With a new G FT season examining Scottish cinema,We offer an idiosyncratic A—Z of Scottish mOViemaking.
THE ATO Z 0F SCOTTISH FILM
Colin‘s ideas on mise en scene. the development of a poor (in resources, but not in imagination) cinema. and political engagement will provide plenty of ammunition for (possibly ferocious) debate, and that debate remains a crucial element in the programming ofthe season. just as the publication of the dossier will
When Colin McArthur first suggested that Glasgow Film Theatre might like to continue the debate on our national cinema which
had grown out ofthe
Scotland/Quebec Conference in Stirling last year, he set in motion a project which has now swollen to the
mammoth six-month long
Desperately Seeking Cinema season which begins this month — an event which stands beside Mayfest. The Garden Festival. and Third Eye‘s Russian Season as part of the build up to Glasgow 1990, Cultural
The idea is straightforward . enough. A fairly comprehensrve
is for Antonine Productions Ltd. run . by Scotland‘s leading l
producer. Paddy Higson. whose current activites also include the re- opening ofthe defunct Black Cat Studio in Glasgow‘s East End. Paddy has carried on the production work begun with her late husband Patrick, and has been crucially involved in the lion's share of recent Scottish films.
is for Bill. That‘sthe B name to have ifyou
want to get ahead in the directing game up here. as Messrs Forsyth. Douglas and Bryden will testify.
is also for Brigadoon B (1954) and Scotland
Hollywood-style. Gene Kelly starred in the 1954 musical extravaganza about a ghostly Scottish village which appears once every hundred years from out of the Celtic mist. shrouded in tartan and dodgy sets.
0 is for Sean Connery. probably Scotland‘s richest ever screen
actor. now finally able to
contemplate retiring to a life of golfand polishing what Woody Allen once succinctly described as a thirteen inch high statue ofa bald man. Unvanquished by a lifelong inability to approximate an Irish accent when the Oscar~winning role unarguably demanded one. our Sean did it in Scots in last year's The Untouchables. and still picked up the metalwork.
is for Bill Douglas. our most adventurous film-
maker. and the established director who has shown most awareness of ﬁlm as a visual medium in itself. notably in the stately grandeur of Comrades (1986). Nobody
range or Scottisn film-makers. producers. administrators. actors, writers. and critics were asked to submit a list ofaround six films which they felt would indicate possibilities for the kind ofcinema we might develop in Scotland, and to justify their choices in writing.
The lists duly came in, accompanied by the occasional ‘with regrets‘ note (Bill Douglas sent a postcard wishing the season well. but pointing out that. as he was hard at work on a new Scottish script. he would have to pass, a reasonable excuse), and the inevitable percentage of non-repliers. The justifications trickled in at a slower
rate - come on you lot, get to it.
These will be collected in a dossier for publication later in the year. a document which will provide a lively and even controversial contribution to the literature and the debate on Scottish culture. Much of that debate will also be carried on in the various public sessions planned around the screenings. beginning on May 18. when Colin McArthur will deliver his Keynote Lecture prior to a screening ofThe Switchboard Operator. with a panel discussion on the issues raised to follow (profits from this event, incidentally, will go to Scottish Television‘s Telethon
provide a valuable focus on what might otherwise seem a diverse and scarcely linked series of films. That, mind you. is not the least of Desperately Seeking Cinema‘s purposes -— it is a perfect excuse to show a lot of good movies. Watch the film listings and the GFT programme for details. (Kenny Mathieson)
will accuse him of being over-prolific. with a seven-year wait between the completion ofhis Trilogy of auto- biographical films and the release of his account of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.
E is forthe Edinburgh Film Festival. now permanently housed in Filmhouse. and a genuinely international occasion which is 42 years young this year. makingit ihe oldest continuously running film festival in the world. and still going strong. despite more changes of identity than Stanley Baxter. "
our one current
director of genuine international standing, even if his recent filmslike Comfort andJoy(1984) and Housekeeping (1987) have proved a little too ambivalent foran audience who preferred the only slightlycaustic charms of Gregory's Girl (1981). easily the most successful Scottish film of the last ten years.
is for Charlie Gormlcy. director of lelng Apart Together
(1982) and Heavenly Pursults (1985). whose films have been unfairly labelled as clones of his former partner. Bill Forsyth. and for Barbara and Murray Grigor. imaginative and productive makers of documentaries. Scotch Myths-The Movie ( 1982). and a general fuss and commotion when film folk get together to discuss their peculiar business.
is for hope. which is H what most Scottish
film-makers find themselves travelling in.
is for Bill Forsyth.
Alva Films, the most quaintly named ofthe valuable Film and Video
I is for Island House
Workshops which have grown up in recent years in Scotland. providing access and education to large sections ofthe community previously ostracised from expressing themselves in the medium. I is also for the Independents. from the professionals in lPPA to those hardy souls producing film and video on ludicrously limited resources and of. um. variable quality. many of whom find a showcase in the Edinburgh Fringe Film Festival. or in some of the newer festivals now cropping up in unlikely spots like Clackmannan and St Andrews.
is for Jam Jar Films.
redolent of a lost age
of moviesgoing, but. under Gareth Wardell, aiming very firmly at the expanding future of Scottish film-making. assuming the persuasive Gareth can make movies as good as the ones he talks (Brond counts as television: we await
onemrtls and .lllllllps).
is for Jessie Kesson,
Another Place (1983). launched Mike Radford’s directing career. and for Lesley Keen. exploring new areas of animation. and for Louis Kramer. our top sound man.
is for Stan Laurel. a l native of Langside in
Glasgow with a genius for getting Oliver Hardy into fine messes, who became one ofearly cinemas most famous faces. and the real talent behind that legendary twosome. L is also for Burt Lancaster, who invested Local Hero (1983) with his considerable presence as the slightly crazed oil baron looking to buy a sizeable chunk of our real estate, and for Lighting Camera. the people who ultimately capture the image on
L screen, with Michael
Coulter. Mark Littlewood and Jan Pester currently the most luminous stars in that particular galaxy.
is for Sandy MacKendrick. an expat Scot who
made two of the quintessential Scottish movies in Whisky Galore (1948) and The Maggie (1953) in the course of a distinguished career at Ealing films. and forJohn McGrath , still ﬂying the ﬂag for the common folk
. in films like Blood Red Roses.
is for Night Mall N (1936). the most
famous film by John Grierson and his ground-breaking GPO Film Unit, the father of Scottish film-making and progenitor ofthe documentary tradition which has been such an important historical
stream. and still thrives in
the hands of production companies like Pelicula, Cormorant, Everallin, Skyline, et a1. albeit largely on television.
is for oops, sorry 0 about everybody we
haven‘t mentioned, folks! , and for opulence, a state with which Scottish film makers remain unacquainted.
is for performers. the Pgenerations of
Scottish actors and actresses who make up Scotland‘s most successful ﬁlm export — Alastair Sim. Duncan MacRae. Gordon Jackson, David Niven. Tom Conti, Fulton MacKay. Ian Barman, Peter Capaldi, Robbie Coltrane, Deborah Kerr. John Laurie. Maurice Roeves. John Gordon Sinclair. Dennis Lawson, and all the rest I‘ve momentarily forgotten. Phew.
is for the quality of our technical crews, abetted in recent
times by a more highly developed training scheme administered by the Scottish Film Training Trust. which can not only help ensure proper training for newcomers to the industry. but does an invaluable job in re-training established professionals in new techniques and developments.
is for rubbish, of which we are, naturally, totally and
utterly guiltless, or which forms the vast bulk of our alleged Scottish film industry. depending on who you listen to- Desperately Seeking Cinema is likely to bring out both factions. and all points in between.
is for Iain Smith,
who has broken out
from national boundaries'into international production work in Puttnam’s influential orbit, which may or may not begood news for those looking longingly for some money from Scottish Television’s new production company which he heads, and for the Scottish Film Production Fund, who do a good job on inadequate resources and still manage to attract volleys of criticism for their failure to direct enough funding to smaller projects.
is for That Slnltlng
Feellng ( 1979). the
film which began the current Scottish film renaissance (‘Which is that?‘ the doubters cry. peering inquistively around with an air of feigned innocence. '1 see no renaissance hereabouts‘), and for television. where it has largely been kept alive.
is for universal. a reminder that Scottish film does
not exist in a vacuum, but is part of a global ﬁlm
culture which has arisen with the growth ofthe twentieth century’s most indigenous art medium. a message central tothe whole concept behind Desperately Seeking Cinema.
is for Video. which
has opened up a Vcheap and efficient method of learning something about the art and craft of ﬁlm-making. and which is likely to produce a growing body of signiﬁcant work in its own right. "
is for writers, the
people in the business, without whom the entire unwieldy process would neve r begin, and for whisky (and the whole panopoly of distilled and fermented liquids) galore, without
which it would all fall
is for X-rated. We‘re
not, although we Xhave produced some horrors . . .
is for young film-makers. currently led by
Michael Caton-Jones and Gillies MacKinnon. the future of whatever Scottish film industry we do have, who will be charged with taking the kind of steps which will emerge from the debates around Desperately Seeking Cinema. and for Colin Young. the Scot who heads the National Film and Television School at Beaconsfield. who will continue to be responsible for nurturing many of these talents.
is for zoom lens. without which cameramen would
also have to be international sprinters, an unlikely combination. especially carrying one of those damn things. (Thought you had me there. didn’t you?)
The List 13—26 May 19889