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Director Andrea Arnold

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Director Andrea Arnold

Post by Admin on Fri Jan 08, 2010 10:45 pm

Swedish

http://www.dn.se/kultur-noje/film-tv/andrea-arnold-alskar-dans-och-diskbankar-1.1023634

Andrea Arnold loves dancing and counters

Published 2010-01-08 10:36

Photo: Sean Gallup - All music in the film is my choice, it should feel right but also provide another form of emotional information, "says Andrea Arnold. Here she gets Jury prize at Cannes.

England's new movie queen Andrea Arnold bioåret give a kick start. The acclaimed kitchen sink drama "Fish Tank" is a modern love story about a 15-year-old girl with problems dancing dreams.

It all started at Tilbury Station in Essex, east of London. A cocky 17-year-old girlfriend were arguing loudly with her boyfriend who was standing on the platform opposite. Andrea Arnold's talent scout liked the "stage" and offered the young girl to come to an audition for a film entitled "Fish Tank". The young Katie Jarvis thought it was a bad joke and refused to disclose their phone number. A few days later, she still showed up in a youth center for the test shoot. Several months of endless searching for dance clubs and youth clubs in Essex was over. Andrea Arnold had found her Mia. And the film world saw a completely unknown teenage star light up - last fall, she was nominated for a European Academy Award for his magnificent contribution to the confused and angry Mia.

- Katie had just the energy, spirit, vulnerability and innocence that the role demanded. The only problem was that she hated to dance. Before each dance scene was the entire film crew to leave the room, "says Andrea Arnold and laughs.

The British film directed new star makes a late entrance after having forgotten to switch your mobile to Swedish time. . Twenty minutes ago LINGER her into a hotel room in Stockholm, with a charming smile, Pippi Longstocking-braids, black suit and blekvit British complexion.

At the glittering Hollywood gala thanked her for the statuette with his reply: "This is what we in England call 'The Dogs Bollocks'." After the feature film debut film "Red Road" - a dense emotional thriller about vengeance and obsession from the surveillance cameras Glasgow - she became the British the film's new darling of the Cannes 2006th During last year's festival raised her return to the skies and got jury prize for his animated kitchen-sink drama. "Fish Tank" is about the unruly young Mia who dreams of dancing away from a cramped apartment in a gray area next to Million A13 motorway outside London. When her mother brings home its just as mysterious as charismatic new boyfriend, played by Michael Fassbender, turned her life upside down.

Originally, the act was extended to her own home in Kent, but then moved the story to the other side the River Thames. She acknowledges that parts of the film is based on events in her own upbringing, but will not go into details.

- As a young person, I do not particularly like Mia. I was a true punk, but I was not nearly as angry as she is. For me, punk was mostly a way to highlight to the world. I liked the whole atmosphere around the punk movement, but always put legs on it smelled trouble. We were on the Kings Road - the points on one side and "Teddy" ('50s rockers) on the other. Then we went against each other, just as in a Sergio Leone-West, it was still pretty sweet, "says Andrea Arnold and laughs.

For the film Mia is dancing a safety valve. One way to try to balance his enormous anger and frustration. Songs that Nas "Life's a bitch (and then you die)" is literally a lifeline.

Andrea Arnold knows all about the healing power of dance. In the early 80's Andrea Arnold danced behind artists such as David Bowie and Queen in the BBC's legendary popshow "Top of the Pops". As a self-taught freestyle belonged to her own dance program stables. The now-celebrated film director Andrea Arnold is still happiest when she dances.

- When I was young was dancing a way to let off some steam while being myself. And I must say that the dance is still among the most joyful thing I can do. I read about a professor who had spent five years about to come to the dance makes people happy. I could tell him in five seconds!

Arnold is bred on the British dance music and independent music. As director chooses Arnold always enjoy music for his films.

- Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" is still one of my favorite songs, so heartfelt, wonderful! But the "Fish Tank" made me start digga hip hop seriously. I am a beginner and have so far only downloaded artists like Ghostface Killah, Notorious BIG, and Gang Starr. All music in the film is my choice, I want it to feel right but also provide another form of emotional information, "says Arnold.

As a screenwriter, she always goes on gut feeling, trying to type quickly so that her "taps are opened."

- I never start with a theme or a topic, but with the characters. "Who are these characters? What are they doing? Why are they there? What do they gain? What's it like in space? and so on. . I have no master plan when I write the script, only strong images. I will start in mid-act with a scene that mirrors the entire film - and then chisels I put it away.

Yet, Arnold is a small gold mine for anyone who wants to find metaphors; control of surveillance cameras, horse in shackles, desolate river banks and ornamental fish. But the symbolism is nothing she is aware of during the recording process.

- Sure, I can detect certain patterns and themes afterwards, but not even I understand the whole movie itself. I would like the audience to debate at the pub with the title "Fish Tank" means. Alla får hitta sin egen mening. All must find their own meaning. I will not reveal my.

She is aware of the risks tied to the film's white horse can be seen as a facile metaphor for Mia's situation, but says she never thought about it during recording.

- The horse just turned up all the time every time I started writing. After clear cut movie I dreamed of the horse and started googling horses on the Internet. I realized that it has a lot of female sexuality. Freud believed that horses symbolize the father's dark side ... so I obviously can trust my instincts .., "she says and smiles contentedly.

At home in Britain, she has appointed Ken Loach obvious heiress and branded as a wash genuine British social realist.

- Since I do not want to make movies about aliens and spaceships, it is difficult to avoid counters. Real people have counters, so. . . . .

- All asking me about Ken Loach - he would probably beat me in the head. Ken Loach is a very political film, but I'm probably more interested in people. I do not want politics to be the main thing, but I would like people to think a bit more on teenagers as Mia who may take much crap in the press. People are afraid to go out in some neighborhoods.

. She herself grew up in a similar area of council housing. Arnold goes beyond the clichés of a disintegrating society with deadly youth running around and spread terror.

- There are old middle-class templates that areas such as this is a living hell, but it's not. They are full of life, a lot of energy, many children. I do not think it is so bad environments, "says Andrea Arnold.

Yet she cites a UNICEF report which says that Britain has the world's most unfortunate youth.

- We are the world's fifth richest country, and still growing number of children living in poverty. Why? We should seek the answer to it instead of judging them.

Nicholas Wennö nicholas.wenno @ dn.se

Began as a dancer

Up to date with the film "Fish Tank", which won the jury prize at Cannes 2009th
”No. Began career as a dancer in popprogrammet "Top of the Pops", as presenter of children's program "and as an actor in" This Saturday Morning Show "and sitcom" The Kumar's at No.. 42” på 80-talet. 42 "in the 80s.

