Saturday 29 May 2010

Dennis Hopper RIP

It's a sad thing to say, but Dennis Hopper died this morning. So many great performances, so many great films. Here's one.

Thursday 27 May 2010

Jafar Panahi released

I've written before here about the Iranian director Jafar Panahi, and the fact that he was arrested by the Iranian authorities. Now he seems to have been released, after three months in prison. Here's a link to an article about it in the New York Times.

I've actually met Panahi once, a couple of years ago when he was visiting Sweden. He expressed his surprise that anybody in such an exotic country would be interested in Iranian films, and his films. But they're very good, so why shouldn't we like them? From The White Balloon (Badkonake sefid 1995) to Offside (2006), with perhaps The Circle (Dayereh 2000) being the most famous here.

It's good he has been released, but he should never have been arrested in the first place, and so many others are still looked up.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Frida Wendel

I have several friends who are working in films, and one is the immensely talented cinematographer Frida Wendel. She's definitely going places! Here's a music video she has shot:

Here's the link to Frida's website.

Thursday 20 May 2010

Polar Prize 2010

It's quite apparent that in Britain the annual Swedish music prize Polar Music Prize doesn't exactly excite the media and the masses.

The Polar Music Prize was created in 1989 by the late Sickan Andersson, lyricist and manager of ABBA, and a man with a massive amount of loose cash, to be handed out every year to two music artists who have made significant contributions to the art of music. The first awards were handed out in 1992, to sir Paul McCartney and the Baltic States (so not only musicians are given the award).

Why should I write about it here? Only because this year Ennio Morricone and Björk are the winners.

I would argue that Björk's first album Debut (1993) is rather brilliant, but after that I find her music more annoying than good, although as a person she's rather appealing. The film connection is foremost her part in Dancer in the Dark (2000). Here's her video to a single release from Debut, Human Behaviour, directed by Michel Gondry:

The music of Ennio Morricone on the other hand I've been addicted to for decades. There are not that many whose music has been so important to me. I listen to him almost on a daily basis. The melancholy and infinite sadness of the music is just magnificent, as is the use of silence and odd sounds. But I feel no need to write more about him, he's famous enough. Here's instead the opening of Frantic (1988):

Friday 14 May 2010

Ridley Scott

Sometimes I'm disappointed in Ridley Scott. There was a time when a new film from him was something that would change the course of cinema, the days of Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982) and Thelma & Louise (1991). There hasn't been as much of that of late, although Gladiator (2000) is close to being that kind of event.

But on the other hand, how much can you really expect, or demand, from one filmmaker? Perhaps the fact that Scott is one of the most gifted imagemaker film history has ever seen, that he might be a genius, should be enough. I've seen almost everything Scott has done, from The Duellists (1977) and onwards, and I've liked very much almost everything. It's just that the scripts he bases his films on too often doesn't really have the same quality as the visual and narrative aspects of the films.

Someone such as myself who is more interested in the visuals than the words and the text shouldn't perhaps mind so much, but if push comes to shove, I believe I care more about the script than I would like to admit.

In any event, Scott seems to be someone with something on his mind. His politics are probably liberal. His best films are in line with Scott's philosophy that as a filmmaker he must keep "reminding the audience that there's a dark side to life. That attracts me. Because it's the truth." So his films, most of them, share a common theme, they're stories about dedicated men and women who find themselves in the middle of a battle against forces they don't understand. Battles which often take epic and even existential proportions, where time and space in itself seems to be part of the enemy. He has made smaller, more quiet films, as well, such as Matchstick Men (2003) and Someone to Watch Over Me (1987), two films I'm very found of, and even here you can see how he has worked with every single image, and how they, in their own ways, also are about battles against mysterious forces. A Good Year (2006) is also quiet, but fails on most accounts though.

Something has changed lately, his films has lost passion. The likes of American Gangster (2007) and his latest, Robin Hood (2010), have an extraordinary verve and drive, and tell their stories with a narrative confidence that put most films to shame, but to me they lack the beating heart of his best films, even though they're sometimes angry and political.

And I think that is what's disappointing.

Here's an interview from the Guardian the other day.

Spoiler alert regarding the end of Robin Hood. One big disappointment with Robin Hood was the fact that in the end, Marion doesn't kill Godfrey with her sword, but has to be rescued by Robin. Why on earth did they go down that road? It would have been cooler, more feminist and more in keeping with Scott's previous female heroes had she killed him herself. No, bad move that. Otherwise it's a classic Scott film. Robin's white horse reminds me of a unicorn.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Lisa's world tour

I'm so very pleased and happy about the fact that Little Children, Big Words (Små barn, stora ord) is going to be screened in Cannes this year. It's written and directed by my very special friend Lisa James Larsson, and yes, my name is in the credits as well. So should you be in Cannes, then go and watch it! Here's a link.

Or, if Palm Springs is closer, you can see it there, because it will be shown there at this summer's short film festival. I don't know if the programme has been launched yet, but here's a link to that festival. The festival is 22 - 28 June.

Saturday 8 May 2010

William Lubtchansky 1937-2010

If you're looking for the most beautiful film ever made, one good place to start looking is La belle noiseuse (1991). It was shot by William Lubtchansky, and it's worth mentioning that because he just passed away recently, two days ago. And La belle noiseuse wasn't the only thing he shot, he's been a major cinematographer in French cinema since the early 1970s. He frequently worked with Jacques Rivette, who of course directed La belle noiseuse, and the last thing they did together was Around a Small Mountain (36 vues du Pic Saint Loup 2009), which I wrote about last year here. It in fact had three Lubtchansky's working on it. Nicole Lubtchansky edited it, as she usually does on Rivette's films, and co-cinematographer was Irina Lubtchansky. (I'm not sure about the relationships between the three.)

Besides Rivette he also worked with François Truffaut on The Woman Next Door (La femme d'à côté 1981) and with Claude Lanzmann on the documenary Shoah (1985).

That's some career.

Thursday 6 May 2010

Nordic crimes in Edinburgh

As the Swedish film festival in New York is coming to an end, the Filmhouse in Edinburgh is doing a Nordic retrospective now in May, beginning on Saturday, 7 May. Films from Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden, as well as an Italian version of a Norwegian crime novel, are being shown.

I haven't seen all the films that are being shown, but among them is a real treat. Bo Widerberg's The Man on the Roof, from 1976. It was also shown in New York, so I'll just quote here what I wrote about it before: The Man on the Roof (Mannen på taket 1976) is a police thriller, a Swedish version of French Connection (1971) or Madigan (1967). It's deceptively slow, after an initial violent murder, but works its way methodical and with a great attention to detail to the sudden outburst of violence in the second half, when the usually so peaceful Stockholm becomes a city under siege, terrorized by a heavily armed sniper. It's worth remembering though that Sweden, and Stockholm in particular, in the 1970s had seen several terrorist attacks, hijackings and spectacular bank robberies which had somewhat shattered the illusion of being at peace. Since the location shooting and realism is so striking, it's to this day difficult to walk the streets around Odenplan without looking up towards the rooftops.

Have a good weekend!