Winstanley

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by the BFI and the films on them.

Moderator: MichaelB

Message
Author
Nothing
Joined: Fri Oct 20, 2006 4:04 am

Re: Winstanley

#26 Post by Nothing » Fri May 29, 2009 10:20 pm

Thanks for the info. I guess the fault lies more with the national broadcasters, then, for not following the BFI's lead (in regards to Bill Douglas also). I don't really buy the argument about commerciality - Loach has never made a commercial film in his life, and yet he's been regularly boring the pants off everyone for over four decades.

User avatar
closelyobserved
Joined: Tue May 26, 2009 5:37 am
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Winstanley

#27 Post by closelyobserved » Sat May 30, 2009 1:51 am

Not sure your right about Loach Only bores the pants of me when he gets all feel-goody. I remember Kes being hugely successful. Also he had a huge hiatus in his feature career, so funding has not always been there. In fact, I would say his feature funding success has only been secured since he was lauded in Cannes. British Funders (and critics) are like sheep in this respect. But there are some strange anomalies...How do you explain Michael Winterbottom, ('pants" in my opinion) churning them out once a year without commercial success, while we get only one Terence Davies in a blue moon. Or in the case of Brownlow, none at all, since he moved into different but very fruitful areas.

User avatar
MichaelB
Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2006 6:20 pm
Location: Worthing
Contact:

Re: Winstanley

#28 Post by MichaelB » Sat May 30, 2009 2:16 am

Nothing wrote:Thanks for the info. I guess the fault lies more with the national broadcasters, then, for not following the BFI's lead (in regards to Bill Douglas also). I don't really buy the argument about commerciality - Loach has never made a commercial film in his life, and yet he's been regularly boring the pants off everyone for over four decades.
You just can't help those nasty little sideswipes, can you? Is it some Tourettes-like compulsion?

Anyway, Loach worked mainly in television in the 1970s and really struggled in the 1980s, but since finding highly sympathetic producers in Sally Hibbin and Rebecca O'Brien he's become a reliable money-earner. Nothing spectacular (aside from things like Land and Freedom becoming a bona fide Spanish blockbuster for obvious local reasons, and I believe The Wind That Shakes The Barley did disproportionately well in Ireland too), but he has enough fans in Germany, Spain, Italy and especially France (The Navigators, straight to TV in its native country, cracked the box office top ten in Paris) to make his films a pretty safe bet - at least in terms of a strong likelihood of breaking even.

In fact, if you look at the production companies of most of his post-1990 films, you'll see that they tend to be co-productions involving several of the above-named countries, with the risk being spread to the point where it's pretty negligible. This really underlines why having a sympathetic and commercially savvy regular producer is crucial - Greenaway had Kees Kasander, Winterbottom has Andrew Eaton and so on, which isn't the sole reason why they also had lengthy periods of being able to make at least one feature a year, usually on their own terms, but it's certainly a major one.

Nothing
Joined: Fri Oct 20, 2006 4:04 am

Re: Winstanley

#29 Post by Nothing » Sat May 30, 2009 3:58 am

MichaelB wrote:he's become a reliable money-earner... a pretty safe bet - at least in terms of a strong likelihood of breaking even.
That's absolutely not true! Ask Loach himself. Co-production isn't about spreading risk, it's about tapping into sources of public money that don't need to be repaid, thereby inflating the budget of a film so that the producers can take a larger percentage. Indeed, people are speculating that Looking for Eric may be Loach's first genuine commercial success... All factors should be considered when crunching the numbers, however, including the £150,000 that the UK Film Council just gave to Icon to expand the size of the release (fair enough, I guess Mel Gibson has a lot of mouths to feed...). Of course, the real figures will never be made public - the industry guards this stuff more preciously than the crown jewels. As for Kes... I guess it's possible it has recouped over time. Certainly not upon initial release.

Michael Winterbottom's career / Revolution Films has mostly been supported by a single wealthy individual who can afford to lose a lot of money. The same goes for Richard Jobson (not the same individual).

David_Gardiner
Joined: Fri May 22, 2009 7:52 pm

Re: Winstanley

#30 Post by David_Gardiner » Sat May 30, 2009 4:59 am

The detailed history of the making of Winstanley, including its financing and original distribution, is what the book Winstanley Warts and All covers. By the time they came to make Winstanley (around about 1973) Kevin had written The Parade's Gone By..., pretty much the definitive history of early Hollywood, (later filmed as the TV series Hollywood), as well as editing The Charge of the Light Brigade and working on a number of documentaries, and Andrew had become historical consultant on Doctor Zhivago, so both directors had some kind of track record when the BFI decided to fund the Winstanley project. They also had a lot of admirers for the quality of their work and their commitment to authenticity, and total lack of commercialism.

What is very interesting though is the impact of their first (teenage) film It Happened Here on their later careers and their acceptance by the industry, especially in America. The ironic standpoint of the film, portraying Britain under Nazi domination, was misunderstood by a lot of people who should have known better and the filmmakers suspected of Nazi sympathies. Kevin's earlier book It Happened Here tells that story and makes fascinating reading.

User avatar
MichaelB
Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2006 6:20 pm
Location: Worthing
Contact:

Re: Winstanley

#31 Post by MichaelB » Sat May 30, 2009 5:06 am

Nothing wrote:
MichaelB wrote:he's become a reliable money-earner... a pretty safe bet - at least in terms of a strong likelihood of breaking even.
That's absolutely not true! Ask Loach himself.
I don't need to - I spent an hour interviewing Rebecca O'Brien about this very subject last year.
Co-production isn't about spreading risk, it's about tapping into sources of public money that don't need to be repaid, thereby inflating the budget of a film so that the producers can take a larger percentage.
But if Loach's films tanked on a regular basis, the funding would have dried up very quickly, as most British and European filmmakers know to their cost - as does Loach himself, given his experience in the 1970s and 80s. As O'Brien pointed out, his films in fact usually break even and sometimes turn a small profit - which is why he can maintain a rate of roughly one a year. I particularly remember her expressing bafflement about the French market, which typically does three times better than anyone else, and she has no idea why - though it's easy to see why Looking For Eric appealed to her, as it's the first Loach film with a strongly French element. (They'd just finished shooting when I interviewed her).
Indeed, people are speculating that Looking for Eric may be Loach's first genuine commercial success...
Having seen it myself, I'd agree with that - but presumably you mean "commercial success in Britain", because of course Loach has had genuine commercial success elsewhere. (I mentioned some examples above, Land and Freedom being a particularly good one).
All factors should be considered when crunching the numbers, however, including the £150,000 that the UK Film Council just gave to Icon to expand the size of the release (fair enough, I guess Mel Gibson has a lot of mouths to feed...).
That seems like a pretty good investment to me. The film has genuine potential to do well, but giving it a wide release is still an expensive upfront gamble, which is why such subsidies exist in the first place. But I think in this case it might well be recoupable.
As for Kes... I guess it's possible it has recouped over time. Certainly not upon initial release.
Yes, I was surprised about that assertion, because Kes had a great deal of difficulty getting a distributor at first (I seem to remember an extended run at the Academy Cinema in Oxford Street helped build word of mouth), and it died on its arse in America, where they found it utterly incomprehensible. But it must have been shown widely enough for Krzysztof Kieslowski to have seen it at the time, as I believe he saw it in Poland circa 1970. In fact, didn't he once say "making the tea on the set of Kes" would have been his dream filmmaking job?

User avatar
closelyobserved
Joined: Tue May 26, 2009 5:37 am
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Winstanley

#32 Post by closelyobserved » Sat May 30, 2009 5:23 am

According to something called Screenonline , Kes was a 'critical and commercial succes". Twas Family Life that did for him.

User avatar
MichaelB
Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2006 6:20 pm
Location: Worthing
Contact:

Re: Winstanley

#33 Post by MichaelB » Sat May 30, 2009 5:58 am

closelyobserved wrote:According to something called Screenonline , Kes was a 'critical and commercial succes". Twas
Family Life that did for him.
OK, I've done a bit more digging, and it seems that the situation was this:

Kes was a critical success from the start, but it took some time to find its commercial feet. Unsurprisingly, it was a massive local hit in the north of England, but it needed the extended run at the Academy Cinema in London to extend its appeal down south in more influential opinion-forming circles - most other cinemas and distributors were very wary of handling something with such strong regional accents. But the Academy run gave it legs and wider appeal - so it's certainly true to say that it was "a critical and commercial success" by the time Family Life went into production.

Nothing
Joined: Fri Oct 20, 2006 4:04 am

Re: Winstanley

#34 Post by Nothing » Sat May 30, 2009 8:14 am

MichaelB wrote:I don't need to - I spent an hour interviewing Rebecca O'Brien about this very subject last year.
Oh please... She's a producer working in the British Film Industry, do you really expect her to say to a journalist that "Ken's films have all been unprofitable?" That would be an albatros of gigantic proportions, even if it happens to be true.
MichaelB wrote:But if Loach's films tanked on a regular basis, the funding would have dried up very quickly, as most British and European filmmakers know to their cost
You don't understand, the public film funds don't expect to get their money back. The film has to hit a certain bar, it has to make money for distributors, exhibitors, sales agents, yes, but it doesn't have to recoup. European funding bodies and producers understand and accept this - it is only the Brits (with their eyes on Hollywood) who continue to repeat the ridiculous mythical mantra about 'profitability' and then use it to stifle creativity.

There is an exception to everything, of course, and Looking for Eric may just be it - due to the presence of Cantona, nothing to do with Loach (Wild Bunch, the sales agent on Eric, pioneered the tactic last year with their extremely successful films about Maradona and Tyson, rather tangentially directed by Kusturica and Toback). The film is going out on 200 screens across the UK, for example.
MichaelB wrote:Loach has had genuine commercial success elsewhere. (I mentioned some examples above, Land and Freedom being a particularly good one).
Each local distributor pays a set price for the film, the minimum guarantee. They can usually then cook their books well enough to avoid paying anything further (and this is pretty much accepted industry practice). In the unlikely event of a hit in somewhere like Spain, it is the local distributor who reaps most of the benefit, not the producer.
MichaelB wrote:[£150k to Icon] seems like a pretty good investment to me.
It's not an investment, it's a grant (in practice). A grant to Mel Gibson.

User avatar
MichaelB
Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2006 6:20 pm
Location: Worthing
Contact:

Re: Winstanley

#35 Post by MichaelB » Sat May 30, 2009 9:47 am

Nothing wrote:Oh please... She's a producer working in the British Film Industry, do you really expect her to say to a journalist that "Ken's films have all been unprofitable?" That would be an albatros of gigantic proportions, even if it happens to be true.
I wasn't interviewing her in a journalistic capacity - I was chairing a private conference session in front of an audience. She was actually extremely candid about all sorts of industry issues.
You don't understand, the public film funds don't expect to get their money back. The film has to hit a certain bar, it has to make money for distributors, exhibitors, sales agents, yes, but it doesn't have to recoup. European funding bodies and producers understand and accept this - it is only the Brits (with their eyes on Hollywood) who continue to repeat the ridiculous mythical mantra about 'profitability' and then use it to stifle creativity.
That might stand up as a general assertion, but you'd have a hard time fitting it to someone like Loach - whose films traditionally don't do that well in Britain and who has much more in common with a mainland European filmmaker. (From what O'Brien told me, it's most unlikely that he'll try shooting a film in L.A. again, even though Bread and Roses is about as unHollywood as it gets!).

For the record, The Wind That Shakes The Barley grossed about $22 million worldwide - hardly a blockbuster, but a perfectly decent performance that I imagine was ahead of expectations (the Palme d'Or presumably didn't hurt). Obviously, that doesn't include secondary revenues like TV, DVD, etc., which will push that total very substantially higher.
There is an exception to everything, of course, and Looking for Eric may just be it - due to the presence of Cantona, nothing to do with Loach (Wild Bunch, the sales agent on Eric, pioneered the tactic last year with their extremely successful films about Maradona and Tyson, rather tangentially directed by Kusturica and Toback). The film is going out on 200 screens across the UK, for example.
I completely agree that the film's predicted success will have nothing to do with Loach, which is why it's probably going to be the exception that proves the rule - you couldn't possibly justify a 200-screen release for any of his other films (not even Kes). Mind you, if it is a big hit, that's not exactly going to hurt Loach's future funding prospects.
Each local distributor pays a set price for the film, the minimum guarantee. They can usually then cook their books well enough to avoid paying anything further (and this is pretty much accepted industry practice). In the unlikely event of a hit in somewhere like Spain, it is the local distributor who reaps most of the benefit, not the producer.
Well, I don't know the ins and outs of the Spanish release, but I suspect O'Brien would have mentioned it if she'd failed to see any return from what was a pretty big local hit - not least because she certainly did mention her spat with Artificial Eye over its handling of the film in Britain.