Name: Andrea Arnold
Age: 48 years.
Lives: London.
Family: Daughter.

Selected filmography
"Wasp" (2005, short film), "Red Road" (2006), "Fish Tank" (2009).

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Re: Director Andrea Arnold

Post by Admin on Thu Jan 14, 2010 12:33 am

http://www.indiewire.com/article/2010/01/13/andrea_arnold_on_fish_tank/

by Peter Knegt (Updated 6 hours, 44 minutes ago)
“I Don’t Want To Feel Safe”: Andrea Arnold On Her “Fish Tank”
Andrea Arnold at "Fish Tank"'s UK Premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Photo by Peter Knegt.

“I don’t think about themes,” “Fish Tank” director Andrea Arnold told indieWIRE. “I don’t think, ‘Oh, well, I’m going to make a film about this.’ I just start writing, and I try to write as truthfully as a I can, and I let it lead me where it leads me. I don’t have the bigger picture in mind. People come up to me after and say, ‘the themes are this’ or ‘the themes are that,’ and I say, ‘really? I haven’t even thought about them.’ I just can’t think in that way. I think there’s lots of meanings in different situations that are interpreted in different ways. But if I told you exactly what I thought the film was about, then it would be very definite and I think that would be a shame.”

Nevertheless, Arnold - interviewed upon the film’s screening at the Toronto International Film Festival - actually quite enjoys when people say what they think the themes are.

“It’s interesting because you get people with very different thoughts,” she said. “Not everyone agrees. And I like the fact that the members of the audience will experience it in their own way. Rather than me being very definite about saying what it’s about. I try to bring into what I’m doing the uncertainty that I think life has.”

This Friday, U.S. audiences will get to experience “Fish Tank” in their own way. IFC Films is releasing the film in selected theaters nearly nine months after its 2009 Cannes Film Festival debut - where it won the fest’s special jury prize. It’s already been quite warmly received in its native UK, where it received numerous year-end kudos, including a best director honor for Arnold at the British Independent Film Awards.

The film follows fifteen-year-old Mia (Katie Jarvis, in her debut performance), who struggles in the confines of her working-class existence in Essex, England. Living with her younger sister and their boozy single mother (Kierston Wareing), Mia’s only real passion seems to be for urban dance, which she frequently breaks into abandoned apartments to practice. But when Mia’s mother’s new boyfriend, Connor (Michael Fassbender), shows up, her world significantly alters, and Arnold takes her - and us - on an undeniably authentic and often quite fearless cinematic journey.

“Fish Tank” works in large part because of Arnold’s unique and dedicated approach to filmmaking. She didn’t give the actors the full script - releasing the plot to them on a gradual basis - and she filmed “Tank” completely in sequence.

Katie Jarvis in a scene from “Fish Tank.” Photo courtesy of IFC Films.

“It worked really well,” she said of the process. “If I have the luxury of doing it again, I will. I mean, filming in chronological order… It is a luxury. And I do feel like to schedule it that way on our filming [timeline] - which was 30 days - was quite an achievement on behalf of the people who scheduled it because we had to return to locations, and all of that is very time consuming. Normally, people would be wanting to film everything in one location and then that location’s done with…”

Arnold said the process was predominately beneficial for her lead actress - who had never been on a film set before.

“The biggest thing was that, for Katie, the film made sense to her,” she said. “Had she been filming out of sequence, having never done anything like that before, I think it would have been really confusing. So I think it really worked best for her… And, you know, I think it just makes sense in general. The story just evolves and is revealed to them like life is. I think actors really enjoy it.”

The process seemed to work for Jarvis, who also won a British Independent Film Award for her performance and was widely considered one of world cinema’s great acting breakouts in 2009. Though, as the story goes, it was a complete act of chance that she was even cast.

“We were looking for an authentic girl,” she said of casting Jarvis’s character. “We were looking in the area where we were filming to find somebody real and not necessarily an actor. And Katie was spotted by one of the casting assistants having an argument with her boyfriend. She was in a train station, on one platform, while he was on the other. So she couldn’t physically get at him, but she was telling him off for something that had happened two days ago and hadn’t seen him since. And she was giving him a piece of her mind. The casting director went up her and said, ‘you’re fantastic… we’re looking for a girl for a film, would you be interested?’ I think Katie didn’t believe her.”

Jarvis decided to come to an audition despite her doubts, and realized it was no joke. Arnold and the film’s casting director were impressed with what they saw, and she got the part. But Arnold admitted she was still quite nervous about whether it would end up working out.

“Having a lead who had never done anything before, that was probably my biggest challenge,” Arnold said. “Because I really didn’t know if it would work out. It felt like a huge risk. She is in every moment of the film, and while I felt confident with her as a person, I didn’t know whether she would be able to do it all. You just can’t know. But I like that challenge. I don’t want to feel safe, or necessarily on top of it. I like to feel scared. And I was.”

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Re: Director Andrea Arnold

Post by Admin on Thu Jan 14, 2010 6:22 pm

http://filmmakermagazine.com/directorinterviews/2010/01/andrea-arnold-fish-tank.php

THE DIRECTOR INTERVIEWS The Director Interviews RSS Feed
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
ANDREA ARNOLD, FISH TANK


Long before she became an Oscar-winning filmmaker, Dartford native Andrea Arnold settled on a path that was anything but conventional. After moving to London in the late ’70s, she worked as a dancer on Top of the Pops, and later became a TV presenter in Britain for Saturday-morning kids’ programs like No. 73, Motormouth, and the enviro-awareness series A Beetle Called Derek. Never entirely comfortable in front of the cameras, Arnold was always writing, logging story ideas and character sketches. She left television in the early ’90s, went to film school, and made two shorts that screened at Cannes. In 2003, her 26-minute short Wasp, about a chronically stressed, emotionally desperate single mother living in a Dartford housing project, nabbed an Academy Award for best live-action short. Then came Arnold’s Cannes Jury Prize winner Red Road (2006), a raw, suspenseful, ingeniously constructed personal drama set mostly in a dark CCTV surveillance office in Glasgow. It was the kind of film—moody, absorbing, nerve-jarring, expressionistic—that made you sit up and take notice of this remarkably assured new filmmaker, and wonder where she would direct her energies next.

With Fish Tank, Arnold revisits the distressed, working-class locales of her earlier work, telling the story of Mia (Katie Jarvis in a confident and steadfastly believable performance), a 15-year-old girl growing up in a nondescript council estate in Kent. Angry, alienated from her female peers, and frustrated with life at home—she’s always at odds with curvy-cougar mom Joanne (Kierston Wareing) and petulant younger sister Tyler (Rebecca Griffiths), the three of them continually trading obscenities and cutting remarks—Mia finds peace in solitary self-expression, dancing freestyle to hip-hop tunes in an abandoned flat. Things change when Joanne brings home new boyfriend Connor (Michael Fassbender), a strapping presence in the all-female household who wins hostile Mia over with his easygoing, paternal airs, giving her the respectful attention and flattery she craves, but also stirring the volatile teen's first exhilarating pangs of desire. Arnold stays skin-close to Mia as the story develops, DP Robbie Ryan's camera tracking her every fitful movement, whether she's head-butting a rival, fleeing a menacing pack of boys, or woozily regarding Connor as he tucks her in. Even when their rapport takes on a troubling cast, Arnold never hits an obvious beat, which makes Fish Tank's mix of hard-knock realism and tenderly observed adolescent portraiture even more impressive (it won the Cannes Jury Prize last May), evoking the kitchen-sink-style Brit dramas of yesteryear as well as an angstier, often dizzyingly sensual spin on the coming-of-age tale that feels utterly fresh and contemporary.

Filmmaker spoke with Arnold about her faith in cinema, the simple act of observing everyday life, and why her New Year's resolution is to dance every day.

IFC Films releases Fish Tank on Friday.


FISH TANK WRITER-DIRECTOR ANDREA ARNOLD. COURTESY IFC FILMS.

Filmmaker: Do you consider yourself a watcher, an obsever?

Arnold: I think I must be. Because when people ask me where does your inspiration come from, I would say absolutely my first answer is life. You know, by sitting on the bus and looking at people or just walking around. I am always seeing things that kickstart my thinking. And that definitely seems to be what I get most excited about. So I’d say that I’m somebody who’s a watcher, an observer. I think we’re all a bit like that to some degree. People who know me well say I notice things they don’t notice.

Filmmaker: Does that mainly concern people and faces or do you think you’re noticing elements in an environment as well that other people might ignore? For instance, do you single out details in settings that are perhaps banal but that speak to you in some way?

Arnold: How something gets going is a mystery, really, isn’t it? For example, the other day I saw a woman walking up to the station. It was very cold, it had been snowing, and she had not enough clothes on for the weather. She had a load of kids and she was pushing a pram up the hill, and she was kind of shouting at the kids, I don’t know what they were doing. I could tell she was trying to hurry for a train. She had some track-suit bottoms on and they’d kind of slipped down, and you could see this expansive flesh at the back. It seemed such an intimate thing to me. I was behind her, and I just started imagining her whole life and a house and what it was like. And that is the kind of thing that I will go and write down and think about. And it grows. I’m always saying that my films have all started with images, so I would consider that potentially a starting place for a whole story. Sometimes the images are not things I see, but they come to my mind out of nowhere. But there’s probably made-up things too, and they’re stored somehow. That’s how I work. When people say “Where do ideas for films come from?,” I think, well, just walk down the street! There’s a thousand faces and you can imagine a thousand lives. Everybody’s life has got drama.

Filmmaker: How does that act of note-taking play more specifically into the craft of your filmmaking?

Arnold: Ever since I was very small I’ve kept notebooks and written down things I’ve seen. I can’t remember the first time I started doing it, but I was probably at primary school, I’d have been about eight or nine. Sometimes I’ll expand on an idea, I’ll write about it and see where it leads, and just write some notes down. I often find when I start writing a script, I don’t go back to those books. I might flip through and refresh my mind, but to be honest, I think it goes on and stays there, you don’t need a ntoebook. Your brain is the notebook. I don’t really use a lot of what I’ve written down. And if I’m writing, when I’ve got an image that I’ve decided I want to explore, I usually write around it and try and work out its context. I’ll let my brain be quite free and see what happens. Then it will take more shape.

Filmmaker: It plays out in the actual aesthetic of your films, too, in the sense that we have such a strong point of view, and perspective. In Red Road, for instance, there’s the surveillance aspect, but the information we receive is all through one character’s point of view. In Fish Tank, Mia’s point of view dominates the film. What is it about that approach that you think works best for the stories that you want to tell?

Arnold: I always make a decision based on what feels right. I really do trust my instincts. It’s not like I’ve made a plan to do that. I don’t work that way. Probably the script is written from one person’s point of view, and it just feels right to me. When you’re watching, if you’re going to get very involved with someone, it feels right to be with them all the time. In an earlier draft of Fish Tank, I experimented with having scenes with the mom by herself because I knew that, seen through Mia’s point of view, she was going to be hard to empathize with. I had a scene that got cut where Mia goes into [Joanne’s] room and she goes through a bag next to the bed and in it is all the things to do with her kids that she saved, little pictures and photos and certificates, all crumpled in the carrier bag. I think that would have said quite a lot about her mom, that underneath she does care about them. But when we put the edit together, it was one of those things that didn’t sit easily, so it didn’t get used, which I was always a little bit sad about but think was the right decision. So it does bring challenges doing it from one person’s perspective, but I think it also brings an intimacy. Sometimes people say to me, I feel like I’m in your film or I feel like I’m really experiencing it, it’s uncomfortable. I think that’s probably because of that very intimate perspective.

Filmmaker: On the other side of things, because you portray characters so honestly, warts and all, and because we get to see them in all their complexity—they’re not romanticized, idealized people—that brings us closer too. How do you get actors to embody these people in the way that you’ve imagined?

Arnold: I don’t know [Laughs]. I have this real faith in cinema. I’m always amazed when you finish filming and then you put an assembly together. I know this sounds really silly, but whenever I see it, I think wow, that’s a whole world that now exists! And it’s always a surprise to me, because making a film is so complicated. Every day is full of stops and starts, and it’s not a very fluid thing. It’s quite brutal and clumsy, the whole machinery of it. Then when you put it together and [see] this world that you’ve created, I’m amazed every time. Wow, look at that! I never sort of believe it’s going to happen.

Filmmaker: And the authenticity comes from ...

Arnold: One of the main things is casting. If you cast close to what you’ve written, then you’re almost there. For Fish Tank, I was always looking for a real authentic girl that was close to what I’d written. Although Katie isn’t Mia, she’s got the vulnerability and also the spirit of her. I didn’t ask her to really be anything other than herself. And that’s often what my main note is to the actors. If I’ve cast close, then I’m not really wanting them to be anything other than themselves. When I saw the assembly, I thought Oh, she’s not Katie, she’s Mia! Because I’ve written her lines and I’ve decided what she’s wearing and I’ve given her a place to live, all these decisions add up to this world being believeable. So it’s a combination of all those decisions that you make. Nothing gets put in front of the camera that you haven’t thought about. I didn’t know if it was going to feel like a performance or not, but I was really pleased and surprised to think, She is the girl that I wrote, because I wasn’t sure.

Filmmaker: Personally, I like films that are daring and bold and visceral and challenging, especially when they examine the lives of people we rarely see, people who are invisible and generally ignored by society. And I think there’s a great tradition of this kind of filmmaking in Britain, especially, beginning with the kitchen-sink dramas and Ken Loach, all the way up to the present, with Lynne Ramsay and Michael Winterbottom and many others, including you. What keeps you invested in working in that one milieu?

Arnold: I don’t have a choice, it just seems to pick me. I don’t think I have any say over what stories I seem. I told you about that woman I saw. I wanted to go back and write about her straight away. That’s how it works. I don’t have an intellectual thought about oh, I’m going to make a film about this world or these people or this subject or theme. It’s not like I have a plan, really.

Filmmaker: But location is very important to you, isn’t it?

Arnold: Because to some degree, with the stories I’ve been telling as well, where you’re born and where you grew up has a huge impact on how your life is. Your circumstances and the things you’re born into are everything, especially when you’re young. I think maybe that’s why I get wrapped up with the environment and location when I’m filming. It matters and it says something about people—who they are and how they live. All my films have had that element. When I think about the next thing I’ll do, I know I’ll do it again because it’s almost like a character, the location.

Filmmaker: I think it’s easy for people to describe these settings around the council estates as bleak because I see you as approaching it from a completely different place.

Arnold: Oh, thank you for saying that, because I hate it when people say “grim.” Somebody the other day said “Did you pick the grimmest places in Essex to film?” And I said, you know, I don’t see that place as grim. It’s brutal, it’s maybe difficult, it’s got a sadness to it, that particular place where they live in the film. There used to be a lot of industry and it’s all closed down. There’s a lot of unemployment. There used to be a big Ford factory, and great huge car parks. All those car lots are empty now and the grass is growing up in the tarmac. But it’s got a wilderness, and huge, great skies. It’s a mixed thing. I don’t want to see it as grim. I’m fed up with that word. I think people are always looking for simplistic ways for summing things up. So I’m really happy you said that.

Filmmaker: One of the things I notice about the atmosphere we find ourselves immersed in, as viewers of your films, is that there is a fairly constant and palpable tension, certainly in Red Road. And in Fish Tank, it erupts at a certain moment. There is a turn in the story where it becomes a different kind of film.

Arnold: People have asked me about this tension before. And I’ve been trying to work it out. When I first wrote Red Road and I gave it to some people to read, they said “It’s a thriller.” And I went, Oh, really? I don’t think it is. Someone said to me, in a thriller, the audience is supposed to know as much as the protagonist. That’s what they told me, from some school of filmmaking. Obviously, we don’t know as much as Jackie does. I was always trying to explore with us just watching her and not always having everything explained. I like to push that as far as I can. I wonder if it’s something to do with point of view, because if you’re living with someone that intensely, and if things are dramatic in their lives, I think you feel it with them more. I wonder if that’s where the tension comes from. You know as much as they do, and it’s a bit more visceral.

Filmmaker: In Mia’s case, there’s an emotional intensity she’s experiencing that we feel while we’re on this journey with her. The stress of her immediate domestic environment, the conflict she has with Joanne, which is masking all these competitive tensions between mother and daughter, and also the desire that’s she’s beginning to feel for Connor. Dance is an outlet for her, and becomes even a form of communication at one point.

Arnold: For me, the dancing in the film is about her having something that’s her own. She has to be quite defensive in her life and she seems to have nowhere she can be at home. Everywhere she’s got her guard up. So this is a place where she can let that down a bit. I wanted her to have something that was her own, so dancing seemed like a good thing. It’s one of life’s real pleasures. Apparently, there was a Cambridge professor who did a study on happiness—it took him five years—and he came back and said dancing made people happy. I could have told him that in ten seconds! [Laughs] You know, I’ve always loved dancing, but my New Year’s resolution is to dance every day. I just put on some music and dance. I don’t dance as much as I used to and I miss it, and I was thinking, why do you have to go anywhere? Just dance in your room. Maybe it was Mia who gave me the idea. [Laughs]

Filmmaker: What an amazing resolution. Reintroducing that in your life must also be a way of you connecting with somebody you used to be long ago.

Arnold: Yeah. What I love about filmmaking is that everything I’ve ever done in my life, it all seems to come into the filmmaking. Anything I’ve done. Dancing is something I used to do and when you’re working with cameras and actors, it is a bit like putting movement together and it reminds me of dancing, the choreography between actors and cameras. So that’s what I loved about it when I started. Everything I’ve ever done now makes sense. It isn’t redundant anymore.

# posted by Damon Smith @ 1/13/2010 12:26:00 AM

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Re: Director Andrea Arnold

Post by Admin on Mon Jan 25, 2010 5:36 pm

http://beyondthegreendoor.blogspot.com/2010/01/interview-with-fish-tank-director.html

Monday, January 25, 2010
Interview with "Fish Tank" director Andrea Arnold
Andrea Arnold, along with Shane Meadows, is part of an exciting tide of British directors who are redefining the kitchen sink realism of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh for a new post-punk generation. I sat down with the critically acclaimed director of “Fish Tank,” the follow up to her Cannes-winning debut “Red Road,” at the Soho Grand to briefly discuss the importance of detail, female insight and listening to imaginary horses.

LW: First off, one of the things that most impresses me is how concise and precise the images are in your films. You say everything you need to say within the least amount of frames. Obviously a lot of people are going to think of the kitchen sink realism of Loach and Leigh but there’s also a poetic, nearly Neorealist quality to your work. Can you talk a bit about your filmmaking influences?

AA: Ooh, I have quite a lot. Everyone from Terence Malick to the Dardenne brothers to David Lynch, Michael Haneke –

LW: “The White Ribbon.” Everyone hated it but me. (laughs)

AA: Yeah, I saw it at Telluride. I don’t know if I was just in a funny mood that day, but it was the first time during a Haneke film that I wanted to leave the cinema.

LW: That’s good!

AA: Yeah, I know. He wants me to feel that way.

LW: Well, you direct in a similar way. I mean, you don’t have a comfortable filmmaking style at all. That seduction scene between older man Connor played by Michael Fassbender and Katie Jarvis’s teenage Mia, which is the centerpiece of “Fish Tank” – that’s damn hard to watch.

AA: Yeah, one of my friends described it as “everything I didn’t want and everything I wanted.”

LW: Let’s talk a little bit about that disturbing scene, because interestingly, I found myself smiling during it.

AA: (laughs surprised) Oh, really?

