Archive for category Whistler Film Festival

From the Archives: My Exclusive Interview with Mark Barrett from ‘Barney Thomson’

Photo of Actor Mark Barrett

Mark Barrett, Credit: Matt Swift

Readers may recall that I caught up with Robert Carlyle during the Whistler Film Festival for the North American premiere of The Legend of Barney Thomson. The actor’s directorial debut tells the story of hapless barber, Barney Thomson, who accidentally falls into serial murder. At the Q&A, Carlyle (TrainspottingOnce Upon a Time) gave credit to a young Scottish actor, Mark Barrett, for his contributions in the rehearsal process. “A lot of aspiring young actors ask for your advice and they never do it!” Carlyle exclaimed on that snowy evening in December. “But Mark, he did become an actor.”

Naturally, Carlyle’s words may have left readers wondering about Mark Barrett, who also has a small role in the black comedy as barber Ricky Callahan. I reached out to Mr. Barrett to find out more about his experiences working on Barney Thomson. The twenty-eight-year-old actor was more than happy to sit down for his first official interview. However, his excitement was tempered by a startling sense of maturity and intensity in his gaze: revealing a sharp and discerning fellow who takes his work seriously. Read the rest of this entry »

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Whistler Film Festival: ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson’

The Case of the Sympathetic Barber

About thirty minutes before his Red Carpet appearance, Robert Carlyle gave his frank opinion about the titular character from The Legend of Barney Thomson. “He’s not a very nice person, this Barney,” the Once Upon a Time star admitted at the Whistler Film Festival, where his directorial debut was welcomed for its North American premiere. “It’s one of the most difficult things about the script: How do I play this guy and make him somehow sympathetic? Because he’s a tit, he really is!”

Robert Carlyle

Robert Carlyle in his directorial debut, ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson.’ Photo courtesy of the Whistler Film Festival.

It helps immensely that Carlyle dwarfs Barney’s unpleasant “outbursts” towards customers by bringing on the full force of an outrageous personality like Cemolina. Emma Thompson, a two-time Academy-Award-winning actress, is both delightful and horrifying as Barney’s mother. Only two years older than Carlyle, Thompson benefited from the expertise of Mark Coulier (Spectre, Iron Lady) for the prosthetic make-up design needed to transform her into the feisty Scottish woman. It’s Emma Thompson as you’ve never seen her.

Despite being in her seventies, Cemolina stays active with her betting at the dog races, her lively Bingo nights, and old lady dance parties. But by no means would we ever expect her to garner the accolade of “Mother of the Year” for the scathing verbal abuse she unleashes on Barney, the hapless and lonely barber. “I never saw the f***ing point of you,” she tells her long-suffering son. Ouch.

A View from the Barber’s Chair

The Legend of Barney Thomson follows the misadventures of Barney, who has been relegated to the last chair at rear of Henderson’s Barbershop. About to be fired, he accidentally kills his boss (Stephen McCole) and attracts the fierce scrutiny of Detective Inspector Holdall (Ray Winstone) and Detective Sergeant MacPherson (Kevin Guthrie). The citizenry of Glasgow are on edge about a strange wave of murders carried out by a killer who mails body parts to the loved ones. An overwhelmed Barney turns to his mother for help, which leads him to uncover some startling revelations. He’s also at a loss about what to do with his so-called friend, Charlie (Brian Pettifer), who connects the dots about the unfortunate accidents at the barbershop.

Robert Carlyle and Emma Thompson

Barney (Robert Carlyle) and Cemolina (Emma Thompson) at the dog track in ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson.’ Photo courtesy of the Whistler Film Festival.

The script was written by Richard Cowan and Colin McLaren, as an adaptation of Douglas Lindsay’s The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson. Understandably, there’s a bit of humor that you can’t pull over to the screen from chapter titles on paper like “Forgive Me, Mother, For I Have Sinned.” But the weakest point of the film for me is how Barney and Charlie are pitted against each other. It feels a bit too contrived, compared to the more natural comparisons between Barney and Holdall. Cowan and Carlyle said at the general Q&A that a lot of creative liberties were taken with Charlie. There’s a connection with Carlyle’s past (a local from “the cinema queue” in Glasgow) that feels far too distant for viewers to readily grasp. At the same time, there are still jokes and a richness to be gleaned from their scenes. The fair or carnival setting is a perfect backdrop for two of their conversations and not solely because they are on the teacup ride.

