Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Image: Marvel

Three years ago Marvel Studios unleashed the poodle that was Captain America: The First Avenger. Gentle, loyal, sophisticated but a bit of bore, The First Avenger proved to be the weakest among the studios’ top dogs. Thor’s hammer produced a hit, we couldn’t get enough of Iron Man, and records were broken when the Avengers assembled, and so, naturally, The Captain had some catching up to do. Fast forward a few years, a tepid Thor (The Dark World) and a mediocre Iron Man 3 and we have Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel’s strongest foray since The Avengers.

Picking up after The Avengers, The Winter Soldier follows Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as he continues to adapt to life in modern America. However, it’s not long before he’s back doing what he does best as he finds himself on the hunt for a masked soldier and answers to questions about S.H.I.E.L.D..

While the capabilities of Rogers haven’t changed much: he’s still, ultimately, a regular guy with artificially enhanced biceps, strength and speed, just running around with a star-spangled shield, the action sequences move much faster in this instalment and the effects do give The Captain a Spidey-like quality as he leaps and swings from tall buildings and takes out bad guys with his fists.

Evans is joined on his mission by Scarlett Johansson, whose Black Widow adds sparkle to a previously dull franchise and proves that, in this case, a partnership is so much better than none as she spars nicely with her leading man and helps give his character some depth and a heart that we actually care about. Anthony Mackie is also on hand to help fight evil as Hancock ex-paratrooper-turned-superhero The Falcon. His presence isn't felt as strongly as Johansson's, but he does good work in his silver suit, and it's pleasant and fitting to see Captain America represent America.

Up until now, audiences (or I) have wondered what makes this man the leader of such a gifted pack, but a solid, mature and entertaining script (although predictable), great performances from the cast, and the ideologies behind the war front demonstrate why The Captain could emerge, surprisingly, to be the superior of them all.



Monday, 24 February 2014

Nymphomaniac: Volume II (2014)

The second half of the abridged, two-part cinema release version of Lars Von Trier’s latest work is sillier than the first, requiring disbelief to be suspended from the get go, and shoots off in various disparate directions, but just about manages to keep a sense of cohesion.

The set-up is as before, with Charlotte Gainsbourg’s Joe (the titular nymphomaniac) telling the wild, improbable and very, very NSFW story of her life to Stellan Skarsgård’s passive Seligman. This time we learn rather more about both parties, as these two develop their own relationship quite unlike anything Joe has experienced before.

The stories told are somewhat familiar in tone, though they are certainly not wanting for shock value. In one particular scene, Von Trier frames Charlotte Gainsbourg with a pair of big black penises, while another has young British national treasure Jamie Bell repeatedly punching Gainsbourg across the face, something which elicited a highly inappropriate but probably entirely expected guffaw.

The ludicrous nature of many of the tales told is not shied away from, such as in the scene where Stacy Martin’s coquettish younger Joe seems to draw an entire traffic jam’s worth of male drivers into her sexual maelstrom. Fohnhouse favourite Udo Kier makes his usual appearance for a short comedy scene – whatever your understanding of the game of ‘spoons’ is, it probably is not the same as that which is played here.

Von Trier plays with a trashier aesthetic in this one – it’s all threesomes and surprise lesbianism and gun-toting femme fatales. Willem Defoe appears as a devious crime lord in the concluding tale which sees Joe transform into a heavy for the mob, using her sexual powers as a weapon. As usual, you get the impression that Von Trier is daring you to call bullshit on the whole affair, never more so than in the scene in which Joe finds her ‘soul tree’.

By the time Joe’s past catches up with her future, the magic realism aspect of the film has taken hold, as everything ties together perfectly. The alley in which Seligman found Joe, a Von Trier nowhere place, turns out to be an even more potent space, a literal channel between Joe’s past and present, and even her future. Just where on Earth is this film supposed to be set anyway? Von Trier continues to explore themes he has touched on before, with this magical aspect taken from Melancholia (amongst others), a recreation of the opening of Antichrist (with a happier outcome) and the injection of an element of crime. 

The final moments of the film are rather too predictable, but not unfaithful to what has come before. Von Trier wants to deconstruct human relationships, to reduce everything that we are and do. In some ways we are all of us Joe, damaged by human interaction, but in others we are Seligman, isolated and alone, bound by the theoretical and the terrifying possibility of life. That these two poles must repel is not a surprise, and the film ends with a suitably final rupture.

The bitty nature of this review reflects the fractured form and themes of the work itself. Do I give it five out of five for sheer audacity, or punish the deliberately silly bits? Do I praise the beauty of many of the shots or decry their lack of real meaning. I don’t know. I will probably never know. I gave Melancholia 4/5 because it touched me despite its imperfections. Let’s give Nymphomaniac the same. But it really must be seen to be judged.

Come back soon, Mr Von Trier. Make a children’s film. Do something to really scare us. Just please never get boring – we need filmmakers like you.



Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Dario Argento's Dracula 3D (2012)

Dario Argento used to be a brilliant director. Between 1970 and 1987 he had, in my opinion, a pretty-much unbroken run of wonderful, quirky, scary and beautiful horror films. These included Deep Red, Suspiria (my favourite film in all the world), Phenomena, Tenebrae and Opera. He has continued making films since then, but the quality has been in fairly steady decline. Once or twice his magic has resurfaced, notably in the first half of 2001’s Sleepless and his television work (two episodes of Masters of Horror and fun TV movie Do You Like Hitchcock?), but most people have given up on him ever making something to match his earlier output. Indeed, his last feature film, Giallo, was a terrible mess that seemed to have signalled his final, irredeemable fall. Now Argento is back, with a 3D adaptation of Dracula. Is this the return to form that I and many others have been hoping against hope for? No, unfortunately not. It does, however, show a marked improvement over Giallo.

Two things have particularly scuppered Argento’s recent films – bad writing and bad special effects. Here he has some pretty decent source material, so you might think this first issue wouldn’t be a problem. Well, not exactly. Sadly, instead of going for a straight adaptation, or even a riff on another cinematic take on the novel, Argento and his co-scenarists seem to have gone for broke and tried to create something new from the pieces of many different versions of the story. It gets very messy.

There are one or two interesting ideas in the mix, notably the inclusion of a jealous mistress for Dracula and the addition of a subplot which sees Dracula as a naughty lord of the manor, enjoying bloody droit du seigneur much to the chagrin of the townsfolk. Sadly, both of these potentially rich avenues are (quite literally) cut off before being fully explored. By the time the film reaches its conclusion it has settled on being another version of the resurrected lover storyline (does James V Hart get credit for this or not?), but there is no effort put in to making us feel anything for either party.

Dracula adaptations live and die on the strength of their leading man, and Thomas Kretschmann actually does a fairly good job here. Unfortunately, his performance is diminished by the muddled story. While he is highly effective as a pale, distantly-glimpsed wraith, as well as as a sarcastic and bloodthirsty fiend, he just doesn’t convince as the ‘false note in a divine symphony’ which Dracula at one point claims to be. This is mostly because the film only foists this role onto him in the final act. He valiantly tries to make it work, but time and cheesy special effects are against him.

Yes. Those ‘special effects’. I don’t know what possessed Argento to turn Dracula into a giant CGI praying mantis, but it was surely a fouler fiend than any to be found in this film. It isn’t even the (admittedly ludicrous) concept, or even the naff graphics. It’s the colour. There really isn’t anything scary about a glowing green mantis. Perhaps if it had been left in the shadows, its bent form in semi-darkness (as in a memorable early episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), it might have come off, but as it is it is stupidly incongruous. The opening shot is also a foolish mistake. Argento was once the king of the roving camera, creeping over houses and trees and swooping around opera houses, but here the film starts with flight around a rubbish CGI town that reminded me of a Windows 95 screensaver.

Big name guest star Rutger Hauer as Van Helsing is all business, with none of the theatricals of Sir Anthony Hopkins or the quirk of Edward Van Sloane. While he might well have been doing it for the paycheque, Hauer phones it in like nobody else, and brings appropriate gravitas to the role. Once again, though, the story is against him. We don’t understand anything of his history with Dracula, bar one flashback which poses more questions than it answers, so their final confrontation doesn’t carry the weight that it should. Dracula addressing him by his first name, rather than suggesting intimacy, simply sounds out of character for someone otherwise so impeccably polite.

Character interaction is certainly one of the biggest flaws here. Something Argento has always done well is pairings – from Karl Malden and James Franciscus in Cat O’Nine Tails to Max Von Sydow and his parrot in Sleepless, via David Hemmings and Dario Nicolodi in Deep Red. Here there are a good number of pairings promised – Dracula and Jonathan, Lucy and Mina, Dracula's mistress Tanja and Renfield, Van Helsing and the priest – but none of them come to anything.

Overlook its many faults, however, and Dracula offers some enjoyable morsels. While the acting is patchy, this is nothing new for Argento, and nobody is as bad as Adrien Brody in Giallo. One or two of the lines are nicely powerful, though perhaps unwittingly so. Tanja’s quiet ‘I’m not quite sure what I am’ suggests that she could have been one of the more interesting characters in the film if more care had been taken with the script. There are moments which show Argento’s eye for composition; a quick flash of red reminding us that he used to be the greatest director of colour. A brutal massacre livens things up and allows for some nicely old school gore, cheap but effective, while a dream sequence is actually quite unsettling.

It isn’t going to gain Argento any new followers, but Dracula has rekindled the hope in my heart that with the right script Argento might still bring us a film worthy to stand near, if not quite beside, his early masterpieces.



Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Nymphomaniac: Volume 1 (2014)

What to do if you are Lars Von Trier? Antichrist got people up in arms back in 2009, with its penetration, genital mutilation and (for some) questionable gender politics. Then Melancholia, a far gentler film, was overshadowed by his bizarre outburst at Cannes that year (calm down, Lars!). Named festival persona non grata and refusing to give any more interviews, it seemed unsurprising that his next work announced was a hardcore pornographic film. I mean, why not?

What is perhaps surprising, then, is how soft this film feels. While there is no end of naked flesh on show, the literary framing device renders it all somehow palatable, even banal. Bookish loner Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) finds Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) lying bleeding in the snow and takes her in. In order to help him understand what happened, Joe tells him the story of her life, revolving around her nymphomania, desperate to make him see her as a bad person.

This marks Von Trier’s third collaboration with Gainsbourg, and the magical number three is everywhere in evidence. From the diegetic references to the devil’s note, or tritone, and ménage à trois, to the three poundings which remove titular nymph(o) Joe’s virginity. There are actually five more, but five seems to be a fausse piste…unless three is the fausse piste and none of it means anything. More important, though, is the trinity formed around the story through narrative, narration and narrator.

There is Von Trier in Skarsgård’s passive listener, trying to promote a philosophy of ‘if you have wings, why not fly?’ but finding himself increasingly shocked by Joe’s revelations. He even gets in a little dig at those who don’t differentiate between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

As the storyteller, Gainsbourg gets little to do, but is still the perfect mouthpiece for Von Trier’s oddly jarring dialogue. Playing teenage Joe, British actress Stacy Martin gets more meaty stuff: she impresses both on her own merits but also in convincingly playing a young Gainsbourg.

Other actors don’t get much to work with and have varying degrees of success. Shia LaBeouf looks the part, but his English accent is fairly dire. Christian Slater’s is better, and his small role is quite touching. Best of the guests is Uma Thurman, absolutely wonderful as a cuckolded wife in a scene which veers between hilarious and horrible, dark and silly.

