Monday, August 17, 2015

#Venezia72 Check No. 4 - The Europeans

As we already covered four (4) Italian directors and two (2) French directors, lets research now the other two (2) European directors, one from Poland, Jerzy Skolimowski, and one from UK, Tom Hooper. Next post will be about another two directors that can also be considered European but also Asian as their countries are located in both continents.

Jerzy Skolimowski

Born in May 5, 1938 in Łódź, Poland. A graduate of the prestigious National Film School in Łódź, Skolimowski has directed more than twenty films since his 1960 début Oko wykol (The Menacing Eye). He lived in Los Angeles for over 20 years where he painted in a figurative, expressionist mode and acted occasionally in films (has 21 credits as an actor in IMDb, including performing in Eastern Promises and Before Night Falls).

Jerzy Skolimowski’s most celebrated work includes the Berlin Golden Bear winner 1967 The Departure, Cannes Grand Prix winner 1978 The Shout and Best Screenplay winner 1982 Moonlighting , Venice Special Jury Prize winner 1985 The Lightship. He also collaborated with Roman Polanski on the screenplay for Knife in the Water -he has 25 credits as a writer at IMDb.

So we can conclude that Skolimowski was an accomplished director, writer and occasional actor before he stop writing or directing films (1991) and that's when he became an accomplish painter. Nevertheless he returned to Poland and then to Cannes in 2008 with the critically acclaimed thriller Four Nights With Anna, which opened the Director’s Fortnight and also won the Grand Prix de Jury at the Tokyo International Film Festival.

Two years later, in 2010 returns to Venice with visually outstanding Essential Killing that won the Grand Prix de Jury, plus more honors in the fest and awards circuit, like Best Film in Mar del Plata International Film Festival, Best Film and Best Director at Gdynia Film Festival as well as several Polish Film Academy Awards (Golden Eagles).

In my opinion, one of his most remarkable achievements is having been in Venice both as a great filmmaker as well as an accomplished painter (in the Venice Art Biennale). No doubt that he has had a long and interesting career but perhaps nowadays he is better known for his last two critically acclaimed films and now his latest film, 11 Minutes, is expected to follow the success those films had. If you wish to learn more about the director, suggest you read his bio at great Senses of Cinema site here.

Yes, have expectations about this film and they are high as have hugely enjoyed his two previous films; somehow expect beautiful cinematography but from the little film promo stills around, I'm not sure if I'm going to get great photography this time. Well, after more in-depth research found some beautiful films stills that give hope, good.

Basic info about 11 Minut (11 Minutes)
Director: Jerzy Skolimowski
Scriptwriter: Jerzy Skolimowski
Language: Polish and English
Runtime: 81 mins
Production Countries: Poland and Ireland
Production Companies: Skopia Film (Ewa Piaskowska), Element Pictures (Andrew Lowe and Ed Guiney), HBO Polska, Telewizja Polska, Fundacja Tumult, Alvernia Studios
Distribution: HanWay Films (International Sales Agent)

Cast: Richard Dormer, Agata Buzek

Plot Summary
1-Thriller following the same 11 minutes in the life of various characters – young and old, affluent and poor. 2-Shuttles between the stories of several characters over the course of eleven minutes on a single day in Warsaw.

Film Stills

Tom Hooper

Born on October 5, 1972 in London England. Hooper went to upscale Highgate School and Westiminster School. He did his first film when he was 13-years-old, Runaway Dog; by 14 his film Bomber Jacket came runner-up in a BBC younger filmmakers' competition. He did more short films until he finished school and wrote his first professional short film, Painted Faces, when he was 16-years-old.

Painted Faces took two years to make but premiered in 35th London Film Festival, was sold to Channel 4 and had limited theatrical release. So he goes to University College, Oxford to pursue an English degree; he joins Oxford University Dramatic Society where he directed Kate Beckinsale in A View From the Bridge and Emily Mortimer in The Trial.

After graduating from Oxford, Hooper went to direct TV adverts and in 1997 started to direct TV shows, including several soap operas; by 2001 he directs his first costume drama for BBC Love in a Cold Climate, many more mini-series will follow including Helen Mirren's fabulous Prime Suspect 6: The Last Witness and outstanding Elizabeth I.

