Saturday, 22 April 2017

Lady Macbeth, Review and Interview

19th Century femme fatal Florence Pugh delivers a killer performance in the screen adaptation of Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.

When I first heard the film, Lady Macbeth was screening at the British Film Institute (BFI) London Film Festival (LFF) in 2016. I instantly thought, it was a film based on Shakespeare’s ‘the’ Lady Macbeth. Wrong! But I would soon be put right.

Lady Macbeth is an adaptation of the novella, written by the Russian writer, Nikolai Leskov, back in 1865. But don’t be disheartened that this was not penned by the bard. As this Lady Macbeth is as rich, complex and as refreshingly diabolical as the original, which made this film a compelling watch.

“What sketched out in the novella was essentially the plot. And what you needed to do, and what Alice Birch, the screenwriter did was to create character, and to create real people so brilliantly,” said the film’s director, William Oldroyd when I interviewed him, and the cast, at the BFI LFF Premiere.

Oldroyd continued: “She developed psychology, she made them breathe. Then you get Florence (Pugh) involved, which is totally three dimensional.”

Leading lady, Florence Pugh delivered a mesmerising performance in her break out role as Abbie Mortimer, in Carol Morley’s critically acclaimed, The Falling. And prepare to be further spellbound by her portrayal as Katherine, the young bride, married off to a wealthy, but heartless landowner, who is destined to live a life of solitude.

Florence Pugh as Katherine

“Well, she’s a killer, which I’m sure every single actress would want to play,” laughs Pugh, on her anti-heroine.

“She’s just an interesting character. In 1865, she kicks back, and it’s so unlike everything we’ve seen before. She goes out and gets what she wants, she likes how she wants to live. She experiences life without the cages of what men have told her to do.”

And kick back she does, as Katherine doesn’t let anyone stand in her way. Yet for all her dastardly deeds, you never loose investment in her.

As a director, William Oldroyd’s background is in theatre, and it shows. Two of our greatest film directors that instantly jump to mind are, Danny Boyle and Kenneth Branagh, who are also firmly anchored in theatre. The secret to their success is undoubtedly their understanding and investment paid to creating three-dimensional, layered parts that their actors can breathe life into.

And in Lady Macbeth, Oldroyd has skilfully captured that.

“You’ve got to build a trust. That’s why the rehearsal process is so important,” says Oldroyd. “You can’t just get an actor to do something, if they can’t trust you. Especially if there’s intimacy, and those sort of violent scenes. They need to know they’re in a safe pair of hands.”

He continued: “Part of the rehearsal, or shooting process they felt I could ask them to do anything, and they know I wasn’t going to exploit them.”

A sentiment echoed by the leading lady: “By the time we started filming we’d done most of the intimate scenes. But we planned it, and it wasn’t shocking.”

Singer, songwriter and now turned actor, Cosmo Jarvis also delivers a memorable debut performance, portraying strength with vulnerability and most notably having a conscience!

“I like the dialogue, the way it was written,” says Jarvis.

“It was entertaining in an uncontrived way, it seemed quite realistic, and I liked that first. And I liked that Sebastian was a normal guy.”

Filming in the North East was the ideal location. Couple that with the crafted use of lighting, sets up a bleak, stark, minimalist back drop that acts as the perfect metaphor for the life that faces young Katherine.

What was fascinating to learn, and rare for filmmaking, is that they shot the film in chronological order.

“We had about a week of solid rehearsals,” says Pugh. “The day before we started filming, Will, made us go through the whole film because we were filming in the one location. It was great in terms of going around the house and figuring where we needed to be, and he made us go through the film in chronological order, of going up and down the stairs and back down to the kitchen, not the kitchen, but the sitting room.”

She continued: “I remember saying, ‘do I really need to go up to the bedroom again?’ And he said, ‘yeah because this is how boring and monotonous her life was.’”

Boring and monotonous Katherine’s life may have been, but they are not words you would use for Lady MacBeth. It is a fine example of independent filmmaking and worthy of support. It may be a period drama, but a drama that contemporary audiences will be entertained by.

