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Issue Eleven. November/December 2010
0 6 | Spotlight
Street Spirit: Prejudice, Class Divide and Life on the Skids
Directory of World Cinema: Russia Edited by Birgit Beumers
ISBN 9781841503721 | £16, $25
1 4 | Art & Film
City of Industry: Film Poster Designers AllCity Media
Directory of World Cinema: American Independent Edited by John Berra
ISBN 9781841503684 | £16, $25
24 | Widescreen
Mobile Network: Scotland's Screen Machine Hits the Road
3 0 | 1000 Words
Sweet Relief: Melvin Peebles, Black Power and the Birth of Blaxploitation
0 4 | Reel World
cover image boudu saved from drowning (courtesy Park circus)
1 8 | One Sheet
Directory of World Cinema: Australia & New Zealand Edited by Ben Goldsmith and Geoff Lealand
ISBN 9781841503738 | £16, $25
Directory of World Cinema: Japan Edited by John Berra
ISBN 9781841503356 | £16, $25
‘He's staying as long as he likes. And if the doggy doesn't like it, then the doggy can find other living arrangements.'
3 4 | On Location
Beverly Hills, Ca.
3 8 | Screengem
The Coke Bottle
4 2 | Parting Shot
Over The Moon
4 4 | Go Further
The Big Picture online
The Directory of World Cinema aims to play a part in moving intelligent, scholarly criticism beyond the academy by building a forum for the study of film that relies on a disciplined theoretical base. Each volume of the Directory will take the form of a collection of reviews, longer essays and research resources, accompanied by film stills highlighting significant films and players. Free downloads available from the website.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org Publisher Masoud Yazdani Editor-in-chief & Layout Gabriel Solomons Editor Scott Jordan Harris Contributors Jez Conolly, Nicholas Page, Emma Simmonds, Daniel Steadman, Scott Jordan Harris, Neil Mitchell, Charlie Loft, Ron Inglis, Gabriel Solomons Special thanks to John Letham, Sara Carlsson and all at Park Circus, Michael Eckhardt, Michael Pierce at Curzon Cinemas and Gabriel Swartland at City Screen Please send all email enquiries to: email@example.com / www.thebigpicturemagazine.com l The Big Picture magazine is published six times a year
www . worldcinemadirectory. org
| 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
In one of the most incredible crossovers between film and the real world, Disney’s Mighty Ducks skated off cinema screens and into the NHL. neil mitchell forms a Flying V .
F o r t h ose o F us old enough to remember reading Roy of the Rovers on a weekly basis the possibility of an actual team called Melchester Rovers being established and going on to win the Premier League is a delightful but absurd notion. Well, in the good ol’ US of A, something very much along those lines did indeed occur, with Disney's The Mighty Ducks (1992) being the catalyst for a real life trophywinning NHL team. The film is a tale of sporting underdogs defying the odds, as the bedraggled, underfunded and technically inept members of a kids’ ice hockey team are transformed into title-winners by new coach Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez). A hard-nosed lawyer on community service for a drink driving misdemeanour, Bombay changes the fortunes of his under-privileged
charges, naturally hearing some much0needed home truths and learning lessons in love and life along the way. Spawning three sequels (two live-action and one animated), an animated series and a spoof on South Park, the most extraordinary legacy of this family favourite was in the formation of The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim ice hockey team by The Walt Disney Company in 1993. In their 17-year existence the Ducks, now known as The Anaheim Ducks, have won a division title, two conference championships and the National Hockey League’s highest honour, the Stanley Cup, as well as making the play-offs seven times. It’s a classic example of life mirroring art that raises eyebrows and spirits in equal measure. All together now: quack, quack, quack... go Ducks! [tbp]
left the anaheim ducks winning the nhl stanley cuP in 2007 / above sign of things to come: the mighty ducks: d2
[SPorT ] www.ducks.hnl.com [weB ] read 'reel world: Love Potion No. 1' online
cover feature Y
c i n e m a ' s t h e m at i c s t r a n d s
Boudu Saved From drowning (1932)
Dir. Jean Renoir
Images Courtesy Park Circus
Through Boudu’s anarchic actions director Jean renoir deftly and hilariously exposes the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie.
From an adorable tramp to a feral kung fu expert, cinema has shown many savages, noble and ignoble, entering civilised society. We shine our spotlight on six classic examples. Words by e mma simmonds, Jez conolly and nathan Francis
left michel simon and (another) love interest above michel simon as PriaPe boudu charming the locals
This terrific farce tells the story of prosperous bookseller, Edouard Lestingois (Charles Granval), whose life is drastically changed when he rescues Boudu (Michel Simon) from a suicidal dive into the Seine. On first spotting the dishevelled character – about to take the plunge – Lestingois remarks with undisguised relish, ‘I’ve never seen such a perfect tramp.’ He rushes to save this sorry character from a watery end and even goes so far as to welcome him into his home. Unfortunately, Boudu reveals himself to be an irrepressible ingrate who unleashes a storm of mischievous meddling. He has an energetic disregard for polite society and is lusty and ill-mannered on an epic scale, quickly making a move on both Lestingois’s wife and his housemaid lover. Through Boudu’s anarchic actions director Jean Renoir deftly and hilariously exposes the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie. ES Boudu Saved From Drowning is back in UK cinemas from 17 December. For more details see page 46.
