Hail, GFF!

Glasgow Film Festival is here again, hip-fucking-hooray. Right away, you can tell it’s another good year for good-gets. Hail, Caesar! and Anomalisa are both highly-anticipated releases and even if their bookend appearances at GFF’s opening and closing galas are kind of glorified advance previews, there’s plenty more obvious oohs and ahhs besides them. And it’s pretty popular too – High Rise‘s Scottish premiere, with Ben Wheatley in attendance, is already sold outCon Air at a Secret Location is too, along with seemingly most of the special events.* Thankfully, there’s still plenty to sift through, so here are five picks from the cultier edge of GFF 2016, in order of screening date:

1. Goodnight Mommy (Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala, 2014)

Friday 19/02, 23:00 at GFT | Tickets available here.

This has it all – twin children, bandages, extreme graphic horror. Goodnight Mommy, the filmmakers’  debut, has taken a while to get here. Made in 2014, it was Austria’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the upcoming Oscars, though it wasn’t nominated. It was out in America last year, where it garnered plenty praise for being “exceptionally brutal”, “polished” and “nasty”. You know, for kids!

2. Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation (Eric Zala, 1989) / Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (Jeremy Coon, Tim Skousen, 2015)

Saturday 20/02, 13:00 & 15:30 at CCA | Tickets available here and here.

A great bit of programming, here, and a smart companion to the (sold out) Raiders of the Lost Ark screening and the Vic Armstrong event at Kelvingrove. The poster tag-lines really tell the story: “The greatest fan film ever made” and “the story of the greatest fan film ever made”. Fan films are a fascinating enterprise, they’ve arguably never been bigger business and this is one of the most fascinating and enterprising – a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders made by gung-ho kids, against all the odds. “Never tell me the odds!” they probably said. Wait, wrong franchise. Nevertheless – this will be great.

3. Green Room (Jeremy Saulnier, 2015)

Tues 23/02, 20:45 at GFT | Tickets available here.

This is the follow-up to Saulnier’s Blue Ruin, a great genre debut that drew Coen Brothers (read: Blood Simple) comparisons and was one of the highlights of GFF14. Blue Ruin‘s lead actor Macon Blair returns in a smaller role here, nudged aside by Patrick Stewart, Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots, all now anxious for that Barton Fink Jeremy Saulnier feeling. The premise is intriguing enough – a touring punk band witnesses a murder and is put under siege by white supremacists – but Blue Ruin already booked my ticket and early word is great too.

4. Wild At Heart at St. Luke’s (David Lynch, 1990)

Thursday 25/02, 18:30 at St Luke’s | Tickets available here.

Some will tell you Wild At Heart is a lesser Lynch. Some will even tell you it’s a bad Lynch. I don’t want to know these people, or what they do. This film represents a venn diagram of many things I love (David Lynch, Nicolas Cage, Crispin Glover, author Barry Gifford and the list goes on) and as such it is very special to me. What am I saying is, if you don’t like Wild At Heart, you can’t be in my gang and I’m unlikely to high-five you in any context. However, if you do, you automatically are and I will high-five the living shit out of you at St Luke’s. LULA!

5. Human Highway (Director’s Cut) (Bernard Shakey, Dean Stockwell, 1982)

Saturday 27/02, 15:30 & 23:00 at GFT | Tickets available here.

Neil Young’s directorial debut, a weird fucking film starring Devo and Dennis Hopper and none other than Mary X from Eraserhead. Several songs from the much-maligned but often really rather beautiful Trans album feature on the soundtrack. Should sell itself, but in case you’re wavering, this is the shiny new director’s cut in a rarer-than-hen’s-teeth theatrical screening.

BONUS PICK! Altered States in Immers-o-sound! (Ken Russell, 1980)

Thursday 18/02, 19:00 at The Old Hairdressers | Tickets available here.

Couldn’t miss an opportunity to plug Matchbox Cineclub’s one-off production of Ken Russell’s psychotronic classic, presented in “Immers-o-sound” – a sound set-up designed in homage to its original release in Warner Bros’ short-lived Megasound system – and with plenty of fun surprises in store.

Sean Welsh

* Tickets for Physical Impossibility’s Bad Romance are available from CCA on the day ;-)

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BAD ROMANCE at Glasgow Film Festival

As a counterpoint to GFF 2016’s Dream Teams of the Silver Screen theme, Physical Impossibility presents an event dedicated to the very worst cinematic couplings. A roster of special guests has scoured the history of cinema to present to you their takes on the tropes of twisted love, terrible chemistry, toxic relationships and much more besides. Expect insight, wit and judicious use of PowerPoint alongside movie clips, pics and other vital evidence. From the craziest onscreen break-ups to the most misjudged casting, there’s plenty to cover, so get down sharp and remember – it’s not them, it’s us.

Confirmed guests include: Dr Becky Bartlett, Claire Biddles (Miss B Presents…), Kate Coventry (Grosvenor Cinema), Morvern Cunningham (VHS Trash Fest), Cayley James (Document International Human Rights Film Festival), Craig McClure (Physical Impossibility) and Shona McCombes (Consolatory Nonsense).

Physical Impossibility presents Bad Romance, 18:30-19:30 on Tuesday 23rd February in the CCA Clubroom. The event is free but has limited capacity. Tickets available from CCA Box Office on the day, max 2 per person.

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Matchbox Cineclub presents ALTERED STATES in IMMERS-O-SOUND!

In the basement of the Harvard Medical School, Dr Edward Jessup floats naked in total darkness. The most terrifying experiment in the history of science is out of control and the subject is himself! Ken Russell’s cult classic was originally released in Warner Brothers’ Megasound format, a “revolutionary new concept in the sensation of sound”, designed to enhance the visceral viewing experience, delivering low-frequency thrills at high volume. Now, Altered States is presented for the first time in Matchbox Cineclub’s own Immers-o-sound™ system, developed exclusively for this screening in association with Glasgow Film Festival. Immerse yourself in terror!

The screening, which will be preceded by Matchbox’s 30-minute FREAK-SUITE edit, takes place Thursday 18/02 from 7pm in the gallery area of The Old Hairdressers, Glasgow.


Tickets are £5 from the GFF website – on sale from 10am on Monday 25th January.

Keep up-to-date at the Facebook event page here.

Follow Matchbox Cineclub on Twitter.

Posted in Cinema, Film, GFF 2016, Glasgow, Matchbox Cineclub, Movies, Preview | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ruthless Weegie Gaze of Bala-Tik


Bala-Tik (Brian Vernel), from Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Visual Dictionary

Never mind the [REDACTED] of [REDACTED] or the grinning, winning strides for representation – for many Scottish film-goers, the surprise of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was the sudden interjection of a distinctly Glaswegian voice. That voice belongs to Bala-Tik, a representative of the Guavian Death Gang intent on settling a score with swaggering swindler Han Solo. According to the official Star Wars website, Bala-Tik’s “black leather coat and percussive cannon indicate his status within the galactic underworld” and he seems pretty confident bellowing reproachfully at our hero. “Han So-lo,” he says with a wee shake of his head, “You’re a dead man.”

Alongside Solo, Bala-Tik shares this debut scene with Chewbacca, some anonymous Guavian cohorts, everyone’s favourite non-threatening newcomer, BB-8, and a couple stars of The Raid playing members of the opposing Kanjiklub gang. Yayan Ruhian’s dialogue as Kanjiklub leader Tasu Leech is subtitled, but as yet I’ve been unable to confirm whether or not he’s speaking his native Indonesian – only that his character “refuses to speak a word of Basic*, deeming it a soft language for soft people, though he can understand it well enough”. Bala-Tik, on the other hand, doesn’t require subtitles because, like most movie Scots – thank the maker – he’s easier to understand than your average Wookiee. “We loaned you fif-ty thou-sand for this job,” he levels, “I heard you also borr-owed fif-ty thou-sand from Kanji-klub.” Every uttered word, unusually to Glaswegian ears at least, is distinct and equally weighted.


“Enunciate, darling. Eh-nu-hun-ci-ate.”

The accent is broad and unmistakeable, sure – it belongs to Brian Vernel**, a 24-year-old Glaswegian graduate of the former RSAMD (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) living many a young person’s dream right now – but it certainly seems dressed up for international audiences. Vernel joins a long line of over-enunciating Scots in Hollywood films, from Dougray Scott in Mission Impossible 2 (“You are going to give me lots of mon-nay”) to Kate Dickie in Prometheus. Emma Thomson’s drawn out, sing-song Glaswegian in The Legend of Barney Thompson last year was a decent replica of the familiar movie version, if, like that of many genuine Scots on screen, it was a little too crisp and slowed to ring true.

It’s almost certainly not Vernel’s fault the actor has been picking up plaudits since he was a student playing Macbeth on stage, or appearing in the Citizens’ Theatre’s 2013 adaptation of Takin’ Over The Asylum (see trailer above) – and it definitely could be worse. Gregory’s Girl was actually wholly redubbed for its American release and Trainspotting‘s opening scenes were similarly submitted to a “slowing down” by American distributors Miramax.

So Vernel hopefully has a glittering career ahead of him, especially given he’s proved he can adapt for those lazy American ears. As for Bala-Tik – spoiler – he survives a subsequent Rathtar attack intact and ultimately enjoys more dialogue than R2D2 and C3PO combined. If a dedicated spin-off might be far-fetched, the door is certainly open for a return in Episodes VIII or  IX. Tell that tae Kanjiklub!

Sean Welsh

Bala Tik


* [Galactic] Basic is Star Wars’ name for English, or French, or Spanish – whatever the Earth translation you’re watching, wherever you are.

** You may have seen Vernel in BBC’s recent Bernard Cornwell adaptation The Last Kingdom, or in their adaptation of JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy

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Physical Impossibility’s Favourite Films of 2015

I saw a gazillion brand-new films in 2015, and discovered or revisited a gazillion older films too. I enjoyed slogging through submissions for Glasgow Film Festival, previewed the festival for their blog, then saw many more films during the festival itself. Later in the year, I rocketed back-and-forth to Edinburgh International Film Festival, ripping and tearing through their press screenings, special events and videotheque.

Through the year, I wrote a handful of programme notes for GFT’s new releases, sat on the submissions panel for the Document International Human Rights Film Festival for the first time, programmed a year’s worth of Matchbox Cineclub screenings and blew the money I might have saved through torrenting on yet more DVDs, Blu-Ray and downloads. I even subtitled a few new releases on their Sky Box Office debut for my day job. And yet, of course, I missed so, so many films. For every shitty American Ultra, Blackhat, Everest, Fantastic Four, Jupiter Ascending, Terminator Genisys, The Man From UNCLE or Tomorrowland I threw my figurative shoes at, it seemed there were six much more promising films that passed me by.

But then that’s fine because this was, on reflection, a pretty fucking good year for movies overall. Here are my favourites – selected not on sheer enjoyment or on academic worthiness alone, but simply on how strongly I’d recommend them – followed by some chat about the top five:

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (JJ Abrams)
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)
  3. Slow West (John Maclean)
  4. Tangerine (Sean S Baker)
  5. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell)
  6. A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Contemplating Existence (Roy Andersson)
  7. The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos)
  8. L’il Quinquin (Bruno Dumont)
  9. There Are Monsters (Jay Dahl)
  10. Remake, Remix, Rip-Off (Cem Kaya)

Also Awesome: 9999, Bitter Lake, Call Me Lucky, Carol, Catch Me Daddy, Chuck Norris vs Communism, Dope, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, Force Majeure, Fear Itself, Future Shock: The Story of 2000 AD, Girlhood, Going Clear, Inside Out, Koza, The Martian, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Something Better To Come, Stand By For Tape Back-Up, Straight Outta Compton, Tale of Tales, Turbo Kid and Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Occasionally ropey CGI. Unoriginal plot. No resolution. These are fair criticisms of JJ Abrams’ joyous, unstoppable, gloriously critic-proof magic trick. If we ignore the mealy-mouthed, misogynist smart-arses rationalising their discomfort with the main character’s presumed lack of a penis, you’re mostly left looking at what happens when 30 years of fanboys’ how-I-would-do-its evaporate before their eyes. For my money, Abrams’ effort is simply great fucking fun from start to finish, and his and Kasdan’s choices – the very deliberate parallels with A New Hope in particular – actually make perfect sense, if you feel compelled to pull them apart. It’s meta for the first time –  The Force Awakens has as much as of Lucas’ original trilogy in its DNA as it does Flash Gordon serials or The Hidden Fortress – but its real strength is how expertly it balances its homage with innovation. Abrams reconfigured Star Wars for the 21st Century almost perfectly, so you can imagine 2035’s special edition is going to be incredible.

Mad Max: Fury Road. A beautiful, thrilling thing, this film. Its incredible trailer promised the world, so it’s kind of miraculous that Miller delivered, and that actually no trailer could spoil or really oversell it. Contrast Fury Road to The Force Awakens, the details of which Abrams and Disney had to guard incredibly carefully to preserve the virgin viewing experience. Plot details couldn’t spoil Fury Road, simply because its all in the experience – pure cinema – and it’ll work the same way again and again and again.

Slow West. I loved it when I first saw it, and John Maclean’s confident debut ultimately held its ground against an unusually strong slate of films this year. Small but perfectly-formed – basically a wee gem. Check out my original review here.

Tangerine. Another beautifully self-contained film that arrived on a small wave of hype, mostly based on it having been entirely filmed on an iPhone 5. It lived up to the hype, but the twist was the gimmick was practically invisible. Baker’s film is built on spectacular performances, sparkling with energy, intimacy and pathos, but it looks gorgeous too.

It Follows. It’s funny, this flick played a lot of people, myself included, like fiddles but it left a lot of other people cold. I loved it intellectually, for the mythology it teased, for the aesthetic and the small auteurish details (like the little weird handheld, clamshell device) that clash conspicuously with the generally throwback mise-en-scene. But it also conjured a squirmingly visceral terror in me that’s difficult to relate and certainly impossible to persuade the unaffected to feel. For a critic, that’s frustrating but for a battle-hardened horror fan it was just delightful.

Sean Welsh

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Matchbox Cineclub #12: Spaceballs

Love Star Wars? Missed out on tickets for The Force Awakens on opening night? Or maybe you HATE Star Wars? Want to escape the onslaught? We’re excited to announce that Matchbox’s final screening of 2015, on the very day Episode VII arrives, will be Spaceballs (Mel Brooks, 1987).

Comedy legend Mel Brooks leads an all-star cast including John Candy, Rick Moranis and Bill Pullman in the original Star Wars spoof. Our Spaceballs screening takes place on Thursday 17/12, at The Old Hairdressers, Glasgow.


Matchbox Cineclub #12: Spaceballs poster by Valpuri Karinen

When the evil Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) attempts to steal all the air from planet Druidia, a determined Druish Princess (Daphne Zuniga), a clueless rogue (Bill Pullman) and a half-man/half-dog creature who’s his own best friend (John Candy) set out to stop him. But with the forces of darkness closing in on them at ludicrous speed, they’ll need the help of a wise imp named Yogurt (Mel Brooks) and the mystical power of “The Schwartz” to bring peace and merchandising rights to the entire galaxy!

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The screening is by arrangement with Park Circus Films.

Stay up-to-date via the Facebook event page, here.

Tickets available via Eventbrite, here.

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An Evening with Frederick Wiseman


Frederick Wiseman in conversation with MOMI chief curator David Schwartz.

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend An Evening with Frederick Wiseman at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image, hosted by MOMI’s chief curator, David Schwartz. Over a couple hours, the fleet and sharp-witted 85-year-old held forth on his practice and experience, focussing, in line with MOMI’s current season, on his New York-focussed films. In the process, he elucidated the deceptively benign assertion that seems to have driven his 40-film and almost 50-year career – that “human behaviour is strange and fascinating.”

Wiseman presented and discussed clips from five of his New York-focussed films, Hospital (1969), Welfare (1975), Model (1980), Central Park (1989) and his latest, In Jackson Heights (2015), although early on he made clear this geographical theme in his work was purely happenstance. The discussion, therefore, encompassed his entire career, even briefly touching upon his decision at 30 to abandon a career in law to explore filmmaking. Some of the more salacious gems gleaned in the two or so hours at MOMI:

  • Wiseman declined a request to send Stanley Kubrick a complimentary print of one of his films, making him pay to rent it. Later he found Kubrick had cribbed the first half of Full Metal Jacket (1987) “shot for shot” from his Basic Training (1971).
  • Wiseman then drily drew the audience’s attention to the similarities between Arthur Hiller’s drama The Hospital (1971), which won an Oscar for writer Paddy Chayefsky, and Wiseman’s own Hospital (1970).
  • He quipped dismissively that Errol Morris’ description of him as “the undisputed king of misanthropic cinema” (from a Paris Review article reprinted in MOMI’s hand-out) was “classic projection”.

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A question from the audience, however, drew perhaps the most interesting response of the evening. Wiseman was asked if, in his 40 year-career, he’d found his camera affected the behaviour of those he pointed it at. He described an instructive event from the filming of his 1969 documentary Law And Order, where cops were forced to chase a prostitute they’d been attempting to shake down. While the cameras rolled, one of the cops began to strangle the woman, though he eventually let her go. Would the woman have been killed but for the presence of Wiseman and his small crew? No, the director thought not, since he saw that the cop only intended to punish the woman for daring to buck the standard shakedown protocol. That he allowed the cameras to capture the moment was because, to him – to them – the action was perfectly acceptable, even mundane. “We all,” Wiseman concluded, “think our behaviour is normal.”

Sean Welsh

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