Hullo, do come in, welcome to this week's 405 Film Digest! This week has been slightly slow in the way of huge news but nevertheless we have a bounty of features for you, including Steve O'Shea's latest Auteur Theory, another great Shorts Bar and our review of The Descendants .

Don't feel like you need to read it all at once! Bookmark us or get that fancy Read It Later app, dip in and out, do with us what you will.

Danny - Film Ed.



Auteur Theory

- Steven O'Shea

Roman Polanski

With the excellent Carnage popping up in a cinema near you shortly, this week’s Auteur Theory takes a look at rather a controversial figure. Sadly, Roman Polanksi is probably best known these days for his for his personal woes. Since he fled the USA before being sentenced for unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13 year old girl, a series of legal issues have dogged his career. With an extradition hearing here, a civil case there and arrests in Zurich, the focus has been drawn away from his film making which is a shame because he’s responsible for the follow fantastic films.

China Town:

One of the greatest detective films of all time. Jack Nicholson plays a private detective in 1930s LA in this brilliantly realised latter day film noir. Seemingly involved in a open and shut case things take a series of increasingly complex turns involving murder, sex and the historic battles for California Water Rights. The film rang in Jack Nicholson as a mainstay in Hollywood and features amazing supporting performances from Faye Dunaway and John Houston. The film was nominated for 11 Oscars of which it won one for best Original Screenplay, one has to believe that if it hadn’t been up against The Godfather II it would have done better and frankly out of the two, China Town is the better film.

Rosemary’s Baby

Rosemary’s Baby was one the first successful Body Horror films to come out of Hollywood. Despite being set in New York the film has an isolated almost village type setting in the gothic apartment block in which Mia Farrow lives. By isolating the heroin and even estranging her from her progeny Polanski created one of the most enduring Horror films of the 20th century. The film is like a masterclass on Horror, the fear is not derived from monsters or ghosts but we experience it vicariously through the fear that Mia Farrow is feeling. Although some of the dialogue is slightly clunky (‘This is no dream! This is really happening’) and some parts looking mildly dated it remains as a testament to what a great director can do with a maligned genre.

The Ninth Gate:

Polanski’s return to a Satanic subject matter. The tale of a rare book dealer named Johnny Depp tracking down a book allegedly written by Satan himself for a client. On his travels he picks up a beautiful woman who may or may not be the devil, but we see her fly so it’s more implicit than ambiguous. The film is a seething mass of confused imagery and themes of tarrot cards, lucifer, the devil and bibliphiles. Interestingly this film was made just after Polanski had paid over $600,000 to Samantha Geimer, the girl at the heart of his sexual abuse case. I’m not saying he made this for the money but it sure as shit wasn’t made for artistic reasons.

Shorts Bar

- Evin Keane

The Academy, that mysterious group of people that decides what films win Oscars and in turn, what people watch, is ancient. The fact that they’re all cobwebbed Zimmer-framers is key to understanding their voting patterns. Their favourite movies revolve around the likes of Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn batting eyelids at one another. Most best picture winners in the 2000s could basically have been made at any point in the past 50 years. So what approach do they take when it comes to the Live Action Short Film category, an area hallmarked by low budget innovative youngsters?

Watch last year’s winner, God of Love, for your answer. The film follows a dopey love struck New Yorker who prays to God for relationship help, only to be given magic darts which cause the target to fall hopelessly in love for 6 hours. Then it’s up to him to make that love last. It’s a charmer but it’s far from groundbreaking. For starters, the combination of black and white photography, New York setting and awkward narration of the protagonist put it firmly in the territory of Woody Allen’s 70’s heyday. This is no bad thing; it’s missing the undertones of mortal fear that Woody’s so keen on, but the jokes in God of Love are a good match for those classic comedies.

Luke Matheny wrote, directed and starred in God of Love, and he’s possibly the most appealing part of the film. He’s a gangling afro’d goof, so well suited to the role that you’d wonder if he’s really just playing himself. He hasn’t got a clue about relationships, and you feel for him in his romantic pursuits.

At a push you could draw some ugly themes from this film: God is a cynic; if you’re the type who writes nine-page poems in Portuguese to your crush then you’ll never, ever find love; but at its core, God of Love is a cheery romcom. Your gran would love it, and hence, so does The Academy.


The Descendants

- Yashoda Sampath

Director: Alexander Payne

Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Beau Bridges

Alexander Payne's The Descendants takes us headlong on a journey through existential despair. Facing the death of his wife, Matt King (Clooney), is forced to come to terms with his failure at, well, everything. His impotence to deal and connect with his family neatly illustrated throughout the film by garish Hawaiian shirts, he desperately grabs for what little solace he can, only to find more pain.

He finds a purpose, at least, in his wife’s affair. He acts as though her infidelity absolves him of all responsibility in his past marriage. He sets out to find the man who made a cuckold of him with the intention of…avenging himself? Having a sternly worded conversation? Aimlessly punching him? Clooney’s character spends so much of the movie trapped inside of his head that we can never predict his actions, and there the tension lies.