spotlight street spirit
The hunChBaCk oF noTre dame (1939)
Dir. William Dieterle
RKO’s adaptation of the Victor Hugo classic is widely regarded as the finest screen version. Although it is faithful to the source material it strayed into the politics of its time: the schism between the haves and have-nots in the walled city of 15th Century Paris is paralleled with the politics of 20th century Europe in the run-up to war. Dieterle, a German Jewish émigré, and screenwriters Sonya Levien and Bruno Frank altered the relationship of Quasimodo (Charles Laughton) and his mentor Frollo (Cedric Hardwicke) by emphasizing Frollo’s fascistic qualities – he plots the persecution and destruction of the ‘undesirable’ gypsies – and converting Quasimodo into a Christ-like figure. Dieterle regarded the character as a victim of tyranny. Of the famous flogging scene he commented, ‘When Laughton acted that scene … he was not the poor crippled creature expecting compassion from the mob, but rather oppressed and enslaved mankind, suffering the most awful injustice’. JC
CiTy LighTS (1931)
Dir. Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin’s comedy romance is perhaps his most emotionally resonant film. Its opening sequence has Charlie (in the iconic, recurring role of The Tramp) ceremonially unveiled, as he sleeps coiled in the lap of a statue, to the considerable irritation of the assembled dignitaries and crowd. In a reversal of the premise of Boudu Saved From Drowning, The Tramp has rescued a wealthy drunkard from a death bid, instructing him, ‘Be brave. Face life!’ He is intermittently embraced by his new friend, who only recalls the debt he owes the virtuous vagrant when he’s inebriated. Throughout, The Tramp displays remarkable pluck and decency, thus challenging what it is to be a gentleman. He later becomes a mysterious benefactor to Virginia Cherrill’s blind flower girl, and the film’s tender finale – when she finally recognises him as such – is one of the most poignant sequences in film history.
The schism between the haves and havenots in the walled city of 15th Century Paris is paralleled with the politics of 20th century europe in the run-up to war.
above charlie chaPlin as the tramP toP left charles laughton as the hunchback
in a reversal of the premise of Boudu Saved From drowning, The Tramp has rescued a wealthy drunkard from a death bid, instructing him, ‘Be brave. Face life!’
Image courtesy Park Circus
spotlight street spirit
Trading PLaCeS (1983)
Dir. John Landis
Eddie Murphy’s down-at-heel con artist Billy Ray Valentine is a pawn, along with aristocratic yuppie Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd), in a wager devised by the obscenely wealthy Duke brothers (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) who are seeking to discover if it’s nature or nurture that lies behind success in the world of high finance. Valentine, guided to success by the Dukes and Winthorpe’s kindly butler (Denholm Elliott), reveals an uncanny talent for stock prediction that’s so accurate, he becomes the company’s leading commodities authority. Role reversal narratives involving the poor or dispossessed are quite commonplace; in literature Mark Twain explored this territory with The Prince and the Pauper, and Chaplin’s The Idle Class (1921) was probably the first significant film to introduce the notion of mixed identities. Through its comedic format, what Trading Places presented was a contemporary depiction of the collapse of rank dictated by class and race. JC
through its comedic format, what trading places presented was a contemporary depiction of the collapse of rank dictated by class and race.
an anthropological drama focussing on the barriers to human communication, the eponymous heroine of nell is rousseau’s noble savage incarnate.
Dir. Michael Apted
An anthropological drama focussing on the barriers to human communication, the eponymous heroine of Nell is Rousseau’s noble savage incarnate. Raised in North Carolina backwoods far from social interaction by a partially paralysed hermitic mother, Nell is an untainted child of nature who has developed her own language, rituals and individuality in near-solitary independence. When Nell’s mother dies the outside world encroaches in the form of romantic doctor Jerome Lovell (Liam Neeson) and rigidly scientific psychologist Paula Olsen (Natasha Richardson), who compete professionally over their prized specimen, while personally wresting with protective feelings toward their wild child. Apted strikes a strong contrast between the impulsive freedom of Nell’s natural state and the constrictive conventions of the town. Institutionalised to protect her from prying media, Nell is robbed of her humanity, and rendered catatonic when confined. A courtroom finale contests the dichotomy of the artificial civilised world and natural instinctual world, until largely ruling in favour of the pure innocence of the latter. NF
above left jodie foster and liam neeson oPPosite eddie murPhy
c i n e m a ' s t h e m at i c s t r a n d s
Dir. Louis Leterrier
A Luc Besson-scribed martial arts melodrama seeking to blend combat and compassion, Unleashed tells the Glasgowbased tale of ‘Danny the Dog’ (Jet Li), an adopted orphan raised in captivity by loathsome loan shark Bart (Bob Hoskins) to be his personal debt collecting attack dog. Near mute, Danny is kept caged until unleashed (from a metal collar) upon debtors or rival pit fighters, destroying all with dazzling agility. Set free when Bart is left comatose in a car crash, Danny finds sanctuary in the nurturing home of blind piano tuner Sam (Morgan Freeman) and his young stepdaughter, Victoria (Kerry Condon), whose music and kindness expose the vulnerability behind his vicious veneer. However, when Danny’s former master awakens and calls him to heel, his domestication places him in danger from his savage past, forcing him to revert to his fighting instincts to protect his new family. NF [tbp]
right jet li oPens a can of whuPass
near mute, danny is kept caged until unleashed (from a metal collar) upon debtors or rival pit fighters, destroying all with dazzling agility.
[weB ] read 'Back In Cinemas: Boudu Saved From Drowning’ on www.TheBigPictureMagazine.com
[DvD ] City Lights is available to buy on dual format (DvD/Bluray) from www.parkcircus.com/uk-releases
visual art inspired by film
City of Industry
The Movie Poster Art of AllCity Media
interview b y g a b r i e l s o lo m o n s
You may not recognise the name AllCity Media but chances are you've come across their film posters on more than one occasion. The prolific studio is responsible for some of the most eye catching posters of recent years and have notched up a whole raft of awards for their efforts. We spoke to creative director Charlie Loft about collaboration, inspiration and the future of the one sheet.