Dissecting the Barber’s Cut

That point leads me into a far more interesting and pleasant discussion topic: where Robert Carlyle succeeds with his directorial debut. Strong casting, already mentioned with Emma Thompson, is of great importance when the shooting schedule is very tight. Barney Thomson benefits from the talents of Ray Winstone, Tom Courtenay, Ashley Jensen, and others. Another positive aspect is the gallows humor. Adding the Glaswegian accent into the mix makes it possible for Barney’s panicked line of “His freezer is too wee!” to reduce a crowd to full-bellied laughter.

Ray Winstone and Robert Carlyle

Robert Carlyle and Ray Winstone on the set of ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson.’ Photo courtesy of the Whistler Film Festival.

The film has a sophisticated level of cinematography, due to the fantastic artistry of Fabian Wagner (Game of Thrones, Sherlock) in scenes like the Bingo night and Barney’s daymare. The active camera, especially with a complex arc in the latter, pulls the viewer completely into the barber’s state of mind. Closely tied to the cinematography is how the sets were conceived by Carlyle and designer Ross Dempster.

It seems that some critics have found it to be “lacking” or spare, questioning the atmosphere of the Glasgow portrayed. However, Carlyle does have a very specific agenda in keeping things simple and outfitted in a sort of retro style. The jaunty tunes in the soundtrack highlight the irony in Barney’s misadventures, but they also cement a sense of timelessness in hearkening back to decades long gone. After all, legends are timeless, supposedly outliving the hazy eras and rubble in which they take shape. Barney Thomson is a neo-noir film, too, taking some inspiration from David Lynch’s Blue Velvet near the end.

Robert Carlyle

Robert Carlyle. Photo courtesy of the Whistler Film Festival.

There’s one last series of backdrops and background elements that I want to analyze in a way that might stretch credulity. Kasabian posters bearing Serge Pizzorno’s face pop up regularly, an obvious reference to one of Robert Carlyle’s favorite alternative rock bands. The office of Chief Superintendent McManaman (Tom Courtenay) features a taxidermy bear with its arms outstretched over Holdall as he bickers with DI Robertson (Ashley Jensen). Earlier I mentioned the fair, where Charlie and Barney circle round in the teacup.

Whether it’s entirely intentional on Carlyle’s part, (I suspect it is that) each instance of playfulness carries the underlying motif whereby violence or chaos is ready to burst into the frame. The connection is subtly drawn by the band posters, but plenty of Kasabian’s tracks (“Switchblade Smiles,” “Underdog”) are explicitly about fights. That bear looks just as menacing as it appears comically innocuous with its claws and massive size. Fairs and carnivals have a dark and maddening side (if a bit cliché) as well. Thus it’s surprising when other critics express doubt about the build-up to the inevitable, hilarious, and explosive outcome at Loch Lubnaig. There is a very convincing and well-laid trail.

Final Cuts

The Legend of Barney Thomson is a carefully constructed film under the direction of Robert Carlyle. It’s full of surprises and great fun at every turn. You don’t want to miss the blooper reel at the end credits.

This opening feature for the Edinburgh International Film Festival is worthy of the BAFTA Scotland Awards and nominations it garnered recently. It also came out as the runner-up for the Audience Award at the 2015 Whistler Film Festival. The Legend of Barney Thomson comes out on VOD on February 2, 2016, followed by a theatrical release in North American theaters on March 11.


This article was originally posted on Blogcritics.org with the same title. I added photos and made size adjustments.

 

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Whistler Film Festival: ‘Born to Be Blue’

Born to be Blue is a passion project that was years in the making for actor Ethan Hawke and director-writer Robert Budreau. Hawke plays the role of jazz trumpeter and crooner Chet Baker, who seems to be on the cusp of a comeback when the film opens in the mid-1960s. After his release from an Italian prison, there’s a black and white sequence that pulls the viewer back 1950s. The big moment is an evening in New York at the Birdland jazz club, where legend Miles Davis (Kedar Brown) is in attendance.

