Terence Davis ‘Children’ at the BFI South Bank – A discussion with Terence Davies

Here is a chance to listen to the discussion that Mamoun had with Terry at the showing of his first film ‘Children’ on 16th March this year.

Terry was, as always, charming, funny, witty and illuminating. Mamoun and the audience had a wonderful hour with Terry, taking him away from post-production of his latest film.

Special thanks must go to David Somerset of the the BFI for curating the event – It couldn’t have happened without his involvement.

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Mamoun heads to European Film College, 17 – 19th March

Mamoun has been invited by Nadia Kløvedal Reich, principal of EFC to participate in a comprehensive introduction to Neorealism, including screenings of Roberto Rosselini’s ROME, OPEN CITY and PAISA and Lorenza Mazetti’s s poetic TOGETHER. Mamoun will also be giving Masterclasses on Vittorio De Sica’s masterpiece Bicycle Thieves and Satyajit Ray’s incomparable Pather Panchali.

He says: I always look forward to my visits to EFC. The generosity, enthusiasm and seriousness of purpose make it a very special place. I always return refreshed and energised.

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Discussion at BFI Southbank, NFT3 – Terry Davies ‘Children’ 16th – 2.00pm March

Mamoun will be taking part in a discussion with Terry Davies following a screening of Terry’s first film, CHILDREN, which Mamoun backed when he was Head of Production, BFI Production Board.

Before CHILDREN, Terry’s film diet was almost entirely Hollywood; he saw hardly any foreign films. He had no contact with people in the business, yet in CHILDREN his style seems already fully formed. You would have to look hard to find Hollywood but you might catch glimpses, and hear echoes, of Ozu, Bresson, Satyajit Ray, even Dreyer, but he had seen none of their films at this stage. This is both puzzling and phenomenal. Artists rarely understand their own inner workings, nonetheless, it will be interesting to learn what Terry has to say about this.

The following day Mamoun travels to the European Film College in Denmark

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Introduction to ‘Rome Open City’ – 9th February at BFI Southbank

936full-rome-open-city-posterRoberto Rossellini’s Rome Open City is the first great epic of Italian Neorealism. Seventy years on, the movement still survives. At any one time a neorealist film is being made somewhere in the world. These films are forever ‘neo’ or new because they are fresh and unexpected, focusing on people not considered worthy of attention and/or events which are ignored or suppressed. The originating neorealists were not only introducing an aesthetic but also challenging the view that ‘human kind cannot bear very much reality’ in its cinema.

As a movement neorealism is flexible, adaptable and generous. Its essence is to be found in its bone marrow and not in a set of rules – there are no obligatory twists and turns in a neorealist screenplay, for instance. Rome Open City ushered in a cinema that can flourish and is authentic in every society and every condition. Neorealism is universal.

Mamoun is very pleased to have been invited to introduce Rome Open City (Roma città aperta) on Monday 9th February 6.10pm at the BFI Southbank in NFT1 as part of the Passport to Cinema.

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Passport to Cinema: Ozu’s ‘Late Spring’ afterword

The great Alexander Mackendrick said that drama is about life ‘with the boring bits left out’. Yasujiro Ozu saw it differently. He embraced the ‘boring bits’, the everyday. Ozu weans us, for a while anyway, from the need for action and spectacle. He enhances the ordinary to the level of both entertainment and poetry.

At a superficial level Ozu’s films are not about very much. Many scenes comprise housework (the sequence in TOKYO STORY is simply thrilling), leaving and entering the house, making tea, drinking tea, preparing the bath, sitting quietly, drinking sake (a great deal of that) – and a lot of walking. There are shots of empty rooms and corridors, and abstract exteriors that are often just part of something. For instance, Tokyo in TOKYO STORY is first symbolised by a shot of three industrial chimneys – Tokyo is outside the frame. Ozu invites one to contemplate, think, consider and interpret. It sounds like Art House cinema at its nadir. It is the opposite.

Ozu made more than fifty films and they were regularly in the top five at Japan’s box office. His popularity is puzzling considering that the stories are remarkably similar – but then so are Jane Austen’s, Dostoevsky’s, Chekhov’s. It is almost an aspect of greatness. But one has also to look at the style; Ozu’s is like no other. The narrative is precise and plot is minimal, often perversely so; the mise-en-scène guides us to what is directly important; the editing is spare, creating a sense of real time; characterisation leaves out much, leading us to put in much; performance is almost free of ‘acting’. Ozu pares away everything and what is left is essence and engagement with the audience.

After seeing a couple of Ozu’s films, the rest of cinema and television seems overworked and loud, serving entertainment to a supposedly febrile audience. One goes back to Ozu and the everyday domestic world, where happiness and pain begin for most of us. Despite, or because of, his stylisation, he creates the real world, the inner spiritual world.

Hollywood, Aristotle’s town, admired Ozu but could not follow. For the rest of us Ozu is a miracle.

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An introduction to Ozu’s ‘Late Spring’ at the BFI South Bank, Dec 8th

Late SpringAccording to the lists of 10 and 100 best films the world is a small place consisting primarily of the US and Western Europe. It seems only a small number of films have ever been made as the same ones appear over and over again. Convergence is the first step to entropy. It comes as a surprise to find that Japan exists – thanks to Kurosawa, Mizoguchi and to Ozu whose TOKYO STORY occasionally makes it to the top of the pile. Ozu’s LATE SPRING got to 17 and was called the ‘perfect’ film. It is more important than that.

LATE SPRING is Ozu’s first film with Setsuko Hara as Noriko – and she carries that name, but not the character, in the following two films EARLY SUMMER and TOKYO STORY. The three films are sometimes referred to, somewhat arbitrarily, as the Noriko trilogy.

Ozu is an elusive director. His films appear to be straightforward domestic dramas; the stories are not very different; the characters are played by a repertory of the same actors. In recollection, a scene or a moment from Ozu could come from a number of his films, rather like a Beethoven or Mozart theme when you have to think hard about its context. Soaps work through scattering plotlines outwards; Ozu digs inwards and downwards. LATE SPRING started a process which ended with the sublime AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON.

Mamoun will be introducing LATE SPRING (Banshun) at the BFI South Bank, Screen NFT2, December 8th, 6.10pm.

Mamoun would like to thank Dominic Power, Head of Screen Arts at the National Film and Television School for inviting him to introduce this classic of world cinema.

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Introducing Fritz Lang’s ‘M’ at the NFT

Poster for Fritz Lang's 'M' by Rodolfo Reyes

Poster for Fritz Lang’s ‘M’ by Rodolfo Reyes

Mamoun is delighted to have been invited by David Somerset, the education curator of the British Film Institute, to introduce a screening of Fritz Lang’s ‘M’ on 12 September 2.00 pm at NFT3.

Mamoun says,  “It’s a basic truth that where there’s one there’s another. In Germany there were four: George W Pabst,  F W Murnau,  Fritz Lang, Ernst Lubitsch. Four great artists of cinema, who helped both evolve and revolutionise cinema from the silent era onwards. The order is from the oldest to the youngest. In the compelling but silly game of who’s best, I would be influenced by what I saw last. Fritz Lang’s M would certainly  put him first among the firsts.”

Mamoun has written a review entitled  ‘Beauty and the Beast’ for The Times Higher Education Supplement of Patrick McGilligan’s biography of Fritz Lang, The Nature of the Beast:

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by | August 2, 2014 · 12:43 pm