Aug 13, 2011

24FPS at Empire Big Screen 2011: Day 1

24FPS At Empire Big Screen 2011: Day 1

The movies have taken over the O2. There are movie cars [the DeLorean, various Bond cars], movie costumes [the Batman Begins batsuit, though I'd have preferred to see the Batman and Robin one, if only to giggle like an immature 12 year old at the fact it has nipples], movie props [original Ray Harryhausen models], and even Darth Vader, who apparently wandered, apropos of nothing, past the press room around 9am. Yep, this job can be weird.

I started my day proper (after an abortive Pint of Milk live, which was supposed to feature Mark Gattis, who got hung up at a Sherlock panel, and so didn't appear) with a 3D 'debate' panel. Debate was limited as WETA artist Dan Lemmon, Empire's Dan Jolin (who was supposed to be the 3D sceptic of the panel, but kept somewhat quiet) and two representatives of a post conversion house talked 3D. I didn't really get an entirely satisfactory answer to my question of whether, given that this 3D process is just about five years old, they thought the new technology (or artform, as they all seemed to regard it) had yet had its Birth of a Nation or Citizen Kane moment.

The tone of the session may have been very pro 3D, and I remain, if not explicitly anti 3D, a significant sceptic, that said, the way that the panel talked about their work - particularly conversion - did make me think about it as art rather than commerce for perhaps the first time. There was (too) much love for the unremittingly terrible Avatar, but there were some interesting things said, particularly about the upcoming Dredd, in which DP Anthony Dod Mantle is apparently using 3D for facial close ups, in order to use faces as landscapes of a sort. 3D, on that evidence, might yet become interesting.

The next two panels were both hosted by Kim Newman, whose reviews in Empire were the thing that got me into horror movies and who remains something of a journalistic hero. The first panel was supposed to be a discussion of the enduring appeal of Dracula, but none of the other participants made it, so Newman simply threw the floor open to questions on any (horror related) subject. He spoke with the passion and humour that makes his criticism so much fun to engage with, and, when I asked about the video nasties, reminisced at length about the DPP list ('a shopping list'), his warm fuzzy feeling for Last House on the Left (the first review he sold) and the fact that that era, while terrible for the country, was the making of many of his generation of critics. We also got tips on some up and coming horror directors to watch for, a sceptical response (from the author of Empire's Video Dungeon series remember) about the idea that bad movies can be good and droll observations about the annoyances of being a 'vampire completist'. Okay, so it wasn't the panel planned, but I doubt I'll enjoy many more this weekend.

Immediately following that panel, Newman returned with Tom Six, director of the Human Centipede films for a discussion of the recent BBFC ban of Human Centipede Part 2: Full Sequence. Six; young, with a friendly face and manner and clad in a straw stetson and khaki suit was about the last thing you'd expect of the man who just made a film in which a man wanks with sandpaper. He engaged with Newman and with the audience, giving full and frank answers to questions, in perfect English with a pronounced Dutch accent, usually with his tongue somewhat in his cheek.

We were told that the recent appeal against the banning of Part 2 has been rejected, and the filmmakers and distributors are now talking with a barrister, taking advice about whether the film is legally obscene, and planning a fresh run at an appeal. Six seemed both frustrated and amused by the BBFC; frustrated because they have somewhat spoiled his film by publishing a detailed (but, he says, selective) synopsis and are, inadvertently, encouraging UK fans to illegally download his film rather than pay for it, and amused because the film has already passed uncut in the much more censorious Australia. Six also noted that he understood how the film could cause offence, but that he didn't understand the ban, because 'How likely some idiot will make a human centipede?'.

There was an amusing picture painted of the audition process for a Human Centipede film, as Six related auditioning his Part 2 lead. He was asked to rape the Centipede as part of the audition, and raped a chair in the room 'like a maniac', at which point 'I knew he was the man for the part'. Asked about the possibility of Hollywood remake, Six said he'd sign off on it if there were big stars involved 'if they get Tom Cruise on his hands and knees, I'd like to direct that film'. Finally we got some teasing hints on Human Centipede Part 3, which will be shot in the US, 'will upset a lot of people' and will shoot this coming January. I haven't yet seen the Human Centipede films, but after spending some time with their director I'm looking forward to them.

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