The 2013 Glasgow Film Festival finished a week ago, eleven days of premieres and special events which brought filmmakers and film fans to the Glasgow Film Theatre and other venues around the city.
This year found me covering the event for the BBC Movie Café, interviewing actors such as James D’Arcy for Cloud Atlas and Gemma Arteron and Saoirse Ronan for Byzantium, while writer/director Joss Whedon was in town to promote his low-budget adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
I also visited the brand new BFI Mediatheque at Bridgeton Library, a resource which houses thousands of hours of film and TV which would otherwise be unavailable. I took my iPhone along and recorded a video interview with Mediatheque curator, Simon McCallum for ReelScotland.
A few weeks ago I had an opportunity to interview the legendary British actor, Terence Stamp, for the BBC Movie Cafe.
Terence was in Edinburgh to promote his latest film, low budget drama Song for Marion, in which he stars alongside Vanessa Redgrave as a man trying to come to terms with his wife’s ailing health and decision to join a local choir.
After 10 days of travel in the Côte d’Azur for my latest project, I’m now getting down to the task of organising a few thousand photos and hours of video into something that might make sense for a dedicated blog.
The trip found me touring various towns and villages around the French Riviera as I tried to track down some of the locations used in films over the years, including Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. I met some fantastic people, found some places that I’d previously only watched my TV set and wondered why I hadn’t visited the region before.
I’ll have more details on the blog’s launch in a few weeks time.
It’s a new year so it’s time for a new project in a new country. Following my work in 2012 on Cinematic Scotland, a project which looks at various connections between the country and film, this week sees me take a slight diversion as I head to the French Riviera, better known locally as the Côte d’Azur.
In collaboration with European super-blogger Kash Bhattacharya, the Budget Traveller and one of the masterminds behind Edinburgh’s recent hugely successful Blogmanay project, I’ll be the guest of the CRT Côte d’Azur, the tourism agency for the Riviera.
I’ll be touring the area to discover some of the locations of movies such as To Catch a Thief, Ronin and The Transporter, plus TV series including The Persuaders! (a guilty pleasure of mine). I’ll take photos and shoot some video while meeting people who live and work in the area, all of which will be collected on a new blog, to be officially launched in a few weeks time.
A short version of the itinerary is currently looking something like this:
Nice – To Catch a Thief (1955), The Persuaders! (1971), Condorman (1981), Ronin (1998), Swordfish (2001) and The Transporter (2004). Visit the homes of director Romain Gary, Gabrielle Chanel and more…
Villefranche-sur-Mer – The Adventures of Captain Fabian (1950), An Affair to Remember (1957), Never Say Never Again (1983), The Jewel of the Nile (1985), Ronin (1998) and Killers (2010). A visit to the Chapel St Pierre, decorated by filmmaker Jean Cocteau
Grasse – GoldenEye (1995)
Saint-Paul de Vence – Moment to Moment (1966), OSS 117 – Mission to Tokyo (1966) and Big Kiss (2004)
Antibes – Let’s Not Get Angry (1966), Never Say Never Again (1983), The Big Blue (1988), Lolita (1998)
Cannes – French Kiss (1995), Ronin (1998)
So feel free to tweet me any suggestions for the trip and I’ll see if I can visit them.
I’ll be using the #cinemazur hashtag to pull it all together and try to get some suggestions from film fans and travellers about some of the best things to see and do in the French Riviera.
The world has once more gone Middle Earth mad, with the release this week of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit in cinemas, nine years after his last visit to The Shire.
I was asked by the BBC Movie Cafe and the Edinburgh Evening News to head along to Edinburgh’s Cameo Cinema last weekend for a special screening of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a 10 hour endurance test involving Orcs, Dwarves and people dressed as Hobbits.
The radio segment can be heard over on BBC iPlayer for another few days, while I’ve reproduced the Evening News column below:
With The Hobbit arriving in cinemas tomorrow, it seemed like a good idea last Sunday to head to the Cameo to watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy on the big screen.
At around 10 hours in duration, this was no ordinary film screening, meaning I had to be prepared for all eventualities. Forget the lembas bread wrapped in leaves favoured by Frodo and Sam, I went for some ham sandwiches and too much coffee.
The films were a joy to revisit, with Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth, a dark and brooding place with the occasional glimpse of light as our heroes made their way to Mordor, looking suitably epic in the original 35mm prints.
Leaving the screening on a high, I hoped The Hobbit would prove to be as exhilarating, as Jackson returned to his world with a new Bilbo Baggins in the shape of Martin Freeman alongside Sir Ian McKellan as Gandalf.
The director has embraced a pioneering new technology which doubles the normal frame rate of the film, 48 fps (frames per second) instead of 24. Jackson claims this is a more immersive experience and that all films will go this way.
Rather than looking as big and bold as Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit looks more like it’s shot on the set of a 1980s soap opera. While landscapes look lush and rich, close-ups of the actors bring you closer to them, making the heavy prosthetics and make-up more obvious.
