‘Digital cinema allows us to get back to the basics of filmmaking - and human relationships'
_ ass of Innocence
Nobody could ever accuse MIKE FIGGIS of playing it safe. He remains one of the few European filmmakers to have won acceptance in the mainstream without sacrificing his artistic ideals. Words: Richard Mowe
He relishes to a degree the ironies of being in and out of favour. using the proceeds from such box office successes as Leaving Las Vegas and ()ne .\'ight Stand to finance more risky material. Mike Figgis does not. however. appreciate having his work chopped. changed and rendered incoherent by studio executives who think they know better. If his disposition currently registers on the sunny side it‘s because he has two new cutting edge ventures over which he had total control. One is a radical version of August Strindberg's Miss Julie with Peter Mullan and Saffron Burrows shot in a week on his own digital equipment. The other. Time Code. also made digitally in four separate takes and real time. was filmed continuously and simultaneously and involves more than twenty actors. among them Burrows. Salma Hayek. Holly Hunter and Julian Sands. in a black comedy about LA. lifestyles.
Low budget and low tech has almost become a Figgis trademark. His last outing The Loss Q/‘Sexual lnnoeenee. made in 35 days. was his most personal creation. delving back to childhood as he examined a
crisis in the life of a film director. played by one of
his regular collaborators. Julian Sands. He used the same Super lbmm cameras which brought him such good fortune on Leaving Las V ’gas. ‘When I said I
14 THE LIST 17-24 Aug 2000
'When I said I wanted to shoot a film on Super-16 about a suicidal alcoholic, . they all thought I was mad.’ 0‘ Mike Figgis
wanted to shoot a film on Super-16 about a suicidal alcoholic. they all thought I was mad.‘ says Figgis. ‘I made it as a kind of rejuvenation and a return to
actor-driven filming after being beaten up on Mr
Jones. The Browning Version and an HBO cable film. Mara. with Juliette Binoche. from Henry Miller's Quiet Days in Cliehy.‘ All three were recut and rescored by his masters. a double insult to someone trained as a music teacher and who toured as a jazz trumpeter for ten years.
His view today is more philosophical. ‘Looking back. I wonder how I survived.‘ he says. ‘I was learning so much about how studios function. But it was an education. Before then I was misinformed and had a naive fantasy about how films were made. It was all very painful and humiliating and I felt like a naughty schoolboy who had been given a damned good flogging. but showed them that I did not cry.‘
For Time Code Figgis used his skills as a composer to orchestrate the narrative. ‘Parallel action
and synchronicity always have been obsessions of
mine.‘ he says. 'l began diagramming out how it might work using flow charts. Eventually I came up with a system of writing the structure the script on music paper. using bar lines to indicate minutes. which is what we ended up using. Digital cinema allows us to get back to the basics of filmmaking — and human relationships.’ (It‘s no surprise that Figgis is a fervent admirer of the back-to-basics Dogme group formed by Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. which he describes as ‘a punk evolution in film.')
Every so often he feels the need to do something commercial. Part of it is purely practical. to top up his bank balance. to allow him the luxury of a Miss Julie or a Time Code. and partly because he feels it is creatively healthy. And Figgis has learned enough by this time to avoid any big budget pratfalls.
Time Code opens Fri 18 Aug. See review. Miss Julie opens Fri 1 Sep. Both films are being screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Time Code Tue 15 Aug, Miss Julie Wed 16 8: Sat 26 Aug.
lights, camera, action . . .
87/2? NO NOT the old Fellini classic, but a bang up-to-date new Scottish short filmmaking scheme with none other than Peter Mullan acting as patron. Appropriate, that, because before Mullan picked up an acting prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his performance in My Name Is Joe and directed the feature Orphans, he was cutting his teeth with short films such as Close, Good Day For The Bad Guys and Fridge.
87/2 (the title's derived from the running time of the projects the scheme will sanction) has been set up by Antonine Short Film Factory (part of the company which produced Orphans) to give new and experienced filmmakers a voice. Twelve scripts will be developed to first draft stage, of which four will be developed at The Performing Arts Lab before going into production. Further information is available from 16 August at www.eightandahalf.com
THE SURGEON won't be appearing in a Cinema near you. The horror thriller, v-ihich was being de\./e’ooed by Scott:s" production company Parade Films, has been passed over by Scottish ‘undmg and Lottery sources 'Some may reckon we didn't get the cash because Our scripts were crap,’ says Parade founder Edward Murphy 'But apparently the “Kes 0‘ Harvey Kestel, R chard E Grant and Peter Capaldi didn't th TlK so. \.".’e'e we KiCKed n favour of quality? In defence, I simply mention Rancid Aluminium, Mad Cows and Fanny And E/vis.’
But that’s not the end of the story. Murphy and Parade co-founder David McBrrde have turned The Surgeon, the company’s first scoot, into a cernic book Part one’s Out “02': see below, part two fozlows soon They '; be ,Oubl'shng additional titles through Glasgow-based Rough Cut Comic Pubiishers, conceived by Murphy and McBride during the Cannes Fllm Festival last year: Animal Farm 2080 and Brothers, a graphc novel, are imminent. And by way of happy footnote, The Surgeon, the movie, .s Currently in development lo Canada with Deep Space Nine star Nicole de Boer.