This film’s writer and director, Maureen O’Connell, is a student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. The school doesn’t make a good first impression with all its diction and dialects. But her film does. I’m a bit of a jerk about British drama training. Derek Jacobi once made an offer of employment that I refused while asked for another beer. That’s my general attitude about the Kenneth Branagh tribe. Nobody’s ever produced duller Shakespeare than Mr. I-Am-a-Hard-Working-Shakespearean-Dammit! O’Connell comes from Ireland… usually an ace up an actor’s sleeve… except in Mr. Branagh’s case. If O’Connell can keep RADA off of her back, she might just have something very fine going on as a director. She’s made a great film here. There are some technical issues with sound that annoy me, but they seem easily solvable by simply converting a stereo track to mono and blending a few audio transitions together. Someone could fix that up in a few minutes for her.
The film is about a comfortably middle-class girl who seems disconnected from her family and friends. She takes a sudden turn toward what I can only call suburban violence. The film builds quietly toward a surprising viciousness that seems very real. O’Connell darts around the action like she’s making a documentary. She works well with actors, somehow getting large groups of them to create scenes that are shockingly realistic and disturbing. There’s not a hint of awkwardness in her camera work. In fact, she seems, along with director of photography Arthur Mulhern, to revel in what I call the messy image. It is my belief that only people who seek out messy images can become great filmmakers. I will not explain that too much. It should be obvious to any filmmaker. The film contains a crystallizing and gorgeous image where O’Connell points the camera into the sun and tracks a running group of teenagers after a fight. It’s a great image that violates the norms of video photography. In fact, I notice quite a bit of light leaking into the lens during the film. O’Connell’s violence is shocking but also mesmerizing. She approaches it in a slightly off-kilter manner that I can’t quite get a handle on. Just when you think it’s time for her to calm down and quiet things, someone gets kicked in the face. She just has a natural sense of drama.
Her lead performer, Marilyn Bane, conveys her role brilliantly. She is a cross between likeable innocence and brute savage that I want to hit with a baseball bat. Really fine work. All the actors are terrific and the group of ass-kicking girls is just horrifying.
So this Maureen O’Connell is probably going to be making something very fine for the BBC soon. Get ready for it. Because it won’t be pretty. But it’ll leave a big bruise for a long while. She’ll most likely have to get over all that RADA stuff. Although, to contradict myself slightly, she does do this nice little Romeo & Juliet thing that I listened to!
Quirky Pictures conducts another animation workshop for school children. This time it was a nine day workshop at Great Missenden C of E Combined School. The students made four films based on tales from around the world. I love the freely drawn lines and cutout characters combined with the very matter of fact narration by the kids. They are good storytellers. What fun art classes like these must be. I never had so much fun when I was a kid. I’m a bit jealous.
Salman Khan teaches math and science via YouTube video lessons. It’s called Khan Academy. He teaches a wide variety of subjects including algebra, calculus, biology, physics, chemistry and statistics. He thinks everyone should be able to get an education for free and he does not think universities are doing it properly. The education model needs to be rethought and rebuilt. Many people think so and that’s why Kahn Academy has so many students and is attracting venture capital money. He’s getting more viewers than most university web sites. Here’s a PBS NewsHour piece about him:
Here’s a lesson on adding and subtracting fractions:
This is a film made in a workshop run by Quirky Pictures for the BBC Children in Need at the Downsview Special School in the U.K. It’s just insanely beautiful. These kids are learning to be free with various artistic modes and they have made something that is mysterious, magical and wonderful. They are 9 – 12 years old and they make all their paper cutouts, puppets, and props. They storyboard and watercolor and narrate. They have their own little movie studio going into operation. These workshops must be something to see because these results are something very rare. I think the BBC should put together a television show and get all these things on the air.