Andrew Haigh Interview

First published on WOW 24/7

Director and writer Andrew Haigh talks to Katrina Conaglen about his new film 45 Years, which received its UK premiere at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival

45 Years spends a week in the life of Norfolk couple Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) in the lead up to their 45th wedding anniversary. When news comes of the discovery of the long-dead, frozen body of Geoff’s lost love Katya on a mountainside in Switzerland, the seemingly contented couple find fissures in their relationship they never realised were there.

To examine the world of a septuagenarian couple living in quiet idyll in the countryside may at first seem like something of a departure for Haigh, whose critically lauded 2011 film Weekend storied the genesis of a 20-something gay couple’s relationship, set against the vibrant clubbing scene of Nottingham.

But despite the superficial differences, 45 Years “felt like a companion piece”, says Haigh, another examination of “how we define ourselves through our relationships, and how important those relationships can be, and how we can create meaning through our relationships.”

Katrina’s interview with Andrew Haigh:

Of the film’s many pleasures, one that is particularly striking is the vitality and warmth of the couple’s relationship – these are no old fogies with one foot in the grave.

“Its not about their death,” says Haigh. “It’s still about choices, rather than death, and I think that most films about people that age are about death. One of them would die, in most films. Death is in the film, but it’s the death of a young person a long time ago, not their own coming death.”

What the film is preoccupied with, then, is the state of their relationship, and Haigh believes it is up to the audience to decide how healthy that is.

“I have my own personal opinions, and they do actually change (depending on what kind of mood I’m in!) but for the audience, their decision on what would happen in that relationship (to me) will totally reflect them as people. If you’re the kind of person who thinks you can make these things work, then maybe you’ll think they’ll get together. If you’re the kind of person to keep attacking the world, then you’ll probably think that Kate’s going to leave him.”

As proof that Haigh’s prodigious talent is attracting equally impressive collaborators, 45 Years boasts towering performances from cinematic royalty Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courteney. However, their formidable performance didn’t alter his method of directing:

“It was intimidating to start with, just the notion of it [working with Courteney and Rampling] I thought, ‘oh god! Can I work in the same way with them that I can with the guys from Weekend or the guys from the show’ (Haigh produces and writes Looking, the HBO show about a group of gay friends in San Francisco), because that’s a method that I can do.

“And then you meet them and realise, well of course you can. They may have got a wealth of experience, and worked with some really fascinating directors, and that’s quite intimidating, but then I just had to do it the same way I’ve always done it. And they are just the people behind the actors, so in the end it was a really pleasurable experience.”

EIFF: The Lorax

I want to exorcise the sense that I’ve been violated. I’ve just seen The Lorax, you see, and although I’d like to present a cogent argument as to why it is a fetid turd of a film, I fear I may be too damn irritated by the entire debacle to do it rational justice. Hard-upon will follow a bewildering morass of capital letters and ill-considered analogies, but somewhere amidst them all you will grasp my point.

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Wednesday’s Top 5 – Top 5 Star Wars related YouTube videos

(Apologies for the unwieldy title)

Star Wars.

More a way of interacting with the people around you than a set of 3 blinding movies now. I frequently manage entire conversations composed entirely of Star Wars quotes (mind you, that’s not to say the person I’m is talking to has any idea what I’m on about, but then that’s hardly a novelty). More than any other movie franchise I can think of, there is a sense of personal ownership among the fans of Star Wars – that it is inalienably ours. Perhaps this explains people’s unusual fondness for re-imagining the films as YouTube curios.

5. 

Australian-Belgian singer Gotye’s song Somebody That I Used To Know, with its pitch-perfect lyrics about the dissolution of a relationship and inventive video clip, was one of the defining musical hits of 2011. Here, duo Tyler and Eddie – aka Teddie Films – rework the lyrics to describe the disillusionment they feel at George Lucas’ constant re-tinkering with the original canon (most recently his replacement of puppet Yoda with a CGI Yoda for the release of the Blu-Ray edition of Empire Strikes Back). Throw in a perfectly observed recreation of the video (complete with naked George Lucas) and you have YouTube gold.

4.

Richard Cheese really only has one gag – to take pop songs and re-work them into cheesy lounge-style classics – but from time to time he can hit on something giddily transcendent. So it is with his take on Copacobana as a ditty about the Mos Eisley Cantina. Han Solo really does have a smile 12 parsecs wide.

3.

Movie trailers these days are more likely than not to give away, if not simply the entire plot of a film, than certainly All Of The Best Bits. Trailers aren’t cut the way they used to be – evocative, thoughtful, teasing glimpses of What A Film May Be. The 1977 Star Wars trailer is absolutely tantalising. Ace score, too.

2.

“What am I supposed to do – stash her in some itty bitty hole up there in Nigger Town and go sneaking up there at night?” James Earl Jones has one of the most distinctive voices in film and theatre. Darth Vader’s mouth doesn’t move. So it’s a stroke of simple, ineluctable genius to re-dub Darth Vader with some of the choicest quotes from Earl Jones’ celluloid back catalogue. The result? The badassest Vader in town.

1. Star Wars Prequels

The grand-daddy of all Star Wars-related internet videos. Red Letter Media eviscerate that which most deserves scorn in popular culture (their assessment of Prometheus recently was a thing of simple beauty) with penetrating insight and the slavish devotion of a true geek. In a series of three feature-length videos, one for each of the films, they ruthlessly and ever-so-accurately rip apart the atrocities that were the Star Wars Prequels. Considerably more entertaining than watching the films themselves.

Women in Horror: Berberian Sound Studio vs V.H.S.

An incidental happenstance of watching so many films in a short period of time, as I am at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, is that films with quite disparate aesthetics and subject matter start to echo. The viewing of one film informs another. So it is in the case of Berberian Sound Studio, for which my love is well-documented, and V.H.S. The former is a sleek fugue of a film about Gilderoy, a sound designer losing his grip as he creates the sound-mix for an Italian exploitation horror in the 1970s. The latter is a crass American enterprise, a horror anthology, set in the modern day. But both are about men who film women, and how they hurt them. Continue reading

Jim Henson improvising on the set of the Muppets

I can not over-state the importance Jim Henson and the Creature Workshop have had in my life. The day Henson died, when I was 6, was actually my brother’s birthday, and I was so upset I refused to eat any cake or lollies. Which was quite the bold statement of devastation for a 6 year old (hell, there’s little in the world I’d let get between me and cake or lollies now).

Having read numerous biographies numerous times, they all paint a picture of Henson being a gentle, generous man, a hippie with an infinite imagination and a child-like wonder. But also an adult despair of the injustices of the world. All of this is an entirely unnecessary preamble to the magic of a clip like this: Jim Henson improvising on the set of 1979’s the Muppet Movie. The word delightful doesn’t do it justice.

Woody Allen – Early Stand-up Routines

For your delectation: with the new documentary on Woody Allen out in cinemas now (and making film-houses a warmer, funnier place for it), The Red Curtain invites you to take a moment to revisit the brilliant stand-up routines Allen crafted towards the start of his career. Well, we say start, but given he was a paid gag writer in high school, earning more money than his parents combined by age 17, he was already a seasoned veteran by the time of this:

For those who enjoyed Midnight in Paris, you can see the genesis of his love for the Parisian literary salons of the 1920s here, in one of his finest routines:

And the Metropolitan Museum of Art sketch: