Finite Focus: Tomatina

If you have seen today’s “Google Doodle,” or read this VOX story, you will know that today is the 70th Anniversary of La Tomatina. The strange Spanish festival in which as many as 50000 people have a tomato fight and soak in the acidic juices until the authorities fire-hose the lot clean.

In Lynne Ramsay’s magnificent 2011 film, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Tilda Swinton plays a mother who is resentful of both her having a child and her own upper-middle class domestication. She remembers her experience in Buñol, packed between young writhing bodies kicking around and basking in red juices. In another part of the film, Ramsay also uses Swinton framed in a grocery store by a wall of canned (tamed) tomatoes as the prison that mid-life has become.

The flashback sequence was shot during the 2010 Tomatino festival with Swinton in the middle, gloriously wide-screen and slow motion. The scene ends with Swinton’s mother waking up and leaving her house to find it (and her car) splashed in red paint by her fellow citizens, as her son, possibly stewed in the resentment and frustration of the mother, has grown up to become a neurotic sociopath responsible for murdering his fellow students in a school shooting – which of course is young people splashed in a different kind of red. Nature, meet nurture. Symbolism meet irony.

Cinecast Episode 392 – Man Candy

Both of the guys were at film festivals last week. Andrew at Minneapolis Int’l Film Festival and Kurt at HotDocs. We each pick four films from the screenings and give short capsule reviews. Coincidentally enough, two picks from each of us are of the western genre. Who knew you could have a western documentary, but apparently you can have more than one. Bill S. Preston Esquire directed a doc and apparently the story of Kurt Cobain has not completely been told as Montage of Heck goes deeper and is quite excellent. Michael Fassbender (who opens the audio of the show) teams up with Kodi Smit-McPhee and Ben Mendelsohn in Slow West and Brit Marling defends her manor and her life in a post Civil War wasteland in The Keeping Room. All this and more inside. Grab a cup of bottomless java and have a listen!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 

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SPARK Animation 2013 Loads Up On Canadian Premieres! [Vancouver]

sparkanimation2013

Every year, one of the little festivals I look forward to before VIFF kicks into high gear is the SPARK Animation festival. Once hosted by Vancouver’s ACM Siggraph, the festival is now its own entity but that doesn’t mean it has lost any of the energy and passion for animation of previous years. In fact, this year’s line-up of films is proving to be one of the best the event has every put together.

The festival, which runs September 11 to 15, is best known around town for its gathering of speakers on all sorts of technical topics along with a job fair but movie fans have quite a bit to look forward to as well.

Kicking off this year’s event is a special screening, the first in North America outside D23, of the hotly anticipated Get A Horse which not only marks the return of classic Mickey but also the first time a female director has worked with Mikey Mouse. Director Lauren MacMullan will be on hand to answer questions. Opening night wraps up with the Canadian premiere of Fernando Cortizo’s beautiful, dark and rather funny The Apostle.

This year’s event will also include French film night, an evening of short collaborative animation including a screening of Marv Newland’s original Anijam, before wrapping on Sunday with a number of Japanese films, including a pair of breathtakingly beautiful titles from Miyazaki contemporary Makoto Shinkai.

Details on all the movies and talks along with ticketing information can be found at SPARK’s official website.

Festival Plug: Lincoln Festival of Japanese Culture

The Lincoln Festival of Japanese Culture is a celebration of Japanese film, music, art, food and much more. Lincoln (UK) based Blueprint: Film Foundation are putting on the event with additional funding from the Japan Society and Lincoln BIG to celebrate Japanese culture and share it with the Lincolnshire community.

The main event is being held on the 27th January at ‘The Venue’ in Bishop Grosseteste University College and will centre around the screening of 2 films, anime classic Akira and Shōhei Imamura’s groundbreaking crime-comedy-drama Pigs and Battleships (tickets now available) alongside traditional Japanese live music, martial arts demonstrations, art, food and drink. The screening of Pigs and Battleships, which will be closing the event, will also be accompanied by a talk from acclaimed Japanese cinema expert, Jasper Sharp.