LW: Yes, but what made me smile was the realization that this is a director who actually “gets it” – how seduction can turn to coercion in the blink of an eye. I can’t remember when I’ve seen this rite-of-passage aspect even depicted onscreen and yet it’s something a lot of teenage girls go through. It was like a catharsis for me to see it. It’s also a situation few teenage boys ever experience, which is maybe why male filmmakers wouldn’t think to depict it. Can you talk a bit about its importance and how you developed it? It also happens to be the most visually stylized scene in the film.

AA: Well, I think a lot of it just starts with the writing. When I’m writing I try hard to imagine that situation and how it would really be. And a lot of the details, I think it goes back to what you were saying about being precise. I’m able to concentrate on details, to really think them through, to really imagine them. Quite often there will be some strange detail that I don’t even understand. There was an earlier short where I wanted a shot of a balloon floating across this wasteland. And I’m getting everyone to do the shot, and I don’t think they understood quite what I was getting at, but I somehow knew it was really important.

LW: David Lynch works that way.

AA: Oh really? Does he? (laughs flattered) Well, like with the horse in this film. When I was writing about the horse –

LW: Was that the first image that you had when you started writing?

AA: No, it wasn’t the first. But when I started writing at the beginning always there was that horse. I actually wrote two different beginnings, just trying to find my way into the story, to try to see this person, to ask, “What is she doing on this day?” Yet every time I started writing about her, every time I came at it a different way, the story still came from the horse. And the horse in the script was always an old, dirty brown horse. It wasn’t a white one. But she just kept meeting that horse so I thought, well, the horse is supposed to be there. I didn’t question it. A couple people said it was a metaphor – a heavy-handed metaphor – but I never meant for it to be a metaphor for her situation. The horse just wanted to be there.

LW: Sometimes a horse is just a horse.

AA: Maybe so.

“Fish Tank” is now playing at a theater near you. My review and interview with lead actor Michael Fassbender is now playing at Slant Magazine.
Posted by Lauren Wissot at 7:08 AM

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Re: Director Andrea Arnold

Post by Admin on Sat Feb 13, 2010 6:00 am

http://www.nashvillescene.com/2010-02-11/film/director-andrea-arnold-discusses-stocking-her-raw-sensual-fish-tank/

Director Andrea Arnold discusses stocking her raw, sensual 'Fish Tank'
By Steve Erickson
Published on February 12, 2010 at 12:09pm

FISH TANK
NR, 123 min.
Opens Friday at The Belcourt

British director Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank shows that the tradition of kitchen-sink realism is alive and well. Set on a housing estate in Essex, the drama follows Mia (Katie Jarvis) on a troubled, self-destructive path fueled by her attraction to her mother's boyfriend Connor (Michael Fassbender, from Inglourious Basterds and Hunger).

Arnold uses handheld camera effectively, carefully creating an atmosphere of reality. She refrains from passing judgment on Mia, who sometimes seems prematurely aged. At other times, the girl seems impossibly naive, as when she auditions at a dance club without realizing how sexualized the other dancers will be. Mia's only healthy outlet is dancing, and the film's soundtrack features a powerful mix of soul, reggae and hip-hop.

Arnold's methods of making the film were somewhat unusual. She never showed the full script to her actors. Instead, she gave them the scenes in which they appeared just a few days before the shoot. Additionally, her lead actress is a 17-year-old nonprofessional who initially thought Arnold and her crew were pulling her leg when they asked her to appear in a film. A lot could have gone wrong in Fish Tank, but instead, it confirms that Arnold is one of the most promising British directors to emerge in the past 10 years. Though jet-lagged — she downed several cups of tea throughout our interview —Arnold spoke with the Scene shortly after landing in the States to promote her film.

Scene: Are the songs used in Fish Tank your personal favorites?

Andrea Arnold: The music choices were a long battle. Music's always difficult in films. It's so hard to clear a lot of it. I wanted to try and use the same music when we were filming. Some of it couldn't be cleared in time. Some of it I discovered as I was looking for it. There are some songs I already knew. It's about half and half. For me, the music is like a character. Finding music that feels right is part of my job I like the most. I didn't want to use a score. I want the music to work emotionally, on lots of levels. Originally, I wanted the mom to listen to Bob Marley. There was just no way I could afford it.

What inspired you to shoot in 1.33 aspect ratio?

Arnold: When I made my first feature, Red Road, one of my delivery guarantees was that I had to deliver a 1.33 version. I can't remember what country it was for. I had to go through every single shot and reframe it. I found that incredibly interesting. You always had a person at the center of each frame. It made you really think about framing. When I thought I was going to make a film about a girl, I tested the format before shooting. I liked it. For the locations we had, the rooms are small and anything wider feels redundant. 1.33 really suited the location, as well as dancing. All around, it felt absolutely right. Using all the negative also seemed like a good idea.

Did you try to find the ugliest parts of Essex?

Arnold: I don't think they're ugly, and I don't understand why people do! I find it really baffling that people describe them as miserable and grim. It's a housing estate where lots of people live. The majority of Britain lives that way. It's a normal way to survive. I see it as beautiful. I can't see it as grim whatsoever. It's tough. It's got motorways, but I like them. The sky is huge there, which you can't see in London. There is a declining industry there. Ford had a big factory, and a lot of the people that live there used to work at Ford. All those car parks are empty. There used to be a lot more work there, and it was livelier.

What advantages do you think your method of not showing actors the full script has?

Arnold: This is the first time I've done it. It's an experiment. What I wanted was to create an innocence in the actors' interactions. In life, we go about our business without ever knowing what's going to happen to us. I'm always trying to get the actors to work without knowing too much of what they're doing. Katie didn't really understand until very late that she was supposed to like Michael. A lot of her actions towards him are hostile. So I think it really did work.

Was it hard to get the right balance of innocence and experience for Mia? In particular, I'm thinking of the dance club scene.

Arnold: When I was looking into the dance scenes, I went to clubs to research them. At a lot of them, they have all kinds of dancers. Perhaps I didn't make it clear enough, but these clubs take all kinds of girls. I thought it was very believable. I do show a girl in particularly skimpy clothes, but there are other girls who have more clothes on. Those girls are all the ones that we auditioned. It was really nice having them together. They were a very diverse group. I think Mia's got the quality of being in between a woman and child. She's hardened but naive at times as well. It's a very interesting time in a girl's life. I saw lots of girls who seemed like they were already women at 13 or 14 and girls who were 17 or 18 but acted like they were 12.

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Re: Director Andrea Arnold

Post by Admin on Wed Feb 17, 2010 3:06 am

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/ordinary-people-but-extraordinary-film/article1470120/

Ordinary people, but extraordinary film

With her second feature film Fish Tank about to open, Andrea Arnold is one of Britain’s hottest directors

Jennie Punter

Globe and Mail Update

With only three shorts and two features to her name, British writer-director Andrea Arnold is firmly established as an exciting talent to watch, thanks in part to an impressive track record of prestigious international awards for her low-budget observational dramas.

