Poster of the Day: Black Swan (2010)

black-swan-poster-2Darren Aronofsky’s dark and twisted tale of mind-cracking obsession in the uber-competitive world of ballet divided audiences (as often the best films do) between those who thought it was pretentious garbage, and those who thought it was BLOODY BRILLIANT. Where do you land?

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I HAD THE CRAZIEST DREAM LAST NIGHT. I WAS DANCING THE WHITE SWAN.

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THE ONLY PERSON STANDING IN YOUR WAY IS YOU.

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I JUST WANT TO BE PERFECT.

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posted by Dixie

Poster of the Day: Beggars of Life (1928)

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The wonderfully titled, Beggars of Life (1928) – directed by Wallace A. Wellman (Public Enemy, A Star is Born) – starring Wallace Beery as a young hobo, opposite Louise Brooks’ dragged-up girl-on-the-run in what was Paramount’s first talking picture. Can the desperate pair reach Canada before the police catch them? Who knows, because we’re closing before it’ll ever be issued on DVD.

19 Jun 1928 --- Actress Louise Brooks plays Nancy in the 1928 film . --- Image by © John Springer Collection/CORBIS

“And if there’s a gal in my the gang, she’s my gal.”

posted by Dixie Turner

Poster (and Film) of the Day: WE ARE THE BEST! (2013)

vi_ar_bast_ver3Eye-popping in the punk tradition – Lukas Moodysson’s latest film is a brilliant portrayal – and vindication – of the young outsider: different; outcast; confused, but strong, bold and rockin’ with mates (the best!).

we-are-the-bestHonest, unsentimental and defiant (just like its protagonists), We are the Best is an adaptation of a graphic novel by Coco Moodysson (the director’s wife) and focuses on the friendship of three misfit girls in the early 80s, on the cusp of their teens, as they attempt to form a punk band – and do it, in a good ol’,  banged out way. One of the things that makes this film so refreshing – apart from the protagonists being girls – is the lack of self-doubt, introspection or depression that is generally a prerequisite of outsider-teen flicks (especially when they are female). Instead, it’s pretty much full-steam-ahead confidence and its requisite cohort, the brazen attitude. Go, girls, GO!

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Interview with Coco Moodysson about the adaptation of her graphic novel

Great interview with director Lukas Moodysson on his inner teenager, for Pitchfork

Lukas’s tumblr – he seems quite into cameras and Rhianna.

From Coco Moodyssoon's orginal graphic novel, Never Goodnight (2008)

From Coco Moodyssoon’s orginal graphic novel, Never Goodnight (2008)

Coco in a photobooth in Stockholm, 1982

Coco in a photobooth in Stockholm, 1982

posted by dixie turner

Poster of the Day: Jour de Fête (1949)

Jacques+Tati+4Jour de Fête (1949) – dir. Jacques Tati.

Originally shot in both black and white and colour, Jour de Fête was only released in its black and white version, with some occasional splashes of colour which were applied by hand directly to the frames. Audience goers at the time had to be satisfied with those few frames until the film’s colour version was restored in 1995 (now both versions are available on DVD/Blu Ray). Eye-popping colour, however, was always present in the film’s posters, as seen here.

BFI article on the Thomsoncolor/black and white versions.

jour-de-fete-1949-013-poster-02Jour de Fête follows Tati’s postman who, upon watching a US newsreel showing the efficient transport methods of the Us postal service, attempts – with hilarious results – to modernise his bicycle delivery service. A somewhat less cynical accompaniment to Chaplin’s Modern Times perhaps, in which the innovations of modernity for increased productivity are thrust upon the worker from without – and certainly with considerably less wine consumed. However, the results – hilarious or otherwise – are not dissimilar and a critique of the mechanisation of industry and its effects on the individual can be seen here also in the ridiculous effects these processes have. As human becomes more like machine, as Tati’s postman attempts to deliver a greater volume in a shorter time, as the wheels of his bicycle spin faster and faster, we are on the road to comedy-gold disaster.

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posted by Dixie

Poster of the Day: The Gay Divorcee (1934)

Gay-Divorcee-RKO--1934Danish Poster by Erik Fredriksen (source: 50 Watts) for the Gay Divorcee (1934), starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in their second film together (plus an early appearance by Betty Grable).

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“CHANCE IS THE FOOL’S NAME FOR FATE”

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Damaging Goods: Seven Films that Destroyed Their Directors’ Careers

We’ve all heard those stories of debut films that catapult their filmmakers to instant success. Think Reservoir Dogs, El Mariachi, Clerks, American Beauty, etc. But what about those times when a film ends up costing its helmers everything? Here’s a look at a few films, some of them masterful, some awful, that had profound effects on the careers of those that brought them to life. Spanning 80 years, let’s look at them in chronological order.

