Monday, 2 April 2018

JOHN CURRY: BRITAIN'S BRAVEST OLYMPIAN'S SKATING SUCCESSES & SECRET STRUGGLES

John Curry, an icon on the ice


The Ice King
director James Erskine talks sport, skating and sexuality upon release of his new John Curry documentary biopic.


“What would it be like to grow up in a society that said you cannot be who you are?” A provocative premise to derive from a sports documentary, or at least one ostensibly about sports, and not an entirely expected one. Yet, for many, such a thought lies at the heart of a life lived in fear and self-doubt. It is what Winter Olympic gold medal-winning ice skater John Curry created from these potentially self-destructive qualities that inspired Emmy-nominated director James Erskine to explore his life and career in The Ice King, a new documentary due for release in the UK on February 23.

Curry earned his status as an international sports celebrity through the early 1970s as a revolutionary character in figure skating, transforming the sport from a simple display of physical prowess into an art form. He won Olympic, World, European and British Championship medals, permanently changing the worldwide public’s perception of the sport. Yet Erskine recalls his recollection of Curry as being only vague prior to embarking on the documentary, with his primary inspiration coming from author Bill Jones’ 2014 book Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry: “This was an amazing story and I thought, ‘I must make it!’”

It wasn’t as straightforward as just ‘making it,’ however, as the production process required a tenacity rivalling Curry’s own. “We actually wrote a document where we would identify which dances we wanted and which ones we hadn’t yet found, and then looked at how we would structure the story coherently through those dances,” explains Erskine. “I’d said to my researchers, ‘Ok, we’ll do it if we find these three dances, but as far as I know they don’t exist on film and if they don’t exist then there’s no point in making this.’ We spent a long time combing the globe for any material on John, any interviews that he’d done. It was just before we started that [assistant producer] Siwan Clark and [co-producer] Luc Tremoulet spoke to people who actually knew John and said, ‘By the way, have you got any footage?’ We knew that a lot of the performances, whilst they were written about, had never been filmed, so there was quite a few performances that we found the footage had never been seen. Nobody had pulled this stuff out before.”

James Erskine (left) with The Battle of the Sexes co-director Zara Hayes (right) at the 2013 Edinburgh International Film Festival
While Erskine, whose recent work has included acclaimed features such as 2013’s The Battle of the Sexes on the infamous 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, and 2014’s Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist about Tour de France and Giro d’Italia winner Marco Pantani, has a background in sports filmmaking, he found himself ever more drawn to the artistic and psychological aspects of his subject’s story, a transition mirrored in Curry’s move from sportsperson to choreographer, producer and performer in theatrical ice skating productions. Showcasing this artistry placed new demands on the filmmaker: “In films, often it’s action and it’s quick cuts, and that literally was just on a single camera. There’s a dance in the film called Moonskate which is the most amazing work of art – it’s just extraordinary and if you know the circumstances of his life it’s even more extraordinary. We tried that at different lengths and with different talking underneath it and actually, to really understand it, you needed to have it play for four-and-a-half minutes and only have occasional prompts. You needed to immerse just as if you looked at a Monet – there’s a reason why they have those benches in the National Gallery to sit and look at it. It’s a completely different experience.”

Knowing the circumstances of Curry’s life was not only essential to understanding his work but also to understanding this film. Following his gold medal win at the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Curry was outed as gay in the German press. Where The Ice King acquires its most potent emotional resonance is in its excavation of the emotional undercurrents of self-doubt and self-loathing that drove Curry’s duelling impulses to create and to destroy. “I think if you have an inherent belief that you’re not good enough, no matter what you do, you will attempt to destroy it,” says Erskine. “He sets out to be accepted by society but he can’t ultimately accept himself. And at what point does that happen to him – is it growing up in a repressive family, or with a repressive relationship with his father, or a repressive society?” These are dilemmas that Erskine recognises in artists in every field – from skating to Shakespeare: “I think the quest for perfection is actually an inevitability of the enterprise in itself. But if you’re seen as lesser, how do you ever get completely convinced that you are great? Most people can’t, and I’m not sure John was entirely able to do that.”

Erskine believes and hopes, though, that John Curry’s professional success might serve in a demonstrative capacity for sportspeople moving ahead, even now, 24 years after his death from an AIDS-related heart attack. “I think anybody that comes out [in sport], it shows that they’re just as good as anybody else,” he says. “They’re role models.” It’s a note of optimism in contrast to the emotional heaviness of much of Curry’s story, a detail that made The Ice King “quite a traumatic film to make,” as Erskine notes. “I found it got under my skin, and I was pretty down making it. It was a hard, hard film to make.”

It’s referenced in the film that the culture of mistrust around homosexuality in Britain, including its very illegality in Curry’s youth, persists today in much of the world, making Erskine’s query, “What would it be like to grow up in a society that said you cannot be who you are?” even more poignant. Interestingly, even he remains uncertain of how to resolve such difficult, delicate concerns: “What is life about? We could all get knocked over by a bus tomorrow. It’s about what you do and what you leave, as much as how long we last. How happy you are, I mean, does that matter? If the art’s good, whether you’re happy or sad? I mean, does the art matter? Should you be happy? Those are eternal questions. For John, love mattered. He didn’t ever fully find the love that he was seeking.” It’s a painful point, though one made within what is, ultimately, a positive film, whose own commitment to artistry is worthy of that of its subject.

The Ice King was in the UK on the 23rd of February and is distributed by Dogwoof.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

8 FEMALE CINEMATOGRAPHERS EVERY FILM FAN SHOULD KNOW



As debates around diversity in the film industry show no sign of abating, one field of work remains dispiritingly male-dominated: cinematography. The Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film found, in their Celluloid Closet Report, that only 5% of the top 250 highest-grossing films at the U.S. box office in 2016 were shot by women. Additionally, aside from the male acting categories, Best Cinematography is the only Academy Award category never to have featured a single female nominee out of a total 603 mentions to date. It's high time that changed. Here are eight female Directors of Photography whose names ought to be on the lips of every self-respecting, forward-looking film fans. And check out our video above, featuring some of their finest work!



Emmy-nominated French DP Maryse Alberti is a regular on the documentary filmmaking front, as many women cinematographers are, though she has attracted acclaim for her non-documentary work too. She's worked with directors such as Todd Haynes, Richard Linklater, and Darren Aronofsky, winning Spirit Awards for both Velvet Goldmine and The Wrestler (above), and garnering Oscar buzz for her work on 2015's Creed.


Argentinian Natasha Braier worked mainly in Hispanic cinema with celebrated auteurs like Claudia Llosa and Jose Luis Guerin until her international breakthrough in 2014's The Rover. Since then, she's made a name for herself globally with her multi-award nominated cinematography for Nicolas Winding Refn's Palme d'Or contender The Neon Demon last year.


The French continue to lead the way for female-focused film! Caroline Champetier has over 100 screen credits to her name, and has worked with Chantal Akerman, Straub/Huillet, Jean-Luc Godard, Margarethe von Trotta, Jacques Rivette, Arnaud Desplechin, Leos Carax, and many more renowned directors. She's a Cesar-winner for her work on Of Gods and Men, and a Camerimage Silver Frog winner for Holy Motors.


Few DPs of any genre can boast the reputation held by Agnes Godard. A frequent collaborator of Claire Denis, Godard has cultivated a distinctive style of cinematography over the last three decades since her debut working with Agnes Varda on Jacquot de Nantes. Her credits include modern classics like Nenette and Boni, Beau Travail (above), and 35 Shots of Rum.


Ellen Kuras is not only one of the world's premier female cinematographers, she's also an Oscar-nominated documentarian. Most know her, however, for her highly-recognisable work for filmmakers such as Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, Jim Jarmusch, Jonathan Demme, and Michel Gondry on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (above). In addition, Kuras is a three-time Cinematography Award-winner from the Sundance Film Festival.


The prodigious Helene Louvart has worked on over 100 projects in the last 30 years as a cinematographer. During this time, she has developed an excellent artistic reputation working frequently with female director: Dominique Cabrera, Claire Denis, Agnes Varda, Mati Diop, Eliza Hittman and Alice Rohrwacher (The Wonders, above) to name but a small few.


Babette Mangolte has only performed DP duties on 16 feature films since her debut in 1972, but has had a remarkable impact on cinematography over those 16 features. Her work on Chantal Akerman titles Jeanne Dielman and News from Home (above) and on Sally Potter's debut The Gold Diggers has acquired near-legendary status in the film industry, and she's justly regarded as an icon by her peers.


Few know of Catalan cinematographer Neus Olle, despite her immense talent. Her work on Albert Serra's Birdsong (above) alongside Jimmy Gimferrer earned them both a Gaudi Award, though Olle mostly works now as a camera operator. She's a sensational artist with an enormous amount to contribute to cinema as her career hopefully takes off over the coming years.

Video footage and still images from:

Anthony Guadagnino

Artem Chudinov

atomo

fgdr tfjdrythsfd

Jennifer Signorella

Manhattan Edit Workshop

Mars Films

Tempesta

Vimeo Creative Commons

YouTube Creative Commons

Music:

Ravel: Une Barque Sur l'Ocean

Monday, 27 February 2017

LA LA LAND WINS OSCAR BEST PICTURE, UNTIL IT DOESN'T...


Um, so. Who gives a shit? There's a picture of Emma Stone, whose envelope made a double appearance and sent one of the biggest shockwaves through the Oscars...  ever? Your Best Picture winner is Moonlight, in one of the most extraordinary turns of events the Oscars has ever staged, and, um, it could never have been expected, and then it literally didn't even happen, and then... Emma's envelope. Your Oscar nominations are here, and your Oscar winners are below, and someone in the Academy is getting #fired.

Best Picture
Moonlight (Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Adele Romanski)

Best Directing
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Emma Stone (La La Land)

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Viola Davis (Fences)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Best Writing - Original Screenplay
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Writing - Adapted Screenplay
Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight)

Best Cinematography
Linus Sandgren (La La Land)

Best Film Editing
John Gilbert (Hacksaw Ridge)

Best Production Design
Sandy Reynolds-Wasco and David Wasco (La La Land)

Best Costume Design
Colleen Atwood (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them)

Best Sound Mixing
Peter Grace, Robert MacKenzie, Kevin O'Connell and Andy Wright (Hacksaw Ridge)

Best Sound Editing
Sylvain Bellemare (Arrival)

Best Visual Effects
Andrew R. Jones, Robert Legato, Dan Lemmon and Adam Valdez (The Jungle Book)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson (Suicide Squad)

Best Music (Original Score)
Justin Hurwitz (La La Land)

Best Music (Original Song)
Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul - 'City Of Stars' (La La Land)

Best Animated Feature Film
Zootopia (Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Clark Spencer)

Best Documentary Feature
O.J.: Made in America (Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow)

Best Foreign Language Film
The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi) - Iran

Best Short Film (Live Action)
Sing (Kristof Deak and Anna Udvardi)

Best Short Film (Animated)
Piper (Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer)

Best Documentary Short
The White Helmets (Joanna Natasegara and Orlando von Einsiedel)

REVIEW OF 2016 - BEST FILM

1. MY LIFE AS A COURGETTE (Claude Barras)

2. RAW (Julia Ducournau)

3. TONI ERDMANN (Maren Ade)

4. THE WOMAN WHO LEFT (Charo Santos-Concio)

5. HEART OF A DOG (Laurie Anderson)

6. THE EXQUISITE CORPUS (Peter Tscherkassky)

7. THE DEATH OF LOUIS XIV (Albert Serra)

8. YOUR NAME. (Shinkai Makoto)

9. SILENCE (Martin Scorsese)

10. FIELD NIGGAS (Khalik Allah)

11. ELLE (Paul Verhoeven)

12. ALL THE CITIES OF THE NORTH (Dane Komljen)

13. THE LOVE WITCH (Anna Biller)

14. MOONLIGHT (Barry Jenkins)

15. ARRIVAL (Denis Villeneuve)

16. THE ORNITHOLOGIST (Joao Pedro Rodrigues)

17. 3 1/2 MINUTES, TEN BULLETS (Marc Silver)

 
18. NO HOME MOVIE (Chantal Akerman)

19. JAMES WHITE (Josh Mond)

20. O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA (Ezra Edelman)

21. THE LITTLE PRINCE (Mark Osborne)

22. THE RED TURTLE (Michael Dudok de Wit)

23. THE CHILDHOOD OF A LEADER (Brady Corbet)

24. THE FITS (Anna Rose Holmer)

25. GRADUATION (Cristian Mungiu)

26. PARIS 05:59 (Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau)

27. NOCTURAMA (Bertrand Bonello)

28. KEKSZAKALLU (Gaston Solnicki)

29. UNDER THE SHADOW (Babak Anvari)

30. INNER WORKINGS (Leonardo Matsuda)

REVIEW OF 2016 - WORST FILM

1. LONDON HAS FALLEN (Babak Najafi)
2. NINA (Cynthia Mort)
3. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (Burr Steers)
4. AAAAAAAAH! (Steve Oram)
5. INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE (Roland Emmerich)
6. HURRICANE BIANCA (Matt Kugelman)
7. ALLEGIANT (Robert Schwentke)
8. APPROACHING THE UNKNOWN (Mark Elijah Rosenberg)
9. JEAN OF THE JONESES (Stella Meghie)
10. INTO THE FOREST (Patricia Rozema)

REVIEW OF 2016 - BEST DIRECTION

1. Claude Barras (MY LIFE AS A COURGETTE)
2. Maren Ade (TONI ERDMANN)
3. Lav Diaz (THE WOMAN WHO LEFT)
4. Julia Ducournau (RAW)
5. Dane Komljen (ALL THE CITIES OF THE NORTH)
6. Peter Tscherkassky (THE EXQUISITE CORPUS)
7. Martin Scorsese (SILENCE)
8. Albert Serra (THE DEATH OF LOUIS XIV)
9. Anna Biller (THE LOVE WITCH)
10. Bertrand Bonello (NOCTURAMA)

REVIEW OF 2016 - BEST PERFORMANCE

1. John Lloyd Cruz (THE WOMAN WHO LEFT)

2. Sandra Huller (TONI ERDMANN)

3. Angeli Bayani (NED'S PROJECT)

4. Peter Simonischek (TONI ERDMANN)

5. Lee Hyo Je (THE THRONE)

6. Amy Adams (ARRIVAL)

7. Annette Bening (20TH CENTURY WOMEN)

 
8. Rooney Mara (UNA)

9. Matthias Schoenaerts (DISORDER)

10. Michael Shannon (NOCTURNAL ANIMALS)

11. Isabelle Huppert (VALLEY OF LOVE)

12. Kiki Kirin (AFTER THE STORM)

13. Liron Ben-Shlush (NEXT TO HER)

14. Zhao Tao (MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART)

15. Rebecca Hall (CHRISTINE)

16. Tsukamoto Shin'ya (SILENCE)

 
17. Charo Santos-Concios (THE WOMAN WHO LEFT)

18. Lily Gladstone (CERTAIN WOMEN)

19. Guillermo Francella (THE CLAN)

20. Jean-Pierre Leaud (THE WOMAN WHO LEFT)

21. Isabelle Huppert (THINGS TO COME)

22. Ogata Issei (SILENCE)

23. Mahershala Ali (MOONLIGHT)

24. Isabelle Huppert (ELLE)

25. Jeon Hye Jin (THE THRONE)

26. Kim Hwan Hee (THE WAILING)

27. Asano Tadanobu (SILENCE)

28. Christopher Matthew Cook (DOG EAT DOG)

29. Gabriel Epstein (TAEKWONDO)

30. Ben Mendelsohn (UNA)