Fish Tank, her second feature, a volatile coming-of-age story set in an Essex housing project, arrived at the Toronto International Film Festival last September with the Cannes Jury Prize in hand and a slew of prizes and nominations on the horizon.

Her drama Wasp, about a single mother who leaves her four hungry children outside a pub while on a date, won over 30 international awards including an Oscar for best live action short in 2005.

And Red Road, her Glasgow-set first feature about a surveillance camera operator who develops an obsession, attracted a lot of interest as being part of a Dogme-95-inspired trilogy of films, each using the same set of characters. The film went on to win the Cannes Jury Prize in 2006, and was recently named one of the best British films of the last 25 years by The Observer Film Quarterly.

But the director is wary of putting too much stock in such acclaim. “When my daughter comes home with a piece of art and the teacher said it should have been done differently it angers me,” says Arnold, a children’s television presenter for several years before turning to filmmaking. “There is no right or wrong in art, there is only whatever you feel the passion to produce. I try to be my own judge and ask myself if I’ve fulfilled my intentions.

“But for small films like mine, ultimately prizes mean more people get to see them and what more do you want than that,” says Arnold, who exudes a cheery, warm-hearted intensity in a conversation sprinkled with funny anecdotes from tours of duty on the festival circuit.

“When we were doing the translation [of Fish Tank] for Cannes I was asked what ‘butters’ means — it’s Essex slang for ‘butt-ugly ’— so they had to find a word for it in French,” Arnold laughs, adding, “Some people have had difficulty with the broad accents, but even if you don’t understand every word, I like to think dialogue is irrelevant anyway, it’s not really what’s going on.”

Indeed, were it not for the importance of a single song, Bobby Womack’s soulful 1968 cover of California Dreamin’, “the emotional arc of Fish Tank could be understood with the volume down low. The film follows surly 15-year-old loner Mia (Katie Jarvis), who finds refuge from constant battles with her uncaring single mother (Kierston Wareing) by practising hip-hop dancing. Mia slowly warms up to her mother’s new boyfriend Connor (Michael Fassbender), who lends her a video camera to record an audition tape. Connor’s tender fatherly demeanour toward Mia and her younger sister softens the household strife until the story takes a darker, more complicated turn.

Arnold, who is frequently compared to well known British directors of social realism Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, always casts “real people” alongside pros. Jarvis, whose character is on screen virtually every second, was discovered at an Essex youth club. “I wanted to try a couple of new things, so I decided the actors wouldn’t read the script ahead of time and that I would shoot in sequence,” Arnold explains. “For [Jarvis], who had never acted, that was one of the biggest things that worked. As the story unfolded she began to understand what was happening, and this mirrors Mia’s journey. Of course, I did tell her certain things because I couldn’t have her be surprised by something that might be difficult to do.

“I’m really looking for performances that feel genuine, like life.”

For Fish Tank, Arnold filmed in and around the dreary working-class housing projects of Essex, which lies just across the estuary from her hometown Kent. “Essex is less crowded than Kent and has more wilderness, these wonderful wide open spaces,” she says adding with a laugh, “There must be some psychological reason but, when I’m writing, if my characters are inside I’m always trying to get them outside.” This attraction to wild spaces, not to mention stories of ill-fated passion, should serve her next project well; Arnold was recently tapped to take the helm of a new adaptation of Emily Bronte’s 1847 novel Wuthering Heights.

Fish Tank opens this Friday in Toronto, with other Canadian dates to follow.

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Re: Director Andrea Arnold

Post by Admin on Sun Feb 21, 2010 2:05 am

http://www.montrealgazette.com/sports/2010wintergames/Taking+nothing+granted/2588228/story.html

Taking nothing for granted


By John Griffin, The GazetteFebruary 19, 2010

Director Andrea Arnold.
Photograph by: Rankin Photo.,

It’s a bright, sky-blue winter day in Montreal, with the sun strong enough to hint at spring to come.

But in London, where Andrea Arnold picks up the phone, it’s “dark, dark and so damp the streets are wet. I’m cold through to my bones.”

Those could be words out of one of the bruising characters in Arnold’s new film, her second, the remarkable coming-of-age domestic drama Fish Tank.

To the uninitiated, the people dotting Arnold’s landscapes are honest to the point of brutality, and so stormy they’re only one gene removed from savagery. But to the writer, the damaged nuclear unit living in a blasted semi-urban council flat complex in Essex are only “speaking their mind. There’s no holding back for politeness sake. I come from a working-class background. I understand.”

Fish Tank is the story of Mia (Katie Jarvis), a volatile 15-year-old prone to trouble, expelled from school and shunned by former friends. One day, her sexy, foul-mouthed mother (Kierston Wareing) brings home a new boyfriend named Connor (Michael Fassbender) who treats Mia like a human being and brings love, a fragile stability and big trouble into the home.

As has been her pattern over two prize-winning short films and Red Road, her first, prize-winning 2006 feature, Fish Tank began with a fixed image in her mind.

“I won’t tell you what the first one was, because it gives away too much of the story,” says the affable, articulate and plain-spoken talent. “But the second is a picture of a girl dancing with headphones on an overhead motorway crossing. Down below, there’s a man in a car.”

Out of that came a film that won the coveted Jury Prize in Cannes last year, and will rock the world of those tough enough to take it in theatres now.

“The guy in the car is watching her and wondering who she is, why she’s dancing and what would happen if they ever met.”

Arnold realized she would need a strong, natural presence for the role of the girl, and was hard-pressed to find one.

“We first went the traditional route, looking for a girl with a passion for dance in agencies and clubs. Then we went to Essex and found Katie on Tilbury Town Station fighting with her boyfriend. She came from the area and had the spirit and the vulnerability we were looking for.”

Arnold also went the non-actor route for her little sister Tyler, played by spitfire Rebecca Griffiths. The adult roles were filled by pros Wareing (It’s a Free World) and Fassbender (Hunger).

Arnold works fast – Fish Tank was shot in six weeks – and in order, with the cast only knowing what they were going to be doing on any given day. It makes the end result feel like heightened real life, and has proven an award magnet since her first short, Milk, in 1998.

Though she will admit the recognition at Cannes has made it easier to find funding, “I wake up in a cold sweat most days. I’d been trying to make films for years. I still take them one at a time. Every film I make is the last one.”

It’s not for lack of ideas, but because modesty and superstition refuse her the luxury of thinking her fame will open doors.

“Making a film is such an enormous thing. There’s the focus, the energy, money, so many other people to work with and the commitment to them. I give it my all. I don’t take anything for granted.”

