Talking Movies

August 10, 2019

Personalities: The IFI

The IFI is about to start serious refurbishments to fix the leaking roof and restore screens 1 and 2 to a level equal to the plush comfort of screen 3. I thought it would be meet to reflect on the personality of the IFI and its three very different screens.

Screen 1 is the biggest screen with 258 seats and I have seen some appropriately big movies on it: Apocalypse Now Redux, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Blade Runner Final Cut, and Vertigo 70mm. Vangelis’ glorious synthesiser score bouncing around that relatively small space made far more of an impact than seeing the same cut of the movie in the cavernous space of the ‘IMAX’ screen in Cineworld. But not all films in screen 1 are as totally packed as the four shows just named were. Paul Fennessy and I once had the wildly disconcerting experience of seeing Olivier Assayas’ Apres Mai in a private screening because nobody else showed up for the matinee, and we greatly enjoyed seeing Alex Ross Perry’s Listen Up Philip very unexpectedly on that big screen for the benefit of about a dozen punters.

Screen 2 is far smaller at 106 seats and I have sat thru many press screenings there, and witnessed the rush at Open Days for the good seats: those in the first of the two rows placed above the fray to the right at the very back which thus afford infinite legroom, or the seats in the front row which also afford infinite legroom. Legroom, as you may have divined, is an issue in this screen. It has also had a tendency to emulate the late lamented Screen and get overpoweringly hot when at full capacity. I vividly remember stumbling out of an Open Day screening of 8 ½ feeling dehydrated. But screen 2’s intimate nature has made for bizarre audience interactions; the previously described outraged Bruce Campbell fans at Bubba Ho-Tep and accidental heckler at The Tree of Life.

Screen 3 has but 61 seats, it is the Old Dramsoc of the IFI’s screen, and for the vast majority of the times I have been there it has been half-empty at best. Indeed for a spell there I was plagued with shows where audiences halved within the first hour as people walked out in disgust. My favourite non sequitir being the people who walked out after the long-take of two successive monologues in Queen of Earth; obviously disgusted at Alex Ross Perry’s virtuoso directing. There have been startling exceptions such as uncomfortably crowded shows of Mulholland Drive and The Disaster Artist. There was the unexpected occasion of not seeing Le Doulos at all because there was only one ticket left when we arrived expecting the usual relaxed atmosphere and found a frenzied queue. But usually it’s laidback as Jazz24.

Maybe Jazz24 is the key to how I regard the IFI; the only cinema where it seems right time after time to get a coffee to bring in to the film with me. Perhaps because I’ve seen so many French films there. It’s been suffering thru something of a malaise for the last two years, maybe sprucing the place up will be the key to regaining the half a yard in pace lost to the Lighthouse.

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September 13, 2017

IFI Open Day 2017

The IFI is holding its annual Open Day on Saturday September 16th with a line-up of free movies running from 1pm to 11pm. As well as free movies, the customary barbecue in the courtyard and special discount on annual IFI membership, there are a number of tours and a jazz brunch in the cafe bar.

 

In addition to the one preview, handful of old favourites, and several sheer oddities, there are chances to lift the curtain and see the wizard; with talks from the IFI Archive staff and tours of the Projection Booth. The ‘Ask an Archivist’ desk in the foyer will give visitors the opportunity to learn about different film stocks, preservation, restoration, digitisation, and even view and handle film. But projection tours to go behind the little window of flickering light, and check out the busy working of the specialised department; handling anything from digital, to 16mm and 35mm, up to 70mm – the IFI being the only cinema in the country that can run 70mm reels; are sadly sold out. As always IFI Membership will be available at a discounted rate for the Open Day and there’s a BBQ on the terrace from 16.00 onwards. And this year Air France are running a competition for a pair of return flights to Paris so that one might finally fulfil that nagging desire to run thru the Louvre as if in a nouvelle vague picture.

But what are the free movies? Well, here is a guide to the 12 films being shown in Temple Bar.

