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Issue Twelve. January/February 2011
06 | Spotlight
The Big Society: Oppression, Uprising and the Cinema of The Masses
Directory of World Cinema: Russia Edited by Birgit Beumers
ISBN 9781841503721 | £16, $25
14 | Art & Film
Luís Melo: Painting The Movies
24 | Widescreen
Directory of World Cinema: American Independent Edited by John Berra
ISBN 9781841503684 | £16, $25
Little Weddings: Tying the Knot Hollywood Style
30 | 1000 Words
Dawn of the Undead: The Everlasting Influence of Night of the Living Dead
04 | Reel World
Directory of World Cinema: Australia & New Zealand Edited by Ben Goldsmith and Geoff Lealand
ISBN 9781841503738 | £16, $25
18 | One Sheet
Directory of World Cinema: Japan Edited by John Berra
ISBN 9781841503356 | £16, $25
‘The evil that men should turn their brothers into beasts of burden, to be stripped of spirit, and hope, and strength - only because they are of another race, another creed. If there is a god, he did not mean this to be so.'
cover image the ten commandments ( 1956)
28 | Four Frames
Invasion of the Bodysnatchers
34 | On Location
38 | Screengem
The Red Ryder BB Gun
42 | Parting Shot
Death From Above
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.
46 | Listings
A roundup of this issue's featured films
The Big Picture ISSN 1759-0922 © 2011 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 Editor-in-chief & Layout Gabriel Solomons Editor Scott Jordan Harris Contributors Jez Conolly, Nicholas Page, Nathan Francis, Neil Mitchell, Scott Jordan Harris, Luís Melo, Thomas Clayton, 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: firstname.lastname@example.org / www.thebigpicturemagazine.com l The Big Picture magazine is published six times a year
www . worldcinemadirectory. org
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
Film and real life have seldom collided as memorably, or as controversially, as in Nanook of the North. neil mi tc h e l l heads out into the cold.
i n t h e age of youtube , rolling news channels and reality TV, ethical concerns over the representation of real life and the ‘truth’ being presented in documentary films are constantly debated. But these issues have surrounded the genre since its birth. Robert J. Flaherty, a prospector and explorer turned film-maker, is credited with directing the first fulllength documentary, Nanook of the North (1922) – a still remarkable film showing the day-to-day struggle for survival faced by the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic region. Later classified as being the foremost example of ‘salvage ethnography’ (the documentation of isolated, endangered or ‘exotic’ communities), Flaherty's film also encapsulated the complexities of filming the real world.
Nanook of the North, like many films of its kind, has been criticised for a perceived distortion of reality, and for overtly manipulating its subject matter. Staged scenes and reconstructions of seal hunts, trading expeditions and Igloo building, shot over the year Flaherty spent living with the tribe, paint an evocative, poetic, but partly constructed portrait of life for Nanook and his community. Further blurring the line between fact and fiction, ‘Nanook’ was in actuality called Allakariallak and his ‘wife’ was one of Flaherty's own two common-law partners. The reconstruction (and staging) of events for films was, however, a common technique of the era due to the cumbersome, restrictive and technologically primitive nature of early static cameras. Flaherty’s film – seminal, controversial and ambitious – drew the blueprint for the documentary as we know it today, and is required viewing for anyone with a serious interest in the genre. [tbp]
left a somewhat sensationalized poster used to 'sell' the film / above a documentary of majestic beauty
[weB ] Read ‘First Person: Heather Milland and Iceland: Future of Hope’ exclusively on TheBigPictureMagazine.com
Flaherty’s Film – seminal, controversial and ambitious – drew the blueprint For the documentary as we know it today
cover Feature Y
c i n e m a ' s t h e m at i c s t r a n d s
Dir. Cecil B. DeMille
Ever since cinema has shown big societies, it has shown them oppressing smaller societies, leading to inevitable uprisings headed by defiant heroes. n at h a n f r a n c i s assesses six standout examples.
The Ten CommandmenTs (1956)
Never one for understatement, Cecil B. DeMille ensured his final film The Ten Commandments (a partial remake of his 1923 silent version) had the sheer scope and visual grandeur to out-spectacle sermons across the globe. The Technicolor epic chronicles the life of Moses (Charlton Heston), from his rescue as a baby and his adoption within Egypt’s imperial family, to his discovery of his birthright and his fulfilment of the prophecy as the Hebrew Deliverer. Moses brings plagues and a pillar of fire, and parts the Red Sea to prove His mighty hand to Pharaoh Ramses II (Yul Brynner) and convince him to let his people go.
left moses (charlton heston) in majestic pose above the soon to be destroyed tablets
After climbing Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, Moses descends and smashes them in rage at the orgy of iniquity and demagoguery conducted in his absence by the faithless, who are then divinely despatched. DeMille uses Moses’s miracles to showcase the ingenuity of special effects technician John Fulton, who won an Oscar.
spotlight making moves
The BaTTleshiP PoTemkin (1925)
Dir. Sergei Eisenstein
Sergei Eisenstein’s technically astonishing montage masterpiece The Battleship Potemkin was commissioned by the Soviet Government to mark the twentieth anniversary of the suppressed 1905 Russian Revolution, and remains a potent agitprop classic. In five episodes of heavily symbolic imagery, Eisenstein depicts the rousing effect the mutiny of the oppressed sailors of the Potemkin has on the similarly oppressed Russian people. When mutiny leader Vakulinchuk is shot and his body laid in state at the harbour, the citizens of Odessa crowd to mourn their murdered comrade. Armed Tsarist troops descend, and the ensuing Odessa Steps Massacre is one of cinema’s truly imperishable sequences, influencing everyone from Francis Bacon to Brian De Palma. As the mutineers take the Potemkin back to sea, they face oncoming warships with cannons aimed at the ready. Flying the flag of friendship, which Eisenstein hand-painted red on original prints, the Potemkin is allowed to pass by the warships as the crews celebrate the bond of brotherhood on their decks.
one FleW over The CuCkoo’s nesT (1975)
Dir. Milos Forman
Milos Forman’s celebrated adaptation of Ken Kesey’s classic 1960s counter-culture novel, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest pits charismatic anti-establishment livewire Randle P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) against authoritarian ice queen Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) within the restrictive confines of a state mental hospital. McMurphy strives to stir his fellow inmates to break free from the fetters of the institution and their own self repression. Nurse Ratched sits sentinel over her subjects while keeping an iron grip on her strict regime of quiet obedience and calm routine. McMurphy’s rebel message gets through to Chief Bromden (Will Sampson), a Native American who plays deaf and dumb before breaking silence over shared Juicy Fruit; and Nurse Ratched retaliates against McMurphy’s licentiousness and final, violent insurrection by rendering him permanently docile. When the Chief discovers McMurphy has been martyred by the system, he gives him final release before carrying out one of cinema’s most stirring acts of self-emancipation.
The odessa steps massacre is one of cinema’s truly imperishable sequences, influencing everyone from Francis Bacon to Brian de Palma.
above a true bond of friendship top left the faces of a revolution
When the Chief discovers mcmurphy has been martyred by the system, he gives him final release before carrying out one of cinema’s most stirring acts of selfemancipation.
spotlight making moves
Dir. stanley kubrick
The battles that took place behind the scenes of Spartacus were almost as tumultuous as the epic on-screen Technicolor skirmishes between the uprising slaves and Roman legions. Director Stanley Kubrick wrestled with producer and lead actor Kirk Douglas; the egos of Laurence Olivier and Charles Laughton constantly collided; and the picture was the first to openly defy the Hollywood blacklist by hiring Dalton Trumbo to write the screenplay. The fighting spirit infuses the film. Leading a slave revolt that gathers pace from a gladiatorial school breakout to threaten the Roman Republic itself, Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) seeks to free his people from the yoke of oppression and wrest his beloved Varinia (Jean Simmons) from the clutches of tyrannical General Crassus (Laurence Olivier). The famous scene in which the defeated slave soldiers stand up and claim ‘I’m Spartacus!’ to protect the true identity of their leader retains great power. At the film’s heartrending close, Varinia shows the crucified Spartacus his freed newborn son in his final moments.
above left toshiro mifune as kikuchiyo opposite kirk douglas stands tall
the picture was the First to openly deFy the hollywood blacklist by hiring dalton trumbo to write the screenplay.
