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Friday, 25 March 2011



Dir: Werner Herzog, 2011

An essential 3D documentary, which reveals the REAL benefits of 3D filmmaking and a powerful emotional link to an unknown collective past.

“This is my dictum: you can shoot a porno in 3D, but you cannot shoot a romantic comedy in 3D.” This is Werner Herzog’s perfectly astute theory on the use of 3D in cinema. In his latest film CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS he has made neither a romantic comedy nor a porno, but his profound and unprecedented use of this new technology is not only innovative but also essential in the progression of cinema.

The Chauvet cave in southern France was discovered in 1994, when three cavers clambered through a tiny hole in a rock face, and were astonished at what they found. A massive cave full of hundreds of pristine preserved cave paintings of Horses, Bears, Bison, Leopards, Hippos (and many now long extinct verities of mammals). This is the subject of CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS. Some of these paintings have been carbon dated as 32,000 years old, the oldest known man made paintings. An avalanche around 20,000 years ago sealed this cave from the outside world, holding this astounding paintings inside, perfectly preserved in their original condition, locked away for the ensuing rise of modern humanity.

Werner Herzog is the first (and probably the only) filmmaker allowed into the cave (due to very sensitive climate conditions in the cave access is extremely limited). He agreed to work at an employee of the French Ministry of Culture, charging a fee of 1 Euro for the privilege of filming inside the cave. (With a skeleton crew of three and only one week, a few hours at a time to shoot inside the cave). The images revealed from the cave are truly spectacular. The elegance of the charcoal made drawings and paintings is remarkable, these are not crude or rudimentary images, but full of anatomical accuracies, character, grace and movement (a painting of a Bison has eight legs, suggesting movement, as Herzog describes, ‘almost a kind of proto-cinema’.)

Bringing these images to the viewer in 3D is in this case essential and indeed brings a whole other aspect to this documentary. The content of the cave itself (and Herzog’s meandering, profound, esoteric and often humorous narration) is enough to fill this film with awe, but the 3D cameras have captured the cave and the art in a way that is essential in understanding the works themselves, and in turn bring the cinematic medium to a genuine new artistic level. The walls that these images are painted on are not flat, they are full of curvature, concaving and convexing throughout. The Palaeolithic artists used the topography of the cave wall to create shape and dynamic movements of the animals they were depicting. These images are 3D paintings in their own right, and this use of 3D filmic technology is the first time that is has been used in film for a genuine artistic effect, which is (finally) propelling the medium into a potentially glorious new era. (Herzog does allow a few humorous nods to 3D usage recent movies, in an interview with an archaeologist demonstrating a Palaeolithic hunting spear, the tool is lunged through the screen towards the audience (just as effective as anything in Avatar!))

There is a wonderful sense of irony and (perhaps artistic symmetry/duality) that it takes the oldest known man made images (some claim these paintings reveal the awakening of the human soul) to propel a new artistic visual medium. These concepts are not wasted on Herzog. His musings fill CAVE OF FOROGOTTEN DREAMS with moments of lyrical genius, constantly pushing the viewer to consider wider possibilities and meaning to what we are seeing. On the revelation (from carbon dating) that one of the cave paintings was completed by another artist 5000 years after it was started, leads Herzog to conclude, “We are locked in history, they were not.”

We will never understand the reasons for these paintings, or what the artists were hoping to achieve, but they can perhaps resonate with us through a collective subconscious. We can look at the positive hand prints of the artist with the crooked finger, or wonder if the foot prints of an 8 year old boy side by side with that of a wolf reveal a story of friendship, or a mere coincidence. We can look at these and the intensity of the cave paintings and understand what they are, but never understand fully what they truly mean. It is perhaps this underlying factor that holds the real appeal to their story. Herzog lets this mysterious ‘other’ element linger throughout the film. Something that we know is there, but is for us intangible. This is what makes the films subject so powerful and compelling.

All this and I still haven’t mentioned the mutant albino crocodiles that star in the epilogue of the film! Go see this film for these wonderful creatures and a visual 3D awakening, and then be moved by the powerful human stories that the cave reveals to us.

CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS is released TODAY 25/03/2011

Showing in cinemas nationwide. Check the website for details...

Monday, 21 March 2011

UMSHINI WAM - bring me my machine gun

UMSHINI WAM is a new short film from art house/indie guru Harmony Korine (KIDS, GUMMO, JULIEN DONKEY-BOY, MISTER LONLEY, TRASH HUMPERS...)

Set in a grim post-apocalyptic world (one that closley resembles any contemporary suburban out skirt), the film follows Ninja anf Yo Landi (from Die Antwoord fame) as gun toting Bonnie and Clyde-esque protagonists as they roam the landscape in their onesies and wheel chairs, smoking comically large joints, and ripping off rude wheel chair salesmen.

This is one of those films that you can take or leave, but I personally think there are too many clever, interesting and down right bizarre touches to turn away from this little ditty.
Korine's cheap, quick, no holes barred, Dogme style of film making is always refreshing intriguing and somehow challenging to watch and this outing is no exception .

"you got hologram MAGS?"

This has even made me intrigued by Die Antwoord (?) All I really know about them is that they are some kind of South African Hip-Hop act, who had a successful hit (video) with a weird looking small person. I thought the whole act was either a joke or it was a group taking themselves (and the concepts of Gansta Rap) way too seriously. But maybe I was wrong and just didn't get it either way.

This film does nothing to solve this problem for me, but I like it none-the-less.

Friday, 18 March 2011


Last night The National Theatre broadcast live their sell-out production of FRANKENSTEIN to Picturehouse Cinemas across the country. Directed by Danny Boyle and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller (alternating nightly the lead roles of Victor Frankenstein and The Creature).

This was a remarkable production. Technically and thematically.

A striking and complex set consisting of a circular oscillating and rising stage was sparsely dressed, but helped create a stark mood and aesthetic. The lighting rig compressed of thousands of individual light bulbs, that not only created the illusion of the electricity that brings The Creature to life, but also work's as spectacle in its own right.

The chilling and menacing industrial score and sound effects (courtesy of Underworld) also create a specific mood, which propels this classic novel into a more contemporary arena.

But where this production ultimately succeeds is with the acting and script. Written by Nick Dear, the script is rich and (like the Mary Shelley's novel) is full of suggestions and thoughts on big time issues such as morality, technology, sexuality, parenthood, and ultimately what it is to be alive and the responsibilities that this entails.

These ideas are brought forward by remarkable performances from Benendict Cumberbatch (in this performance as The Creature) who not only performed the role with incredible physicality (the opening 10mins is without dialogue as the creature comes to life and learns how to use his 'body' stumbling and struggling as he learns to move with cohesion). But late, the heavy amount of dialogue that this Creature has is unprecedented. Cumberbatch delivers the lines on a technical level stammering and stuttering (if Colin Firth can win awards for mere mild stammer, then this performance is worthy of so much more acclaim) all the way through whilst keeping a genuine 'human' emotional tone to his passionate character. The Creature, is capable of incredible good, kindness, compassion reason and profound logic. However, as he becomes more aware, evil seeps in (the darker moments of this production are really dark, blackmail, perversion, murder and rape are prevalent.)

Jonny Lee Miller portrays the work obsessed Victor Frankenstein who's character (in comparison) is somewhat soulless and two diminutional, yet full of passion for his own obsessions (one of the key points to the original story), yet Miller performs this with just as much (restrained) intensity as his opposing lead.

By the end of the play however, the characters ultimately merge into one. Both Victor Frankenstein and The Creature are inextricably bound to each other, and by the last scene the audience can see how both actors can play either role.

This concept of alternating leads for this production is inspired. Bringing a different approach and very natural and logical progression to the well known and considered ideas and themes that the original text implies.