Elsewhere, this feels like a celebration of Von Trier’s interests – we have a voyage through his favourite cinematic landscapes: the hospital; the damp, oppressive non-spaces; the forest. We have extremes of emotion played out in microcosm. Everything is just that little bit abnormal. A scene of sexual adventure on a train is somehow haunting, as all his best work is.

The film here reviewed is the first part of the four hour, two-part cut, which is being released in cinemas (eventually we will get Von Trier’s five-hour version, complete with extra hardcore scenes). In this version, there is a cliffhanger that leaves us – like Seligman, like Joe herself, even – desperate to find out what happens next. I don’t feel able to give a score to a film as yet unfinished. I want to know how it ends.


Monday, 27 January 2014

Much Ado About Nothing (Beaucoup de bruit pour rien) (2013)

I have to admit that going into this film I was not expecting to like it. I simply dislike modern day Shakespeare adaptations that keep the language. Updating the stories is great, and gives us films like 10 Things I Hate About You, but keeping the old time dialogue always jars for me. I hated Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. I have also been falling steadily out of love with Joss Whedon over the past few years. I enjoyed some of Dollhouse, but it wasn’t in the same league as his previous shows. I found The Cabin in the Woods funny but unoriginal, just a good beer and crisps flick, while The Avengers is a jolly good way to spend a couple of hours but, again, little more. In spite of these reservations, however, I was won over by this cute, funny and charming little film. Let us talk upon it further!

Don Pedro, along with his underlings Benedick and Claudio, returns from a successful campaign and is invited to stay at the house of Leonato. Leanato’s neice, Beatrice, has an ongoing campaign of her own with Benedick, an exchange of witty barbs that covers a strong attraction. Claudio, meanwhile, is taken with Leonato’s daughter Hero, and asks for her hand in marriage. Don Pedro proposes to win Hero’s hand for Claudio, and the scene is set for all sorts of confusion and intrigue, with Don Pedro’s scheming bastard brother, Don John, stirring up trouble from the wings.

Whedon films this classic, ripe set-up with a pleasant simplicity. I have long dreamt of attending one of the Shakespeare reading sessions he hosts for his actor chums, and in this film I feel that he has captured something of the magic that must abound therein. Filmed in his own house in the break he took between filming and editing The Avengers, Much Ado is very much the antithesis to that explosive picture. Here words are king, and emotion their vessel. It is very, very fun. Not forgetting the bawdy nature of Shakespeare’s comedies, Whedon paints everything in a faintly ludicrous hue, lurching between wry humour and slapstick antics. This high and low dynamic is pure Shakespeare, and carries across well. I’m not quite sure what inspired Whedon to film one scene in a swimming pool, but it’s brilliant.

Everyone is going to have their favourites from the cast, composed almost entirely of members of Joss Whedon’s unofficial rep company; I enjoyed Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson from most of the Marvel Universe films and recently headlining Agents of SHIELD) and Reed Diamond (Mr Dominic from Dollhouse) as Leonato and Don Pedro respectively. Sean Maher (Simon Tam from Firefly) didn’t have much to do but gave a nice turn as an oleaginous fiend, while Fran Kranz (Topher in Dollhouse) was touching as Claudio. Nathan Fillion (Mal from Firefly) appears and fillions for a while, which is always nice. The highest praise must surely be kept for Amy Acker (Fred in Angel), who quite literally throws herself into the role of Beatrice and ably captures her complicated character .

And what fares poorly, in my humble esteem? Well, on a personal note, I do find it difficult to listen to American actors doing Shakespeare; their accent is too harsh and just inappropriate for the words. In this respect I find it especially hard listening to Alexis Denisof (Wesley in Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel) – as an actor I can’t fault the man, and his Benedick is a great match for Acker’s Beatrice, but transatlantic living has made him sound very odd. Tom Lenk (Andrew in Buffy) is quite weak in a supporting role, showing less comedic ability than he does in that Pepsi Max advert he’s in. Otherwise this is a very well performed and put-together piece, all the more impressive for the short time it took to make.

A final note of praise for the music – Joss Whedon himself contributed, along with his brother Jed and Jed’s wife Maurissa Tancharoen. This latter couple provide the most delightful rendition of Shakespeare’s poem ‘Sigh No More’, which underlines the action beautifully and has stuck with me. We’ll let you listen for yourselves!

Pleasantly surprising and surprisingly pleasant, this is crowd-pleasing Shakespeare. Hats off to Mr Whedon and company for making it work, and for keeping it so funny. Now go forth and enjoy it, and hey nonny nonny.



Monday, 13 January 2014

Gravity (2013)

Image: Warner Bros.

In space, no-one can hear you scream. It was only in watching Gravity that I considered the true genius of this tagline. Superbly effective for the little space-set horror film it was promoting, it carries the deeper significance of the true loneliness that can only really be experienced out there in the void. The horror is not that which makes us scream, but rather in the fact that nobody will ever hear us.

Gravity sees bereaved mother and first-time astronaut Dr Ryan Stone and old pro Lieutenant Matt Kowalski up in space fiddling about with a MacGuffin. When an exploding Russian satellite knocks out their communications and gets rid of their ship and team-mates, the two are left to navigate their way through the vacuum, towards the tiny hope of getting back down to Earth.

In terms of pure spectacle alone, Gravity is a winner. While the 3D didn’t strike me as entirely necessary, it is true that immersion helps this one. There are moments of awesome beauty, and Alfonso Cuarón’s idiosyncratic eye captures some wonderful compositions. Where the film falters is in its tonal shifts. The first half is painfully tense, which means that the second act can really only be a disappointment – the first half a terrifying glimpse at life beyond the stratosphere, the second a traditional sci-fi race against time rollercoaster. It is still a brilliantly crafted piece of cinema, but the terrifying realism of the start bleeding into a rip-roaring actioner means that we lose the believability.

For a film which really rests on only two performances, this one is lucky enough to have two that convince almost entirely. Sandra Bullock as Dr Stone reminded me why she got so famous in the first place, bringing back the Wild Cat that we loved in the 90s, while Clooney brings all his usual handsome charm and assuredness to Lieutenant Kowalski, convincingly channelling the unflappability that one sees in most astronaut interviews.

The ideal length for this sort of thing is around half an hour, at the end of which Rod Serling should pop in to remind us that anybody foolish enough to become an astronaut is buying themselves a one-way ticket to The Twilight Zone. Even at a relatively brief 90 minutes, Gravity feels a bit flabby. As with all these people-stuck-in-an-isolated-place films (Open Water, Frozen), devices are needed to keep the plot from ending too quickly. While the acting never falters, the plot mechanics begin to grind (oh no, that pesky shower of debris is back AGAIN!). However, the ending, while ludicrously schmaltzy, does have that punch-the-air joy that makes for a satisfying cinematic experience.

Reminding me of Event Horizon, Black Water and Apollo 13 at all the right moments, Gravity might just be the definitive space picture for a generation (though it remains to be seen if any gems will be kicked up in the flurry of films that will inevitably surround NASA’s projected moon mission in five years’ time).



Friday, 6 December 2013

Entretien avec R. J. Cutler

On a rencontré le réalisateur du documentaire The September Issue, R.J Cutler, qui nous a parlé de son film et sa rencontre avec Anna Wintour.

Image: Getty Images

The War Room, American HighBlack. White. et maintenant The September Issue. Votre filmographie révèle un intérêt persistant pour la culture américaine et son fameux way of life. Montrer le visage des Etats-Unis a-t-il toujours été votre ambition ?

Non, ce n'est pas vraiment mon intention première. Ma volonté est avant tout de raconter des histoires sur des être humains. Ce sont les gens qui éveillent ma curiosité et qui me procurent de l'énergie. Je n'irai pas jusqu'à me considérer comme un sociologue, mais je suis heureux que mon travail laisse cette impression.

Qu'est-ce qui vous a inspiré pour réaliser un documentaire sur le milieu de la Mode et sur Anna Wintour ?

La Mode est un monde fascinant à explorer mais ce qui m'intéressait vraiment, c'était avant tout la personnalité d'Anna Wintour. Voici une femme dont le monde entier connaît le nom, mais ignore la méthode de travail, une femme que personne ne connaît vraiment. Si on lit les ouvrages écrits sur elle, on remarquera qu'ils tournent tous autour de sa façon de travailler avec les gens, mais jamais de son travail sur le terrain.

Aviez-vous des préjugés à son endroit, avant de tourner ? Votre opinion a-t-elle changé par la suite ?

Je n'avais pas vraiment de préjugés avant de tourner ce film. J'étais juste curieux de connaître sa façon de travailler, son but, sa foi absolue en son propre instinct, avec cette totale absence de doute lorsqu'elle prend une décision. Elle ne pense pas une seule fois : "mon Dieu ai-je bien pris la bonne décision ?", pas une seule fois, à aucun moment. Mais, en même temps, elle s'entoure de gens doués. Cela ne l'effraie pas d'avoir autour d'elle des gens volontaires qui ont du caractère et qui sont obstinés. En réalité, elle sait qu'elle a besoin d'eux.

Etait-ce l'idée d'Anna de réaliser un documentaire sur l'exemplaire de Vogue du mois de septembre ?

J'ai d'abord dit à Anna : "Ecoute, Je veux avant tout savoir comment tu travailles" et elle m'a répondu : "Si tu veux vraiment le savoir, tu devrais dans ce cas faire un film sur la création de cette édition, car tout ce que je fais, je le fais pendant la préparation de cet exemplaire."

On a tendance à comparer facilement Anna Wintour avec Meryl Streep, qui l'incarne dans "Le Diable s'habille en Prada". Pensez-vous que le succès de votre documentaire soit lié à ce film ?

Oui, mais en même temps il y a tellement de caricatures de cette femme dans la culture populaire. Regardez une série comme Ugly Betty, ou Les Indestructibles des studios Pixar. J'ai même entendu dire que Johnny Depp s'était inspiré d'elle pour interpréter Willy Wonka dans Charlie et la chocolaterie de Tim Burton ; vous savez, avec ses cheveux lisses et ses énormes lunettes. En revanche, ce qui me désole un peu est d'entendre des gens dire qu'elle n'a rien de Meryl Streep. Il faut que le spectateur comprenne qu'il ne s'agit pas ici d'un personnage de fiction mais d'une personne réelle.

Certains critiques ont tant aimé le film qu'ils ont affirmé qu'il aurait dû faire l'objet d'une série TV. Avez-vous envisagé cette possibilité ?

J'y ai pensé en effet, car je connais bien le monde de la télévision. Mais je souhaitais avant tout faire un vrai long-métrage. Ce sujet se devait d'être un documentaire pour le cinéma car tout y est très cinématographique : Paris, New York et la mode sont tous des personnages de films. C'est ça le cinéma, aussi. Si vous faites de la télévision, c'est différent ; la télé, on ne la regarde pas vraiment.

FG (pour AlloCiné)

An Interview with R. J. Cutler

Image: Getty Images

We at Fohnhouse might like to think of ourselves first and foremost as connoisseurs of film, but that's not to say our interests don't extend outside the cinema screen. That's right, we're well rounded types who also take pleasure in things like art, music and popular culture, so, naturally, back when we were Screenrush interns, we were delighted to have the opportunity to sit down for a chat with the director of The September Issue, R. J. Cutler, to find out about the process of getting behind the dark glasses of Vogue's steely Editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.

The War Room, American High, Black. White, The September Issue. With all of your films there seems to be a theme running through them of American life and culture. Would you say that showing slices of the American society is something you're trying to do?

