13/14 Film Schedule
Behind the Candelabra – 9th September 2013
Monday 9th September, ODEON Cinema, Andover Start time: 8:00pm
UK Release: 2013 (Cert 15)
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh
Written By: Richard LaGravenese (screenplay), Scott Thorson (book)
Starring: Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Michael Douglas and Debbie Reynolds
‘Wildly enjoyable’ – Independent
5/5 – The Telegraph
‘Huge fun’ – Financial Times
**** – Empire
‘Brilliantly acted’ – Daily Mail
When is a film not a film? As we’ve mentioned elsewhere tonight’s presentation is a made-for-tv film, it was a project originally destined for cinema but its subject and content couldn’t get the finance required from the American studio system. This and a number of other factors, the economic pressures on cinema, personal frustrations with the art of storytelling and his passion for and experimentation with new technology led to retire from film-making this year, at a cinematic level at least, and move initially to television for its ability to explore a narrative over time and also to work on other long planned projects.
This is a great pity, Soderbergh’s output over the years has covered every genre often to high praise and occasionally awards including Oscar nominations and one award. Reviews for his work of the last few years have been hugely positive and the reviews for his last film, Side Effects shown at ODEON Andover earlier this year were amongst the best of his career. This is doubly unfortunate because Soderbergh is something of a cultural reference point for the film industry.
His 1989 debut, sex, lies, and videotape — which won the Palm D’or at Cannes is considered to be the film that turned indie films, ie. Independent films made outside of the studio set-up into a viable industry itself. It was regarded so important the film was added to the United States Library of Congress’ National Film Registry being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. It was also the film that film brought its distributor Miramax and its owners the Weinstein Bros. to the fore, buoyed by the success they soon started investing commissioning in films themselves. Their vast output over the last 20 years includes The Crying Game, Reservoir Dogs, The Piano, Pulp Fiction, Muriel’s Wedding, The English Patient, Mrs. Brown, Shakespeare in Love, the Bridget Jones films, The Queen and a couple of films we’ve shown, No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood.
“He is the father of this movement,” said Harvey Weinstein. “Before him, there was no independent movie that did more than $5 million”. It made $25 million. “This was the one that went out, almost wide, in the summer — where they said these films could not play — and broke the art house ghetto.” Let’s hope that his leaving the film industry and for cinema’s sake that this is not another cultural reference point to look back on in 20 years time.
We think it’s correct to assume that not many knew what to expect on Monday night. Unfortunately Behind the Candelabra’s story ‘did not carry’ a couple of our members, one finding the atmosphere of the film ‘uncomfortable’ but they like vast majority, who enjoyed the whole evening, felt compelled to compliment the two leads, ‘Brilliant acting’, ‘Amazing’ wrote another, ‘Superb acting by main characters and cameo roles’ proffered one more. ‘Shame about the Oscars’ noted one member acknowledging its television origins would exclude it from that particular ceremony. ‘Not a fan of Michael Douglas but thought he did a great job with this subject’ proved how convincing he was throughout the piece.
This ‘Very entertaining’, ‘Lovely, brave film with wonderful music…told sympathetically’ also gained praise for its ‘Very good’ make-up as Douglas and Damon were given younger and older faces respectively before the audience’s very eyes.
The story, ‘Amusing and sad’ and ‘Treated in good taste’ took the opportunity to demonstrate the showier aspects of Liberace at any given moment, ‘Excellent sets’ opined one of our audience, ‘Costumes amazing!’ excitedly expressed another writer. Dazzling the auditorium from beginning to end it was summed up by one feedback form as ‘A suitably glittery tribute to the man.’
Wadjda – 11th November 2013
Monday 11th November, ODEON Cinema, Andover Start time: 8:00pm
UK Release: July 2013 (Cert PG)
Directed By: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Written By: Haifaa Al-Mansour (screenplay)
Starring: Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah, Abdullrahman Al Gohani
‘You’d need a heart of stone not to be won over’ – Guardian
4/5 – The Telegraph
‘A bold, heartening movie’ – FT
An alternative title for the film in several languages is The Green Bicycle and the film concerns a child and a bicycle. My apologies to anyone expecting the film to be about either a pink or a blue bike, based on our publicity posters! In doing my research I found that bicycling was a term used in the cinema in the days of Reel-to-Reel film. It was used describe the sharing of a film (usually illegally) between 2 or more cinemas. The managers concerned used to take the reels from one cinema to another normally by bike. Wadjda is not our first film where bikes and cycling comes into the theme. The club has already shown De Sica’s iconic film Bicycle Thieves from 1948 and in 2011 we showed Sarah’s Key which had harrowing scenes set in the Veledrome de Hiver in Paris early on in the film.
Tonight, however, I am going to talk about Saudi Arabia and the fact that it is remarkable that we are showing a film made in that country and by a female director from that country
Saudi Arabia is a fairly new country created out of the carve-up of the Middle East by the European powers after World War I. It is an absolute Monarchy and with Iran, unique in that the ulema (or religious leaders) have a direct role in government. In Saudi Arabia the relationship between the Royal family and the Al ash-Sheikh’s (leaders of the ulema) stretch back about 300 years, but the current King – Al Saud – is attempting to reduce their powers.
Following the prosperity brought by oil wealth from the 1950’s cinemas were becoming more common in the Kingdom until the 1970’s, although seen by the authorities as running against the tribal traditions of the country. Internal unrest caused a total shut down of all such entertainment and all cinemas were closed until a relaxation in 2005.
Female emancipation is still only a dream in Saudi Arabia, and all women need the permission of their male “guardian” to do anything. Even in 2013 it is still technically illegal for women to drive a car.
Taking the above two statements into account, I find it all the more remarkable that Haifaa Al Mansour has in 2012 been able to both write and direct this remarkable film which has won 14 awards and been nominated for 4 others. She is the first female filmmaker in Saudi Arabia and is regarded as one of the most significant cinematic figures in the Kingdom. She also won awards for the 2005 documentary Women Without Shadows, and has influenced a whole new wave of Saudi filmmakers. This in turn led to the issue of opening cinemas in the Kingdom becoming a front-page discussion. Within the Kingdom her work is both praised and vilified for encouraging discussion on topics generally considered too taboo, like tolerance, the dangers of orthodoxy, and the need for Saudis to take a critical look at their traditional and restrictive culture.
I am a passionate believer in total freedom of opportunity for all individuals, regardless of their sex; sexuality; age; race; colour and all the other “icities” that society tries to label us with. As such I am delighted that we can sit here in comfort in Andover and look forward to viewing this brave and pioneering film that has come out from such a repressed environment.
I conclude by quoting the statement made for the Don Quixote Award give to the film at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in 2012:
“The Jury is impressed by the courage of the director Haifaa Al-Mansour for formulation a desire of an Islamic society that fully accepts equal rights for men and women. Especially the young actors give the hope that Saudi Arabia will transport peacefully into a modern society.”
Enjoy the film.
‘Worth the wait’ was the abiding sentiment after Monday’s film, Wadjda. The film scored highly receiving 5/5 on the vast majority of feedback forms including a 5+ in amongst them. ‘Brilliant’, ‘Wonderful’ and ‘Thought provoking’ were a few of many compliments that filled the comment sections. ‘So natural I forgot it was a film’ replied one and ‘Well done the brave director’ wrote another. Many appreciated the point of view the film offered, ‘Very interesting to see inside a closed world’ thought one member with ‘fascinating insights into the indoors/outdoors traditional/modern contrasts’ added another with one appreciating the opportunity to see Saudi Arabia’s ‘different ‘take’ on women’s roles’.
The quiet power of the film showed through in some of the responses, ‘Shocking yet a great film’ noted a viewer, ‘A revolutionary film!’ reported another form. ‘A simple film which said a lot about the plight of women’ wrote one writer as one other found it ‘As interesting to watch Wadjda’s mother as it was her’. ‘MAY IT CHANGE’ was the most forthright view recorded on the night.
Frances Ha – 9th December 2013
Monday 9th December, ODEON Cinema, Andover Start time: 8:00pm
UK Release: July 2013 (Cert 15)
Directed By: Noah Baumbach
Written By: Noah Baumbach (screenplay), Greta Gerwig (screenplay)
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver
4/5 – Daily Mail
‘Truly Touching’ – Evening Standard
‘FRANCES HA’, A ‘MUMBLECORE’ MOVIE
An American comedy-drama about 27-year-old Frances Halladay, five years out of college, trying to define her identity, to progress in her chosen vocation as a modern dancer and attain the adulthood society expects of us.
The director/co-writer Noah Baumbach was born into a New York novelist/film critic family. He made his writing and directing debut at the age of 26 with Kicking and Screaming. A year later he was chosen as one of Newsweek’s “Ten New Faces of 1996”.
Frances Ha is his seventh film as a director, he’s written or co-written several more, winning a number of awards for both directing and writing. He’s influenced by French new wave cinema and by the Woody Allen- style black and white film. He seems to prefer subjects that are close to him, and that he’s familiar with, autobiographical – themes involving growing up, parents getting divorced, and the East Coast Elite, and he especially likes exploring crisis points in people’s lives. He must be feeling better about himself these days as this film has a much lighter, more playful note than some of his earlier films.
Baumbach tries to show people as they really are, – real people in real settings, warts and all. Doesn’t try to make them lovable and maybe that’s probably why the audience empathises with his characters and loves them. Uses speech just as it’s spoken – dialogue (probably?) carefully crafted to appear to be just the opposite, i.e. totally spontaneous with broken bits of dialogue and everyday expressions. Even the title of the film (Frances Ha) isn’t complete…is this a reflection of Frances’ sense of humour (ha, ha), or is it symbolic of her not being complete and grown up yet..?
Baumbach’s co-writer and lead actress is Greta Gerwig, an American actress and filmmaker with no background in Hollywood, television or the professional theatre. With an early interest in dance, she originally intended to become a playwright. While still studying English and philosophy she was cast in a minor role in Joe Swanberg’s LOL in 2006. She’s been in 20 films since then and she has co-written 4 of them.
Both Gerwig and Baumbach are associated with a fairly recent film genre called ‘mumblecore’. It’s characterised by being low budget (often using non-professional actors), naturalistic, heavy on dialogue and improvisation.
Gerwig’s dialogue stumbles and mumbles – she doesn’t finish her sentences – and comes across as disarmingly real. In real life she stumbled into Noah Baumbach’s field of vision in his 2010 movie Greenberg. She was cast in a supporting role but her presence came to dominate the finished film. Maybe it was because they good for each other, because since then Gerwig and Baumbach have become a couple, both professionally and in private life.
An aspect that I like about this film is that it doesn’t portray Frances Halladay as a stereotypical heroine. It’s not about her relationship with a bloke, or about her achieving a major goal in life. It’s just about the stuff that happens.
So the film isn’t so much a narrative, as a series of very sensitively observed scenes. The filming of Frances revisiting her family in California was actually shot with her own family. This isn’t Hollywood, this is real, or so cleverly crafted that we identify with it as being totally authentic. It’s ‘mumblecore’ at its best.
Frances Ha danced (to the untrained eye not particularly) gracefully onto the screen on Monday but this ‘zesty and fun’ film won the majority of the audience over, the ‘very refreshing’ and ‘interesting and quirky’ style led to plenty high scores being offered with its approach bring back memories ‘of French films of the 50’s.’ ‘Stunning’ added another. A couple of viewers found it ‘slow to begin’ and with a ‘messy beginning to the straight road’ but both eventually marked it 4/5.
There were some who totally disagreed, one commentator found the black and white filming ‘visually unappealing’ and the film ‘quite boring but the characters very believable’ as another viewer questioned their membership whilst giving the film 0 marks such was their dislike.
The ‘very watchable’ main actress and ‘inspired cinematography’ pleased plenty of others though, the ‘real life reflections’ were ‘moving on so many levels’ as the director ‘portrayed his characters as real people and not stereotypes!’ leading one visitor to ‘identify with it in a happy sort of way!’ For one member it was one of the ‘best screenings yet’ as another stated it had ‘instantly shot into my top 10 of 2013’. For most, a great way to end the year.