Film 1

The Mighty Ducks (13.00)
It’s 25 years since the IFI opened its door in Temple Bar, and there is one notable film also turning 25 this year that has been much discussed this summer. But enough about Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me… Emilio Estevez is Gordon Bombay, a cut-throat lawyer sentenced to community service after a DUI, who coaches an unruly youth ice-hockey team with ruthlessness to earn redemption.

The Big Sleep (13.15)
A high water-mark of film noir, The Big Sleep was adapted by William Faulkner and Leigh Brackett from the first of Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled novels about PI, and all-round shop-soiled Galahad, Philip Marlowe. The great Howard Hawks directs Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in a murky tangle of shady LA characters, innuendo laden dialogue, literate zingers, and baffling plotting. Just don’t ask who killed the chauffeur.

Speedy (13.30)
Harold Lloyd’s final silent film from 1928 sees his customary ‘glasses’ character this time appearing as a baseball-obsessed New Yorker determined to save the city’s last horse-drawn streetcar, just as another expression of a fine, noble, and disinterested nature, and also to impress the girl whose grandfather owns it. 86 minutes of rapid-fire sight gags and elaborate comedy set-ups ensue, and a cameo from Babe Ruth to boot.

Film 2

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (15.10)

Robert Wise, director of The Sound of Music, was the unlikely figure picked to lead the crew of the starship Enterprise into the new frontier of cinema. 132 minutes, a regrettable portion of which is lovingly sustained shots of the post-Star Wars VFX accompanied by Jerry Goldsmith’s new Trek theme, sees Kirk, Spock, Bones, et al investigate a mysterious alien entity posing a threat.

Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (15.30)
Steve Martin continued his fruitful collaboration with director Carl Reiner after The Jerk with this homage to 1940s film noir. While Woody Allen was busy inserting Len Zelig into world events, Reiner and Martin wrote a zany plot and built a farcical amount of sets in order to have Martin interact with old footage of Humphrey Bogart, Veronica Lake, Alan Ladd, and many more.

Intermission (15.40)
Cillian Murphy woos Kelly MacDonald, Colin Farrell is obsessed with woks, bus-driver Brían F. O’Byrne is aggrieved at a kid, David Wilmot is being unnerved by Deirdre O’Kane’s lust, and vainglorious Garda Colm Meaney is being filmed by documentarians. The blackly comic intersections of Mark O’Rowe’s screenplay no longer seem as impressive as they initially did back in 2003 when everyone was talking about brown sauce in tea.

MILLER’S CROSSING, Albert Finney, Gabriel Byrne, 1990. TM and Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All Rights Reserved.

Film 3

Sorcerer (17.30)
William Friedkin decided, for reasons passing understanding, to use his post-French Connection and Exorcist clout to remake Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1953 suspense classic The Wages of Fear. Roy Scheider stars in a tale of men driving trucks with highly unstable nitroglycerine over rickety bridges on a mission to extinguish an oil well blaze. This is remembered now for Easy Riders, Raging Bulls’ account of its disastrous production and reception.

Miller’s Crossing (18.00)
The Coen Brothers stepped up their ambitions from indie noir and screwball comedy with this expansive Prohibition-era gangster film. Gabriel Byrne is right-hand man to Albert Finney’s mob boss. When Byrne is banished, over John Turturro’s bookie and Marcia Gay Harden’s moll, it begins a deadly game of cat and mouse between rival gangs; featuring much double-crossing, hard-boiled badinage, and a spectacularly OTT use of ‘Danny Boy’.

Delicatessen (18.10)
Amelie creator Jean-Pierre Jeunet and his one-time directing partner Marc Caro’s 1991 debut is a queasily slapstick spin on Sweeney Todd. Clapet is a landlord in an apartment building in post-apocalyptic France, who controls his tenants’ food supply via his butcher’s shop; prime cuts from the men he hires. Louison (Dominique Pinon) fills the regular vacancy, but his love for Clapet’s daughter complicates matters in this queasy comedy.

Film 4

Weirdos (20.00)

In 1976 Nova Scotia fifteen-year-old Kit and his girlfriend Alice run away from home in order to reunite with his estranged mother (Molly Parker), while the USA bombastically celebrates its bicentennial. Accompanied by Kit’s imaginary version of Andy Warhol, the two undertake a road trip during which they confront the difficulties they face in their teenage romance. Quirky and comedic, Bruce McDonald’s film features beautifully photographed Canadian landscapes.

??? (20.20)

The audience choice is yet to be announced but voting for the shortlist of 10 drawn up by IFI staff has closed. Here’s hoping for Hunt for the Wilderpeople! Although as that screened in preview at last year’s Open Day having it again as a returning favourite might be pushing it. Past winners include SubmarineGood Vibrations, Short Term 12, and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

The Cohens and Kellys (20.30)

A genuine oddity is a silent movie in prime time on Open Day… Accordionist Dermot Dunne and saxophonist Nick Roth, Artistic Director of the Yurodny Ensemble, will provide a live musical accompaniment, drawing heavily on Irish and Jewish folk music. The 1926 film is an ethnic comedy of the broadest of stock characters in 1920s NYC: Irish cop, Jewish storekeeper, cheerful Irish wife, Jewish mother.

 

So, those are the films, but that’s only planning’s first step… Sadly after two years of running five sets of films; which saw movies begin near 11pm and end near 1am; things are back to the traditional four in this 25th anniversary year. Trying to do four films was always an endurance marathon, but to get into five films was surely beyond mere mortals, and yet undoubtedly somebody did try in those two years… But even to do four movies one must sort out strategy, for two sets of reasons.

One can, obviously, only watch one of the three films running, but the film chosen from each set determines what films are available in subsequent sets. Choose The Big Sleep from the first set of films, and it becomes damn near impossible to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture from the second set of films. To make a quick-change from Star Trek: The Motion Picture to Sorcerer involves having to leave one screen and join a queue for another screen, with neither film starting on time, especially as some introductory speaker always overdoes curating their favourite film. The unexpected can derail well-laid plans as some films will be unexpectedly in demand whilst others unexpectedly languish, and it is impossible to predict which. Might one casually pick up a ticket for Miller’s Crossing a minute before it starts as Talking Movies’ occasional guest writer Elliot Harris once memorably did for The Purple Rose of Cairo? And how can popularity be predicted in the absence of announced screens? After all amongst past audience choice winners Good Vibrations and Short Term 12 did not make Screen 1, yet Submarine did. One needs a good mental map of run-times and queue-times for improvised plans.

And then there’s the second, newer reason to sort strategy if attempting multiple films. Tickets were allocated, 4 per person, first come first served, at 11am; which saw a queue forming from 9.30am, snaking to Dame Street. The days of that Open Day morning buzz are gone. For the second year in a row queues will form inside the IFI, a desk for each movie, an hour before screenings –2 tickets per person. Multiple movie devotees must work together, because they’d have to not be watching a movie in order to queue for tickets for the next movie; reducing them to a mere 2 movies! Expect the queue to form 30 minutes before tickets will be disbursed. Don’t expect pseudo-economists trading off queuing during films they don’t mind missing in order to get extra tickets for a film they do want to see, in order to get someone to queue for them for a later film they want to see.

June 29, 2016

IFI Open Day 2016

The IFI is holding its annual Open Day on Saturday July 2nd with an expanded line-up of free movies running from 1pm to near 1am. As well as free movies, and the customary barbecue in the courtyard and special discount on annual IFI membership, there are a number of tours.

IFI-OpenDay-2016-Screentime

In addition to the previews, old favourites, and sheer oddities, there are chances to lift the curtain and see the wizard, with talks from the IFI Archive staff and tours of the Projection Booth. The ‘Ask an Archivist’ desk in the foyer will give visitors the opportunity to learn about different film stocks, and even view and handle film yourself. The Tiernan McBride library will host members of the Archive team charged with preserving Ireland’s cinematic heritage giving talks about some of the projects they’re currently working on. Projection tours can be booked in advance to go behind the little window of flickering light, and check out the busy working of the specialised department; handling anything from digital, to 16mm and 35mm, up to 70mm – the IFI being the only cinema in the country that can run 70mm reels. The tours at 14.00, 15.00, 16.30, and 17.00 have limited places, which can be booked at scorrigan@irishfilm.ie. Give yourself an unfair advantage in the ‘Fiver a Foot’ competition in which you can win Premiere Friend membership for a year by correctly guessing the length of film in a film can. And as always IFI Membership will be available at a discounted rate for the Open Day and there’s a BBQ on the terrace from 16.00 onwards.