I would certainly say that that's what the work does. There's also the movie ‘Thin' which is about an eating disorder clinic in South Florida and many other TV series.

Is it just a coincidence that the focus is American?

No, I'm very proud that the body of work represents America in different slices but it's not my intention. My intention is to tell stories about people. It's the people who spark my curiosity and motivate me. I don't see myself as a sociologist or a chronicler of my nation, though I'm glad my work does that, I just see myself as someone who tells stories about people who strike me as fascinating, and Anna Wintour is the most recent among them.

From politics to teenage angst and now to fashion, what inspired this film?

Again, it's more that here's someone about whom I was curious. The landscape is very rich, certainly, but it's not that I thought, "Oh fashion is such an important subject, I want to explore it". It is a fascinating landscape, but it's the person. What stuck me about Anna was here's somebody who the entire world has heard of, but so little is known about her and, certainly, nothing is known about her work. If you were to look in the books, and the few things that have been written about her, there's very little information about her work style. There's maybe a bit on her conflicts with other people, but I was curious. She's great at what she does, and while you can disagree with the way she does it, you can't argue with her success. I like telling stories about people who care a tremendous amount about what they do, and do it incredibly well under high-stake circumstances. That's very interesting to me.

Did your opinion of her change throughout the making of the documentary, if you had a certain perception of her initially?

I didn't have a lot of preconceived notions about her going in; I really was just curious about her. But a number of things stuck with me in making the film, all of which are evident in the film - in the way that the film is my answer to the question. That's the movie. That's all the movie really is. Among things that are striking about her is the scope of her influence, which is enormous, the way in which she works, the decisiveness, this complete faith in her instincts and a complete lack of self-doubt once she's made a decision; she doesn't think "Did I do the right thing?", not once, not for a moment. Yet at the same time she surrounds herself with really talented people; she's not afraid to surround herself with willful, strong-minded, opinionated people. In fact, she knows she needs them, and that's a good combo-platter as we say.

And it's fascinating to see the relationship between Grace Coddingwood (creative director) and Anna, as they started at Vogue at the same time. 

Of course. The movie is about their relationship.

We hear it was difficult to get Grace on board the project, although she goes on to become an integral part of the story. How did you convince her?

First I had to realise that this was the film I needed to make, because generally if somebody says I don't want to have anything to do with you, I say ok, goodbye. But Grace didn't mean it. Grace didn't want anything to do with who she thought I was, but she really wanted to have something to do with me, she just didn't know.

For me, the breakthrough moment was when I realised her entire life's work is about collaborating with photographers and storytellers. That's what she does and that's who we are, and even though for many months she was adamantly opposed to being in the film, I realised there is no other movie I want to make, except a movie about Anna and Grace. I tried to think of something else but this was the film I needed to make, so I went to her and I told her that, and I also explained that if you do spend time with us, you'd see that you're going to really enjoy it. I asked her for just one hour and we filmed that and it went well.

Was it Anna's idea to make the documentary about the September issue?

I said to Anna, "look, I what to see how you do what you do", and she said if you want to see how I do what I do, you should make a movie about the making of the September issue, because everything I do, I do while making the September issue. I asked her how long it took and she said 7-8 months, and I said good, that's a lot of time.

So the September issue is the catalyst for what's to come throughout the rest of the year..

Well it is and it takes so long. For me, access over a lengthy period of time and money are all I need to make a movie. It's a lot but it's really all I need, and here was access.

Do you think The Devil Wears Prada is a factor for the film's success, because we started to see the humoristic side of her behaviour as a result of Meryl Streep's supposed impersonation?

Yeah I accept that but there are so many caricatures of Anna Wintour in popular culture. The show Ugly Betty has two, there's one in The Devil Wears Prada, in the Pixar film The Incredibles there's one, I'm told that Johnny Depp based his performance of Willy Wonka on Anna Wintour, and if you go and look at a picture you'll see the hair and the glasses, and those are the ones that come to mind. So there is a cultural familiarity with this caricature of Anna.

Do you think that has enabled people to appreciate her demeanour a lot more?

Maybe, and if so, very good; if it raises awareness, good. I love this movie so I want people to come see it regardless of what sparked their interest. If it's the fact they like Meryl Streep's performance in The Devil Wears Prada - fantastic. Sometimes what confuses me is if somebody says to me "well she's nothing like Meryl Streep", and I say ok, that makes sense. Why would you expect her to be anything like Meryl Streep? Meryl Streep's playing a fictional character in a fictional movie, and Anna's a real person; this is in fact what she's like. But other than that, I think it's wonderful.

Could part of the reason also be that people in society aren't generally as frank, so on the one hand we're in disbelief but on the other, we're able to live vicariously through her?

Sure, but I do think those who know Anna well would tell you although she's a straight shooter, she presents here opinions graciously, respectfully and diplomatically. There's no question for me that people project things onto Anna Wintour. I won't make this movie, but while I was filming I thought I'd like to make a movie called ‘Tell Me Your Dream About Anna Wintour', because in the fashion world I think almost everybody has had a dream about Anna Wintour because they think about her so much. She just sits there with her arms and her legs folded with her sunglasses on, staring straight ahead, and everyone thinks, "oh she's staring at me, she thinks my clothes are bad, she thinks I'm too fat". That's why it is so wonderful when Bob (cinematographer Robert Richman) is in the movie.

But you weren't in it?

Oh we're in it. The whole shoot is about the crew but I was relieved it was him and not me because then I could put it in the film. Are you kidding, If it were me you'd never see it; I wouldn't do that to myself! But it was a perfect opportunity for me as a filmmaker to break the fourth wall in a way that would accomplish what I really wanted to accomplish, which was for you the viewer to experience what it's really like when Anna turns to you and says "You better get to the gym", because Bob is really a stand-in for us, and she's looking right into the camera; she's talking to you as well as to him.

