Thursday, September 29, 2011

Subtitled Online

Here's a cool new Web site about film:

The founder Darren Howells has been trying to spread the word, and I think this is a rare case that deserves some attention.

Firstly, their mission statement is awesome. While my initial reaction was that it was a bit arbitrary to focus solely on subtitled films, I realized it is a great way to simplify a film site and give it a very clear direction (it's also very anti-Hollywood), and thus is kind of a brilliant idea. You know when you are in that particular mood for a subtitled film!

Lastly, there seem to be FREQUENT contests to win free DVDs/blu-rays of good artsy films!! With really easy questions to answer...! Spread the word on that at least...! :-)


Here's the cool mission statement:

Just what the world needs, another film website, right? Actually, in this case, right…

Whilst the World Wide Web has opened up innumerable possibilities to explore different countries, peoples and cultures, the reality is most people continue to submerge themselves in the narrow reality of their own lives – or the emptiness of the rich and famous’ lives.

Movie websites are perfectly indicative of that fact – there’s a countless number of movie websites and blogs, yet the majority cover the same ground, i.e. the latest Hollywood blockbuster or star-vehicle. Throwaway films, given throwaway coverage, via what is increasingly becoming a throwaway medium.

With everything geared towards making money quick, and obsessing about grossly overpaid celebrities, with little care for anything else, it’s understandable that America dominates British media, that magazines and websites would rather concentrate on continually repeating the same inconsequential gossip related to an attractive star’s personal life than give exposure to genuine talent or celebrate creativity that challenges and offers them less personal gain.

The standard defence is that, whilst films produced outside of Hollywood are frequently superior (you only have to consider the number of remakes, and so quickly after an original’s release, to back-up that statement), film fans don’t want to read their movies. However, given most of our time is spent reading, whether it be our phones, computers screens, or whatever the latest en vogue gadget is, that argument is hollow. The truth is whilst the thought of ‘reading your movie’ may be off-putting in theory, once you start watching these films, you just stop noticing. You only have to look at the success of films like Amelie and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo to see that when films of originality are given even the slightest column inch, subtitled or not, fans seek them out, and are subsequently affected in ways Hollywood rarely attempts to.

Films that fans can treasure are not produced on the Hollywood conveyor belt. The likes of Let The Right One In and [REC] have been remade virtually scene for scene because there’s little time for creativity when making a buck is king, and any Hollywood film that could even be considered above average in recent years (think Russel Crowe’s The Next Three Days) has usually been lifted straight from Europe or Asia. Even America’s most revered directors have had their greatest commercial and critical successes remaking or heavily borrowing from world cinema (Martin Scorsese a prime example – a director who was heavily rewarded with The Departed, a far inferior version of Hong Kong’s Infernal Affairs – whilst Quentin Tarantino would never have produced the works he did without the ideas, scenarios, and even scenes lifted straight from Asian cinema).

Whilst the aforementioned foreign films may have squeezed a little editorial from your standard mainstream film site or magazine, this is only scratching the surface. Whilst Adam Sandler confounds everybody in continuing to line his pocket with his latest unfunny, there are countless intelligent and insightful releases that are simply being missed. Our website has been set up to bring exposure to these movies. Unlike other websites, we don’t just review a handful of the latest big-name/star-vehicle releases each week and spend the rest of our time regurgitating gossip that fills most newspapers and daytime TV shows already.

We have a clear editorial policy that we only cover films (and television) produced outside of the UK and USA (unless they have co-productions credits, or the film’s been produced not-in-the-English-language), with the main focus being on titles that are being released or shown in the UK. These don’t necessarily have to be new titles either. We are building a vast catalogue of informative reviews, of films old and new, covering all genres of filmmaking, from every country across the globe.

Our website is updated daily with news, reviews, competitions, articles, listings and much more. We are creating a community for film fans equally disenchanted with the tired and formulaic nature of the dominant Hollywood moneymaking machine, offering a one-stop-source of information for an increasingly diverse British audience, which is equally relevant to film fans worldwide (given the ease with which the internet has made it for fans to order and even watch online films that have not been released in their own country as yet).

We aren’t here to say everything that is produced outside of the UK and USA is faultless. Films are reviewed on merit, and whilst we have been wowed by many offerings from a country like South Korea, for example, the likes of which Hollywood would never allow, we’ve equally lost many painful hours to duds we’d like to help you avoid.

We love films that are helmed by true auteurs, who are willing (or perhaps more importantly allowed) to push boundaries (successfully or not); we are interested in receiving insight into unfamiliar cultures; and we hope by sharing our passion for international filmmaking (coined as world cinema or foreign film), we can also offer the opportunity to the uninitiated to discover original and challenging movies, the likes of which you’ll never have seen before.

Ultimately, we are far more than just a film website. As esteemed critic Mark Kermode said when interviewed by our website: “If you want to learn something about a country’s culture then I’d say spend a little time in their national cinema.” We are giving exposure to films that will undoubtedly educate a viewer to an unfamiliar country’s national history, their customs and traditions, their beliefs and all the nuances of the different elements of their society. This is an opportunity to bring better cross-cultural appreciation.

Remember to get behind and support this website. Check out the films and events we are giving exposure to, interact with each other (comment on articles!), tell your friends, use social networking and bookmarking sites – let’s ensure world cinema gets the critical coverage it deserves!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Savage Innocents (1960, Nicholas Ray)

Hot tip: Nicholas Ray's excellent The Savage Innocents (1960) is currently available for streaming on Netflix...

It's not the best way to see it, as it was originally in the 2.35 aspect ratio, shot in Technirama,
and the Netflix is panned-and-scanned 1.33 (although it's mostly frame-locked, no jarring video pans). That sucks, but as far as supreme classic films buried in the Netflix instant watch service, it's a keeper for me. The brilliance of the performances and Ray's intense interest in the most primitive nature of man blazes through the presentation limitations.

This treasure is hardly buried as there are numerous reviews, but I wanted to give a heads-up to the discerning cinephiles out there. Ray's portrayal of the Eskimos is pilloried in the Netflix reviews, but I think he's roughly used the setting, however inaccurately, to spur a philosophical study of the nature of man and society/civilization, and as such the film is immensely satisfying.

There was this bizarre Peter O'Toole lookalike in it towards the end, and I wondered how dissatisfying it must have been to make a career as a backup actor for productions unable to cast O'Toole himself-- until I found out it really was Peter O'Toole...! He is overdubbed with a bad American accent.

As a sometime actor I have had my voice slightly altered once (pitched higher). I was horrified, and it sowed seeds of doubt, but if someone as great as Peter O'Toole can bounce back...!

Here is the cover art of the UK-released Masters of Cinema DVD (out of print), which I wish I had looked into and rented from Cinefile or Videotheque to watch in proper widescreen.

However, I think there is something to be said for breaking free of slavishness to exact correct presentation and delving into pan&scan land in the interest of watching, say, more films by an interesting director, instead of having your choices driven by what's new from Fox et al in pristine widescreen. Sometimes your explorations of the actual content may be far more satisfying and lead you down different paths....

Searching about the movie also led me to this recently released book on Nicholas Ray which looks interesting: