Cert: TBC Runtime: 88 mins Director: Rick Barnes, Olivia Neergaard-Holm & Jon Nguyen Cast: David Lynch
My cow is not pretty, but it is pretty to me
2017 truly has been the year of David Lynch, with the return of Twin Peaks, Mulholland Dr. & Blue Vevet re-releases and now David Lynch: The Art Life. For me he is the Hitchcock of the later 20th century and probably my all time favourite artist. So what is David Lynch: The Art Life about? David Lynch takes us on an intimate journey through the formative years of his life. From his idyllic upbringing in small town America to the dark streets of Philadelphia, we follow Lynch as he traces the events that have helped to shape one of cinema’s most enigmatic directors. David Lynch the Art Life infuses Lynch’s own art, music and early films, shining a light into the dark corners of his unique world, giving audiences a better understanding of the man and the artist.
The Art Life is absorbing, his childhood recollections are very open while Lynch creates his stark art pieces. It’s beautifully shot, methodically paced, with a rather unsettling quality. There is no external opinion to be had, as the film exists entirely in Lynch’s world. We see him making art, talking art, pondering art, and then making more art. He is obsessed, focused, but friendly and charming, whether in the midst of moulding a creepy canvas, groping his shock of white hair, planning his next canvas move in a cloud of smoke, or interacting with his tiny daughter. The mystery of Hollywood’s extreme outsider remains deliciously intact. If you are hoping for an exploration of the films of David Lynch, and of the filmmaker David Lynch, stay at home. Only David Lynch the neophyte filmmaker is explored because this is a natural development of the real star of the show – David Lynch the painter.
Cert: TBC Runtime: 84 mins Director: Amos Giati
As part of the Director’s Fortnight West of the Jordan River is Amos Giati’s return to the occupied territories since 1992. Wadi 1981-1991 was his first piece, now we get a retrospective of if there is change in 25 years. Amos Giati is showing how regular citizens are trying to build bridges between the Israelis and Palestinians. Along with the people of the territories Giati tackles politicians, the military and activists. West of the Jordan River was an interesting retrospect, as I have not seen Wadi 1981-1991 I can’t really comment on any comparisons. One essential aspect of the film is that you will need some kind of knowledge of the issues in the territories. Giati’s interview techniques are very concise, stern and authoritative. Truly he doesn’t stick to conventional journalistic methods, he gets the answers you are wanting with no B.S. He has a very haunting look in his eyes when he interviews, it can be quite sinister. Probably this is how he gets such rigorous responses.
What is humbling about West of The Jordan River is sense of community between some Israelis and Palestinians. Some people are trying to reach out to their fellow man and live harmoniously. Surely if the people are ready for this, why can’t both sides compromise? If it was that simple I guess. It seems like the stalemate between both sides is in an eternal limbo, and bloodshed is still causing a lot of hurt between both side. Giati is really trying to show us that if the people can unify, these communities can provide a platform to peace. As positive as I sound, West of the Jordan River wasn’t for me. It grabbed my attention but it isn’t my style of documentary. What irritated most was the music, during every chapter was the same melody. It was unbearable at sometimes! West of the Jordan River was a shade to long if you ask me, a 60 minute documentary would of sufficed. But it’s message was very potent!
Cert: 15 Runtime: 99 mins Director: John Dowe Cast: Louis Theroux, Marty Rathbun, Andrew Perez and Conner Stark
I’m past embittered. I don’t care
If you don’t all ready know Louis Theroux is a hero of man. He is one of the all time great documentarians, he has tackled very serious issues but can also show us the weird and wonderful world we live in. For ten plus years Louis has been interested in Scientology and has attempted to make a documentary about them. We have finally arrived at that point and it’s also his first feature length documentary too. So what is it about? With a lifetime of experience dealing with eccentric, unpalatable and unexpected human behaviour, the unassuming Theroux won’t take no for an answer when his request to enter the Church of Scientology headquarters is turned down. Inspired by the Church’s alleged techniques, and aided by former Scientology members-turned-whistleblowers, Theroux uses actors to recreate incidents people claim to have experienced as members in an attempt to better understand the way it operates. However, in a bizarre twist, it becomes clear that Louis is not the only one making a documentary.
Louis Theroux always takes a different perspective on subjects, due to the lack of access to the church Louis re-enacts very disturbing and bizarre situations within the church. For me it wasn’t the documentary I expected it was slightly off par for me. I have investigated Scientology a lot over the last few years and it wasn’t anything new for me. If you are unaware of the church it’s slightly muddled and not that informative. You need a basic understanding of the church before entering My Scientology Movie. Louis seemed to have new ways of talking to people through out the film, a lot of long pauses especially. Marty Rathbun a seasoned ex-Scientologist really does give you more perspective of the darker side of the church which was very interesting. The re-enactments of the Hole were very disturbing and credit has to be given to Andrew Perez playing David Miscavige. He really was Miscavige in carnet, very disturbing. I am only basing his portrayal on what limited video I have seen him in. Very chilling stuff! In time I do hope Louis makes another feature documentary. But for him this was slightly disappointing.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 122 mins Director: Matt Whitecross Cast: Noel Gallagher, Liam Gallagher, Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs and Peggie Gallagher
I think you’re the same as me, we see things they’ll never see
What can be said about Oasis that hasn’t been said before? Truly the most influential band of their time and inspired a generation. Supersonic is the documentary of the journey that the lads from Manchester took to become the biggest band in the world. Music documentaries are not my favourite, but when it’s about Oasis it has to be watched. So what is it about? From the council estates of Manchester to the biggest venues in the land, the rise of Oasis was nothing short of meteoric. In three short years, these Britpop superstars conquered both the charts and the hearts of millions, becoming the defining band of the nineties. At their heart was the fractious relationship between brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher, which fuelled Oasis’s amazing creativity but also proved to be their undoing.
Supersonic is a great documentary for any Oasis fan, from a novice to a hardcore fan you’ll enjoy it. Probably the funniest documentary you’ll witness ever, Noel & Liam are utterly hilarious. The banter they provide is on point, you forget how funny they are. Under the comedic underbelly you get a wider portrait of their lives prior to the band. Peggie their mother is such a focal part of the documentary, she shows you the softer side of the brother. Such great humility is shown throughout the film. The footage and the narration from various people worked so well. It’s a wave of nostalgia to begin but it falls flat in the middle but it finishes with a bang. The reality of knowing we will never see a band like Oasis again is tragic. But you can re-live these great times in Supersonic. Great documentary and one hell of a ride.
Cert: 12A Runtime: 90 mins Director: Dave LaMattina & Chad N.Walker Cast: Caroll Spinney, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Debra Jean Gilroy and Jim Henson
Oh, I’m not a chicken actually. I’m a bird on the run
A large chunk of humanity know who Big Bird is, that giant yellow bird entertained and educated me through out my childhood. I remember waking up every Saturday morning at 6 AM to have my weekly fix of Sesame Street. These are great memories and now we can learn about the man behind the magic Caroll Spinney. If you haven’t seen Being Elmo I’d recommend you’d give that a watch too. So what is I Am Big Bird about? For 45 years, Caroll Spinney has been beloved by generations of children as the man behind Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch – and at 80 years old, he has no intention of stopping. A loving portrait of the man in the yellow suit, I Am Big Bird features extraordinary footage of Spinney’s earliest collaborations with Jim Henson as it traces his journey from bullied child to childhood icon. And as the yellow feathers give way to grey hair, it is the man, not the puppet, who will steal your heart.
The movie also goes into detail on the journeys that both Big Bird and Spinney have had in their life – such as being the first Western pop culture venturing into China after it opened it’s doors, becoming a household name in America, and, one of the biggest shocks and surprises, nearly taking part with the crew on the NASA Challenger spaceship, which of course exploded a minute after launch, killing all on-board.This movie is why I love being immersed in pop culture. There’s a lot of people who have told me over the years that it’s a bad thing to be surrounded by commercial products, but this movie packs a punch in that it personally warps me back to a simpler time.Sure, I Am Big Bird has it’s flaws. I would have liked for it to go deeper into the darker parts of some of the times of Caroll Spinney’s life, but in the end I think that it would detract from the overall magic of the documentary. I Am Big Bird is a heart-warming, but at it’s core, an even warmer story for us who grew up with that lovable yellow bird.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 145 mins Director: Brett Morgen Cast: Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love and Krist Novoselic
I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.
Kurt Cobain and Nirvana have been a part of my music education since the age of 11, I was only a kid when he passed away but once I found his music he became stuck with me for life. We all know he was a troubled soul but a great artist. The fact that Brett Morgen was given permission to make this documentary by the Cobain family is always a good step. We as an audience will be seeing the real story of Cobain and an inside to his most inner personal life. What is it about then? Using the troubled singer-songwriter’s extensive archive of diary entries, home videos and drawings – several of which are here animated for additional impact – Morgen traces Cobain’s sense of isolation and self-doubt back to his upbringing and his parents’ unhappy marriage. His descent into heroin addiction after Nirvana’s early success is dealt with matter-of-factly, with his widow and fellow addict Courtney Love proving exceptionally candid.
