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Friday, 20 November 2015

[Film Review] Over

Writer/Director Jorn Threllfall
Running Time; 15 minutes

A quiet typical suburban English street turns in what looks like a crime scene. The story unfolds through nine consecutive scenes in reverse order.

Less is more from the running time to Jorn Threllfall's minimalist script devoid of any dialogue save for the occasional murmur. This is his strength keeping the viewer captivated waiting for something to happen as both observer and amateur detective. The latter is served as Threllfall increasingly tantalises with titbits as each scene progresses and watching the scenes unravel actually feel like time is passing much slower. The viewer becomes obsessed with every little detail to the point. Seemingly simple occurrences such as the rustling leaves in the wind to a father and son enjoying a kick around on the green become the focus in waiting for some sort of clue, anticipation for the big reveal.


As a storyteller Threllfall brilliantly lets the events speak for themselves bit by bit having fun with the traditional cinematic narrative rarely seen except in films like Michael Haneke's "Hidden" and Christopher Nolan's "Memento". Essentially it is clever story telling with a social angle that hits hard in every respect at the end that should give everyone watching some pause for thought.


Thursday, 19 November 2015

[Film Review] Everything Will be Okay

Stars; Simon Schwarz, Julia Pointer
Director/Writer; Patrick Volltrah
Running Time; 30 minutes

Divorced father Michael picks up his eight year old daughter Lea for their usual second weekend time together.  It seems like any other visit with her father, but soon Lea notices her father's strange behaviour and can't help but feel that something isn't right.

Capturing a heart wrenching family drama in a half hour short film is no easy task but it is a challenge young film maker Patrick Volltrah has risen to and overcome.

The success of the story of an estranged father's love for his daughter leading him to misguided drastic action lies in its simplicity. Volltrah has skilfully crafted his story to unfold through two very emotionally complex characters allowing their actions and reactions to dictate the narrative though it is mostly told through Lea's perspective. The mix of emotions are at the core of the film's gravitas. Michael's change in behaviour from light-hearted and jovial to increasing irritation and finally desperation is a tragic tale how fear of loss makes us do the craziest things. Lea is a typical eight year old who wants to play with toys and ride the bumper cars at the fair oblivious to her father's plans. This changes when she notices Michael's increasingly erratic behaviour and her distress pulls on the viewer's heartstrings. We instinctively root for Lea as she takes the role of the adult and changes the course of fate her father intended. As both of these lead to its inevitable conclusion we see a father lost in his deepest darkest fears inconsolable with poor Lea visibly and emotionally torn in the film's most lump in the throat inducing scene.

Michael arrives to see his daughter.
Patrick Volltrah is an engaging story teller who gets right to the crux of the film's emotional core. He doesn't just tug at the heartstrings but yanks on them so hard as to almost pull you into the unfolding story with the help of his two talented performers.
Lea is visibly upset with her father's actions.

Anybody who has lived through a break up would surely relate, and the rest be caught up in an emotional bumper car ride that will have you wanting to believe the film's final line uttered by Lea's mother that "Everything Will be Okay."






UPDATE!!! "Everything Will be Ok" has been nominated for an OSCAR in the Best Live Action Short Category. The nominees are as follows;


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

[INTERVIEW] - Philippe Audi-Dor

Young writer/director Philippe Audi-Dor is garnering high praise with his feature film debut "Wasp" which received its UK premier at the Raindance Film Festival last month. "Wasp" is a refreshing take on old story of forbidden love and questioning sexuality, a film I described in my recent review as "an insightful dramatic play about how regardless of sexuality all relationships are plagued by the same things". It was awarded Best International Feature and Best Actress for Elly Condron at the "Film Out LGBT Festival" in San Diego with more festival screenings on the way including "Boston LGBT Film Festival", "Beirut International Film Festival" and "Amsterdam Roze Filmdagen Film Festival"  

I recently interviewed Philippe about his life, work and influences, how the idea for "Wasp" came about as well as some of its more intricate themes.

UPDATE; Sadly "Wasp" will not be screening at the Beirut International Film Festival  having been banned by the Lebanese Censorship Bureau.  Spokesmen for the Beirut International Film Festival  explained the reason behind the ban was that neither had secured a permit from General Security.  In the past other LGBT films played at the festival including Lilting (UK) and Tom à la Ferme in 2014. Philippe had this to say;  “I am very disappointed that Wasp won’t be screening at the renowned Beirut International Film Festival because of its LGBT content. That said, I do understand that the film touches upon a delicate subject, and do respect the censorship bureau’s decision. I do think however that the cancelling of the movie emphasizes just how relevant a film like Wasp is in today’s world.”
 