The film encapsulated the social and moral codes of sixteenth century Japan, and gifted awestruck western directors a new narrative blueprint and cinematic grammar.
seven samurai (1954)
Dir. Akira Kurosawa
Akira Kurosawa’s magnificent Seven Samurai is the original and best ensemble action epic. Mixing breathtaking battles, wild humour and genuine pathos, the film encapsulated the social and moral codes of sixteenth century Japan, and gifted awestruck western directors a new narrative blueprint and cinematic grammar. Fearing a bandit attack, the members of a poor rural village hire six samurai to protect them, with only food to offer for their services. Led by wily veteran Kambei (Takashi Shimura), they are joined by the clowning Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune), who wishes to climb castes from commoner to warrior. Separated by rigid social barriers, the samurai are treated with suspicion by the villagers, but nevertheless feel bound to protect them by duty and for honour alone. The immense climactic battle sees Kikuchiyo heroically earn the samurai honour by slaying the bandit leader before succumbing to his wounds. The film ends with Kambei and the two other surviving samurai poignantly contemplating the victory won for the villagers at the cost of their fallen friends.
c i n e m a ' s t h e m at i c s t r a n d s
Dir. Eric Darnell/Tim Johnson, 1998
Rallying a revolt against Disney’s stranglehold on animated feature success, Dreamworks’ cerebral CGI parable Antz tells the tale of a neurotically individualistic worker ant named Z (Woody Allen), whose frustration within his conformist totalitarian colony transforms him into a reluctant revolutionary hero who redefines the social order. Falling feelers over heels for the similarly rebellious Princess Bala (Sharon Stone), Z dares to trade places with a soldier ant to impress her, an individual act of transgression which causes a seismic social chain reaction. Z is hailed as both a liberating hero and radical villain; discovers the mythic Insectopia; and thwarts Patton-like General Mandible’s (Gene Hackman) fascist plot to seize power, before marrying his princess and rallying his fellow ants to rebuild the colony as a democratic commune in which all insects are equal. [tbp]
right antz in their pants
z's Frustration with his conFormist totalitarian colony transForm him into a reluctant revolutionary hero who redeFines the social order.
Read ‘Spartacus: Film and History’, edited by Martin M. winkler [weB ] Look out for part 2 of this feature
'Making Moves: Movies of The Masses' exclusively on TheBigPicturemagazine.com
art & Film
visual art inspired by film
Lisbon based artist Luís Melo is no stranger to the world of fantasy. His concept art and illustration work for a variety of clients evoke worlds we can only dream - but it's his paintings inspired by film that really stir the imagination.
all images © luís melo
art & Film
visual art inspired by film
clockwise from opposite dolemite / buffalo 66 / singapore sling
[weB] See more work by Luis Melo at www.sketchitos.blogspot.com / www.luismelo.net
deconstructing film posters
social events that occur on a grand scale are always going to be an attractive target for film-makers, whether those events come in the form of music concerts or world wars. One often finds that with commercial cinema, and especially in this age of celebrity and cross-promotion, that bigger is considered better – the more epic a premise, the more chance there is that it will sell, and the more money is thrown at it. But the most effective attempts to capture big social events come not with a big budget but with a big passion for the subject itself, as the following examples prove. The March of Time: Our America at War! (1943) Original US One Sheet Artist unknown The March of Time, which began as a radio programme in 1931 but was adapted to be shown in theatres a few years later, was a revolutionary newsreel series in which world events were dramatised for the nation. The series, produced by Time Magazine, was a staple for the American cinema-going public for over 15 years, despite actually losing money (it remained in production for six years beyond the cancellation of the original radio series). This original US poster, created for the episode Our America at War! in 1941, helps to show exactly how the series was presented to the public. One is given the impression that there is a story behind the images, despite the film’s non-fictional nature.
