12 May 2014

Steve McQueen Retrospective

Celebrating the release of acclaimed masterpiece 12 Years a Slave on Blu-ray & DVD 12th May, we are take a moment to recognise Steve McQueen’s amazing ability to choose films that match his unique and unparalleled film style. His ability to wow viewers with his cinematic trademarks; dark, raw, arty, violent, sexual and intense all stunningly shot makes his scenes instantly memorable. Despite only having directed three major films throughout his career, McQueen directed 23 short films previously which familiarised audiences with his particular trademarks and regular themes. Michael Fassbender has become a Steve McQueen regular theme having starred in all three of his feature films from ‘Hunger’ to ‘Shame,’ with uncompromising performances helping make Steve McQueen’s unique style as one of the most exciting and prominent British directors of his generation.

Steve McQueen’s early years:

Steve McQueen was born in London in 1969 to working-class West Indian parents. He went to school at Drayton Manor High School, whose other notable former students include musician Rick Wakeman and footballer Peter Crouch. He then went onto study at Chelsea College of Art and Design and later at Goldsmith's College, where he discovered his passion for film.

A few years after he made his first breakthrough short film Bear (1993) in which two naked men (one of them played by McQueen himself) confront each other as if about to fight. McQueen then made gallery films Deadpan (1997), an experimental riposte to a cyclone scene in Buster Keaton’s silent film Steamboat Bill (1928), and Drumroll (1998) a three-channel video installation rolling through the streets of Manhattan which projected the results onto three walls of an enclosed space, both of which helped him scoop the 1999 Turner Prize.

Major Film Features:

Hunger (2008)

Steve McQueen's first full feature was a mesmerising and uncompromising interpretation of the 1981 IRA hunger strikes, focusing on strike leader Bobby Sands (a disturbingly compelling performance from Michael Fassbender) leading the inmates of a Northern Irish prison. Fassbender went on a medically monitored crash diet throughout filming which allowed him only 600 calories a day. His visual appearance and the film’s graphic content are patently powerful. McQueen used super-slow pacing, long silences and static camera shots to transcendent effect and picked up a Bafta and the Camera d'Or at Cannes (first-time director award) for his efforts.

Shame (2011)

Steve McQueen's next feature film, about the downward spiral of sex addict Brandon (Michael Fassbender) living in New York who is unable to manage his sex life. After his wayward younger sister (Carey Mulligan) moves into his apartment, Brandon's world spirals out of control. Shame examines the nature of need, how we live our lives and the experiences that shape us. Written by British screenwriter Abi Morgan, it's a more conventional film than Hunger in terms of plot, but McQueen's direction and camerawork are still as bold as ever.

12 Years A Slave (2013)

McQueen’s harrowing adaptation of Solomon Northup’s (Chiwetel Ejiofor) 1853 memoir - a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.  Facing cruelty personified by a malevolent slave owner (Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity.  In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Pitt) forever alters his life. The film and masterpiece won the biggest prize of them all at this year’s 86th Academy Awards, taking home the award for Best Picture. Nominated for nine Oscars, the film also took home two other statues, for Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong’o) and Best Adapted Screenplay (John Ridley), and cemented its place as one of the most important films of 2013.

12 Years a Slave is out on Blu-ray & DVD Today, 12th May 2014, courtesy of Entertainment One
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