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Festival Review: Celluloid Screams 2012

Last weekend I headed over to Sheffield’s premiere horror festival Celluloid Screams to check out all the wonderfully horrific offerings they had on. I’ve been the last couple of years and the festival is always great for screening new and exclusive films, tonnes of excellent shorts and a couple of classics. This year was no exception.

Here’s a list of the features I watched and my thoughts on them. I’d love to write up about all of the great shorts too, but I don’t have the time and wanted to get this up for Halloween so apologies:

Sightseers

Director: Ben Wheatley | UK | 2012

Ben Wheatley’s follow up to the excellent Kill List is very slight and a little flat at times, especially towards the end, but fun and admirably unique. Alice Lowe as Tina is the crux of the film, creating the film’s most natural and relatable character, and displays her crucial vulnerability effectively enough to make it work in amongst the quirkier and more outlandish elements. In my opinion this is Wheatley’s weakest film so far, but it’s still entertaining, original and refreshingly English.

Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut

Director: Clive Barker & Restored by Russell Cherrington | USA/UK | 1990/2012

This newly pieced together version of Clive Barker’s own adaptation of his book Cabal, created from footage found on a VHS work print, the ‘Cabal Cut’ of Nightbreed is not quite a ‘lost masterpiece’ but it’s interesting to see the painstaking work gone into restoring the film to what more closely resembles Barker’s vision. It remains an ambitious and imaginative film with a memorable villain (David Cronenberg!) but the performances are weak and the drama cheesy.

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After the Credits Episode 114: VIFF Chit Chat

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On today’s show, Colleen and I are joined by Zack Mosley, on location no less, to talk a little bit of VIFF including a few titles we’re excited about.

This is just a pre-cursor to tomorrow’s list of VIFF recommendations. In the meantime, if you still haven’t checked out the festival line-up, be sure to visit the official website.

Stay tuned for more!

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We can also be contacted via email – marina@rowthree.com!

Genre Heaven! TIFF’s Midnight Madness and Vanguard programmes Announced!

As more and more TIFF press releases roll out, I always get excited for the Vanguard and Midnight Madness sidebars as they are pretty genre heavy and often transgressive or experimental without being too arty (i.e. Wavelengths). New films from directors Barry “Wag The Dog” Levinson, Rob “Devil’s Rejects” Zombie, Michel “Eternal Sunshine” Gondry, Ben “Kill List” Wheatley, Don “Beastmaster” Coscarelli, Martin “In Bruges” McDonagh and a host of new genre directors to discover which is part of the thrill of film festivals, both large and small.

Both programmes just went live on the TIFF website, for our thirsty eyes to devour and my initial reaction is that the Midnight Madness program has a significant American focus this year. No Asian Martial Arts flicks or Miike films; no rock documentaries; gone are the Euro-horror entries as well, signaling that the French New Wave (of horror) is taking a break. And this year’s films are loaded with celebrities: Colin Farell, Chris Walken, Paul Giamatti, Lena Heady, Sam Rockwell, Karl Urban, Eli Roth, Harry Dean Stanton, Woodey Harrelson, Tom Waits, Clancy Brown and Udo Kier. That is not to say in the slightest that the content of these films will be any more wild, gruesome and world class than they always are, but it might make for a very busy red carpet this year! Also, points to anyone who can make a coherent sentence using all the evocative titles on display for Midnight.

The Vanguard Programme is even weirder and more exotic and looks to be full of discoveries. If you are doing TIFF this year, you’ll pretty much find me at every one of these films.

All titles for both programmes can be found below:

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Movies I Watched at the 65th Cannes Film Festival 2012

With the 65th Cannes Film Festival enjoying one of its most (potentially) impressive line-ups in years I was lucky enough to attend the festival this year. Due to work and financial constraints I could only make the first few days of the festival, but I still managed to squeeze in 10 films (and the last half of Project A on the beach). So to give you my thoughts on what I watched, plus to rub it in for those who weren’t there, here are capsule reviews for everything I caught.

A couple of my friends and colleagues are still there and plan to record some podcasts during the festival, so keep an eye out at Blueprint: Review for those. I recorded a couple with them last week so check those out over there too.

