You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby: 2014 Update

Recently we’ve been lucky enough to be spending more time making films than writing about them. Dave has made Woodfalls, Ben is a professional filmographer and I’m currently mid-way through shooting my next feature film Dead Unicorns

http://deadunicornsfilm.wordpress.com

Dead Unicorns Ian Fielding 002

Our original plan was to offer film reviews from a fresh perspective. Discover a different angle about a film that would shed light on its mystery rather than simply serve up a straight good or bad review with a description of the plot. The blog has proved to be very successful, we are nearing 35 thousand views and are very grateful to all of you for sharing your time with us.

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You may well see more reviews here in the future as we take a breather between projects – but for now I’d like to mention a handful of films I’ve seen recently that have really struck a chord.

The first is Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty. Sincere film making about a rotten Rome and a man looking for a revelation.

Ian Fielding Film Ache Great Beauty  

Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is an astonishing phantasm with creeping fingers.

Film Ache Ian Fielding Under the Skin

Blue is the Warmest Colour confronts the walloping emotions of love with immense snotty-nosed force.

Blue Is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d'Adele) film still

From the vaults are Rossellini’s Rome, Open City. Currently on big screen re-release. He makes you fall in love with three characters and systematically kills them off. Simple, funny, moving, powerful.

Rome open city  Ian Fielding Film Ache

Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude is kooky and irresistible… with a shockingly powerful stab of emotion in an understated moment on a beach.harold and maude Ian_Fielding Film Ache

Look forward to seeing you in the future.

 

My name’s Ian. I’m a writer and Filmmaker from London currently shooting my second feature film – a detective thriller called Dead Unicorns

To see pics, a trailer and what’s currently happening with Dead Unicorns click here:

http://deadunicornsfilm.wordpress.com

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David Lynch New Short Film ‘The 3 Rs’ // Ian Fielding

I’ve just discovered this trailer David Lynch created for the 2011 Viennale. It’s suitably macabre and mundane and presents a return to the stylistic preoccupations of his earliest work and a departure from his recent digital productions.

The film appears to take the form of an aggressive attack on the controlling syllabuses of a schooling system that has no time to inform its pupils of the alternative truths of life. It’s simple and powerful, humorous and disturbing.

Often Lynch is rebuked for constructing so-called ‘student-like’ productions. Like many filmmakers I’ve sat through a multitude of short films, and very few come close to displaying the sheer condensed volume of imagination that Lynch wields in this simple sequence.

As a beautiful reminder here is Lynch’s very first film, The Alphabet. The similarities between this and The 3 Rs are unmistakable.

Before you do I’d like to put a pitch in for my new blog on UK film culture which you can take a look at here, happy Lynching.

My name’s Ian. I’m a writer and Filmmaker from London currently shooting my second feature film – a detective thriller called Dead Unicorns

To see pics, a trailer and what’s currently happening with Dead Unicorns click here:

http://deadunicornsfilm.wordpress.com

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Female Orgasms and Ghost Monkeys: Ian Fielding on Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives

Many of the curious effects in the dream-world of the movingly poetic UBWCRHPL derive from Thai filmmaker, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s intent to depict the inner state of his hero, Uncle Boonmee.

Uncle Boonmee is having it rough, he’s terminally ill with a liver complaint, undergoing peritoneal dialysis, and taking metaphysical and spiritual stock of his life as he drifts internally to embrace his final memories. His deathbed pilgrimage unfolds in surreal overlaps of biographical thought – the past lives of the title. These adventures include encounters with ghost monkeys (perhaps representing those killed in the war against communism, and Boonmee’s guilt in the part he played) and dead family members. We also have insights into his previous incarnations as a water buffalo and a catfish – and inner city vignettes situated in a bar, a prayer room and a sparse hotel dormitory. The intimation is that Boonmee’s odyssey is a consoling journey that leads him into a vast tranquillity and a cosmic peace with his own existence.

Many films find their form through the subjective state of their heroes. The bleak and violent jazz of Travis Bickle’s world, or the slow motion, sportsman-like time dilation of Raging Bull’s Jake La Motta, or the off-kilter and fractured editing of Shutter Island’s Teddy Daniels, to enlist a roll call of Scorsese reprobates. In these films the nature of the hero determines the tone and character of the on-screen action.

So what of Boonmee? Like in other dream-like films, for example Mulholland Drive, Mirror and Last Year in Marienbad – it is as if the protagonists (and therefore the film itself) are operating in a kind of theta-wave frame of thought. Theta-wave? As we engage in different activities, the wavelengths of our mental function change to suit what we are doing. These are separate, clear and distinct states, like gears in a car. In alpha state the human mind is at repose, perhaps in meditation, strolling through a garden, or resting after a hard task. The beta state is sharp, one of alert concentration, the state of a politician fielding debate on Question Time or a stand up comedian mid-routine. Theta state is much closer to the dream zone, it is often the state in which artists and business-folk discover their winning ideas. A person who is driving and finds they can’t recall the last five miles is in Theta state. To recognise and control these states within ourselves is to begin to engage in powerful levels of self-control.

In its beguiling and mysterious attitude towards an anthology of moments circulating a theme – Boonmee’s most appropriate neighbour may be David Lynch’s Inland Empire. Events unfold without the audience being given explicit guidance. It is this unpatronising approach that ensures that the film reverberates with a multitude of meanings personal to each spectator.

Boonmee’s objective is perhaps best summed by this letter sent by a woman from Gorky to the director Tarkovsky after the release of Mirror, he had been inundated with letters of cool indifference and heated vehemence on the supposed impenetrability of his film. ‘Thank you for Mirror… my childhood was like that… only how did you know about it… there was that wind and the thunderstorm… and how beautifully the film shows the awakening of a child’s consciousness, of his thought… And lord, how true… I felt for the first time in my life that I was not alone.’ And another letter from a teacher ‘The film is compassionate, honest, relevant… and everyone who spoke said, ‘The film is about me.’

Cinematically, Boonmee’s heartbeats could be traced back to the death-bed ruminations of Bergman’s The Silence or his Cries and Whispers. A more obvious literary precedent is the William Faulkner novel As I Lay Dying. The self-explanatory great American experimental novel that contains a five word chapter that states simply ‘My mother is a fish.’ Uncle Boonmee itself is no stranger to unusual flourishes. In one of the most incredible sex scenes ever committed to film a palanquin borne princess wades into a waterfall pool to have sex with a catfish.

This is a tasetful and elegant handling that rates up there with Henry and the girl next door submerging themselves into Henry’s bed in Eraserhead or the magnificent Naomi Watts ‘angst wank’ in Mullholland Drive, though all these are mere localised clitoral orgasms in comparison to the almighty body-shaking vaginal orgasm that is on display in Weird Science. I always like to think that the scene in Weird Science seems to cunningly represent the female and the male orgasm simultaneously. In the John Hughes film a party goer’s evening is interrupted when ‘weird science’ erupts through the house and a suction vacuum forcefully removes her garments and sucks her up a phallic chimney only to ejaculate her from its top – sending her flying into a nearby lake, legs kicking. It’s the kind of risqué visual pun that fits that type of cinema like a glove.


Meanwhile, there is no doubt that Boonmee is a wonder, a majestical film that relates to a simple life in a balmy corner of the world, a life tangled up in the horrors of conflict but not defined by them. There are voices of descent, but if you try on the emperor’s new clothes, you may find that they fit you.

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My name’s Ian. I’m a writer and Filmmaker from London currently shooting my second feature film – a detective thriller called Dead Unicorns

To see pics, a trailer and what’s currently happening with Dead Unicorns click here:

http://deadunicornsfilm.wordpress.com


Frightfest Special: Ian Fielding on Rubber

Directed by Quentin Dupieux (aka French electro house musician Mr. Oizo) Rubber would make an effective concept for a music video. A car tyre arises from the desert and embarks on a killing spree across a dusty America town. The tyre dispatches its victims by deploying psychokenetic powers, usually to explode its victim’s heads. These proceedings are observed through binoculars by a crowd of spectators based on a nearby hilltop.

Rubber’s self-referential, ironic and minimalist execution edges it into art house territory. This is a film of ideas, concerned with making the silly, lofty and the lofty, silly. In a pleasing opening sequence a police officer spells out to the audience the central theoretical premise of the of the film – that ultimately things can occur for no reason. ‘In Stephen Spielberg’s ET why is the alien brown? No Reason.’ This hints at a kind of exploration of randomness, whereas the film is more concerned with a playfulness concerning the nature of reality and storytelling.

As this is ultimately a film about ideas, expect to be quirkily amused rather than emotionally enraptured. It skirts around the outside rather than delving deeply into those big ideas. It doesn’t utilise the toolkit of drama to pull out any astonishing turns and so despite its aesthetic purity and playful heart, the film comes over as a little shallow, a little distant and lacking in true dramatic impact. There are hints of potential here though. I can’t help thinking that with a dash more deviousness or a stronger serving of soul that Mr Dupieux could develop into a serious cinematic pull.

My name’s Ian. I’m a writer and Filmmaker from London currently shooting my second feature film – a detective thriller called Dead Unicorns

To see pics, a trailer and what’s currently happening with Dead Unicorns click here:

http://deadunicornsfilm.wordpress.com


Ian Fielding on True Grit: Bravery on Tap

Dino De Laurentiis, the late, great producer of Blue Velvet once said that to be a man you need three things. Heart, brains and balls. In looking at the Coen brother’s new film True Grit, I’ll be focusing on balls.

True Grit. The background is spiritual pollution, the bloodthirsty acquisition of the west. The book is Charles Portis’ classic take on the western novel. The characters are the tough and weather-bruised products of their environment. They meet death with equanimity, resort to brutality with laissez-faire matter-of-factness and treat each other as straw dogs, with little more than money, justice and the need to survive binding them together.

The film contains stirring feats of heroism, which serve as the flags to the measure of its character’s constitutions.

Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), the astonishing 14 year old Presbyterian with a smart mouth and steady nerve is a monster of progress and logic who is driven by a powerfully centered emotional force – the need to exact retribution upon the man who killed her father.

The moment when Mattie frees herself from the keeper of the river ferry and crosses the water on a swimming horse amazes and charms us with her spontaneous resourcefulness. Bravery is not trait-like, it only emerges in special circumstances like this.


J. ‘Rooster’ Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), cranky, robust and raw, is a true veteran of the plains, corrupt, forgetful and above the law. There’s a sense of old school masculinity in the way he lets his soul play out, it’s like Johnny Cash’s voice, timeless and forged in the fire of primal humanity, as fixed as the North Star and attached profoundly to the earth. This is not a man of wit and stealth but a man of straight talking simplicity, clear means and closely guarded pride.

Cogburn turns on the physical courage when he rides fearlessly into a gang of four outlaws, facing them head-on, reins in mouth and two pistols blazing, facing the fray in confidence. Though elsewhere (especially in Mattie’s eyes) he is shadowed by vice.

Psychological bravery means acting against our natural inclinations and facing fears which may not have any social  implications. This includes overcoming personal addicting habits, irrational anxieties and harmful dependent relationships. So as Cogburn turns to drink, he looses his bottle and the film throws its own quiet anti-drinking campaign. Mattie loses her faith in him (not in the least because it is a reminder of the circumstances surrounding her father’s death) and Cogburn looses face as he rides onward drunkenly through the day boasting and singing to himself.

Moral Courage is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, or discouragement. The prime cinematic example is James Cagney in Angels with Dirty Faces. Who on his death bed, his appointment with the electric hair, acts like a cowardly, sniveling wretch before all the criminal kids who idolise him so that they don’t follow in his footsteps, completely annihilating his reputation in a swoop.

Cagney’s display is the polar opposite to Nietzsche’s vanity bravery: ‘One never dives into the water to save a drowning man more eagerly than when there are others present who dare not take the risk.’ For me, Cagney’s is the greatest act of sacrifice in cinema.

So what is true grit? Is it not a kind of bravery on tap? Pure internal focus and resolve. Like the characters in this film who have it embedded into their bones. A necessary state to get by in a tough universe. A thought that makes Mattie an even more formidable character considering it takes time to build such resolve.

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.

Julius Caesar (II, ii, 32-37)

You will be hard pressed to find a film that doesn’t contain a moment of bravery, ranging from the foolhardy to the heroic. Bravery is the key catalyst to progress in life and so it is with film.

My name’s Ian. I’m a writer and Filmmaker from London currently shooting my second feature film – a detective thriller called Dead Unicorns

To see pics, a trailer and what’s currently happening with Dead Unicorns click here:

http://deadunicornsfilm.wordpress.com


Ian Fielding: Black Swan Revisited, Mum’s the Word

Since I wrote my original review of Black Swan, which you can find through the link below, I’ve developed and modified my position on the film’s secrets and meaning, and I’d like in this article to expand on my reading of the film’s dark subtext. As I stated in my original review, implanting difficult themes below the story surface is fairly standard screenwriting practice within certain genre films.

A quick recap: the film is ostensibly about a delicate, naive and innocent but highly talented ballet dancer who must access an edgier, more domineering and sexual part of her persona in order to successfully embody the role that she has won, that of the black swan, in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

We know Nina is already something on the edge but this challenge precipitates an incredible transformation that initiates delusions, terrifying hallucinations, self harm and eventually leads her to end her life.

So why? Why does the adoption of this role generate such a terrifying psychological upheaval within Nina?

For this role Nina is explicitly requested to interrogate her sexual character, a domain she has repressed from herself for a reason – namely that she is suffering from past and possibly continuing sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of her overbearing mother. It is as if the friction of simultaneous belief and denial about what has happened gives rise to these harrowing episodes.

Where is the evidence? Actually throughout the film it is continually dispersed. Firstly, Nina’s character, before her psychological meltdown, displays characteristics of an individual who has been abused, she is isolated, reserved, seems to find it hard to communicate with her fellow dancers, has possible trust issues, assertion issues, self-esteem issues.

Also look at the excessive infantilisation that she is subjected to, the childish bedroom with the stuffed toys, being dressed and undressed by mother. No lock on the door. When her friend Lily shows up at the door she is turned away by Erica, her mother. Infantilisation is a common practice deployed by abusers to forestall the sexual development of their victims.


When the dance choreographer Thomas kisses Nina she responds by biting his lip and then running away, is this deeply unusual act not the symptomatic behavior of the kind of person who has had to learn to defend themselves sexually?

Importantly the parallels between Lilly and Erica are continually made. Could it be that when Nina sees Lily she sees a safe or legitimate outlet for the sexual feelings that have been implanted in her by her mother?

Further hints arrive when Nina attempts to masturbate. Once on her bed and a second time in the bath. In the bedroom, Nina turns during the act to witness the presence of Erica asleep in her room, the presence is physically nonthreatening but deeply unnerving. In the bath the image has become a potential danger, it stares straight into Nina’s eyes, looking like some demonic mixture of Lily, Nina and Erica, as if the lines between these three characters has become blurred. Monstrously, Erica has invaded Nina’s fantasy space.

The key event in Nina’s sex life during the film is the night of her drugged drunken debauches, when she apparently takes Lily back to her apartment after having fucked (as she puts it), two boys in the nightclub. The mother appears, in exactly the same way as Lily appears to Nina in an earlier scene at the dance studio. Erica proceeds to fiercely admonish Nina as if no one else where there, uttering the telling phrase ‘Shut your mouth’ Now Nina runs to her bedroom and sleeps with a woman, and we know that Lily emphatically denies having been there. So who was with Nina? The person who was there clearly utters the phrase, ‘my sweet girl’ before holding a cushion over Nina’s head. This is Erica’s trademark phrase. This is only really the beginning of this series of disturbing clues. There are, echoing through the film, many more reverberations on this theme.