But what are the free movies? Well, here is your guide to the 14 films being shown in Temple Bar.

1200

Film 1

White Heat (13.00)

“Made it, Ma! Top of the world!!”, and all that… Gangster No 1 James Cagney is Cody Jarrett, a deranged mobster who’s unnervingly close to his mother. Directed by Raoul Walsh, who previously worked with Cagney on The Roaring Twenties, this is a B-movie classic. Walsh mashes up prison breaks, gangster power struggles, and film noir blurring of lines as an undercover agent befriends the unwitting Jarrett.

Amateur (13.30)

Indie auteur Hal Hartley’s 1994 effort follows ex-nun Isabelle, taking time out from her disreputable profession to help amnesiac Thomas piece together his forgotten life. Hartley wrote the role for Isabelle Huppert after she sent a letter begging for a part in his next film. His regular leading man Martin Donovan plays the nice guy whose head injury, we gradually realise, may have been a most happy accident.

Play On! (14.00)

The Open Day proclaimeth Shakespeare Lives! In 1899 an upcoming production of King John filmed scenes to produce the first Shakespearean film, and arguably the film world’s first trailer; before there were even proper film features to trail. Early silent film-makers pillaged the Bard for prestige purposes, so here are 24 scenes of silent Shakespeare scenarios, including a 1924 Romeo & Juliet featuring John Gielgud’s screen debut.

 Sweet-Smell-Of-Success

Film 2

Sweet Smell of Success (15.30)

“The cat’s in the bag, and the bag is in the river.” Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman’s quotable and seedy screenplay finds malicious gossip columnist JJ Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) finally pushing fawning press man Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) to his moral breaking point. Despite James Wong Howe’s innovative cinematography and Elmer Bernstein’s downbeat jazz, its disastrous 1957 reception effectively forced director Alexander Mackendrick into academia.

Disco Pigs (15.45)

Kirsten Sheridan made her feature debut in 2001 with the first of only two Enda Walsh plays to make it to the big screen. Cillian Murphy originated the part of Pig in 1996 and reprises it alongside Elaine Cassidy as Runt. Inseparable friends with their own private language, much compared to Anthony Burgess’ nadsat, their innocence is threatened by Pig’s growing appetite for destruction and sexual pleasures.

El Clan (16.00)

White Elephant director Palbo Trapero returns with a thriller based on improbable true events. The Galtieri regime has been swept aside in 1980s Argentina, and spook Arquimedes Puccio (The Secret in their Eyes’ Guillermo Francella) develops a new line of work with the help of his son Alejandro (Peter Lanzani): kidnapping. This tale of a low-key but distinctly psychopathic crime family won the Silver Lion at Venice.

 1200 (1)

Film 3

King Kong (17.45)

Merian C Cooper’s beloved pulp classic from the pen of Edgar Wallace is showing on 35mm. Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) joins a film-making expedition to Skull Island in search of a mythical beast, and Skull Island does not disappoint. Peter Jackson uncharitably re-used some clunky dialogue in his remake, but the stop-motion special effects still thrill and it all builds to one of cinema’s most memorable finales.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (18.00)

Writer/director Taika Waititi (2014 Kiwi vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows) adapts Barry Crump’s novel. Surly teenager Ricky (Julian Dennison) is dispatched from the city to the depths of the countryside to live with foster father Hec (Sam Neill). When he runs away, pursued by Hec, the police misread the situation and begin a manhunt. Funny, touching, and, yes, Rhys Darby shows up.

The Virgin Spring (18.20)

Director Ingmar Bergman won his first Foreign Film Oscar for arguably the most uncharacteristic film he ever made, as this was loosely and bloodily reworked 12 years later as The Last House on the Left by Wes Craven. Ulla Isaksson based her script on a medieval source, examining Max von Sydow’s moral deterioration as he methodically violently attacks the men who raped and murdered his daughter.

 

the-neon-demon

Film 4

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (20.25)

The audience choice is regrettably Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s tale of the romantic friendship between Greg (Thomas Mann) and terminally ill Rachel (Olivia Cooke). Imagine The Fault in Our Stars meets Be Kind Rewind as directed by Wes Anderson; with cinephiles so infuriating it bears out Bret Easton Ellis’ fear of film-makers who make films based only on other films, not on lived reality.

The Neon Demon (20.40)

There may be walkouts… The inimitable Nicolas Winding Refn returns, sans Ryan Gosling, but, though there may be more dialogue than Only God Forgives, that doesn’t mean he’s changed his ways. Elle Fanning is a model arrived in LA’s fashion world whose fresh innocent beauty becomes the object of envy and desire for Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, and Jena Malone. Cue Cliff Martinez synths and weirdness.

Phantom of the Paradise (20.50)

Director Brian De Palma took elements from The Phantom of the Opera, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Faust, and combined them with an Oscar-nominated soundtrack for this 1974 oddity which is being reappraised. Winslow, a young musician is betrayed and has his life destroyed by unscrupulous producer Swan. When Phoenix, a beautiful new talent, arrives it spurs Winslow on to seek revenge on Swan.

priscilla-letter

Film 5

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (22.30)

Writer/director Stephan Elliot has never managed to equal the impact of his 1994 comedy-drama. Drag queens Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce journey across the Australian Outback in a bus called ‘Priscilla’ for a show at a desert resort. Weaving brings grieving transsexual Terence Stamp too as a kind deed, and so begins much bickering and some unexpected bonding with the locals.

Repo Man (22.45)

Scottish writer/director Alex Cox provided the archetypal cult classic in 1984 with his quotable and offbeat feature debut. Emilio Estevez’s bored punk Otto works with Harry Dean Stanton’s equally jaded Bud repossessing cars. But when one car has a $20,000 bounty added life suddenly gets interesting for Otto and Bud in the way that only feuding punks, scientists, aliens, government agents, and a televangelist can make it.

So, those are the films, but that’s only the beginning… For the second year in a row there are five sets of films instead of the traditional four. Trying to do four films was an endurance marathon at the best of times, but to get into five films is surely beyond anyone, and yet undoubtedly somebody will try… But they’ll have to sort out their strategy with someone else, and now for two reasons. Strategy was always important because you can, obviously, only watch one of the three films running at any given time, but also the film you choose from each set determines what films are open to you later on. Choose Play On! from the first set of films, and you make it damn near impossible to see Sweet Smell of Success from the second set of films.

And if you’re confident you can make a quick-change from The Virgin Spring to The Neon Demon just remember that you’ll have to leave one screen and join a queue for another, that nothing in Dublin has ever started on time, and that one speaker will always get carried away with their enthusiasm when lengthily introducing a film. If you’re confident you can carve a sensible cinematic path through the day, remember that some films will be unexpectedly in demand and some films will unexpectedly languish, and it is impossible to predict which category your picks will fall into. If finally, shaken by my scepticism, you retreat to a Hindenburg line that you’re confident you can guess which films will be on which screens, remember that audience choice winners Good Vibrations and Short Term 12 did not make it to Screen 1, but Submarine did. And if you will not be moved from your foolhardy confidence, remember that you may need plans B thru D cognisant of run-times and queuing.

