrich, 1955) draws explicitly from, and alludes to, the mythical story of the unfortunate Pandora. Despite repeated warnings, the villainous Gabrielle (Gaby Rodgers) is unable to resist the impulse to open the valuable, glowing case of which she has seized charge – with explosive consequences. In one of its many moments of meta-magnificence, Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994) affectionately appropriates Kiss Me Deadly’s illuminated case, reinventing it as its own ‘MacGuffin’. Leaving aside the gun battle that accompanies its retrieval, the case’s contents are reworked as something undoubtedly more benign and yet utterly mysterious, encouraging multiple
Cinema has repeatedly re-imagined the myth of Pandora’s Box in the form of an ominous glow emanating from a case or trunk. e m m a s i m m o n d s lifts the lid.
interpretations of what they may be. Amongst the most interesting theories posited is that the briefcase contains crime overlord Marcellus Wallace’s soul – a possibility perhaps suggested by the plaster across the back of his neck, placed as if a terribly neat extraction has taken place. Ten years earlier, the deliciously deranged, sci-fi oddity Repo Man (Cox, 1984) placed its glowing matter inside the boot of a Chevy Malibu driven by a maniacal scientist pursued by psychotic government agents, UFO nuts and uber-competitive repo men. All that remains of the first curious customer to witness the lethal, possibly extraterrestrial, cargo are his boots left smoking on the highway. [tbp]
i m i tat i o n i s t h e s i n c e r e s t f o r m o f f l at t e r y
Despite repeated warnings, the villainous gabrielle (gaby rodgers) is unable to resist the impulse to open the valuable, glowing case...
clockwise from left kiss me deadly / pulp fiction / repo man
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The Girl who Played with Fire (2010) Dir. Daniel Alfredson
g see page 4/5
Back in Cinemas
Putting the movies back where they belong...
So you’ve read about the films, now go watch ‘em!
The Straight Story (1999) Dir. David Lynch
g see page 28/29
Five easy Pieces (1970) Dir. Bob Rafelson
g see page 6/7
Bonnie and Clyde (1967) Dir. Arthur Penn
g see page 30/31
This edition of The Big Picture has been produced in partnership with Park Circus, who are committed to bringing classic films back to the big screen.
coming soon coming soon coming soon
Y Tu Mamá También (2001) Dir. Alfonso Cuarón
g see page 8
The wild Bunch (1969) Dir. Sam Peckinpah
g see page 32
Detour (1945) edgar G. Ulmer
g see page 9
The Grapes of wrath (1940) Dir. John Ford
g see page 34
The Hitcher (1986) Dir. Robert Harmon
g see page 10
Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985) Dir. Tim Burton
g see page 36
Feux Rouges (2004) Dir. Cédric kahn
g see page 11
kalifornia (1993) Dir. Dominic Sena
g see page 36
Director Bob Rafelson's seminal portrait of a disaffected America, Five Easy Pieces, will be back in cinemas this summer. With career-defining performances from its cast members Jack Nicholson and Karen Black, and an impressive soundtrack including Tammy Wynette's hit 'Stand By Your Man', this cult classic was originally released in 1970 to huge critical acclaim. In celebration of its 40th Anniversary, Five Easy Pieces has been extensively restored by Sony Pictures and will re-released from 13 August at BFI Southbank, Filmhouse Edinburgh, Irish Film Institute and selected cinemas.
More details of cinema screenings of these and other classic movies from the Park Circus catalogue can be accessed via: www.backincinemas.com
Road to Singapore (1940) Dir. Victor Schertzinger
g see page 12/13
Two Lane Blacktop (1971) Dir. Monte Hellman
g see page 37
easy Rider (1969) Dir. Dennis Hopper
g see page 19
Vanishing Point (1971) Dir. Richard C. Sarafian
g see page 38/39
The Italian Job (1969) Dir. Peter Collinson
g see page 20
kiss Me Deadly (1955) Dir. Robert Aldrich
g see page 42
The Love Bug (1968) Dir. Robert Stevenson
g see page 21
Pulp Fiction (1994) Dir. Quentin Tarantino
g see page 43
Thelma and Louise (1991) Dirs. Ridley Scott
g see page 22
Repo Man (1984) Dir. Alex Cox
g see page 43
the big picture issue 10 available 15 september 2010
The views and opinions of all texts, including editorial and regular columns, are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect those of the editors or publishers.
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