Sam is in Cannes for the 66th Cannes Film Festival. In this first episode from Cannes, Sam has a quick chat with team Picturehouse about what their highs and lows have been from the festival so far.
We also talk to team Picturehouse about their newest acquisition from the Cannes Film Festival, Jeremy Saulnier’s fantastic BLUE RUIN.
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Frances Taylor, Office Manager at Picturehouse HQ, lends her thoughts on next week’s Discover Tuesday title SHELL.
Set in the Scottish Highlands, SHELL is the first feature film from writer-director Scott Graham.
Shell (Chloe Pirrie, Black Mirror) is 17 and works in a petrol station with Pete (Joseph Mawle, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER). He silently fixes up cars or sells them for scrap, while she fixes supper and holds his head while he has fits. She doesn’t go to school any more, and her mother has left her.
SHELL follows the ambiguous relationship between Shell and Pete as they eke out their day-to-day existence in taciturn familiarity. Their claustrophobic lives are punctuated by returning customers, such as lonely, divorced Hugh (Michael Smiley, KILL LIST) and young sawmill worker Adam (Iain De Caestecker, IN FEAR), as they slide towards an uncomfortable, unavoidable tipping point.
Pirrie gives a great performance as Shell: she is able to hold the screen without swathes of dialogue, communicating a great deal with just a look. She’s subtle and powerful, capturing Shell’s fettered, complex inner life. Her interactions with Hugh and Adam are uncomfortably awkward, with silent gaps to squirm through. Mawle is also great as conflicted and co-dependent Pete, leading his agoraphobic life against the backdrop of the expansive, open Highlands.
Shell and Pete are afraid of the future but unable to keep going in the present. Their fraught stalemate is quietly frantic with power plays and passive aggression. And yet both are sympathetic characters: while they are not always likeable, Graham doesn’t invite us to judge them, and their predicament is understandable. I found myself yearning for a happy ending for everyone – especially Adam, who is caught up in a situation he knows nothing about.
Graham’s direction is deft; he keeps his film taut, and the tension is well paced. In the bleak, barren landscape, he has an eye for detail: images such as a close-up of a dying deer, or the empty chewing-gum racks in the shop, are laden with significance without bogging them down.
SHELL is an understated, unassuming film, with beautiful cinematography and standout performances from the two leads. The plot tackles loneliness, dependence and fear of change. It’s affecting without being preachy or judgmental, and will linger long after you leave the screen.
Martin Langley, Duty Manager at the Regal Picturehouse, Henley-on-Thames writes about BEYOND THE HILLS.
From the moment Alina turns to stare back towards the Moldavian town, we can tell her reunion with childhood friend and lover Voichita will not be a smooth ride. Returning from work in Germany in an effort to entice Voichita to join her, Alina discovers her lover has left their orphanage home to join a strict orthodox monastery ‘beyond the hills’.
Alina’s elation and emotional outpouring at the station rapidly dissipate, and we immediately sense Voichita’s apprehensions that her past will encroach on her newly found faith and devotion to the church. Her concerns are vindicated as Alina’s arrival unsettles the familial relationships at the monastery, in particular with the slightly sinister Father or ‘Papa’.
What follows is a brilliantly poised tale of love to the point of obsession that makes BEYOND THE HILLS worthy of its entry for the 2013 Oscars. Romanian director Cristian Mungiu fills plot and dialogue with sufficient portent to make the final act a very tense affair indeed. The almost monochromatic colour palette perfectly depicts the sparse living conditions at the monastery as we witness the ever-increasing gulf between the two lead characters. Voichita is the model of Christian morality, taking in stray dogs, supporting the orphanage and ultimately trying to save her troubled soulmate. Alina seems hell-bent on removing the object of her desire from the monastery by any means necessary so that they can resume their lives together. As events begin to spiral out of control we are made to question the motives of both girls, the other nuns and Papa, as well as of the Church itself.
Mungiu’s film might make a perfect companion piece to 2011’s MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, though the performances here are much more subtle, without the more shocking revelations of Sean Durkin’s film. BEYOND THE HILLS is a powerful and thought-provoking examination of love, obsession and religion, set against a harsh Romanian backdrop, which will stay with audiences long after the final credits have rolled.
BEYOND THE HILLS screens on 14 May at Picturehouse cinemas.<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/61103139″>Beyond the Hills – In Cinemas & Curzon on Demand 15 March</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/artificialeye”>Artificial Eye</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Marketing manager Samantha Buttigieg writes about the Sci-Fi London Film Festival.
Hello all! My name’s Samantha, and I’m the new Marketing Manager at the Stratford, East London branch of the best independent cinemas in the land. It’s a great location, so if you haven’t already paid us a visit, don’t be afraid to come in for a chat. We’re as passionate about the arts as you are, and it’s true what they say – we are (ever so slightly) obsessed with cinema!