And then there’s the second and new reason that you need to sort your strategy with a partner if you want to get into multiple films. Tickets used to be allocated, to a maximum of 4 per person, on a first come first served basis 11am on Saturday which always led to a queue forming from 9.30am onwards and snaking around on to Dame Street. Those days are over, and everyone will miss the buzz of the Open Day morning. This year for a number of reasons the ticketing system is undergoing a dramatic shake-up. Queues will now form inside the IFI itself, at a desk for each specific movie, an hour before the movie is screened – with a limit of 2 tickets per person. Obviously this makes life hard for the multiple movie devotees, because they’d have to not be watching a movie in order to queue to get a ticket to watch the next movie. The best I can think of is some sort of demented Game Theory equilibrium whereby people trade off movies they don’t mind missing to queue for someone else, in order to get tickets for something they do want in return. (If that even works outside of my fevered economics imagination) Apart from melting the minds of delusional economists who think they can outwit it, the new ticketing system should ensure that all tickets distributed will be used, with fatigue ceasing to be an issue for the early morning diehards stranded in town for the day. It will also make Open Day a bit less about crowd control and a bit more interactive, allowing the IFI to enagage with first-time visitors and regular patrons about what the IFI does in terms of festivals and programming and what the Irish Film Archive is all about.

June 9, 2015

IFI Open Day

The IFI is holding its annual Open Day on Saturday June 20th with an expanded line-up of free movies running from 1pm to 1am. As well as the free movies, and the customary barbecue in the courtyard and special discount on annual IFI membership, there are also some new attractions. Here’s a teaser of my preview for HeadStuff.org.

birdman

The Tiernan McBride library will host a pop-up museum of cinema equipment, a pop-up picture house showing films from the vaults, and at 11.30, 14.30, and 16.30 tours of the vault. The tours have limited places, which can be booked at scorrigan@irishfilm.ie, as well as tours at 14.00, 15.00, 16.30, and 17.00 which bring you behind the theatre to see the projectionist at work; handling anything from digital, 16mm, and 35mm, up to 70mm – the IFI being the only cinema in the country that can run 70mm reels. And for younger cinephiles, at 12.00 artist Laura Healy will facilitate a ‘build your own time machine’ workshop. Places are limited, and must be pre-booked, and feature the option of family tickets for Back to the Future

But what are the free movies? Well, click here to read the guide to the 15 films being shown in Temple Bar.

June 22, 2011

Top 5 Cinematic Big Sisters

I recently saw Donnie Darko at the IFI Open Day and the brilliance of the double-act by the Gyllenhaal siblings made me think about compiling a shortlist, not of the best sisters in cinema because that’s a very long and different list, but of the best big sisters in film.

(5) Lauren Bacall (The Big Sleep)
It may seem odd to isolate this iconic film noir femme fatale role for this one particular quality but a huge part of Vivian Sternwood’s motive for keeping tabs on the investigation of Philip Marlowe is to protect her crazy little sister Carmen, and she’s prepared to do a lot to keep her safe…

(4) Anna Kendrick (Scott Pilgrim)
Anna Kendrick’s character is perhaps the best example of the hilariously unappreciated big sister. She’s perpetually put-upon by her younger brother’s best friend, who is constantly stealing her boyfriends, but continues to risk it, and hilariously continually suffers, for her loving compulsion to be forever doling out good advice to her irresponsible and inattentive sibling.

(3) Jennifer Grey (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)
Ferris’s big sister is eternally infuriated by his popularity, but, after a day where his shenanigans once again drive her up the walls, an encounter with a drug-addled Charlie Sheen (how little things change in 25 years) leads her to loosen up and finally stick up for her conniving but loveable younger sibling.

(2) Maggie Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko)
Always keeping an eye out for Donnie; quizzically observing his antics at their party; but never doing so without a good deal of snarkiness; the opening dinner scene; Elizabeth is probably the most convincingly nuanced big sister in recent memory, undoubtedly helped by the fact that this exuberant double-act is an actual brother-sister acting team.

(1) Zooey Deschanel (Almost Famous)
“Listen to Tommy with one candle lighted and you will see your entire future”. Zooey’s break-out role was the impossibly idealised cool older sister who defies their mother on her younger brother’s behalf, before setting him on the path to his eventual career by bequeathing her awesome record collection to him; with handwritten cryptic instructions…

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