I don’t know if I’m a fan of LCD Soundsystem. They were a good band, All My Friends is an amazing track and I’m pretty sure I saw them down at Electric Picnic in 2007…Read More
I wished I’d seen Baraka. Because I think it might have made this film easier to review.
Samsara is a stunning piece of work. The film takes us across a world damaged by disaster, mechanised by industry, shrouded in ritual and punctuated by beauty. This world.Read More
Well, I think about all my reviews – words don’t appear on the screen by themselves* – but usually it’s less about what I’m going to say and more about how I’m going to say it. This film had me thinking about… stuff.
Ah ok, there’s no point in shying away from it. It had me thinking about how circumstances shape lives… and, to a certain degree, how different my life could have been. Doesn’t really have anything to do with the specific subject matter of the film… but I felt that, through the way the film told it’s story, it invited you to have a look at your own story. Err… perhaps more so if you happen to be a woman…
… but I do think that there’s something there that everyone can relate to. It struck a chord with me and I believe that it really does almost force you to look at your own life. Whether you’re happy with what you see or not is really up to you.
Or maybe I’m just getting carried away, after all I don’t know if it’s by accident or design. And besides, what do I know? Perhaps it’s one of those things I should have asked the director – I was lucky enough to catch this at a Q+A session organised by Element Pictures, the distributors of the film.
Let’s talk about the film.
His & Hers is a documentary from Irish writer and director Ken Wardrop. Up until now it seems he has been a very successful short film director. I know extremely little about the short film landscape in Ireland but if it’s producing directors like this then I’m thinking I should probably go have a look. I do at least know where to start. If you mosey on over to the Irish Film Board website you’ll find their Short Film Channel. I have no idea how up to date that part of the site is but there certainly are plenty of short films to have a look at.
Umm… back to the film. Yes. It doesn’t require a whole lot more introduction other than what you have probably already read about it. His & Hers is a feature length documentary – a woman’s story of the man in her life, told through the voices of 70 Irish women in the midlands. That really is all you need to know about it, to tell you more would be to tell you the story and I think it’s best that you hear that story in the women’s own words.
To be honest when I heard what it was about I just didn’t really see how it would be done. Not that I thought it wouldn’t be possible, more that I just couldn’t imagine it. I ain’t that imaginative you see. Fortunately Wardrop is. He has used his experience in short film to create a cohesive, if somewhat loose, narrative from what was undoubtedly hours of footage. Together with his excellent cinematographers, Michael Lavelle and Kate McCullough, Wardrop has created a little window into the Irish woman’s life.
I do want to make a quick comment about the cinematography. I’m a little obsessed with that. The work in His & Hers is really outstanding and I’m happy to say that it was recognised at the Sundance festival this year.
I know I’m raving a bit here so you’re probably wonder why I’m only giving this 8/10. The fact is that, when the credits rolled, I had more that a few questions over the choices that Wardrop made in the sequences he chose to include. I found it a bit strange that, for the most part, all the experiences included were very positive. I thought it was odd that there were so few women of my age (30). Also I don’t know why there was no talk of the women’s relationships with their brothers… Dads and partners, but not brothers.
Fortunately Mr. Wardrop was on hand to answer some of those questions.
In his own words, His & Hers is an attempt to tell a happy story, one based on his mother’s life and her relationship with his father and, presumably with himself. This is not a disparate story by any means. He had one personal vision for the story he wanted to tell. To me that explains why there are no villains and few younger women – I assume he best knows the story of his mother from when he met her, so to speak… Course if could have been that younger women were less candid. He wasn’t specific but, I suspect that wasn’t particularly the case. He did say that he found the older women’s stories more interesting. Interesting to him I guess, this is an entirely personal film, not an attempt at an anthropological study.
Still I’m giving this 8/10 because, while I really found this to be a fascinating and (to my surprise) thought provoking documentary – when you watch it, it really isn’t obvious what he set out to do. It was great to hear him explain it but I’m certainly not the only reviewer who wondered about those particular points and more.
