Jackie : A Film Review


Directed by Pablo Larraín. Produced by Juan de Dios Larraín, Darren Aronofsky, Mickey Liddell, Scott Franklin, Ari Handel. Written by Noah Oppenheim. Cast. Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt. Music by Mica Levi, Cinematography Stéphane Fontaine, Edited by Sebastián Sepúlveda, Production companies, LD Entertainment, Wild Bunch, Fabula, Why Not Productions, Bliss Media, Endemol Shine Studios, Protozoa. Duration. 1hr 35mins. Cert. 15.


A moment changes the World

You are in for an engrossing watch through the dramatic performances and palpable tensions over an event which will last long in the memory of the Political and Social history of America. The 1963 assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  He was artly responsible for setting the foundation stones of modern America which were laid by a unity of purpose naively set up on the false hopes of the ‘All American dream‘ and even proposing – in a space race with the then USSR – landing a man on the moon. Most of America was fed through the very new media of TV and infinity of lifestyle magazines from Life to Playboy.  GQ would come later and in the Trump towers supermo’s office he has framed covers of Playboy and GQ featuring DT and with this film opening in the U.K. on Friday 20 January on the inauguration of the New President of the United States it is Donald Trumps turn to shape the USA dream or sign its death nail.

The blurb on the film is After her husband’s assassination, Jackie Kennedy’s (Natalie Portman) world is completely shattered. Traumatized and reeling with grief, over the course of the next week she must confront the unimaginable: consoling their two young children, vacating the home she painstakingly restored, and planning her husband’s funeral.  Jackie quickly realizes that the next seven days will determine how history will define her husband’s legacy – and how she herself will be remembered. Chilean director Pablo Larraín (Tony Manero, No) plunges us into the devastation using a series of finely crafted flashbacks that cover the fateful day in Dallas, Jackie’s return to the White House, arrangements for the President’s funeral, and her time spent accompanying her husband’s coffin to Arlington Cemetery.  

The role came to Portman through Darren Aronofsky, who directed her in Black Swan, for which she won an Oscar in 2011. He shepherded Noah Oppenheim’s script of Jackie for a number of years. Meanwhile, Larrain’s star was rising beyond Chile, in films largely about his home country’s history (No, The Club, Neruda). The Club won a prize at the Berlinale in 2015.  Sydney Morning Herald.


Performances to celebrate

It is a very tightly crafted film, very much keeping its focus on the psyche of Jackie Kennedy in a short period and time of immense change.  With all seeming to be heading sweetly for JFK heading into a second term, this was a joyous time and full of hope but is cruelly shattered in seconds.  The script is chillingly absent of sentiment, ideology, lecture or incidental fill.  It has a welcome electrifying directness giving insight to the persons at the heart of the event.  The conversations and efficiency of words infiltrate the mood swings and juxtapositions, allowing fractious clashes to ignite believably while personalities vie to capture their own space in the story.  The likes of the senior clerical Priest, Father Richard McSorley, played with assurity and gravitas by John Hurt, who is asked by Jackie to conduct the Funeral, is a fatherly figure with a breadth of intuative and needed kind wisdom, which he delivers in a long conversation with Jackie as they survey the landscape prior to the Funeral. The suggestion Jackie has a conversation with Father McSorley is not simply him seeking her approval of the arrangements but to have her unburden the thoughts he is aware she will not release. That in itself is a vivid illumination of the key central characters and the complexity of this world shattering event. Richard E.Grant is also wholly convincing as the ‘Master of Ceremonies’ in the White House, William Walton, anticipating and conflicted by the choices of Jackie in the now decorous White House she has recently restored and transformed into a ‘peoples’ house yet extravagance is not exiled.  The chairs once used by the Lincolns are retrieved from the English aristocrat family who obtained them. Peter Sarsgaard is tremendous as Bobby Kennedy.  He has the unfortunate job of burying a brother and looking after a widow both in grief. He is fragile and has black secrets. Bobby acted a lot of the time to keep the private side of his brother hidden while he also plays someone who deals with a wife who was aware of her husbands infidelity and mixing with the wrong folk.

Jackie asks

Jacqueline (Lee Bouvier Kennedy), (“Jackie”) 1929–94, wife of John F. Kennedy (1953–63) and Aristotle Onassis (1968–75).