Lady Macbeth opens in UK cinemas on 28 April
Words by Claire Bueno

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Do You Own The Dancefloor? Review

“Nostalgia is a disease,” says Tony Wilson, broadcaster, Factory Records and Hacienda owner. A question that’s explored by the ambitious documentary, Do You Own The Dancefloor?

Chatting to a friend over a pint, Chris Hughes talks about a piece of wood he has hanging on his wall. An artefact of the now demolished Manchester nightclub, The Hacienda. Goaded by the friend into discovering the whereabouts of other items of the club, Chris took the challenge and embarked on a journey of directing his first film. 

Director, Chris Hughes
For those clubbing in the 80s and 90s, The Hacienda, was the Mecca for dance music. But before the rave scene swept in, it was a venue designed to showcase emerging talent like the Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets.

This 90 minute documentary is infused with colourful characters, and effectively captures their personalities. Interviews include Oasis’s Liam Gallagher, New Order’s Peter Hook, resident DJs Dave Haslam and Graeme Park, plus Hacienda employees and regulars. 

The film has effectively crafted a three act structure. The rise of the converted warehouse. Its literal fall, as articles are auctioned off. And its legacy.

Stylistically, the motion graphics have faithfully followed Hacienda architect and designer, Ben Kelly’s original chevron design.

And you couldn’t have a documentary about a music venue, and not have a solid soundtrack. Again, the film succeeds, with toe tapping tunes that never distract.

Nine years in the making, all proceeds go to charities. Kidneys for Life and Cancer Research UK, which is perhaps why the doc, has not received its deserved distribution. 

The film is about more than memorabilia. It’s people connecting to their personal history and iconic buildings of cultural significance, being preserved.

Did I like Do You Own The Dancefloor? I’ll quote Dave Haslam: “I was mad for it!”

For future screenings visit
Words by Claire Bueno

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Sense of an Ending Red Capret Gala

Acting maestros Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling and Dame Harriet Walter arrive at the Picturehouse Central, on Thursday 6th April to promote their new film, The Sense of an Ending.

Based on the Man Booker Prize winning novel by Julian Barnes, prepare to do a little introspection as the film is without doubt a thought provoking film.

The joy as always of watching the magic of Jim Broadbent at work is often observing, not what he says, it’s what he doesn’t. And in The Sense of an Ending be sure to look out for those wonderful moments, as they don’t disappoint.

“It sort of opens up your memories of the past, you start thinking back to your own experiences because I’m exactly the same age as Tony Webster, who I play, and the same sort of cultural background, of all boys school. I mean, I knew where he was coming from, I recognise him.” said the Oscar winning actor.

You can always guarantee actress, Charlotte Rampling will deliver a performance that resonates. And in The Sense of an Ending, there’s a real air of haunting sadness.

The Oscar nominee laughs: “That mystery that always attracts me. Yeah, those rather stern ladies, you know, that don't open up very easily… But when the do open up!”

On playing the younger Veronica, did Freya Mavor collaborate with Rampling at all?

“So, we discussed. We had a lot of conversations via email before we started filming, just to give our own impressions on the character and on the film. And then during filming, she’d done all, she’d completed all her scenes by the time I came in to start my own, which was very sad. I didn’t get to see her on set.”

Mavor continued: “We met up afterwards. She's a wonderful, wonderful woman, we have an amazing relationship."

An important tool for any actor, is their ability to listen. And in this story, Harriet Walter’s character, Margaret, Tony’s ex-wife, does a lot of listening.

“One of the great acting exercises is to see, if you can just listen. Even though you’ve heard it six times that day, and really genuinely see if you don’t hear it slightly differently every minute.”

For a story where memories, nostalgia and coming to terms with one’s past, lays at the very heart of it, director, Ritesh Batra succeeds in creating a film that is not overly sentimental. It feels realistic and very relatable. 

Complete interviews include actors Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Freya Mavor, director Ritesh Batra and producer Ed Rubin.