Asked what’s next, she says “ever heard of Wuthering Heights?” It has been a favourite of hers since she was a teenager, with themes common to her own work. It is, however, her first film that

isn’t entirely her own and therefore a major step out of her usual discomfort zone.

“I think I’m doing it for the material and two months of shooting on the moors,” Arnold says with a laugh. “I’m going to do it my own way, and I may upset some people. But as long as I don’t upset myself, everything will be all right.”

Fish Tank is playing at Cinéma du Parc.

jgriffin@thegazette.canwest.com

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Re: Director Andrea Arnold

Post by Admin on Thu Feb 25, 2010 2:11 pm

http://www.bexleytimes.co.uk/content/bexley/times/news/story.aspx

Father’s pride at director’s BAFTA

25 February 2010
THE father of an avant-garde director who scooped her second BAFTA praised his daughter saying "the girl done good".

Fish Tank, the second feature-length film from Dartford-born director Andrea Arnold, 49, won the Outstanding British Film award at London's Royal Opera House.

Speaking after the win on Sunday, her proud father John, who still lives in Dartford, said: "She did really well didn't she? The girl done good."

He added: "Andrea, or Pandrea as I call her, is quite a private person, so she's just keeping low right now. She doesn't stand by convention."

The awards impressed critics by avoiding big-money films with newcomer Carey Mulligan scooping the Best Actress Award and Colin Firth named Best Actor for his role in A Single Man.

Ms Arnold made her directorial debut in 2005 with the Oscar-winning short film Wasp and went on to win the Cannes Festival's Jury Prize twice - for Red Road in 2006 and Fish Tank last year. Red Road, her first feature film, also won a BAFTA in 2007.

Speaking after giving a bizarre acceptance speech which included a description of her previous night's dream, she said: "It's a really British film. Fish Tank has been described as not a pretty vision of Britain, so the fact that people are giving us this Bafta tonight means a hell of a lot.

"It's not really an easy ride this film, so I appreciate being supported by my homies."

Ms Arnold, who attended Fleetdown Junior School (now Leigh Technology Academy) until she moved to Greenwich in her teens, added: "I definitely didn't expect this. You just don't. How can you possibly expect it? I definitely didn't."

The film stars Katie Jarvis, 18, from Dartford, who has shot to fame on the strength of her performance, having never acted before.

It tracks the unstable lives of a family in a council estate and stars Jarvis as flawed heroine, Mia. She shares an apartment with her mother and sister before her mother's new man Connor (Michael Fassbender) moves in, further destabilizing the family.

lizzie.thornton@archant.co.uk

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Re: Director Andrea Arnold

Post by Admin on Fri Feb 26, 2010 8:22 pm

http://www.littlewhitelies.co.uk/blog/new-man-in-town/

Does the increasing influence of women directors in mainstream cinema herald a new chapter of masculinity?
Tom Seymour | 26.02.10

We can all take a deep breath. Modernity is still alive and an Emerald City of equality, meritocracy and fairness still exists somewhere over the rainbow. For this has been a good year for that most endangered of species – the female film director.

Women directors are, relative to their audience, a tiny minority. Of the top 250 grossing films of 2008, nine per cent were directed by women while 12 per cent were written by women. The number of women working as directors did not rise last year, but their work is now receiving recognition in the highest echelons of the industry.

At the recent BAFTAs, Kathryn Bigelow overcame imposing competition from her ex-husband James Cameron, becoming the first woman to pick up the Best Director gong in the process. Andrea Arnold’s social-realist film Fish Tank won outstanding British film, and Carey Mulligan won leading actress for her role in the critically acclaimed An Education – also directed by a woman. Sam Taylor-Wood’s Nowhere Boy and Jane Campion’s Bright Star were also nominated for awards.

Avatar, the most profitable film of all time and back at the number one spot in the UK box office this week, was ignored for everything but the technical awards. Cameron, however, will be hopeful of receiving more recognition from the Academy, an institution that, in its 71 year history, has only ever nominated a woman for Best Director three times – Jane Campion (The Piano, 1993), Sofia Coppola (Lost In Translation, 2003) and Lina Wertmuller (Seven Beauties, 1976).

There is a certain irony to Cameron suffering due to the ascendancy of female directors. Cameron is renowned for his iconic portrayals of strong women – be it Ripley, Newt in her arms, turning to face her nemesis, or Sarah Connor prophesying the oncoming storm. Avatar, or Smurfahontos, is no exception – Neytiri fights the evil humans with as much ferocity as any male. But, aside from promoting equality, will the average moviegoer actually benefit from the increasing influence of femininity on mainstream cinema?

Although female directors have been recognised more on the continent, Hollywood and its affiliate cinematic traditions have always been male dominated. As a result, it seems, the films produced have tended to focus on explorations (or introspections) of male identity. As a result, women have tended to occupy stock characterisations – noirs have femme fatales, horrors have final girls, westerns have the dutiful wife or the whore with a heart of gold. It seems, however, that the tables are beginning to turn and less sympathetic, more opaque depictions of masculinity are starting to move towards the forefront of popular Western cinema.

Emerging as an exemplery in this respect is Kathryn Bigelow. Bigelow has been making Hollywood feature films for almost 20 years, and has long been considered a talented metteur en scène known for creative but uneven films. Her new found success therefore contains a degree of inevitability. Indeed, some critics have outright lambasted her presence in the list of nominees,”The hype around Bigelow is that she may be the first female director to win an Oscar,” griped critic John Pilger recently. “How insulting that a woman is celebrated for a typically violent all-male war movie.”

The Hurt Locker is indeed violent and all-male, but typically so? As written on these pages, Bigelow is right to be celebrated for The Hurt Locker; a tour de force in suspenseful, ambiguous filmmaking that can be interpreted, equally, as both an anti and pro-war film. Bigelow has a background in conceptual art and semiotics, and from her second feature, Near Dark, through to The Hurt Locker, complex and conflicting depictions of masculinity, violence and power (as well as a predilection for the odd massive set-piece) have emerged as recurrent themes. As such, she has succeeded in standing outside of the genre-pieces normally offered to emerging women directors, who are often expected to make the high-school rom-com, weepy melodrama or chick-flick.

But Bigelow is not working alone in changing the way gender politics are explored on-screen. Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, which includes Michael Fassbender’s abrasively seductive Connor, and Peter Sarsgaard’s smooth, glamorous David in Lone Scherfig’s An Education are, in their own way, every bit as confrontational and challenging as Jeremy Renner’s unhinged soldier in The Hurt Locker.

These men are narcissistic, loyal to no-one but themselves and seem disinterested in attempting to understand or contain their impulses. They seem to run from introspection or responsibility. The films frame their actions by the consequences they exert on others, and offer little in way of insight or sympathy.