Events that shape our social landscape may be joyous occasions full of laughter and celebration, or cold, hellish nightmares that lay an entire generation to waste. nichol as page takes a look at posters marking three such enormous events. Images courtesy of The Reel Poster Gallery, London.
one sheet sudden impact
The War Game (1965) Original British Quad The example prior and the one on the following page, while representing almost opposite ends of the ‘Big Social Event’ spectrum, are films that remain – at least to a certain extent – faithful to real life events. Peter Watkins’ The War Game, however, is entirely fictional, and depicts life before, during and after a nuclear attack upon Britain. Despite being praised for its mixture of drama and documentary, and scooping an Academy Award in 1966, the film – which was produced by the BBC – was initially criticised by many, and ended up being withdrawn from transmission on the grounds it was ‘too horrifying for the medium of broadcasting.’ It has since become something of a cult film in Britain and beyond.
the Film ended up being withdrawn From transmission on the grounds it was ‘too horriFying For the medium oF broadcasting.
20 www.thebigpicturemagazine.com 21
one sheet sudden impact
celebrates 45 years of cinema coverage
Monterey Pop (1968) Original US One Sheet Art by Tomi Ungerer The Monterey Pop Festival was a three-day concert that took place in California during June 1967. The show, which featured such artists as Jefferson Airplane, The Who and Jimi Hendrix, has since come to embody the counterculture associated with the infamous ‘Summer of Love’, and inspired a number of similar events, including the Woodstock Festival of 1969. D.A. Pennebaker’s Monterey Pop, which documented the festival and its performances, was the work of a number of different directors, including the renowned documentarians Richard Leacock and Albert Maysles. Tomi Ungerer, who is listed as the artist behind this rather surreal American One Sheet, also created the titles for the film. [tbp]
I love every aspect of motion pictures, and I’m committed to it for life. film comment has that same commitment when it comes to writing about motion pictures. — Clint Eastwood film comment connects me to a time when films and filmmakers actually mattered and were treated as being worthy of serious discussion. There’s no other cinema magazine remotely like it.
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Tomi ungerer, who is listed as the artist behind this rather surreal american one sheet, also created the titles for the film.
[weB ] Look out for ‘Poster Boy: One Sheets of Distinction' on TheBigPictureMagazine.com
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seeing film in a wider context
Tying the Knot - Hollywood Style.
interview by gabriel solomons
have always had to think more imaginatively and come up with inventive new ways of luring your average cinemagoer away from the multiplex and into the cosy environs of their own theatres. Quiz nights, guest speakers, themed screenings and miniretrospectives all help to fill up the monthly schedule and offer an ecclectic range of events for punters to sink their avid teeth into. Contrary to the widely held belief that the multiplex would kill off the local 'picture house', small independent run cinemas seem to be thriving with new venues springing up weekly all across the country. It seems that people are still keen on the more personally driven, often quirky and definitely more varied experience that can be had when opting to spend their hard earned cash on a night out at the movies. Some people enjoying it so much in fact that they can think of no better place or venue more suitable for the ultimate union of souls - a wedding. A handful of cinemas in the UK have now added this facility to enable film buffs and their loved ones to
above photograph courtesy www.shelldemar.com
come together in holy movie matrimony and to celebrate in the warm projector glow and tiered plushness of a mini-plex. Bath's Little Theatre cinema, which has been at the centre of Bath entertainment for over 70 years and boasts atmospheric 1930s architecture, has recently made available its 2 screens for wedding parties and appointed a wedding director to manage the whole operation - appropriately titled 'Little Weddings'. The Big Picture recently spoke to its leading man, Thomas Clayton, to find out more. How did the idea for Little Weddings come about? The idea for weddings at the Little came about a couple of years ago when two patrons of the little (friends of Martin Jennings, manager of the Little Theatre) loved the concept of a wedding at the Little. So in exchange for having a wedding they paid the license fee to make our venue approved for solemnisation. After this Little Weddings was born. I became the wedding director in early 2010, created a big marketing drive and we have had weddings galore ever since.
below and bottom photograph courtesy www.shelldemar.com
seeing film in a wider context
What is your background and how did this sufficiently equip you (or not!) to take on the project? My background is in management and projection so this helps enormously with the organisation of the staff and the wedding party on the day. Why do you think slightly more alternative wedding venues such as cinemas are becoming increasingly popular with the public? Alternative weddings are becoming more attractive even to those who are thinking of having a "traditional wedding". I think from the Little's point of view we offer so much flexibility in what we provide for the 'clients', we don't have any set ideas or plans for couples at the start and we start each wedding as a blank canvas. We have the ability to tailor the ceremony to their needs and so have managed to do quite a broad range of events - things like 1930s Hollywood themed weddings and Japanese Geisha weddings. We allow full use of the cinema screen and sound, so mixed with clever lighting and set designs we can create quite special events. This makes my job more interesting as each wedding I've done has been different. Were there any particular legal loopholes you had to go through to make the Little suitable for tying the knot? There weren't any legal loop holes to go through but I do think it took a while for the registrars to get used to the low lit atmospheric lighting! [tbp]
Little Weddings at The Little Theatre www.littleweddings.co.uk
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'We don't have any set ideas or plans for couples at the start and we start each wedding as a blank canvas.'
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[weB] Find out more about Little weddings at www.littleweddings.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 Look of Terror In
i n va s i o n o f t h e b o d y
s n at c h e r s
Dir. Don Siegel, 1956
Four versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers have terrified film-goers. Jez Conolly hides behind the sofa to examine four shots from the original.
The Paranoid Terror that unfolds in Don Siegel’s antitotalitarian Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) is illustrated most effectively through the frequent close-ups of actor Kevin McCarthy’s face. McCarthy plays Dr. Miles Bennell, pillar of the ordinary small town community of Santa Mira, California. We see his shock at witnessing the mass deployment of seed pods to the townsfolk; his moment of sickening realisation that his old flame, Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter), has just been ‘transformed’; his wide-eyed disbelief at the sight of a truckload of seed pods headed for the major cities; and his total panic as he warns the passing motorists on the highway, ‘They’re here already! You’re next, you’re next…’ This final close-up was how Siegel originally wanted to end his picture – to send film-goers back out into the real world with the chilling thought that their neighbours might just have something unusual growing in their vegetable patch – but he was forced by the studio to insert bookend scenes designed to soften the blow. Maybe Allied Artists Pictures Corporation executives all had giant seed pods under the stairs… [tbp] Read More F o u r F r a m e s online at www.thebigpicturemagazine.com
screengrabs © 1956 walter wanger productions
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
The Everlasting Influence of Night Of The Living Dead
After George A. Romero set hoards of staggering flesh-eaters against the inhabitants of a Pennsylvania farmhouse, cinema changed irreversibly. s c o t t j o r da n h a r r i s tries not to get bitten.
ome films change cinema in such a way that a straight line can be drawn from them through an entire sub-genre or style of movie-making. Some films, like director George A. Romero’s 1968 debut Night of the Living Dead, change cinema in so many ways that a hundred straight lines and a thousand meandering off-shoots can be traced from them through a dozen areas of film. The original zombie apocalypse picture changed horror films; it changed independent films; it changed business models; it changed language; it changed the tone of American films (removing from them much of the security audiences expected); and it issued a challenge for casting directors to throw open their minds to which few have risen in the decades since. In the beginning, there was the word: ‘zombie’. Just as The Godfather popularised and altered our concept of the term ‘mafia’ without once using the word, so Night of the Living Dead both changed and popularised the prevailing definition of ‘zombie’, despite it never being heard in the film. Zombies had existed both in the English language and in movies prior to Living Dead, but those zombies were the enchanted catatonics of