To some graphic designers, doing artwork for movie posters is a dream job. Is it as enjoyable as one would imagine? The creative process is always enjoyable, but designing for film has all of the same issues as designing for any other industry. At the end of the day we all want to create pieces of art but as designers we need to understand the needs of the client and advise them as much on a creative level as we can to get the best results for us and them. As a company Allcity seem to pride yourselves on the collaborative nature of much of your output – using gifted illustrators, photographers and designers to help create final artwork. Why is collaboration so important and is there anything in particular that you look for when recruiting collaborators? We have a core team at AllCity that consistently deliver great creative ideas and design but we are aware that we are not a jack of all trades and that when a brief requires a certain look it's better to get the right person to do that part of the process. Collaboration is important because we then get the best of both worlds - we get to work with some amazing talents and then turn their images into memorable film campaigns. It’s one thing being an artist, its quite another delivering a coherent marketing campaign. Is there a particular creative philosophy behind the way you work or is it simply a case of adjusting your style to fit the demands of the client? We believe that behind every
toP i am love which was voted screen international Poster of the year 2010
campaign there needs to be a concept or idea that can run throughout, that is why we work from sketches first and then deliver worked up visuals. If the idea is strong enough it can be delivered in a variety of visual styles so we are instantly able to adjust to the clients requests and needs. Can you tell us a bit about the graphic approach and concept you settled on for Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy of films? The Millennium trilogy was a great brief from Momentum Pictures. To come up with the branding for such a well loved story is something that we could really sink our teeth into. We needed to create a motif that could adapt and become the identifier for the trilogy as well as be able to give ‘The Girl’ herself the main shout as this was the first time she was going to be revealed. This was a particular challenge as Noomi Rapace (The Girl) was relatively unknown in the UK and yet we needed her to take centre stage. The Dragon motif was designed to act as a distraction or decoy to allow us to put an unknown face behind it, this in turn enabled us to create the overall feeling of intrigue and mystery. The Girl is there but she is slightly hidden by her own Dragon Tattoo (this is the reason for the swirling ink at the base of the dragon's tail) meaning that we could add a level of depth to the poster and subsequent online and advertising campaigns. The branding of the trilogy continues with what we have
above Poster art for moon with sam drawn by martin ansin (in collaboration with mondo)
affectionately called ‘The Flaming Dragon’ for The Girl Who Played With Fire. Again the motif acts as a distraction and gives extra impact and relevance to the title. The last stage was developing The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest which will be in cinemas this November. Each one of the dragon motifs has been lovingly crafted by one of our collaborators, Sean Freeman, who under our art direction has helped create some beautiful work. This is another good example of using someones purest skill and then making it work for film. You include ‘designer’s cuts’ for many of the poster campaigns featured on your website. Is it often the case that your least favoured design gets chosen - and how do you deal with the issue of compromise when things go against your own better judgement? It is frustrating when a client decides to go against our judgement but we aren’t in the habit of presenting things that we wouldn't be proud to see out in the street. Ultimately some of our favourite posters will never see the light of day but that is why we like to show our designers cuts as it gives an insight into the creative process and ‘what could have been’. There seems to be quite a healthy balance between the work you do for the big studios and smaller independent films. What is the difference – if any – in the working relationship you have with ‘big’ and ‘small’ clients? There isn’t a great deal of difference between our working relationships with the independents and the bigger studios. There is an element of design by committee in both
visual art inspired by film
left let the right one in redrawn by tyler stout bottom sPirited away redrawn by marcus walters
instances as you’re dealing with a lot of opinions. We like to work closely with our clients to ensure that we get as much information out of them up front, that way there is less margin for error and even less questions marks over a chosen concept when it is presented. Are there particular designers or certain periods of art that you draw inspiration from? Advertising campaigns that add a different angle but at the same time are accesible to everyone. Graphically we are influenced by many individuals throughout the decades that we always come back to, Reid Miles of blue note records fame, Niko Cuban - a revolutionary poster artist. Andrei Tarkowsky, Wiktor Sadowski, contemporary rock posters and the art of the fillmore. All are part of time where idea was king, less was more, it was less about churning out transient visuals and more about the idea. What is your opinion about the state of film poster art generally these days? Are there any designers/studios out there that you feel are contributing something special (apart from yourselves of course!)? There are alot of generic film posters out there at the moment but there is also a healthy mix of creative talent being used. Neil Kellerhouse (featured in The Big Picture issue 11) has done some incredible design work, but not just for film. Empire, without doubt, have had a massive influence on the look of modern film posters. It would be interesting to see some of their designers cuts. There is of course the need in film marketing to get bums on seats but we think that the audience needs to be engaged with more then a
'...to come up with the branding for such a well loved story was something that we could really sink our teeth into.'
line up of actors and a glossy finish. It goes without saying that a ‘big’ film needs a ‘big’ look but that’s not to say that there can’t be a clever idea or twist to the artwork, and that’s where we like to come in - the alternative thinkers in film campaign design. Are there any film posters (past or present) that you would say are a prime example of what a film poster should do? There are so many great film posters but Brazil is a brilliant example, it brands the film in one arresting visual and simultaneously creates a window into another fascinating world. Has the film marketing industry changed much in the 10 years since you’ve been in business? If yes, how so? It seems to be more biased towards appealing to everyone rather than to a core audience of opinion leaders and then filter through to the masses. Blander, less challenging ideas are more common place now but this may be because there is less gestation time and less budget. Films need to be an instant success whereas previously you could exploit a longer lead time than the market place now allows. However there are many more mediums and formats than ever. It's no longer about just a visual - the campaign needs to span social media to street level advertising to cinema, which is great when you have the budget to exploit these areas.
above Poster art for the millenium trilogy's the girl who kicked the hornet's nest
'it’s always good to see other people's take on a film and recently we held an exhibition at allCity where we asked various well known illustrators to re-imagine their favourite film poster from our portfolio of work.'