I do however recommend everyone go see this film. It’s a wonderful story, genuine, honest and beautifully shot to boot.
To find a cinema showing it have a look at their official website
* actually, words do sometimes appear on the screen by themselves – damn automatic typing fingers.
It was with surprising lack of trepidation that I wandered into Cineworld on Monday 7th June for the one night only showing of the new Rush documentary, Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage. As we passed the bar I couldn’t help but notice it was awash with stringy ponytails and tour t-shirts. Not quite the usual Cineworld crowd. This was a special night for some and I kinda felt like I should feel like I was gatecrashing.
I didn’t really know much about Rush. There are a couple of things I do know though… I know there are three of them, they’re Canadian, that they’re basically a prog rock band and I can recognise Geddy Lee’s voice – but that’s fairly moot since it’s not like you ever really hear them on the radio. On the other hand I keep getting the intro from Spirit of Radio mixed up with Wolfmother’s The Joker and the Thief and I can only name two albums out of their 19 or so albums… so I certainly wouldn’t call myself a fan…
…How or never though, I love going to the cinema and I enjoyed the previous film from the pairing of Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen – a documentary following a little band called Iron Maiden… but mainly I was going along because Griffpics is a massive fan and it was his birthday. Feeling quite removed from the fair amount of excitement around the place, I figured this was probably as close to a Rush gig as you’ll get in Ireland. It was probably the largest gathering of Rush fans in Ireland for a while anyway…
For those who don’t know and haven’t clicked the wikipedia link yet, Rush are probably one of the biggest band you’ve never heard of. In the US their album sales put them in the region of Nirvana and the Bee Gees  and estimates put their worldwide sales around 40 million albums. They are cited as an influence and admired by many musicians in well known bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Dream Theater, Tool, Queensrÿche, Tenacious D, Smashing Pumpkins… etc. The film features quite a few of these famous fans but mainly it charts the history of Rush, from their start in Geddy Lee’s basement in mid-late 1960s to their Snakes and Arrows tour which ended in 2008.
It seems they’ve had quite a sparkling 40 year journey. Rush have had their dark times, very dark times, however the film is mainly looks at the evolution of the band through their various landmark albums. It was actually pretty interesting, even for someone who didn’t know much of their music. Sebastian Bach popping up from time to time was particularly hilarious, what’s up with that guy? I mean ok, he really loves Rush but seriously… what’s up with him?
What made it interesting was… well put it this way, some bands just seem to do the same thing over and over again. They find a winning formula and stick to it. Not Rush. Ok, all their stuff is in the same kind of vein but they really do seem to have experimented over the years, brought took their cue from what was going on in the scene and made it their own. As far as I’m concerned that’s something to be admired. And what was most fascinating is that it’s really worked for them. I’m sure that some of their albums that didn’t do as well as others, but they’ve built up such a devoted following that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that they never get played on the radio; it doesn’t matter that – when they featured in last year comedy I Love You, Man – some people wondered if they were even a real band, all that matters really is that their fans love their music.
But I digress, back to the film. As a documentary… well… while I did find it entertaining, it wasn’t brilliant. To me it was very much a fan’s film. It was very general – I guess they did have a long time period to cover but I don’t feel like I learned that much about the band… aside from, as I mentioned, how they got from one album to another. It didn’t particularly delve into great detail about about any kind of criticism of the band. Fair enough, but it also didn’t really look in any detail at how they’ve influenced music, or even at other aspects of the band, like their live performances or their playing style (aside from a bit about Neil Peart changing his drumming style). It also didn’t look that much at the context of the albums, it mentioned things in passing but again, hardly any detail. I can’t even say that we got to know the band members.
It was a pity because I’d like to know more about them, or at least about other aspects of their music, and I don’t know if they would let a film crew would have that kind of access again. They seem to be fairly private, which is fine, but any in-depth documentary would really need their input to make it worthwhile. I do think there’s an opportunity there for more documentaries and I hope someone makes one because, personally, I think there’s a lot to be said about them… Then again, they seem content and successful without much publicity so maybe it’ll never happen.