In this, my very first blog post, I want to tell you about Sci-Fi-London, the exciting festival of science-fiction, fantasy and fantastic film from around the world, which took up residence at Stratford Picturehouse from 30 April to 6 May.
Sci-Fi-London first moved here last year, and they’ve decided to make themselves at home, much to our delight. It’s bags of fun, and when I first found out it was coming here, I was seriously ecstatic. It’s a festival I’ve actively followed through the years – in fact I’m the Sci-Fi-London anime reviewer. Several events were also taking place at our neighbour venue, Stratford Circus, as well at the BFI, but Stratford Picturehouse was the festival’s main base.
The festival had something for everyone, with workshops, shorts and feature-length films, Q&As, all-nighters, and the infamous 48-hour filmmaking challenge, which gave filmmakers a weekend to put together a five-minute masterpiece. This year an overwhelming 180 teams successfully completed the challenge; the winners were announced during the festival, and you can watch all of the shortlisted movies on the Sci-Fi-London webpage.
The fun was kick-started by the Sci-Fi-London costume parade. Hundreds of people came, some of whom dared to don their Sunday (cosplay) best, putting together their finest and most creative alter egos, while others simply came to see the spectacular array. The costumes spanned every imaginable inch of the sci-fi spectrum, and with the 50th anniversary of Dr Who upon us, there were of course plenty of Doctors and daleks along the way. Check out our photos of the event on Facebook – and if you see yourself in there somewhere, be sure to tag yourself!
Another huge highlight was the festival’s opening night film, a preview of Neil Jordan’s highly anticipated BYZANTIUM. This is Jordan’s (INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE) return to the vampire genre with a story about two mysterious women who take refuge in a run-down coastal resort. The film goes on general release on 31 May, so if you didn’t make it to the premiere, be sure not to miss it next time – it will have you on the edge of your seat (just try not to fall off) with its remoulding of the vampire concept.
To end the festive fun, the closing film was the world premiere of DARK BY NOON, a time-travelling thriller set in an alternative 1993, when world history has taken a different course.
But my favourite part of the festival has to be its all-nighters. These late-night movie marathons are most definitely the linchpin of the festival, and have been so for the past twelve years; the fact that they’ve been running for over a decade just goes to prove the point! This year there were three parallel all-nighters to choose from, all starting late on Saturday 4 May and running until 7.00am on Sunday. The fun started early in our cosy bar, and as they headed off to catch some zzzz’s on Sunday morning, the happy insomniacs all claimed goody bags packed full of treats.
The people behind Sci-Fi-London, including the volunteers, are a very lovely bunch – and so were all of you who came. We had a brilliant time, and we can’t wait for our next dose of festival fun.
Anything but an Upright Position: Pedro Almodóvar’s I’M SO EXCITED!
By guest blogger Eduardo Féteira.
Set almost entirely on board an intercontinental flight to Mexico City, I’M SO EXCITED! returns us to an ’80s-imbued Almodóvar, and finds the auteur dusting off his funny bone and twirling along to a disco groove while raising a glass to crisis-stricken Spain. Fans hoping for another gripping thriller like THE SKIN I LIVE IN will be surprised to see Almodóvar setting aside the darker tone of his most recent films for something a little breezier. I’M SO EXCITED! is Almodóvar’s return to farce as only he knows how to do it – a response to his comedy-craving Madrileños, and to the economic and social unrest of his country.
A self-proclaimed almost-nostalgia movie with memories of a happier Spain, I’M SO EXCITED! finds its cast high on mescaline and stranded among the clouds following a malfunction of the plane’s landing gear. As it circles aimlessly through the skies waiting for a safe crash-landing spot, a sense of impending danger and unrest sets in. Almodóvar forces us aboard the plummeting flight that is the Spanish economic nightmare, dropping some less-than-subtle hints and eliciting grins of recognition from audience: the airline is named Peninsula; the Economy passengers are drugged into an almost comatose state while the Executive Class party on; there is constant media coverage of a money-laundering case; and the ironic crash site is Ciudad Real, the infamous ghost airport at the epicentre of one of Spain’s biggest construction scandals. However, rather than issue a call to arms, the director uses humour and hedonism to define his own notion of Spanish identity – a capable people whose lust for life is always greater than their problems.
