37 Days is a three-part drama directed by Justin Hardy that covers the time between the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914 at the hands of a Serbian nationalist and the entry of Britain into the First World War. Rather than being full of romantic sub-plots that can clutter many a good historical story (the 1983 TV mini-series The Winds of War immediately springs to mind), writer Mark Hayhurst focuses instead on the political discussions (on a number of sides) that were held behind closed doors, as well as the associated chain of events leading up to war being declared. It’s a drama where the characters of men rather than historical events are the important factors deciding whether countries go to war or not; where ill-informed assumptions, decision and indecision of key individuals leads to an escalation of circumstances and to global conflict that will result in the death of millions of people. [Read more...]
Director Sanjay Rawal’s eye-opening feature documentary, Food Chains, shines a light on the abuses suffered by farm workers who work long hours to gather much of the fresh produce that ends up on the tables of millions of Americans. The film (on limited release in the US this autumn) follows members of a worker-based human rights organisation, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), documenting a six-day hunger strike they held outside the Florida headquarters of one of the United States’ largest supermarket chains. Touching on the history the US’s heavy reliance on migrant workers to harvest fresh produce and exposing how the industry’s economics has fostered a work environment that features abuse and injustices (including modern-day slavery), Food Chains focuses on the supermarket’s reluctance to even open discussions with the CIW and becoming a participant in the Campaign For Fair Food. [Read more...]
My Nikifor (Mój Nikifor) is a Polish film from 2004 directed by Polish-born director Krzysztof Krauze. The film is a dramatized account the last few years of the self-taught, “primitive/naïve” painter Nikifor Krynicki seen from the point-of-view of fellow painter Marian Włosiński. Włosiński became Nikifor’s daily companion and dedicated caretaker until the latter’s death in 1968. Particularly noted for the trans-gender acting of female actress Krystyna Feldman in the title role, the film chronicles the relatively uneventful life of the eccentric and anti-social painter and the life-enriching influence he had on Włosiński, a talented painter but whose work was, up until this point, thought of as soulless. The score, released by Kronos Records/MovieScore Media in 2014, is by talented Polish composer Bartek Gliniak, who has fashioned a score that, in his own words, “views [Nikifor] with affection”, “emphasising his talent, temperament and great individuality.” [Read more...]
Music for video games has developed over the last 20 years or so as the technology behind the video games themselves has become more complex. Today, many video games contain orchestral scores and have much in common with film scores of the films coming out of Hollywood and beyond. Because of these similarities it’s easy to assume that the issues and challenges faced by the game and film (or TV) music composer are the same. Award-winning composer Winifred Phillips’ music first appeared in God of War in 2004 and she has gone on to compose music for games such as The Da Vinci Code, Shrek The Third, Spore Hero, LittleBigPlanet 2, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, and many others. In her new book, A Composer’s Guide To Game Music, Phillips expertly details what’s involved in becoming a video game music composer, highlighting the specific challenges a composer for games faces.. By the end of this excellent book, any reader contemplating a career as a video game music composer will understand clearly the personal and technical abilities required to succeed and anyone with a more general interest in video gaming or how music is used in film, television and video games will better appreciate how different composing music for video games is from any other media type. [Read more...]
The Newton Brothers’ score for Zack Parker’s psychological thriller Proxy is being compared with the classic scores of Pino Donaggio for Brian De Palma films (e.g., Carrie, Dressed To Kill, Passion) and, perhaps more worryingly (in terms of expectations for the score), with Bernard Herrmann’s scores for Alfred Hitchcock; particularly Psycho. It’s not particularly surprising that Andrew Grush and Taylor Stewart’s (aka The Newton Brothers) score does not live up to hype. However, I do think that the strings-heavy music for Proxy is an interesting and worthwhile score that is a solid addition to the psychological thriller/horror film music genre by shying away from soundscape ambience (that are frequently pretty unlistenable away from the film) and instead taking a limited sound palette and using it in interesting ways that are worthy of isolated and repeated listens.
Written and directed by Spanish film-maker Juan Antonio Espigares, Fuga is a multi-award winning animated film that tells the story of Sara, a young girl who arrives at the Saint Cecilia Conservatory to pursue her dream of becoming a concert violinist. However, her musical ability soon draws the attention of a rival who will stop at nothing to ensure that she, and not Sara, is chosen as the soloist at an upcoming concert. Released to the film festival circuit in 2012, Fuga is a fantastic little film, a mesmerizing mix of visual styles that includes detailed computer and roughly-drawn animation that are combined within the same scenes and offering a variety of differing perspectives to the unfolding story. This potentially of-putting switching back and forth between various animation techniques actually draws the viewer into the story, making you eager to discover the significance of animation style choices as well as to follow the thread of the story. [Read more...]
To Mikro Psari (Το Μικρο Ψαρι) (literally translated as “Little Fish” but released under the title “Stratos”) is a Greek crime drama co-written and directed by Yannis Economides. With the backdrop of the economic decline and moral decay of recession-hit Greece, the film follows Stratos (Vangelis Mourikis), a bakery worker by night and hired hit man by day, as his complex life begins to unravel piece by piece. Reviews of the film have been mixed, with critics commenting that the film is too long, too slow and not particularly exciting. From what little I have seen, the film is bleak and brooding with an emphasis on a washed-out, grey colour palette. The composer of the score is guitarist, arranger and composer Babis Papadopoulos who is probably best-known for being a member of “Trypes”, an influential Greek rock band from the mid-1980s. Papadopoulos delivers an interesting guitar-only score built around a few basis chords which, though containing some catchy hooks that stay in the mind after the score has finished, has minimal emotional impact when heard separate from the film. [Read more...]