A very common reaction is to brush aside the logic of the picture by diagnosing Nina with schizophrenia and leaving it at that, without considering the origin of our hero’s disturbance. Sadly, and I think in this case, a little uncannily, this pattern all too often repeats itself outside of the cinema, in the real world.

Further evidence of the importance of cinema in mobilising public debate.

Read my original article HERE

My name’s Ian. I’m a writer and Filmmaker from London currently shooting my second feature film – a detective thriller called Dead Unicorns

To see pics, a trailer and what’s currently happening with Dead Unicorns click here:

http://deadunicornsfilm.wordpress.com

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Ian Fielding on Never Let Me Go: Lovers not Fighters

Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains, as Rousseau noted at some point when he wasn’t encouraging women to breastfeed. But sometimes the problem is not so much that we are in chains, but that we don’t even realise that we are in them to begin with.

That’s the problem with our trio of heros in Never Let Me Go, the Alex Garland adapted version of Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 sci-fi novel. In a neat take on the wage slaves of the meaningless capitalist treadmill, our isolated stars are clones, born and bred to provide organs for those who require them to survive. After their first three donations, the majority of clones are dead.


Where does a clone find distraction? In affairs of the heart, with the backdrop of impending mortality amplifying the pitch of feeling. Kathy (Carey Mulligan) loves Tommy (Andrew Garfield) yet Tommy is with Ruth (Keira Knightley). The clinch? We know in an unspoken way that Tommy loves Kathy – but he’s quite happy banging Keira Knightley. (what’s he like eh?) Once that dynamic is established the film suspends itself on the constant knife edge of Kathy’s plaintive yearning. At all times we hear the soft thump of Mulligan’s heart in pain, it’s in there rests the film’s hidden force. I love scenes in films where people react to music and there’s a few nice moments of Kathy listening to the cassette tape ‘Never Let Me Go’ that Tommy has given her. The director Mark Romanek never seeks to deploy genre gimmicks or dazzle us with tour-de-force virtuosity and so steers for us a path of pleasant and subdued ambiance, that arches up gently to the occasional emotive swell.

The clones (a smart, sensitive, Carey Mulligan, territorial pisser Keira Knightley, and the shuffling softy with a burning anger within, Andrew Garfield) never quite rise to challenge the authority that will leave them dead in the gutter, instead they empower it with homespun mythologies. This is a backwards tribute to Hailsham, the bleak boarding school they grew up in, and its effective brainwashing.


Those who’ve seen John Carpenter’s ingenious They Live will know that Hailsham is all around us. The media gently manufacture a universal standpoint for us, and as the clones show, it can be all too easy to lap it up. Especially when the majority of voices that we hear are driven by the secret imperative to score some coins. Never before has the species been so focused on coercing itself to part with money as a central recipe for its life. As we slowly converge into a giant selling tool, the way we understand ourselves becomes increasingly superficial. The choice is yours: kick ass now or sit around and wait for the ‘next communism’ to arrive. It almost makes you want to bring back that ol’ blood-sport fav, religion. Thank god for science, art and Carey Mulligan.

Ishiguro knows of another exit through this gift shop, even as his clones lie back on the operating table while surgeons extract their vital organs, the film’s meaning does not turn towards fighting the power but finding the good and true within their controlled universe. They may have been trapped, but they did have love for a while, and that meant the world to them. Ishiguro fucking loves it.

My name’s Ian. I’m a writer and Filmmaker from London currently shooting my second feature film – a detective thriller called Dead Unicorns

To see pics, a trailer and what’s currently happening with Dead Unicorns click here:

http://deadunicornsfilm.wordpress.com

Follow FilmAche on Twitter