Mark Noonan: Director of Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect

Mark Noonan’s documentary introduces audiences to the Pritzker Prize-winning, Irish-American architect Kevin Roche. Responsible for over 300 major buildings around the world, Roche has designed museums, corporate headquarters, research facilities, performing arts centres, theatres, and campus buildings for universities. Some of his best known work includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the revolutionary Oakland Museum of California, the Ford Foundation and United Nations Plaza in Manhattan, A Centre For the Arts at the Wesleyan University, corporate campuses for Bouygues in Paris and Banco Santander in Madrid.

Noonan’s film Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect shines a light on a true Irish visionary, whose architectural philosophy is that ‘the responsibility of the modern architect is to create a community for a modern society’ and has emphasised the importance for peoples well-being to bring nature into the buildings they inhabit.

Noonan describes how the film came into being.”It began when I was approached by my producer, who had an idea about doing a movie about this architect called Kevin Roche, whom I had never actually heard of, even though I studied architecture. So I did a bit of research on him and discovered that he was quite a fascinating individual with a huge body of work, all over the world. He was born in Ireland, educated in Ireland and then left in his mid 20s to go to America. That all got me quite excited and so I started to develop the idea with the producer.

“Quite early on I approached Kate McCullough [DoP], whom I’d always wanted to work with – she was very excited about bringing her visual sensibility to some of Roche’s buildings.. We shot a short promo and started to map out the visual language that we wanted to use, which was very much trying to put the viewer inside and outside – so, if we were inside the building it was very elegant tracking shots as if they were moving through the building and then for some of his more large-scale work we talked about helicopters and drones, to give life to the buildings from above – a God’s eye view almost.

We also talked about tilt-shift lenses and using focus to actually draw the eye to different diagonals of the buildings – some of his buildings look like they’ve been created by a mad genius. They are very particular, very impressionistic. It was very important to film the buildings and describe them visually.”

Noonan started making the film without having actually met Roche, which he admits was a huge gamble, “when you’re making a film about a subject and you’re not sure what is this guy going to be like both in person and on camera. But very quickly I saw similarities between him and his work. Walking around his buildings you get this sense of calmness, this sense of stoicism… an elegant unfolding of spaces, and in person he is this very philosophical, poetic, grounded individual. So we were able to make that connection between his personality and his buildings. At some stage though in the film we try to let the buildings speak for themselves. Kevin’s so tied up in his work as you see in the film, his whole life has become his work almost that we feel like we’re describing large chunks of his personality with some of the buildings. So rather than it just be him, or other people telling us about him, we give you the buildings and let them tell the story as well.”

A major reason Noonan is able to achieve this so well in the film is because of Kate McCullough’s glistening cinematography which douses the buildings with a lofty and roaming, revealing eye. Mark is quick to praise McCullough, explaining what she brought to the project. “She’s got an amazing eye. She’d be walking around a building and suggesting shots that I would never have thought about. She has a unique way of looking at things. Plus, she’s not afraid to push the visual aesthetic, to get me and the producer to give the time and get the money to hire helicopters and get drones so that we were able to get the amazing shots that we ended up with in the film. And always not to compromise on lenses – we had this idea of doing a lot of the interviews extremely wide angled but with a soft focus in the background. We had to hire extremely expensive lenses in London that allowed us to give our interview subjects this wide angled feel that we were using in the building to connect the interviews with the building. These kinds of ways of linking the story to the people and pushing the visual aesthetic were some of her greatest gifts.”

Reflecting on his time with Kevin Roche himself, Noonan notes the parallels between Kevin and filmmakers like himself. “You live through your work. Kevin’s obsessed with architecture and I’m obsessed with cinema and filmmaking,” and how he learnt from the experience seeing “how satisfied he [Roche] was by devoting most of his life to his work. He has no regrets. Never looks back. Never questions any decisions. Trusts his instincts… but also then remains philosophical and hopeful about humans as well, even though maybe now is not the most hopeful time we’ve lived through, but still feels that what he’s doing is important and that he’s bringing joy to people. Its great to be around someone like that.”

 

 

 

 

Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect is in cinemas from  13th October 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Competition: Win ‘You’re Ugly Too’ on DVD

You're Ugly Too 3D Pack Shot

The feature debut from director Mark Noonan, with soundtrack by Bell X1’s David Geraghty, is now available on DVD.

Featuring acclaimed performances from Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones, Love/Hate, The Wire) and newcomer Lauren Kinsella (Albert Nobbs)You’re Ugly Too tells the story of Will, a man newly released from prison on compassionate leave to care for his orphaned niece, Stacey.  Journeying to the Irish mid-lands, the two attempt to set-up home and start a new life.

