After a prodigiously early start to his career – working for Jim Henson whilst still in his teens and directing a notorious music video for dance-pop powerhouse Frankie Goes to Hollywood in his early twenties – Bernard Rose gained recognition as a feature film director in the 1990s with a series of critical and commercial successes such as supernatural-slasher Candyman (1992) and Beethoven biopic Immortal Beloved (1994). Rose seemed set for a fully-fledged Hollywood career, but after an unpleasant experience with his 1997 adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina – Warner Bros. insisted the film’s running time be cut from 140 to 108 minutes – he shunned the studio system and returned to independent film production with his searing poison-pen letter to Hollywood: ivansxtc.
We asked Jemma Desai from I am Dora, which returns to the ICA this Saturday, how it all got started. Here’s what she told us:
I started I am Dora as a somewhat a personal project.
It was much like an online journal, where I was able to express how I felt through the images and quotes. The publication and event series came out of my own experience of film curation. I work in the programming department of film festivals and often find myself in conversations about film where I feel at odds with the discussions that place what I feel is an arbitrary value judgment on the worth of a film. Sometimes my response to a film is anything but objective, and this is when I feel I most engage with film as a piece of art.
Béla Tarr is a director who divides the field. He makes slow, stark films about lives in which little happens, combining old-fashioned values and innovative methods. He records the basic elements of domestic life with incongruously sweeping, virtuoso cinematography and picks apart the rudiments of human role-play with elaborate subtlety, coordinating gritty detail and a sense of the universal in a way that some see as visionary and others find tedious. Jonathan Rosenbaum, the American film critic, has dubbed Tarr a ‘despiritualised Tarkovsky’. I find him a less lapsed and more conflicted creature: a hopeful cynic or scatological mystic, whose films are as aggressively earthbound as they are inspiring.
On Sunday 9 December the ICA Cinema will hold a screening of James Franco’s My Own Private River – the first time the film has been publicly exhibited in the UK.
The project has a rather idiosyncratic history: whilst working with Gus Van Sant on the set of Milk (2008), in which he had been cast in the role of Scott Smith, Harvey Milk’s lover and campaign manager, Franco seized the opportunity to ply the director with questions about My Own Private Idaho (1991) – his self-professed favourite film – the subject of River Phoenix and his landmark performance being a particular point of fascination.