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Michael Winterbottom makes lots of movies

Posted in FILM by Laura H on February 10, 2010

Michael Winterbottom is one of my favourite film directors in the world. He’s a movie-making machine, having directed 16 films over the last 13 years, and he’s also one of the most talented British film-makers in history, even if most of my British friends have never heard of him… which is why I think it’s a good idea to write this entry, as I do believe his is a very remarkable work. More than once he’s been compared to Kubrick due to his ease to switch genres, more than once he’s been a must at the world’s biggest film festivals (yes, Cannes, I’m looking at you).

Winterbottom, who is 48 years old, started his career in TV to soon move to film. I must confess I’ve only seen 9 out of his 16 released films, but all 9 I like and consider extremely interesting. Of course I should watch the remaining 6, and eventually I will.

Winterbottom debuted on the big screen with Butterfly Kiss, which I can’t remember if I’ve seen or not (so let’s say I haven’t).  Thankfully I do remember seeing his next film, although it was so long ago that the only real thing I remember about it is that it looked blue…The film I’m talking about is Jude, which was based on Thomas Hardy’s Jude The Obscene, a very controversial book about the forbidden love between two cousins. After this Winterbottom changed genres and shot Welcome To Sarajevo (his first film nominated for the Palme D’Or) and then came I Want You.

I Want You is one of my Top Ten favourite movies of all time. It’s based on Elvis Costello’s song of the same title, which is probably my favourite song ever. Music is really important on all Winterbottom films, he’s very clever at using pop songs to maximize the strengh of his work and create pretty memorable moments.

The film is a neo-noir sex thriller where mood is more important than plot (according to Wikipedia).  It has an AMAZING cinematography by Slawomir Izdiak (a Kieslowski regular and master of his 3 Colours trilogy) and, like most Winterbottom films, it’s pretty sexually charged and depressing.

From I Want You the director moved to lighter paths (With Or Without You) and then he directed what’s probably his masterpiece: Wonderland.

Wonderland was the first Winterbottom film that I saw. I actually saw it at the cinema when it was released (I can even remember the place) and it made a really strong impact on me. In fact it stills breaks me every time I see it. It was shot with no budget, camera-on-hand (but not in an annoying way), and it features one the most beautiful soundtracks ever written for a film. It was composed by my beloved Michael Nyman, who would score most of the director’s films after this.

The movie got yet another Palme D’Or nomination and that awarded Winterbottom a $20 million budget for his next project: The Claim. This time he decided to adapt another Thomas Hardy book (The Mayor of Casterbridge) and turn it into a western set in North America. The movie wasn’t really a success and so Winterbottom went back to the UK and shot his most popular film: 24 Hour Party People (which also got a Palme D’Or nomination… and yes, I’m completely obsessed with Cannes). 24 Hour Party People is one of the funniest, coolest films ever.

After 24 Hour Party People Winterbottom directed In This World, which was completely shot on digital and with non-professional actors, and then he decided to change again and shoot a sci-fi film: Code 46. Of course this is a very personal take on the genre, and was shot on location, with no real special effects or blue screens. The movie is also a retelling of the Oedipus myth and stars Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton. I saw it at a Sci-Fi and Fantasy Festival in Madrid (Spain) a few years ago and it was pretty good.

Right after Code 46 Winterbottom shot his most controversial film: 9 Songs. The movie talked about a couple’s relationship during a year but did it only through the gigs they attended and their intimate relations… which is the reason why it was controversial, as it showed real sex. To be honest, I think that the idea of the film was better than the film itself (as it tends to happen with experiments like this or Shortbus), and I don’t think it’s aged very well (at least musically… Von Bondies anyone?). Still, I guess it’s quite a brave thing to do.

After 9 Songs, the director went back to comedy and shot the hilarious Tristam Shandy, A Cock & Bull Story, which starred Steve Coogan (who’d also played Tony Wilson in 24 Hour Party People) and which was completely crazy. A film about a film. Reality and fiction mixed. I highly recommend it. Right after that he shot two social films: Road To Guantanamo and A Mighty Heart. The first one is a half documentary about three British Muslims who were held in Guantanamo Bay for two years to then be released with no charges. The second one got a bit “famous” because it had Angelina Jolie in it, and tells the story of a woman looking for her husband (a journalist who went missing in Pakistan). This film already takes us to 2008, when Genova was released.

Genova saw Winterbottom reunite with Wonderland‘s script-writer, creating a beautiful film about a broken family where the mother has just died in a traffic accident. Where the father doesn’t really understand his daughters. Where the oldest girl is discovering her sexuality and the youngest blames herself for her mother’s death. Genova was the last Winterbottom film released in the cinemas. After that, only the documentary The Shock Doctrine has seen the light.

However (and according to the IMDB), there is still loads of Winterbottom to come. This year will see the release of The Killer Inside Me, a film that stars Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Casey Affleck and Bill Pullman amongst others. At the same time Winterbottom is working on Seven Days, a curious experiment which will be shot over several years and that stars two of his regulars (John Simm and Shirley Henderson). And then London Fields, Murder in Samarkanda and Promised Land are all in pre-production.

Good news for me… and for all Winterbottom fans!

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  1. […] Posted in FILM by becarefuldarlingyoumightfall on June 12, 2010 when I wrote that stupidly long blog entry about Michael […]

  2. […] I wrote that stupidly long blog entry about Michael […]

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