Unfortunately, Will’s efforts at being a father figure prove disastrous as he desperately tries to avoid finding himself back in prison and Stacey does her best to understand what’s going on without letting her guard slip.

 A truly heart-warming Irish indie, You’re Ugly Too is available to rent and buy on DVD nationwide and On Demand from iTunes, Virgin Media and Volta from October 23rd

DVD stockists include: HMV, Xtra-vision, Tesco, Golden Discs, Tower Records, the IFI and www.elementpictures.ie

 

Thanks to the the beautiful people at Element Pictures we have a copy of You’re Ugly Too to give away.

 

To win yourself a copy, complete the following:

Mark Noonan’s 2010 short film is titled Getting _____?

 

Email your answer with an address to filmireland@gmail.com by Monday, 2nd November when the Film Ireland hat will stop attending school and select a winner.

 

You can read an interview with Mark Noonan here

 

 

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Interview: Mark Noonan, writer/director of ‘You’re Ugly Too’

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Mark Noonan’s debut feature You’re Ugly Too stars Aidan Gillen as Will, released from prison in Dublin on compassionate leave to care for his niece Stacey (Lauren Kinsella) after the death of her mother. The pair head to the Irish midlands and struggle in their attempts to become a family.

Film Ireland caught up with writer/director Mark Noonan to find out more about his film.

 

You yourself were born in the midlands and came to Dublin. In your first film we see the characters making the opposite journey. Can we talk about how the story came about and its use of location.

I was always very conscious about writing about what I know. So the midlands location was what I started with to be honest. I knew I could get those locations for free pretty much – in terms of the skate park in Birr, where I’m from, and the Caravan Park, and I knew it had the qualities I was looking for – the flat plains, the brown colours, the sense of melancholy, all of which I thought would work really well for the movie. I’ve been based in Dublin since I was 18 so I was keen to have that urban element as well, even if for a few minutes at the beginning. Also by casting two Dublin actors there would be that urban undercurrent in the midlands, which is something I was keen to create in the movie. But the midlands was definitely a starting point.

 

Also, having two Dubliners in the midlands heightens that sense of isolation and alienation that rings through the film.

Exactly. To try and get these characters out of their comfort zone was interesting because I suppose when you’re from an urban environment there’s lots of places to hide. People are surrounding you when you’re in a crowded city and it’s very hard to get that sense of being alone. Whereas here the characters are in the midlands, in a desolate caravan park. There’s nowhere for them to hide so they have to kind of confront each other and the difficulty of the situation they find themselves in and their reluctance to open up to each other. So the midlands provides a sort of limbo environment for the characters, which we were trying to create, where they’ve nothing to do but interact with themselves and the characters of Tibo and Emilia, who they meet at the Caravan Park. The midlands gave us this opportunity for the characters not to be able to run from each other.

 

Will and Stacey play off each other so well and their banter allows for some moments of understated warmth between them.

Even though there’s a lot of humour – we’re kind of seeing these two characters bounce off each other – there isn’t anyone else around to take them away from each other and so there’s a heightened sense of loneliness and a real sense of pathos I hope between them. Both have this brusque exterior but the subtext between them is quite warm, which we were really keen to get through, the genuine love and warmth between them. They will never say they love each other, which can be typical of Irish people, but reading between the lines it’s there – that’s the feeling we’re trying to generate.

We try to undercut those tender moments between them that might be a bit melodramatic. I didn’t want not to create a false sense of drama and I was always trying to ground it in reality – and in that reality, often, when we talk about love, we use humour as a defence mechanism.

 

Those subtle moments are reflected in the film’s soundtrack.

The music is very much grounded in the grittiness of day-to-day living – even though it’s a beautiful score, it’s a modest score reflecting these two modest characters, but hopefully with a huge emotional resonance. Working with  David Geraghty of Bell XI was  a fascinating process. We were both agreed upon keeping things quite modest. We went for a sort of Americana vibe to reflect the American tropes in the film – the trailer park , the guy being released from prison, walking on the railroad. David always wanted the music to fit under the characters, we never wanted the score to overwhelm the visuals, apart from at one point in the movie when it needs that little bit of emotional weight. He’s a very clever composer.

 

Moving from the sound of the film to the look of the film – what was your approach working with cinematographer Tom Comerford?

We were trying to film the movie in a very organic way. We watched a lot of Dardenne Brothers and as bit of Andrea Arnold and we watched a lovely movie by Lance hammer called Ballast. These movies are quite socio-realist in nature so what we wanted to do was continue that style of filmmaking but also shoot it through with a certain elegance. Tom has a got a wonderful eye for compostion, which he brought to these wonderful locations that were realistic and grim but with a beauty about them. Tom was able to capture that – locations that were rusted, with browns and greys, blues and dark greens. These were the colours that we were looking for to reflect the atmosphere we were trying to create with the Midlands, which was certain sense of melancholia but shot through with a real beauty, which we were very keen to capture. Tom works so beautifully with natural light.

 

It’s a great tight cast you worked with in the film, but if we could end by talking about Lauren Kinsella, who gives an exceptional performance.

She was quite an unknown – she did have a line in Albert Nobbs when she was 7 – she was 11 when she made this. We found her in Mary Murray’s drama group. It was kind of late in the process. Aiden was telling us that we really have to find a good kid for this, she’s got to be exceptional. The moment we met Lauren we shut down auditions because, after reading a few lines, myself and my producer knew that it was the perfect role for her.

Then with Aiden we didn’t rehearse… we knew that any rehearsing would just take away the freshness that Lauren had, the freshness in their relationship that I wanted to see unfold on screen. From the first day of shooting she was very comfortable and really sharp and smart with an old head on young shoulders. She’s in almost every scene and brings a wonderful quality that works really well with Aiden. Thank God we were lucky with all the cast, who I think really really deliver the goods.

 

You’re Ugly Too is in currently in cinemas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Irish Film Review: You’re Ugly Too

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DIR/WRI: Mark Noonan • PRO: Conor Barry, John Keville, Benoit Roland  • DOP: Tom Comerford • ED: Colin Campbell • DES: Neill Treacy • MUS: David Geraghty • CAST: Aidan Gillen, Lauren Kinsella, Jesse Morris

 

Aidan Gillen stars as Will, a man released from prison to look after his young niece Stacey (Lauren Kinsella) after the death of her mother, Will’s sister. Escaping Dublin to a sleepy rural town, Will and Stacey attempt to foster a relationship and start afresh. However, they’re plagued by setbacks. Will struggles to find a job, Stacey’s more modern attitudes don’t mesh with Will’s old-fashioned nature and recently Stacey has developed narcolepsy in the wake of her mother’s death which ends up stopping her from being able to attend school. However, the duo befriend a neighbour Emilie (Sainte) who agrees to tutor Stacey while they work out the school issues. And so begins a quiet, subtle exploration of their attempt to build a family out of this less-than-ideal situation.

This is a decidedly mixed film. On balance it probably largely falls on the ‘good’ side of the line but how good kind of depends on who you view the protagonist as being. Initially, it seems like Will is the main player but Stacey gets just about as much screen time and development. Now this is obviously not a complaint but (for this viewer at least) it feels like the film pulls in two contradictory directions depending on who you feel you should be rooting for. Will seems to represent an outdated, idealised stereotype of Ireland. He’s a bit of a ‘rogue’, a real ‘character’, he endlessly spouts dad jokes and eye-rolling platitudes, which he clearly believes represent real wisdom. He seems constantly surprised and a little affronted by Stacey’s independence and generally more ‘modern’ views. This even extends into the narrative as, if you choose to look at it from a certain angle, the story can be summed as; old-fashioned, chivalrous man’s-man saves foreign beauty (Emilie) who falls for him. Now, ultimately the story proves to not be so clear cut but that element never really leaves and at no point do you feel like the film is necessarily against Will’s old fashioned expectations of the world. Indeed, a late reveal of why he was in prison in the first place only reinforces it.

This is all in contrast to Stacey, who it must said, is absolutely the best thing about the film. Kinsella’s performance is flawless. A subtle, quiet but strong and frequently humourous presence who absolutely carries the film. And as a character Stacey feels far more in line with ‘modern’ Ireland but again, it’s unclear if the film is trying to say that she should learn from Will or vice-versa. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s intentionally neither of those and the film is merely presenting both sides without comment and leaving it ambiguous. This kind of detached ambiguity is often a persistent issue with a lot of modern Irish cinema, here though it almost works even if ultimately it means that neither character grows particularly much from their experiences. At any rate it feels more believable and truthful than if this had become a droopy bag of shmaltz and clichés.

Otherwise, in terms of the Good; Tom Comerford’s cinematography is crisp and at times striking, managing that most difficult of tricks by making rural Ireland look neither like a picturesque tourist board commercial or a bleak, desolate wasteland. The supporting cast is strong and the dialogue can be very funny (Stacey’s at any rate) and while the score is sparse, what little of it there is is inoffensive even though it sounds like the music from an Apple product’s ad.

On to the Bad however…

Now, despite recent evidence (read: almost everything since The Wire), I’m still not willing outright to call Gillen a bad actor but he is not good here. As an actor he has a tendency of acting with a capital ‘A’. He doesn’t so much vanish into a role as wear it like a very overt costume. You can see him straining below his own veneer to show how good he is at being, in this case, a working-class Dub just out of prison. It really is quite bemusing to watch scenes of him and Kinsella having conversations, their polar opposite acting styles clashing as much as characters do. This brings us onto the other major issues, the dialogue. Now, while it can be good (as I said earlier, mainly Stacey’s) there is a clear attempt here at naturalism that quite often overshoots. Sometimes this ends up being a bit incongruous (Stacey nonchalantly asking ‘So what’s the story with you being a drug addict?’) but other times enters truly cringe-y, flatout bad territory. The attempt at stark realism despite the presence of slightly generic elements further reinforcing the weird non-tone the film seems to be going for. The problem, really, can be summed up in a single, almost dialogue-free scene of Will going to a local young-people’s party where he tries to sell them drugs and have a good time. It is a deeply weird scene, awkward to watch, serves no real point and is mercifully short. It’s difficult to articulate exactly why it feels so off but in motion it embodies all the film’s negatives.

This is by no means a bad film and there is definitely enough good to keep your interest. Lauren Kinsella can join the growing list of young Irish actors that show real promise and the unusual enough dynamic between the leads means that it’s never boring. But the missteps with both the writing and Gillen really are hard to ignore and lead to a very uneven experience on the whole.

Richard Drumm

 

15A (See IFCO for details)
80 minutes

You’re Ugly Too is released 24th July 2015

 

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‘You’re Ugly Too’ Nominated at Berlin

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Mark Noonan’s film You’re Ugly Too starring Aidan Gillen has been nominated for the Best First Feature Award at the Berlin International Film Festival next month, where the film will have its World Premiere.

The film stars Aidan Gillen as Will, who is released from prison on compassionate leave to care of his niece Stacey, after the death of her mother. An odd couple of sorts, they leave the city behind to pursue what they both hope will be a fresh start in the sleepy surroundings of the Irish midlands. The two bicker and fight as they adjust to their new life together and make tentative steps towards becoming an improvised family.

You’re Ugly Too will screen in the Generation Kplus category, which is aimed at children from the age of fourteen. 

You’re Ugly Too was produced by John Keville and Conor Barry for Savage Productions and was filmed in counties Dublin and Offaly

The 2015 Berlin International Film Festival takes place  5 – 15 February.

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Irish short ‘Getting Air’ by Mark Noonan to screen in Japan this week as part of the Sapporo International Short Film Festival 2011

Getting Air

The independent short film Getting Air by Mark Noonan has been selected to screen in competition at the Sapporo Short Fest 2011 in Japan. The film is the only Irish film in the Official Selection and is one of just 78 films chosen from 2,291 short films submitted from 88 countries. Getting Air will screen twice as part of the ‘Bittersweet’ programme at the festival which runs this weekend from the 5th to the 10th of October.

Written and directed by Mark Noonan and produced by Clare Creely and Pete Moles, the film is an urban drama about three teenage basketball-playing friends struggling to connect with each other and the adults in their lives. When they meet two members of the police, relationships with their family and the law take a turn. The cast includes newcomers Jamie Maher, Jasmin Huysmans and Dylan Byrne along with Fiona Browne, Elga Fox and John Currivan. DoP on the shoot was Stevie Russell with original music by Gavin O’Brien.

Previous work by Mark Noonan includes the award-winning short film Questions (Best First Short at the 2009 Corona Cork International Film Festival). Mark was recently selected for the Berlinale Talent Campus 2011.

Getting Air has screened at a wide range of festivals at home and abroad including the Galway Film Fleadh, the Corona Cork Film Festival, the Kerry Film Festival, the Chicago Irish Film Festival, the Indie Spirit Film Festival in Colorado and the Lewiston-Auburn Film Festival in the US. The film was recently included in a selection of the top ten best Irish short films from the Kerry Film Festival 2011. This selection will screen in film clubs across the country as part of an initiative between the festival and access>CINEMA – the film also recently screened in Finland as part of this programme. It will next screen in Poland as part of FRSF’s Polish Film Review 2011.

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