Review: THE OLD MAN & THE GUN (2018)

It was an immense privilege to see what could be Robert Redford’s final film on the big screen at LIFF 2018. Though I’ve always been more of a Paul Newman kinda gal, films like Barefoot In the Park (1967), Out of Africa (1985) and All the President’s Men (1976) played a huge part in my movie education while growing up. He’s always been someone that’s there, an actor you could always rely on. Redford has maintained an irresistible charm that has seen him through even the most throwaway fare (looking at you The Horse Whisperer (1998)…still love you though xoxo)  

His final project then The Old Man and The Gun (2018) by surprisingly, A Ghost Story (2017)’s  David Lowery, is accessible fare and loosely based on a 2003 long article in The New Yorker on the real life ‘old man’. The film is a off-kilter tale of Forrest Tucker’s insatiable desire to rob banks. But this is no Point Break (1991) mind, the well-dressed Forrest (Redford) simply walks into a small town bank in the 1960s and 70s, befuddles the cashier or bank manager with a tip of his hat, and walks out with a case full of money – like a Redford-style dangerously charming bandit of old.

In its best moments it reminded me of another Redford film, the oft-forgotten The Electric Horseman (1979). Though this time, the political commentary is nearly non-existent in TOMATG (as no one is calling it), it is an easy slice of American apple pie served with a folksy tale of life on the edges of American society, and set in a time when Bonnie and Clyde were still fancifully regarded as home-grown daredevils that couldn’t resist the pull of the open road or each other.

It was a joy to witness Sissy Spacek as Jewel, a largely sidelined but prepossessing as a woman whom Tucker meets as he tries to commandeer her car for a getaway. The frame glowed in Spacek’s presence, and as I had recently re-watched Carrie (1976), it was a hoot to see two actors who occupied to completely different schools of 1970s filmmaking come together on screen. Jewel is left to wonder about the man who flits in and out of her life with little care or honesty, and as romance blossoms, you can’t help but wonder if Forrest is just doing this same routine with every widowed rancher he finds in every town. 

The film doesn’t linger long on Forrest’s criminality, nor his appetite for emotional destruction though, and a cameo from Elisabeth Moss as his long-abandoned daughter is largely wasted. The law enforcement hot on his tale (headed by Lowery regular and drawl connoisseur, Casey Afleck) seem almost mildly in awe of Forrest and his expert crew (Donald Glover and an on-form Tom Waits), dubbed ‘The Over-The-Hill Gang’s’ antics. 

Footage from Redford’s long filmography is adoringly spliced in for a nostalgic montage sequence of daring prison escapes that is fun to see unfold, and remind ourselves just how alarmingly good looking Redford was (and talented, cough, of course). Redford elevates Forrest Tucker to folk tale hero and has the jawline for it too. 

TOMATG works best as an easy viewing, chortle-heavy heist movie and serves as a fitting swansong to a Hollywood legend. Though I didn’t see his acting chops being particularly tested, for anyone new to his career, it is a satisfying ‘best of’ reel. 

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Review: Holmfirth Film Festival 2014

Two weeks after the end of this year’s Holmfirth Film Festival, I found myself cycling through the serene valleys of the Pyreenes, just near the border to France and Andorra. Between staggered breathing and shaded-tree hoping, I thought back to just days before as I sat in a darkened Picturedrome, watching a cycling movie called Breaking Away (1979). Never did I expect these two disparate experiences to intertwine, but just as a jersey-clad, bare-legged mob of cyclists zoomed on ahead of me, I was reminded of the dynamic and exciting attractions I enjoyed in a small, rain-sodden village in West Yorkshire.

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Having finally arrived to Holmfirth (not the easiest of tasks for a Bradfordian resident who must rely on public transport), I made my way to the Holmfirth Picturedrome rightly assuming it was the place to start my cinematic journey across the Holme Valley. Reassured that I had not indeed missed the start of the next attraction, I settled down in a seat to enjoy a double bill of the classic French animation The Triplets of Belleville (2003) and the aforementioned Breaking Away (1979). The programme promised free entry to those who braved the beating rain to arrive on their bicycles and I was surprised to see that many actually did. The film itself is a feel-good, coming-of-age ride which tells the story of four high-school graduates leading working-class lives in a growing college town. One character in particular played by Dennis Christopher is obsessed with cycling and worships the Italian cycling team- so much so that he learns Italian by listening to operas and shaves his legs in his parent’s bathroom, much to the chagrin of his blue-collar father. What eventually follows is a bike race between the rich college-attending elite and this inexperienced, restless band of young friends who call themselves ‘The Cutters’ after the former stone-cutting workforce who dominated the region of Bloomington, Indiana. With fantastic sweeping shots of the area; the blissful open roads and the final race itself, Breaking Away is a simple story with a good heart which could turn any cycling un-enthusiast into a gear-changing fanatic by its end. A career-starting performance by Dennis Quaid as a troublesome, chain-smoking lamenting teen was also a joy to watch, especially considering the Hollywood heartthrob persona he went on to embody.

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A wonderful time was also to be had that very night in the Picturedrome for ‘A Night at the Movies…’ by the Holme Valley Orchestra. Many gathered to hear James Morgan conduct well-known and much-loved film scores and songs with dazzling film clips to distract you from staring too intently at the talented musicians who were seated at quite close proximity to an eager audience. Cinema screen by day, auditorium by night, the first weekend alone demonstrated just how versatile the Picturedrome can be, as well as highlighting the efforts of a dedicated team of volunteers and workers who helped to make the festival possible.

After securing a drink at the fabulous Gonzo bar and catching a few local musicians making good advantage of the festival guests in town in need of a quick refreshment (try anything by the Summer Wine brewery, good local tipple!), I travelled to the Southgate Theatre in Honley, a nearby village. Initially perturbed by the distance between locations (thankfully, on this particularly day, I was not dashing about on foot), the festival proved to be a wonderful opportunity to discover the local neighbourhoods not usually explored by those speeding through the valley to visit the famous village of Holmfirth. The Southgate Theatre is a delightful venue, home to many an amateur production and local meeting and quite clearly the heart of the Honley community. After being helpfully directed to the exits in case of a fire by a friendly lady, I enjoyed the Oscar-winning documentary Twenty Feet from Stardom (2013). An addition to the programme which further highlighted the superb range of films offered during this week of cinema, this poignant account of the backup singers of some of the best singers and bands of the last fifty years was a joyous romp. Revealing everything from iconic musical clips to amazing on-stage performances as well as some shocking and heart-rending stories, the film gives a voice to those always just beyond the glare of the limelight.

Fast-forward a fortnight, and I have unwisely stopped cycling halfway up a hill in the Spanish mid-morning heat. A man pedals by in a Tour de France yellow t-shirt, and I quietly blame the Holmfirth Film Festival for whipping me up into Le Tour Yorkshire fever. I think next time I’ll just stock-up on popcorn instead of razors and bike pumps…

All photos taken by Evangeline Spachis.

GIRL ON FILM at BIFF 2014!

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I am pleased to announce that this year, GIRL ON FILM will be reporting and reviewing from the 20th Bradford International Film Festival at the National Media Museum!

This is a fantastic honour which hopefully you’ll be able to join in with as the festival commences on the 27th March!

In the meantime, please do come along to the festival and see the wonderful films and guest speakers which promise to make this 20th celebration so special. To review the programme and to book tickets, visit the BIFF website!

Check back for updates and check out my exclusive festival preview here!

Happy viewing until then…

Evangeline.

The 20th Bradford International Film Festival is here again! 27 March – 6 April 2014

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Just when you thought the glitz and glamour of the film world had vanished once again in a puff of smoke after the Academy Awards, in one former mill town in the North, a celebration of achievement in film is about to return!

Commemorating its 20th year, The Bradford International Festival (proudly sponsored once again by Virgin Media), BIFF is understandably reflective and will be dedicating part of the bill for a retrospective of its first ever festival back in 1995. A re-screening of The Madness of King George (the first ever opening-night film, an occasion which was amusingly noted by Alan Bennett in his collected diaries) as well as a public poll to determine the Virgin Media Best of BIFF, a British film which upon winning will then be screened (Cast your vote here).

Of the 35 new films in the Official Selection, 8 have been chosen to be in the running for the 2014 Bradford UNESCO City of Film European Competition, and includes both fiction and documentary works. The competiting films are:

A Bouquet of Cactus (Spain, Dir: Pablo Llorca)

Class Enemy (Slovenia, Dir: Rok Bicek)

Costa Da Morte (Spain, Dir: Lois Patino)

A Fallible Girl (UK, Dir: Conrad Clark)

The Joycean Society (Belgium, Dir: Dora Garcia)

Mother, I Love You (Latvia, Dir: Janis Nords)

Mouton (France, Dir: Gilles Deroo & Marianne Pistone)

Phantom (France, Dir: Jonathan Soler).

The Shine Short Film Competition also returns this year with six short films to be judged by an expert jury. The winner will be selected on the opening weekend.

Of course, as well as the films, BIFF always delights in honouring those who have made a significant contribution to film. The Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 will be awarded to Brian Cox. A distinctive, powerhouse of an actor, the Scotsman has worked in film, television and theatre for over 50 years. Roles such as the original ‘Hannibal Lecktor’ in Manhunter, a double-crossing CIA operative in The Bourne Trilogy, an old-timer prison breaker in The Escapist, amongst many many others, Brian Cox is a true star of the screen. Six of those films will be shown, finishing with a final ScreenTalk with BIFF Co-Director Tom Vincent on Sunday 6th April.

The BIFF Fellowship is granted yearly to a superlative filmmaker who continues to succeed in creating excellence on screen. Sally Potter is a distinctive director who has demonstrated staggering artistic flair throughout her career. As a recipient of this year’s Fellowship, Potter is the first woman to be granted this award (GIRL ON FILM REJOICES!). Her films such as the best-known Orando, Yes and her most recent effort Ginger & Rosa will be screened throughout the festival and an opportunity to hear Potter in conversation shall take place in the Cubby Brocolli screen on Sunday 30th March.

The Uncharted States of America programme continues this year with special attention paid to the works of James Benning. Andy Warhol-like figure in avant-garde Americana cinema, a number of this films are listed as well as 2013’s Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater (winner the ‘Venice Classics’ best documentary prize), a 70 minute conversation between two respectively different independent filmmakers.

For those interested in Japanese cinema, the crime films of Yoshitaro Nomura (5 to be shown in total) reflect a relatively under-appreciated strand of Japanese filmmaking in the west. A prolific artist, Normura created many stories highlighting the dark underbelly of Japanese society. Stakeout, Zero Focus, The Shadow Within, The Castle of Sand and The Demon will all be screened in the final week of the festival.

Supported by none other than the Boris Karloff Foundation, the horror picks of the festival will once again create Bradford After Dark, the 5 feature-length and 7 short films selected for 2014. Go alone if you dare!

And finally, returning once again and no doubt playing to a sold-out audience, skiffle band The Dodge Brothers (side-project of Mr Mark Kermode) will accompany piano extraordinare Neil Brand to score another silent film for your delighted eyes and ears. This year the film is Hell’s Hinges, a film starring William S. Hurt, the original cowboy.

Girl On Film’s list of festival highlights barely skims the surface. To find out more about what’s on, visit the Bradford International Film Festival website or pick up of the beautiful 160-page programmes which have been distributed around the Bradford and Yorkshire area. There’s plenty more to discover! 

Bradford International Film Festival returns! 11-21 April 2013

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As a Bradfordian and film fan, a shining highlight of the cinematic calendar remains the Bradford International Film Festival (sponsored by Virgin Media for a second-year running). In its 19th incarnation this year, its host, the National Media Museum, have released a sneak-preview of the delights we can expect in April (11th – 21st) 2013.

On the call-list so far are Adam Buxton (comedian and one half of ‘Adam and Joe’ with Attack the Block‘s Joe Cornish) with a special edition of his show BUG! which started out life at the BFI Southbank in 2007. A show bursting with videos, unusual clips and and the wierd and wonderful of the online world, Buxton will continue to do what he does best in his fun and irreverent style!

Also announced is Aidan Goatley who stars in the comedy show ‘Ten Films with My Dad’. An Edinburgh Fringe Festival hit last year, Aidan tells of the ten films most important to this father/son relationship, from Jaws and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, to Avatar via The Blues Brothers. The show includes the ‘reimagining’ of some classic scenes by Aidan’s dog Kimble.

And finally, after a hugely successful appearance at last year’s BIFF 2012, The Dodge Brothers, the UK’s premier skiffle band (starring Radio Five Live’s and The Culture Show’s Mark Kermode) will return for another set and live appearance to play with silent film pianist Neil Brand. This year, they plan to breath life into the 1927 film, The Ghost That Never Returns. 

Below is a series of photos Girl On Film snapped at an impromptu Dodge Brothers gig which took place in the foyer of the National Media Museum during last year’s Bradford International Film Festival.

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Also returning are the Filmmakers’ Weekend and Widescreen Weekend which remain popular year on year.

With further announcements of special guests and award recipients due in the coming weeks, book here now to avoid disappointment!