Almodóvar continues to riff on his earlier comic and overstatedly theatrical tropes, subverting ideas of masculinity, gender roles and patriarchal authority. The three air stewards, played brilliantly by Javier Cámara, Carlos Areces and Raúl Arévalo, are the ultra-camp exorcism of the male ideal, corrupting the more conservative notions of family, machismo and control, as with the director’s early feature PEPI, LUCY, BOM AND OTHER GIRLS LIKE MOM. Taking charge of entertaining and ‘calming’ the passengers, the men come up with up with hilarious schemes to keep everything kind of in line, while accumulating points as mile-high members with married men.
I’M SO EXCITED! is classic Almodóvar, with its complex emotional storyline, dynamic dialogue and deep understanding of human relationships. Trapping his characters in a cage of their own fears and emotions, the director argues for change through an endorphin-induced catharsis channelled through his favourite weapons of choice. “During the flight there are three things that save each character: words, sex and alcohol,” Almodóvar declares. As we watch a sexually frustrated psychic, a sex industry mogul and a runaway businessman, among others, come to terms with their mortality, shed their notions of hierarchy and reveal their secrets, we too cross the clouds, confiding and bonding with each passenger, transforming ourselves as we leave our seats.
Eduardo Féteira is a freelance journalist and editorial assistant at Little Joe magazine. eduardofeteirapholio.wordpress.com
Little Joe is a magazine about queers and cinema, mostly.
Ben Wheatley’s A FIELD IN ENGLAND will be the first ever UK film released simultaneously in cinemas, on DVD, on TV and on VoD on Friday 5 July
Film4, Picturehouse Entertainment, 4DVD, Film4 Channel partner for day-and-date release – with support from the BFI New Models fund
In a world first, Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England will be released in nationwide cinemas, on free TV, on DVD and on Video-on-Demand on the same day – with Film4, Picturehouse Entertainment, 4DVD and Film4 Channel partnering for nationwide multi-platform distribution on Friday 5th July. The film is the first to receive funding from the BFI New Models fund, which supports experimental and ambitious release models.
The unique release will give audiences and fans of Wheatley’s previous films (DOWN TERRACE, KILL LIST, SIGHTSEERS) the choice of how and where to experience his new film – a brilliant psychedelic trip into magic and madness – whether it’s amidst an audience in the cinema, followed by a satellite Q&A with Ben and the cast; delving into multiple extras on a special edition DVD; from the comfort of the sofa showcased with a director’s intro and interview on TV; or the freedom to watch when they want on VoD. A lucky few can also follow in the footsteps of the film’s characters, with screenings planned in a field (or few) in England across the summer.
A FIELD IN ENGLAND is the first feature to be developed and fully financed through Film4’s innovation hub Film4.0, and was conceived as a film which would be funded, shot, edited and distributed in an agile and ambitious way. A digital masterclass designed to immerse audiences in the making of the film will also launch around release, developed by Film4.0 in partnership with the filmmakers. Through behind-the-scenes chats, on-set videos, and unseen rushes, Ben Wheatley, cast and key crew will take the audience on a unique journey through the creative choices that determined the final cut.
Ben Wheatley says: “It’s great to team up with Film4 to make this film and to work with new partners such as Picturehouse and 4DVD. We have tried to innovate with this film, in production and distribution. I’m very proud of the results and look forward to sharing the film with the audience.”
Anna Higgs, Film4.0 Commissioning Editor, says: “From the word go, A Field in England was a hugely original idea – you’d expect no less from Ben and Amy – so we wanted to build the project with the team in a way that was true to that. The film is a really exciting next step in the progression of Ben’s work as a director and will be something the likes of which a whole generation of audiences won’t have ever seen. I’m incredibly pleased we’ve formed this innovative partnership to take this brilliant film out to them in a truly ground-breaking way.”
Sue Bruce-Smith, Film4’s Head of Commercial and Brand Strategy, says: “Ben is undoubtedly one of our boldest, brightest and most audience savvy filmmakers and so it made complete sense to look to develop a project with him that would lend itself to this kind of daring and innovative release. We’re lucky to have found in Picturehouse Entertainment, 4DVD, the Film4 channel and BFI partners who share our vision to disrupt the status quo and experiment with new distribution patterns, to create this exciting event style release.”
Clare Binns, Director of Programming and Acquisitions at Picturehouse Entertainment, says: “We’re proud to have an intimate understanding of our audience, as are Film4, which is what makes this collaboration so exciting. Our eagerness to explore and experiment with new platforms of distribution in an evolving film landscape makes us all the more thrilled to be able to get this innovative film out there to the audience it so readily deserves. Ben Wheatley is a genuinely unique British talent and we could not be happier to be working with him on this film.”
A FIELD IN ENGLAND is written by Amy Jump and produced by Claire Jones and Andy Starke at Rook Films, with Anna Higgs Executive Producer for Film4. Protagonist Pictures are handling international sales.
More information and ticket on sale dates will be announced soon. Watch this space.