 Can you tell me a little more about yourself?

 My background is fairly eclectic. I was born in Geneva (Switzerland) from a Lebanese mother and French father, and educated by an English nanny. At 19 I left for the UK, where I completed a double BA in Film & TV Studies and Cultural Sociology at the University of Nottingham. Upon graduating, I was selected to intern at both Lionsgate Studios and Fox Searchlight in Los Angeles. When I returned to Europe I enrolled at Drama Centre London (Central Saint Martins) and obtained an MA in Screen Directing. Four months after graduating (and with a couple short films under my belt), I started the pre-production for "Wasp". I couldn't bear the thought of waiting any longer before making a feature; life is simply too short. Two years down the line the film is finally completed, and here I am talking to you!



What inspired you to become a film maker? Who are your influences?

I had always liked telling stories, by writing short stories, putting up plays and especially drawing comic books. The movie that changed everything for me was "Requiem for a Dream." I was seventeen, and for the first time I realised how powerful the combination of acting, editing, music, imagery, etc. could really be. I wasn't interested in one specific aspect, but how they all worked together to create something bigger than the sum of its parts. From then on I knew I had to direct films. It was never a decision per-say; just something I knew I had to do. That really was the turning point.

The director who inspired me to start directing so soon however is Xavier Dolan. He made me realize that there is a place for young film directors in the industry – we just need to know how to create the opportunity for ourselves. As long as you have enough passion and a good film, people will listen to you and give you a chance. 
"Contrary to a bee, a wasp can sting repeatedly without fear of putting its life in danger. I feel the slightly reckless way in which the characters behave reflects this quite accurately."
What is the significance of the film's title? I know during the course of the film there are occasional cuts to a wasp caught in some blinds but would you mind expanding a little more?
To me, wasps evoke both a sense of summer and danger, which corresponds perfectly to the story’s overall atmosphere, hence the title. In addition, the way these insects behave is fascinating. Contrary to a bee, a wasp can sting repeatedly without fear of putting its life in danger. I feel the slightly reckless way in which the characters behave reflects this quite accurately. I also recently learned that the venom in wasps contains a pheromone that causes nearby wasps to become more aggressive. Who is the ‘wasp’ in the film is up to the audience to decide but personally, I believe that all characters become the wasp at one point or another, as they all end up ‘stinging’ each other – as if one’s venom had triggered aggressiveness in all the others.

Last note on this insect, know that after a male wasp mates with the Queen, it dies shortly afterwards…

The use of the wasp in the film is fairly straightforward. The opening sequence is my way of saying that even amongst the beautiful Provencal nature hides something dangerous – symbolised by the wasp. It will find its way into the house, and will do everything in its power to survive. The final shot of the wasp is open to interpretation: Either negative (the death of the characters relationship), or positive (leaving behind what caused their disarray), or even as a bad omen – the danger that threatened them, though weakened, isn’t dead. As you can guess I do love ambiguity, as I feel it forces the audience to discuss the film after watching it.

Caroline's choice of reading material, namely Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita" is interesting. Any reason why that was included? Does it represent any of the film's themes?

I like the idea of her enjoying a book about a 'love that shouldn't be', with questionable morals. I felt it resonated quite well with what was going on in "Wasp". Though not as apparent, the character of James is reading 'This is Paradise' (by Will Eaves) which I thought would be funny in an ironic way, while Olivier reads 'The Heat of the Sun' (by David Rain).


There are some quite tense moments in the film, in particular I was gripped during the scene where Olivier is driving Caroline back to the house. How hard was it to get the actors to maintain their steely composure for that scene? They pulled it off very well.

Thank you - and I agree, I love that car scene. The actors were amazing. Because the camera was attached directly to the car, there was no way for me to monitor the scene as it was being filmed (nor was I going to hide in the car which would have been distracting more than anything else). We just went over the scene beforehand, then I just let the actors go, camera rolling. Once they came back I watched what had been captured, and knew it was the one. It only took one take.