films like Jacques Tourneur’s I Walked with a Zombie (1943), not the lumbering, fleshchewing, un-dead shotgun fodder to which we are now accustomed. (The closest character to an I Walked withstyle zombie in Romero’s film is Barbra, played by Judith O’Dea, who reacts so badly to the first zombie attack she spends much of the remainder of the movie sitting unresponsive, in a state of shock). Ask anyone to list ten characteristics of zombies and, I’d wager, at least eight of their suggestions will have been established by Night of the Living Dead. Living corpses – the reasons for their reanimation never perhaps specified, possessed of that relentless slowness that illogically allows so many classic movie monsters to catch their quarry no matter how quickly it can run (or drive or fly) – have, because of this film, taken up space in our imaginations in the same way as vampires, werewolves or dragons. In the innumerable remakes, re-imaginings, rip-offs, sequels, prequels, parodies and works of homage the film has inspired, Romero’s brand of zombies have become some of cinema’s most horrific, comic and, ironically, given the ease with which they can be outwitted, outmanoeuvred and immolated, enduring villains. To simply list the films in which Living Dead-inspired zombies have appeared would take an article considerably
1000 WORdS dead men Walking
longer than 1000 words. Romero’s film sits with John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) and James Whales’s Frankenstein (1931) in having established the template for a type of horror movie monster that has been copied so frequently, and so totally, it seems now to be an archetype that has been always around us. The horror the zombies inflict in the film also proved influential. Both the explicitness of the film’s carnage (zombies are seen chewing the severed limbs and eating the organs of their victims – victims who were, moments earlier, characters we cared about) and the kind of people who turn evil and carry it out (attractive young women; otherwise benign-looking old men; and, most famously, an angelic young girl who rises from death to murder her mother and feast on her father) changed violence on film. Those who like to watch, or to make, films dripping with gore owe much to George Romero. The film’s ending is almost as influential as the look, and actions, of its monsters. Easy Rider (1969) and Chinatown (1974) are often credited with introducing to popular US movies endings so downbeat and unpredictable that, from the early Seventies onwards, audiences no longer knew, even in a film’s closing seconds, if the hero they had watched struggle through mysteries and ordeals, overcoming danger and sidestepping death, would actually win out. Night of the Living Dead predates both. Throughout, we watch Ben (Duane Jones) battle for his survival as those he tries to help are killed by marauding monsters. Through bravery, ingenuity, ruthlessness and luck he is there in the morning as the ghouls are leaving and the good guys arriving. As Ben moves to a window, probably to call for help from the approaching posse, one of its members mistakes him for a monster and shoots him dead. The end credits play over images of his body as it is about to be burned. It’s an ending perfect for
romero’s film sits with John Carpenter’s halloween (1978) and James Whales’s Frankenstein (1931) in having established the template for a type of horror movie monster that has been copied so frequently.
The ending was perfect for an america struggling through the vietnam War and the unrest inspired by the Civil rights movement.
above ben (duane jones) fights a losing battle opposite james whales's iconic monster
such a surprising and uncompromising work. Here is a horror film that behaves as, perhaps, a horror film should: it scares it audience and, when it has the opportunity to soothe them, it scares them again. It’s also an ending that was perfect for an America struggling through the Vietnam War and the unrest inspired by the Civil Rights movement. Extending the ties with the themes of the Civil Rights movement, the choice as leading man of Duane Jones, a darkskinned black man who plays the film’s only non-white character, was perhaps the first (and is still very likely one of the only) instances of truly colour blind casting in American movies. Black characters had been written, and black actors had played them, for decades – but those characters were scripted to be black, and cast to bring attention to that blackness. Here was a performer
chosen as a leading man simply because he was the best actor to audition for the film, and because the ethnicity of the main character actually didn’t matter (as it so often doesn’t). After Night of the Living Dead, casting could never be quite so unconsciously racist again. The film’s astonishing success – it was made for a little over $100,000 by a group of unknowns, who set up a production company specifically for the project, and has grossed tens of millions – was a turning point too. It provided a model that independent film-makers, particularly those making horror movies, essentially still follow. Most obviously, its style, its methods and, of course, its content are responsible for much in the ‘splatter’ and ‘slasher’ sub-genres that followed. Less obviously, its themes, tone and profit margins are responsible for much that followed in too many sub-genres to list. Most films that change cinema do so in ways you can only see if you know exactly where to look. Night of the Living Dead changed cinema in ways it is almost impossible to miss. Nothing, except of course a zombie apocalypse, could possibly erase its influence. [tbp]
[ReaD] ‘Brilliant Failures: The Prowler’ exclusively on TheBigPictureMagazine.com
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 pu yi faces his future bottom right two wheeled friends
As the big society at the heart of the biggest society on Earth, Beijing is an irresistible setting for film-makers. j e z c o n o l ly travels to China’s capital.
