Monday, October 3, 2016

An interview with Mark Digby, the Production Designer of Ex Machina

From Sketch to Screen: 
Production Designer Mark Digby Discusses "Ex Machina"

A striking contrast in the outset: an abundance of glass walls and virtual images (monitors, mobile screens) in a modern office building is cut to an aerial shot of solid, glacial mountains. Immediately after arriving at the main location where Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) meets his hi-tech tycoon employer Nathan (Oscar Isaac), Ex Machina's production designer Mark Digby sets the tone for what follows in a series of spatial and design contrasts between virtual and real, organic and artificial. Every window in the film, whether an architectural one or a computer window, opens to new images, to landscapes, physical and mental.

Set almost entirely in one house, in Ex Machina the space of the film is also a parallel narrative supporting the main storyline. This is, among other things, a post-digital variation on the theme of “mad scientist.” There’s the eventual dysfunction of the scientist's over-designed laboratory, his competition with God, and the inevitable grandiose plans that go awry. It is Frankenstein’s lab channelled through Silicon Valley ambitions. Yet, Mark Digby deliberately eschews the design traditions that come with that whole genre. Instead, he opts for subtle paradoxes: there’s glass, but there’s no transparency, there’s concrete, but there’s no sense of security. Nothing is as it seems.

Digby’s close and lasting collaboration with British directors Michael Winterbottom, Danny Boyle, and recent screenwriter turned director Alex Garland has touched different genres and design styles, enriching the visual experience of films while always adding something new to the narrative. One evening at the BFI Southbank in London, I spoke with him about Ex Machina.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Keith Richards: Under the Influence (2015)

كيت ريچاردز: تحت نفوذ (2015)
كارگردان: مورگان نويل

پير شدن و احتضار سينما چند درس براي ما داشته است. يكي از آن‌ها اين است كه در سينما اگر شخصيتي حرف زدن بلد است و منظورم اين است كه واقعاً بلد باشد بگذار حرف بزند. فيلم مي‌تواند روي همين جذابيت يك‌بعدي پيش برود. از اين قاعده، كلود لانزمان (آخرين نامحق)، مارتين اسكورسيزي (خطابه)، شرلي كلارك (پرترۀ جيسن) و پرويز كيمياوي (پ مثل پليكان) به خوبي باخبرند.
فيلم‌هاي مبتني بر گفتگو، زبان و شيوه‌هاي بياني غيرقراردادي، به خصوص وقتي محور اصلي فقط يك شخصيت است فيلم را به نحو مطبوعي به ادبيات نزديك مي‌كند؛ انگار كسي دارد براي شما كتاب مي‌خواند و تصاوير بايد هم‌زمان با ديدن فيلم در ذهن ساخته شود. اما مسلم است كه در اين فيلم‌ها فقط صدا نيست كه به كار مي‌آيد. تصوير هم حضور دارند و منطق توالي‌ا‌ش بر اساس نيروي روايت كلام و براي تأكيد يا تكذيب آن است. اين‌جاست كه سينما و ادبيات وارد مناظره مي‌شوند.
مستند كيت ريچاردز: تحت نفوذ، تهيه شده توسط Netflix، شايد از نظر سينمايي فيلم مهمي نباشد (كه نيست) اما همانطور كه اسمش نويد مي‌دهد گيتاريست، خوانندۀ دوم، و هر از گاه نوازندۀ گيتار باس گروه رولينگ استونز را سوژۀ فيلم قرار داده. در لكنتِ مطبوع‌ ريچاردز، بيننده، صداي شيواي ديوانگي براي راك اندرول را مي‌شنود. ريچاردز، مثل نمونه‌هاي ديگري از داستان‌گويان بالا به خصوص آقا سيد علي ميرزا -  تركيبي ايده‌آل براي دوربين دارد: صداي بلوزي‌اش را شصت سال سيگار مثل صفحه‌اي قديمي خش‌دار كرده و چشم‌هايش به چشم شيطانِ بازنشسته‌اي مي‌ماند كه مثل تيلۀ بچه‌ها برقي از اميد مي‌زند.

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Conversation with Tina Hassannia

Asghar Farhadi: Life and Cinema (The Critical Press, 2014) is the first English book about the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, a filmmaker often overrated by most people, underrated by some.

Written by critic Tina Hassannia, the book is a dialogue of sorts in which the Iranian Canadian author, by means of Farhadi’s films, engages with her own cultural roots. The approach of the book is quite simple, yet effective: summing up the current critical reading and reception of each film in the West (and to a certain extent in Iran), supplemented by a lengthy interview with the filmmaker.

The interview below was conducted via email, a prologue to a video interview, with slightly different questions, and lots of films clips, which was done later and can be viewed on Keyframe.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Il Cinema Ritrovato XXX

پياتزا ماجوره در شب با سه تا چهار هزار تماشاگر و چاپلين
يك آلبوم عكس: گلستان در بولونيا
همه عكس‌ها از لورنزو بورلاندو

«سينما، كشف از نو». اين ترجمه نام فستيوالي است كه در جشن تولد سي سالگي‌اش تبديل شده به نمونه‌اي براي ستايش سينماي ناب بدون اتلاف وقت روي فرش‌هاي قرمز و نشست‌هاي خبري يا مهماني‌ با كراوات سياه. اول از همه، بولونيا در هفته آخر ماه ژوئن گرمتر از آن است كه بشود زير آفتاب براي بيش از يك دقيقه دوام آورد. بعد هم با وجود اين كه ستاره‌ها گيرم نه از نوع بازيگران، بلكه منتقدان و مورخان در بولونيا اندك نيستند، اما 500 فيلم در دورۀ سي‌ام جايي براي خوش‌مشربي طولاني باقي نمي‌گذارد.

سالن تاريخي اپرا و تئاتر شهر بولونيا هم در طول فستيوال فيلم نمايش مي دهد

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Miniatures in Motion: Stan Brakhage and Iran


How can we approach Stan Brakhage’s world? Shall we return to his inspiration drawn from the poets of San Francisco and the New York experimental filmmakers of the 1950s? Should we consider his inadequate filmmaking facilities which shrank every year, eventually reducing him to scratching negatives with his fingernails on the hospital bed at the end of his life? Besides all his sources of inspiration, from Eisenstein and Dreyer to Gertrud Stein and Rilke, I intend to examine rather an obscure source material for 18 short films of Brakhage, which most probably hasn’t been taken into consideration yet: Iran and its classical arts.

These 18 short films, called Persians, and made between 1999 to 2001, are among his last films, and based on years of studying Iran’s art and culture. They have been made by the methods of painting and scratching on the film strip; the method Brakhage first employed in Dog Star Man (1961).

The Persians is like a voyage through the architecture, miniature, calligraphy and that unique inner rhythm of Iranian culture in dynamic and spontaneous abstract forms. All of these elements have been intently studied by Brakhage, therefore watching them is a cinematic meditation entering a time-machine of hundreds of years of Iranian culture.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Douglas Sirk, Written on the Wind

يادداشت پشت جلد كتاب «نوشته بر باد: گفتگو با داگلاس سِرك»، اثر جان هاليدي، ترجمه كتايون يوسفي

كتابي كه پيش رو داريد، حاصل گفتگويي طولاني با كارگرداني كهنه‌كار، يكي از محبوب‌ترين آثار ادبيات سينمايي جهان است و بارها در فهرست كتاب‌هاي برگزيدۀ عمر فيلم‌سازان و منتقدان ظاهر شده. گفتگو با داگلاس سِرك، خالق آثاري مثل «تقليد زندگي» و «نوشته بر باد»،  نه فقط كتابي دربارۀ سينما و هنر فيلم‌سازي، بلكه اثري تأثيرگذار دربارۀ تئاتر، زندگي در هاليوود و حتي تاريخ آلمان است. بعد از ظهور فاشيزم، سِرك به خاطر ديدگاه‌هاي سياسي‌اش به دردسر افتاد، با سد سانسور روبرو شد و بعد هم براي هميشه در تبعيدي ناخواسته به هاليوود مهاجرت كرد. اما حادثه‌اي كه شايد كليدي‌ترين بخش زندگي سِرك باشد، فروپاشي زندگي خانوادگي‌اش به دنبال روي كار آمدن نازي‌ها بود. از جايي به بعد، و به شكلي قابل درك، شكست خانواده به عنوان مهم‌ترين نهاد انساني در دنياي سِرك موضوع فيلم‌هايش هم شد. او طغيان‌هايي خاموش و با نتايجي بعضاً تراژيك را تصوير كرد كه در مقابل جريان‌هاي واپسگراي آمريكاي سرمايه‌داري به دفاع از عشق مي‌رفتند. اين طغيان‌ها دنياي كارگردانان زيادي را - از راينر ورنر فاسبيندر تا تاد هينز - زير و رو كرد. سينماي سرك در «حال و هوای یأس، مستی و تردید» در مورد ارزش‌های تعريف شده زندگی سير مي‌كند، اما در عین حال در تقلايی جنون‌آمیز برای چنگ زدن به آن‌ها به سر مي‌برد كه مثل چنگ انداختن بر باد است. براي همين عنوان اين كتاب را كه در اصل «سرك دربارۀ سرك» نام داشت «نوشته بر باد» گذاشتيم.
احسان خوش‌بخت

Friday, July 8, 2016

Philosophical Treatises of Master Illusionist: Discussing Abbas Kiarostami with Jonathan Rosenbaum

A memorial poster for Kiarostami, announcing the free admission screening of his films for three consecutive days, every day from 1 to 9 pm, at the Artists' House in Tehran.

A Conversation About Abbas Kiarostami between Jonathan Rosenbaum and Ehsan Khoshbakht

Abbas Kiarostami (1940-2016) Opens in a new tab or window., arguably the greatest of Iranian filmmakers, was a master of interruption and reduction in cinema. He, who passed away on Monday in a Paris hospital, diverted cinema from its course more than once. From his experimental children’s films to deconstructing the meaning of documentary and fiction, to digital experimentation, every move brought him new admirers and cost him some of his old ones. Kiarostami provided a style, a film language, with a valid grammar of its own.

On the occasion of this great loss, Jonathan Rosenbaum and I discussed some aspects of Kiarostami’s world. Jonathan, the former chief film critic at Chicago Reader, is the co-author (with Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa) of a book on Kiarostami Opens in a new tab or window., available from the University of Chicago Press. –  Ehsan Khoshbakht


Brick and Mirror (Ebrahim Golestan, 1963-64)

Written for the catalogue of Il Cinema Ritrovato, published in June 2016.

Iran, 1963-64, Directed by: Ebrahim Golestan

International title.: Brick and Mirror. Alternative international title.: Mudbrick and Mirror. Screenplay.: Ebrahim Golestan. DoP.: Soleiman Minassian. Edit.: Ebrahim Golestan. Cast.: Zackaria Hashemi (Hashem), Taji Ahmadi (Taji), Jalal Moghadam (verbose man in the cafe), Masoud Faghih (pistachio-eating man in the cafe), Parviz Fannizadeh (gay man in the cafe), Manouchehr Farid (the policeman), Mohammad Ali Keshavarz (the mugged doctor), Jamshid Mashayekhi (policeman with broken arm), Mehri Mehrnia (the mad woman in the ruins), Pari Saberi (the nurse), Akbar Meshkin (the man in the court and on TV), Forough Farrokhzad (taxi passenger). Production.: Golestan Film Studio.

Iranian cinema’s first true modern masterpiece, Brick and Mirror explores fear and responsibility in the aftermath of the Coup.

With its title alluding to a poem by Attar ("What the old can see in a mudbrick/youth can see in a mirror."), Golestan's first feature mixes dream and reality, responding to the changing climate of Iranian society, the failure of intellectuals and corruption in all walks of life. It was also the first use of direct-sound in the Iranian cinema, with minute attention given to environmental sound (emphasised by the lack of score) which complements the claustrophobic use of widescreen.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Abbas Kiarostami (1940-2016)

The most celebrated of Iranian filmmakers, his cinematic style shaped by Persian art and culture, Abbas Kiarostami expanded the frame of documentary and narrative fiction forms in human dramas that resonated with international audiences. 

22 June 22 1940–4 July 2016.

Read my obituary at Sight & Sound.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Return to Uncertainity: Geoff Andrew on Kiarostami

An Interview with Geoff Andrew
Return to Uncertainty

Geoff Andrew is one of the most famous Kiarostami defenders in the current scene of film criticism, though the 72 year-old filmmaker hardly needs any defense now. But there is something different, a new perspective in Andrew's approach to Kiarostami that makes his writings and his views something of a discovery even for someone from Kiarostami's homeland, like me.

His very carefully structured book on Ten, from BFI Modern Classics series, represents a distillation of his thoughts and feelings about Ten, and about Kiarostami in general. Also a great part of this brilliant book comes out of the interviews with Kiarostami that he conducted during the past 7-8 years.

Mr. Geoff Andrew is the senior film editor for Time Out London, head of programming of the National Film Theatre, and author of numerous books, including The Films of Nicholas Ray: The Poet of Nightfall and The 'Three Colours' Trilogy.

This interview about Kiarostami’s cinema took place at National Film Theatre, London, April 2011. First it was published in Iranian Film Quarterly (Farsi translation in Film Monthly), and later the general parts of the interview appeared on Aslan Media website which can be read here. These are Q&As that didn't fit in the Aslan Media post.