Tag Archive | Scottish cinema

Long Live City Culture

I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many films in such a short space of time as I have since arriving in Manchester – and that probably includes four years spent as an Undergrad at the University of Glasgow! Actually, my whole time here so far has marked something of a “cultural revival”. Just this weekend I went to see Steve McQueen’s “Shame” – a complex and difficult film which manages to be aesthetically cold and narratively detached at the same time as arousing deep sympathies for its two troubled lead characters; and then to a small exhibition of photographs by Kevin Cummins, in a little Northern Quarter gallery not far from me. The works on display were mostly of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, another troubled soul who died (by his own hand) at just 23 years old. There were also pictures of Curtis’s personal notebooks, his Vox Phantom – and a few of desolate 1980s Manchester roadways and streets. This was a striking reminder of how much regeneration work has gone on in UK cities in the decades since Joy Division were hanging around. Revealing in a different way was the fact that although each Cummins print was identically and expensively priced (Β£995 if you’re curious), the photographer has insisted that the dense, glossy hardcover book accompanying the exhibition be sold at only Β£25 a copy. Maybe that still seems a lot but this is a volume that would usually retail at say, Β£50, with a gorgeous design by a very hip Swedish studio. So at least fans and admirers are able to go home with something reasonable!

My first poster!

Provocative

Nightmarish

Back in the world of cinema, and I can report with great excitement that all the posters for this Term’s TRAUMA screenings are now “in the press”. My first ever season is all about Scottish cinema, but I must say that the last season – Impaired Cinema, presented by Tony Boffey – is going to be a tough act to follow! Still, I’ll try my best – and a little Whisky in advance of introducing the films to the audience seems only fitting, right? πŸ˜‰ One of my new jobs is putting the Trauma posters up on various walls around the University and (of course) in our favourite post-screening pub, the Sandbar. Would you believe that the MMU Vice Chancellor has apparently taken an intense dislike to the putting up of “unofficial” and “untidy” posters? This makes finding places to position the very beautiful A3 sheets (designed by resident Graphics Guru, Ben Wissett) tricky. I wonder if in future the sense of a vibrant, colourful, culture-dominated University and city centre so prevalent in Manchester will be replaced by a sterile and polished pseudo-corporate environment where only adverts for “student experience surveys” and private sector recruitment fairs are granted visibility on campus?

At the moment, you often find yourself walking past multiple hoardings around the perimeters of city centre building sites. These are covered in quotes from famous Mancunians and are all about the city and what it means to them. Much of this council-approved street art comes from musicians, including Noel Gallagher and Ian Brown. But right now, I think this quote from a former Manchester University lecturer and one of the 20th century’s most “brilliant historians” is pretty appropriate:

Manchester has everything but good looks…, the only place in England which escapes our characteristic vice of snobbery.” – AJP Taylor.

A Few Wee Films

I am becoming a bit of a regular at Monday night’s Trauma film screenings, as well as at their post-screening pub sessions. This means that the Trauma team have very kindly agreed to let me put on a little film season as part of next year’s line-up. πŸ™‚ At the very moment of leaving my country of origin I’ve noticed myself starting to feel ultra-patriotic about it. So, in recognition of that, I have decided to introduce the locals to 3 excellent Scottish movies (two of which are set in Glasgow) that they might not have seen. Below is a sneak preview of what I’ve written for the always enticing and soon to be in-press Trauma promo material.

Scotland on Screen: Against the Odds
Nowhere is Scotland’s masterful combination of politics, poetry, pathos and humour more apparent than in its varied β€” and often low-budget β€” film productions. A keen eye for the ironies (and the comedies) of injustice gives the nation’s cinema a particularly strong and always relevant modern identity. Even when situations and characters seem rooted in particularly “Scottish” cultural perspectives the appearance of parochialism is generally deceptive. A distinctly realist approach is typical – but so too are moments of the dream-like and the absurd. At its best, Scotland’s cinema is a provocative and lively cinema of truth: with tradition, history, and myth never far from shot.

Local Hero, with a cast of familiar Scottish faces and featuring Hollywood legend Burt Lancaster, shows how small town folk and corporate giants alike lose all sense of proportion when it comes to matters of money. With just the right lightness of touch, director Bill Forsyth keeps the audience laughing out loud with an array of wittily observed and wonderfully acted characters.

Just North of England...

Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher is a truly incredible film that quietly insists on drawing you in. Set during the 1975 binmen’s strike, we are offered a haunting, beautifully composed, and deeply lyrical account of how one 12-year old boy perceives the squalor, the tragedies, and the little glimmers of hope that fill his environment alongside the rats and the growing heaps of rubbish.

Poetry from tragedy

Peter Mullan’s NEDS, a bold take on familiar themes of masculinity, class, violence, and Catholicism, is also set in 70s Glasgow. 16-year old John is conflicted over how best to make use of his intelligence, moving swiftly and angrily from academic success and educational aspiration to the destructive spiral of gang life. With a young handpicked cast of local ‘non-actors’, there is nothing amateurish about this gritty and semi-autobiographical tale that lifts itself above clichΓ©.

Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk about Kevin, based on Lionel Shriver’s novel, was just released last month. Hopefully that means people will be curious to see, or re-see her astonishing debut, Ratcatcher. I was barely born when Local Hero was released (in 1983) so for me, seeing it on the big-screen will be good fun. What do you think? Any comments on the film choices – or my text – welcome! Wouldn’t any of these be a good way to spend a cold Winter Monday? I’ve added a few screenshots which I’m pretty sure come under “fair use policy“.