What happened? Who done it? the questions on the free worlds mind in 1963 when JFK, Jack Kennedy is assassinated.  It is not often mentioned but the Cold War was in people’s minds so the USSR would not only have eyes on it, they could – though we’re never cited – as possible assassins.  The immediate aftermath is the focus of this story as seen through the eyes of the highly traumatised and troubled Jackie Lee Bouvier, the widow with two small children, Caroline and John.  The world is watching and she is in a state of Post traumatic shock with few medics to help and just the White House entourage to relate to.  No one is close to her except Bobby Kennedy and her aide de camp, the lady in waiting type, Greta Gerwig whose guidance is both practical and humane.  She for instance tells Jackie how to tell the children, in the whirlwind of thought she offers clarity. It is a stellar performance on  Greta Gerwig’s part too.  Towering as she does, over the small grieving woman Jackie/Natalie whose only friend is her. Others to note if only for their presence excepting JFK are  Caspar Phillipson as John F. Kennedy himself, John Carroll Lynch as President Lyndon B. Johnson, Julie Judd as Ethel Kennedy, Brody and Aiden Weinberg as John F. Kennedy Jr., Mathilde Ripley as Jean Kennedy Smith all lurking in the wallpaper of the White House.  When HBO first conceived of the idea along with Darren Aronofsky, around 2010, it was envisaged it would be a four part mini-series, then word got about and grander plans were put together.  While it ‘rested’ at times it eventually gathered the full engagement of LD Entertainment and Wild Bunch with Darren Aronofsky at the helm if not the Directors chair.


The White House

The CBS TV black and White tour fixes us back in the day through contemporary and modern interplay of the actual footage and inserts for the actors which is in grainy b/w and the sound is raw.  Even watching black and white TVs dotted around and particularly one in a g-plan cabinet contrasting with the French decorous style of Jackie contrast and realise the era.  In the Presidens office there are many old maritime portraits of ships with masts contrasting with the decorated heros marine past. Alongside these the massive portrait of Bison and Bison (so singular an animal it retains the name unaltered on plural!) on stampede.  The Oval Office is late in receiving its bold red circular carpet.  The whole replication of the White House interiors was carroed out on the Paris studios. The sound is delicately adjusted from the b/w footage back to a smooth dialogue, say of Billy Crudup and the footage is also integrated extremely well with it having apparently been shot on 35mm film.  I had an issue with the choice of music and while it was not maudlin it was at times irritatingly harsh and unnecessarily present.

 img_8051

The American Route map to success.

The opening of the film begins on the Presidential plane with the entourage, the full works, preparing to land in Texas to go on that fateful journey into Dallas.  It is visceral expectation of her home state reunion and celebration of JFK having gotten to the White House and this stellar couple being examples of the American dream realised in a form of success matched by smartness and anticipation of a better future.  TV is the elephant in the room.  The intervention and prime inventor of those dreams.  The elephant in the room being the thought – you think you had and you sitting on the back as it’s pilot as it takes you where you think you intended to go – except the elephant is doing all the driving.  As with La La Land all is colour and CinemaScope.  The TV though is still black and white.  The arc of the film is the Life series of interviews and in this immediate period, with use of flashback and CBS footage of a White House tour – a key widening view of the hidden inner workings of the White House – the Life Magazine interview which is carried out by in Massachusetts after the event; only a week actually, with – ‘The journalist’ Billy Crudup  – as end credits have it.  It is of course the Theodore White interview which Jackie Kennedy sought and demanded total control over as she did with the State Funeral which went global in its TV and cinema showing of its extraordinary homage to a leader.


Life (other magazines Time, GQ are available)

Theodore White turns up at her remote lakeside home in Massachusetts at Hygennis Port in a timber colonial style high ceilinged mansion.  The brusque cautious greeting of Jackie is a trigger of thought and disclosure setting the tone and delivering a new way of journalistic intrusion.  Albeit a forthright discussion and serious interview, it is through the personality of Theodore White – whose loose collar and tie belie his penetrative technique – which loosens Jackie tongue and the core innermost telling emotions inside Jackies mind pour out easily.  His technique is simply using a notepad and pen, and his manner is stoic, serious and non judgemental, being notionally slightly deferential although he does not allow Jackie to get away from his inquisitive delving by upsetting her.  He is instead the astute and independent author of her words. Being agreeable is a ploy he will have used many times as a seasoned journalist knowing the thirst for this story and it’s massive trajectory in print. It will be her story, he tells her, as she ruminates over this slackening of the pressures post funeral  and of the historical marker she laid down.  “What I think of history?  Does that make it true?”  Her own struggling with the facts and perceptions. The truth of the assassination is always under the surface. For Natalie Portman  she had the stories to go to as the part was researched by reading the interviews, Her primary source was the seven-part eight-and-a-half-hour Life magazine interview conducted in the early part of 1964 by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. with Kennedy. One of three interviews she gave following her husband’s assassination, it was kept private throughout her life – so wiki tells me!

More insights to the way it evolved as a film are interestingly revealed on wiki and this is in a four year period which began with Racheal Weisz in the ‘titular’ part it goes on to – May 2015, Portman was confirmed to star in the film.  That same month, Chilean Director Pablo Larraín was hired having been approached by Darren Aronofsky to direct the film with Aronofsky subsequently working as a piloting producer.

    

Conspiracies aside.

The fact is this film does not dwell on the conspiracy theories or the killer(s) Ruby killing, the alleged assassin Oswald and it is intensely about the choices made in the immediate aftermath.  Natalie Portman is extraordinarily convincing in portraying a vulnerable fragile diminutive wife whose world is shattered and all known compasses are lost.  Portman was working on another film – Planetarium, with Lily-Rose Depp – during pre-production of Jackie in Paris. She prepares in depth for any role, but this one did not allow much time. She read everything she could find and studied footage of Jackie, especially her distinctive voice: silky, patrician and breathy, with touches of Long Island, where Portman spent part of her own childhood. That voice is a huge part of the performance.  Sydney Morning Herald. The strength Natalie Portman portrays, definitely Oscar worthy, is as if she is pulling her up, Jackie up and out of this extraordinary maelstrom event and is breathtaking through its simplicity and nuanced magnificently with subtlety and vocally with gesture, inflection and cadence.  From her adjusting her attire, make up, hair, and walking routine, for the outside world to her rehearsal and rehearsal of the tasks ahead with her lady in waiting, it becomes a legendary performance in itself.

 

Legacy for who?

The Life magazine and TV background of the aftermath is the question Jackie places centrally, concerning the public spectacle and projection of the legacy of her husband. The legacy is prime. She does all she can to make the cavalcade match the Lincoln funereal despite their legacies being poles apart.  With the help of Bobby Kennedy and Nancy Tuckerman, the lady in waiting, in a whirl wind she commands strength and the understandable flaky persona we have insight to, mainly due to the PTSD (as is our probable likely post-overview) which conceals an inner trauma with a sense of self she is continually framing the world view of both herself and Jack John Kennedy.  She and the Life magazine interviews which she retrieves partially – it is the widows prerogative exercised – as she is prepared to deny the journalists writing of it if need be.  This is clear to Theodore White in the journalists role and one he is prepared for.  It is too revealing so soon after the assassination she takes steps to reframe things.  In any event or so it is believed the truth may be revealed in time, however it never has been.


Conclusion ####4

In terms of reality, Jackie herself proclaims it very well, as she knows having been a Presidents wife, Public perception is often far from the truth, the managed truth.  She is at ease declaring the story is servant to the legacy.  The truth is another matter entirely.  The interview which works extremely well as the central plank of the film, is as though the legacy is assured as the fulfilment of what she wished for in terms of the funeral statelike removal of JFK was in itself testimony to the woman’s will and strength. This interview is a tail piece of extraordinary insight and it’s legacy is also hers.  Nancy Tuckerman, the splendidly relaxed and grounded Greta Gerwig is seen remaining and apart, left alone at the White House when Jackie leaves.  Don’t let it be forgot.  The words of Camelot. The invincibibility of the Camelot musical beloved of JFK who played the song, Victrola, as a refreshment after a hard day’s grind, is recalled by Jackie but she’s conscious there will be new presidents but there will never be another Camelot. On the page and of it darkness has its many shades.  The day today is just the first. A remarkable and very touching biographical memoir in a historically vexing film. While many will not be interested in the historical perspective it is a very touching story of how grief of any kind sends new priorities and shapes things so differently going forward.  It as a film asks more questions and is very contrasting for the current inauguration of a world leader going ahead right now.