Why do you think the printed film poster still matters in this ever expanding digital age? I don’t think the desire to own a film poster will ever die out, there is just something special about owning an original that just can’t be captured with a screen saver or a motion poster. Film posters are pieces of art and if designed well are timeless, look at Clockwork Orange for instance, it still looks amazing today, so simple and effective, why wouldn’t you want one on your wall? The problem with the digital age is that design is seen as almost throw away and easy, so when a piece of good design gets through people appreciate it even more. There is an unhealthy amount of ‘garnish’ attached to many film posters, so when you see a poster by Olly Moss for instance it’s refreshing to see a piece of work at its cleverest and simplest. It’s always good to see other peoples take on a film and recently we held an exhibition at AllCity where we asked various well known illustrators to re-imagine their favourite film poster from our portfolio of work. Each artist did an incredible job and their passion and enthusiasm towards the project was amazing, which just goes to show how important film posters are to many people. And finally… Why does film matter? It is pure escapism, when you’re watching a film it doesn’t matter what else is going on in your world, you can just let go and enter into someone else’s. [tbp]
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest is released 26 November
seemore... [weB ]
See more from AllCity Media: www.allcitymedia.com [weB ] www.thereis.co.uk
deconstructing film posters
the creation o F believable and layered characters has always been an important part of cinema. In general, characters are both categorised and identified by their role in society: their profession, social status or even the clothes they wear. These days, this can be taken even further to say that characters in commercial cinema are replicated rather than created: cut using the same rusty cutter and from the same over-kneaded dough. What happens, then, when a character has no particular role in society? What if he is unable to or simple refuses to be a part of society as we know it? Is he even aware such a society exists? Midnight Cowboy (1969) Original Danish Art by Jouineau Bourduge
Life on the streets is something few of us are accustomed to, so it has often been the focus of film plots. Belongings hoisted over his shoulder in a red bundle, nichol as page takes a trip through posters inspired by such stories. Images courtesy of The Reel Poster Gallery, London.
One of the more successful films about life on the edges of society, John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy stars Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight as two hustlers living on the streets of New York City. The posters created for the film’s Western release show a photo of these two main characters standing on a run-down street corner, smoking and sheltering against the cold. This Danish poster, created by the successful French designer Jouineau Bourduge, alters this general idea by placing the two characters on a cityscape backdrop instead, perhaps alluding to the big city dreams of the film’s protagonists.
one sheet gimme shelter
Sullivan’s Travels (1941) Original Belgian Charlie Chaplin may have been waddling around town as his famous Tramp for decades, but homelessness was still something of an untouched topic in Hollywood by the time Preston Sturges made Sullivan’s Travels in 1941. The film, with a title that refers to Jonathan Swift’s satire of self-discovery Gulliver’s Travels, concerns a young and successful film director who decides to experience street life first-hand as inspiration for his new project. Just as with Chaplin’s movies, the topic of homelessness arises in comedic form, illustrated by this particularly colourful Belgian poster.
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) Original German Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, while existing as a mere vehicle for the branching career of singer David Bowie during the seventies, is a good example of what became a well-used narrative template in later years: the idea of taking an alien being (sometimes metaphorically, but in this case literally) and dropping him into civilised society before documenting the results. It may have become a cult favourite in recent years thanks to Roeg’s use of surreal imagery, but this rather striking German poster for the movie shows us exactly what the chief attraction was at the time: Bowie’s sex appeal.
Just as with Chaplin’s movies, the topic of homelessness arises in comedic form, illustrated by this particularly colourful Belgian poster.
one sheet gimme shelter
celebrates 45 years of cinema coverage
The Wild Child (1970) Original French Art by Jouineau Bourduge Jouineau Bourduge, perhaps best known for his stunning black and white poster for Barry Lyndon worked on many French films in the 1970s and ‘80s and should perhaps be described as a designer rather than an artist. His poster for François Truffaut’s The Wild Child does an excellent job illustrating the savage nature of the film’s titular character, using a beautiful grass-green background to symbolise the wilderness from which he comes. Through this character, Truffaut shows the small margin between rough but civilised life on the streets of Paris and the laws of nature. [tbp]
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Jouineau Bourduge's vivid poster does an excellent job of illustrating the savage nature of the film’s titular character
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seeing film in a wider context
Interview by gabriel solomons
For five years now Scotland's Screen Machine has been making a night at the movies a regular event in communities where a trip to the cinema was previously a major undertaking. Ron Inglis, Director of Regional Screen Scotland tells the story of this one of a kind mobile cinema.