Ethan Hawke and Carmen Ejogo

Ethan Hawke and Carmen Ejogo in ‘Born to Be Blue.’ Photo courtesy of the Whistler Film Festival.

Co-star Callum Keith Rennie emerged for a Q&A after the screening at the Whistler Film Festival earlier this month. He called attention to the tensions that he felt Budreau and Hawke wanted to capture. “It was the new white guy on a scene that was predominately understood to be Black. It was ‘the new kid in town.’ I think there was a bit of a distance between the groups coming together,” Rennie explained to the crowd at the Village 8 Cinema.

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Interview with Robert Carlyle: ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson’

Emily Alden, John Lenic, Robert Carlyle, and Richard Cowan

Emily Alden, John Lenic, Robert Carlyle, and Richard Cowan at the North American premiere of ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson.’ Photo: Pat Cuadros

In early December, I caught up with Robert Carlyle twice at the Whistler Film Festival (WFF) as a writer for Blogcritics. The Once Upon a Time actor was at the snowy ski resorts in Whistler, Canada, for the North American premiere of his directorial debut, The Legend of Barney Thomson. He mingled with screenwriter Richard Cowan as well as producers Emily Alden and John Lenic at the Red Carpet. Read the rest of this entry »

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Whistler Film Festival: Spotlight on Robert Carlyle

The Whistler Film Festival held a Spotlight on Robert Carlyle earlier this month in British Columbia, Canada. As part of the WFF Signature Series, the actor-director was presented with the Maverick Award. Carlyle’s directorial debut, The Legend of Barney Thomson, was screened later in the evening for its North American premiere.

Robert Carlyle

Robert Carlyle at the Whistler Film Festival. Photo: Pat Cuadros

The event included an intimate conversation with critic Jim Gordon of CTV, a major news network based in Vancouver. Much of the focus on Carlyle these days seems to be on his work with Once Upon a Time and the upcoming Trainspotting 2, projects that he himself appreciates. “One of the lovely things about Once Upon a Time is that [my family and I] can all sit and watch it on a Sunday night together. You can’t really do that with Trainspotting,” he remarked. Read the rest of this entry »

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Interview with Kiefer Sutherland at the Whistler Film Festival

Kiefer Sutherland

Kiefer Sutherland on the Red Carpet. Photo: Pat Cuadros

Kiefer Sutherland was one of the headliners at the Whistler Film Festival earlier this month. The veteran actor of the hit series 24 was in attendance to receive the Trailblazer Award and screen his latest film, Forsaken. The Western drama is yet another collaboration between Sutherland and 24 director Jon Cassar. The film also marks the first time that he truly worked with his father, Donald Sutherland. Kiefer Sutherland sat down me at the Four Seasons Resort in Whistler in Canada for an interview.

I originally conducted the interview on behalf of Blogcritics.org, where the article is entitled “Whistler Film Festival: Interview with Kiefer Sutherland.”

Welcome to the Whistler Film Festival. How are you?

Thank you. I’m great, thanks for having me on your blog.

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Interview with Kaleena Kiff and Holly Brydson: ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson’ (Part II)

Emily Alden, John Lenic, Robert Carlyle, and Richard Cowan

Emily Alden, John Lenic, Robert Carlyle, and Richard Cowan on the Red Carpet for the North American premiere of ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson.’ Photo: Pat Cuadros

Kaleena Kiff and Holly Brydson sat down with me for an interview at the Whistler Film Festival. They are both producers for Robert Carlyle’s directorial debut, The Legend of Barney Thomson, which had its North American premiere in Whistler earlier this month. Robert Carlyle was also at the festival to receive the Maverick Award, walk the red carpet, and hold a Q&A with the audience after the premiere screening. Barney Thomson was the runner-up for the 2015 Whistler Film Festival Audience Award.

Do you have a favorite scene from the filming?

Kaleena: I think probably one of my favorite scenes was at the dog track. It was a place that was really special to Carlyle and his dad. Read the rest of this entry »

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