D.A. PENNEBAKER AND CHRIS HEGEDUS
Directors of the concert movie Down From The Mountain
Like most of the transfixed audience, acclaimed ﬁlmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and his wife Chris Hegedus found the music in the Coen brothers’ film 0 Brother, Where Art Thou? a revelation. So much so that they accepted Joel and Ethan Coens’ offer to film a Nashville concert featuring the musicians on the soundtrack. Their film, Down From The Mountain, was a hit at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival.
‘I knew the music only slightly,’ Pennebaker confesses, ‘from stuff Bob Dylan had sung. But I didn’t really know these people that well, and I didn’t know the diversity of it. I certainly didn’t know Ralph Stanley, so it was a big eye-opener for us.’
Music, of one form or another is something that has always fascinated the couple. Pennebaker is often credited with inventing the music video when he filmed Dylan with those cards, singing ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ for his 1967 film Don’t Look Back. | ask him about Dylan and the early, now textbook, cinema verité days. ‘I have some uncertain thoughts about cine'ma verité, it was never my word to begin with and I’m not sure that we obey the various statutory rules that exist about it. I think the fewer rules the better.’
However, Pennebaker fondly remembers the time there was a naive freedom to it all. ‘I just assumed that if you made a good movie somehow, people would recognise it and somehow it would get into the world. I had no idea how you sold it, but if I could figure out how to get the camera I would become a filmmaker.’
Hegedus, who made this year’s breakout dot.com
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Pennebaker invented the music video when he filmed Dylan singing ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’
doc Startup.Com (also a hit in Edinburgh), shared her husband’s determination to get into film. ‘At that time, there weren’t any women directors I had heard of, but I knew how to shoot a camera and I had seen their films [Pennebaker, Maysles and Leacock] and was totally inspired. So I went looking for a job with them. I just landed on Penne’s doorstep and said, “Do you have anything I can work on?”’
This mixture of naivety and determination has served them well and produced an amazing body of work, often against the odds. ‘You have a problem to face with film,’ says Pennebaker. ‘In order to get
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it off the ground and get people to go see it you have to send it up in a rocket and have it fly across the sky for everybody to take notice, and that’s just beyond most independent ﬁlmmakers. Our kind of ﬁlms hang in much longer because their audiences are looking more historically: it’s not something you have to see here and now, they hang in for years and gradually they acquire the kind of audience that major films do.’
We’ll just have to wait and see whether Down From The Mountain hangs in there. (Stuart Thomas) I Down From The Mountain opens Fri 9 Nov at Fi/mhouse. Edinburgh.
SUPERNATURAL THRILLER THE OTHERS (12) 101 mins .00.
Masterful play on latent childhood fears
In a secluded Victorian mansion. a neurotic mother feeds her children on the words of JeSus. by candlelight. A mysterious trio of servants emerges from the swirling fog. Doors unlock themselves. Gravestones are hidden beneath piles of leaves. And the insistent murmur of intruders disturbs everybody's dreams.
You'd be forgiven for thinking you'd heard this one before. The American debut of a young Spanish writer-director. Alejandro Amenabar. The Others combines all the elements of the Victorian Gothic thriller. But Amenabar's version is actually set on the Channel Island Jersey. at the end of World War II. His kids suffer a truly modern day illness » an allergy. to light. He has sent the husband off in pursuit of a truly 70th century cause self transformation into Na/i gun fodder. And his story is
a triumph of merciless pSychological manipulation. flaunting a brilliantly modern twist.
Nicole Kidman is an austere leading lady — playing the highly- strung Grace. She is the IIVing embodiment of the self- contradicting religious doctrine that she rams down her kids throats. She lives without electricity. She believes that her offspring will die 'f they are exposed to the Sun. She insists that all of the :30 doors Within her house remain locked. Daylight must be kept out — this is her decree.
The Others is a brooding, moody experience. A tale that rests on the impossibility of working out just who is sane and who is mad. what is real and what is supernatural. Morality turns into fog. Amenr'ibar plays around With the ghost story. draWing from the well of e\./er\,rbody's latent childhood fears. He surprises With a deliberate lack of special effects. knowing that IeaVIng something to the imagination IS the essence of horror. And so in this film its the things that don’t happen that really freak you out.
And then there's the ending. If it comes as a genuine surprise. it's great. If you catch up Willi it an hour too early congratulate yourself on how clever you are. iHeather Walmsley)
I General release from Fri 9 Nov.
ANIMATION OSMOSIS JONES (PG) 95 mins .00.
The Farrelly brothers leave behind their now much-copied brand of gross-out humour (patented in Kingpin and There ’3 Something About Mary) for this imaginative animated/live action comic adventure. Mixing the buddy cop formula of Lethal Weapon with the super cool of Shaft and the science fiction human bi0iogy of The Fantastic Voyage. Peter and Bobby have come up with a real winner.
In the live action part of the film Bill Murray's slothful zoo keeper Frank (a character mirroring his early screen appearance as the golf course grounds keeper sloth in Caddyshack) eats a dirty boiled egg and contracts a flu virus. We switch to animation inside his body where the ‘Red Death' (voiced by booming Laurence Fishburne) goes to work. However. funky white blood cell FPD cop (that‘s Frank Police Dept) Osmosis Jones (Chris Rock) is partnered with cold capsule painkilling machine Drix (David Hyde Pierce — Frasier's brother looking like the ‘Germinator'!) to bring down the virus within 24 hours.
In the capable hands of the Farrellys and animation directors Piet Kroon and Tom Sito. writer lvlarc Hyman explores every vein of this nifty idea. The unhealthy Frank's insides are envisioned as a metropolis teaming with gangsters and corrupt politicians. notably the mayor (William Shatner) who aims to get re-elected by tempting voters with short term gratifications. These manifest themselves in Frank as an addiction to junk food. The most unhealthy parts of Frank's body. such as an ingrowing toenail, are the hide0uts of the virus and his mobsters. while Jones' snitch turns out to be an old influenza shot — playing for the good guys now. see?
This kind of savvy, semi-satirical play on the body politic is reminiscent of the days when cartoons weren't just for kids. And so. appropriately enOugh. Frank's interior is rendered in retro-styled animation straight out of Warner Bros cartoons of the 1940s. Funny. smart and groovy. it’s just a shame that biology education films at school couldn't have been like this. (Miles Fielder)
I General release from Fri 2 Nov.
Savvy, semi-satirical play on the body politic
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