Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mamma Mia now biggest ever UK movie at UK box-office

With box-office reaching £66,995,244 (€84,758,880 or $104,590,000), "Mamma Mia!" is the second highest-grossing film of all time in the UK behind Titanic and the biggest ever UK movie at the UK box office. The celebration of Abba was directed by Phylida Lloyd on a script by Catherine Johnson.

Quoted by Screen International, David Kosse, president of Universal Pictures International said, "We think it still has some life in it. The sing-along version has been a great success and will continue to give it a bump, and we now have Christmas party bookings coming in from across the UK. One driver is the multiple viewings with people going back to see it again and again. It really is happening on a scale that we haven't seen before."

It's easy to knock this film, but both it and the underlying stage play touch a very deep chord in audiences worldwide. The inherent silliness is not a problem, as from having seen it, one can only salute the power of Abba's songs. Like the music it is based on, "Mamma Mia!" will not win any creative awards. It doesn't have to; it connects with the audience in a way most other films can only vaguely dream of.

Friday, October 17, 2008

"You, the Living" picks up Nordic Council Film prize

One of the most bizarre films in Europe has just picked up the Nordic Council Film Prize. "You, the Living", written and directed by Sweden's Ray Andersson ("Songs From the Second Floor") is a surreal but very touching exploration of man's best and worst sides. Shot entirely in studio, it breaks with what Andersson calls the "prevailng Anglo-Saxon film dramaturgy, but is still a story". Looking at extracts, I'm reminded of Tati at times due to the disconnected style of using bizarre vignettes. One of the most remarkable scenes features a tramp singing an ode to a motorcycle. Odd, but it works.

"You, the Living" was shown in the "Un certain regard" section of Cannes 2007, was Sweden’s Oscar entry and won Best Film, Director and Script at Sweden’s Guldbagge awards.

The official site is here. For a few extracts, visit Cineuropa's website.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

German shorts go on the road

I just received an e-mail from German about German shorts that are going on the road (there's a pun there that I will resist!).

The 41st Sitges Film Festival (02.-12.10.2008) is showing FULL EMPLOYMENT (ARBEIT FUER ALLE) by Thomas Oberlies and Matthias Vogel and KINGZ by Benni Diez and Marinko Spahic in the Official Fantstic Shorts competition. A6/A9 by Johannes Schiehsl and FREQUENCY MORPHOGENESIS by Onni Pohl were invited to screen in the section entitled Animat Shorts.

THE GIRL WITH THE YELLOW STOCKINGS (DAS MAEDCHEN MIT DEN GELBEN STRUEMPFEN) by Grzegorz Muskala, SEA DOG'S DEVOTION (SEEMANNSTREUE) by Anna Kalus and A SUNDAY IN WINTER (EIN SONNTAG IM WINTER) by Hella Wenders are competing in the short films competition of the 37th Festival Nouveau Cinéma Montreal
(08.-19.10.2008). MY HAPPY END by Milen Vitanov, A SUNNY DAY (EIN SONNIGER
TAG) by Gil Alkabetz and VIDEO 3000 by Joerg Edelmann, Joern Grohans, Jochen Haussecker and Marc Schleiss can be seen in the childrens programmes. EXIT by Jochen Kuhn is screening in Prsentation Spcial, the programme Temps/Nouvelles Images will be showing DESCENDANTS
(NACHKOMMEN) by Heiko van der Scherm.

BROTHER, BROTHER (BRUDER, BRUDER) by Lars Kreyig and ILLUSION by Burhan Qurbani were invited to the student films competition of the 2nd Middle East International Film Festival Abu Dhabi (10.-19.10.2008).

The 53rd Cork Film Festival (12.-19.10.2008) will be showing ON THE LINE (AUF DER STRECKE) by Reto Caffi (DE/CH), JOURNEY TO THE FOREST (REISE ZUM WALD) by Joern Staeger and SUNRISE DA CAPO by Nina Poppe in the International Shorts competition. MY HAPPY END by Milen Vitanov can be seen in the section for Family Screenings.

The 52nd London Film Festival (15.-30.10.2008) has selected five German shorts. 7 MORE MINUTES by Izabela Plucinska (DE/PL), ON THE LINE (AUF DER STRECKE) by Reto Caffi (DE/CH) and W. by The Vikings will screen in Short Cuts & Animation. REMOTE INTIMACY (FERNE INTIMITT) by Sylvia Schedelbauer and PNEUMA MONOXYD by Thomas Koener (DE/RS) will be shown in the Experimenta sidebar.

The 46th Viennale (17.-29.10.2008) has invited 2 ODER 3 VERSUCHE, EINE IDEE UMZUSETZEN by Jan Peters and Marie-Catherine Theiler (DE/CH), MONA by Agnes Rossa (EG/DE), PIANOFORTE by Christoph Girardet and SCOPE and TEACHING THE ALPHABET by Volker Schreiner to its short film sections.

ON THE LINE (AUF DER STRECKE) by Reto Caffi (DE/CH), TOMORROW-YEAH! by Daniela Abke and WHEN WE ARE IN HEAVEN (UND WENN WIR DANN IM HIMMEL SIND) by Daniela Risch will be running In Competition at the 27th International Short Film Festival Uppsala (20.-26.10.2008). A SUNNY DAY (EIN SONNIGER TAG) by Gil Alkabetz and WHITE (WEISS) by Florian Grolig can be seen as Childrens Films.

HASTINGS by Nikolas Jger will be shown in the sidebar Brick Film Fest, while 40 SQUARE METERS (40 QUADRATMETER LEBEN) by Eva Thron is being shown in the programme of Gay/Lesbian: At Home and Out and About. AMIN by David Dusa (FR/DE/NL) is part of Short Matters.

ENERGY! (ENERGIE!) by Thorsten Fleisch and SUPER SMILE by Effi Wu are invited to the Shorts Competition of the 22nd AFI Fest Los Angeles (30.10.-09.11.2008).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Stranger than fiction: Italian actor arrested in mob swoop

Italy has decided to get heavy on the Mafia, sending 3,000 military in to the worst areas to support police activities. But in a bizarre twist, two actors who played the role of gangsters in the award-winning film "Gomorra" by Matteo Garrone have been arrested as part of a group of people associated with a Mafia gang in Naples. The arrests follow the murdering of six Africans suspected of dealing in drugs and who were killed as a way of warning others to back off the lucrative trade. Following rioting, thousands of people took to the streets to denounce the killings and organised crime, with a similar demonstration in Rome drawing a very large crowd.

The semi-professional actor Giovanni Venosa was known to the police as a petty criminal and was fingered by a prison inmate as a possible drugs pusher. He plays a local boss in the movie.

UK review on Time Out
Trailer in English on Optimum releasing.

Friday, October 10, 2008

William Friedkin masterclass in London

You might have to move fast on this one. William Friedkin is the writer/director/producer of landmark films such as "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist", both of which redefined their genres and provoked considerable outrage at the time. Since then, he has also produced "Cruising" and "To Live and Die in L.A." and is now active in TV and opera.

In an event organised by The Script Factory, he will be interviewed live by Mark Kermode following a screening of "The French Connection" on October 21 at 8pm at the Screen on the Green in Islington, London. Tickets priced £10 are on sale from Screen on The Green box office on 08700 664777.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"Love is All" picks up Best Dutch film award

The box-office hit comedy "Love is All/Alles is Liefde" picked up the Best Film award at the 2008 Golden Calves ceremony (Dutch national film awards) on the last day of the Netherlands Film Festival. Over a million visitors saw the film last year, which also earned the Best Director Golden Calf for Joram Lürsen. The script is by Kim van Kooten.

Robert Jan Westdijk’s "In Real Life" won awards in the categories of Best Cinematography and Best Editing, while Mijke de Jong’s "Katia’s Sister" was awarded Golden Calves for Best Supporting Actress (Olga Louzgina), and Best Screenplay, for Jan Eilander and Jolein Laarman. Paula van der Oest’s "Tiramisu" won Best Actress honours for Anneke Blok and Best Score for Michiel Borstlap.

The acting awards for men went to Robert de Hoog for his role as a Jewish skinhead in "Skin" and Ton Kas for his supporting role in the political satire "Vox Populi". The Audience Award went to "Mafrika" from Paul Ruven.

Local heroes
I often pick out winners at the festivals around Europe, and looking back at them, it still surprises me how few of them break through outside their home territories. Scandinavia has a thriving local cinema that simply does not travel for the moment. The region of Flanders in Belgium has the same problem. In fact, it's worse. Even though they share a language with the Netherlands (Dutch), the two show very little interest in each others' movies.

This is clearly a huge handicap to the development of Europe's industry. Going back a decade or so, the French cinema used to produce movies of a large scale that were released globally. They often called on Italian or Polish directors for ambitious projects. They have scaled back considerably since then, despite a healthy flow of successes such as "Amélie Poulain", "La vie en rose" or the "Taxi" franchise.

Every five years or so, someone tries to set up a larger European company with global ambitions. But they seem to hit a glass ceiling every so often. It has also regularly been said that the type of project being produced in Europe (such as "Love is All") are films with in-built limitations in terms of mass appeal.

Until something changes - in either the development or the distribution - most of these local heroes seem to be condemned to being just that.

This article is featured on the Carnival of Cinema.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

"Louise Michel" picks up screenwriting award at San Sebastian

Gustave Kervern and Benoît Delépine (photo) have picked up the Best Screenplay award at Spain's 56th San Sebastian Film Festival for "Louise Michel". Their third feature, the film stars Yolande Moreau, Bouli Lanners, Benoît Poelevorde and Matthieu Kassovitz (who also co-produced) in a goofy tale of a hit-man and his client chasing an unscrupulous company boss. The film will screen at the London Film Festival (October 15-30) and open in Belgium on December 24. Overall winner at San Sebastian was the Turkish film "Pandora's Box" by Yesim Ustaoglu (co-written by Selma Kaygusuz), which also won Best Actress.

For details, check the 56th San Sebastian Film Festival.