Two Days from the Santa Barbara Film Festival
by Gail Kearns
Day One: Opening with the Coens
The 950-seat Granada Theater in downtown Santa Barbara was filled to
capacity for the opening night's screening of the Coen Brothers' comic
thriller, "The Big Lebowski". The SBIFF's president of the board, Dr.
Joseph Pollock, served as Master of Ceremonies at the gala, reiterating
the vision of the festival: to bring more young filmmakers into the
playing field of big time distribution.
Dr. Pollock warmly introduced SBIFF's new artistic director Renee Missel
who is largely responsible for pushing the festival to greater
prominence. Ms. Missel introduced the distinguished feature jury, most
of whom were seated in the audience. This year's feature jury includes
Peter Antonijevic (director, "Savior," "Mala"), Patricia Cardoso
(director, Oscar- winning short), Charles Champlin (film critic),
Michael Fuchs, Peter Graves (President, Marketing, Polygram Filmed
Entertainment), Ivan Passer (director), Randolph Pitts (CEO, Lumiere
Films), Vilmos Zsigmond (cinematographer, "McCabe and Mrs. Miller,"
"Cutter's Way" "Deliverance," "Blow Out") and Ilene Kahn Power (Jury
Ms. Missel then went on to say that, "to most of the world, the Coen
brothers symbolize the spirit of independent filmmaking. From "Blood
Simple," "Raising Arizona," "Miller's Crossing,"Barton Fink," and
"The Hudsucker Proxy," to "Fargo," Ethan and Joel Coen have captured
Americana through their singular and humorous journey. Tonight, with
"The Big Lebowski," they will take you on a wild journey, so buckle up
your seat belt."
Ethan Coen, the film's producer, introduced the film. He began by
expressing regrets from the film's star, Jeff Bridges, who was unable to
attend the festivities as he is on location shooting another film. He
did mention, as did Ms. Missel, that the real "dude" upon which the film
is loosely based was also seated amongst the filmgoers. He and Missel
challenged viewers to find him in the audience.
Day Two: Bob Hoskins Gets Back to Basics with "TwentyFourSeven"
Actor and screenwriter/director Bob Hoskins ("Mona Lisa," "The Long Good
Friday") was in attendance Friday evening for the screening of his new
movie, "TwentyFourSeven" directed by twenty-five-year-old Shane Meadows.
The film, shot in black and white, is Meadows' first feature film and
will be released later this year by October Films.
Hoskins plays the part of Darcy, an inspired visionary who is determined
to bring a boxing club back to life as a way of rescuing a group of
pot-smoking young hoodlums from their bleak existence in the government
housing projects of Nottingham. Hence, the title, "TwentyFourSeven,"
which refers to the characters' lifestyle--twenty four hours a day,
seven days a week of nothing to do but hang out and cause trouble. The
story hinges on Darcy's inability to follow his own guidance about
controlling rage, when at the climax of the film Darcy nearly pummels to
death the father of one of the boys.
In an on-stage interview with Peter Rainer following the screening,
Hoskins explained how he started his involvement with Meadows' low
budget feature. Stephen Woolley, the producer of "Mona Lisa," sent
Hoskins a tape of one of Meadow's video shorts and told him about the
feature film Meadows wanted to make. They sent Hoskins the script and he
met with Shane. That was it. As it turns out, the script for
"TwentyFourSeven" was written with Hoskins in mind. "It was one of those
projects you couldn't possibly avoid," Hoskins stated. "Usually, you
choose a project and you do your best, but then along comes a project
that chooses you. And it's asking for a lot more than your best. If
you've got any sense, the only thing you can do is surrender."
When asked if he thought the working class and their problems, a strong
theme in "TwentyFourSeven," was an indication of a trend of films coming
out of England, (not unlike "The Full Monty" and others) Hoskins said
that basically what happened in England, for the years conservative
Margaret Thatcher was in power, a new culture was developing--and now
movies will reflect this new enlightenment. "Culture," he paused, "you
can cover it in cement, but it's like grass. Eventually, it will come
through. And after twenty years, all of England has a very different
story to tell, it's got a very different culture, and it's going to be
telling it. Now that we've got Maggie off our backs."
Regarding the kinds of roles Hoskins often gets cast in may have
something to do with his thick Cockney accent. Hoskins says the whole
class system in England goes on accent. If you've got a Cockney accent
like his you may be treated in a certain way. As he so humorously puts
it, "As soon as you open your mouth they lock up the silver and send the
Rainer pointed out that his role as a boxing coach in "TwentyFourSeven"
is reminiscent of some of the boxing pictures Hollywood made in the
'30's and '40's. Hoskins said "Angels with Dirty Faces" with James
Cagney was one particular movie that Shane Meadows may have referenced,
especially the aspect of its being shot in black and white. Although at
first Hoskins thought it might seem a little too pretentious, he soon
realized that had it been shot in color. it might not have worked as
well. "Shane," he added, is influenced by all kinds of people, but he's
never been trained by anybody. What you see on the screen is what he's
made up on the street. It's entirely his own style. He's extraordinary."
Indeed, when Hoskins started out as an actor, he had very little
training himself. He went into an audition for a play without a single
bit of real training and still secured the role. That may be one of the
ways in which he connected with director Shane Meadows who, when he met
him, was finding his own way on his first feature.