Director and Writer Duncan Jones, who has established a notorious reputation for controversial fare in the advertising arena, started out as a wild-cam operator for Tony Scott (True Romance, Man on Fire), before going on to work as an assistant director for cerebral promo and commercials director Walter Stern. After a stint in the computer games biz, Duncan created the CG/live action commercial Blade Jogger, which won a top award at the UK’s Kodak Student Commercial Competition, and his short film Whistle, which has screened at festivals around the world and numerous times on Film Four in the UK.
After a period shooting low budget music videos, Duncan earned an opportunity to shoot his first big budget commercial with advertising guru Trevor Beattie. The result was Britain’s longest prime time commercial…and possibly the most unusual advertising hoax ever broadcast in the UK, causing a flood of newspaper inches as its authenticity was investigated. Trevor and Duncan immediately hit it off, and when Trevor left to start his own agency, he invited Duncan to join him at BMB as a creative/in-house commercials director and all round ideas person. Their initial offering, the 90-second French Connection woman on woman fight fest “Fashion v Style” caused such controversy, it made front-page news and was subsequently named a finalist for the prestigious 2006 Cannes Lions.
In 2005, Duncan founded Liberty Films with producer Stuart Fenegan to produce feature films and commercials. (Official bio)
Jones’s excellent debut feature, Moon, is now playing at the Uptown Theatre. Back in April, I reviewed the film for my MSPIFF preview, recommending it to sci-fi fans looking for a really good, serious entry in to the genre. I also declared it to be on par with Danny Boyle’s Sunshine from 2007 and Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain from 2006, two other films I love dearly. In my review, I noted:
First-time director Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie, has concocted a very nice sci-fi film. This is a great example of what can be done on a low budget in the genre. The effects are great, effectively putting the audience on the titular moon. Nearing the end of a three-year contract with Lunar Industries, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is counting the days until his return to Earth. The lone occupant of a lunar mining base (the movie never explains why he’s stationed alone), Sam monitors the tractors that harvest the moon’s surface for helium energy. It’s best if you know little going in to this one, but suffice to say some weird stuff goes down. I really liked the way Jones handles the material, harking back to some of the greats like 2001: A Space Odyssey (the robot here is called Gerty 3000 and is voiced successfully by Kevin Spacey) but not merely ripping them off. Moon also features a brilliant score from Clint Mansell (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain), who creates yet another haunting theme to accentuate the score—the original music really adds scope to the whole story and negates some of the all-too-obvious song selections (Katrina and the Waves’ “I’m Walking on Sunshine” and Chesney Hawkes’s “I Am the One and Only” were a bit too on-the-nose).
Before the film screened in April at MSPIFF, I had a chance to sit down with Jones at KFAI’s recording studio to discuss his first film, working with a small budget, and his future plans.
Erik McClanahan is a freelance film journalist and critic in Minneapolis. He is also co-host of KFAI’s Movie Talk.
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• Pieces of Clint Mansell’s score to Moon (from the trailer, featuring dialogue from the film)
• Pieces from Requiem for a Dream soundtrack, original music composed by Clint Mansell and featuring the Kronos Quartet
• Pieces from The Fountain soundtrack, music by Clint Mansell