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last update 15.Nov.11
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The British Guide to Showing Off
dir Jes Benstock
prd Dorigen Hammond
with Andrew Logan, Brian Eno, Richard O'Brien, Ruby Wax, Simon Callow, Nick Rhodes, Amy Lame, Michael Cashman, Michael Davis, Janet Slee, Molly Parkin, Zandra Rhodes
release UK 11.Nov.11
11/UK Microwave 1h38
The British Guide to Showing Off This documentary about the extraordinary sculptor and performance artist Andrew Logan couldn't be more colourful if it tried. And like Logan's work, it's entertaining while also making an important point.

The film traces his life from childhood to becoming a fixture on the swinging London art scene in the late 1960s, with lively present-day interviews narrating a fabulous collection of photographs and old footage, some of which was shot by Derek Jarman, who won Logan's 1975 Alternative Miss World. Meanwhile, Logan and his team are setting up the 2009 edition of his riotously lurid Alternative Miss World in North London.

In Logan's world, everything's better when covered in gold-leaf confetti, and the joyous atmosphere he creates is infectious. The competition, first held in 1972, judges poise, personality and originality, exactly like Crufts dog show, which was Logan's inspiration. The event now merges scenes that didn't exist in 1972: club, party, art, fashion, gay. This raises clear parallels between Logan in London and Andy Warhol in New York, and the film includes anecdotes about their odd friendship.

Alternative Miss World has been documented before, including in a 1980 Cannes-selected movie that faced legal battles for using "Miss World" in its title. But Benstock realises that the competition is inextricably linked with Logan's life and work: essentially the pageant is one of his sculptures, depicting a fantasy society in which there are no barriers to age, nationality, gender or sexuality.

Along the way, participants and friends offer candid views of Logan and his work. "There's a resistance in the art world to anything that's enjoyable and upbeat," says Brian Eno. "Snobs underestimate Logan's crowd-pleasing sculptures and architectural expertise. But his work has had a huge impact on the arts and fashion." And we also visit the Welsh village where his museum is located; he was the first living British artist to have one.

Benstock assembles this with a witty visual flair, blending the priceless photos and footage with sparkly animation. The 2009 competition is documented both on-stage and behind the scenes. Then at the end, Logan immediately turn his attention to finding a sponsor for the 40th anniversary event in 2012. Although he worries that the Olympics might upstage it, it's more likely to be the other way round.

15 themes, language, nudity
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Louyre: This Our Still Life
dir-scr Andrew Kotting
with Eden Kotting, Leila McMillan, Andrew Kotting, Joey Kotting, Nigel Hudson, Alex Rodgers, Clautia Barton, Andy Binns
andrew and eden release 18.Nov.11
11/UK BFI 57m
this our still life Kotting follows up his short Hoi-Polloi (1990) and his first feature Gallivant (1996) by returning to Louyre, his family home in the Pyrenees. There are some amazing images here but, like his other films, it's a challenge to watch.

Andrew lives in an isolated house with his wife Leila and their daughter Eden, who has Joubert syndrome, a rare neurological condition. Now 22, Eden is a lively young woman with a vivid sense of humour, although only her parents can understand her speech (which is subtitled in the film). The film is a collage of their life together, including visits from friends and family members through four distinct seasons. All of this subtly explores society's narrow ideas of beauty and normality.

The title comes from drawings Andrew and Eden make of random objects, which echoes the film's structure. There's no obvious link from shot to shot, as scenes abruptly cut into each other to create a meandering, freeform exploration. The result is both earthy and intriguingly ghostly. It's also very difficult to watch, because it has no sense of pace or narrative. Even the audio track is a kaleidoscopic collection of voices, live sound and snippets from movies and TV programmes.

There are also clips from Kotting's earlier films and home movies, while Eden's exuberant charm shines through every scene she's in, whether she's teasing her father or singing along with something from her eclectic CD collection. But the filmmaking style is so mannered that we end up scratching our heads rather than understanding what Kotting is trying say.

U some violent images


Hoi-Polloi 2/5
dir-scr Andrew Kotting
with Eden Kotting, Leila Dorcas, Andrew Kotting, Joey Simon, Mark Adam, Tracy McCloud, Gladys Morris
eden and andrew 90/UK BFI 10m

hoi-polloi Showing with This Our Still Life, this short was shot in the same place 20 years earlier, showing an infant Eden in a variety of settings with family and friends. The Kottings moved from London to Louyre in the Pyrenees the year before, and the film has a strong sense of the natural world, as if they are just discovering the earthy rhythms after leaving the big city behind. But this is an experimental film, packed with oddly unsettling images that highlight dangers in this new environment. The heavily edited mix of Super 8 and video footage in black and white and colour is intriguing, and there's also a sense of playful youthful energy, but it ultimately feels far too haphazard to engage our interest.
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Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place
dir-scr Alex Gibney, Alison Ellwood
prd Will Clarke, Alex Gibney, Alexandra Johnes
narr Stanley Tucci
with Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, Ken Babbs, Paula Sundsten, Jane Burton, Kathy Casamo, George Walker, Steve Lambrecht, Jerry Garcia, Larry McMurtry, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg
kesey release US 5.Aug.11,
UK 18.Nov.11
11/US 1h47

london film festival
magic trip At the height of his success as a novelist, Ken Kesey picked up a film camera and set out to make a road movie. But the 30 hours of footage and unsynchronised sound were never edited down until now. And this invaluable documentary compiles takes us along for the ride.

Inspired by Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Kesey and the Merry Pranksters decided to drive a colourfully painted schoolbus, christened Further, from California to the New York 1964 World's Fair to get a feel for what was happening in America. They made it there after two weeks of free-wheeling craziness with amusing small adventures every step of the way. But they also get so lost in dropping acid that everything starts getting rather chaotic, sending their relationships into soap-opera territory. Which makes the drive back home a bit surreal.

The film edits the astonishing 16mm footage to follow the road trip chronologically. And the scenes are often outrageously candid and unfiltered. Meanwhile, the filmmakers add an audio track consisting of Tucci's smirking narration and tellingly humorous reminiscences from the Pranksters themselves. What emerges is a fascinating look at the 1960s in the wake of John F Kennedy's assassination, surrounded by civil rights marches and a divisive election campaign.

The film is also a history of LSD itself, as Kesey was introduced to the drug at university in a government study (the audiotape of his first trip is inventively animated). Indeed, it later emerged that the CIA developed LSD as a mind-control drug for interrogations. Oddly, the film uncritically presents acid as positive and mind-expanding, ignoring bad trips or lasting effects. As a result, Gibney and Ellwood have made a movie that's revealing and important, but will only engage with insiders.

More interesting is the belief these people share that this is how society ought to be: free, fair and nonjudgemental. When they got home, they realised that they had started a movement that wouldn't die. Of course, that's when the fearful backlash began, as well as a movement from Kesey himself to get people to realise that there comes a time when you must stop taking drugs. But after the rest of the film, we're not convinced that Gibney and Ellwood believe that.

15 themes, language, drugs, nudity
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Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life
4.5/5     MUST must see SEE
dir-scr-prd Werner Herzog
with Michael Perry, Jason Burkett, Lisa Stotler-Balloun, Charles Richardson, Fred Allen, Delbert Burkett, Melyssa Burkett, Jared Talbert, Amanda West, Damon Hall, Richard Lopez
perry and burkett release UK Oct.11 lff,
US 11.Nov.11
11/Ger 1h46

london film festival
into the abyss Herzog departs sharply from the quirky tone of his recent documentaries to offer a startlingly astute and sensitive exploration of a horrific murder case. But more generally, he's looking at the use of the death penalty in the United States.

The only developed nation still executing its own citizens, America's history with capital punishment is baffling to Herzog, who looks into one case to try and understand the cultural mindset. After a ghastly 2001 triple murder in Texas, the 18-year-old cohorts were convicted in separate trials: Michael Perry was sentenced to death, while Jason Burkett received 40 years. Both talk extensively on camera to Herzog, who also interviews family members of the victims and locals from the town of Conroe.

What emerges is a detailed picture of how this crime has affected a variety of people, and not one problem is solved by executing Perry in July 2010. Typical for Herzog, he finds telling angles on the story by asking deceivingly simple questions. The conversation with Melyssa Burkett, who married Jason in prison, is given a twist from the first shot, which has a highchair in the background. Sure enough, she's pregnant, but is cagey about how that happened when she's not allowed conjugal visits with her husband.

By contrast, the most telling interview is with Fred Allen, who ran Texas' Huntsville Death House through the execution-filled Bush years, then had a crisis of conscience. And then there's Delbert Burkett's moving interview: he's also behind bars and realises that his example probably let to his son's derailed life. Mixed with painfully honest comments from victims families and the killers themselves, the film takes on a tone that thoroughly disarms our expectations.

Herzog never drums up sympathy for the criminals; he reserves that for the victims' family members. Indeed, watching Perry and Burkett turn on each other is ugly. But the question is whether a civilised society should be killing its citizens. Throughout the film, Herzog quietly observes facts and emotions that challenge an-eye-for-an-eye justice, noting that Jesus rejected this kind of Old Testament principle, and yet it's America's religious right who staunchly support executions. This is one of those films that gets deeply under your skin, and without ever preaching makes you examine your prejudices and perhaps change the way you think.

15 themes, language, violent images
24.Oct.11 lff
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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall