Recommended Reading: World Film Locations: Glasgow

world film locationsA couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I had received my copy of World Film Locations: Glasgow, edited by Nicola Balkind. Having finished reading it recently I’m pleased to say it’s a great read.

We are very lucky that our city has such a rich history and that is reflected on the shelves of Glasgow’s book stores – not every city in Britain or indeed Europe will have as many tomes devoted to its sporting achievements, its architecture, its musical heritage, its dialect, its public transport… But until fairly recently there’s not been a huge amount published about Glasgow’s significant place in the world of cinema. World Film Locations: Glasgow helps ensure that this important chapter in Glasgow’s history is recorded in book form and as a bonus its own recommended reading section has pointed me in the direction of some other books on the matter which I look forward to sourcing and reading.

The joy of the book is being reminded how many movies have been made in Glasgow – there are brilliant two-page features on 38 films, each consisting of concise and interesting summaries of the plots and locations, and illustrated with captures from those productions. The films featured span the decades from O Lucky Man! in 1973 to Perfect Sense in 2011 and in addition to these features many more films are referenced, such as 1996’s Small Faces and the recently released Cloud Atlas.

Alongside the individual movie features sits a series of essays, opening nicely with Paul Gallagher’s Glasgow: City of the Imagination and concluding with Nicola Balkind’s Glasgow: Hollywood’s Film Set, which itself concludes with a stirring opinion on the potential of Glasgow’s film-making future. The other essays are Cinema City: Glasgow’s Passion for Cinema by Neil Johnson-Symington; Glaswegian Comedy: A Distinct Sense of Humour by Keir Hind; The Gift of Constraint: Danish-Scottish Collaboration and the Advance Party by Pasquale Iannone; Glasgow’s Kitchen Sink: The Cinema of Ken Loach and Peter Mullan by David Archibald; Dear Green Shoots: Underground Film-Making In Glasgow by Sean Welsh. All essays both educate and entertain.

It was particularly nice to see the former Toledo cinema in Muirend discussed in Neil Johnson-Symington’s essay – as a child of the 1980s this was my local cinema as the Cannon initially and then taking on the ABC and Odeon names before its sad closure. This was where I made my first cinema visit aged five- to see Superman IV: The Quest For Peace!

World Film Locations: Glasgow is available to order on Amazon.

Starring Role: Young Adam

young adam 2young adamyoung adam 3Young Adam is a 2003 film with a strong cast headed by Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, Peter Mullan and Emily Mortimer. It is directed by David Mackenzie, who also directed the previously featured Perfect Sense as well as some other movies with Glasgow ties that Glasgow on Film will look at in the future.

Two things stand out about Young Adam: a fair amount of sex takes place in the film, including a particularly messy scene involving McGregor, Mortimer and the contents of a kitchen; McGregor is involved in two different strands of the film and the viewer is presented with quite a twist when the link between the two becomes apparent. In fact GoF will not go into too much detail in its synopsis so as not to spoil the movie for any readers who have not seen it.

Set in 1950s Scotland – primarily along the route of the Forth and Clyde canals between Glasgow and Edinburgh but with some scenes taking place in Glasgow itself – the film follows central character Joe (McGregor), who stays on a barge with his employer Les (Mullan) and Les’ wife Ella (Swinton). The film opens with Joe and Les discovering the dead body of a young woman in a river and throughout the film there are references to the resultant investigation and court case – Glasgow’s citizens are quite appalled by the apparent murder, but Les seems proud of his part in the story and almost feels like he is entitled to celebrity status for finding the body. Les for the most part shows affection to Ella but she is disillusioned with their marriage and ends up in a number of passionate encounters with Joe, ultimately leading to separation from Les and the latter’s departure from the barge. We are also made aware of a serious relationship between Joe and Cathie (Emily Mortimer).

Young Adam is a well produced film – as mentioned above, the twist in the tale certainly took GoF by surprise. Excellent use is made of the filming locations and Glasgow shines as a bustling postwar city where industrial decline was yet to fully set in. In one scene in particular, where Joe and Cathie meet outside a book shop, St. Andrew’s Street is transformed into a 1950s set with the level of attention to detail that as viewers we experience regularly for period pieces set in the likes of London and New York, but not so often for portraying a Glasgow of yesteryear.

Stunt Double: Trainspotting

trainspottingtrainspotting 2trainspotting 3trainspotting 4Trainspotting could be regarded as one of the most significant British films of the modern era, and in Scottish terms is probably the most significant film full stop. Glasgow on Film has already studied the successful careers of Glaswegians Robert Carlyle and Kelly Macdonald, while the item on Perfect Sense just scratched the surface of Perth-born Ewan McGregor’s cinematic journey and the Shallow Grave article alluded to director Danny Boyle’s rise to legendary status. All of these inspirational stories and more are linked to the movie Trainspotting.

Released in 1996, Trainspotting is based on the novel of the same name by Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh. It follows the lives of a group of heroin addicts living in Edinburgh, with McGregor’s Renton being the central character. He is joined by friends Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Tommy (Kevin McKidd) and the previously mentioned Begbie – played tremendously by Robert Carlyle. Kelly Macdonald completes the top billed cast as Renton’s schoolgirl lover Diane, while James Cosmo, Shirley Henderson and Peter Mullan are among the strong support. The film has been described as a dark comedy – a fair enough appraisal as there are plenty of laughs, many of them accompanied by a cringe or a disbelieving shake of the head (a particular scene involving Spud and some bed sheets sticks in the mind). The main strand running through the story is Renton’s attempt to leave his drug abusing life behind which, ultimately, he succeeds in as the film concludes with him relocated to London in upbeat form.

The film had and continues to have a hugely recognisable identity, which is what makes it such an important part of British cinema. Among other items of merchandise released, posters adorned bedroom walls around the UK and a memorable soundtrack brought (in some cases renewed) attention to artists as varied as Iggy Pop, Underworld and Blondie. It gained critical acclaim around the world and won awards, also being nominated for Best Screenplay at the Academy Awards. From a Scottish point of view Trainspotting shook up the “shortbread tin” image of Scotland and launched a number of young acting talents into the limelight.

As with Shallow Grave, it was in fact Glasgow that lent itself to the majority of filming despite the feature being set in Edinburgh. Among the Glasgow locations used were Crosslands pub on Queen Margaret Drive, Cafe D’Jaconelli on Maryhill Road, Jordanhill School and the since demolished Volcano nightclub in Partick. Perhaps as a thank you to the city, the Odeon cinema on Renfield Street was chosen as the venue for Trainspotting‘s world premiere. Among the cast and other celebrities in attendance was Jonny Lee Miller’s girlfriend of the time, a then little known actress who would later return to Glasgow in 2011 very well known – Angelina Jolie.

Studio Time: Outpost

outpostoutpost 2So far Glasgow on Film has covered movies filmed and set in Glasgow, movies filmed on the streets of Glasgow but set elsewhere and even those filmed elsewhere but set in Glasgow. This new GoF category – Studio Time – has been created for films shot within the four walls of the Film City Glasgow studio in Govan, so therefore not using Glasgow’s streets, parks or any other distinguishing features as a backdrop but definitely Clyde built productions nonetheless.

Before going into the plot of Outpost, a little bit on Film City Glasgow…

Film City Glasgow is quintessentially Glaswegian, housed in the red sandstone former Govan Town Hall and just a stone’s throw from the River Clyde. Central to the complex is a 5,000 square foot studio and build space and there are production offices, workshop areas and rehearsal and meeting rooms. On its website Film City Glasgow is described as “the heart and soul of Scotland’s film and television industry”, a title justified by the impressive list of both television and film production companies who reside there, have used it as a base or both. In film, The Eagle, Perfect Sense, Red Road, Legacy, The Decoy Bride and Neds are among the productions in which Film City Glasgow has played a part. Film City Glasgow is currently leading proposals for a new, bigger studio scheme on the Clyde waterfront just next to the existing premises – this would include two studio sound stages, with one at around 20,000 square feet in size. If approved the new complex would have the potential to lead to even more movie making in Glasgow, a prospect which of course Glasgow on Film relishes.

Back to today’s subject matter Outpost, which had internal scenes shot in Film City Glasgow, with external scenes filmed on location in Dumfries and Galloway. Starring Ray Stevenson, Julian Wadham, Richard Brake, Paul Blair, Brett Fancy, Enoch Frost, Julian Rivett, Michael Smiley and Johnny Meres, Outpost sees a team of mercenaries and the scientist who hired them head to an underground bunker in a remote part of eastern Europe. The scientist, Hunt (played by Julian Wadham), has knowledge that the bunker was used by the Nazis during the second world war to experiment and develop an army of super soldiers, and is particularly interested in an anti-matter device housed within. The team discover what appears to be a survivor, and from then on in the film develops into its horror territory as the mercenaries are killed off one by one amid mysterious goings on. The film is classed as low budget – it was in fact the first release from Black Camel Pictures, founded by couple Arabella Croft and Kieran Parker who mortgaged their Glasgow home to finance Outpost – yet the quality surpasses that of many other movies made on budgets of similar or even higher amounts. Another contrast that does the film and the people behind it credit is that between its background and its plot – the story of a Glasgow couple mortgaging their house to fund a business sounds like it should be leading up to the opening of a new coffee shop in the west end, not a genuinely creepy and gruesome movie about undead Nazis.

Starring Role: Perfect Sense

Glasgow on Film recalls, on a sunny October Sunday in 2009, returning a kilt to a hire shop in Glasgow city centre and then taking a detour to the Merchant City where filming was reportedly underway. On Wilson Street there was debris strewn everywhere – discarded luggage, waste paper and abandonded vehicles – and amidst all of this Scottish actor Ewan McGregor was wandering around.

The production being filmed was Perfect Sense, released in 2011 to critical acclaim (winning Best British Feature at the Edinburgh International Film Festival that year).

McGregor is joined in Perfect Sense by Eva Green – mentioned previously as one of “Glasgow’s Global Visitors” –  and a supporting cast that includes his Trainspotting (another film with Glasgow links) co-star Ewen Bremner, his real life uncle Denis Lawson, Stephen Dillane and Connie Nielsen. The film follows the blossoming romance between McGregor’s chef Michael and Green’s epidemiologist Susan – the complication in this particular love story though is the epidemic that is sweeping the globe and robbing everybody of their senses: smell, taste, hearing and sight.

It is a unique film in a number of ways: most films involving viruses and epidemics follow a similar route, but in Perfect Sense there are no zombies, no screaming primates, no gunfire – instead, with the exception of some moments of high emotion that occur just before the loss of a sense, we see people in Glasgow and beyond doing their best to adapt to the sudden and shocking developments that appear to be affecting all human life; in the practically silent ending to the film – as Michael and Susan embrace just as they lose the power of sight – the idea of six billion people no longer able to hear or see hits the viewer as a more terrifying prospect than most of the “end of civilisation” scenarios that have been played out on screen before.

As for Glasgow’s role in Perfect Sense, this is one of the finest examples of the city being portrayed in film as a normal working and living city – just as the feature avoids many epidemic movie tropes, it presents Glasgow without relying on excessive grit or caricatures. The film also makes good use of locations around the city centre and west end.

Glasgow’s Global Visitors: Eva Green

Over the years Glasgow has been visited by many, many famous faces from the world of film. A lot of these have been there to work – either filming a feature or promoting a new release – while others have simply gone for a short break or to visit friends and relatives. Others with multiple talents have even visited the city in a capacity other than film star – perhaps to perform a music or comedy gig. This regular feature of Glasgow on Film – “Glasgow’s Global Visitors” – will take a look at all of the international names that have graced the city’s streets. There are so many to choose from so to start with Glasgow on Film has decided to choose someone at random from its DVD collection (not all of the films in it are linked to Glasgow!)  – Casino Royale was the movie randomly picked and therefore the first subject of Glasgow’s Global Visitors is Eva Green

Name: Eva Green

Born: 5th July 1980 in Paris, France

Credits include: Casino Royale, Dark Shadows, The Dreamers

Reason for visiting Glasgow: Filming of the 2011 movie Perfect Sense, which will be featured as a “Starring Role” title on Glasgow on Film soon.