Playwright Jo Clifford programmes film series at Filmhouse
The acclaimed playwright will be the Edinburgh cinema’s latest House Guest, and she’s offered up a superior lineup heavy with European art cinema
Following esteemed crime author Ian Rankin and genre-defying Mercury Prize-winners Young Fathers, playwright Jo Clifford is set to be Filmhouse’s latest ‘House Guest’. For the uninitiated, the House Guest project sees the Edinburgh cinema invite ‘guests’ to curate a series of films that have been important in their life and work. “Our goal is to give an informal platform for practitioners in a wide range of fields to share with an audience those films that have in some way helped them develop their own artistic vision,” said Rod White, Filmhouse’s head of programming.
Clifford has long been one of Scotland’s sharpest and most radical playwrights, with her most recent work Eve – an intimate and political play about a child raised as a boy who knows she’s a girl – much acclaimed on its debut at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Of her approach to programming her Filmhouse season Clifford says: "At the heart of my choices are films dedicated to the idea that cinema is art, cinema is poetry, and cinema is resistance.”
Heavyweights of European art cinema of the 60s makes up much of her selection, with films from Luis Buñuel (The Exterminating Angel), Pier Paolo Pasolini (The Gospel According to St Matthew) and Ingmar Bergman (Persona) among her choices. The season kicks off, however, with Neil Jordan’s 1993 thriller The Crying Game. It’s a tale about an IRA member (Stephen Rea) who’s involved in the kidnapping of a British soldier (Forest Whitaker) and subsequently begins a relationship with the soldier's girlfriend (Jaye Davidson). It’s a wonderful film, one of Jordan’s best, with a second act twist that flips the whole movie on its head.
The film is a quarter of a century old at this point, so it’s probably fine to say that the surprise is that Davidson’s character is revealed to be transgender. Clifford is herself transgender, and has said that an ambition of hers as a playwright is to “create a body of work about being transgender”, so it's easy to see why she would appreciate Jordan's film, one of mainstream cinema’s few tender depictions of a trans character.
Andrei Tarkovsky’s first masterpiece Andrei Rublev also screens, and the chance to see it on the big screen should not be missed. Told in eight parts, the film follows the life of the Russian icon painter Andrei Rublev, although we don’t see much painting. Instead, it’s concerned with a myriad metaphysical questions about existence, with Tarkovsky’s cinematic compositions and setpieces prone to bursts of jaw-dropping poetic beauty. Come along to see this masterful Russian filmmaker as he creates a whole new film language that few have been able to imitate.
If you’re expecting a playwright to programme something theatrical you’ll be disappointed with Clifford’s picks: these are works of pure cinema. And this especially applies to the film she’s selected that’s based on a Shakespeare play – Akira Kurosawa's Ran. This epic from 1985 uses King Lear as the starting point to tell the visceral story of a power struggle that erupts among three brothers (rather than the daughters of the play) when their aging father vacates his place at the head of their clan. Kurosawa paints on a huge canvas, with armies in vast landscapes created the old fashioned way, without the help of computer trickery. Like Andrei Rublev, it’s a movie that needs the big screen to be truly appreciated.
As has been the case with previous House Guest seasons, we expect Clifford to attend at least one of the Filmhouse screenings to introduce, but no date has been set at this early stage. The screening dates for her six chosen films, however, are below. For more information and tickets, head to filmhousecinema.com
House Guest: Jo Clifford programme in full
The Crying Game – 15 Jan, 6pm; tickets here
The Exterminating Angel – 18 Jan. 6.15pm; tickets here
The Gospel According to St Matthew – 24 Jan, 8.20pm; tickets here
Andrei Rublev – 28 Jan, 4.45pm; tickets here
Ran – 8 Feb, 5.30pm; tickets here
Persona – 26 Feb, 6pm; tickets here
Full details of the season at filmhousecinema.com/season/house-guests-jo-clifford