Could you briefly tell us the history of the Screen Machine initiative and its relationship to Regional Screen Scotland. The original concept in the mid-1990s was to develop a rural, mainstream cinema service similar to what was operating in France. HI~Arts, the arts and cultural development agency for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland undertook the project with the backing of the Scottish film Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Although the idea was to purchase a similar mobile cinema "off the shelf" from the French manufacturer, Toutenkamion, there were difficulties getting their design to work with Highlands roads and especially the ferries. Consequently a custom designed and built cinema was constructed in Manchester and this toured up until 2005. However it
was a fragile, labour intensive vehicle and a second mobile cinema was purchased, this time from Toutenkamion who had now supplied a similar cinema to Ireland and were by now able to adapt their design to suit the Scottish routes. The current Screen Machine has been operating for 6 years, initially with 35mm projection but since January 2010 as a purely digital cinema operation complete with 3D capabilities. Regional Screen Scotland is a development agency established in 2008 to develop cinema and cinemagoing in remote, rural and underprovided areas of Scotland. The company took over ownership and operation of Screen Machine in 2009. What factors determine your programming choices for films? The principal purpose of Screen Machine is to provide a mainstream, contemporary,
There seems to be a bit of a resurgence of these mobile cinemas of late. Why do you think the response to these mobile cinemas - and the Screen Machine in particular - has been so positive? It is important to distinguish between mobile cinemas such as Screen Machine, which is a complete touring cinema auditorium, and the equally important operations which take equipment into existing venues and provide a cinema service to local communities. Screen Machine, and similar vehicles in Ireland and France, aim first and foremost to deliver an experience that equals, perhaps surpasses, a
modern city cinema. Cinema screenings in community halls are usually more social occasions where it is understood that the screening will be different from visiting a multiplex - and more enjoyable for some audiences. Screen Machine is a very special case. It looks impressive in the photographs but nearly everyone who visits it and watches a film is amazed that it "really does feel like a modern city cinema". There is a Tardis-like feeling when you go into the auditorium and find a comfortable, airconditioned cinema with Dolby Digital sound, full 2k digital projection and, for some films, XpanD 3D. What is it that the Screen Machine offers that perhaps static cinemas don't? For example, do you feel there ➜
(toP) noomi raPace as lisbeth salander (above) michael nyQvist as mikael blomkvist
toP audiences PrePare to board the 'tardis' above the cinemas surPrisingly sPacious interior
images courtesy regional screen scotland
state-of-the-art cinema experience to the remote communities of the west Highlands and Islands. So the programme is predominately mainstream new releases such as Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, Toy Story 3, and Inception. However each tour, which covers 23 communities and takes about 6 weeks to complete, includes a film suitable for younger children and families as well as films for older audiences. Generally we tour 3-4 titles but we have been adding more specialised films recently, for example The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Illusionist. The programme varies slightly according to the community we are visiting. Some places are comparatively close to a city multiplex - in our case this means within a 2 hour drive! - and so the major blockbusters don't always perform well when we tour them because the target audience have already chosen to make a special visit to a city cinema.
'Screen machine provides a state-of-the-art cinema experience to the remote communities of the west highlands and islands.'
below and bottom there's even a red carPet treatment for some events
have been any spin-off effects of communitybuilding simply due to the presence of the cinema at certain remote locations? The main distinguishing feature of Screen Machine, apart from the lack of a concession counter and toilets, is the location where the screenings take place. Many of the Highland and Island locations are set against breathtaking scenery. Because we don't have any room for food and drink sales areas, we often collaborate with local hotels, bars or community centres who do good trade before or after screenings. We also employ a local usher at each of our tour locations and the driver/projectionists are well known personalities to the local communities. Equally we often know most of the audience so if anyone misbehaves we can find out who the culprits are! Are there particular challenges you now face due to the cut in arts spending and spending in general that may endanger the existence of the Screen Machine? The Screen Machine service depends on ticket income, a small but important amount of sponsorship, and funding from Creative Scotland, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and two local authorities. Overall about half the income comes from public funding and that is clearly at risk in the present circumstances. But Screen Machine provides a well liked and well supported service for some of the most fragile communities in Scotland. We carried out a large audience
Your New Mobile Cinema
survey in 2009 and received a considerable amount of useful and encouraging information which we are using to adapt the programme and the way we operate to suit these communities better. A single screen 80-seat cinema operating in rural and remote areas faces many unusual difficulties which often require really innovative solutions but secure funding is a straighforward necessity for us. And lastly, why does film matter? Films matter because they can provide compelling and creative artistic and entertainment experiences for audiences. Some films are just fleeting entertainment but others are magnificent, wonderous, thought provoking works of art - from 7 minute Warner Brothers cartoons to highly personal non-fiction films to dramatic features and musicals - and from all parts of the world. In the age of the laptop and mobile smartphone, "film" is everywhere but cinematic film is still, at its best, extraordinary. [tbp]
'a single screen 80-seat cinema operating in rural and remote areas faces many unusual difficulties... but secure funding is a straighforward necessity for us.'
The Big Picture Issue 12 Available on The iPad January 15th, 2011
[weB] Find out more about the Screen Machine at www.screenmachine.co.uk
t h e a r t o f a b b r e v i at e d s t o r y t e l l i n g
The Red Knight In
the fisher king
Dir. Terry Gilliam, 1991
The Red Knight leaps from the damaged mind of Robin Williams’s character in The Fisher King. Jez Conolly looks at four frames that reveal the fearful centre of Terry Gilliam’s urban fantasy.
i n T e r r y g i L L i a m ' S The Fisher King (1991) disgraced and washed up shock jock Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) falls into the company of the bedraggled and unstable Parry (Robin Williams) and discovers curious images of a red knight in Parry’s cluttered underground lair. Parry is driven to discover a holy grail and save a damsel in distress. Jack initially writes this off as the Arthurian delusions of a madman but when Parry begins seeing a physical manifestation of the red knight erupting onto the streets of New York Jack is compelled to help him find his grail, get the girl and vanquish his demon. The red knight seems to represent Parry’s fears from his former life as a medieval history professor, his time in a mental hospital and his current homeless existence, thoughts of which send him into a catatonic state. It is ultimately revealed to be a terrible echo of the actions of a gunman, prompted to attack a bar in the city by one of Jack’s anti-yuppie rants on air. Parry’s wife was a victim that night, the bloody results of the shooting being seen in flashback. The incident destroyed Jack’s career and Parry’s life, and when the two come together they ultimately find a future through acts of redemption and salvation.