The Sense of an Ending. In Cinemas 14th April. Distributed by StudioCanal.
Words by Claire Bueno

Friday, 24 March 2017

Tribute to Sir John Hurt

It was no secret that Sir John Hurt was suffering with pancreatic cancer, but the shock of his death, shook the world.

As the BAFTA and Golden Globe winning actor leaves an impeccable body of work behind, Claire Bueno revisits her interviews. She shares, his insight, his support of independent filmmaking, and his fascination with the true identity of Shakespeare.

In Norfolk, on the 25th January, Britain lost one its most celebrated actors, Sir John Vincent Hurt, CBE, aged 77. He left behind a back catalogue of work that spanned over 50 years, from The Elephant Man, Alien, Harry Potter, to Doctor Who.

The film, television and stage actor was diagnosed with cancer in June 2015, but continued to work up until his death.

Born 22nd January 1940, he grew up in Shirebrook, a coal mining village in Derbyshire. His father, was a vicar and his mother, an amateur dramatics enthusiast. Hurt won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), where he studied for two years.

He had a no-nonsense, candid approach. With ill prepared journalists, he was never rude and always the consummate professional. But for the journalist who had made that little extra effort, he had incredible warmth, wisdom and modesty.

“I love working with first time directors. People to watch out for, is if they’ve had a very successful first film. Don’t do their second, don’t do second time directors, do their third, but not their second.” Hurt laughed back in February 2011, at the premiere of Brighton Rock, but you knew he was being deadly serious.

Claire Bueno interviews John Hurt at Brighton Rock
Claire Bueno interviews John Hurt at Brighton Rock

“As far as I’m concerned, my springboard is the script, and the direction is the director, in a sense. And with that you play, and the rest is your imagination.”

And what scripts he chose.

As a child, Hurt was discouraged in playing with the other children, in the village. And perhaps that is why he played characters like John Merrick in The Elephant Man, and Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant, and latterly An Englishman In New York. Did Hurt somehow identify with people who were deemed outsiders, or pariahs?

Whether the role was non-fiction or fictional, Sir John’s approach to the character remained the same. “You have a sense of responsibility in any part you play. Just because it happens to be non-fiction, doesn’t make it an added responsibility,” he said at the London Film and Comic Con (LFCC) in October 2011. “It’s the same responsibility really. I think, because something didn’t actually exist, doesn’t mean you treat it badly.”

A fine example of this can be witnessed in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi thriller, Alien. Hurt’s sinewy, jerky body as the Alien bursts out of Kane, is as chilling to watch today as it was in 1979.

“My criteria, is that the script, should stand the chance of working on the level it is intended to work on. If you’re going to have science fiction, it needs character, because I don’t think you can do it, just on effects.”

The twice Oscar nominated actor was a huge advocate of independent filmmaking and was often spotted walking down the red carpet at the British Film Institute (BFI) London Film Festival (LFF).

“This is what our film business is, it’s the independent world,” he told me at the Mo√ęt British Independent Film Awards (MBIFA) in December 2012.

“We don’t have studios, and we don’t have masses of money behind us. And so we have to carefully distribute the monies that we have, amongst the talent, which is growing and growing.”

“We have a lot of talent.”

The actor, having appeared in many a blockbuster and indie film, reflected: “I think there always has been in the independent world a much greater area for experimentation, because you can afford to experiment, for not so much money.”

“What we are missing at the minute is the intermediary film. 15 to 20 million dollar pictures.”

When asked if an actor of his calibre could bring gravitas to an independent film, he replied modestly: “I wouldn’t know how to add gravitas to a film.”
“Oh heavens. I try to do the same as I’ve always done. I try to play whatever part I’m playing.”

Having worked with some of the Shakespearean greats like Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir John Gielgud, Hurt had his own theories on the Bard.

“The whole identification of Shakespeare fascinates me hugely. It also fascinates me that all the books written about it, are all American. Because in this country, we rather want to keep the Stratfordian myth alive.”

