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Film Review: Northern Soul


15 (102 min)
Director: Elaine Constantine
Cast: Elliot James Langridge, Josh Whitehouse, Antonia Thomas, Jack Gordon, Steve Coogan
English | 2014

Northern Soul is a cracking British film. It achieves its aim superbly of invoking the spirit of the generation. The dissolution and anger of the Northern youth was depicted effectively as they found an escape route in American Soul music on northern dance floors under the influence of narcotics. This was the backdrop for a charming and funny, if a little predictable coming of age film. The performances are great, it’s a gripping ride and there’s even space for Steve Coogan. Nice one.


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Film Review: Gone Girl


18 (149 min)
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris
American | 2014

Gone Girl is David Fincher’s latest piece, adapted for screen by Gillian Flynn from her book of the same name. When a much loved local woman Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing, suspicions of murder arise and all eyes turn to her husband Nick (Ben Affleck).

Gone Girl is by no means a flawless movie. Having not read the book, I cannot judge on how true it stayed to the source material. But at nearly two and a half hours, I’m guessing it didn’t leave much out. Similarly, smashing Hollywood barriers by showing a woman receiving oral sex and having Affleck’s best-friend character being his sister, Margo (Carrie Coon) leads me to believe that the film didn’t conform to studio norms. If it did, it would have probably been a two parter because, as I said before, this film is really long.

Of course, it’s not as long as epics such as The Wolf of Wall Street or The Deer Hunter, but it does feel longer. This is largely due to the twist being revealed half way through the film, changing the dynamic of it completely, and rendering it almost impossible to talk about without spoiling…

Despite the films length, each scene was an integral cog in the overall machine and, although it churned slowly along, each piece was as every bit important to the end product as the last. Gone Girl injects enough suspense in the first half that it stays coursing through your veins for the remainder; the set up is enough to retain your interest and keep you absorbed in the film’s twisted world

The way Fincher picks up the intricacies of the actors and the environments is something to be celebrated. We as the audience pick up on things in the film that may or may not be important to working out ‘whodunnit’, like picking your favourite sweet out of a Haribo mix. We are blinkered, looking beyond the environment around them, but without them being shoved in our face with glaring signs and bells attached. However, it doesn’t mean we don’t see everything else. We can simultaneously take in the pale beauty of Gone Girl, while inspecting it through a magnifying glass.

The film’s editor, Kirk Baxter (Benjamin Button, The Social Network) should also be commended. Flashbacks mingle with the present day, weaving in-and-out of one-another at different rates throughout the film, becoming a ‘clue’ within themselves.

I cannot talk about the actors performances without giving too much away, but both provide a startling realism in their depictions of two very flawed individuals. Initially I thought the opposite, but as the film progressed… Well, that would be surely saying too much now, wouldn’t it?

The film is multilayered within its narrative and what it feeds the audience, slowly building upon itself. The tone of the film reminded me of Fargo; it’s balance between humour and thrills provided by Detective Boney (Kim Dickens), the sure-handed direction, even the colour palette. Although Gone Girl doesn’t quite hold up to the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece, it’s an enjoyable, savagely well made film that deserves a watch.


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Film Review: Le Jour se léve (Daybreak)

jour-de-F
PG (92 min)
Director: Marcel Carné
Cast: Jean Gabin, Jacqueline Laurent, Arletty
French | 1939 | Subtitles

If Michael Bay films are 90 minutes of action sequences strung together by dialogue spewed out of a random word generator, then Marcel Carné’s Le Jour Se Léve (Daybreak) is the antithesis of these movies.

Le Jour Se Léve is a painting, its brush strokes: the words of writer Prevert. His mastery of the written medium creates a tapestry, woven in the poetic discourse between lovers and rivals.

The subject matter is held in great stead by the talented hand of Carné, and it is easy to see why Le Jour Se Léve is considered by some to be his masterpiece. Although the film is a work of realism, the direction preempts the form of the American noir that would boom in the following decade. Staple tropes of noir filmmaking come into play to create some beautiful uses of light – back when films treated shadow with as much respect as they did its counterpart – as well as bringing an air of suspense and sexuality to the piece.

The film is about a man, Francois (Jean Gabin), who has recently committed a murder and is looking back on the events that lead to him to taking such actions. To say the film is about a murder (as I was told before watching it) is like being told Pulp Fiction is about two guys sent to collect a briefcase. It is about two guys sent to collect a briefcase, but that synopsis hardly does justice to the content of the film.

Jules Berry plays the murdered Mr Valentin, and does a fantastic job in creating a reprehensible villain in a film full of grounded, realistic characters. An almost Jack Nicholson level of manic creepyness helps bring to life this original role.

The main issue I have with Le Jour Se Léve however, is that I’m not sure what it wants me to feel. Do I feel sympathy for Francois as he sits on his bed, alone and confined, surrounded by bullet holes? Francois, the jealous, womanizing thug? The murderer? Do I feel for the women he has hurt along the way but who are ultimately the catalysts for his actions? Do I feel sorry for the murdered Valentin who beats and mistreats animals for a living?

Throughout it’s 93 minute run time, as strong as the dialogue is, it’s power starts to wain when you realize it’s the only thing holding the film together. The intimacy between characters is captured with a genius subtlety, and techniques such as long establishing shots and extended flashbacks shown via dissolve transitions show a maturity beyond the films years. But when there is little else waiting for you at the end of your journey than the murder scene from the beginning? Well, ones attention can’t help but wonder…

Ultimately, Le Jour Se Léve will probably be a love/hate film for many people. If you aren’t invested in the characters, you’ll be bored to death by it. But if you’re a sucker for meticulous camera movement, gorgeous dialogue, fantastic acting and exposed nipples (approximately two whole seconds to be precise), then this film is most certainly for you.


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What’s The Agenda in pictures

What’s The Agenda went off with a big festival BOOM, bringing in creative people from all over the city to create, instigate, and talk about art for social change.
Collective
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“Occupying mac’s Foyle Studio for the duration of the festival, an array of installations and performances awaited those who entered. Haiku poetry, immersive theatre, sculpture, film and visual arts exhibition Side View were just some of the vessels employed here to investigate when art becomes a political act and how creativity can incite positive social change; a mixing pot which lay testament to both the collectives’ broad range of skills and the breadth of mac’s support for the regions diverse creative future.

Drawing in a variety of changemakers throughout the weekend, the final flourish was spoken word event Bare Bones and post-show discussion debate.4.social.change (DB84SC) with Birmingham gems Vanley Burke, Zia Ahmed, Jodi Ann Bickley and Immy Kaur making up the panel. An achievement in itself, the evening not only gave brand spanking new performers a stage and an audience, but created a meaningful discussion with the public about themes raised throughout What’s The Agenda? – loneliness, heritage and gender issues – acting as the exclamation and question mark at the end of a collective statement.”

– Taken from online review by Illustrated Brum.


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#NextGenBrum Cannon Hill Café

New collaborative commissions for young people and emerging artists aged 16-24yrs at mac birmingham
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Deadline for submissions: 1st March 2014

Cannon Hill Café is a new programme aiming to develop emerging artists by offering young people aged between 16-24yrs the chance to engage and connect with mac birmingham: by initiating, producing and delivering their own events.

The aim of these commissions is to encourage new and meaningful creative collaborations as part of theNext Gen programme at mac birmingham and to create roles for young people as producers, curators, programmers, artists and leaders. Offering young people resources including, space, production support and funds to make creative work, collaborate and test out ideas.

What’s on offer?

• 5 x young people’s commissions for an alternative events programme – the Cannon Hill Café

• £500 on offer per event

• Use of space, technical support and production support from mac staff and associate producer Amy Martin

• Free skills workshops in; events management, marketing, production and audience engagement

This commission is open to:

• Existing youth groups, youth companies and youth charities or newly formed collaborative groups of young people

• Groups based in the West Midlands

• Aged 16-24yrs – led by young people

Location: Arena Café, mac birmingham, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham B12 9QH

Fee: Successful applicants will receive £500/per event to be spent as a programme budget

How to apply:

Application is by proposal via email to nextgen@macarts.co.uk

Your proposal should be on no more than 2 sides of A4.

Your proposal should include:

• The skills and experience of you and your group

• An outline of what you’d like to do – your ideas and how you would create a new one off event at mac for young people

• An indication of who you would like to collaborate with or programme, and how you intend to engage your audience

Please note your event must suit a public space café with limited tech resources. You will have access to a sound and light PA, projector, screen and technician. Your event must be on either 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th May or 3rd June between 5pm-8pm. Your event must be a minimum of 1 hour to a maximum of 3 hours in duration.
Successful shortlisted applicants will be asked to pitch their idea on Saturday 15th March 2014.
We understand that proposals will be subject to change and development.
We are happy to receive proposals as video, audio files, or web-based applications.

To help you to develop your application you can sign up to the following free Cannon Hill Lectures in events management and/or take part in an information surgery. Further information below.

#CannonHillLectures

From Set Up to Clean Up, a crash course in Events Management Pt 1 with Amy Martin

Thu 30 Jan, 6pm-8pm | Free | Hexagon Theatre

Planning an event, exhibition, party or workshop? Need help getting started? Then this crash course in Events Management is for you. You will explore the planning process, going step by step through the different elements, along the way creating a useful timeline. You will look at how to get people to attend your event and how to manage the process from set up to clean up.

From Set Up to Clean Up, a crash course in Events Management Pt 2 with Amy Martin

Thu 6 Feb, 6pm-8pm | Free | Hexagon Theatre

Building on from Pt 1 this lecture offers a practical guide to Events Management. You’ll leave with a toolkit that will help you organise future events, the confidence to get started and the skills to manage the process from set up to clean up.

Information surgeries

Tue 28 Jan, 4pm-5pm | mac birmingham café drop in

Thu 30 Jan, 4pm-5pm |  mac birmingham café drop in

Thu 6 Feb, 4pm-5pm | mac birmingham café drop in


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The Internet Has No Edges.

Internet believer and all-round modern maverick Andy Field visited the mac today. He spoke to us about how to make the most of representing ourselves idiosyncratically online and the www’s potential for dynamic collaborations. Here are the notes I made, including his wise words that the internet is limitless and ‘not finished yet’, an interesting thought that lead me to see the internet in a new way – a vast, albeit unregulated, universe of information that we can find our place within.


Inspiring stuff.

Plus a drawing for good measure.


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Vanley Burke 48 hour film challenge

On the 22nd and 23rd of October I was able to partake in a 48 hour film challenge that was inspired by the Vanley Burke exhibition held at the Midlands Art Center (Mac) thanks to the Cannonhill Collection. The short film was scripted, planned, filmed and edited all under 48 hours. It is about 4 people who visit the exhibition and relive their memories that are brought upon whilst looking at the photographs.