Artists have been mining their own lives and processes for material for as long as there’s been art. Whether it is spurred by vanity, introspection or just working from experience, there is definitely something to the old adage that you should write what you know.
Indeed, as HOME’s first post-lockdown film season illustrates, it didn’t take long for filmmakers to turn the camera back upon themselves, with myriad fictionalised and documentary accounts of behind the scenes hysterics, difficult directors and megalomaniacal producers which both illuminate the creative process and provide a means to express more universal truths.
On screen this June, ‘The Reverse Gaze: Filmmaking on Screen’ is a season of films about films, about the act of image making and the nebulous — and often nefarious — industry that surrounds it. Featuring thirteen titles, alongside expert introductions and one director Q&A, the season comes at a time in which streaming has become more commonplace, muddying our collective notion of cinema and its presentation.
a season of films about films, about the act of image making and the nebulous — and often nefarious — industry that surrounds it
As a welcome back to the big screen, Jason Wood, HOME’s Creative Director for Film and Culture hopes that the season serves as “a reminder of the art and endeavour of filmmaking” and a “celebration of the physical screen space”.
Opening on Monday 7 June, Wood will introduce a screening of Wim Wenders’ 1982 The State of Things. Billed as a “corrosive statement on the art of filmmaking”, the film features cult American film directors Sam Fuller and Roger Corman as it takes viewers on a journey into the dark underbelly of the Hollywood system, where studio moguls barely differ from the criminals they are so fond of placing on screen.
The darkness, chaos, ego and genius of the industry is further explored in titles such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Beware of a Holy Whore (introduced by Senior Visiting Curator Andy Willis on Thur 17 June) and Eleanor Coppola’s Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (introduced by Dr Kirsty Fairclough, Reader in Screen Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University on Mon 21 Jun), in which she chronicles her husband Francis’ tumultuous 238-day shoot for Apocalypse Now.
Perhaps the pick of the season, Olivier Assayas’ slinky, seductive meta-thriller Irma Vep (Sun 27 June) stars Hong Kong icon Maggie Cheung as a version of herself who becomes immersed in the role of the latex-clad lead in a remake of Louis Feuillade’s classic silent crime serial Les vampires. Exploring the geopolitical and history-writing potential of cinema, revered Armenian-Canadian filmmaker has pre-recorded an introduction to Ararat (Tue 8 Jun), his 2002 film about an Armenian director who is producing a film about the Armenian Genocide.
Examining the act of image making away from the industry, Michael Powell’s landmark 1960 film Peeping Tom (Wed 16 Jun) implicates viewers in a series of voyeuristic murders as a serial killer uses a camera to record his crimes. Meanwhile, Dziga Vertov’s silent 1929 masterpiece Man with a Movie Camera (Sat 26 Jun) explores the possibilities of cinema itself, utilising an experimental approach that remains thrilling to this day.
On a lighter note, François Truffaut’s 1973 film Day for Night (Sun 20 Jun) is an affectionate farce starring the director himself as a beleaguered filmmaker at the helm of a plagued production. Similarly, radio and television producer Karen Gabay will introduce Craig Brewer’s Dolemite is My Name (Thu 24 Jun), in which Eddie Murphy lovingly portrays the comedian and filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore during the production of his blaxploitation classic.
Brewer’s 2019 film is one of a number of more recent films about filmmaking in the programme. Audiences will also get a chance to see last year’s Netflix production, Mank — David Fincher’s biographical account of Herman J. Mankiewicz’s work on the screenplay for Citizen Kane — on the big screen on Thursday 10 June.
Finally, film fans can catch up with Shin’ichirô Ueda’s 2017 self-referential horror-comedy and cult success One Cut of the Dead, as it gets another outing on Tuesday 29 June. That is before the season concludes with a preview screening of “video nasty” themed mystery Censor (Wed 30 June), which is accompanied by a followed by a Q&A with director Prano Bailey-Bond.