Montage of Heck was made purely for the fans! For me it’s insightful and very humbling to learn and observe more of the Kurt Cobain we barely knew. It’s hard to imagine Cobain passed away 21 years ago, but his spirit does live on. He is the highest grossing dead musician in the world, he makes more money than Elvis! Brett Morgen was given access to some very intimate home movies, voice recordings and photos of the Cobain’s. His childhood segment was information that I have heard before, but the home videos makes it powerful and gives you more of a sense of who he was. the use of animation throughout also gives the film great character. It was more interesting watching these parts rather than people talking. The choice of music through out really suited the piece we got some classic Nirvana but using an orchestra instead. The visuals through out scream tortured soul, Cobain’s art is insane very Bacon-esk in my opinion. But the journals is what makes the Morgen’s piece bleed, Cobain’s inner thoughts are very painful to read most of the time. But it really does give it soul.
This is not a perfect piece by an kind, it’s not very insightful. It feels like a two hour long over view of his life but there is no depth of study into anything.My personal advice before you watch Montage of Heck, do some light reading or watch another documentary first to establish some facts about Cobain. My better half didn’t really get what some segments were about because of some lack of information. The fact that Courtney Love doesn’t feature that strongly in the piece baffles me slightly. I’d anticipate a lot of it was left on the cutting room floor. Morgen has expressed why Dave Grohl didn’t feature in Montage of Heck, even though Grohl agreed to featuring in the film. He wasn’t free due to touring, by the time Morgen had him on camera he said the film works well without him. For me and my partner his insight would of been great in the film. Cobain: Montage of Heck is one of the best music documentaries I have seen. The visuals alone makes it worth the money, but it’s soulful core really bring Kurt back to life. Any Nirvana, Cobain, music or art lover should watch Brett Morgen’s finest work to date.
Cert: PG Runtime: 118 mins Director: Mami Sunada Cast: Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki, Shinsuke Nonaka, Yoshiaki Nishimura and Isao Takahata
I’m not going to make movies that tell children, “You should despair and run away”
My fascination for Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli has grown as of late, the fact he has more or less retired is a sad thing. I have heard about The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness some time ago, I attempted to watch it a few weeks ago and I gave up after 20 minutes. I re-watched it again the other day and I literally couldn’t un-glue my eyes from the screen! What is The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness about then? We follow Japanese film company Studio Ghibli and three of the men behind its success – directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki. The film provides insight into the studio’s success by following the men at work for a year during the production of Miyazaki’s ‘The Wind Rises’ (2013) and Takahata’s ‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’ (2013) and capturing them in conversation with their teams.Similar to Miyazaki’s animation work, the studio was warm and filled with natural light. The work style is informal, fun and loving though Miyazaki can be hard to work with at times. It looks like a fun place to work. Now, having learned more about how Miyazaki created his various animation works, I would sure watch his work again in new lights.The style of this documentary by Mami Sunada is rather free-form. It does not offer a chronological discussion of the history of Miyazaki or the studio. Instead, it just lets the staff of Ghibli talk and there isn’t much in the way of structure.
At times, you hear folks talk about some of this history, but people wanting this sort of film should look elsewhere. So much of the film consists of behind the scenes discussions. If Miyazaki didn’t like someone or their work, he said so without being particularly diplomatic about this. And, to be fair, some of his employees talked about him in less than glowing terms and felt free to do so! But what really got me was how the man seemed to have an extremely depressive personality. It’s not going out on a limb to draw that conclusion, either, with his comments throughout the film such as “I don’t ever feel happy in my daily life” and “filmmaking only brings suffering”. He also very candidly said that he didn’t think the studio would survive after his death or with his son in charge. It is moving watching archive footages of these three young men working closely for and dedicated more than half of their lives to this field. Long terms friends and work partners, they have gradually grown into three graceful yet a little stubborn artists. You cannot help but admire their respect for their passion. Also valuable was how candid Miyazaki was in front of the camera, revealing his philosophy, emotions, contradiction, hesitation and imagination. Even though it is very candid, it is very slow at some point and this is the killer blow to the documentary! But it’s an eye opening insight to the world of Ghibli.