His debut feature film was the 2004 UK and South Africa production Red Dust and it took five years (he was doing mini-series and TV movies) for his second feature film, 2009 The Damned United to premiere. Then in 2010 everything changes for him. Have to admit that until this exercise had no idea of the impressive Hooper early career; most surprising is that have seen many of his BBC mini-series and TV movies without realizing who the director was until today.

In 2010 he becomes Academy Award winner Tom Hooper thanks to his third feature film, The King's Speech that besides Best Director also won Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay. Nothing will be the same for him and I suppose he deserved the honors after his long career that started when he was 13-years-old. His fourth feature film, Les Misérables won 3 Oscars plus many more honors all over the world. I highly enjoyed The King's Speech and really disliked Les Misérables; so hope to like his next film, The Danish Girl, a film that I have been following its story since a few years back when Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron were attached to the project.

Let me share a bit of the film production story from what I recall and some research from today. Film was to be directed by Anand Tucker, starring Nicole Kidman as Einar Wegenr/Lili Elbe and Charlize Theron as Gerda Wegener. By late 2009 the director changed to great Tomas Alfredson when Charlize bailed; then Gwyneth Paltrow joined to replace Theron and Alfredson was replaced with also great Lasse Hallström. Confused? Oh, still a lot more to come.

Nicole Kidman remained attached to the project -that as you realize by now Einar was going to be played by a woman and NOT by a man; but Paltrow left the project in April 2010. Then comes a stream of rumors about who was going to play Gerda, with the likes of Uma Thurman, Marion Cotillard, and by late 2010, Rachel Weisz signs only to drop in 2011 along with Hallström. Film was a project of Blossom Films, which is Kidman's production company. The project stalled.

A completely new film project was announced in April 2014 with Tom Hooper directing and Eddie Redmayne playing the lead role of Einar/Lili. Now a man, not a woman, will play the lead. Sigh. The outstanding Alicia Vikander joins production to play Gerda and finally film is produced, post-produced and will premier in 2015 Venice. Uff! Like the cast but of course would have preferred a two-female lead than a man-woman lead.

After this long story you can imagine that if in the past had high expectations about the project, now they have diminished quite a lot. Why? Let start with the production. Before was an interesting Sweden/Australian production, now is a more commercial Germany, USA/UK production. Before had outstanding directors, now has a great director. Before had amazing/outstanding cast, now has a good cast. What saves the film to my eyes is that has been considered to premiere in competition at Venice and of course will be checking critics/viewers first reactions to see what to expect from the fifth feature film by Tom Hooper. Then truth is that I do not need a festival screening to be interested in watching this film as yes, I do watch commercial-entertaining films to balance -take a break from- my great films high consumption the ones that make me to intensively think and feel.

By the way, now that movie subject has become quite open and popular, is wise to mention that the story, told in Ebersshoff novel and film, is the fictionalized account of a real-life event: the first gender reassignment surgeries done between 1930 and 1931. Worth to mention that in one of the surgeries doctors discovered Lili had rudimentary ovaries, which meant that was intersex, i.e. had characteristics of both male and female.  Imagine that Eddie Redmayne will be considered for the Coppa Volpi Best Actor and definitively film has to be in consideration for the Queer Lion.

Basic info about The Danish Girl
Director: Tom Hooper
Writers: Lucinda Coxon (screenplay), David Ebershoff (novel)
Language: English
Runtime: 120 mins
Production Countries: Germany, USA and UK
Production Companies: Pretty Pictures (Gail Mutrux), Harrison Productions (Anne Harrison), Senator Film Produktion, MMC Independent, Working Title Films (Eric Fellner)
Distribution: Focus Features (USA), Universal Pictures International (Sales Agent)

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Amber Heard, Ben Whishaw, Sebastian Koch

Plot Summary
Copenhagen, early 1920s. Danish artist, Gerda Wegener, painted her own husband, Einar Wegener, as a lady in her painting. When the painting gained popularity, Einar started to change his appearance into a female appearance and named himself Lili Elbe. With his feminism passion and Gerda's support, Einar - or Elbe attempted first-ever male to female sex reassignment surgery, a decision that turned into a massive change for their marriage, that Gerda realized her own husband is no longer a man or the person she married before.

Film Stills

No comments yet