Tonight on Radio 4, Alice Lowe invites you all to visit Alice’s Wunderland.
In light of this, Velveteer Mog elected to take a quick look back at the work of Alice & Jacqueline Wright’s Jackal Films throughout their 2010 Calendar Project. Below is her personal review.
In 2010 comedy writer and performer Alice Lowe and director Jacqueline Wright released a film per month under the guise of Jackal Films – that’s twelve shorts in total. Although we announced each of their monthly releases as they came out last year, we reckoned Jackal Film’s achievement was due a retrospective.
My original plan was to take notes while I watched each film, in an attempt to identify and record the most salient points about each one. “January: silly + brilliantly done” was as far as I got before I got utterly sucked in, forgetting to write anything else. Luckily I may have nailed it in one statement: “silly + brilliantly done” is a pretty accurate description of what Jackal Films is all about.
The silliness comes from Alice Lowe’s surreal, unhinged performances. She inhabits each character completely and then pushes it as far as it can go. Then she pushes it some more, somehow still managing to avoid caricature. Thanks to the delicate nuances of each performance and Jacqueline Wright’s perfectly-pitched unintrusive direction, the characters Alice plays are bizarre and extreme, yet at the same time strangely credible. In March’s film, The Birdhandler, Alice isn’t someone pretending to be a bird; she is a bird.
Women who look a certain way are expected to behave in a certain way on TV, and when they don’t it’s incredibly refreshing. There’s something inherently funny about an attractive woman (as Alice is) not taking herself seriously – by some way! I’m not sure if Jackal Films will care for the comparison, but it’s arguably what defined the funniest moments on ‘Smack the Pony’. Simply put, watching women being silly, when they could easily get away with just being simpering or sexy, is terrific fun! August’s Celeberama is a testament to that.
So now for the “brilliantly done” part of the Jackal Films equation: Everything that you see on screen – from the performances to the direction, lighting, wardrobe, props, grading, sound – basically the whole shebang, has been carefully thought through and made meticulously ‘just right’. Daft jokes are raised up several notches because of the care and attention lavished on the presentation of the jokes. 1970s kids TV (with a twist!) in May’s Making it With Pam, the B-movie horror of January’s Queen B and June’s Bette Davis-esque A Dead Cat demonstrate this beautifully.
Across twelve films there are bound to be some weaker moments; for me personally September’s My Old Baby feels a little thin, much as I love Rich Fulcher‘s baby. I suspect everyone will have their personal favourites, and I know at least one of my Velvety colleagues disagrees with me! Overall though, over twelve films the originality and quality of the ideas, and the execution of those ideas, shines through. 2011 has been a lot less fun without them.
If you missed out on Jackal Films’ monthly releases last year, they’re well worth a look. To visit the Jackal Films website and find out more about “the demon child” of Alice Lowe and Jacqueline Wright click here. You can also catch up on our coverage of Jackal Film’s Q&A at the Film Directing for Women Festival last September.
Listen out for tonight’s pilot of Wunderland, Lowe’s darkly psychadelic comedy that premiers on BBC Radio 4 at 11pm today. Read our recent interview with her in which she talks about the show.