The lasT emPeror (1987)
Dir. Bernardo Bertolucci Italy/UK, 163 minutes Starring John Lone, Joan Chen and Peter O'Toole
Bernardo Bertolucci’s epic saga of the life of Pu Yi, China's last emperor, was the first western production allowed to film in Beijing’s Forbidden City, the traditional capital of the Chinese emperors. The city is a huge medieval construction encompassing 250 acres and 9,999 rooms – only Heaven, its makers believed, possessed 10,000 rooms. Permission was granted to film inside the complex on the basis that Bertolucci had been a registered member of the Italian Communist Party until 1978, and the Chinese authorities further assisted the production by providing thousands of soldiers to act as extras. Their efforts resulted in a film that was nominated for nine Oscars – and won them all.
BeiJing BiCyCle (2001)
Dir. Wang Xiaoshuai China, 113 minutes Starring Lin Cui, Xun Zhou and Bin Li
Wang Xiaoshuai’s film is often compared to Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist masterpiece Bicycle Thieves (1948). Both films tell the story of a young, working class man who, in searching through the city for his stolen bicycle, confronts the reality of the society he inhabits. According to Wang, ‘the bicycle may be only a material symbol, but it is also a symbol of China.’ This is seen in the shots of contemporary Beijing streets, where the bicycle is still the most commonplace mode of transport. Bicycle ownership in Beijing is a rite of passage. It continues to be a means, and a metaphor, for getting through everyday life.
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 richard gere pleads innocent below making a song and dance of it
red Corner (1997)
Dir. John Avnet USA, 122 minutes Starring Richard Gere, Ling Bai and Bradley Whitford
American lawyer Jack Moore (Richard Gere) is accused of murder during a visit to Beijing to negotiate a TV satellite deal in a drama that plays out in the space between China’s old communist ways and its new economic openness. Director Jon Avnet learned to speak enough Mandarin to communicate with his actors. Researching the Chinese judicial system for over a year, he met with lawyers, judges and journalists during his trips to China. In order to heighten the film’s reality, Avnet, actress Ling Bai, and co-producer Martin Huberty travelled to Beijing for a week of ‘guerrilla’ filming without the knowledge or permission of the Chinese government.
Peking opera Blues is a breathless screwball comedy with a painted face, a firecracker exploding on the stage of traditional Chinese theatre.
Peking oPera Blues (1986)
Dir. Tsui Hark Hong Kong, 104 minutes Starring Brigitte Lin, Cherie Chung and Sally Yeh
Tsui Hark’s Peking Opera Blues, a landmark film in Hong Kong cinema, is set in 1913 amid the chaos between the fall of the imperial dynasty and the establishment of the republic. The film boasts three ambitious heroines: the daughter of a Peking warlord; an aspiring performer desperate to break into the all-male world of the Peking Opera; and a greedy, opportunistic servant. As we follow their exploits in and around the opera house, the city, at times, resembles a giant maze. Peking Opera Blues is a breathless screwball comedy with a painted face, a firecracker exploding on the stage of traditional Chinese theatre. [tbp]
go further... [weB ]
Read ‘a Long way From Home: an Interview with author / Director
Xiaolu Guo’ exclusively on TheBigPictureMagazine.com
e vo c at i v e o b j e c t s o n s c r e e n
A Christmas Story (1983)
Some of the most evocative objects in film are toys, and none means more than Ralphie’s Red Ryder rifle. s c o t t j o r da n h a r r i s tries not to shoot his eye out.
w r i t i n g a b o u t Winchester ’73 for The Big Picture’s website, I said, ‘few objects in film are as fetishised, celebrated and sought after as James Stewart’s “gun that won the West”.’ While this is true, any suggestion that the eponymous Winchester ’73 is the most sought after rifle in cinema would be an outright lie. That rifle, of course, belongs to little Ralphie Parker. Or, at least, Ralphie wishes it does. Although A Christmas Story adapts several stories from Jean Shepherd’s semi-autobiographical writings, its main plot focuses simply on a little boy’s desire to receive a BB gun for Christmas. And, as Gene Siskel noted, the film has ‘just as much tension’ as any movie about ‘people trying to do great things […] fly to another planet [or] save the world.’ The chief reason for this is the symbolism of the BB gun, which represents everything that is best (and, in its overt commercialism, a little of what is worst) about being a child. Ralphie desires it with an innocent lust that charms us immediately. Owning it is essential to his imagination – and, through him, we remember when our imaginations were the most important landscapes in our lives. When, at last, he holds the toy, he knows that, in a sense, his life has peaked. Never could he feel such satisfaction again. [tbp]
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Editor: Richard Raskin ISSN: 20427824 | Online ISSN: 20427832 First published in 2011 | 2 issues per volume Short Film Studies is a new peer-reviewed journal designed to stimulate ongoing research on individual short films as a basis for a better understanding of the art form as a whole. In each issue, two or three short films will be selected for comprehensive study, with articles illuminating each film from a variety of perspectives. Occasionally an outstanding commercial or PSA will also be included.
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death from above
clockwise from left throne of blood 300 hero
there is something powerFul, and indelible, in the image oF lone characters Facing the Full Force oF a hail oF arrows.
Since an unforgettable scene in Throne of Blood, death by a rain of arrows has become a frequent sight onscreen. n e i l mitchell looks nervously toward the sky.
t h e r e a r e f e w m o r e visually arresting deaths in film than those brought about by a hail of arrows. This ancient weapon’s deadly power is aesthetically and symbolically richer than contemporary weapons of war. When a character is subjected to an assault from the heavens it is often heavily weighted with themes of fate, sacrifice and vengeance, and wrath of God implications. Akira Kurosawa's transposition of Macbeth to feudal Japan in Throne of Blood (1957), gave us one of cinema's most dramatic and iconic death scenes. Toshiro Mifune's ruthlessly ambitious lord is turned upon by his archers, who bombarding him until an arrow to the neck kills him. The sequence was filmed with real arrows, shot by choreographed archers, and has inspired several similar scenes. With the aid of CGI, Zhang Yimou's 2002 martial arts epic Hero brought the hail of arrows into the 21st Century in spectacular fashion. Jet Li's nameless character is executed at the behest of the King of Qin when thousands of deadly missiles rain down from an army of archers. It’s a grandiose death in keeping with the film's ambitious scale. Zack Snyder's 300 (2007) features a hail of arrows so immense they fill the sky, blocking out the sun, as King Leonidas waits open-armed for the inevitable, unbowed and defiant to the end. With cinema overrun with bullet time shootouts, preposterous explosions, Saw-inspired contraptions and escalating body counts there is something powerful, and indelible, in the image of lone characters facing the full force of a hail of arrows. [tbp]
[ReaD ] ‘Spotlight: emotionless assassins’ exclusively on the BP blog
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Nanook of the North (1922) Dir. Robert J. Flaherty
g see page 4/5
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So you’ve read about the films, now go watch them!
Frankenstein (1931) Dir. James whale
g see page 33
Each issue of The Big Picture is produced by Bristol based publisher, intellect.
The Ten Commandments (1956) Dir. Cecil B. Demille
g see page 6/7
The Last emperor (1987) Dir. Bernardo Bertolucci
g see page 34
Battleship Potemkin (1925) Dir. Sergei M. eisenstein
g see page 8
Beijing Bicycle (2001) Dir. Xiaoshuai wang
g see page 35
One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest (1975) Dir. Milos Forman
g see page 9
Red Corner (1997) Dir. John avnet
g see page 36
Seven Samurai (1956) Dir. akira Kurosawa
g see page 10
Peking Opera Blues (1986) Dir. Hark Tsui
g see page 37
Spartacus (1960) Dir. Stanley Kubrick
g see page 11
a Christmas Story (1983) Dir. Bob Clark
g see page 38/39
antz (1998) Dirs. eric Darnell / Tim Johnson
g see page 12/13
Throne of Blood (1957) Dir. akira Kurosawa
g see page 42
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) Dir. Don Siegel
g see page 28/29
Hero (2002) Dir. Yimou Zhang
g see page 43
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Night of the Living Dead (1968) Dir. George a. Romero
g see page 30/31
300 (2006) Dir. Zack Snyder
g see page 43
Better late than never?
The Role of Policy in the Turkish Cinematic Revival
the big picture issue 13 available 15 march 2011
Published as a bi-monthly, full colour journal, Film International covers all aspects of film culture in a visually dynamic way. This new breed of film magazine brings together established film scholars with renowned journalists to provide an informed and animated commentary on the spectacle of world cinema.
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