Tag Archives: BFI Southbank

Economic Measures #3 | Neda Amiri in One. Two. One (2011)

[Editor’s note: Economic Measures is a new, regular column celebrating those facial and bodily gestures in film that say a lot with a little.]

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By Michael Pattison

The twelfth and antepenultimate scene in Mania Akbari’s One. Two. One (2011) takes place in a telecabin carriage ascending Mount Tochal, just outside Tehran. It begins with Ava (Neda Amiri) recounting to a date (Payam Dehkordi) an amusing incident that occurred days previously. Telling it, she stutters, looks away from her date and talks more quickly and assertively, with fewer breaths, as if to regain control of both the anecdote and herself. All of this happens in an instant. Ava punctuates the end of her anecdote by rolling her eyes, acknowledging its silliness, to settle back from its melodrama and to return the watchful gaze of her date.

After she has finished her story, Ava’s date informs her that she has some lipstick on her teeth. She wipes it off. “Is it gone?” she asks. “Yep,” he replies. She purses her lips and smiles, suspending that fleeting moment in which a woman realises she is the object of a man’s gentle scrutiny, and looks away with something resembling a coy laugh. The hand on which she has propped her head moves in a gesture that is at once unconscious and self-conscious, a defence mechanism against the unflinching attention she is receiving.

Ava’s fingers come across her neck to form a kind of shield. Her chin rests on the back of her hand. A finger dares to twitch – or is it a self-caress? Feeling less open to would-be advances, she moves her entire head back to face the man sitting in intimate proximity across from her, to confront him, test him, return his intensity by eyeing him direct. In what is perhaps an instinctive need to regain poise and power, she spots a stray hair on his bald head, and returns a favour by lifting it and blowing it from her own hand.

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All of this unfolds within a fixed frame and in the space of half of minute. It’s gently, harmoniously, relatably erotic. It captures that nervous energy of a first or second date so well. Here are two people whose interest in one another might primarily be physical but whose connection has a palpable electricity that goes beyond lust – that excitement one feels at the onset of a new companionship. Such excitement is twofold. It is not merely about finding someone new, but also about challenging and renewing oneself – and, here, one’s sense of self, for Ava has, we know, recently recovered from an acid attack by her jealous husband.

In these moments, Amiri embodies the extraordinary courage and trust a woman must sustain in a society whose primary criterion of judgement is aesthetic beauty. When she licks and sucks the lipstick from her teeth, she averts the spotlight in embarrassed acknowledgement that she is being looked at, admired, desired, analysed – in a word, “othered”. She doesn’t dislike it, but experience has taught her caution. She must give little away, must not reciprocate too much. This is flirting, that process by which otherwise innocent gestures become charged with possibilities, in which that fine line between ambiguity and clarity seems both to widen and to disappear. Flirting creates a veil of innocence to retreat behind at the same time as it creates an expanse of new terrain to chart.

Neda Amiri might problematise One. Two. One’s apparent argument against the value placed by society upon physical beauty by being arguably the most beautiful actress alive. This is not her fault. As demonstrated in this and other scenes, however, her skill as a performer transcends the formal limitations of Akbari’s film and occasionally elevates its more mannered and irritating aspects to the stuff of brilliance. Self-conscious, exposed, explorative, fearless, Amiri demands and commands respect simply by embracing that terrifying concept of making a mistake or losing control. It’s no wonder her date is enraptured.

One. Two. One has just been released on DVD in the UK by Second Run. A season of Mania Akbari’s films runs at the BFI Southbank until 28 July. Contributor Michael Pattison can be followed on Twitter @m_pattison and runs the blog idFilm.net.

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Fiction science fiction, c/o Bowfinger

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The marquee for fictional film-within-a-film Chubby Rain, from Frank Oz’ Bowfinger

No particular reason for posting this picture other than it made me chuckle. Plus I was discussing the other day with a friend that I think Bowfinger (Frank Oz, 1999) – though seemingly regarded as minor Martin and Murphy (who excels in a tricky double role) – is actually a really underrated piece of work. Affectionate, gently satirical of the industry, and with more than its fair share of genuine laugh-out-loud moments, it’s a comedy whose reputation I think should be stronger than it is. I can think of few moments in 90s comedies funnier than this:

You can actually catch it at the BFI Southbank as part of the ongoing Terence Stamp season on May 19 or 23. He does a great job in Bowfinger as a glacial, pompous leader of a Scientology-esque cult.

6th BFI Future Film Festival | Day 3

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Sad to report, but we’re now in the last knockings of the third and final day of the 6th annual BFI Future Film Festival. I don’t have exact figures to hand, but judging by the crowds, buzz and word-of-mouth, I’d say that it’s been the busiest one to date.

The theme of today has been documentary filmmaking, and my first act was to introduce a screening of Alex Ramseyer-Bache and Daniel Lucchesi’s superb doc We Are Poets (see teaser trailer here). An appreciative crowd lapped up the film in screen NFT2, and kindly stuck around for my post-screening Q&A with Ramseyer-Bache. He discussed his multifaceted early approach to filmmaking, the origins of his interest in the story of We Are Poets, and the challenges posed by a tight budget and a relentless international schedule.

The final round of the day’s sessions have all gone in, and include a screening of Penny Woolcock’s brilliant documentary One Mile Away; a presentation of hit online show Becoming YouTube; and workshops on sound recording and interviewing techniques. They follow a day full of workshops and networking sessions.

I’d also like to give a shout out to Piccia Neri (who’s been behind all Permanent Plastic Helmet’s event poster art to date), the leader and architect of FFF Design Global, the design wing of the BFI’s Future Film Institute. Have a look at their work on their website.

