Category Archives: Films

Glasgow Film Fest 2015 – Memphis (Tim Sutton, 2013)

In amongst the airy, ethereal atmosphere of Tim Sutton’s Memphis, there lies promise. An idea that could make this film work in a sort of bizarre amalgamation of Beasts of the Southern Wild and Gummo. Both of those are blinding and beautiful depictions of the deep south that work in their sprawling style. Memphis gets unfortunately caught in between these genres with very little to engage with.

A struggling blues musician arrives in the city of Memphis, exploring its streets and meeting its people who force him to do better by telling him his voice is a gift from God.

Memphis has the laudable talent of looking and sounding sublime. Often, the film is engrossing through its ability to wash over you; visceral and seductive as if you’re in that searing summer setting. It follows the life of a musician inspired partly by the star, the talented Willis Earl Beal in a sort of cinéma vérité style, depicting his almost nonchalance attitude with such an intensity the film itself becomes non progressive. Its finer moments lie in the scenes where Beal isn’t centre stage. Uproarious church sermons, young childhood friendships and a mother with children, telling stories of the city she grows up in. The glimmers of potential here are, unfortunately, overshadowed by a character and script that’s a little too obtuse.

Atmospheric depictions of life in a cultured city are the minor beauties in Memphis – a film otherwise a little too underdeveloped to be engaging.


Memphis plays at the Glasgow Film Festival on Thursday 26th/Friday 27th February. More information here.

GFF 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)


From the off, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel resembles a stunningly crafted watercolour postcard, plucked lovingly from the depths of your grandmother’s relic box. Its numerous characters fit almost like paper dolls on to the lustrous landscapes.

The story is this: in between the two world wars of the 20th century, M. Gustave H. (played by Ralph Fiennes) is the faithful concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel, a finely decorated establishment perched on a mountain in Eastern Europe. Charming and a little camp, Gustave has managed to make an aged Duchess (Tilda Swinton) fall madly in love with him. When she dies, and the will states that Gustave inherits an expensive painting, he is blamed for her murder and imprisoned. With the help of his trusted lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori), Gustave must escape from prison and prove his innocence.

Anderson deserves a firm pat on the back for this one. Whilst recognisable faces appear on screen, scene after scene, he manages to hone the film in with an expertly funny script and some gorgeous cinematography. The cast do a wonderful job, turning their enthusiasm up to one thousand and giving it their absolute all in this gratuitous, over the top picture that’s great fun to watch. Particular credit must go to the costume and set design teams too. Not only is it funny, but it’s dazzling and alluring on the eye.

The huge cast that festoon the posters in your local cinema, and the honourable Wes Anderson? Both deserve a rapturous round of applause for this. Lurid, funny and whip-smart, The Grand Budapest Hotel is an absolute cinematic riot in all the right ways.

The Grand Budapest Hotel opened the Glasgow Film Festival 2014. It has its UK nationwide release on 7th March

GFF 2014: 20 Feet from Stardom (Morgan Neville, 2013)


Rarely does a documentary let you be both in awe of and feel pity for its protagonists. In 20 Feet from Stardom, director Morgan Neville does just that. While at some points these men and women make you want to stand on your cinema seat and sing to the heavens, he has a great ability to truly make you realise what life has been like for them.

They stand ever so slightly to the back of the stage, their voices filling records and auditoriums but never truly being the one with all the attention. They are the backing singers of today and of history, brought stunningly to the forefront in this rather rambunctious documentary.

Regardless, 20 Feet from Stardom is a glitzy, powerful affair in giving an in-depth look into the world of backup singers. Focusing on the most famous women and men over the years from Darlene Love to The Waters, it backs up the voice with some fond memories of the past, featuring interviews with Stevie Wonder and Mick Jagger to name a few.

It does something that a lot of documentaries fail to do: inform. Incorporating stock footage from the past that will be nostalgic to many, it also delves into the current lives of some of music’s most forgotten voices.

20 Feet from Stardom is a rushing, sass-filled affair that is impossible not to love. Get on top of your seats, ladies and gentleman: you’re in for a real treat here!

20 Feet from Stardom has its UK release on March 28th

GFF 2014: Starred Up (David Mackenzie, 2013)



I woke up this morning still to find myself in the confined space of Starred Up. Isolating, dangerous and cutthroat, it’s a realistic outing into the prison genre after years of being near destroyed by hyperbolic stories and substandard acting efforts (we’re not pointing fingers, Mr. Dyer).

Surpassing the young offenders institutions, Eric winds up a high risk inmate at a British prison. His 19 year old mind still racing from the outside world, he struggles to understand how this incarcerated world works. As he meets his fellow inmate father for the first time in years, tensions heighten to an unbearable levels as he forms a rivalry rather than embracing the only recognisable figure.

