Tag Archives: Curzon Journal

Estate Agency: The Authorised Music Biopic Debate

Directed by Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou [1997], Harriet [2019]) and written by Anthony McCarten (Bohemian Rhapsody [2018]), I Wanna Dance with Somebody (2022) follows the life of late American pop icon Whitney Houston, played by Naomi Ackie. Among the film’s executive producers is Clive Davis, the record producer who discovered Houston, while close involvement from Houston’s estate has reportedly come through representative Pat Houston, Whitney’s sister-in-law and long-time intermediary.

Much like print tome biographies, an authorised music biopic presents a veneer of authenticity. Consultation with living artists, or their family members and close confidantes if they have passed, would seem to ensure a certain degree of verisimilitude, rather than solely depending on unsubstantiated hearsay. When it comes to films, it’s also a considerable benefit to have access to the artists’ actual recordings (the 2020 David Bowie biopic Stardust suffered in this regard). Clive Davis, speaking to Variety about the Houston movie, said, ‘For me, it was important for the film to answer all questions honestly, authentically, about who Whitney was. Whether it was her sexuality, whether it was her addiction, whether it was how she and I worked together… We wanted to get it right. We wanted to get the music right, above all.’

And yet, despite such seemingly honourable intentions, authorised biopics still manage to inspire heated debate among both film and music critics, as well as the fanbases of the respective artists; the more famous and beloved the artist, the more passionate the debate. The genre can so often be defined by the things left out of a story, as opposed to the effective adaptation of what’s kept in…

Full feature for Curzon Journal

Park Chan-wook on ‘Decision to Leave’

Josh Slater-Williams speaks to Park Chan-wook about Decision to Leave, the latest characteristically genre-slippery film from the great South Korean director of Oldboy (2003), The Handmaiden (2016), Thirst (2009) and many more. The story sees a happily married detective get a little too close to someone under his surveillance: a wife suspected of wrongdoing regarding her husband’s mysterious death in the mountains.

A warning: while director Park doesn’t give away explicit plot spoilers in this interview, he does discuss a tonal shift in the film’s second half and also alludes to one specific scene from that section…

Full interview for Curzon Journal

Director Laura Wandel Discusses Her Schoolyard Drama ‘Playground’

Premiering to acclaim at Cannes in 2021, Playground, the full-length debut of Belgian writer-director Laura Wandel, deservedly later won the Best First Feature award at the London Film Festival.

Running at only 72 minutes, it’s a compact, confident work, with creative visual and aural devices impressively realised throughout. The film’s images are conveyed entirely from a child’s point of view, the camera’s position staying at the height of its young lead (Maya Vanderbeque). Meanwhile, the soundtrack lacks any musical score, and reflects only what the protagonist can hear from her perspective…

Full interview for Curzon Journal

Moomin-mania: Alma Pöysti on playing Tove Jansson

With Tove, a film about (part of) the life of Swedish-speaking Finnish multi-hyphenate Tove Jansson, director Zaida Bergroth and the film’s remarkable leading actor, Alma Pöysti, had an unenviable task: doing justice to a gargantuan popular culture icon in Finland and Sweden. Her Moomins books, in particular, have made her globally renowned, often in countries where the details of her fascinating personal life are perhaps not as well known…

Full interview for Curzon Journal

Interview: Atom Egoyan, Director of ‘Guest of Honour’

Behind some of Canadian cinema’s most acclaimed films, Atom Egoyan is best known for a string of breakthrough independent features he made in the 1990s, including The Adjuster (1991), Exotica (1994) and The Sweet Hereafter (1997), the latter earning him two Oscar nominations. Regularly playing with the conventions of melodrama, his time-jumping narratives are characterised by their gradual teasing of information with the full nature of characters’ relationships never immediately clear.

Egoyan’s latest, Guest of Honour, is another tale about past sins and moral dilemmas of the present. It gives the great David Thewlis a rare leading role as a widowed health inspector, Jim, whose mind dwells on the incarceration of his adult daughter, Veronica (Laysla De Oliveira), for a crime she didn’t commit. In a parallel timeline, a now released Veronica discusses her father with a local priest (Luke Wilson) in order to compose a eulogy.

Here, Josh Slater-Williams speaks to the writer-director about his storytelling interests and the genesis of Guest of Honour

Full interview for the Curzon blog