(Incidentally, if the mods are reading this, can this be moved to a more Loach-specific thread? Much as I'm enjoying this, it's entirely irrelevant to Winstanley!)

Nothing
Joined: Fri Oct 20, 2006 4:04 am

Re: Winstanley

#36 Post by Nothing » Sat May 30, 2009 1:38 pm

MichaelB wrote:I wasn't interviewing her in a journalistic capacity
The capacity is irrelevent. It's just ingrained, it's rule number one, that a producer can't admit to a film being unprofitable, not in the UK. It's possible she even believes it herself - it's possible, even, that the British financiers did indeed get their money back. But did the Germans? Did the French? The recoupment percentages of all these film funds are infintessimally small, they don't EXPECT to recoup, they don't care, all they care about is a certain amount of money being spent in their region, a certain number of German / French crewmembers being employed, and that reciprocal co-production funds will be awarded later (eg. Film Four recently wasted millions of euros on a terrible Belgian horror film called Vinyan). I really don't think you understand the giant disparity between what a film like this costs and what international distributors are willing to pay for it (the Cantona movie aside). The gross is irrelevent, most of that goes to the exhibitors, with most of the remainder going to the individual distributors (who also take the TV + DVD money), who inflate their expenses and rarely pay over the MG as a matter of standard industry practice (there is no reason why she would take offense to the Spanish distributor behaving in this way, it is perfectly normal and expected) and THEN the sales agent takes their 20% and deducts their own expenses. Of course there is the occassional very rare uber-hit that didn't cost much in the first place and does actually turn a profit: Festen, for example. But when you look at the averages such blips are irrelevent.

Why does this matter?

Because, uniquely within Europe, UK film subsidy is now anchored within the concept of profitability, placing an emphasis on script 'development', with the UKFC New Cinema Fund withholding final cut as a matter of policy (making Arnold the only director in Cannes competition both this year and in 2006 not to have final cut over her own picture). In essence, it is a broad attack on the whole notion of auteurist cinema, an attack that has been in motion since the late 90s, birthed by people like Alan Parker and Duncan Kenworthy, from out of which the UKFC was formed in a bid to 'save' British cinema from the 'elitist crap' of Greenaway, Jarman, Russell and Roeg - even Leigh and Loach were anathama for a good while. But please, go on defending these people if you like...

User avatar
Cash Flagg
Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2008 11:15 pm

Re: Winstanley

#37 Post by Cash Flagg » Sun May 31, 2009 7:55 pm


User avatar
John Hodson
Joined: Wed Jan 17, 2007 2:25 pm
Location: Near dark satanic mills...
Contact:

Re: Winstanley

#38 Post by John Hodson » Mon Jul 13, 2009 10:56 am

I've just received a check-disc of Winstanley on BD and and after a quick look, I'm moved to say that the restoration and transfer has produced an abso-bloody-lutely gorgeous, luminous, detailed image. In one word - wow.

User avatar
foggy eyes
Joined: Fri Sep 01, 2006 9:58 am
Location: UK

Re: Winstanley

#39 Post by foggy eyes » Mon Jul 13, 2009 12:26 pm

Great! It looked damn good projected too.

On another note, I finished Brownlow's Winstanley, Warts and All book recently, and it's an essential read (both as an exhaustively detailed production diary and an extended warning about why not to make a film in the UK). Thanks, David Gardiner!

Nothing
Joined: Fri Oct 20, 2006 4:04 am

Re: Winstanley

#40 Post by Nothing » Sat Jul 18, 2009 3:55 am

Finally caught up with this. A worthy and oft-forgotten subject intelligently rendered - indeed, this must be the only decent film about the Interregnum ever made (if one discounts Witchfinder General, which is hardly a serious study of the period). No small amount of research must have been required to realise Winstanley's world so convincingly. One is also particularly impressed by Morro's production design and Brownlow's visual sense.

I'm surprised, however, that no-one has yet thought to mention the truly atrocious performances, stretching from Winstaney himself to the New Model Army 'soldiers' in the opening sequence (do those really look like men in imminent danger of losing their lives to you?). Only Fairfax acquits himself honourably and, indeed, the production notes identify him as the only professional actor in the company (not to say that non-actors cannot be put to good use but, rather, that Brownlow doesn't seem to know what to do with them). The script is pretty mealy in places and perhaps this doesn't help matters.

With better execution (perhaps a third director to polish the screenplay and handle the acting!) this could have been an unparrelled masterpiece, instead of the flawed but fascinating curio it ultimately is. Nevertheless, well worth a place on anyone's rental queue.

User avatar
Wayward
Joined: Thu Jun 04, 2009 3:01 am
Location: London

Re: Winstanley

#41 Post by Wayward » Sat Jul 18, 2009 5:25 am

With better execution (perhaps a third director to polish the screenplay and handle the acting!)
Three directors on a shoot sounds a nightmare, for cast and crew. On a low budget film, directors seldom have the time to polish performances. I wonder how David Lean would have fared on such a low budget project. David Lean would pack up for the day if he didn't feel like it. British films such as Whisky Galore could be shot over a period of months. With Winstanley we are talking days. It raises a question. Do you make allowances for poor performances on a low budget film or do you assess the quality of a film , and the directors capabilities, on equal terms with something that cost 12 million and had a comfortable three month shoot. I once fell off my chair laughing when I read Alexander Walker describing The Madness of King George as as an example of a director doing wonders with an economic 12 wk shoot.
Last edited by Wayward on Sun Jul 26, 2009 1:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
foggy eyes
Joined: Fri Sep 01, 2006 9:58 am
Location: UK

Re: Winstanley

#42 Post by foggy eyes » Sat Jul 18, 2009 10:11 am

Nothing wrote:I'm surprised, however, that no-one has yet thought to mention the truly atrocious performances, stretching from Winstaney himself to the New Model Army 'soldiers' in the opening sequence (do those really look like men in imminent danger of losing their lives to you?). Only Fairfax acquits himself honourably and, indeed, the production notes identify him as the only professional actor in the company (not to say that non-actors cannot be put to good use but, rather, that Brownlow doesn't seem to know what to do with them).
Figured it would go without saying! Brownlow & Mollo mostly cast for bodies and faces rather than anything else, even picking up some of the cast on the streets and the Tube. I think Miles Halliwell's earnestness is perfect, but his public school accent and quite staggeringly limited acting ability are, well, more than a little alarming on first viewing... The whole thing is a real dog's breakfast with regard to performances, but absolutely fascinating...

Cinéslob
Joined: Sat Mar 12, 2005 5:31 pm

Re: Winstanley

#43 Post by Cinéslob » Sun Jul 19, 2009 11:57 am

Nothing wrote:I'm surprised, however, that no-one has yet thought to mention the truly atrocious performances, stretching from Winstaney himself to the New Model Army 'soldiers' in the opening sequence (do those really look like men in imminent danger of losing their lives to you?). Only Fairfax acquits himself honourably and, indeed, the production notes identify him as the only professional actor in the company (not to say that non-actors cannot be put to good use but, rather, that Brownlow doesn't seem to know what to do with them). The script is pretty mealy in places and perhaps this doesn't help matters.
I'm of quite the opposite opinion. Limited as an actor he may be, but Halliwell's saintly turn as Winstanley is only just short of perfect, and entirely appropriate to the film. Come to think of it, I can't recall a single instance of poor acting in the entire thing; perhaps a second, less enraptured, more critical viewing will expose the shoddiness of certain performances, but I'm doubtful.

User avatar
carax09
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 2:22 am
Location: This almost empty gin palace

Re: Winstanley

#44 Post by carax09 » Wed Jul 22, 2009 7:45 pm

Beaver gives the distinct impression that this BluRay is Region B locked. Does Gary get checkdiscs with different encoding characteristics?

User avatar
MichaelB
Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2006 6:20 pm
Location: Worthing
Contact:

Re: Winstanley

#45 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jul 23, 2009 12:02 pm

As soon as I read that review last night, I checked with the head of BFI DVD Publishing, who in turn checked with the guy who actually authored the disc. Both are firmly of the impression that it's region-free (no reason for it not to be: the BFI owns world rights) - but I don't have the wherewithal to check my own copy to confirm for myself.

I'd be interested to know if Gary (or indeed anyone) has tried playing it on a region A-locked player.

User avatar
Dr Amicus
Joined: Thu Feb 15, 2007 10:20 am
Location: Guernsey

Re: Winstanley

#46 Post by Dr Amicus » Mon Jul 27, 2009 5:18 am

Despite getting this from Moviemail when it first came out, I didn't manage to watch it until the weekend. Needless to say, my response has been pretty much the same as most people on the forum - ie very impressed.

The picture quality of the BD is stunning - so much so that more than once I found myself gazing in awe at the picture and finding myself paying little attention to the 'narrative' (such as it is).

As to the film itself, I found this fascinating. I'd agree that the performances are ... interesting, but I rather liked Miles Halliwell's performance. It's other-worldliness was so at odds with his fellow diggers, it made him stand out - and not in the sense of a rabble-rousing demagogue either, more saintly perhaps (and reminiscent of Rossellini's Francesco).

Also noteworthy is the use of landscape - and it makes an interesting comparison with Witchfinder General. Here it's much 'tighter', possibly claustrophobic, possibly comforting. There are numerous shots of the forest encampment hemmed in by the trees, a mini-utopia trapped / protected by the surroundings. On the other hand. the extreme long-shots, especially the aerial ones showing cloud shadows crossing the landscape, stress the importance of external factors - namely the weather - but also seem to be an essential signifier of the divine. In Witchfinder however, the landscape fulfils a role closer to that of the Western, as a distance to be crossed, as well as a contrast to the brutality of the central character.

Anyway, both are extraodinary films (unlike Nothing, I would classify Witchfinder as 'serious', but we may be using it differently) and this deserves to be a better known film. Hopefully, this disc will go some way towards this - so a big thanks to the BFI for releasing it in such a stunning package.

User avatar
cdnchris
Site Admin
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 2:45 pm
Location: Washington
Contact:

Re: Winstanley

#47 Post by cdnchris » Thu Aug 06, 2009 1:59 am

I got my copy of Winstanley and it plays in my PS3, so either I have the kick-assiest PS3 ever and it's all region or the disc is all region. I'm going with the latter.

User avatar
MichaelB
Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2006 6:20 pm
Location: Worthing
Contact:

Re: Winstanley

#48 Post by MichaelB » Thu Aug 06, 2009 4:31 am

Thanks for that - that's immensely useful. Our guess is that the checkdisc that Beaver was sent might have been inadvertently region-locked, so I'll alert Gary.

UPDATE: Gary now accepts that the disc is definitely region-free, and has altered the review accordingly. And he did indeed initially review off a checkdisc, not the final product.

User avatar
cdnchris
Site Admin
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 2:45 pm
Location: Washington
Contact:

Re: Winstanley

#49 Post by cdnchris » Fri Aug 14, 2009 3:00 pm


charal
Joined: Fri Aug 08, 2008 6:36 pm
Location: ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA

Re: Winstanley

#50 Post by charal » Sat Mar 02, 2019 5:13 pm

Has anyone had trouble with their original copies of WINSTANLEY, ALL THE RIGHT NOISES & MAN OF VIOLENCE?

All the above are original blu ray only editions and were all released in August 2009.

The discs played perfectly for years. Now all periodically freez/jump at intermittent points. The two flipsides only have the main feature faulty but WINSTANLEY only exhibits problems with the special features (it will probably get worse with time). I have played them on three different machines and the faults are the same and at the same points. I tried cleaning a disc but it didn’t work.

I would love to know if anyone else has had problems. (I tried PERMISSIVE & PRIVILEGE also and both work fine).

Post Reply