Monthly Archives: October 2015

Gayle Griffiths – Film producer, colleague, friend

1228449_Gayle-GriffithsIt was with deep sadness that I learnt that Gayle Griffiths had died last Friday, 23 October. I saw her a few weeks ago and already knew her illness was terminal, but the fact of it is still a shock.

I first met Gayle at the National Film and Television School when she was a producing student and I was Head of Editing. We had a couple of chance encounters in the corridor of the cutting rooms where, often, better work is done than in syllabus-designed master classes, workshops and lectures. A throw-away line could lead to thirty minutes of passionate and heated exchange. And that’s what used to happen with Gayle.

I next heard from Gayle some twenty years later, when she asked me to help out as editing consultant on Sally Al Hosaini’s My brother the Devil. We got on well and talked about working together. She produced Joanna Hogg’s Exhibition next but she still had time and energy enough to find the finance to develop a project with Andres Wood, Chile’s leading director, and me. Sadly, the project has not yet reached fruition. I am truly sorry that she will not be there to see the film completed.

I realised only later that Gayle was fighting cancer throughout this time. It is amazing. Stoical is a feeble term to describe Gayle’s character and strength of will. Nothing saps the energy as much as creative people, egotistical people, gifted people, demanding people, committed people, couldn’t-care-less people, in short, an everyday film unit. Yet she produced two features on restricted budgets and was developing another and probably more that I didn’t know about, while she was on chemo and other treatments. She may have stumbled once in a while but she dusted herself down and carried on regardless. And she had time for a full and rich personal life: she married her partner Philip Swart in the middle of all this.

Her record speaks for itself: five features, some award-winning, none of them standard, with newcomer directors – an outstanding achievement. Gayle was an idealist in an industry where idealists need to masquerade as cynics to get on. None of that for Gayle, who never forgot that she was a Sunderland girl, a Yorkshire lass. She played it straight. What impressed the profession was her judgement, integrity and dependability: she was certain to deliver creatively and on budget. Film-making is sometimes compared to fighting a war. If so, then Gayle Griffiths was a damned good general, with the bonus that she could be terrific fun. She won all her battles – except the last one. I shall miss Gayle. I will not forget her.

 

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Passport to Cinema: The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974) by Werner Herzog

51EjuEKAvULMamoun would like to thank Dominic Power of the NFTS for inviting him to introduce Werner Herzog’s landmark movie, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser on Monday 2nd November at the BFI Southbank in NFT2.

Mamoun has this to say about the New German Cinema:

It is a mystery how and why a country suddenly finds a distinct cinematic voice and creates a ‘new’ cinema. Political, social and economic factors provide only partial insights. In Europe, the ‘new’ cinema moved from Italy to France, to the UK (culturally colonised by Hollywood, we preferred ‘free’ over ‘new’) to Poland to Czechoslovakia and, in the 70s, to Germany, or, more significantly, West Germany.

600full-ali--fear-eats-the-soul-posterThe creators of the New German Cinema – Werner Herzog, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Margarethe von Trotta, Volker Schlöndorff , Werner Schröter and Wim Wenders, had diverse styles but collectively they were all radical-left/anarchist. At one end, Fassbinder was hostile to all institutions – and individuals as part of institutions – past and present; at the other end, Herzog focused on individuals whose obsessions, delusions, dreams, fantasies, aspirations made them impossible to assimilate – and led them to destruction.

urlThe question that is rarely addressed is how the filmmakers were supported and financed: public funding from the Länder, the federal government and private sector support from television, film distributors and exhibitors ensured the flowering of the talents of the New German Cinema.

Die_BlechtrommelHerzog has to date written and directed 18 features, including epics shot in the Amazon. Fassbinder made 41 films, intimate in scale, in 14 years – 41 ‘personal’ films, while Lindsay Anderson, Tony Richardson and Karel Reisz together made only some 30 feature films in their entire careers. But then our investors didn’t like politics (still don’t) – they followed Sam Goldwyn, who said: ‘If you want to send a message use Western Union’. Commercial viability was (and is) their only criterion. And we know how certain that is…

 

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The Apu Trilogy on Blu-Ray from Criterion – 17 Nov 2015

The Apu TrilogyWe are pleased to be able to announce that the major new Criterion restoration of Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy is to be released on 17 November 2015.

There is so much to see in this set, including a rare interview with Ray, and it promises to be a remarkable restoration with the level of expertise, time and resources that have been lavished upon it. As the films were scanned and restored in 4K, they are also going to have an extended life in the movie theatres around the world.

Mamoun is happy to have been invited to take part in this release with his own supplement to the films: The Apu Trilogy – A Closer Look. The other supplements include a video essay by definitive Ray biographer Andrew Robinson, with a contribution from Martin Scorsese.

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