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