Le Week-End – 13th January 2014
Monday 13th January, ODEON Cinema, Andover Start time: 8:00pm
UK Release: October 2013 (cert 15)
Directed By: Roger Michell
Written By: Hanif Kureishi
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan
‘A small, perfectly formed triumph’ 5/5 – FT
4/5 – Daily Mail
Tonight’s film, Le Week-end, is a British production released last year (2013). Its reviews can best be described as favourable but not ecstatic. Although generally categorised as a comedy-drama, these reviews indicate that it’s more drama than comedy. In the press release for the Andover Advertiser, having not seen the movie, I shied away from a firm categorisation and called it “bittersweet”.
Le Week-end is the tale of a middle-aged couple who return to the place of their honeymoon, Paris, in a bid to rejuvenate their marriage. A number of reviewers suggest that some members of the audience may find it uncomfortably realistic!
The film is the fourth collaboration between director Roger Michell and writer Hanif Kureishi. They make an interesting pair.
Michell was born in South Africa and had somewhat of a peripatetic childhood as a consequence of his father being a diplomat. After time spent in Syria, the Lebanon, Czechoslovakia and many other places, he ended up at Cambridge University. After finishing his formal education in the 1970s he worked in the theatre, including spells as a no doubt very minor assistant to the thespian giants John Osborne and Samuel Beckett.
In the 1990s he switched his attention to TV and film, and on the former his breakthrough came with Kureishi’s Buddha of Suburbia in 1993. In film he came to the fore with the smash hit Notting Hill in 1999.
Since then he has met with mixed success, perhaps being more notable for the films he hasn’t directed. He was scheduled to direct Captain Corelli’s Mandolin in 2001, but had to withdraw due to ill health. Later he was in negotiation to direct the 2008 Bond movie Quantum of Solace, but withdrew for “artistic reasons”, ostensibly because there was no script, much to his financial detriment no doubt.
The writer Hanif Kureishi is another interesting character. He has produced short stories and novels, and written for TV, stage and screen. The Times has put him in their list of the top 50 post-war British writers.
He was born in London, the son of a Pakistani father and British mother. His father was a wealthy man who moved to the UK when India was partitioned at the time of independence in 1947. Despite this respectable background (or perhaps in reaction against it) Kureishi started out writing pornography under the name Antonia French.
These factors have been threads throughout his career. A significant number of his works have been studies of sexual relationships, most notably perhaps the novel Intimacy, which was adapted into a notoriously explicit film in 2001. Regarding his background, he has drawn criticism from relatives who say that, despite coming from an “old immigrant” wealthy family, he has tried to present himself as representing more recent, working class Asian immigrants, and in doing so denying his family roots. In voicing these criticisms they probably have in mind the aforementioned Buddha of Suburbia and his 1985 film My Beautiful Laundrette.
Finally a word about the two lead actors playing the couple, Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan. Their careers have followed similar paths: both graduated from drama school in the early 1970s and both have been working ever since, in TV, film and on stage. They have essentially worked their way up the ladder and become true exponents of acting as a craft. It would be tedious to detail all of their work. Suffice to say that Broadbent has appeared in 75 films and TV productions, and Duncan in 78, and this of course excludes their large body of work on the stage.
One example serves to illustrate how far they have worked their way up. Lindsay Duncan’s first TV appearance was in an episode of the famously bawdy 1970s TV series Up Pompeii, in which she played a woman of loose morals called “Scrubba”. I have been unable to ascertain whether the script was an early work by one Antonia French.
Time now to see the film!
Le Week-End was enjoyed by all save a couple of negative responses. Comments such as ‘Superb!’ and ‘Amazing’ prevailed with even a ‘Bizarre’ recorded, noting the film was ‘certainly different’ also offering 4 marks out of 5 as did almost all of the audience. The majority of comments were about the acting, ‘Excellent casting’, ‘Great acting by both’, ‘Superb acting!’ with some viewers expanding their responses by adding ‘Comedic and sad and edgy at the same time… ..sardonic’ and ‘Fun, crazy, mad and a little bit truthful!!’ and ‘A good lesson on how love can grow old!’