The idea of the film was a sound one but, as a person who didn’t know much about Rush, I just don’t think it really worked. I would, however, recommend it to anyone who does want to know a little more about the band… but mainly because I don’t know how else you’d find out more about them without doing a hell of a lot of reading and listening.
6/10, but not because of the subject matter!Read More
Since this is a documentary as opposed to a feature film I thought I’d try to bash this review out quickly, no need to think about the characters or cinematography or anything… somehow I still managed to waffle on and on… oh well!
Usually I don’t bother with much of a synopsis but I don’t know if many people would have heard of the film so… basically, the September 2007 issue of American Vogue was the biggest ever issue of a monthly magazine. Physically biggest that is, it was 840 pages and weighed in at over 5 pounds, smallish baby but a big magazine. The September Issue is a feature length documentary looking at the making of that issue. There are a variety of bit players but the focus is really on the two big wigs – Anna Wintour, Editor-in-chief, and Grace Coddington, Creative Director. If you’re wondering what makes this interesting, I really should mention… Anna Wintour is widely presumed to be the inspiration for Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada (played by Meryl Streep in the film adaptation). And if you haven’t read that book or seen that film then… let’s just say, she wasn’t very nice.
The camera crew on this film seems to have all access to Wintour so I can only assume that everything in it passed through her hands first. It’s not that I particularly believe that Ms. Wintour is the monster that her former assistant implied she was in her novel; at the very least she seems to have a sense of humour, having turned up at an advance screening of the film dressed head to toe in Prada. But even if she is a monster she’s still a person and there’s pride at stake here. She has been at the top of the game for that last 21 years, she’s obviously doing something right so she wants people to know about it. And if she can make herself appear more human in the process, all’s good.
Anyway, you could speculate that ego was the driving force behind this film but personally I think that this film was more about money and keeping the Vogue story alive… She saw an opportunity to maximise the free publicity the film created and went for it. I’d never read Vogue before The Devil Wears Prada and I’d never heard of Anna Wintour. It’s not that I’m not interested in fashion, I’d know models and designers, I watched Fashion Television when I was younger and I love Project Runway now but I’d never paid much attention to the business end of it and this is obviously where the magazines come into play. Essentially, after The Devil Wears Prada, Vogue was brought to a much wider audience and people like me became a potential readers. Unfortunately for Vogue I still don’t like paying for magazines but cast the net wider and you’ve got me with this film.
I should get on with talking about the film though. It wasn’t entirely what I expected. With the view I had of Ms. Wintour I had rather thought that the film would focus on her. She’s been smarter than that. Her control of the magazine and her influence on fashion in general is absolutely highlighted but it’s not the overiding story. It has been tempered by Grace Coddington’s involvement, a woman who Anna Wintour describes as a “genius” and possibly the only person who doesn’t really care if she annoys Anna. Perhaps Ms. Wintour isn’t the ice queen we have been led to believe.
It all depends on how calculated you think the film is. It does some great PR work really. It makes Ms. Wintour seem more human, it shows us a variety of interesting characters in the fashion and it makes the magazine seem more accessible. It also showcases the stunning photos that go into the magazine and firmly places Vogue at the top of the pile when it comes to fashion magazines. Where Ugly Betty talks about competing with the other magazines and spying on them, trying to find out what they are up to, The September Issue does mention them at all. Vogue would have us believe that there is only one fashion magazine worth reading. Or rather looking at, we never actually see anything about the articles.
I enjoyed it as a film but part of why I enjoyed it was that you could look at it as a PR exercise, it made it more interesting. If I leave that aside I can’t help but think that there were so many stories left untold. We only really saw a quick glimpse at the making of 4 editorial narratives. I would have liked to see either more detail about those shoots or just more in general. Perhaps more about André Leon Talley, he seemed like good fun. Or more about the normal staff… or the photographers. This really would have a made a great mini-series but as it is, it is merely a quick peek into what is undoubtedly a different world altogether.