One funny anecdote: as they first started the scene, it all went horribly wrong with six cars showing out of nowhere on this usually deserted road and the car doors not opening properly. Elly and Simon were true professionals staying in character, but soon realised it just wasn't going to work out! They went back to square one and started the scene again, this time finishing it uninterrupted. But personally, I still find it hilarious watching that outtake! I think it’s on the DVD extras for everyone to enjoy. 

"I felt as though sexually complex characters were too rarely portrayed on screen (unless they were unbalanced psychopaths…) and wanted to contribute to changing that."
How much of the film is based on real people and situations?

I wouldn’t say the characters are based on real people, but rather on different ‘aspects’ of me. "Wasp" was written while I was asking myself a lot of questions. I was discovering the ups and downs of a first committed relationship, had enrolled in a very demanding art school and had just moved to three different cities in the space of six months… It was an odd time for me. The writing was a very cathartic experience where I was able to have different ‘versions’ of me confront each other (this sounds borderline schizophrenic, but you know what I mean.)


Overall, "Wasp" definitely stems from the frustrations I went though as a sexually confused young man. Having had experiences with both men and women I knew I wasn’t straight, but defining myself as gay didn’t feel quite right either. During my studies in Cultural Sociology I discovered the Klein SexualOrientation grid (mentioned in the film), which explores the complexity of sexuality in an in-depth but approachable way. It helped me understand who I was, while simultaneously planting the seed for "Wasp" in my mind. I felt as though sexually complex characters were too rarely portrayed on screen (unless they were unbalanced psychopaths…) and wanted to contribute to changing that.

In a sense, "Wasp" is an emotional autobiography, but not in the facts it portrays. Let’s not forget we were dealing with cinema here – though the film tries to stay realistic, it’s definitely more eventful than my daily life!

There are many facets in Olivier's and James' relationship good and bad that people should recognise in their own lives irrespective of sexuality. Is that a point you were trying to make?
Definitely. "Wasp’s" focus is really about love, and not sexual orientation. I think it’s for that reason that the film appeals to audiences that are straight, gay and everything in between. To me Wasp is a story which explores both the nicer aspects of love – romance, desire, sex – as well as the darker ones – temptation, jealousy, heartbreak. It’s a very universal theme everyone can relate to.

How important do you feel is sexuality in finding someone attractive? In other words do you agree with Caroline's position that nobody is 100% straight or gay?
I think it really does depend on people. Some people probably are a 100% straight, other a 100% gay, but I believe most people are somewhere ‘in between’. There are so many different aspects to sexuality to take in account though… Should your sexual orientation be based on your sexual behaviour only? On how you identify yourself? What if you have desires you never act upon, should they nevertheless still be taken into account? When it comes to understanding sexuality, I really think that the Klein Sexual Orientation grid is one of the best tools we have. It’s such a shame it’s not well known in mainstream culture.    


Caroline's seduction of Olivier is subtle and Elly Condron is very alluring. How did you get her to exude such a strong sexual presence without being overtly sexual?
Elly is a terrific actress, and most credit goes to her! I think people often forget that Caroline’s character is deeply broken, which makes her very vulnerable. She puts on such a strong front though a lot of people tend to forget where her recklessness comes from. As a result, rather than being a vulgar, in your face, overly confident ‘sexual predator’ we’re presented with someone who uses her sexuality as a last resort to feel some sort of love. I think there is something really touching about Caroline’s character.

In addition, I think the way we filmed the movie – simple, long takes and many distant wide shots – creates an overall sense of respect and prudishness. No ‘close-up on the breasts’ or anything of the sorts!
 
What do you hope people will take away from the film?

I hope they will realise that sexuality is a much more complex aspect of human life than how we have come to understand it. And more importantly, that we all face struggles in the face of love – whether we might be gay, straight, bisexual or anything else! 

Thank you to Philippe Audi-Dor for taking the time to answer my questions, and also to Catherine Lyn Scott. Wasp is currently available on DVD and VoD.


Friday, 25 September 2015

[FILM REVIEW] - WASP (2015)

Stars; Simon Haycock, Elly Condron, Hugo Bolton
Director; Philippe Audi-Dor
Writer; Philippe Audi-Dor
Running Time; 72 minutes

James and Olivier's romantic getaway to the South of France is interrupted by  chance meeting with Caroline, James' friend from his University days. On hearing that she had just broken up with her long term boyfriend James invites Caroline to stay with him and Olivier in an effort to cheer her up. Tensions arise however when Caroline develops an interest in Olivier who soon finds himself infatuated with her, forcing to question his feelings for James and his own sexuality.



Philippe Audi-Dor's first feature film is a story of troubled relationships and questioning identity contained within a pressure cooker-like emotional three way that looks set to blow under the strain of too much heat. This anticipation, that something is about to give or blow as a result of the tense build up is what keeps viewer attention. Audi-Dor builds and maintains it well making good use of the natural chemistry between Simon Haycock as the somewhat reserved Olivier and Elly Condron's playful Caroline. Unlike other films of this ilk that deal with illicit love, the reason behind Olivier's attraction to Caroline is somewhat deliberately ambiguous, leaving one unsure as to whether it is symptomatic of his troubled relationship with James or uncertainty about his sexuality. In this, Audi-Dor the writer poses the question of whether attraction has anything to do with sexuality. This adds further intrigue to a film in which not much appears to happen.


There are scenes of sightseeing, drinking, and intense conversations, interspersed with some beautifully shot sights of Provence. By far the most intense moments leading up to the climax have to be Olivier demanding sex from James during which he thinks only of Caroline, and the very awkward drive home between Olivier and Caroline. Audi-Dor really knows how to set a tone, and the scene for what follows, from the opening shots of lavender fields being pollinated with the increasing volume of chirping crickets, to James' slow awakening. Then there is the Wasp of the film's title ever present, leaving the viewer wondering what role it is likely to play in the proceedings. These help keep that all important viewer attention for Audi-Dor's delving into his characters' complexities.

The question of whether attraction transcends sexuality is not a new one and has been addressed in film and television previously. What we get with "Wasp" is an exercise in perception as one character observes "people see what they want to see" and that is certainly true of Olivier and James, and Caroline. Bit by bit feelings and motivations are slowly revealed continuously challenging character and viewer perceptions all the way to the end which leaves one with still more questions. What you come away with is an insightful dramatic play about how regardless of sexuality all relationships are plagued by the same things; insecurity, self-doubt, and jealousy, an emotionally explosive cocktail. The performances of the three actors are so spot on they bring these compelling traits to the fore.




"Wasp" a beautifully filmed movie making good use of its captivating South of France locations, calming and picturesque in direct contrast to fanning of the characters' emotional embers. The performances from the film's trio are emotionally charged and engaging with Elly Condron exuding subtle sexual chemistry as well as vulnerability in what is quite a troubled character. Simon Haycock and Hugo Bolton are charming as the young couple in love and manage to convey with ease each of their gradual realisation as to the truth of their relationship. Solid performances with fantastic scenery will make for a worthy addition at the Raindance Film Festival.

WASP will screen again at the Raindance Film Festival on Wednesday 30th September and will be available on DVD from 28th September 2015. For more information about screening time visit the Raindance Festival website

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Hawk The Slayer Screening at FrightFest 2015

This year's Film4 Frightfest promises to be, according to event director Paul McEvoy "the UK's biggest, wildest and best ever genre celebration of past, present and future". The festival will be warmly welcomed once again to the Vue Cinema in Leicester Square, London on 27th August for its five day slaughter-thon of gore, thrills, chills, and dismemberment of body and soul. Included in this wild cinematic genre celebration of the past is the sword and sorcery epic "Hawk The Slayer" to feature at the event's Discovery screen, its first big screen showing in over three decades. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with writer/director Terry Marcel and  actor Ray Charleson aka Crow the eflin bowman during which a special announcement will be made regarding the long awaited sequel "Hawk The Hunter".




When it was released in 1980 "Hawk The Slayer" didn't quite set the till bells ringing at the box office and critics were unduly harsh in their reviews. Yet it was fans of fantasy sword and sorcery tales and the Role Playing Game (RPG) community that took this colourfully classic tale of good vs evil to their hearts and elevated it to the more esteemed cult status with its more successful VHS video and DVD releases.

Recently there have been talks of wheels turning to make the long awaited sequel "Hawk the Hunter" a reality with a YouTube announcement plus news of legendary musician Rick Wakeman agreeing to produce the film's score. Following the announcement that "Hawk The Slayer" has been selected for presentation in the highly popular Discovery Stand at Film4 FrightFest 2015, the film's writer and director Terry Marcel commented;
I am deeply honoured that after 35 years, Hawk The Slayer will once again be shown on the big screen, and at such a prestigious event. I will be announcing the film, alongside CROW actor Ray Charleson, and we will take a Q&A session after the movie closes. During the proceedings I will be launching our Kickstarter Campaign to raise the final amount required for us to make the long awaited sequel Hawk The Hunter, of which more news to follow. In attendance will be my good friend Rick Wakeman who is attached to produce the film score I hope everyone enjoys the screening and I look forward to meeting as many Hawk fans as possible." - Terry Marcel


"Hawk The Slayer" has many a celebrity fan including lead singer of The Darkness Justin Hawkins, Bill Bailey, and Simon Pegg. It will be available on Blu-Ray from 6th July 2015. 

Further information can be found online and on social media;

Twitter; @slayer_hawk #SlayerReturns #HuntBegins #hawkthehunter
Facebook; Hawk The Hunter

Film 4 Frightfest; www.frightfest.co.uk
Twitter; @film4frightfest
Facebook; Film4Frightfest





Friday, 8 May 2015

Post General Election Thoughts

It seems presumptive to post this with the results still being finalised but if the exit polls are anything to go by it's safe to say that the Conservatives will win this election. The victory will either be with a slim majority or just be shy of the needed 326 seats, enough to throw a crumb or two to any one of the other parties such as the Liberal Democrats, DUP or even heaven forbid UKIP. So let's get my obvious thoughts out of the way.

Image Credit Theresa Thompson
Despite my rather grandiose soapbox ranting about the importance of voting over who you should vote for, I am utterly stunned by this pending result. I cannot believe the electorate opted for five more years of the following;
  • crippling austerity that will lead to more dependency on what little benefits we have left and an increase in the need for foodbanks
  • continued privatisation of the NHS
  • even more cuts to legal aid denying more people access to legal representation
  • continued cuts to vital services such as refuges and help centres for women escaping violent partners and spouses (let's not forget the ex's)
  • increased energy costs that will see more elderly and infirmed unable to keep the heating on risking death by hypothermia
  • pushing through regulations allowing for fracking to be carried out under peoples homes
  • introduction of TTIP that will ensure none of our vital services can be nationalised and put power into the hands of big companies to strike essential legislation such as health and safety, ethical & fair trade, and fairer wages
  • Katie Hopkins staying in the UK
This of course is just the tip of the iceberg. I will particularly mourn our NHS as not only has it helped with treatment of my sleep apnoea but has provided vital care and treatment to at least three generations of my family, as well as my friends.

Image Credit League of Women Voters


I hope those who know me try not to take this too personally but I loathe every vote cast to keep the Conservatives in power, it was the wrong decision in my opinion and I now fear that we are in for some tougher times ahead. Still this is a democracy and the downside to trumpeting on about getting out there to vote is that those who listen and act on that war cry might not vote the way we'd like them to. On a Facebook post about the need to vote I pointed out that I wouldn't hold it against any of my friends if they voted for say UKIP and the same goes for Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters. Freedom to choose right or wrong is a fundamental principle but whilst Conservative supports wake up smiling permit me to indulge in a little celebration of my own, some small victories that offer us a little hope and put a smile on our faces;

  • George Galloway loses Bradford West to Labour's Naz Shah.
  • UKIP's Mark Reckless lost his seat in Rochdale and Strood
  • Karin Smith of Labour is my MP
  • The SNP coup
  • Lib Dem Stephen Williams is no longer MP for Bristol West
  • Although I feel a little sorry for them, the Liberal Democrats paid the price for betraying their electorate
  • Twenty year old Mhari Black (SNP) becoming the UK's youngest MP
  • Girl Power is riding high in Bristol with all four Bristol constituencies having elected strong women MPs Thangham Debbonaire (Bristol West), Karin Smith (Bristol South), Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) and Charlotte Leslie (Conservative) - three out of four isn't bad.
  • The Green's Caroline Lucas holds onto Brighton Pavillion. Clearly people shared Russell Brand's view that it would be a travesty if her voice was lost in Westminster
  • Nigel Farage is on course to lose in South Thanet which would be made better if he lost some votes to Al Murray.
It's going to be a tough five years but if we get our MPs on side and keep the pressure on perhaps the damage can be minimised until the next election. Just be grateful that "only dogging" enthusiasts were not allowed to vote as according to Channel 4's "Alternative Election Coverage" it would have resulted in a UKIP majority.

Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred - Martin Luther King Jr