There will be an encore performance screened at Picturehouse Cinema this Thursday 24th March. Hopefully more screenings will become available, as demand to see this incredible production is ridiculously high.


Thursday, 10 March 2011


SUBMARINE is the new British coming-of-age comedy by Richard Ayoade (the guy from 'The IT Crowd, 'The Mighty Boosh' etc. The film follows slightly neurotic teenage Oliver Tate, as he goes about his day to day life trying to get the girl of his dreams, Jordana, whilst simultaneously trying to save his parents shaky marriage. Needles to say, this combo of dilemmas is a tricky one for Oliver to master and his attempts to solve both create a great parallel narrative drive.

But where SUBMARINE really succeeds is in it's stylisation, set pieces and casting. The fIlm is a visual treat, full of wonderfully playful and inventive set pieces and gags that deliver more than immediate aesthetic gratification, and end up resonating as genuine feeling for the (somewhat over stylised) awkward and quirky characters.

There's also a great soundtrack including some new original songs from Alex Turner (supplying some heavyweight crooners) that fit the overall ethos and style of the film perfectly.

A great film for anyone with a big imagination and who has ever been bewildered by what being in love is all about!

SUBMARINE was shown last night (for free) across the country at E4 and Picturehouses Slackers Club and gets a nation wide release on March 18th.

Thursday, 3 March 2011


I'm currently reading this book:

Herzog on Herzog
Edited by Paul Cronin

In which Werner Herzog discusses at length and in great detail aspects of his life, career and films. Full of astounding and remarkable stories and insights from a man who is a true genius of the film medium.

This is a great little tale from Herzog:

Years ago I was searching for the biggest rooster I could find and heard about a guy in Petaluma, California, who had owned a rooster called Weirdo that weighed thirty pounds. Sadly Weirdo had passed away, but his offspring were alive, and guess what? They were even bigger. I went out there and found Ralph, son of Weirdo, who weighed an amazing thirty-two pounds! Then I found Frank, a special breed of miniature horse that stood less than two feet high. I told Frank's owner I wanted to film Ralph chasing Frank--- with a midget riding him--- around the biggest sequoia tree in the world, thirty metres in circumference. It would have been amazing because the horse and the midget together were still smaller than Ralph, the rooster. But unfortunately Frank's owner refused. He said it would make Frank look stupid.

-Werner Herzog

(above image has no connection to Werner Herzog or his far as I know!)

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

TROLL 2 + BEST WORST MOVIE (via Picturehouse Culture Shock)

Troll 2 is one of those soooo bad it's actually amazing kind of films! It has, in some place, been called 'the undisputed worst film ever made"!

It's a typical horror tale of a nice family holidaying in small town nowhere to discover the place is full of some kind of man eating trolls (or goblins....)! And sure enough a series of bizarre, trashy, gross out and inadvertently hilarious scenes ensue! (There's a lot of green slim, midgets dressed as 'trolls', crude make up, faces of old men floating in the air, people turning into plants.....)

Written and directed by (possibly crazy) Italian b-movie maker Claudio Fragasso (went by the name 'Drake Floyd' for this production) and released in 1990, it was named named 'Troll 2' in an attempted to cash in on an earlier film called Troll to which Troll 2 has no production or narrative connection.

This only one aspect of the remarkable and haphazard production. More of which is bought to life in the documentary Best Worst Movie. Made 20 years later, it follows George Hardy, local dentist and star of Troll 2 as he finds out that the weird little film he was once involved has slowly gained a massive cult following in various pockets around the world.

Picturehouse Culture Shock have arranged a special late night double bill with both Troll 2 + Best Worst Movie to give you the full twisted experience of what makes certain films and going to the movies so weirdly special.

The double bill is taking place at the following Picturehouse Cinemas:

Check out Culture Shock on facebook and for where/when you can see more insane and essential cinema.