Simian Substitute Site For October 2014: Monkey Rag
London Film Festival 2014

MOSTLY FILM: Luna Landscape

Terror And Wonder: The Gothic Imagination at the British Library from October 3rd 2014 to January 20th 2015October's going to be a busy month for artist Dave McKean. A new exhibition has just opened at the British Library - Terror And Wonder: The Gothic Imagination - which uses one of his typically multi-textured images for its poster art. And shortly, he's going on tour round the country with a copy of his new film Luna under his arm, calling into Picturehouse cinemas to show the movie and talk about it afterwards.

I've just reviewed Luna on Europe's Best Website, in a piece called Luna Landscape. One of Mostly Film's regular contributors expressed surprise that McKean, primarily known for his work in comics and illustration, was making films now. In fact, McKean's been dabbling in the moving image for the best part of two decades, so this bit of Red Button bonus content brings you half a dozen video clips of things he's worked on.

First of all, here are the opening titles of the 1996 BBC fantasy drama Neverwhere, written by his old pal Neil Gaiman. At this stage in both their careers, I'd imagine that McKean's brief for this one was "make it look exactly like an animated Sandman cover". Features noodly title music by Brian Eno, which was apparently replaced for the DVD release.

McKean made a couple of short films before taking the plunge with his first feature. Here's something that claims to be a trailer for his 1998 short The Week Before, but looks more like a great big clip from the thing.

This is another short film, N[eon], which I'm pretty sure I saw at some festival or other on its 2002 release - FrightFest, maybe? The whole thing is on Vimeo for a reasonable price, if the trailer grabs your attention.

And so we move on to McKean's feature films, all of which get namechecked in the Mostly Film piece. I was quite taken by MirrorMask when I first saw it in Edinburgh in 2005, but on a recent rewatch it just felt far too visually cluttered. There's a look I associate with CGI-intensive movies of the early noughties - blurry and drained of colour, as if there weren't enough computing cycles available at the time to make the images look right. The Japanese made a lot of movies like that back then - Avalon and Casshern to name but two - and MirrorMask fits right in with those.

Technically, the next McKean film is The Gospel Of Us - although it was actually shot after the completion of photography on Luna, coming out first while the latter film struggled with financing issues. The Port Talbot Passion is an astonishing undertaking in its own right, and McKean deserves credit for finding a way to make a city-sized piece of immersive theatre work as a film.

Finally, here's the trailer for Luna. At the time I went to the press screening, the thinking was that the film would get a UK wide release starting on October 3rd. Those plans appear to have been scaled back: the London run consisted of a pair of Raindance Festival screenings that you've already missed, and currently the Picturehouse tour of half a dozen cinemas is all that's planned in terms of distribution. Still, there should be a DVD release eventually, so there's always that. Although as with all the films I'm discussing here, McKean's images really deserve to be seen on a big screen if you get the chance.


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