It was ‘Quite a dark film’ and with ‘Little humour’ for one and left someone else with ‘Mixed emotions’. One viewer went further and found the ‘Bleak, selfish, self-obsessed’ Meg off-putting, exhibiting ‘shallow behaviour’, believing ‘Life is what you make it’ 2/5. For the most part ‘the humour well derived from the believable dialogue’ left the vast majority of the auditorium ‘hoping it would work out!’
Blue Jasmine – 10th February 2014
Monday 10th February, ODEON Cinema, Andover, Start time: 8:00pm
UK Release: September 2013 (cert 12A)
Directed By: Woody Allen
Written By: Woody Allen
Starring: Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett, Louis C.K., Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg
‘Blanchett excels’ 4/5 – Telegraph
***** – Guardian
5/5 – Independent
‘A miraculous performance’ 5/5 – Daily Mail
Monday’s Blue Jasmine was well received by most, some had reservations though and some of the praise was tempered by the darker aspects of the story. ‘A classic piece of Allen’ wrote one, ‘Really good Woody Allen!’ offered another. ‘Brilliant’ and ‘Glad I saw it!’ were noted. The music was given a couple of mentions too but it was Cate Blanchett’s performance that garnered the most praise though, ‘Amazing performance from a ‘fallen’ Cate’ said a member, ‘Excellent performance’ and ‘Great acting’ followed whilst two viewers were left talking about ‘the similarity’ of Jasmine ‘and the lead in A Streetcar Named Desire’.
Alongside compliments some felt the material difficult, ‘Always uncomfortable’ thought one, ‘Fraught as expected’ recorded another and ‘Grim story – anything but uplifting!’ wrote one adding ‘Off to slit my throat now!!’ It was considered ‘Not the sort of film I want to watch’ by one member and even ‘Loathsome’ by another yet they couldn’t deny that Blanchett was ‘Brilliant’.
Nebraska – 10th March 2014
Monday 10th March, ODEON Cinema, Andover, Start time: 8:00pm
UK Release: December 2013 (cert 15)
Directed By: Alexander Payne
Written By: Bob Nelson
Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach
‘Absolutely enchanting’ 4/5 – Standard
5/5 – Independent
‘Dern is wonderful’ – Total Film
4/5 – Daily Telegraph
Alexander Payne worked in various capacities in film and television before he wrote and directed his first full-length film, Citizen Ruth in 1996. 5 out of 6 films that he’s made have been nominated for Oscars including Nebraska, Citizen Ruth being the odd one out. He’s won two, firstly in 2005 for Best Adapted Screenplay for Sideways and he also won the same award for The Descendants in 2011.
Payne was born in Omaha, Nebraska and has set many of his films there reinforcing the sense of place by using all manner of historical landmarks and local museums in his films, with a hands-off approach with his cast he tends to use non-actors for minor roles (real police play police, real teachers play teachers) to keep a sense of reality within the make-up of the film. “Sentimentality is a dirty word to me” he’s said in the past, he strives for the adult commercial American film inspired by 1970s cinema “where acting style more approximates real life and is relatively free of contrivance and device.” His films with their dark humour and satirical depictions have a sense of the absurd about them too, he says, “As dialogue-driven as my films may be, I’m only ever really thinking about silent comedy, and so I like to see figures in space and shoot them full-frame, as Chaplin was shot. I like a cinema of walk and gesture.” And if you go back and watch The Descendants there does seem to be an element of truth in that. Nebraska allowed him to indulge his interests a little further, “I’ve always wanted to make a film in black and white, and really it left our cinema because of commercial not artistic reasons.” “This modest, austere story seemed to lend itself to being made in black and white.”
The script, that for once he hasn’t written himself has been in his possession for nine years and the delay in making it, he didn’t want to make another road movie immediately after Sideways, has for some unintentionally made Nebraska a film for its time. He said. Although essentially a Father and son story Payne says “It has become sort of a depression-era film – as though you’re treating the modern day like the Thirties. That was interesting to witness and to be a part of. Are we seeing it enough? Probably not. Poverty isn’t written about, or desolation is not written about – or at least not in the mainstream press or the mainstream arts. Some has been written about how we do not have chroniclers of everyday people whose lives have been affected – at least in America. That wasn’t my goal – I was just making a movie – but it’s in there.”
