Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Little White Lies Interview: Paul Bettany

(Originally published on Little White Lies)

Paul Bettany must be the kind of co-star most actors dread. Not bolshy or flamboyant in a quest to get noticed, just a bona-fide scene-stealer. He’s done it to Russell Crowe. Twice. Now in the low-budget Brit drama Broken Lines Bettany gives another standout performance, this time playing an ex-boxer trying to deal with the after effects of a stroke with stunning authenticity. Bettany sat down with LWLies recently to talk about the role that brought him back to his hometown London and the challenges of getting films out there these days.

LWLies: How did you first get involved in the film?

Bettany: I got sent a script by my friend who said, ‘Would you do us a favour and read it, and if you like it there’s a part in it for you.’ And I read it and very quickly realised that it was him doing me a favour and that he’d thrown this great part my way. So I said absolutely, I’d do it. So it was a very simple process.

Were you always in mind for the part?

It was a very long process writing the script and I think it went through many different stages, so I don’t think he wrote it with me in mind. I think they came to a point where they felt they had finished this script and he sent me it with this rather lovely offer. I was so gobsmacked by how great I was, the pair of them had been beavering away for a couple of years on this thing and then suddenly it’s there and it’s beautiful.

What attracted you to the part of Chester? He’s a pretty raw, intense character.

Well, I mean… that, really. It’s nice to do things occasionally that feel they’re about stuff. They seem to be few and far between nowadays. I think that there’s a dreadful sense of shame in Chester and I found that really moving. There was something that I could comprehend in that.

And what kind of research did you do?

I did a fair amount. I did a lot of reading of different firsthand accounts from stroke survivors. I live in New York and I didn’t want to talk to stroke survivors there because there is a real stoic national characteristic that British people have, a reticence. So what I did was I got the filmmakers to interview British stroke survivors on film, hours and hours of footage of these really frank, moving interviews. I watched them, and their responses to the predicament in which they found themselves were really varied, as varied as human beings are.

But, and I speak for myself here, I thought there were some unifying things that all of these people felt which were overwhelming frustration and anger at their body; a fury at having to re-learn simple things; a terrible sense of injustice; and a shame surrounding feelings of dependency. I thought in somebody like Chester that would be so compounded because he’s lived an incredibly physical life, an almost exclusively physical life, and now he is left with an almost exclusively cerebral life and his mind is not a place where he feels comfortable.

Little White Lies Review: Broken Lines

An urban melodrama set against the mean streets of North London, Broken Lines tells the story of a clandestine affair between two troubled hearts played out in Finsbury Park. But with plot holes and character flaws aplenty, it’s a bumpy ride through an otherwise credible depiction of the capital.

Dan Fredenburgh and Doraly Rosa collaborated on a script in which they play the leads; him as Jake, a well-off property developer sent reeling by his father’s death, her as B, the waitress in a local cafe carrying the emotional burden of a recently disabled husband. Jake comes to B’s attention when he orders a bacon sandwich in her cafe, still wearing the kippah after his Jewish father’s funeral.

With the ice broken the two get acquainted and gradually find refuge in each other’s company. Jake’s post-bereavement breakdown puts him at odds with his fiancĂ© in the lead up to their wedding, while B struggles not with affection but passion with her ex-boxer partner who’s now debilitated by a stroke. Both are stung by the guilt of the affair, but proceed anyway... (read more)

Monday, 26 September 2011

FAD Preview: Pipilotti Rist at Hayward Gallery

Very excited about the upcoming Pipilotti Rist exhibition at the Hayward. I'll be making a short film at the press view tomorrow but for now here's the gallery's trailer, which I previewed on FAD

Enter the weird and wonderful world of Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist as the Hayward stages the first major survey of her work in the UK this autumn. Known for her lively and provocative work in video, installation and sculpture, she tackles all the big themes of love, loss, birth, nature and the family in playful, colourful yet often challenging ways. This new exhibition brings together over 30 of her works reaching back to the 1980s. Here’s a sneak preview of what to expect…

Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre,
28 September 2011 – 8 January 2012

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Dazed Digital Interview: Tom de Freston, On Falling

(Originally published on Dazed Digital)

Tom de Freston uses the human figure in his paintings as a director would on film or the stage, manipulating the person into a scenario loaded with dramatic tension. Using performance and theatre (along with multiple other sources) for inspiration, de Freston plays out contemporary concerns and historical modes across his canvases, resulting in what he has described as ‘contemporary history painting’. Before his solo show in Clerkenwell this month, the artist talked to Dazed about this dichotomy and the roots of his practice as a painter.

Dazed Digital: Why did you choose to be a painter?
Tom de Freston: I don't know if I did. I certainly can't pinpoint a light bulb moment when I decided to be an artist, it was more the result of a myriad of decisions.

DD: You've described yourself as a 'contemporary History Painter’; can you explain?
Tom de Freston: I'm interested in the idea of History Painting as a bankrupt notion, and if it's possible to have such a thing as contemporary History Painting. My paintings are not historical in that they are not illustrative of a specific geographic or historic source. Instead they are an amalgamation of numerous sources, fusing timeframes in order to produce autonomous scenes which could be read metaphorically and metaphysically in relation to a contemporary or historical context.

DD: Can you tell me a bit about your literary/theatrical influences?
Tom de Freston: I have worked closely with poets, academics and theatre companies and directors. I don't see the dialogue as necessarily different to that which I have with the History of Art or painting. They are all just sources to exploit and scavenge for new end points.

DD: And the Shakespeare references in On Falling?
Tom de Freston: The painting ‘Bathroom’ shows Macbeth sat upon the loo, with a sense of Bacon's paintings of George Dyer. The figure in the bath could be one of a few characters from Macbeth, but nods to David's Marat and images of the Deposition, whilst the entire structure of the space is being threatened by a swirling, descending estuary of paint. In’ MSND’ Bottom and Titania sit apprehensively on a stage above a foresty abyss with witness figures featured crow headed women, flying pigs head, winged and masked putti and a couple both sporting halos and Marilyn Monroe masks.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

FAD Video: Christian Jankowski's Casting Jesus at Lisson Gallery

A recent film interview with artist Christian Jankowski for FAD talking about his brilliant new film Casting Jesus, showing at Lisson Gallery:

If something good came out of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ it was that Christian Jankowski was inspired to make his latest film, Casting Jesus, now showing at Lisson Gallery. For it was the vision of Jim Caviezel dressed as the Big J taking acting tips from a priest that prompted the artist to stage a talent contest, much in the style of X Factor, but this time with professional actors auditioning for the role of Christ in front of a panel of judges from the Vatican. The resulting dual-screen film is often comical, but never disparaging towards its participants, pointing the finger instead at our quick-to-judge, image obsessed culture. Casting Jesus is a must-see, at the Lisson Gallery until 1 October 2011.

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