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Director: Tsui Hark
Screenplay: Tsui Hark
Starring: Jet Li, Xun Zhou, Kun Chen
Country: Hong Kong
Running Time: 121 min


Tsui Hark’s latest martial arts extravaganza is entertaining and handsomely mounted but rather uninspired and clumsily plotted. There are a few too many characters too and it gets a little confusing at times. It’s not as enjoyably crazy as Hark’s previous offerings either which was disappointing but it is action packed and still fun to watch. The 3D is OTT which does it favours at times, adding depth to the lavish and extravagant sets, but distracts at others with a barrage of items being thrown at the camera.

Moonrise Kingdom

Director: Wes Anderson
Screenplay: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Edward Norton
Country: USA
Running Time: 94 min


Wes Anderson’s new film is charming and enjoyable but ultimately very slight. The central romance is a little too creepy to anchor the emotional core with the kids acting like adults all the time, but Anderson’s style takes centre stage and it’s clearly lovingly crafted, making for a very pleasant and easy watch. Maybe that’s faint praise but it’s hard to come up with a better way to describe the experience. I certainly enjoyed it at least.
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DVD Review: The Festival Collection: It’s All Gone Pete Tong, I’m Not There, Control

The Festival Collection: Music

In what is easily one of the best ideas in recent months, Alliance is releasing a number of box sets today, including two of particular note.

The first is what I’m dubbing the music collection which contains Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There, Michael Dowse’s It’s All Gone Pete Tong and Anton Corbijn’s Control.

Haynes’ film is not your average, straight forward biopic but it does, in Haynes’ artistically inclined way, get at the essense of who and what Bob Dylan stands for: the every man. Be sure to check out Andrew’s video review of the film from the early days of Row Three.

Though not exactly a biopic, Michael Dowse chose to take the comedic approach to the life of Czech DJ Kristov Masalin who lost his hearing due to excessive noise levels at the clubs at which he performed but who continued to create music despite being deaf. British actor Paul Kaye brilliantly plays the role of drug addicted DJ Frankie Wilde in a film that is equal parts sad reality and drug induced dream gone wrong (complete with a bunny which is nearly as creepy as that from Donnie Darko).

The set is rounded off by Anton Corbijn’s briliant Control which recalls the short life of Joy Division front man Ian Curtis. The film, which features a number of fantastic performances including Samantha Morton as Curtis’ wife, also introduced the world to Sam Riley, a raw talent with a bright future ahead of him. Add in Corbijn’s gorgeously vivid black and white direction and you have a film that is not to be missed, even if you were never a fan of the band.

Rating for the set:

TIFF10 Initial Volley of Films

 

Here comes the 35th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival, and the line-up thus far of Galas and Special Presentations (that is code for High Profile Films) is looking quite stellar. You want new films from Stephen Frears, Mark Romanek, Darren Aronfosky, François Ozon, Kim Ji-Woon, Michael Winterbottom, Mike Leigh, Guillaume Canet, Andrew Lau, John Cameron Mitchell, Woody Allen, Sylvain Chomet, Tran Anh Hung, Danis Tanovic, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Julian Schnabel and Im Sang-Soo. Yes you do. No signs of Terrence Malick yet, but fingers crossed!

Full Press release is tucked under the seat.

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Romanian Wave continues with Cristi Puiu’s “Aurora”

Aurora Movie StillThe Romanian New Wave may have picked up steam with Cristian Mungiu’s 4 months 3 weeks and 2 days but it wasn’t the first film to come out of Romania to great acclaim. It had predecessors and one of those was Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mister Lazarescu.

Now five years later, with the wave riding high, Puiu returns to the festival circuit with a new offering. I wish I could relay what Aurora is about but the Cannes description provides only snippets and the trailer which has found its way online doesn’t provide much more than a series of disconnected images and bits of story. Sure, I could look around for reviews but I’d rather hold back for the day, likely later this year, when I have a chance to take in the three hour story Puiu has set out to tell. And it must be quite the story as Puiu has taken on the reigns completely not only writing and directing but also taking the lead role of Viorel.

What I can tell is that this film shares many of the markers of its predecessors: bleak, dark, a little miserable and the trailer suggests that it also includes moments of joy.

Trailer tucked under the seat.

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