How did he feel?

He's a sport. He's been to the gym a lot, but he is generally a very fit man who had been working very hard on a movie for very long and, you know, you eat poorly, you don't get a lot of rest, you don't get a lot of time at the gym, you don't spend your Saturday in the park with your daughter. You spend it running around shooting and eating crappy food, and so this is almost 8-months into shooting a film and so he'd grown a bit of a belly. But he looks very good today.

As the film is getting positive reviews, some are saying it should have been a TV show because the 90-minute running time is too short. Did you toy with that idea?

I did think of doing it as a TV series and, as you know, I have a lot of experience in TV, I have wonderful relationships throughout the TV world, I've done a lot of work, these are people I know and I have a big company that produces a lot TV series, so originally that's how I thought of it. It wasn't until I thought, "oh I want to do a movie" that I realised what the full potential is. This subject deserves cinema and the movie is very cinematic: for Paris to be a character the way it is in the film, for New York to be character, for fashion to be a character the way it is. It's cinema. If you're doing television it's different; we don't really watch television, we just co-exist with it.

And for a big personality such as Anna Wintour...

Yes. Listen this movie is wonderful for television, and when it's on TV I'm confident it will do very well but I'm so grateful to have made a 90-minute, uninterrupted piece of cinema, and I thought a great deal about that while I was making it.


Monday, 2 December 2013

Un Entretien avec Moby

Découvrez l'interview qu'on a fait avec Moby quand on était stagiaires, qui était en ville pour promouvoir son nouvel album, Wait for Me. Cliquez ici pour l'entretien en anglais. (R.I.P.

Comment êtes-vous devenu ami avec David Lynch, qui a signé le clip du premier single de votre nouvel album ?
David Lynch est l'un de mes réalisateurs américains préférés de tous les temps. En plus d'être fan de ses films, j'ai toujours apprécié son processus de création, car s'y côtoient des éléments conventionnels et des choses très expérimentales et singulières. On est devenus amis il y a deux ans, et on a réalisé quelques projets ensemble. Puis vint pour moi le moment de sortir le premier single de mon album. Habituellement, pour un artiste bien établi chez une grande maison de disques, le premier single est le plus commercial. Mais comme je suis actuellement un artiste indépendant, j'ai voulu que le premier morceau soit le moins commercial que j'ai jamais fait sortir. J'ai donc choisi Shot In the Back of the Head. C'est un instrumental bizarre qui ne peut être diffusé à la radio. Je l'ai envoyé à David Lynch en lui demandant s'il avait des images qui traînaient. Cinq jours après, il m'a envoyé le clip, qu'il a animé lui-même, et ça a chatouillé mon vieux côté punk-rocker – l'idée d'avoir un premier single qui ne peut être diffusé à la radio et un premier clip qui ne peut être diffusé sur MTV !

Êtes-vous fan d'autres réalisateurs, compositeurs, ou de leurs musiques de film ?

J'ai travaillé pour beaucoup de réalisateurs différents : Michael Mann, Oliver Stone... Certains sont prêt à expérimenter des choses nouvelles avec la musique, et le résultat est souvent intéressant. Je pense que Michael Mann s'oblige vraiment à utiliser des musiques intéressantes, de façon non conventionnelle. Lui et Oliver Stone sont très ouverts de ce point de vue. Les réalisateurs qui ne m'intéressent pas sont ceux qui utilisent la musique en suivant les règles. En fait, j'ai du mal à comprendre pourquoi ces derniers demandent des musiques originales, puisqu'au final cela sonne toujours pareil. En 1973, ils auraient dû enregistrer cinq heures de musique et les sauvegarder ! Il y a de la musique joyeuse, de la musique triste, de la musique effrayante... Mais de temps en temps, la musique d'un film lui devient consubstantielle, la musique et le film sont inspérables, et elle est plus stimulante. C'est le cas pour Blade Runner ou Le Parrain. Quand Francis Ford Coppola tournait Le Parrain, la Paramount, je crois, a essayé de renvoyer le compositeur – ils pensaient que la musique était trop ethnique, trop sombre. Mais ils ont aussi pensé à remplacer Al Pacino par Robert Redford... En vain, heureusement.

Quels sont vos réalisateurs préférés ?

Hormis David Lynch, mon réalisateur préféré est Takeshi Kitano. J'adore ses films, ils sont incroyables. Danny Boyle devient un réalisateur très intéressant. Mais pour Slumdog Millionaire, c'est bizarre... J'ai trouvé que le travail fait dessus était phénoménal, mais je n'ai pas tellement aimé le film lui-même. J'ai seulement éprouvé de l'admiration pour l'auteur qu'il est devenu, parce que quand il a commencé, j'avais l'impression qu'il était une sorte de savant en pleine expérimentation, qu'il ne savait pas très bien ce qu'il faisait. Mais maintenant, il a l'air d'avoir pris confiance en lui comme réalisateur. Je m'intéresse beaucoup à ce qu'il va faire prochainement, car il peut faire ce qu'il veut. Et puis avec la franchise 28 jours plus tard et 28 semaines plus tard, il est devenu quelqu'un qui peut trouver des financements pour faire un film. Sa prochaine réalisation sera soit confuse et commerciale, soit phénoménale et passionnante.

Plus on rapporte d'argent, plus on a de libertés ?

C'est un compromis. Si on a du succès, cela suscite beaucoup de pression, de confusion. Il y a des gens qui savent très bien gérer cela – les gens qui veulent obtenir du succès et qui ensuite savent quoi en faire. Moi, je n'ai jamais anticipé le succès, donc quand mes disques ont commencé à cartonner, j'étais paumé. C'est bien d'avoir des auditeurs, mais quand on cherche le succès, il faut trouver un compromis, et à ce moment de ma vie, ce n'est pas que je ne voulais pas l'obtenir, mais ce n'était pas mon point fort, contrairement à d'autres.

Vos chansons ont été utilisées dans plusieurs films, comme "Porcelain" pour "La Plage" de Danny Boyle...

C'est tiré de l'album Play. Quand cet album est sorti, ce fut un échec. Peu d'exemplaires vendus, les critiques étaient mauvaises, et personne n'est venu aux concerts. Puis certaines choses ont amené un public plus large à ma musique, dont Porcelain et La Plage. Le film n'a pas été un si grand succès au final, mais à ce que je sais, c'était le premier grand film de Danny Boyle après Trainspotting et le premier film de Leonardo DiCaprio après Titanic, donc quand il est sorti, tout le monde est allé le voir. Porcelain était un élément essentiel du film et esthétiquement, ça marchait très bien. Plus égoïstement, cela a aussi empêché l'album de tomber dans l'oubli. J'ai eu de la chance.

Vous avez aussi travaillé sur le James Bond "Demain Ne Meurt Jamais"...

À vrai dire, je n'ai jamais été très fan de James Bond. J'ai vu tous les James Bond, mais je suis davantage fan de Star Trek et de SF. Une de mes plus grandes déceptions reste le fait que J.J. Abrams a failli utiliser une de mes chansons dans le nouveau Star Trek... En tant que "sci-fi geek", j'aurais juste adoré, mais au final ça ne s'est pas fait. Pour ce qui est de James Bond, le thème original est parfait. C'était une mauvaise idée de le refaire, donc je n'étais pas très content de ma version de la chanson.

Êtes-vous fan de cinéma européen, et plus particulièrement de cinéma français ?

Le cinéma français est particulièrement remarquable, parce que je n'arrive pas à savoir ce qu'il dit du caractère de ce pays. L'industrie du film d'un pays reflète vraiment son caractère, et quand je regarde le film français, je me demande ce que cela dit de la France, car quelques films français sont très perturbants, comme Baise-moi – il me faut des antidépresseurs ensuite. Mais une chose que j'apprécie dans le cinéma français, c'est sa volonté de faire réellement de l'art, d'accomplir une production intellectuelle. C'est assez impressionnant de voir que même un réalisateur comme Luc Besson, qui a beaucoup de succès, tourne toujours des films comme Leon, un blockbuster qui a fait un carton, mais qui avait quelque chose d'étrange. Même pour ce qui est des grosses productions comme celles-là, les films français sont toujours un petit peu différents. La manière française, à mon avis, peut surtout se comparer à celle du cinéma de Hong Kong, au sens où on y retrouve une convention qui a du sens, mais aussi des éléments singuliers, déconcertants, au bon sens du terme.

Souteniez-vous des films à Cannes ?

Le truc avec Sundance et Cannes, c'est qu'il n'y a plus de films indépendants. Quand on voit qu'un nouveau film de Jim Carrey est dévoilé à Sundance, on comprend que quelque chose va de travers ! Donc, c'est ce qui fait qu'on s'intéresse aux festivals de Tribeca, de Berlin, ceux qui sont restés fidèles au film indépendant. Je comprends que les gens qui dirigent Sundance et Cannes se doivent d'avoir de grands films pour continuer à faire venir les vedettes, la presse et l'argent, mais je m'intéresse personnellement aux festivals qui soutiennent le film indépendant.

FG & MP (pour AlloCiné)

An Interview with Moby

Check out the interview we cats did with Moby when we were interns, who was in town to promote his new album, Wait for Me. Lions and Lynch and Boyle, oh my! Click here for the French interview(R.I.P. 

How did your friendship with David Lynch come about? 

David Lynch is one of my favourite American film directors of all time. In addition to loving his movies, I've always appreciated his creative process because there are a lot of conventional vernacular elements in his films, but they're also deeply experimental and very idiosyncratic. We became friends a couple of years ago, and we've worked on a few things, and when it came time to put out the first single for this album, normally for an established artist on a major label, your first single is your most commercial, but as I'm now an independent artist, I wanted my first single to be arguably the least commercial single I've ever put out so I picked the song Shot In The Back of the Head, which is a strange instrumental that can never get played on radio. I sent the music to David and I asked him if he had any footage lying around and five days later he sent me the video, which he had animated himself, and it really did appeal to the old punk-rocker in me - the idea of having a first single that can't get played on radio, and a first video that can not get played on MTV!

Your song Porcelain was is in the Film The Beach, which was scored by David Lynch's collaborator Angelo Badalamenti. Are you a big fan of his work, specifically his work with Lynch, as you have sampled a theme from the TV series Twin Peaks in your song Go

I only know his work with David and I'm a little embarrassed by my ignorance. I don't know what Angelo has done outside of working with David but the Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me soundtracks, and the Julee Cruise album are phenomenal. They're some of my favourite records ever made. It seems like just a remarkable partnership. He clearly understands what David's trying to do because David is a great sound designer, but he doesn't want to be a musician. He loves music, he loves working with musicians but I think he likes the idea of being more of a listener than a musician. My favourite thing that they've ever done is on the Fire Walk With Me soundtrack. It's a song called Pink Room and it's a cello and a drum and some guitar. It has so much space and atmosphere to it.

And Fire Walk With Me is a very idiosyncratic film, following Twin Peaks, which in itself is very unique... 

Yes I actually liked Fire Walk With Me more than Twin Peaks because it's a lot darker. When it came out it really disappointed a lot of people, as with Lost Highway, and then Inland Empire is one of the weirdest commercial movies he's ever made. I saw it four times in the theatre because I loved it so much, and so it's almost this inverse thing where the less other people seem to like his movies, the more I invariably end up liking them.

Are you a fan of any other directors, composers, or their work on a particular film score? 

I've done music for a lot of different directors: Michael Mann, Oliver Stone... and some are really adventurous with their use of music and do really interesting things. I think Michael Mann really pushes himself to use interesting music sometimes in very unconventional ways. Sometimes in quite conventional ways but him and Oliver Stone are people who are open to anything. The directors that I have no interest in working with are the people who just use very conventional score. At this point, I honestly don't even know why they commission new score because it all sounds the same. In 1973 they should have just recorded five hours of stock score... there's happy score, there's sad score, there's scary score, you know, but every now and then music is used in a film, and it becomes such an integral part of the movie and invariably it's more challenging, like the score for Blade Runner, or even the music for The Godfather. When Francis Ford Coppola was making The Godfather, Paramount, I believe, tried to fire the composer - they thought the music was too ethnic and too dark. I think they also wanted to replace Al Pacino with Robert Redford, but luckily the studio was not able to implement it.

Do you tend to visualise as you compose? 

No. I mean I like music, like the music on this album Wait For Me. One of the reason I like this album is because it creates almost a visual tabula rasa; it doesn't seem like it's imposing anything on the listener. It kind of just clears the slate and lets the listener project upon it.
But as far as director, apart from David Lynch, my favourite working director would be Takeshi Kitano, the Japanese director. I love his movies; I just think they're amazing. Danny Boyle is becoming a really interesting filmmaker. Slumdog Millionaire, it's strange... I thought the craft behind it was phenomenal, but I didn't like the film that much. I was just kind of in awe of what an auteur he's become, because when he started out, I got the sense that he was sort of a savant, like he didn't 100% know what he was doing and now he seems like such a confident director. I'm really interested to see what his next project is because now he can do what he wants. There was also the 28 Days/28 Weeks Later franchise, and so he's established himself as someone who can raise a lot of money to make a movie. He's next movie will either be confused and commercial or phenomenal and interesting.

It seems as though the more money one makes for a studio or record company, the more creative license he or she is given on future projects. 

It's a trade off. If you make success, it can create a lot of pressure and confusion. There are some people who are really good at dealing with success - people who want success and then when they get it they know what to do with it. For myself, I never expected to have any success, and so when I've had records that have sold well, I've just been confused by it. It's nice having an audience, but when you pursue success you have to compromise, and at this point in my life, it's not that I don't want to compromise, I'm just not good at it. There are some people who are great at artistic compromise; I'm just not one of those people.

You set up the site for independent filmmakers. Why did you set up a project to help filmmakers as opposed to struggling artists? 

There isn't much I can do to help up and coming bands and DJs apart from maybe setting up a volunteer legal service or something, because everyone needs legal advice.
The university I went to is called SUNY Purchase and it's mainly a performing arts school, and they had a huge film programme. I think they're actually the last school in the United States to have a major in experimental film, and so since going there, I've just had a lot of friends in the world of indie film. Their biggest recurring complaint is that licensing music for movies is really difficult, and I've watched my friends making small indie films. Someone sits down to write a book, it's a difficult undertaking but it's basically just him or her with a computer. I sit down to write music, again, it's not an easy undertaking but there's not a huge time and financial investment in it. To make an indie film is the most time intensive, money intensive, artistic undertaking I can think of. My friends make indie films, they mortgage their house, they sell everything they have, they take out ten credit cards, loans and all these things just to make an indie film, so is my way of trying to make their lives a little bit easy. It's like saying here's one part of the film making process that isn't going to cost anything.

On the big budget side of the industry, your songs have been used in many movie. Could you give us your thoughts on the following collaborations:

Porcelain/The Beach 

When the album it was off of, Play, first came out, it was kind of a failure. It didn't sell well, didn't get good reviews and no one really came out to the live concerts. Then a few things happened that brought my music to a bigger audience, and one of the big things was Porcelain and The Beach. The movie didn't do all that well long term, but as far as I know, it was the first big Danny Boyle movie after Trainspotting and the first Leo DiCaprio movie after Titanic, so when it first came out everybody went to see it, and Porcelain was such a centre piece of the movie, and aesthetically it really worked. There's this beautiful shot of the island and then the song plays and it works really well. Selfishly it also helped save that record from obscurity. I got really luck.

James Bond Tomorrow Never Dies remix 

If I'm honest, I've never really been a big James Bond fan. I've seen all the James Bond movies but I'm more into Star Trek and science fiction. One of my big disappointments is that J.J. Abrams almost used one of my songs in the new Star Trek movie, and just for pure sci-fi geek status I would've loved that; however, at the last minute they didn't. But the original James Bond theme is perfect. It felt wrong to redo it so I wasn't really happy with my version of the song.

Your video We Are All Made of Stars has you in a space suit against a lot of bleak images from Hollywood. Are you critical of the Hollywood machine? 

It's hard for me to generalise because percentage wise, I would say there are just as many good indie films as Hollywood films. I live in New York and within a 10-minute walk from my house there are probably 10 or 11 theatres that play nothing but indie films, so I see a lot of them. A lot are really bad but there are also some amazing ones. The same thing is true of Hollywood so I think the success rate of Hollywood and indie films is about the same. Cleary indie film needs more support and indie filmmakers need to be given more carte blanche to experiment, because I think that when indie film doesn't work is when it's trying to be too conventional. My favourite indie films are the ones where the director really lets himself or herself do something really strange and idiosyncratic.

Like Eraserhead

Or even one of my favourite movies last year, Let The Right One In. It's an indie film, it's very unconventional but it really works. It's just an amazing film. I think I'm more critical of the institution of fame because it's a waste of time. I mean it's entertaining, it's a great spectator sport, I just think it's sad that so many people aspire to be famous, and so many famous people make themselves miserable trying to remain famous. The only happy famous people I've ever met are dumb famous people. Anyone with a degree of intellect or character who becomes famous is slaughtered by it.