1. L’Atalante (1934) – directed by Jean Vigo

The earliest film on this list is arguably the greatest of them all. Jean Vigo’s masterpiece of beautiful and tragic romance cost him not only his career, but his life. Vigo was already ill with tuberculosis when he began work on what was to be his only feature film. As it takes place on a barge, travelling the Seine, conditions were cold and often wet and Vigo’s health deteriorated to the point that he directed while bedridden for large portions of the shoot. Refusing to compromise on his vision, he insisted on finishing his work. After shooting his health never recovered and he died at the age of 29, before the final cut was completed by his faithful editor. L’Atalante is one of those films that manages to somehow define cinema itself while one watches it. It is rough, naturalistic and unsentimental but somehow dreamlike, lyrical and emotional. A glorious film that makes us wonder what else this great voice might have produced.

2. Peeping Tom (1960) – directed by Michael Powell

Michael Powell, of legendary Powell and Pressburger fame, found his career destroyed (certainly in Britain) by the immensely controversial release of his psychosexual thriller Peeping Tom. Calls for the films to be banned and destroyed were not uncommon, even from professional critics, and although the film is now understood as a brazen masterwork, at the time its story of a troubled protagonist who films his own murders of beautiful women before watching them back was altogether too much for the British public. Filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese (whose editor Thelma Schoonmaker is Powell’s widow) and critics such as Roger Ebert have championed the film as a singular achievement. But for Powell, who had brought gloss and erotic prestige to a remarkable string of films in the 40s and 50s, this was a commercial and critical failure from which he was never to recover, directing only 3 more theatrical releases in the remaining 30 years of his life.

3. Playtime (1967) – directed by Jacques Tati

Continuing the theme of unappreciated genius, this is one of my favourite films ever. Tati spent 3 years making this, his magnum opus, for which he built several blocks of his version of Paris in order to be able to move freely and stage things as he’d like, along with its own power plant. This was nicknamed “Tativille” and, coupled with his insistence on shooting with 70mm film and stereophonic sound, made production an arduous process. Budget overruns made financial success an imperative and when the film came out it didn’t come close to recouping its cost. Tati insisted it only be screened in cinema’s with 70mm capabilities and audiences resented his relegation of his signature character, Hulot, to a supporting role. Although this failure is said to have haunted Tati both professionally and personally for the rest of his life, Playtime is an utterly astonishing film. Its scope is unbelievably ambitious and its jokes are complex visual structures that reward multiple viewings, which also reveal the powerful social critique Tati wove into the benign comedy.

4. Heaven’s Gate (1980) – directed by Michael Cimino

Fresh of 1978’s Oscar-winning The Deer Hunter, Cimino set out to make one of the most ambitious westerns ever. Budgets ballooned and studio execs interfered and the end result was a colossal mess, a muddled saga of economic power struggles. Cimino’s dictatorial demeanour on-set and his wanton cruelty to animals were just the tip of the iceberg as the film ran four times over-budget and weeks over-schedule. Upon release, this film was such a critical and commercial failure that not only did Cimino’s career nosedive (having been one of Hollywood’s brightest young stars) but his studio, United Artists, collapsed. So if you’re looking for who to thank for the current Hollywood model of studio power over directors – look no further. Recent re-edits of Heaven’s Gate have seen it reappraised as a lost masterpiece but, while I’m as big a supporter of an epic Marxist western as anyone, a great film this is not. Willem Dafoe’s film debut can only go so far to make up for the lost hours of my life…

5. One from the Heart (1982) – directed by Francis Ford Coppola

My favourite artist is Tom Waits, who contributed the soundtrack to this one. Terri Garr was also unreasonably attractive. Neither of those things can mitigate the disaster of this one. Coppola had come off the legendary shoot of Apocalypse Now and one can only assume his truly unbelievable run of 1970s filmmaking had burnt him out because this tale of love lost and regained is a real mess. It is almost hard to believe just how relentlessly brilliant Coppola was in the 70s because post-One from the Heart, which left him in massive debt and forced him to close his studio Zoetrope Studios, you can count on one hand the good films he’s made (here they are: The Outsiders, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Godfather Part III if we forget the first two and the fact that by Coppola’s own admission debt from One from the Heart forced him to direct it at all). I think it’s fair to say that this massive miscalculation signalled the end of one of cinema’s great voices.

(I have to interject here, just to say, I thought Tetro (2009) was pretty inspired – moody, beautiful, mysterious and strangely magical.  – Dixie)

6. Donnie Darko (2001) – directed by Richard Kelly

This one is a little different. Sometimes, a film can be destructive by bringing about success that hasn’t been earned. Who hasn’t seen this film? Who doesn’t love it? It’s brilliant, warped, funny, oh-so-dark and all the more brilliant for being a debut work. That Kelly was able to successfully manage a $4.5m budget on his first try is impressive. But when success like this comes round and studios give you carte blanche to bring them another hit…let’s just say that if Pulp Fiction is one end of this spectrum, Southland Tales is the other. Tales is a spectacularly awful film, all misanthropic jock posing and directorial arrogance. It is a complete mess, a poster-child for why all artists need an editor, and bombed massively in both critical and financial senses. Its craziness is counteracted only by Kelly’s third and most recent feature, The Box, starring blandest-leading-duo-of-2009 Cameron Diaz and James Marsden and a creepy Frank Langella. Both of these subsequent films underwhelmed hugely and it remains to be seen if Kelly truly did use up his brilliance on one gem of a film or if he plans to mature and bring us more.

7. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) – directed by Stephen Norrington

It is one of cinema’s tragedies that this turd, which manages to ruin both a magnificent graphic novel series and a slew of literary heroes for future generations, will also go down as Sean Connery’s final film. Blade director Norrington has not directed a film since and seems to have nothing on the horizon, which is just as well if this is any indication of his future cinematic offerings. Like a Victorian Expendables, this is all macho bombast and wafer-thin plot and seems designed to introduce a dazzling array of characters with no point save future installments that, thanks to its magnificent tanking, will never come to be (hopefully). I think it’s better for everyone out there if all involved with this one just take some time away from making films – a lifetime should do the trick.

posted by Dave.

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Poster of the Day: This Gun for Hire (1942)

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 Tagline: “HE’S DYNAMITE WITH A GUN – OR A GIRL!”

 Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake star in this classic noir, directed by Frank Tuttle (All the King’s Horses), with a screenplay co-written by the great W.R. Burnett (novelist, eg. Little Ceasar). The film is loosely based on the book of the same name by Graham Greene. This Gun for Hire was the first picture that Ladd and Lake made together, the partnership proving so successful that they went on to make another six including, perhaps most famously, The Blue Dahlia in 1946.

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“You are trying to make me go soft. Well, you can save it. I don’t go soft for anybody.”

Posted by Dixie

Staff A-Z of Film: G is for… (pt.3)

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WILLIAM SAYS G IS FOR: Germany Year Zero (Roberto Rossellini, 1948)

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‘I see this film as a prayer from Rossellini to the postwar world, a prayer for compassion’ – Martin Scorsese. More last gasp than prayer, Martin. Inadvertent last rites? Perhaps. Bazin said “not a movie but a sketch, a rough draft of a work Rossellini hasn’t given us.” Rossellini gestures; man is the bastard. Quiet, confident desperation here.

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Film and Poster of the Day: Paths of Glory (1957)

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Directed by Stanley Kubrick, starring Kirk Douglas, Adolphe Menjou and Ralph Meeker.

“NOW THE SCREEN BLASTS OPEN THE BOMBSHELL STORY OF A COLONEL WHO LED HIS REGIMENT INTO HELL AND BACK – WHILE THEIR MADDENED GENERAL WAITED FOR THEM – WITH A FIRING SQUAD!”

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“I PITY YOU.”

SAINT-AUBAN: DID YOU URGE YOUR FELLOW SOLDIERS FORWARD?

ARNAUD: MOST OF THEM WERE DEAD OR WOUNDED BEFORE THEY GOT THREE STEPS BEYOND THE TRENCHES.

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“IF THOSE LITTLE SWEETHEARTS DON’T FACE GERMAN BULLETS, THEY’LL FACE FRENCH ONES!”

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“LOOKING OVER YOUR RIFLE, I SEE? WELL, THAT’S THE WAY. IT’S A SOLDIER’S BEST FRIEND. YOU BE GOOD TO IT AND IT WILL ALWAYS BE GOOD TO YOU.”

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PARIS: YOU SEE THAT COCKROACH? TOMORROW MORNING WE’LL BE DEAD AND IT’LL BE ALIVE. IT WILL HAVE MORE CONTACT WITH MY WIFE AND CHILD THAN I WILL. I’LL BE NOTHING AND IT’LL BE ALIVE.

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PRIEST: HAVE FAITH IN YOUR CREATOR – DEATH COMES TO US ALL.

ARNAUD: THAT’S REALLY DEEP!

posted by Dixie Turner

Poster of the Day: River of No Return (1954)

tumblr_mrs65fUkxo1qh35m6o1_500River of No Return (Poster  for the original Polish release from 1967. Artist: Kazimierz Krolikowski)

“ONE THING ABOUT THIS, THE LONGER YOU LAST, THE LESS YOU CARE.” – Kay Weston

A saloon singer with a crooked, gambling boyfriend pair up with a reticent widower and his young son, to make it to safety up a raging river on a rickety raft following an Indian raid. Starring old friends, Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum – directed by Otto Preminger who had, by all accounts a pretty tricky shoot – namely in the shape of Monroe’s acting coach who would give the actress alternative directions, and Mitchum’s drinking problem… Still, the film is a fun, adventure-driven western with a strong and naturalistic performance from Marilyn who, after three blockbuster comedies in 1953, finally got a chance to douse that breathless voice of hers with (presumably) a good shot of whisky.  Interestingly, Marilyn later described River as her worst film. I disagree!

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Posted by Dixie Turner

Poster of the Day: BOOM! (1968)

Polish PosterPolish poster from 1970 by Maciej Hibner.

“I NEED MYSELF A LOVER”

Directed by Joseph Losey (The Servant, Don Giovanni), starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Noel Coward and based on a play by Tennessee Williams – could the camp value be any higher and could the potential for disaster, fantastic, diamonte encrusted disaster, be any stronger? Probably not. Joseph Losey said he hated the film and Tennessee Williams was delighted, saying it was the best film adaptation of any of his plays, and when you consider what some of the other films are – Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Night of the Iguana etc etc – that’s a pretty strong statement. Of course the film flopped at the box office and is indeed a mess in many ways – but it’s such a fantastic mess that it really is worth it.

DON’T REACH FOR A SMOKE! WAIT UNTIL I OFFER YOU ONE!”

POSTED BY DIXIE TURNER

Poster of the Day: The Seven Year Itch (1955)

sevenyearRWest German, 1964 re-issue of the Billy Wilder comedy, starring Marilyn Monroe. The film is most famous for the street scene where an amused Tom Ewell looks on as Marilyn enjoys a gush of air from a happy subway grate:

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Half the men of Manhattan turned up to watch this scene being shot – a fact that Marilyn found amusing. Her husband, Joe Di Maggio, who was also on set, however, did not… their marriage ended during this shoot.

Marilyn Monroe Filming

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seven-year-itch-1For Marilyn fans, the documentary ‘Love, Marilyn’ is worth a watch. Not fantastic as a film, but gives a real insight into just how seriously she took her acting, for instance when she ended her contract with Fox and moved to New York to join the Actors Studio – a fact that many actors at the studio ridiculed her for.

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posted by Dixie Turner

Poster of the Day: ANDREI RUBLEV (1966)

AndreiRublev_Czech_MPOTWCzechoslovakian poster for Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev which chronicles the life and times of the medieval painter of icons.

posted by Dixie Turner

Poster of the Day: Sherlock Jr.

sherlock-jr-movie-poster-1924-1020143174Russian Sherlock. Jr poster, 1924

This poster stumped pretty much everyone in our recent film quiz – perhaps because of its tricky graphics, or perhaps because the film is not as well-known amongst contemporary film-lovers as it should be! With his trademark stoney face, Buster Keaton makes for an earnest hero, battling the wrong-doings of a rival over the affections of a beautiful girl.

For those used to the more pointed, polished and faster-paced humour of Chaplin, Sherlock Jr can come across as a little slow at points and the excellent visual comedy has a much more naturalistic feel, delivering something of a rawer result. But there are fantastic examples of his comic and film-making genius here. The movie is one of the first examples of a film-within-a-film, when Keaton’s character – a lowly projectionist at a local theatre – falls asleep and imagines himself leaping into the film being screened, creating quite a surreal scene and perfectly illustrating Keaton’s ability to think outside the usual slapstick comedy box. In this new, meta-storyline, Keaton’s character becomes a great detective whose objective is to show the true nature of his rival’s character.

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And, of course, there are also plenty of slapstick moments, including the famous ‘shadowing scene’:

sherlock-jr-4Other visual gags abound, but amongst them are stunts that make the jaw drop; stunts that clearly must have been carried out with extreme precision but which are, none the less, delivered in Keaton’s characteristic loose and raw style, making them appear utterly haphazard.

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And, of course, there’s the sublime pool-playing scene, where Keaton’s character manages to pot every ball whilst avoiding hitting the booby-trapped ball – all in the most nonchalant, off-hand manner imaginable. Yep. Sublime.

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posted by Dixie Turner

Poster(s) of the Day: Harold & Maude (1971) + My Left Foot (1989)

Both of these films feature CYRIL CUSACK (1910-1993), whose birthday it would be today..

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harold-and-maude-italian-styleVIDEO CITY’S FAVOURITE FILM – LAUGH, CRY, LEARN THE BANJO…

“Poor Glaucus occasionally needs his memory refreshed as to the contours of the female form.”

(Cyril played Glaucus, Maude’s painter friend for whom Maude occasionally posed, in the nude.)

My_Left_FootTHE FILM THAT EARNED DANIEL DAY-LEWIS THE FIRST OF HIS THREE OSCARS

“Welcome to my humble abode.”

(Cyril played Lord Castlewellan, whose riches directly contrasted with Christy’s own background and everything he had experienced.)

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VC Film quiz

posted by Dixie Turner