Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Film Review: Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises) (2014)

The Wind Rises Poster
Picture c/o StudioCanal
“The Wind is rising.  You must try to live!

It is easy to underestimate the intense passion that is generated by the surreal fantasy films that have emerged from Japan’s Studio Ghibli over the past two decades.  For young children and ageing hipsters alike, films such as My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away and (personal favourite) Ponyo have provided a beautiful counterpoint to the saccharine and patriarchal Disney canon and allowed an insight into Japanese mythology.  The man who has garnered the most dedicated following within the company has easily been Hayao Miyazaki who has just released his swansong with The Wind Rises.

Breaking away from his usual narratives of magical sprites and fantasy worlds, Miyazaki’s final film is far more grounded in a sober reality with the action taking place in between the catastrophic Tokyo earthquake of 1923 and Japan entering World War II.  The protagonist is Jiro Horikoshi, a boy whose dreams of being a pilot are thwarted due to his poor eyesight, and so instead grows up to become a passionate aeronautical engineer.  Along the way he has intense dreams where he meets Giovanni Battista Caproni, an Italian aeroplane designer who tells encourages him to design planes for the joy of creating something beautiful and not to succumb to the temptation of creating war machines.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Film Review: The Punk Singer

Kathleen Hanna from A Punk Singer on the Drums
There is a danger with music documentaries that only existing fans of the featured artist will bother going to see them.  They mostly exist to reflect on the end of a career of a successful artist who somehow captured the mood of a culture or demographic, but if you dislike or have no interest in that artist then it’s hard to generate the enthusiasm to commit to a feature length film about them.

This is emphatically not the case with Kathleen Hanna  She is such an inspiring, funny, playful and compelling figure that it simply doesn’t matter how much you like her music or not.  Her story is well worth the 81 minutes that you spend with her in Sini Anderson’s wonderful biopic.

For those who don’t know, Hanna was the lead singer of an unapologetically feminist 90s grunge band called Bikini Kill.  Following the standard punk aesthetic, she found a few friends at Art College who could barely play instruments and formed a band as a necessary byproduct of wanting to perform her poetry in public.  Hanna also decided to try something radical at her Bikini Kill shows:  appeal to women. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Film Review: Blue Ruin (2014)

As the world economy in 2014 slowly begins to right itself after years of depression, the optimistic national conversation of the UK and the USA is already attempting to overshadow the enormous upset felt by so many people during those years of instability.  In decades to come the memory of the financial crash will be clouded by the overabundance of glossy superhero films that dominate the output of America during these worrying years, but there will be glimmers of work that cleverly captured the nightmare that the banking collapse instigated.

Blue Ruin (from director Jeremy Saulnier) is a violent reworking of the classic revenge narrative, with a powerful metaphor at its heart concerning the psyche of an America with nothing to lose. 

The story begins with a solitary drifter called Dwight (Macon Blair) who, whilst living out of his car around an amusement park in Delaware is told that the man who murdered his parents has been released from prison in his hometown of Virginia.  Fearing that his family’s life is in danger, he embarks on a reckless journey to get his revenge and protect his sister Sam (Amy Hargreaves). 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Interview with Carol Comley (Greening Film)

As I was browsing the internet recently looking for information on the UK film industry I came across a company that tries to encourage film productions to consider their environmental impact.  I got in touch with Carol Comley, their Head of Strategic Development to find out more...

BFI Greening Film

Could you explain a little about how Greening Film got set up and what your mission statement is?

CC: Greening Film was initially set up by the UK Film Council, but since its merger with the British Film Institute (BFI) in 2011, it has been run by the BFI.  It aims to help professionals working in every part of the film industry – studios, locations, distribution, exhibition, special effects, post-production and archives – to implement a sustainable strategy as part of their business. Why should film businesses do this? I think for three reasons:
  • ethical responsibility
  • good business sense
  • legal obligations

If there was a mission statement for Greening Film, it might be that we want to help create a resource to support the industry in becoming more sustainable and reduce its environmental impact.

Your website mentions something called BS 8909.  What is it and whom does it affect?

CC: BS 8909 is a British Standard devised by the film industry with the British Standards Institute. It is a specification for a sustainability management system for film, and has been designed to help the film industry run its business in a more sustainable way. Launched in Cannes in 2011, it can be used by organisations working in all sections of the film industry.

BS 8909 uses the most widely adopted definition of sustainability as specified by the Brundtland Commission, which states “sustainable development is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. It takes three areas into consideration: social, financial and environmental. So sustainability can be considered to be an enduring, balanced approach to economic activity, environmental responsibility and social progress.