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Words From The WiseSundance 2014: Final Wrap

Posted on Thursday January 30, 2014, 14:49 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Sundance 2014: Final Wrap

Although a secret screening of Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac: Volume One was perhaps intended to provide this year’s dash of controversy, the film that arguably ruffled more feathers was Zach Braff’s somewhat more innocuous Wish I Was Here (pictured), the follow-up to Garden State. The film’s premiere screening at the MARC gained a little notoriety due to being besieged by Braff fans begging for extra tickets, bemoaning the fact that they had paid for it (via Kickstarter) but couldn’t get in. It made for a provocative news angle, but the fact remains that Sundance tickets were never going to be part of the film’s reward scheme, in terms that were made quite clear.
Braff’s film has been under fire since the Kickstarter project was announced, but it’s hard to see quite what the problem is: Braff has delivered a studio quality film that pretty much delivers what its backers were promised. Pe...

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Words From The WiseSundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look

Posted on Wednesday January 22, 2014, 14:52 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look

How do you follow an action film as tight and tense and damn near perfect as The Raid? The answer, it seems, is to make a film as broad, intricate and damn near perfect as The Raid: Berandal, aka The Raid 2. Obviously the first point to consider is whether Gareth Huw Evans’s second feature matches up to the bone-crunching mayhem of the first, and it does – with gore to spare. But the second point is more crucial: does it hold up as a stand-alone movie in its own right? The answer to that is a resounding yes too; leaving behind the Carpenter-esque confined spaces of the original, Evans’s sequel heads out into the streets of Jakarta, bringing in so many new and fascinating characters that it’s hardly noticeable when the film’s nominal hero Rama, played by a much more confident Iko Uwais, is absent from the screen (which he is for surprisingly long patches).

The first few moments suggest that the film might be hard work, since it carries on almost immediately in the wake ...

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Words From The WiseSundance 2014: First Report

Posted on Tuesday January 21, 2014, 17:36 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Sundance 2014: First Report

The 2014 Sundance Film Festival took a little longer than usual to find its feet, but once it hit its stride it did so with a slew of titles that are among the strongest seen here in recent years. Top of that list has to be Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (pictured), which was added to the programme at the last moment. Very little was known about the film at that time, other than it took Linklater 12 years to shoot, so I was expecting one of his more experimental affairs, like Tape or Waking Life – projects I can appreciate but not necessarily enjoy. The running time of 164 minutes gave me the shivers, so I sat in an aisle seat just in case.
...

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Words From The WiseShane Carruth Interview: Upstream Color

Posted on Sunday January 5, 2014, 17:27 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Shane Carruth Interview: Upstream Color

Shane Carruth's Upstream Color, his second feature film after 2004's delirious time-travel drama Primer, debuted almost a year ago at the Sundance Film Festival, where its sold-out screening at the Eccles Theatre was one of the event's hottest tickets. The film baffled and impressed in equal measure, telling the story of Kris (Amy Seimetz) and Jeff (Carruth), whose lives are intertwined by strange external forces, including a pig farmer-slash-record producer, a family of orchid gatherers and a conman who uses insects and plant residue to steal money from his victims.

My attempts to sit down with Shane in Park City came to nothing; meetings were arranged and cancelled on account of both our busy schedules, so I followed him on to the Berlin Film Festival. Yet again, Shane was hard to pin down, this time because he was handling all the elements of his film's springtime roadshow release in the US while finalising the packaging for the film's Region One ...

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Words From The WiseLars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac: First Look

Posted on Tuesday December 17, 2013, 12:33 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac: First Look

Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac arrives with a very different kind of controversy to the one we expected. It is indeed sexually explicit, as advertised, but is it the whole movie? The answer is yes and no, since the version screened to Empire in Copenhagen at the beginning of December began with a disclaimer noting that the film has been edited – with Von Trier's permission but without his involvement. So while it is the genuine, official release version, there is the small matter of a further 90 minutes, which will very much be the elephant in the room when it comes to reviewing it.

Funnily enough, though, Nymphomaniac not only feels like a complete film, it doesn't feel madly long in its four-hour format, which breaks down roughly into 1hr 50 for Volume One and 2hrs 10 for Volume Two. First things first, however: this is not an entry-level Von Trier film, and it helps to have a certain familiarity with his style...

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Words From The WiseThe European Film Awards 2013

Posted on Monday December 9, 2013, 15:21 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
The European Film Awards 2013

The European Film Awards kicked off on Saturday with a goodie bag that included chocolate biscuits, some gummy bears, a CD DJ mix sponsored by sparkling vodka and an umbrella with a torch on the end. In its marvellous chaos, it reflects something of the randomness of the evening itself; unlike the Oscars, there isn't really any campaigning network, so lesser known films such as Belgium's The Broken Circle Breakdown stood a very real chance of challenging such established Cannes hits as The Great Beauty and Blue Is The Warmest Colour, competing under its original French (and much more explanatory) title La Vie D'Adele, Chapitres 1 & 2.