Read More F o u r F r a m e S online at www.thebigpicturemagazine.com
screengrabs © 1991 columbia Pictures
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
‘Dedicated to all the Brothers and Sisters who had enough of the Man’, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song called for, and inspired, changes both social and cinematic. s c o t t Jo r da n h a r r i s examines a countercultural classic.
Melvin Van Peebles, Black Power and the Birth of Blaxploitation.
left melvin van Peebles Photo: melvin van Peebles/ breakfast at noho above a scene from sweetback's badaaasssss song
’m called the godfather of black movies,’ says Melvin Van Peebles – who is always an unassuming sort – in his documentary The Real Deal. ‘The truth of the matter is I’m the godfather of independent films’. When Van Peebles could, perhaps unsurprisingly, not secure funding for a film he conceived in order ‘to get the Man’s foot out of my ass … [and] … make him eat shit’, he decided to make it alone – and, with the aid of a $50 000 loan from Bill Cosby, bankrolled, wrote, directed, produced, edited, starred in, scored and marketed the film that began blaxploitation. But Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song is not an exploitation picture: it’s a protest picture. It wasn’t the first film in the blaxploitation genre: it was the catalyst for it. The classics of blaxploitation – Shaft
(1971), Super Fly (1972), Coffy (1973), Cleopatra Jones (1973), Foxy Brown (1974) … – shared much with Sweetback. They were populated by powerful black characters; set in black urban communities; embraced contemporary black music; and showed their heroes and heroines sticking it to the Man (that is, the white society responsible for their oppression) through their intelligence, guts, and irrepressible sexuality. But, though they were apparently aimed at black audiences, these blaxploitation films also attracted, and proved unchallenging for, white audiences. Indeed, today a teenager with a limited understanding of the Civil Rights movement could probably watch Shaft, the most famous of all blaxploitation pictures, and think it simply an enjoyable crime film that just happens to have a black hero. No white
1000 WORDS SweeT reLieF
left melvin van Peebles on the set of sweet sweetback's badaasssss song below Pam grier in coffy oPPosite butch cassidy and the sundance kid
Photo:melvin van Peebles/breakfast at noho
Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song is not exploitation picture: it’s a protest picture. it wasn’t the first film in the blaxploitation genre: it was the catalyst for it.
person, however uneducated in the evolution of black experience in America, can watch Sweet Sweetback and feel entirely comfortable. The film is a sustained assault on white complacency, a challenge to white society to re-examine itself and to black society to overthrow it. The titular Sweet Sweetback (played as an adult by Van Peebles and, as a child, by his son, Mario, later the director of New Jack City ), is adopted by a madam and, after amazing a prostitute with his sexual prowess while only a boy (in scenes censored in the British release of the film), he grows up to become a famed performer in her brothel’s sex shows. Audience members both black and white assemble to be astounded by his attributes. After one of his performances (from which a white woman is barred from participating), two white police officers ask to take Sweetback into custody, with the promise to release him later, because a crime has been committed by a black man and
they want to look like they are rounding up suspects. Alongside Sweetback, the policemen also arrest a Black Panther – and soon begin to beat him mercilessly. Unable to stomach this injustice, Sweetback overpowers the officers and leaves them unconscious. He spends the rest of the film on the run, relentlessly pursued by (white) lawmen. He becomes a savage: living first rough, and then wild, forced to eat a lizard as he wanders the desert. Here is a black man as the worst of the white world would imagine him: a savage. But he is not savage by nature or inclination: he has been forced to become one by white society because he took the stand of a civilised man and rebelled against its savagery. Like a savage, Sweetback barely speaks and, within the militant philosophy of the film, his silence had two connotations. Firstly, it represented how white society had robbed the black man of his voice. Secondly, in the way it was coupled with Sweetback’s decisive violent
actions, his lack of speech demonstrated that the black struggle had reached a point at which words achieved nothing: only through violence, argued Van Peebles, could change be achieved. (Chester Himes, the pioneering black novelist whose work obviously influenced Sweetback and who, like Van Peebles, found a home and an audience in Paris, reached a similar conclusion.) The blaxploitation films that followed (the financial success of) Sweet Sweetback (costing half a million dollars to shoot, the film grossed thirty times that in the USA) capitalised on – or rather, exploited – the appetite it had identified for films with powerful, angry black characters. But while those movies – which were generally lurid and shallow entertainments – dealt with angry characters they were not angry films. There is still some social comment to be discerned in almost all blaxploitation pictures, but to see the cartoonish exaggerations of Cleopatra Jones or Coffy (both directed by white men) as belonging to the same kind of film as Sweetback is to misunderstand both types of movie. Sweetback led as directly to the explosion of blaxploitation films as Halloween (1978) led to the explosion in slasher movies, but it cannot be considered one of them. If Sweetback belongs to an identifiable category of films it is to that loose group of
great anti-establishment films of the time: Bonnie and Clyde (1967), The Graduate (1967), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Midnight Cowboy (1969), etc. It is not generally grouped with them because they are, of course, very much white films. But Sweetback channels the same countercultural spirit they do, and refracts it through the prism of black experience. The result is a raw, challenging, enraging and, for white audiences, unsettling film that cannot be forgotten or dismissed. By categorising Sweetback as a blaxploitation picture, or by considering it simply as the film that led to the blaxploitation picture, we criminally diminish both its aims and its achievements. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song changed film forever by thrusting black issues, black characters, black aesthetics and black militancy into cinemas, and by doing so without white money. Subsequently, it created a genre that thrived by diluting its more contentious aspects while expanding its entertaining ones. But this is not the chief reason to remember it. Decades from now, when Sweet Sweetback’s influence is calculated – and its importance as a model for independent filmmakers, for political filmmakers, and political activists can be fully considered – that it led to the birth of blaxploitation may be seen as the least of its accomplishments. [tbp]
MARGARET TAIT AWARD
BEST INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM AWARD
[wATCh] BAADASSSSS!, Mario van Peebles’s 2003 biopic of his father that focuses on the making
of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song
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
below Pacino and deniro sQuare off bottom right nick nolte and friend
While globally recognised for its affluence, celebrity style and permanent sunshine, this trend-setting district of Los Angeles, a stone’s throw from Hollywood, has offered more varied settings on-screen. s i m o n k i n n e a r mixes with the chic and the freaks.
Dir. Michael Mann USA, 170 minutes Starring Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer
Mann’s epic crime saga, an expansion of his 1989 TV movie L.A. Takedown, pits philosophical thief Neil McCauley (De Niro) against equally capable cop nemesis Vincent Hanna (Pacino). Mann shoots entirely on location as McCauley and Hanna’s high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse crosses LA, from an explosive street battle downtown to their late-night meeting in a Beverly Hills diner – famously, the first time these screen legends shared the screen, having previously appeared in separate sections of The Godfather Part II. The location is the prestigious Kate Mantilini restaurant, which is still inundated with requests from diners to sit at the De Niro / Pacino table, despite a ‘no reservations’ policy.
down and ouT in BeverLy hiLLS (1986)
Dir. Paul Mazursky USA, 103 minutes Starring Nick Nolte, Bette Midler, Richard Dreyfuss
Adapted from Jean Renoir’s Boudu Saved From Drowning, Mazursky’s class satire sees vulgar Beverly Hills socialites Barbara and Dave Whiteman (Midler and Dreyfuss) take on more than they can handle when they decide to adopt disheveled bum Jerry Baskin (Nolte). The film taps into the mid-1980s penchant for dissecting the social divide and was a huge hit, despite the unusual distinction of being the first R-rated movie ever released by Disney. The film makes good use of Beverley Hills’ palatial homes, with the Whitemans’ estate being a real-life home found at 802 N. Bedford Drive, off Sunset Boulevard.
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
left the darkness within: eraserhead below alicia silverstone's haPPy shoPPer
Dir. David Lynch USA, 89 minutes Starring Jack Nance, Jeanne Bates, Charlotte Stewart
As the centre of the filmmaking world, Beverly Hills provides the backdrop to art-house experiments as well as mainstream hits. Lynch’s debut, funded by the American Film Institute, weaved the nightmarish story of Henry Spencer (Jack Nance), whose ‘vacation’ in a strange industrial world tips into nightmare when he’s forced to raise his hideously deformed baby. Lynch took advantage of the Gothic interiors of the AFI’s Beverly Hills headquarters, Greystone Mansion, to provide the film’s distinctive look – although the building is usually synonymous with Californian wealth. Coen Brothers fans will recognise Greystone’s exteriors as the home of Jeffrey ‘The Big’ Lebowski.
Filmed at Beverly hills high School, the producers of Clueless sat in on classes to perfect the characters’ distinctive valspeak cadences.
Dir. Amy Heckerling USA, 97 minutes Starring Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy
Beverly Hills would appear to be an incongruous setting for a Jane Austen adaptation, but Heckerling’s transplant of Emma to high school proves an astute rendering of the novelist’s social observations. Silverstone’s popular fashionista Cher has made it her duty to play matchmaker for her classmates, notably ugly duckling Tai (Brittany Murphy), little realizing she’s falling in love herself. Filmed at Beverly Hills High School, the producers sat in on classes to perfect the characters’ distinctive Valspeak cadences. The same school’s famous ‘Swim Gym’, meanwhile, is perhaps more familiar for its cameo in It’s A Wonderful Life.
go further... [weB ] read ‘The Beast within: The Devil and the Coen Brothers’ on
e vo c at i v e o b j e c t s o n s c r e e n
The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)
In Jamie Uys’s African comedy, a glass Coke bottle draws a noble savage, played by real-life tribesman N!xau, into society. s c o t t J o r da n h a r r i s follows it to the ends of the Earth.
t h e p lot i s p e r f ec t. An empty Coca-Cola bottle, thrown from a light aircraft, is discovered by a band of Kalihari Bushmen. Unable to imagine that such an object has an earthly origin, they assume it to be a gift from the Heavens. When the bottle causes arguments over ownership – a concept previously unknown to the tribe – one of their number resolves to take the only sensible course: he will walk to the edge of the world and throw the bottle off it, thereby returning it to the gods. His trek brings him into contact with civilisation for the first time, and that brings him to the inevitable conclusion: the gods must be crazy.
The iconic Coke bottle is the perfect emblem of Western society. It is so elegant and functional that, to an outsider, it seems divine and yet to those for whom it was made it is utterly disposable. Its appearance represents the encroachment of modern commerce into an unspoilt world. The mission to fling the bottle from the planet represents not just a rejection of capitalism’s attendant evils (inequality, envy, dissatisfaction, greed…) but a resolution to ensure there is no chance of them ever returning. No onscreen object has ever exposed the savagery in civilisation, or the civility in a savage, as succinctly as this discarded Coke bottle. [tbp]
[weB] read ‘Screengem: Charlie’s Golden Ticket’ on TheBigPictureMagazine.com
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When political and civil unrest threatened France’s social order in the 1950s, French cinema provided audiences a seemingly unique form of escapism from such troubled times: a nostalgic look back to the France of the nineteenth and earlier centuries, with costume dramas set in the age of Napoleon, the Belle Époque, the Revolution and further back still to seventeenth-century swashbuckler adventures and tales of mystery and revenge. Film critics, have routinely dismissed this period and this genre of French cinema, overlooking its importance in terms of political cultural history. French Costume Drama of the 1950s redresses this balance, exploring a diverse range of films including Guitry’s Napoléon (1955), Vernay’s Le Comte de Monte Cristo (1953), and Le Chanois’ Les Misérables (1958) to expose the political cultural paradox between nostalgia for a lost past and the drive for modernization.
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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
E.T. and Elliot weren’t the first film characters to fly across the moon. da n i e l s t e a d m a n jumps on his flying bicycle to examine one of cinema’s most imitated images.
1 9 24 ' s t h e t h i e f o f b a g d a d established the moon as a back-drop for flight. The iconic sight of Douglas Fairbanks and Julanne Johnston soaring on a magic carpet, silhouetted against a massively expensive, studioset orb set a precedent. When filmmakers needed to create the illusion of fantastical aviation – whether to convey romance, magic or simply grandeur – they had their reference. Any act of homage to a film icon leaves room for innovation, and the biggest variation between nearly ninety years of moon silhouette movie moments is the mode of transport used in them. The silliest example comes in 1961’s The Absent-Minded Professor, in which Professor Brainhard’s Flubber-powered Model T Ford neatly reinvents The Thief of Bagdad image, eschewing mystery and splendour and recasting the shot as a comedic device. The most familiar example of the shot is Elliot and E.T. cycling triumphantly in front of the lunar light. As with so much of Steven Spielberg’s work, the image of a boy on a BMX, guarding an alien in the basket levitating above the trees is both entirely his own, and yet also the result of an encyclopaedic knowledge of film history. Such was the image’s subsequent fame, it became the logo for the director’s monstrously successful Amblin production company and is spoofed in everything from Naked Gun 2½ to Cars. So, while Spielberg opened the floodgates – training the eyes of a generation of cinemagoers – E.T. and Elliott’s moment of ecstasy is part of a long tradition: the grandiose, whimsical and absurd vision of the rider, the silhouette and the moon. [tbp]
Over The Moon
'happiness must Be earned...'
clockwise from toP et: the extra terrestrial the thief of bagdad (1924) the absent minded Professor
go further... [wATCh ] George Melies’s A Trip to The Moon (1902)
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The Mighty Ducks: D2 (1994) Dir. Sam weisman
g see page 4/5
Back in Cinemas
Putting the movies back where they belong...
COLUMBIA PICTURES presents
So you’ve read about the films, now go watch them!
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) Dir. George roy hill
g see page 33
Boudu Saved From Drowning (1932) Dir. Jean renoir
g see page 6/7
heat (1995) Dir. Michael Mann
g see page 34
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
hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) Dir. william Dieterle
g see page 8
Down and out in Beverly hills (1986) Dir. Paul Mazursky
g see page 35
City Lights (1931) Dir. Charlie Chaplin
g see page 9
eraserhead (1976) Dir. David Lynch
g see page 36
Nell (1994) Dir. Michael Apted
g see page 10
Clueless (1995) Dir. Amy heckerling
g see page 37
Trading Places (1983) Dir. John Landis
g see page 11
The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980) Dir. Jamie Uys
g see page 38/39
Unleashed (2005) Dir. Andrea Arnold
g see page 12/13
eT: The extra Terrestrial (1982) Dir. Steven Spielberg
g see page 42/43
The Fisher King (1991) Dir. Terry Gilliam
g see page 28/29
The Absent Minded Professor (1961) Dir. robert Stevenson
g see page 42
The fully restored version of Jean Renoir's 1932 classic BOUDU SAVED FROM DROWNING will be back in cinemas from 17 December, opening at Curzon Renoir Cinema, Filmhouse Edinburgh, Irish Film Institute and key cities. The film is about a Parisian bookseller, Lestingois, who fishes Boudu, a vagrant, out of the river Seine. He befriends the tramp and puts him up at home, where Boudu causes nothing but trouble. However, events take a different turn when Boudu wins the lottery… Having undergone an amazing $600,000 restoration, THE AFRICAN QUEEN will be back in cinemas from March 2011. Three movie giants come together in this Academy Award-winning romantic adventure from 1951, combining the masterful direction of John Huston with the fabulous chemistry of its lead actors Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.
More details of cinema screenings of these and other classic movies from the Park Circus catalogue can be accessed via: www.backincinemas.com
saved From drowning
CONTAINS BOTH DVD AND BLU-RAY VERSIONS
A Film by Jean Renoir
back in cinemas From 17 december
Sweet Sweetback's Badaaasssss Song (1971) Dir. Melvin van Peebles
g see page 30/31
The Thief of Bagdad (1924) Dir. Jody hill
g see page 43
Coffy (1973) Dir. Jack hill
g see page 32
the big picture issue 12 available 15 january 2011
DUAL FORMAT EDITION-
CONTAINS BOTH DVD AND BLU-RAY VERSIONS
DUAL FORMAT EDITION-
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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.
CLASSIC FILMS TO ENJOY AT HOME
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