Star of Fallen
Hollywood stars come in all shapes and sizes, with varying degrees of talent and ego, but few have proved as versatile as Denzel Washington. A leading man with the taste and ability of a character actor, the 43-year-old star denies that he has ever faced the problem of being cast purely because of his colour. While never turning down the megawatt smile, he insists he is no spokesman for any group and seems to take a perverse pride in answering questions without giving anything away.
‘It does irk me to be seen as representing the African-American voice,‘ he nods, 'because no-one assigned me to that role. I mean, how dare I attempt to represent% anybody. I'm just an actor trying to do my job who happens to have my own opinions about stuff.‘
Washington gives the impression that he is never more comfortable than when he's with his wife Paulette - a piano prodigy as a child and therefore someone who understands the pressures of life in the limelight - and their four kids. Unlike many other actors, he positively exudes integrity. Either that's a personal trait or it's a hangover from his current role as a
To hell and back: Denzel Washington in Fallen
by-the-book cop battling unexpectedly dark forces in Fallen, a thriller with a supernatural twist.
'I only think more deeply about these themes when asked to,’ he explains when asked if elements from his work continue to prey on his mind. ’They don’t preoccupy me, to be honest.’ That might sound like someone trying to avoid the question, but Washington is someone who does have a firm appreciation of God and the Devil, having grown up the son of a preacher.
'As a kid the Devil took many forms,’ he smiles. 'I learned early on there is always a balance, the yin and yang thing where you want to do the right thing. I did grow up with a sense of good and evil, but I was
always taught that the Devil isn't something that has power over you or that you have power over.’
It's a mature, non—secular viewpoint which, given all the evidence about Denzel Washington so far, seems totally appropriate — no trendy cults for him. He explains his continued success in a tough business in similarly down-to-earth terms.
‘I guess positive outlook plays its part,’ he says. ’The grace of God and hard work. But it's keeping a sense of perspective as well. Working hard at what you do, but understanding that it’s not rocket science. You’re not saving thousands of lives - it's just entertainment.’ (Anwar Brett)
I General release from Fri 73 Mar
Director of Un Air De Famille
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Family man: Cedric Klapisch directs Un Air De Famille
28 THE UST 6—19 Mar 1998 \
When Cedric Klapisch received a call from French actor Jean-Pierre Bacri asking him to come and see Un Air De Famil/e with a view to directing it as a movie, he made his deCision in just a couple of days.
’I knew the play would be interesting to do as a movie because peOpIe identify with its picture of the family,’ says the director, whose last film was the delightful When The Cat’s Away. ’You can eat every week with your family, but you always fight for the same things, you always laugh about the same things and it’s never boring. The family is a really interesting place, where hate and love are so close to each other: you’re comfortable with those peOple, but you also hate them.’
Klapisch’s next challenge was to make the stage play into something cinematic.
’I wanted to make it more natural and realistic, but I also wanted it to be stylised in some way so that it could remain somehow theatrical,’ he explains. ’So I decided to make the frames very composed and I think that the tension in the film works on that. Also, because it takes place in one set, which is very claustrophobic in the cinema, I needed to escape that as
much as possible, so I used sound to make the exterior world exist.’
And it is with his sonic touches — in particular the motif of a fly buzzing and then sizzling to death in an old heater ~ that Klapisch makes his film not only cinematic, but also both very funny and very sad at the same time. ’Things like the fly were really meant to give the film an ambience and, of course, it’s a dreadful ambience, playing With the fact that something really cruel and really miserable can be very funny, which is what the family is like.’
So, does Klapisch feel he has successfully transposed a play into a work fit for the big screen? 'At first it was difficult with the actors,’ he replies, ‘because, although they’d been performing their theatre roles for almost a year, they had to adjust their characters for the camera. However, they finally found the right balance between composition and the kind of reality you need in a movie. The people who have seen the play and the movie said it's really strange to see how different it is.’ (Beth Williams)
I Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh Filmhouse from Fri 6 Mar. See review, page 37.
Edinburgh-based filmmaking collective
Don’t say we didn’t tell you so. Last July, The List ran a story about filmmaker Simon Dennis and his shOrt film Fake. ’A tightly constructed thriller about a restaurateur who gets one step ahead of his wife's murder plans by faking his own death,’ we said, praising the 'gorgeously shadowy photography'.
Nice to know that others agree, as Fake has just won both Best Scottish Short and Best British Short in the ’non-factual' category at the Royal Television Society's Student Video Awards. ’The judges thought this a strong stOry,’ reads the commendation, ’well told and well shot . . exceptional qualities of camera work, lighting and a professional control of pace.’
It’s a funny old world where Dennis can achieve results on a national level, but can’t raise enough finance to make a film print of his work, which was shot on 35mm stock left over from Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element. ’The Awards have opened a lot of doors for me and made people appreciate the film more,’ he says, however, ’Previously, they thought of it as a little student video, but with these accolades, they treat it as a serious film.’
Dennis has plenty of othei irons in the fire. At the moment he’s writing a' 30-minute short following the fortunes of one of the characters from Fake; finishing treatments for a twelve-part TV series based around the signs of the zodiac and for a feature about a man living on bribe money for fifteen years after witnessing a murder.
The 26-year-old continues to work with Edinburgh-based filmmakers ’lndependents’, all of whom are recent graduates of Napier University. The next Independents project is a promotional video for Glasgow band Toaster, which begins shooting next week. Rather than being a typical MTV-style promo, it comes in the form of a ten-minute fictional piece which takes a Twilight Zone trawl through Glasgow's underbelly and stars young professional actors.
The film will promote Toaster’s debut release for Creation, the Craska Vegas EP, and is directed by Martin Smith, who featured in The List’s tips for the top in a round-up of 1997’s graduates. Smith’s short We Are The Humans received rave reviews last month at the Manchester International Short Film Festival. It seems these Independents boys can do no wrong. (Alan Morrison)
Toaster: video debut