All eyes were on Abdellatif Kechiche's Palme D'Or winner to take the main prize, which instead went to Paulo Sorrentino for The Great Beauty, a win accompanied by major prizes for Sorrentino as director and his regular leading man Toni Servillo. Industry gossip suggested that Kechiche's film was a late entry to th...

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Words From The WiseMetro Manila Charity Screenings

Posted on Thursday November 28, 2013, 15:34 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Metro Manila Charity Screenings

One of the best indie films to appear on the festival circuit this year was Sean Ellis’s Metro Manila, a fantastic world cinema/heist-thriller crossover that debuted at Sundance in January. Filmed entirely on location in the Philippines (you can read about the shoot here), the film tells the story of a farmer who moves to the capital to work as an armoured car driver, where he becomes involved in a criminal plot. Made by a Brit, the film stars an all-local cast and is filmed entirely in the Tagalog dialect – all the more impressive given that Ellis doesn't speak a word of it. To give you an idea of how good this movie is, Metro Manila won the World Cinema audience award in Sundance, went on to be nominated as the British entry for 2013 Best Foreign Film Osc...

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Words From The WiseSan Sebastian Film Festival 2013: First Report – Enemy, Le Week-end, Quai D'Orsay and The Railway Man

Posted on Sunday September 29, 2013, 18:03 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
San Sebastian Film Festival 2013: First Report – Enemy, Le Week-end, Quai D'Orsay and The Railway Man

The 61st San Sebastian Film Festival ended Saturday night by giving its highest award, the Golden Shell to Mariana Rondon’s Bad Hair, a lightly gay-themed South American drama that deals with a mother trying to come to terms with her pre-teen son’s obsession with straightening his hair. Todd Haynes’ jury apparently gave it a clean sweep, but this year’s competition selection was nothing if not varied, from Argentinian animation (Juan Jose Campanella’s Foosball) to French political drama (Bertrand Tavernier’s Quai D’Orsay), via British whimsy (Roger Michell’s Le Week-end).

But by far the strangest in the line-up was Denis Villeneuve’s companion piece to this weekend’s release, Prisoners. Though it was shot back to back with that film, and also stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Enemy (pictured) bears no relation at all to the recent Hugh Jackman kidnap drama. In fact, it bears very little of consequ...

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Words From The WiseToronto 2013: Starred Up, Belle, The Invisible Woman, Dom Hemingway, The Double

Posted on Friday September 13, 2013, 17:14 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Toronto 2013: Starred Up, Belle, The Invisible Woman, Dom Hemingway, The Double

It was an incredibly strong TIFF for British films this year, my personal favourite being David Mackenzie's Starred Up (pictured), a harsh prison drama in the vein of Scum. I've followed Mackenzie's career for a while now and considered him to be a director who maybe hasn't quite reached his full potential yet. But even with that in mind, I could never have imagined him making anything quite as full-on and potent as this, a very singular and sustained piece of work that may not hit big with a mainstream audience but will certainly raise both the director's profile and that of his charismatic young star, Jack O'Connell, formerly from the parish of Skins.

It begins with new inmate Eric (O'Connell) being transferred from a young offenders' institution to adult prison. As per the title, Eric is “starred up”, which means his file is marked on account of his violent behaviour, and he arrives as he means to go on: self-contained and unafraid, lashing out at men twice his ...

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Words From The WiseToronto 2013: All Is By My Side, We Are The Best!, Sunshine On Leith

Posted on Friday September 13, 2013, 13:28 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Toronto 2013: All Is By My Side, We Are The Best!, Sunshine On Leith

Now for a musical interlude. I didn't see Can A Song Save Your Life?, but seeing as Harvey Weinstein just paid $27m for it, I can only assume it can. Something I did make a bee-line for, however, was All Is By My Side, which didn't cause as much of a splash as I thought it might, being the second feature by John Ridley, screenwriter of Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave. Although it's a very, very low-budget endeavour, the film's limitations – which preclude the use of Hendrix's most famous music – play to its advantage, since Ridley eschews the usual biopic approach, instead taking a snapshot of 12 crucial months in the musician's life, three years before his death in 1970.

What surprised me most is how much attention Ridley plays to the British characters who moulded Hendrix's ideas and images. We first meet him in 1966 in a New York nightclub, where he is talent-spotted by model Linda Keith (Imogen Poots) playing guitar with jobbing R&am...

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