Established Line Producer Scott Bassett, who has worked with Sally Potter, Clio Barnard and Sallie Aprahamian, has questioned why Jane Campion’s Bright Star has been so uniformly ignored in the awards season thus far:

“I’m astonished that Bright Star was almost entirely overlooked, particularly considering it was a festival favourite and one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year. I’m not sure how much of it is really to do with gender politics, but you could certainly argue a case that this year female filmmakers with distinctive personal visions, such as Jane Campion with Bright Star and Claire Denis with the incredible double whammy of 35 Shots of Rum and White Material, have been overlooked in favour of more macho testosterone-fueled fare.”

He continues, “The Hurt Locker is undeniably a tight, well constructed thriller, but I don’t think it has anywhere near the depth, vision or originality of Bright Star. Perhaps if Jane Campion went and blew some s$#! up, she might do better. Is Bigelow only getting the attention that she is this year because she’s dressed up as a man?”

Maybe this is the only way to break into the biggest, oldest boys club in the world, or maybe, just maybe, we are ready for some new, harder, more critical views of masculinity from voices that have been kept quiet for far too long.

Tom Seymour

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Re: Director Andrea Arnold

Post by Admin on Sun Feb 28, 2010 11:54 pm

http://www.kentnews.co.uk/kent-news/Film-director-wins-Bafta-with-unknown-star-newsinkent33275.aspx?news=local

Film director wins Bafta with unknown star

KENT NEWS: Movie director Andrea Arnold has scooped another award after her “risky” decision to cast an unknown Kent actress.

This week she took the Bafta for Best British Film with Fish Tank.

The gritty drama tells the story of troubled 15-year-old Mia, who is kicked out of school and dumped by her friends. She is played by first-timer Katie Jarvis.

Mia’s life is further complicated when her mother brings home a handsome new man, played by Michael Fassbender – who was in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds and for which he jointly won Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Fish Tank had already won Best Director at the British Independent Film Awards, along with Most Promising Newcomer for Jarvis.

She said: “I was only 17 and doing long hours. People on set were nice to me. Andrea was lovely, like a second mum.

"She took a massive chance on me. I was literally just some girl off the street. It could have all gone wrong, but I’m glad it all worked out.”

Dartford-born Jarvis, who has a baby daughter Lily Mae, was seen by a casting director arguing with her boyfriend at Tilbury station, and was persuaded to audition.

She was offered the part on her 17th birthday. Jarvis received her Best Newcomer award from Bond movie legend Sir Sean Connery on her 18th birthday.

Arnold, 48, from Erith, has already taken an Oscar in 2004 Best Live Action Short for her Dartford-set film Wasp, plus another Bafta for Best Newcomer in Directing for Red Road in 2007.

She is known for using local people in gritty dramas that can make for uncomfortable viewing. Arnold rarely holds back and is not worried about digging deep into her characters’ disturbing stories.

She said: “I love to take risks. There’s so much money involved in making a film that some people don’t like to take risks.

"I do, because you won’t learn if you don’t.”
One of those risks was to film Fish Tank chronologically, which is unheard of in the movie business.

Arnold said: “I did that because Katie had never done it before. It would make sense and she would be aware of what was going on in every scene. She could see the story develop.”

Arnold’s next movie project is Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.

She said: “It’s a story that’s very close to my heart. It’s close to a lot of people’s hearts, which makes it a huge responsibility.

“It dropped out of the sky before Christmas for me. I never thought I would ever take on an adaptation of a book.

“Think about Heathcliff: he’s an outsider, a gypsy. It’s a big class story. All my films have been about class and Wuthering Heights is more of the same.”

POSTED: 28/02/2010 10:00:00

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Re: Director Andrea Arnold

Post by Admin on Mon May 02, 2011 4:28 pm

http://jodiehatley.blogspot.com/2011/05/andrea-arnold.html

Monday, 2 May 2011
Andrea Arnold

There could be no bigger inspiration to an aspiring female filmmaker living in Britain today than Andrea Arnold, whose two feature length films, Red Road (2006) and Fish Tank (2009) are arguably two of the best British films of the last decade. Both relentlessly grim but ultimately hopeful, they each won the Jury Prize at Cannes and a BAFTA in their respective years. Like Ken Loach before her, Arnold not only manages to tease out truly astounding, amazingly natural performances from her actors, but she manages to capture the beauty and wonder to be found in the smallest of things, be it the wind at the top of a Glaswegian tower block or a heart-shaped balloon sailing above an Essex council estate.

Arnold began her career in the media as a dancer on Top of the Pops, and then moved to presenting Saturday morning television show No 73 in the 1980s. After her short films Milk (1998) and Dog (2001) she rose to fame with her Oscar-winning third short, Wasp (2003). Deceptively simple in premise but stunning in execution, Wasp follows a day in the life of a single mother, who leaves her four young children in a pub car park while she tries to impress an ex-boyfriend.

In 2006 came Red Road, the story of lonely CCTV operator Jackie, who one day notices a man from her past on her screen and begins to stalk him. Long segments in which words just aren't necessary due to Kate Dickie's mesmerising performance makes for a tense, deeply enthralling thriller in which a brutally explicit act of revenge is overshadowed by a wonderfully subtle final moment expressing the power of human forgiveness.

Arnold followed with Fish Tank in 2009, which tells the story of Mia (first time actress Katie Jarvis), a fifteen year old girl living on an Essex council estate who has a penchant for violence, bottled cider and hip hop dancing. Deep down, Mia just wants to be loved and accepted in a way that she never has been, and needs someone to show her the way. That someone arrives in the form of her mother's new boyfriend, Connor (Michael Fassbender). The sexual tension between Mia and Connor feels so real you could reach out, grab hold of it and cut it with the proverbial knife. But of course, in the social realist tradition, nothing works out the way one would hope, but again, there is an undercurrent of hope beneath the mayhem.

Arnold's films are not only exceptional in the way they portray the harsh beauty and grim reality of working-class life, but what is truly impressive is her focus on women and female sexuality; these are stories about women, in which the men are sexually objectified in a way that is all too rare in contemporary cinema. Arnold's films are undeniably gritty, and despite the often immoral actions of her leading ladies, Arnold doesn't allow us to judge or condemn them, even when they're urinating on someone's living room carpet. And that is no small feat.

* This was a piece of writing I did as an entry in a Sight & Sound competition for female film writers. I won't win, but I enjoyed writing it, and it's always good to keep writing. The brief was to write 300 words on someone in the film industry who is an inspiration to you, and this comes in at over 500 words, so I've got some editing to do!

Posted by Jodie Hatley at 10:40

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