Credit is most due here to the sublime Jack O’Connell, whose lead performance as Eric is absolutely astounding. His work here embodies a vindictive, violent figure who veers on the edge of being so infamous he becomes vulnerable. O’Connell’s undeniable skill almost effortlessly melds into this role, as if he’s been waiting to play Eric his whole life.

What makes Starred Up so different from its prison depicting predecessors is the fact that its solid script veers into the shocking but never overdoes it. The characters feel familiar, yet not clichéd. This is Jonathan Asser’s work. His first feature outing as a screenwriter is due almost entirely to his work as a prison therapist before he wrote the film. The very little that seems predictable is perhaps a true depiction of what prison life is really like, and we as an audience have been the ignorant ones after all.

Starred Up is a vindictive, stark piece of British cinema that refuses to let go days after you’ve seen it. Cold and haunting, you will never look at prison dramas in the same way again.

Starred Up has its UK release on March 21st

GFF 2014: Night Moves (Kelly Reichardt, 2013)



Night Moves is an example of a film that works so tremendously well using very little. Set in an isolated American town, it uses a sparse landscape and accomplished cast in presenting a film that slowly burns its wick, choosing to avoid sparking up dynamite.

Three friends band together in the hopes of bringing down a local dam in an act of eco-terrorism. On the surface, it would seem all had been thought through, but there’s one thing they did not even begin to consider.

It feels all very real and non contrived. As these three characters converse, their words seldom steer towards a clichéd use of condemning words for the goverment. That dialogue is there, but it is used sparingly, surrounded instead by something that feels familiar; as if these activists are just normal rather than preachy.

Dakota Fanning subtly shines alongside Jesse Eisenberg, whose quiet, irregular voice differs from the usual rambling character he usually depicts. Both give wonderful performances, especially Fanning, who must be on her way to getting some Academy recognition at some point. It all feels and looks very natural, and that intrinsic feeling is down to two things: its performances and its cinematography.

The subtlety doesn’t last much past the first half of the film, after a torrid realisation hits the group. It suddenly steers away from being tense and gorgeous to something strangely psychotic and overly dragged out. It’s a real shame, considering the first half is so striking.

Night Moves is undoubtedly worth seeing due to its subtlety and enchanting cinematography in the first half, but as soon as the surprise hits, it’s a little bit more self indulgent.

GFF 2014 – The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Felix Herngren, 2013)



For the most part, we’ve left mainstream comedy films to the Yanks. Veering towards grandiose affairs of humourless slapstick, or a smartly written, well acted features, they rarely meet anywhere in the middle. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared is an example of a film doing just that.

On his one hundredth birthday, Allan climbs out of his window in a care home he reluctantly lives in. Intent on escaping to somewhere new and alone, he takes the bus to a small, almost non existent town, meeting people along the way. As the police start to track down his whereabouts, he leads a life of inadvertent crime, innately telling stories of his past on the way.

Although it lends a lot to the likes of Forrest Gump, The 100-Year-Old Man is simply a warm, well intended film to watch. It doesn’t try to involve needless backstories (apart from his past, obviously, which isn’t necessary but a beautiful anecdote that runs through it), but sets forward on this story that shows comedy holds no language.

It may stretch out a little, at nearly two hours long, but The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is a joyously comic film that has its heart in exactly the right place.

GFF 2014 – Nymphomaniac Vols I & II (Lars Von Trier 2014)

chapter_5_photo_by_zentropaLars von Trier is an undeniable master of character study. In Nymphomaniac, when all the provocative material is stripped away, both promotionally and cinematically, what is left is the undeniably profound study of a woman torn between holding onto her problems and embracing them wholeheartedly.

On a snowy night, an old literary enthusiast named Seligman finds a woman badly beaten on the street. Her name is Joe, and as he takes her in for the night, they sit down and discuss with visceral honesty, the women’s lustful and torrid sexual past.

What von Trier has created was mercilessly split into two separate parts (his words, not mine) for its cinematic release. It does in fact, work really well. The two films, while both admirable in their own respects, do feel almost like polar opposites; as if the story has been suddenly turned on its head.


It takes a lot of tenacity to make a film about obsession with sex. In a way, it could be construed by many as indulgent, but von Trier, with his thoughtful script and his wonderful cast has succeeded in making something that feels entirely natural and soft, rather that exploitative and anatomical.

What initially strikes you in the first volume of this story, is that it feels relaxingly unpretentious. Although von Trier is visionary in his methods, his work is often dismissed as too symbolic for his own good. He smartly tackled that by dissecting his symbols and metaphors on screen. Not only does it make the film much easier to follow, it lays all its cards on the table; never seeming to be shady.

The highlights of the film most definitely come down to its performers. As Seligman and Joe converse through the night, their performances by Stellan Skarsgård and Charlotte Gainsbourg feel primal, despite the dialogue feeling scripted. It’s a technique that works in the film’s favour, as this woman’s infatuated past feels almost fable like, as if read from the pages of a book. Stacy Martin is most impressive in her first film role as Joe’s younger self. She glows a rather youthful beauty, and gives potentially the best lead performance in the film; deserving praise for her inhibition-free attitude. She’s clearly delved into this film just as deep as the protégés lower down the credits. Surprisingly, Shia LaBoeuf, being the new-found pretentious performance artist that he is, is not overtly annoying here. If you get past his questionable accent (he’s channelling his Australian/Irish/East London roots, evidently), he gives a fine performance as the only man to be remembered through her years of sexual exploration.

Of course, the sex must be addressed. Much to everyone’s surprise, sexual gratuitousness is not what inhabits Nymphomaniac. What there is is entirely justified and tasteful, never straying into the exploitative. The most explosive scene comes within the third chapter, ‘Mrs H’. Both comical and heartbreaking, it’s a fantastic testimony to the screenwriting and Uma Thurman, who gives one of the best performances of her career.

What feels so great about the first volume is this unexpected humour that is laced through von Trier’s beautiful script. It’s indulgent in the right areas, surprisingly unpretentious and both lustful and desperately sullen. If the film was to carry on on a different but not too dissimilar tangent, it may have been a masterpiece as a whole body of work. That leads us on to…


It’s an exceptionally long film, and at some point, desires to veer into something other than this woman’s sexual addiction. It does so, but in a way that after a few effective comical stabs, feels a little bit contrived, something most definitely not associated with von Trier’s work.

It’s hard to discuss this point in the film without spoiling it, so I will try my hardest not to give anything away. Whilst the first half is much of what you already know about Nymphomaniac, the second half is fairly unknown. It should be understood that, despite appearances from Jamie Bell (whose sadomasochistic performance is as impressive as it is disturbing) and Willem Defoe, Volume II is where the ideas may slightly run thin for von Trier.

Saying that, it is an enjoyable thing to watch, still oddly funny but overrun with something that’s ultimately bleak. It’s a hard thing to watch as it develops, as the sexual liberation that makes the first half so enticing to watch disappears into something realistic and consequential.

It needed direction, and the direction that von Trier took it in was sometimes eery; sometimes unexpected, but that doesn’t make it any less beguiling and strangely magical to sit through.

Nymphomaniac appetizer – Chapter 8: The Gun from Zentropa on Vimeo.

GFF 2014: Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie, 2013)



As the sun sets over the water in Stranger by the Lake, you are reminded  how cinema can greatly embody multiple genres. Presenting itself as an erotic story of lust and danger, it simultaneously ventures in to something voyeuristic and uncomfortably mysterious.

During a hot summer, gay men swarm to a secluded lake that they use as a cruising spot. Surrounded by woodland and with the water stretching far across the lake, Franck, a young seemingly impressionable man who’s fresh out of work, spends his summer meeting men with whom he simply talks, and to others bares his sexual being. When he meets Michel, an attractive, golden skinned strong swimmer, he falls desperately in love with him. But when he witnesses him from the forest drowning a former lover in the lake, Franck is forced to choose between his twisting mind and his throbbing heart.

The film never leaves the boundaries of the lake and the forest, enclosing you and capturing you for its entirety. What by day feels like a glorious, sunny beach turns torrid and unsettling as the moon rises, captured beautifully by the film’s great cinematographer, Claire Mathon. The script, whilst simple, is achingly effective. The characters, each valuable and stunningly realised by their respective actors are what carries this sometimes sinister love story. Franck, played by Pierre de Ladonchamps, teeters cautiously on the edge of lust and infatuation, engulfed almost entirely by Michel (Christophe Paou), whose caustic, stark performance makes you realise exactly what Franck is falling for.

Credit is due to Stranger by the Lake’s brilliant director, whose alluring use of symbolism and minimalism has created a story that, while at times sexually gratuitous, has become an exemplary piece of daring French cinema.

It may be uncomfortable territory for many, but for those who can let go of tabooed thoughts for just a short while will be washed over and drowned by Stranger by the Lake.

GFF 2014: The Double (Richard Ayoade, 2014)



If there’s a topic that Richard Ayoade tackles with impeccable skill, it’s infatuation. In his break out hit, the 2010 coming-of-age drama ‘Submarine’, he created a film about two young teenagers hopelessly in love but surrounded by break up and melancholy. In his latest feature, The Double, he once again creates an unrequited infatuation, but never veers into the obsessive.

It tells the story of Simon, a timid man who day by day is ignored and forgotten by his co-workers and mother. As all he yearns for slips from his hands, a man walks into the office. His name is James. Confident and daring, he could not be more different from Simon, apart from the fact that he looks identical to him. As James teaches Simon the ways to entice the woman he loves, James carries out a deceitful act of sabotage that drives Simon to insanity.

The Double presents itself as a ‘comedy’ on paper, and bar the few and far between lines of dark humour, it could not be further from it. Haunting and psychotic, it verges on this fine tightrope of insanity that drags you with it as it teeters off either side. It’s a bizarre turn for Ayoade, whose comic background would suggest he couldn’t make a thriller as fine as this, but to his credit he does it seemingly effortlessly, and with a sensational amount of skill. In fact, it wouldn’t be ridiculous to suggest that Ayoade’s effort here makes him one of Britain’s best modern directors. It lends itself, through its harrowing score and masterful cinematography, to the horror greats of the seventies and eighties. It’s bizarre, at times terrifying but with each and every frame drags you into the pit of your seat.

The performances, particularly Jesse Eisenberg as the both shy and vindictive leads of Simon and James, are scarily good. Eisenberg gives a career defining performance. The dual aspect of it also gives Mia Wasikowska, as the Simon’s love interest, a character that’s both caustic and charming. She’s a fine young actress and gives a performance that’s one of her own personal bests. There are numerous other cast members that crop up over the ninety minute runtime, both Wallace Shawn and Noah Taylor make great appearances as delusional co-workers, and Ayoade has even squeezed in roles for his Submarine alumni Yasmin Paige and Craig Roberts too.

The Double owes just as much to those in post production as it does to those during the filming of it. With an impeccable British direction, great international performances and a script and score to die for, The Double is truly one of the most enticing, interesting and genuinely excellent films of the year so far.

The Double plays at the Glasgow Film Festival on both Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd February

Film shot in Glasgow to be screened at Sundance

Scotland at Sundance Film Festival

Two films supported by Creative Scotland , Exchange & Mart and God Help the Girl, will receive world premieres at the Sundance Film Festival, 16-26 January 2014 at Park City, Utah.

God help the Girl will be screened in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition and Exchange & Mart has been selected from more than 8,000 entries to screen in the Shorts Competition.

God Help The Girl is a musical feature film, written and directed by Stuart Murdoch, lead singer of the group Belle and Sebastian. It was produced by Barry Mendel, with Co-Producer Carole Sheridan of Singer Films and Associate Producer, Beth Allen of Forest of Black providing on the ground support for the film in Scotland. The film stars Emily Browning, Olly Alexander and Hannah Murray.

This is the debut feature of Stuart Murdoch who aspired to tell the story of “a better summer, or at least a summer when something happened. It happened to a boy and a girl in a city roughly the same size and population of Glasgow. Perhaps the canals were a bit grimier, the high-rise buildings taller, the streets emptier when you needed them to be, and the beat clubs busier than the ones around here. But on the whole the city was this one.”

According to Barry Mendel, “It’s a simple story – about the brief moment after you’ve realised what you want to do with your life, before your dream settles into becoming your job, when you’re filled with enthusiasm, meeting like-minded friends and the possibilities are endless.”

The film was shot, edited, scored and mixed in Glasgow over the course of 2012-2013 and will be released in cinemas around the world in 2014 following its world premiere at Sundance on the 18th January 2014. See:

Starring Ewen Bremner and recent graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Grace Chilton and Tania Gardner, Exchange & Mart is a short about a boarding school girl who comes of age in the most unlikely of circumstances – during a self-defence exercise. The short is written and directed by Cara Connolly, co-directed by Martin Clark and produced by Phoebe Grigor and Maeve McMahon. Coming from a background in documentary filmmaking, Cara and Martin previously co-directed The Boccia Brothers, which screened on BBC2 in August 2012.

On being selected for the Sundance Film Festival Film, the team said:

“We are thrilled that our film has been selected for Sundance 2014. We had amazing commitment from our fantastic crew, and were honoured to work with such a great cast. We would like to thank Scottish Shorts for their help and support. Team Exchange & Mart can’t wait to be standing in the Utah winter snow. Skiing for Scotland.”

The film received support through the Scottish Shorts programme designed to discover and develop writers, directors and producers. The programme is a collaboration between Hopscotch Films and DigiCult, with funding from Creative Scotland.

Head of Development & Executive Producer at DigiCult Paul Welsh, said:

“Cara and Martin’s Sundance selection is an absolutely fantastic result for a Scottish documentary team working in narrative fiction for the first time. With the right level of investment and focused support, Scotland can generate world class filmmaking talent. Exchange and Mart is further proof of this at a key time in the development of filmmaking in the country