We’ll leave you with Rob Savage’s ace festival trailer. Until next year…

6th BFI Future Film Festival | Day 2

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It’s day 2 of the 6th annual BFI Future Film Festival, and the focus of today’s sessions and activities is animation.

The day kicked off with a host of events at 12pm, including a screening of Sam Fell’s cracking animation Paranorman (followed by a director Q&A); a talk by Nic Benns, Emmy award-winning design director and co-founder of title company MOMOCO; and a selection animated highlights from Random Acts, Channel 4’s late night three-minute film slot, commissioned by Lupus Films and curated by ace animator Chris Shepherd.

There’s a whole bunch of stuff still to come, including a programme of BAFTA animated shorts, ident, VFX, voiceover and sound masterclasses, networking tips, script sessions with Script Factory, and the Future Film Animation awards.

And me? I’m blogging from the foyer, and I’ll be here until 5pm to take questions and chat about all aspects of film journalism, from setting up and maintaining a blog, to trying to get your name on press lists so you can invited to preview screenings!

The final day of the festival is tomorrow, and focuses on Documentary filmmaking. It’s pretty much sold-out, but keep an eye on returns, and of course it’s free to come and chat to us, or FilmClub UK (the friendly folk who are sat next to me) in the foyer.

To sign-off, here’s a snap of the crowds gathering in the foyer, outside the BFI Reuben Library aka Future Film Festival HQ:

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6th BFI Future Film Festival | Day 1

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I’m live-blogging from the BFI Southbank today, where the first day of the 6th annual BFI Future Film Festival is taking place. The festival is targeted toward young film fans between the ages of 15 and 25, and features a range of in-depth masterclasses, hands-on workshops, screenings of the best new films by young, emerging filmmakers and inspirational Q&As. Much of what’s on offer has sold out, but do have a look at the website to see if tickets remain for anything. It’s a popular festival!

This year the festival has expanded, taking place across three days, each with a distinct theme. Today’s is fiction, tomorrow’s is animation, and Monday’s is all about documentary.

I’ve got a mixed role this year. Right now, I’m blogging from the foyer, in the middle of a pile of beanbags otherwise known as ‘Blogger’s Corner’. I’m here to offer advice and ideas to any young people who might be interested in setting up a blog, or setting out into a career of film journalism.

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It’s incredibly laidback, and fairly close to the set-up I have at home in my other life as a freelancer. All that’s missing is the dressing gown (and the baked beans and toothpaste smeared down the front). I’m right next to Harry Harris of FilmClub UK, and you can talk to him about the film club services they offer to schools and young people countrywide.

Earlier I hosted an onstage interview with the very talented young director Rob Savage following a screening of his accomplished debut film Strings (which he made at the terrifyingly young age of 18). Also  present onstage was co-lead actress Hannah Wilder. The film went down a storm with the healthy crowd in NFT2, who asked some probing questions. Rob discussed such varied topics as his early immersion into life as a filmmaker, keeping to a very tight budget, and touring the film, while Hannah discussed her life as a young actress, and what it’s like to see yourself up on screen.

The day continues with a host of practical workshops, and right now, a screening of Saly El-Hoseini’s cracking drama My Brother The Devil upstairs in NFT3.

To sign off this blog post, I’ll leave you with the trailer for this year’s festival, directed by none other than the very talented Rob Savage:

The Bad and the Beautiful

Vincente Minnelli’s 1952 film The Bad and the Beautiful, now showing on extended run at London’s BFI Southbank, paints a thoroughly entertaining portrait of classic Hollywood. Through a series of deft flashbacks, it chronicles of the rise and fall of an arrogant producer, Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas), from the perspectives of those he stepped on to achieve his ambitions. The film centres around a last-ditch effort from Shields to convince three of his old colleagues-turned-enemies to work on his comeback project: director Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan), actress Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner), and writer James Lee Bartlow (Dick Powell). But what did he do to each of them to make them so angry with him? That dramatic tension hooks you in and compels you to judge for yourself whether Shields deserves help with his comeback film or not.

The story that unfolds offers a compelling, humane look at the personal lives of a range of Hollywood players during an era that preceded the invasive media scrutiny that dominates the film industry today. Kirk Douglas is brilliant as the near-mythical protagonist; this egotistical producer is not one we’re meant to feel sympathy for, but Douglas’ earnest performance reminds us that with ambition comes risk and vulnerability. It’s Shields’ ardor and addiction to filmmaking that links the three cleverly rendered flashbacks. Of the trio Shields aims to convince, Lana Turner – providing a pleasant reminder that she was more than just a pretty face – is the most captivating as the disarming Georgia. But even the minor characters are surprisingly delightful, particularly Bartlow’s wife, a scene-stealing Southern belle played by Gloria Grahame (a turn for which she won a deserved Academy Award).

The nuanced characterizations of the quirky cast are thoughtful and thorough, from their distinctive deliveries of voiceovers to their attachments to totemic props (such as Georgia’s necklace) which are often cleverly utilized for clear and logical transitions between scenes. This, combined with brisk edits, helps the film move with good momentum, accompanied by tasteful, romantic scoring. And the sumptuously detailed sets, dramatically lit, complete the dream-like atmosphere that befits classic Hollywood. The Bad and the Beautiful won five Academy Awards by practicing what it preaches; throughout the film, the protagonist aims for quality over quantity, for awards over commercial success.

That said, The Bad and the Beautiful isn’t quite a love letter to Hollywood. Rather, it presents a place where dreams begin and then are painfully reshaped. It has a refreshingly uncynical view of the industry, unafraid to be a touch moralistic in espousing self-reliance, while managing to retain a wry sense of humour about its commentary, never allowing itself to get too serious or self-congratulatory. It’s such a pleasure to see a film that respects its audience, is thoughtfully constructed, and isn’t a downer – a rare combination in Hollywood nowadays.