For a humble actor whose performances motivated and inspired contemporaries such as Bradley Cooper, did Hurt’s motivation change over the years? He paused, thought, and with his unforgettable raspy voice replied: “It’s a big question. I don’t think things have changed, not a great deal.”

Words by Claire Bueno 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Another Mother's Son - World Premiere in London's Leicester Square

Another Mother's Son is a shining example of the lengths and risks that human beings will go to in acts of kindness and humility. With believable and trustworthy performances and well crafted filmmaking, the ending is utterly unexpected and overwhelming. 

This only made me more keen to attend the red carpet, which on this rare occasion was blue, to interview the film talent, to find out their feelings about being a part of this extraordinary story.

"An ordinary woman doing something extraordinary in a community, and trusting that her community would share in her act, and somebody in that community let her down," says Jenny Seagrove on her character and true heroine, Louisa Gould.

"She was a little naive, but a good, good woman."

The true story of how in occupied Jersey during World War II, a shopkeeper selflessly harbours a Russian prisoner of war. As the film progresses, we see a wonderful mother and son relationship unfold on screen.

"It was lovely," says leading man, Julian Kostov, of building an off screen relationship with Seagrove.

"We got on from the audition."

Singer, and Boyzone front man Ronan Keating speaks of this story: "The best stories are the ones that are real."

Attending the World premiere was screenwriter, Jenny Lecoat.

"It was a story I'd known about since I was a little girl, and I'd grown up with it."

"I started realising what an important story it was as I got older."

"I started to think, if I don't write it nobody else will."

 Another Mother's Son. Leaves you speechless. It Will make your heart stop.

Another Mother's Son. In Cinemas 24th March. Distributed by Vertigo Releasing.

Words by Claire Bueno

Monday, 13 February 2017

John Wick: Chapter 2. A hitman's renaissance.

Friday evening and I’m at the Gala Screening of John Wick: Chapter 2. I was a little late to the party for the first film, but I certainly wasn’t going to miss out a second time round!

In the midst of a dreadful cold and feeling quite sorry for myself I brave the bitter cold and take my place in the audience.

There really is a quite buzz, as I plonk myself right, slap bang in the middle of the isle; my favourite spot.

I’m looking around and thinking; he’s here you know. Keanu Reeves. I reckon he’s going to introduce the film.

And before I know it, the doors open and in walks the director Chad Stahelski, followed by leading man Keanu Reeves.

Standing adjacent to his director but slightly to the back of the stage, my first impressions are that this leading man is a shy and unassuming man.

“We love you Keanu!” Came a voice from the audience; a male voice. But he’s right: we do!

This isn’t a film review but more of a study into why I think that John Wick: Chapter 2 is so well crafted, and what makes it a success in my eyes.

The world of John Wick is about precision and elegant execution; and so is the film itself.

With stunning choreography in every aspect, not just the fight scenes, but the fluidity of the camera moves and exquisite production design.

John Wick: Chapter 2 achieves the perfect balance of being utterly brutal but not taking itself too seriously.

Without a doubt the original movie was stylish and stylised, but the sequel ups the ante as we are immersed in Italian renaissance. Full of opulence and elegance I can’t help but feel that the renaissance serves as a metaphor for Wicks own revival, even if it is reluctant.

The emotional core of this film is love. An exploration into grief. And for all the extremities of violence within John Wick, that thankfully we as an audience will never experience. We can as an audience relate to love and bereavement which certainly anchors this story.

I think this film also teaches us about taking responsibility and being accountable for our actions.

And what of our anti-hero John Wick? He is ruthless, relentless and yet we root for the retired hitman. Why? Is it because he’s worked hard to redeem himself, found the right path, found something we all aspire to find: happiness. Only to be prematurely robbed of it. So now we find a simple man lost in grief.

And the actor that plays him, Keanu Reeves.  Someone who has had such an interesting career, who has a fine body of work in his portfolio. He is so believable as John Wick, and his maturity as an actor allows him to bring this vulnerability and honesty. Perhaps his own relentlessness bleeds into his character, which is why it he is so believable.

And boy doesn’t Keanu wear’s a suit well?!

I mentioned earlier about the cinematography and the production design; they really do work in symphony with each other. The saturated colours amplify the extremities and compliments the surrealism of the film. 

This film is not a comedy, but it does now how to laugh at itself and allows itself to have fun, it balances the high octane action and humour again, with precision.

John Wick and with John Wick: Chapter 2 both successfully take you on an edge of your seat journey of pure escapism and entertainment. What more can you ask for.

I urge you to go to the cinema and support this movie and make up your own mind I Would love to hear your thoughts in comments below. Enjoy it as much as I did!   

Words by Claire Bueno

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER TWO bursts onto UK cinema screens from February 17, 2017

Monday, 6 February 2017

Vin Diesel takes care of his own at the European Premiere of xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Hollywood superstar, Vin Diesel sweeps into the Dockland’s, O2 Arena by helicopter, to join thousands of adoring fans, as he promotes his new film, xXx: Return of Xander Cage, at the European Premiere.

Arriving at 7pm; a fashionably 45 minutes late, only builds anticipation, as fans roar with cheers, as the 49 year old, A-Lister, walks the ‘white’ carpet.

“It’s so obvious that that’s something that bleeds from Vin, into the movie. You take care of your own, man,” says Diesel.

“You lead from the top, and show as much love as you possibly can.”

And show love, and take of his own, is what he does, as he signs autographs and poses for selfies, with the crowds.

Reprising the leading role after a 15 year gab, Diesel also takes the mantle as producer, this time round.

The film also heralds a diverse cast, ready to kick ass, including Deepika Padukone, Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Ruby Rose and Michael Bisping.

“When I look at women in my life and in the world, I feel today that women are so strong; not that they haven’t been, but I feel that woman have found a voice,” says 31 year old, Bollywood Queen, Padukone.

“I think for me Serina Unger in xXx is a representation of that. She can be delicate, feminine and fragile, but she can also be really strong and stand up for herself.”

The Fast and Furious star, also takes fans and press by surprise, by recording the whole event on his mobile phone.

Broadcasting to a further 2 million people on Facebook Live, the action hero, encourages East End crowds to interact and engage with audiences across the globe.

Words by Claire Bueno

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Rogue One: My Star Wars Story.

Monday evening and I receive an email. “Claire, I’ve spoken to Disney and you’re accredited for Rogue One.”

Wow! For any child of the ‘70’s, Star Wars holds a great affection. And for a lover of film like myself, to attend a red carpet for a film containing some of the most exciting actors of our generation Felicity Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker and Mads Mikkelsen, this is welcome news.

Accreditation is the process by which each member of the press gains permission to report at a film premiere. Competition is always fierce, so the force was with us when we secured a spot.

Tuesday evening, we attend the secret location, now revealed as the Tate Modern, which only adds to the anticipation. Walking through security, we collect our press passes and enter a huge room with oppressive, grey concrete walls that closely resemble, dare I say the corridors of the Death Star. Clusters of journalists wait in pockets chatting amongst themselves; until our positions are revealed and we all swarm to towards the press pen.

Thirty minutes pass and the film talent enter and are dispersed; ushered to various members of the press. Waiting for film talent is like waiting for a bus, there’s nothing for ages and then they all come at once and they’re gone just as fast, so you have to be quick.

The flutter of nervous excitement disappears, as brain is engaged. With my head focused on business, I monitor their movements as they're herded like sheep. My prize for the night, Ben Mendelsohn. First up intense Forest Whitaker, boom; one question to Diego Luna, boom; surprisingly serious Riz Ahmed, boom; gifted, Ben Mendelsohn, yes! Breath caught.  The ever erudite Felicity Jones and captivating Mads Mikkelsen, boom.

Adrenaline pumping, another thrilling, fulfilling night of interviews complete.

Words by Claire Bueno