To his surprise, and ours, his head is pulled out of the sand by the most unlikely of persons, the wayward daughter that he’d written off as a clone of his wife, enslaved to the same drugs and alcohol that dominated her life. But Shailene Woodley is a revelation here. She takes a role that could easily have devolved into “rebellious teen archetype” and gives her real humanity.

Alexander Payne grounds the film with a powerful sense of place. The idea of home is essential, not just the house you live in, but the land of your ancestors. Even as King navigates his messy family, he’s left to fight his more distant relatives, desperate for money. The way these two plotlines come together delivers us the ultimate reward. King finally finds some power, and I think we’re all sure he makes the right choice.

To say anymore would give too much away, but despite the film’s heavy themes, there’s a surprising amount of comedy. Speaking of which, Judy Greer also plays a small but standout role, lending the film one of its biggest laughs. To round off, George Clooney has never given a better performance, and in surrendering his movie star persona to the demands of the role makes The Descendants an uncommonly good Clooney film.

At Home With: Drive

- Rosie Rogers

There is a lot of hype about Drive. A lot of hype. This film has spawned a Ryan Gosling tumblr memeolution, from feminists to cute puppies. Is all of the hype for one of 2011’s highly rated movie completely deserved? Fuck yeah!

Drive is a film of two halves, of slow understated beauty, dramatically colliding into a tense and graphic bloodbath. The main character, known only as ‘The Driver’ (Ryan Gosling) has two sides, a Hollywood stunt double by day, a getaway driver by night. The film opens with Driver helping two men evade a heist with superb skill and precision undetected, living by certain rules: he works anonymously, he never works with the same people twice, and he only gives his accomplices five minutes to carry out their work. But this modern day James Dean also has a sensitive side; he meets and is drawn to the innocence of neighbour and married mother Irene (Carey Mulligan). After lots of smouldering looks and night time drives full of longing, Irene’s husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) is released from prison, owing protection money to another gangster. Compelled but not forced to be a hero and protector, Driver is aides another heist that doesn’t work out as planned. Suddenly the Driver is forced into a violent battle to discover who crossed him.

By most modern day standards, the plot is simplistic. The dialogue is minimal. But all this works in the films favour, as there are so many stylistic influences at work, seamlessly weaving throughout the film to make it a real nail-biting cinematic splendor. The credits roll and you get the same excited chills when you first saw the GTA: Vice City florescent brush script. The camerawork keeps a video game feel through first person views during the driving and stunts, all of which are simply and perfectly done. The soundtrack is stunner on its own; the 80’s infused electric synth pop includes tracks by Kavinsky, College and Desire, with extra dramatic tension conceived through slow, mutating drum loops. The entire film is a perfect marriage of style and substance, infused by the electric chemistry of the fantastic ensemble cast - including Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks and Albert Brooks. This is why people have been talking about this for months. Rightly so.

The DVD features include trailers, a stills and art gallery, and 30 minute interview and Q&A with Dutch Director Nicolas Winding Refn, known to some for the also memorably violent film ‘Bronson’ divulges on the decisions behind creating the outstanding soundtrack, why he cast Christina Hendricks over a porn star (I have no idea...) and why production was scaled down from $60 to $15 million dollars. It was the best decision, as any more Hollywood and Drive would be far from the masterpiece that it is.

Poster Child

- Maria Pilkington

Controversy of the week: you may have read/heard about these posters for Jean Dujardin's next film which have caused outrage in France for depicting women as simply sexual objects.  Dujardin's character also looks like a complete and utter idiot in the poster, which probably means that men don't really come off that well in the film either (which incidentally has the English title of The Players and revolves around the theme of infidelity). But the French press are scared the posters might offend the far more sensitive and conservative American members of the Academy and affect the actor's Oscar hopes this year. C'est la vie.  

Eagerly anticipated big screen remake of the TV show that made Johnny Depp a star (look out for him making a cameo). Channing Tatum - who has FIVE films out this year - does moody face (his only face?) next to current Oscar nominee Jonah Hill's open-mouthed look of fear. This film has been a long time coming, and unfortunately, if this poster is anything to go by, it'll be like many other action comedy shoot-em-up blah blah blahs.  

The colour saturation on this poster is lovely, giving a simple picture of two people sitting together an indecipherable mood. The text colouring is also interesting, although the blue of Ewan McGregor is slightly fading into the background of the dark blue mood, when it should be up front and centre. What's most incredible is that this poster in no way explains what the film is about.  

Despite the fact it's about a troubled call girl, the adaptation of Truman Capote's novel is fluffy, light and probably best known for Givenchy's iconic costumes worn effortlessly by clothes hanger Audrey Hepburn. And its poster doesn't shy away from the romantic and comedic elements of the film, making sure it features a kiss and the diamond on the typeset for the title. However, the image of Holly Golightly is actually quite reminiscent of the picture of Rita Hayworth on the poster for Gilda from 20 years previously - a much darker femme fatale character - which perhaps is a nod to the deeper layers to Golightly.