Our visit to the state of Nebraska returned with many, many positive comments, 5/5 making up the bulk of points awarded. ‘Outstanding film’, ‘The sweetest movie ever! A masterpiece’, ‘Wonderfully observed’ and ‘Beautifully made’ said a selection of the forms. ‘An excellent view of the other America’ thought one, ‘Pathos and bathos aplenty. Wow. A keeper’, wrote another, ‘Makes you see trivial details with new eyes’ recorded one member adding ‘So glad I don’t live there’. The cast gained many plaudits, ‘Wonderful’, ‘Excellent acting’ and the characterisations were recognised too, ‘David & Ross were wonderful people’ felt one with another viewer greatly interested ‘To see a son’s empathy for his Father’s ageing situation’.
The audience enjoyed the black and white aspect too, the film was ‘Enhanced’ for one individual by it, ‘Beautiful landscapes and photography’ acclaimed another writer though someone did feel the choice between black and white ‘Irrelevant’.
Largely though the audience took home the feeling it was ‘A caring film’, one that was ‘Infinitely sad and true to life’ and ‘Swamped in believability’. Beyond ‘Some melancholy depressing moments beautifully relayed’ another writer ‘Hope that one day my sons will do the same for me’.
All Is Lost – 14th April 2014
Monday 14th April, ODEON Cinema, Andover, Start time: 8:00pm
UK Release: December 2013 (cert 12A)
Directed By: J. C. Chandor
Written By: J. C. Chandor
Starring: Robert Redford
‘A bold, gripping thriller’ – The Guardian
4/5 – Total Film
‘Engrossing’ – Independent
4/5 – Daily Telegraph
Tonight’s film, made in 2013, is absolutely focussed on a story of one man facing the elements, in this case the sea. That one man is played by the now veteran actor Robert Redford, and my comments on the film are most easily made in the context of his life and career.
Redford, now aged 77, was born between the wars in California. His parents had come west no doubt in search of a better life, as so many Americans did at that time.
Redford started out in TV, where he played smaller roles in a number of series well known in the UK in the sixties, such as Perry Mason, Dr. Kildare and The Untouchables. He made his film debut in a now little known 1962 movie set in the Korean War called War Hunt. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this production was that it drew criticism from the US military on the grounds that it was “too gruesome to be in good taste”, which appears somewhat ironic to this writer!
Redford’s big breakthrough came in 1963 not on screen but on the stage through his success in the long-running Broadway hit Barefoot in the Park. This gave him a much higher public profile, and his film career took off, subsequently including hits such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969, and The Sting in 1973.
Action and fitness
It is interesting to note that during this period, in 1972, he made a movie called Jeremiah Johnson, a major thread of the story being the struggle of a man against the elements, in this case the Utah mountains in the American West rather than the sea. In that movie Redford, then aged 36, performed all the action himself. Now, 41 years on at the age of 77 and in his 38th he once again performed all the action himself in All Is Lost. Tonight’s film was shot mainly in Mexico, in the facility used to make Titanic. The director, J C Chandor, was keen to have the actor perform all the action, and not have “cheating” as he put it. Hence he settled on Redford for the part as he was considered to be one of the very few actors of his age capable of the necessary exertion, as opposed to others such as Clint Eastwood.
Environmental interests and their impact
Going back to Utah, at an early stage in his career Redford developed a passion for wilderness, and that of the American West in particular, and became a very active environmentalist. Over the years he has narrated 25 documentaries, mostly with an environmental theme. In the late sixties he used the proceeds from his burgeoning film career to purchase a Utah ski resort called Timp Haven, and he renamed it Sundance after his role in “Butch Cassidy”. He had an esoteric sixties-style vision for the area as a “community devoted to the balance of art, nature and recreation”. Later on, in 1980, this vision took tangible form when the Sundance Institute was founded, which has grown to provide a whole support infrastructure for independent film making. Later still in the mid-80s the Institute took over an existing festival called the US Film Festival, renamed it the Sundance Festival and grew it into the major event we know today, complete with international offshoots. This brings us to a link with tonight’s movie, and its director J C Chandor. This is only his second film. His first, made in 2011, was Margin Call, a story around the contemporary financial crisis, and this premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
Redford’s career as director
Finally a word about Redford’s own directing career. This has encompassed nine films, the most successful of these being the first, Ordinary People in 1980, for which he won the Best Director Oscar. Since then the movies he has directed have received much more mixed reviews, as indeed have some of his acting roles. In reviewing tonight’s film, some of the perhaps more fanciful critics have seen a metaphor for Redford himself struggling against a declining career and indeed his age. I am personally always sceptical of such metaphors, tending to view them as a way for reviewers to fill up column inches. However, we’ll now get a chance to make our own minds up whether there are such subtleties, or whether it is more simply a virtuoso acting performance.
The audience at Cannes gave it a standing ovation- time now for us to see the film!
We were all swept by Monday’s All is Lost, it gained 4’s and 5’s on all the forms returned, they were followed up with reactions such as ‘Wow’, ‘Terrific’ and ‘Gripping all the way’. Admittedly ‘There wasn’t a lot of laughs in there’ in the midst of the rain and storms and it was ‘Gruelling to watch but worthwhile’ and as the film progressed all ‘wanted to see him succeed’ against the odds.
Robert Redford’s performance was complimented highly, his ‘acting was so quiet and compelling amidst the turbulence of the situation’ thought one and another ‘could feel Redford’s desperation building’. There was virtually no dialogue in the film which the audience liked, a viewer ‘found the lack of voice dialogue incredibly refreshing’ and and one writer, when it was used ‘Liked the use of one swear word!’
This ‘Edge-of-the-seat’ tale convinced one filmgoer to ‘Never go sailing with R. Redford’ but the impact and the drama will stay with the audience for a while to come. ‘Thank you and the Odeon for the opportunity to see this great film where it should be seen – on the Big Screen.’
Inside Llewyn Davis – 12th May 2014
Monday 12th May, ODEON Cinema, Andover, Start time: 8:00pm
UK Release: 24th January 2014 (cert 15)
Directed By: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Written By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake
‘Enigmatic, exhilarating, irresistible’ – The Telegraph
‘Stroke of genius’ – Uncut
‘Beautiful, heartfelt and utterly enthralling’ – Empire
Inside Llewyn Davis received a range of responses, more favourable than not, just. ‘Pure genius’, ‘Brilliant’, ‘An absolute winner for the music!’ and ‘Very enjoyable’ wrote some of the audience whereas others felt it was ‘A gloomy film’ and ‘Nice enough but didn’t hold my attention like other Coen Brothers films’. Some felt the ‘Foul language’ detracted and that there was ‘too much crude language’ for them to enjoy the film.
No one though could deny the ‘Brilliant lead actor’, Oscar Isaac, and his ‘Good Voice’ or even the ‘Good cat’ and his character (Llewyn Davis) also divided opinion, ‘If Llewyn wasn’t as funny as he was then he would have been almost insufferable’ thought one viewer whilst another ‘Engaged’ with him and ‘Wanted him to cope with life’. The ending left Llewyn with either ‘Lessons learned!’ or a ‘Depressing loop’ depending on your point of view and although it was a ‘Bleak story’ with ‘Dark humour’ it was for most ‘Funny just when it needed to be.’
Dallas Buyers Club – 9th June 2014
Monday 9th June, ODEON Cinema, Andover, Start time: 8:00pm
UK Release: 7th February 2014 (cert 15)
Directed By: Jean-Marc Vallée
Written By: Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto
‘Terrific performances’ – Observer
‘Zesty and memorable’ – Telegraph
‘A rousing tale of perseverance’ – Daily Mail
Tonight’s film has taken a long time to get onto the screen, the subject matter is not one that Hollywood has wanted to engage with up until recently and it most likely became a forgotten project for many because of it.
After reading an article about the main character, Ron Woodroof, the screenwriter Craig Borten thought it “would make a great movie” and met with Woodroof recording 25 hours worth of material to form the basis of the film. That was back in 1992 and the struggle to turn it into a film began. The script was bought up fairly quickly and then the problems began as concerns for the material and the tone of the film was found difficult to combine, Dennis Hopper was set to direct with Matthew McConaughey’s good friend Woody Harrelson taking the lead role during the mid-90s but eventually it stalled. The project was then taken up by Marc Forster who had just completed the Oscar winning Monster’s Ball and brought Brad Pitt on board but that too stalled, staying dormant for another 8 years. After Ryan Gosling was briefly attached the script reverted to the original writer back in 2009. Those that had read the script and still had faith in it spent the next two and a half years raising the funding fully aware that because it had been around so long that not many would want to be associated with a film that couldn’t get off the ground and had a story that was believed to be uncommercial.
After scrabbling around filming was finally due to begin in October 2012 but the $8million budget collapsed with 8 weeks to go. Matthew McConaughey had already lost 35 pounds and said “I’m showing up in November to shoot this movie and you’d better have the money.” A Houston-based fertiliser manufacturer provided funding at the last minute though not as much as had been promised before and a shooting schedule of 45 days was cut to 25, there were to be no multiple takes, no tripods or lighting equipment, just the basics required. The producers, keen to see how the film was progressing, wanted to travel to the set but couldn’t find it and didn’t even know where they were was such was the speed of the filming process.
One of the reviews for the film said it was ‘A rousing tale of perseverance’, that sounds as appropriate for what happened off screen as well as what we’ll hopefully see on-screen….
Members of the audience responded to Dallas Buyers Club by writing that it was ‘Shocking’, ‘Hard hitting’, ‘Absorbing’ and Thought provoking’ ‘interesting topic’ and all were backed up with 5/5’s as were many other forms returned. ‘A brave film’ wrote another continuing ‘what a great shame it hadn’t been able to be made all those years ago when it could have influenced opinion.’ This ‘Excellent’ and ‘wonderfully powerful’ film was ‘hard to watch’ which was a view shared by a number but in a positive way.
There was a note about it being ‘Inaudible in parts’ and one viewer who felt ‘The star was such an objectionable personality that it spoilt the film… …however the message was good’. but the more commonly held view was that ‘McConaughey was mesmerising’, winning a ‘well deserved Oscar’ and the ‘amazing acting’ from the ‘good supporting cast’ led to a ‘moving and tremendously real’ film viewing experience for the vast majority.
Calvary – 14th July 2014
Monday 14th July, ODEON Cinema, Andover, Start time: 8:00pm
UK Release: 11th April 2014 (cert 15)
Directed By: John Michael McDonagh
Written By: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly
‘Gripping, moving, funny and troubling’ – Empire
‘Exhilarating’ – Guardian
‘Gleeson is a… ..treat to watch’ – Standard
An ‘Outstanding view on Human nature! God Bless!’ led the praise for Calvary for which there was much. ‘Very poignant’, Excellent!’, ‘Amazing acting’ and ‘Brilliant scenery’ encompassed many of the responses, ‘Oscars??’ demanded one viewer requesting the Academy take note. The darker elements were noted also, ‘Intense, gripping’, ‘Shocking’ and ‘Moving’, ‘Loved the film, not the ending’ was a view shared but all were backed nonetheless with 5/5’s. One viewer compared it to Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road, feeling it was ‘Slightly less dark but as poignant’.
A couple of members found it ‘Bleak’ and ‘A sad film… I found no humour in it…. I’ve just about had it with all the child abuse stuff.’ The other writer ‘Did not like the 3 roles for women, all glamour doe eyed characters’ before both awarded it 2/5. The majority found much more to like, ‘Absorbing, satisfyingly different and thought-provoking’ as ‘Such beautiful natural surroundings contrasted with such unhappy people’. A lay minister in the audience thought ‘It was the best exploration of Christianity in modern life shown through film that he had seen’ and the film was thought ‘Appropriately funny’ with ‘Just the right level of understatement’ by many as the final scene ‘….stopped the film’s message being utterly bleak and cynical.’ A request was made for ‘More of films of this quality please’.