Christina Ricci and Johnny Depp in a decidedly non-traditional musical
Lars von Trier won an award for doing it, Ang Lee is doing it next and SALLY POTTER has just done it, sort of. She tells The List how she made her first musical. Words: Miles Fielder
There‘s lots of singing (and some dancing too) in The Man Who ('riml. Sally l’ottet“s new film which stars (‘hristina Ricci and Johnny Depp as a Russian Jew and a Romany gypsy. respectively. both on the run from the Nazis at the outbreak of World War II. But the action doesn‘t stop for the songs. so it’s not a iiiiisit'ul mttsical. right'.’
‘1 think that it is a full-blown musical.’ says Potter who's sitting comfortably in London‘s swanky Dorcltestet' Hotel looking forward to that night's l’ilm Festival premiere of The Man Who ('rit'tl. ‘Bttt it‘s not a musical as they made them in the 40s and 50s. otherwise I‘d be rehashing a nostalgic form. We have to reinvent the musical: the old-fashioned way of making a musical is that the story stops for the number. in this case the number drives the story.‘
That's pretty mttch what Bjork concluded. in character as Selma the Hollywood musical-loving. near-sighted mother in von Trier‘s Palme d’()r- winning take on the genre. Dancer In The Dark. But where von Trier did things the old-fashioned way — albeit with Bjork's idiosyncratic vocals and digital cameras — Potter weaves plot and music together quite seamlessly. The Man Who Cried follows Ricci‘s orphan on an odyssey from Russia to England. Paris and America as she searches for her long lost father and. along the way. we meet gypsy players. chorus
24 THE “ST 30 Nov—H Dec 2000
‘The old-fashioned way of making a musical is that the story stops for the number, in this case the number drives the story.’ Sally Potter
line girls. an Italian opera star and even a school choir
headed by a Welsh tenor. Hence. we get songs without the contrivance.
‘Music is the universal language.‘ says Potter. “The four main characters speak linglish as a second language. They're all outsiders who have a
relationship with music that expresses something of
their soul that goes beyond national identity. Relatively speaking. it‘s not a dialogue driven film. Historically. for example. in the world of the gypsies there are many sayings which. roughly paraphrased. say. "Never trust a man who speaks too much." It‘s a distrust of the spoken word. What counts is what people do. You look in people‘s eyes to find out what they think. not listen to what they say.~
That explains why Potter had Ricci and Depp in mind when she was refining the script she started writing way back in the early 90s while she was putting the finishing touches on her adaptation of the Virginia Woolf novel. ()rlumln. Ricci and Depp might be gorgeous pin-up material. but they‘re also performers with very expressive faces. As Potter says. ‘They are both actors who can do an enormous amount with sheer presence and gesture. with an expression in the eyes conveying the interior life of the character. The camera can read thoughts. A good actor orchestrates their own thoughts in between the things they say. and those thoughts manifest as a little swivel of the eye. a clench of the jaw.
‘That was a conscious decision to have the images and music say a lot. not have so much dependence on the word.’ says Potter. 'lt‘s a very English tradition to be very theatrical. literary. language-driven. But the roots ofcinema are not in words. they’re in images.‘
And music. if you think back to the pre-talkie days of cinema. Sound and vision in perfect harmony. and this synthesis is just what a musical is.
Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 8 Dec. See review.
Lights, camera, action . . .
THE BAFTA SCOTLAND New Talents Awards last Sunday saw May Miles Thomas’ digital feature One Life Stand clean up with five awards including Best Director, Writer, The List-sponsored Film Performance (Maureen Carr), Drama (curiously the sole nomination in this category) and Outstanding Achievement. Tinsel Town also picked up multiple awards winning Best Producer (Robbie Allen) and TV Director (Caroline Paterson).
Other awards made at the star- studded gala (name check: presenter Gail Porter, Peter Mullan, David Hayman, Daniella Nardini, John Gordon Sinclair etc), held in Glasgow's SECC were Kara Johnston's Body And Soul (Best Documentary), Martin Morrison and Becky Lloyd's What Do Busy People Do All Day (Short Film), Campbell McAllister's How The Sea Was Salt (Animation), Simon Dennis for Sex & Death (Outstanding Craft), Paul Leonard-Morgan for Reflections Upon The Origin Of The Pineapple (Composer), Annie Griffin and Anna Campeau's Coming Soon (TV Production), Stuart Wilkinson for Kings Of The Wild Frontier (TV Performance) and Julian Heathcote and Sam Maynard's ﬁmewalk Village (New Media). Finally, the too often overlooked behind-the-scenes technicians were paid tribute to with the Glasgow Film Office Production Awards.
SHEFFIELD INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FESTIVAL on tour makes Its first Scottish stop at Edinburgh’s Cameo Cinema 2—3 December. The films are portraits of an American family monster (Just, Melt/in), a Holocaust survrvor (Mart/n, showrng With the shorts Red Rubber Boots and We Are All Children Of The Earth), a stnper, stand-up comic, femmImst (Live Nude Girls UNITE!) and of Japanese women wrestlers (Gaea G/r/s) Yep, fact IS stranger than fiction.
SOUND AND VISION unite when three films made under the Cineworks emerging talent initiative — Sex And Death, Exidore, The Important Parts Of A True Story - are screened at the GFT on 4 December with their soundtracks - scored by musicians from the sister scheme Movie Music - played live by the BT Scottish Ensemble. There’s a Q&A to follow.
BAFTA Scotland winner Maureen Carr