Alan Clarke’s Elephant (1989) is a short film made for television and produced by Danny Boyle and BBC Northern Ireland. Set amid the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the short presents 18 matter-of-fact murders with a coldly observational approach, providing limited dialogue and utilizing the predatory look of steadicam follow shots. The film takes its title from Irish writer Bernard MacLaverty’s description of the Troubles as “the elephant in our living room,” and it served as an inspiration to Gus Van Sant’s Elephant (2003), a film that likewise attended to the broader social problems that underlie American school-shootings and gun violence.
Clarke’s short is overdetermined in its intentions, being full of intense men and purposeful walks, yet it is also disturbing empty. Despite its apparent single-mindedness, there are no explanations of the hows and whys of its killings and there are nearly no sounds of surprise or panic, yet there is always the banality of violence and death, a lifeless body in a drab room and a getaway that rarely strays from the same purposeful walk. For more on Elephant and the psychology it embodies (or withholds) in its particular cinematography, MMC! offers Jordan Schonig’s impressive and insightful video essay, The Follow Shot: A Tale of Two Elephants (2018). Schonig’s essay provides a concise exploration of what may be contemporary cinema’s most ubiquitous and conspicuous shot and perfectly unpacks the themes and tensions at work in Clarke and Van Sant’s respective films.
Back in January, the Criterion Collection paired the Oscar-winning short film Logorama (Ludovic Houplain, Hervé de Crécy, and François Alaux, 2009) with Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin féminin (1966). Created by the French collective H5, the short constructs Los Angeles entirely from (3,000 or so) trademarked logos and then presents these sanitized images of friendly consumerism in the sun-drenched violence typical to films like To Live and Die in L.A. (William Friedkin, 1985) and Heat (Michael Mann, 1995). The result is a clever statement on the ubiquity of capitalist commodification in our daily life and a somewhat nasty dismantling of the corporate messaging shorthanded into these capitalist symbols. Those interested in the legality of Logorama (or at least the American legality of a French film) should read Rose Lawrence’s “LOGORAMA: The Great Trademark Heist.” Lawrence’s unpacking of the legal tests for parody, satire, infringement, and dilution are particularly useful in considering the artistic aims, popular interactions, and social commentaries at work in the short film. As a bonus, Lawrence also touches upon important legal texts like George of the Jungle 2 (David Grossman, 2003) and Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.”
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Our Friends in the North.
Based on Peter Flannery’s 1982 stage-play, this award-winning BBC mini-series charts the lives of four friends from Newcastle over four decades – Nicky, a radical socialist preoccupied with the class struggle; Tosker, a cocky young man with dreams of celebrity and success; Mary, who struggles with the pressures of marriage and motherhood while pursuing her own professional ambitions; and Geordie, a troubled young man who flees his hometown for London. Over its nine episodes, Our Friends in the North traces the fortunes of an ever-changing England through the break-out performances of Christopher Eccleston, Mark Strong, Gina McKee, and Daniel Craig. The Criterion Collection is proud to present this sprawling milestone in British drama for the first time ever in North America.
- New 4K digital restoration, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Interview with Christopher Eccleston and Gina McKee
- Retrospective with Peter Flannery, producer Charlie Pattison, executive producer Michael Wearing, and directors Pedr James and Simon Cellan Jones
- New interviews with Christopher Eccleston, Gina McKee, Mark Strong, and Daniel Craig
- Visual essay by playwright Michael Eaton
- Complete soundtrack listing with chart history
- Precis and color stills of the original first episode
- TV spots
- PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film scholar Marcus Hearn and television scholar Robin Nelson
Designed for the film lover in mind, SHOUT SELECT shines a light on films that deserve a spot on your shelf. From acknowledged classics to cult favourites to unheralded gems, SHOUT SELECT celebrates the best in filmmaking, giving these movies the love and attention they deserve.
IN BOB WE TRUST.
Written, directed, and starring Tim Robbins, this mockumentary about an upstart celebrity candidate for the United States Senate is a hilariously fearsome prediction of American politics in the 25 years that followed. Conservative folksinger Bob Roberts manipulates media coverage of him while singing about the proliferation of welfare abusers, drug users, and soft-hearted liberals and resisting rumors of corruption and hypocrisy. Bob Roberts captures the false populism and soundbite superficiality of contemporary politics with unnerving prescience.
Tim Robbins assembles an all-star cast with Alan Rickman as Roberts’ shady campaign financier, Giancarlo Esposito as a crusading journalist, Gore Vidal as Robert’s political opponent, and an array of supporting appearances by Jack Black, Susan Sarandon, Ray Wise, James Spader, John Cusack, Helen Hunt, David Strathairn, Fred Ward, Bob Balaban, Peter Gallagher, Lynne Thigpen, Pamela Reed, and Brian Murray.
- Audio Commentary With Director And Star Tim Robbins
- Audio Commentary With Tim Robbins And Gore Vidal
- Audio Commentary With Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair of Counterpunch
- Back On The Campaign Trail – New Interview With Tim Robbins
- Buggin’ Out – New Interview With Giancarlo Esposito
- Getting Started – New Interview with Jack Black
- Original Bob Roberts Short Film Made For Saturday Night Live
- Deleted Scenes
- Photo Gallery
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Gnarr.
Popular Icelandic comedian Jón Gnarr, having witnessed his country’s all-out economic collapse in 2009 and being fed up with the political status quo, invented a new political party and became a candidate for mayor of Reykjavik in the capital city’s 2010 municipal election. With no political experience at all and aiming to make a satirical statement on the political process, Gnarr’s campaign gains unexpected momentum despite his absurd promises of mandatory viewings of HBO’s The Wire, a drug-free parliament by 2020, and “all kinds of things for weaklings.” What starts as a stunt aimed at mocking both sides of the political spectrum turns into a hilariously incisive take-down of shallow party politics and a welcome antidote to political apathy.
- High-definition digital transfer with 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
- Audio commentary featuring director Gaukur Úlfarsson and star Jón Gnarr
- Hooray for All Kinds of Things, new interviews with Gnarr and campaign manager Heida Helgadóttir
- New interview with political scientist Gunnar Kristinsson on Iceland’s economic crisis, Gnarr, and the Best Party
- Deleted and extended scenes
- PLUS: An essay by film scholar Andrew Pendakis
It’s October! And that means countless blogs and sites across the interwebs will be devoting themselves to all thinks creepy and spooky. MMC! is a big fan of the Halloween season and so we’re devoting the month of October to the scariest thing out there right now…
… THE AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION!!! (Insert lighting crashes and screams here.) Yes, from now until election day on Tuesday, November 8, MMC!‘s proposals will involve titles surrounding election campaigns and the dirty, soul-crushing process of getting the public’s vote. From the US Senate to the British House of Commons to farther flung government offices, MMC! aims to offer a selection of favourite films deserving of some better hard media editions.
October is still about Halloween though and MMC! doesn’t want to deny (both of) our loyal readers the seasonal scares that are due and owing. As such, MMC! will be featuring until the end of the month a number of short films sure to satisfy your horror-centric needs.
As well, I’ll be attending the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival and aim at providing daily festival reports on what is a stacked line-up of short and feature films. Notwithstanding its small size and remote location, SFFF has gathered top prize-winners from Fantasia, Boston Underground, Fantastic Fest, L’Étrange, SXSW, and various other genre festivals, promising four days of shocks, scares, and if reviews of The Greasy Strangler are accurate, a Silkwood shower or two. (Any recommendations or suggestions on where I might submit a longer piece for publication would be appreciated!)