Most importantly, the thin story doesn’t justify the three-hour length, with not much really happening apart from some fights, lots of running around and the appearance of Gollum.
With two more films to come, it looks like it’s going to be a slog to get to the end of this particular journey.
The nice folk at Scotland’s oldest cinema, the Bo’ness Hippodrome, recently asked me to be part of their first Monster Day, a celebration of nasty creatures on the big screen featuring King Kong (who’s really just misunderstood) and screenwriter Kevin Lehane (who’s not nasty at all).
I was there to interview Kevin about his career in the film industry and his low budget Irish sci-fi feature, Grabbers, which I saw at the 2012 Edinburgh International Film Industry. Kevin managed to entice a few budding screenwriters along on the day and it was fascinating to hear how he’d left Ireland for Hollywood and returned home, only to have his script snapped up by a production company.
The event was organised by a group of local youth ambassadors for the cinema and I was put to shame by their film knowledge. I also had a lovely moment when Kevin mentioned a short review of Grabbers I’d written online which wasn’t as in-depth or well argued as it could have been, though he seemed to forgive me after we discussed our mutual love of 1990’s Tremors.
Watch the Grabbers trailer and try and track down a copy on DVD, it really is an entertaining way to spend an evening:
I was back on the BBC Radio Scotland Movie Cafe again today, this time interviewing Andy Cannon, Scotland’s only Film Explainer, ahead of a performance at the Inverness Film Festival this weekend.
The Film Explainer was a common sight in cinemas in early part of the 20th Century, when the literacy skills of film-goers meant they often couldn’t read the intertitles of silent films. In Japan, the Explainers helped patrons understand cultural differences in films made in the West.
Although I spoke to Andy for ReelScotland earlier this year, this new interview also included his collaborators, Wendy Weatherby and Frank McLaughlin.
As my latest Edinburgh Evening News column isn’t on the website I thought I’d publish it here instead. I couldn’t resist writing about Bond as Skyfall takes the box office by storm.
It can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that there’s a new Bond film in town, the 23rd adventure for Britain’s favourite spy.
Skyfall ignores the lacklustre Quantum of Solace (2008) and returns the series to its bombastic best, sending 007 (Daniel Craig) on a mission that takes him around the globe and back in time.
I revelled in every second of the spy saga, with one of the series’ classiest casts – from Dame Judi Dench as the steely M to Javier Bardem as the seriously nasty Silva – doing justice to a script that gives its audience something fresh while respecting its past glories.
On the subject of the past, my own memories of seeing Bond at the cinema stretch back to 1987’s The Living Daylights. With no internet to build the hype, we were left with TV adverts and promotions on packets of Trio biscuits to whet our appetites.
While I still think Sean Connery was the best Bond, I’ve a soft spot for Timothy Dalton as a harder-edged 007 who questioned his motives long before Daniel Craig picked up his Walther PPK.
Somehow I missed 1989’s Licence To Kill on the big screen and it wasn’t until 1995 that I was able to head to the Dominion to watch Pierce Brosnan don his tuxedo in GoldenEye. Since then I’ve waited patiently for each new Bond film, sneaking a peek at the trailers and reading the occasional plot outline without wanting to find out too much.
For Skyfall I had to avoid Twitter, Facebook posts and TV specials for weeks, ensuring no spoilers leaked through. MI6 couldn’t have done a better job.
I have a feeling I’ll be heading back to see Skyfall again soon, one screening is not enough.
Full disclosure time: memories of The Living Daylights Trio promotion were recalled thanks to the fantastic new Bond book, ‘Catching Bullets‘, by Mark O’Connell – here’s my Good Reads review.
I was sent on a Top Secret mission by the BBC a few weeks ago, my task to infiltrate a gold-plated briefcase containing 22 James Bond Blu-rays that had been dispatched from Eilean Donan Castle on its way to the small Argyll town of Lochgilphead as part of 007 Days of Bond.
I flew in a helicopter (here’s some footage captured on my iPhone), visited a location that doubled for the Adriatic in 1963’s From Russia With Love, met the original Bond Girl, the now 84-year-old Eunice Gayson, and got soaked in the process on a wet Argyll afternoon, but it was still a fantastic day for a 007 nut like myself.
I’ve been writing a lot about Scottish independent filmmaking this week, ending it with an invitation to be part of a panel discussion at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse next Saturday.
At the start of the week I published a new blog post on ReelScotland from Neil Rolland, the organiser of a monthly Edinburgh film evening called Write Shoot Cut. The event features short films from around the country and I’m hoping to get along to Edinburgh’s Banshee Labyrinth next Monday to see what it’s like.
Then in Thursday’s Edinburgh Evening News I mentioned the same event, along with coverage of another film event on Saturday 15 September, this time at Filmhouse. Shoot First Scotland will feature screenings, an interactive panel discussion and professional insights into low-budget filmmaking in Scotland.
I’ve now been invited along to discuss short films alongside some much more qualified people, including some BAFTA-award winners. One of the films being shown at Shoot First Scotland will be Finlay Pretsell’s Ma Bar: