Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Indie gangster golden age

I continue to be blown away by the caliber of new independently made feature-length and short films that come my way. We are truly in a golden age of auteur-driven filmmaking.

One thing hasn’t changed though. Beginning with Raoul Walsh’s 1915 silent feature, The Regeneration, moviemakers have been fascinated with the world of urban criminal gangs. The mob world seems to be a great backdrop for stories that are really about Shakespearean rises and falls (Mervyn LeRoy’s Little Caesar) or friendship and life choices (Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets) or family (Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather) or anything else that is on the artists’ minds. And the tradition continues.

In January I got to see Christopher Di Nunzio’s impressive A Life Not to Follow, which used the genre to explores themes of betrayal, revenge and atonement. Four months later comes John Mosetich’s Permanent, which finds yet more possibilities in the world of big city crime. I love the way Permanent plays with our expectations and then sometimes confounds them and then sometimes doesn’t. It is so polished I would not be surprised to see it on television, so I was blown away when Mosetich mentioned that the budget was under $15,000. It makes you wonder what those multi-million-dollar Hollywood productions find to blow all their money on. Yeah, I know, Leo DiCaprio’s salary and catering. But who needs DiCaprio or any other highly paid actor when there are clearly so many talented thespians working on stage and in indie features and short films? But I digress.

Here are a couple of outtakes from Permanent.

David Dallas
David Dallas in a scene from John Mosetich’s Permanent

Marie Blaise and Erica Derrickson
Marie Blaise and Erica Derrickson

If you get the chance to see it, definitely do so. You can my review here

The Velocity of Dan (1958-2016)

I’m a bit tardy in noting this, but many of us fans and once-and-future attendees of the Seattle International Film Festival were recently saddened to learn of the passing three weeks ago of SIFF co-founder Dan Ireland at the way-too-young age of 57. He was there at the beginning when the festival got started at the Moore Theatre in Belltown and then when it moved to the former Masonic Temple on Capitol Hill that became the Egyptian Theatre. He was there during the early glory years when the discovery of fabulous new movies from all around the world was a brand new experience for eager Seattle audiences.

We will always have fond memories of Ireland and his lifelong friend Darryl Macdonald (and fellow Vancouver, B.C., transplant) introducing wonderful new cinematic discoveries or sometimes old classics and oddities at the festival screenings—and of their rapport in their joint appearances on opening and closing nights. I particularly remember the last time I saw them together on stage as co-directors in 1986 after it was announced that Ireland was leaving the festival to work for Vestron Pictures in Los Angeles. While we were selfishly sad to see him go, in some ways it seemed as though he never departed. After all, he left Seattle with a flourishing major film festival and the Egyptian Theatre.

And movies that he acquired for Vestron kept showing up and impressing at the festival. Films like Salome’s Last Dance, The Lair of the White Worm, and The Rainbow (all by Ken Russell) and John Huston’s swan song The Dead (shot on soundstage in Valencia, California, though you could swear it was Dublin), Terry Jones’s Personal Services and Julian Temple’s Earth Girls Are Easy.

Then he left Vestron and became a filmmaker himself, and he started bringing his own movies to the festival. Imagine the delight of the fantasy (and Marvel comics) fan in me when his first effort turned out to be The Whole Wide World, a biopic of Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan the Barbarian. Howard was played by Vincent D’Onofrio, and his co-star was Renée Zellweger in her first big screen role. His other feature films were The Velocity of Gary (with D’Onofrio, Salma Hayek and Thomas Jane), Passionada (with Jason Isaacs, Sofia Milos and Emmy Rossum), Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (with Joan Plowright and Rupert Friend) and Jolene, which starred Jessica Chastain in her feature film debut.

In a sad irony the title of Ireland’s planned next project was Life Briefly. It is a biopic of Brian Knapp, who became a world class drummer by the age of ten, despite being blind, and who went on to play guitar with Johnny Cash before dying at the age of 14.

Among the many tributes to Ireland was this one from SIFF artistic director Carl Spence: “He was a great friend and impresario on all things, whether it be about film or life. I will forever remember his infectious smile, laugh and incredible wit and repartee. There will never be another Dan Ireland in the world.”

-S.L., 5 May 2016

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