John Leguizamo in Spun
Spun, directed by JONAS AKERLUND, is the latest filmmaking debut from an acclaimed music promo director. And it’s no good. Words: Miles Fielder
ventually they all do it. some with surprising
success. others with an expected lack of it. At
some point in their careers. usually when they’re at the top of their game. music promo directors turn their car and eye for sound and vision to feature filmmaking. The Swede Jonas Akerlund is the latest in a long line of promo directors to tackle film. llis debut. Spun. tracks a bunch of crazed ('alifornian crystal tneth users over three manic days. Akerlund uses the dynamic visual sense - frantic camerawork. speedy editing — he honed making promos for Madonna. Robbie Williams and the Prodigy to approximate the lives of spun-out meth users. But. although Spun looks good. it‘s sorely lacking in what distinguishes a lilm from a promo — narrative arc. characterisation and decent dialogue.
Akerlund isn‘t the first acclaimed promo director who has been unable to meet requirements of filrntnaking. The film failures of promo directors has become something of a running joke — when some new kid on the block attempts to graduate from MTV to multiplex. critics groan at the thought of what they are about to review.
Take the American Mc(i (Joseph
McGinty Nichol. who's made promos for rocks acts like Korn). Mc(}’s feature debut. Charlie's Angels. was considered dumb even by Hollywood standards. though no one could say Angels didn't boast a glossy sheen. With the sequel. Full Throttle. Mc(i ever more rigorotisly applied the aesthetic of promo making to film. not merely excising plot and characterisation. but even chopping out exposition (often clumsy sequences that explain the story and link the action) leaving only a series of booty-exposing and butt kicking set—pieces.
Mc(} and Akerlunds problem seems to be the application of ‘transferable skills‘ and ignorance of the language of cinema. The results are frequently all
surface and no substance. Where there's an absence of
storytelling. there‘s usually a bad or mistreated script. Promo directors might get better results if they respected the script. Roman Coppola. son of Francis Ford. didn‘t do that when he wrote and directed the lamentable
32 THE LIST 2' Nu. " Dix. 77,"?
THE FILM FAILURES OF PROMO DIRECTORS HAS BECOME A RUNNING
Barlmrella rip-off ('Q — all 1960s kitsch and little else. including a [K cinema release. (‘oppola should stick with directing the Strokes promos.
Mark Romanek. who’s most respected for his promo for Johnny (‘ash’s cover of Trent Re/nor‘s ‘llurt'. faired better with his self-penned feature directing debut. the stalker thriller One Hour Photo. Michel (iondt'y. who learned his trade with Massive Attack and the (‘hemical Brothers. made the smart decision to collaborate with a hot young screenwriting talent. (‘harlie Kaufman. That said. their film. Human .\'aliire. went straight to video.
There are unequivocal successes. though. The Brit Jonathan (‘ila/er (Massive Attack. Radiohead) hit gold when he filmed Louis Mellis and David Scinto’s script. Sexy Beast. Interestingly. although there are visually impressive set-pieces. this gangster thriller relies heavily
on dialogue and characterisation — not the usual tools of
the promo director. Then there‘s Spike Jonze. The Beastie Boys' promo prince surprised everyone with the delirious fantasy Being John .llalkoi'ie/I. a lilm remarkable for both its wildly imaginative story (by Kaufman) and the restraint with which Jon/e tells it.
The good news is that while Jonas Akerlund is firing blanks with Span. those promo directors that have successfully made the transition to cinema are making more films. (ila/er has two in the works: Birrli. starring Nicole Kirlman. and (Tram with Robert De .\'iro. llaving also made Adaptation with Kaufman. Jon/c is working on a third. as yet untitled collaboration with the screenwriter. as well as a version of Maurice Sendak's' classic childrens' book. “here the Wild Things Are.
Still. how notorious Aphex Twin promo director and sometime film effects whiz (‘hris (‘unningham will fair with his film debut. an adaptation of William (iibson‘s cult science fiction novel .\'eiiromaneer. is anyone's guess. Will he be a Jon/e or an Akcrlund'.’
Spun is on selected release from Fri 28 Nov. See review, page 33.
Lights, camera. act/on!
Richard ‘Jaws’ Kiel
ON TUE 2 DEC AT 6PM AT THE Filmhouse. Edinburgh, the baddest of all Bond villains Richard Kiel. better known as the metal mouthed Jaws. will be present to introduce a screening of The Spy Who Loved Me. after which he will be interviewed live on stage as well as taking questions from the audience. He will also be available to sign copies of his autobiography. Making it Big in the Movies. ELECTRIC SHADOWS, THE Scotland-China Association’s second Chinese film festival, is just finalising its line-up of terrific new films from China but has confirmed it will run from 23 January to 5 February 2004 to coincide with the Chinese New Year Spring Festival (immediately after Chinese New Year). The GFT and CCA, as well as the UGC Cinemas on Renfrew Street, have all shown interest in supporting the festival by screening films and hosting the stage events that are part of the programme. The tasty films already announced include Zhang Yimou’s latest world box office success Hero, Yu Lik Wai’s All Tomorrow’s Parties, and Cannes 2003 Film Festival critics’ favourite, Lin Sheng’s Robinson ’5 Crusoe. COMMIE RED WESTERNS AT THE Filinhouse. Edinburgh from 5th to 1 1th December. The vodka soaked delights include White Sun of the Desert from the SOViet Union and Lemonade Joe from Czechoslovakia. Both were wildly popular in their countries of origin. but have never been shown in the UK.
THE WORK OF BLUNT Productions at 7.30 on Thu 27 Nov at the Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh. This is weird and wonderful zero budget exploitation filth, and these movies need to be seen to be believed. Interested ? Visit http://www.bluntproductions.com