W Degrees of success
Alan Morrison reviews this year’s crop of films and videos at the student degree shows.
The thought of sitting through about ten hours of new student work tnight seem daunting to some. but ﬁlls others with a thrill ofanticipation. For me. hoping to discover some unknown genius. it‘s a combination of the two — almost like that Sean Hughes sketch where he psychs himself up for another ﬁrst date. repeating the mantra ‘This could be the one. this could be the one‘. If that’s the case. the score rate from the latest batch of ﬁlms and videos from the Edinburgh-based ﬁlm courses puts me on a par with Casanova.
The showreels from Telford and Stevenson Colleges should be viewed not as the culmination oftwelve month’s hard efforts. but as a pleasant aside. as the courses primarily aim to provide the students with a range of skills for subsequent careers in the media. The creative nuggets on show tend. therefore. to fall into existing formulae: documentaries on a local subject. intercutting straight-to-face interviews with illustrative footage. or humorous short dramas. which rely a little heavily on a single punchline.
That said. there are some amazing achievements born from very limited resources. From Stevenson. Raymond Knutsen comes up with a neat little horror tale in Tlte Bag; and Jamie Warnock‘s Crazy nicely subverts the standard cliche ofsilent melodrama. At Telford. Brian Reid’s portrait ofeasy listening music has wonderfully cheesy intenitles. but is funny without being snide; and there's good dialogue in Isis. Euan Fraser's short drama about two men waiting in vain on Calton Hill for Bob Dylan. Two different pieces frorn Nicky Coyle - Artf’. juxtaposing different viewpoints on Glasgow‘s Gallery of Modern Art. and Basketball. a stylish slice of sporting confrontation — throw the spotlight on a talent to watch.
Edinburgh College of Art‘s output in recent years has been tremendous. and some of this year‘s selection comes with pedigree already attached. A few months back. Margaret Reeves‘s richly stylised tale of growing up in Australia. Sad To Say But Sammy Is Dead. was named Second Best Overall Production in the Centenary Reels line-up. In September. Gavin Gordon-Rogers‘ Plastering The Cracks will screen at the Fuji Film Scholarship Awards; based on a Janice Galloway story. it swings from comedy to tension when a woman places the job of decorating her new bedroom into the sweaty. greasy hands of a cowboy workman.
However. at the ECA. it's the animation that‘s truly world class. In
Plastering The Cracks
terms oftraditional 2D drawing. Ed Willmore's The Story Of Flying Robert is a classic nursery tale. while Cormac O'Kane's Goldilocks And The Three Bears begins in Svankrnajer territory before becoming a witty post-modern redraft of the fairy story. Stand-out work comes from Angeline Ferguson. whose The Jungle Book and Celebrating Life both combine an abstract manipulation of the frames themselves with a modern jungle/rave soundtrack. brilliantly fusing sound and image for a perfect example of rhythmic ﬁlrnmaking.
Napier University's department of photography. ﬁlm and TV has come on leaps and bounds. If this year‘s show was presented as an intemational selection at a ﬁlm festival. it would be impressive; that it's the graduation work from a single ﬁlm school is remarkable.
Everyone deserves a name check. Fraser MacDonald’s Edinburgh Pub Tales captures Scottish male insecurity in acidic monologues. Susan Kemp places poet Lem Sissay‘s words in musical layers in Gold From The Stone. Steve Miller’s two commercials are. respectively dynamic for Docs and sumptous for perfume. Kyle Fraser‘s Little Fishes is a beautifully photographed take on time and relationships. Ian Ferguson's Uncomfortable is exactly that — an unsettling. rhythmic blast on the subject of close circuit surveillance.
Peter Doyle‘s Wire places needless sectarian barriers between two young boys. Martin Thornton‘s Headeleaner is a very disturbing. unforgettable. experimental blend of racist and religious imagery. Vincenzo Di Cosmo‘s The Burning Sun is the moving tale of a young boy’s loneliness when forced by his father to tend goats rather than spend time with his schoolfn'ends. As a lyrical piece of short narrative cinema, it rounded off a programme that was a geniune pleasure to watch.
I A Streetcar Named Desire ( l5) Although Elia Kazan's classic 50s version of the Tennessee Williams play oozed sweaty sexuality. this new version boasts a fuller version of the text. Alec Baldwin is no match for Marlon Brando. but his Stanley is never simply a bully; Jessica Lange has matured perfectly into Blanche. and Diane Lane surpasses herself in the difﬁcult role of Stella. With its rich dialogue and Gershwin-style score. this is a reminder of the best that 20th century American art has to offer. I The War (l2) It’s a travesty that this movie died on its cinema release. Not only is it an evocative coming-of-age tale that conﬁdently handles its liberal message. it contains one of the best child performances ever put on screen. Elijah Wood spends the summer of I970 building a treehouse and ﬁghting with the neighbourhood kids. while also weighing up his love for his Vietnam vet father (Kevin Costner). As thrilling in its set-pieces as it is emotionally rich in its quieter moments. (ClC)
I The City 0! lost Children ( l5) Jeunet and Caro follow up Delicatessen with one of modern cinema's tnost remarkable fairy-tales. crammed full of surreal effects and images that place the ﬁlm closer to Terry Gilliam than Hans Andersen. A prematurely ageing man on an isolated oil rig kidnaps local children in order to steal their dreams. At times dark and disturbing. its visual boldness reawakens the imagination. Available in French widescreen and English fullscreen (and. given the strangeness of the material. the dubbing doesn't seem that odd). (Entertainment
Also out: pigs can’t fly, but they sure can talk in Babe (Bic, rental)
1: l 4.99/5; l 3.99)
I Stonewall ( I5 ) A swift video release for the late Nigel Finch's ﬁctional take on the New York gay scene at the time of l9o9's Stonewall riots. By going back to the fairly recent past. the ﬁlm reveals the emotional cruelty of the oppression. while simultaneously offering plenty to celebrate as the drag queens announce their determination to express their sexuality in their own terms. (Tartan
L' I 2.99)
I The Grim Reaper ( l5 ) The ﬁrst ﬁlm by Bernardo Bertolucci takes a Pasolini story about the tnurder of a prostitute in a park in Rome and turns it into a stylish cinematic exercise in character perspective. By showing on screen the alibis of a group of male suspects as they are interrogated by the police. Bertolucci avoids a simple ‘whodunnit' structure and builds a portrait of the seedier side of the city. (Arrow £l5.99)
I Destiny Turns (In The Radio ( l5) . . . and switches off the video. Quentin Tarantino plays a mystical fate ﬁgure called Johnny Destiny (yeah. sounds like a burst condom) in this messy mismatch of ﬁlm noir and magic realism. The ﬁlm's lack of self-judgement puts it in the worst category ofcurrent US independent ﬁlrnrnaking. where clever-cleverness is preferred to telling a decent story. (Entertainment 11 l 2.99)
Also out: Ted Benson discovers the bridge between myth and reality within the depths ct loch less (Polyerarn, rental)
I The Young Master ( l 5) It may have been Hong Kong's biggest ever box ofﬁce hit and the ﬁlm that made Jackie Chan‘s name. but the ritualistic set- pieces and comic style are a little too traditional to please a wider western crowd. That said. Chan shows great grace and definite star quality; as director. he knows how to choreograph the action. Available in widescreen original language. (with extra unseen footage) and dubbed formats. (Hong Kong Classics)
I The Flower (It My Secret ( I5 ) Widely acclaimed as his most mature movie to date. Pedro Almodovar's latest focuses on a successful writer of romantic novels who’s on the brink of domestic. artistic and emotional breakdown. The director ensures that his patented arch humour is still present in this grown-up melodrama. For those wanting the brash designs of the Almodovar of old. try the re-release of Kika ( l8). (Electric
£ I 2.99 each)
I Secret Of Mame ( 12 ) In his continuing feature- length adventures. master thief Wolf(seen last month in the extremely enjoyable caper The Castle QI'Cag/iostro) is on the run from a cop while up against a mystical adversary called Mamo — and caught up in Cold War-style intrigue. As fast-paced as before. with an entertaining set of sidekicks and some Bond- Iike action set-pieces. (Manga £13.99)
I The Prince ("Jutland (l5) There's something rotten in the state of Denmark. when the king is murdered by his brother. who then takes control of the crown and the former queen. Sounds familiar? Gabriel Axel‘s ﬁlm may have the story of Shakespeare‘s Hamlet. but not the depth. The acting is mixed (Christian Bale's prince does the worst mad acting ever) and the score is too stridently modern. Ifonly this Euro partnership had been on the end ofa UK veto. Not to be. (Arrow £9.99)
23 The List 28 Jun-ll Jul I996