       
John Graham

19 January 2017

Belfast
On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from 20 January through to 2 February 2017.  And on wide General release.

What’s not on General release is the ‘road movie’ a political thriller of 104mins. 2016. by Pablo Larrain

Neruda


It’s 1948 and the Cold War has reached Chile. In congress, Senator Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) accuses the government of betraying the Communist Party and is swiftly impeached by President Gonzalez Videla (Alfredo Castro). Police Prefect Oscar Peluchonneau (Gael Garcia Bernal) is assigned to arrest the poet. Neruda tries to flee the country with his wife, the painter Delia del Carril (Mercedes Morán), but they are forced into hiding. Inspired by the dramatic events of his new life as a fugitive, Neruda writes his epic collection of poems, Canto General. Meanwhile, in Europe, the legend of the poet hounded by the policeman grows, and artists led by Pablo Picasso clamor for Neruda’s freedom. Neruda, however, sees this struggle with his nemesis Peluchonneau as an opportunity to reinvent himself. In this story of a persecuted poet and his implacable adversary, Neruda recognizes his own heroic possibilities: a chance to become both a symbol for liberty and a literary legend.

From the fibula.cl website where you can also see trailers of other films by Pablo Larrain like Fugue.
La Casa Films logo is so good I have to show it! 

The range of Cinema in Chile is astoundingly captivating.

La La Land : A Film Review

 

img_7912

Directed by Damien Chazelle, produced by Fred Berger, Gary Gilbert, Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt. Written by Damien Chazelle
Cast.  Ryan Gosling as Sebastian, Emma Stone as Mia, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, Music by Justin Hurwitz, Cinematography. Linus Sandgren. Released. August 31, 2016 (Venice Film Festival) December 9, 2016 (United States) January 13, 2017 (United Kingdom)
Duration. 2hr 8mins. Country United States. Cert. 12a.

img_7910

Entertainment ball

In terms of public awareness and prominence in entertainment news La La Land has outshone practically every advance notice in media platforms excepting Star Wars levels.  From Emma Stone whose first public encounter in association with the movie was about six months ago at Venice, August, and the exposure has been excalating ever since, it has been a long at times, probably tiresome journey.  New work needs a great deal of similar commitment at the inception through realisation and I wonder how La La Land has affected her work.  It is the same for Ryan Gosling no doubt with roles for both of them very drastically different from this coupling ever advancing.

Let me entertain you

They nail the chemistry in this film which is in my mind one of the primary reasons it has succeeded. Mia is a barista working in a movie studio and Sebastian as a jazz painist playing in a bar with Whiplash tutor J.K. Simmons cast as owner.  They rendezvous at the bar and the friction of first love is tested as Mia …. well you figure as most reviewers have given away lots of the story and piecemeal you get to hear of the whole story anecdotally and spoilt. The love story obviously survives an early clash otherwise where’s the Movie!

The next piece of the jigsaw is location Los Angeles dream making ‘central’ and the heart of entertainment Hollywood so we are led to believe.  The world is much bigger but for ever Hollywood is the place to ‘Make It’ – a true tale of a musician struggling up the ranks who has written some of the most smaltzy and crooning type pop music fodder the Musical genre cries out for is that of Gary Barlow except he did it from North Wales to Runcorn clubs and TV induced encouragement until he produced the magic cassette tape for a man (he didn’t know) was putting together a boy band and on it was A million love songs.  When the guy heard (Nigel Martin Smith) it he was astounded.  It was entirely his own work – singing, playing, arrangements and production. But there was no Hollywood or Nashville only the GB circuit.  So the story of musical success for Gary Barlow has wealth and a great story behind it but no Hollywood traction. La La Land is a film about the ‘Make It’ struggle but without the content.  I’m beginning to warm to Take That as a guilty secret along the lines of Wham and Careless Whisper.  The look of LA is very intoxicatingly throughout this film but other films produce this high intensity colour like Cy Twombly covered cityscapes.  The dancing is very cleverly designed and camerawork follows using the most uptodate technology and some post production tweaks but the one tracking shot which I favour as a time conscious mechanism is used as a bit of a contrivance and involves the performers – bashed in car roofs show the rehearsals were trying – is monumental and eclipses the principles in the scene they ‘meet’ and it’s a hammy connection with back of car camera work following intricately played dance work and flops abysmally with ‘gestural’ negative vibes.  So not uplifting?

La La Land Review

Lachrymose.

In La La Land there are no such songs.  Not even close. The music is what musicals are supposed to be about but here it is devoid of a kicker song and one you will be singing on the way home.  Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of a kind whose skills in producing theatres West End Musical hits – to be seen in the flesh so to speak at the auditorium – invests a whole aura of entertainment enthralment into a viewer/listeners experience.  Theatre therefore is the Musical driver and it is nothing without a key song which delivers a story.  Film is let off the hook is what I’m saying.  Its visually sumptuous and reminiscent of previous screen giants which have gone from Casablanca and Mary Poppins to Les Miserable and countless more West Side Story, Saturday Night Fever etc. Which define light entertainments Musical genre.  The crossovers are there.  Evita with a song.  Every one has a song a hook, but La La Land does not therefore it is something else which is its secret.

The traits exposed her are a song and dance girl and a under rated pianist.  Bring on Marilyn straight away.  She’s even a red head.  Then there is child star risen and light hearted, no Jack Lemmon or Tony Curtis  adding spice sex appeal (gender bending in Some like it Hot) story and the band add song and key bonding moments.  ‘Make It’ again the point.  Ryan Gosling does a weaker version of any of the forerunners as most of them were all round Entertainers bending their skills into believable actor roles alongside the Musical centrality of a story with songs and kicker ones at that.

 

img_7916

The films orb

Luscious mush is not what Musical Entertainment is really about but it does put bums on seats undoubtedly has it tweeks the right buttons in a contemporary way.  Sub Woody Allen cinema techniques are deployed, with initially the screen ratio itself a harbour expanded.  The opening sequence so much talked about is an opening number.  A Scorsese or Polanski close up of a girl reading a script and wap bo bam babbaloba a dance sequence – instead of a street a highway – instead of tables and chairs – cars.

Björk in Dancing in the Dark (2000) and the train dance sequence is a million times better as was the film and all modern imitations are limp like this tends to be.  So is that a put down?  Depends.  I venture the film is not the film we are sold,  its hype has part of the ‘Make It’ into an icon feel to it.  Join up to the tale or be square.  The film and films are meant to be bigger than that and reviewers often times find themselves screwballing all types of references into ‘a film’ in order to find a hook or difference mediating it in the central plank of screen presentation.  I opt to extrapolate and go for a world view which has got me in all kinds of twists if not thought through entirely.   Opening lines and arguments come from initial sight, not as the previous projected ideas of the film whatever it is. The likelihood is however, a film cannot be trusted on first viewing to be what is up there on the screen.  Have I lost you! In all likelihood therefore I move swiftly on.

img_7915

Point me in the direction of

It is the junior life span of director that enables him to disassociate his film arc from the history of musicals.  It gives him however the leverage.  The CinemaScope outreach is breathable luscious escapist heartfelt visually skilfully paced high, low drama with the emphasis on low.  How many people thought of the roster of film stars and entertainers lost in the past year in so large a profile.  The shattering news of such film stars as Alan Rickman and Carrie Fisher along with such providers of our own musical tapestry, escapist if you like, Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and George Michael it is in film we see the narrative of stardom reflected.  The can of film is in essence the sideways turn which actually is the central heme.  The position of fame and success and our appreciation of its value altered and enriched, adjusted on each film we see.  The rush of people having witnessed or in the screenings already out there and captured in the USA were at a time of a ‘unbiblical’shiftbin the conscious of all its citizens when aprobrium and vile extremist views were and are salivating the mouths of political entities whose ridicule knows no bounds, is the defining chapter of our present times.

Clear the swamp with metaphor

We are goin to clear the swamp comes the call.  This particular one (film implies?) is not one so deep it causes you to leap on car bonnets or roof’s but splash about in the rain as Gene Kelly did.  The swamp of this movie they have ‘risen’ from even temporarily, is in all views and directions not deep.  Like Gene Kelly it is a mere splash they find themselves in or is it the Directors suggestion we are in a deeper mess than we are told or believe. In Gene Kelly’s famous scene we are given to believe times ahead and even now are not so bad and moral is joyful and the moral fibre, heartfelt thanks to be alive are intact.  My view tends to the very pessimistic and Climate change (sans RHI boilers – a local NI joke literally) an these actors may well need the refugee of car bonnets for what’s coming ironically given the number of cars, down the line.

img_7907 img_7921

Escapism is very conducive to projection as well as rejection.  From epic films of catastrophe and end of scenarios to stories of galactic conflict they all have their meaning.  How this one fares is anybody’s guess but it for me is simply a trailer for something more enriching and informative in this genre if it’s out there?

Conclusion ###3

As gripping as a sponge and wet as a puddle.  Give me Car wash any day.  Love the music – the jazz but not the ‘songs’!  It is a fun film and a little crazy but it is ultimately slight in terms of musical films.  Performances are spot on particularly Emma Stones Mia the red head.  No cliches then. It is not remotely the reinvention people have called it of the musical not even a hybrid. It does entertain and looks great but why should it not.  The choreography is camera led.  The shots of the dance on cars is sweeping but Busby Berkeley with fewer resources gave us politics and drama in for example The Gold Diggers of ’33.  Move it. See it but see it for what it is and enjoy it for what it is also. I hope you enjoy the experience at some level.

John Graham

16 January 2017

Belfast

Give me Car Wash anytime

img_7920

On at Queens Film Theatre until  1 February 2017 with *NOT SCREENING MON 30 JAN and on General release.

 

Silence : A Film Review


Silence

Director. Martin Scorsese. Cast. Andrew Garfield (Fr. Sebastião Rodrigues), Liam Neeson (Father Cristóvão Ferreira), Adam Driver (Fr. Francisco Garrpe), Yōsuke Kubozuka (Kichijiro), Issey Ogata (Inquisitor Inoue), Tadanobu Asano (Interpreter), Nana Komatsu (Christian Villager #1), Shinya Tsukamoto (Mokichi). Language English. US/Taiwan/Mexico. Drama. Cert. 15. Duration 2hr 41mins.

Bicameral doubt

Silence refers to the God unheard.  If your listening, the bat kol that boundary of the divine voice is silent.  Over time everlasting God has been silent and in the words of Jesus he alone speaks of the Lords guidance of supreme glory and seeks our passage into the kingdom of God. That is of course a personal view and one about pursuit of truth.

“The nature of secularism is fascinating to me, but do you wipe away what could be more enriching in your life, which is an appreciation or some sort of search for that which is spiritual and transcends? Silence is just something that I’m drawn to in that way. It’s been an obsession, it has to be done… It’s a strong, wonderful true story, a thriller in a way, but it deals with those questions.” – Martin Scorsese


Silent story

Set in the 17th Century, the film follows two Jesuit priests who face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to find their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) and propagate Christianity. The priests, Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garrpe (Adam Driver), arrive in a country that, under the Tokugawa shogunate, has banned Catholicism and forbidden almost all foreign contact. There they witness the persecution of Japanese Christians at the hands of a government that wishes to purge Japan of all western influence. Thousands have already been executed and they eventually convince the Jesuit leader Cairan Hinds, to allow them to travel from Europe to Japan, in the prologue as we are introduced to the subject of finding out the actual whereabouts and circumstances of Liam Neesons fate.

Young missionaires

It is through Andrew Garfields as Rodriguez a Portuguese Jesuit Priest who along with Garrpe played by a gaunt and frail looking Adam Driver, the main bulk of the post history of Christianity’s penetration of Japan is told.  By enlisting the very dubious help of a guide played by Yōsuke Kubozuka (Kichijiro), who features throughout and is hugely integral as a link between the races, they enter Japan in the remotest island paradise, ironically verdant, beautiful and incongruously capable of sustaining a civilisation without hindered even of any kind.  By Gods design.  They instead reach a place where the remaining Christian Inhabitants are isolated unable to trade or move and are in a despairingly wretched place barely able to eke out an existence.  There are parallel and also isolated village communities which also do not communicate between each other as their memories and fears are ofspies and the inquisitor of severe repercussions that may manifest.


The ‘return’ of missionaries in the form of the brash, over confident, singularly fixed and uncompromising Rodriguez who is the opposite of the questioning, more grounded, philosophical and extentialist Garrpe, gives the Japanese Christians Renewed hope as Kichijiro introduces them to a group of villagers literally on landing.  They are welcomed into this fragile barely existing remote territory and the Christian faith is uplifted by their very presence and re-ritualising of the faith.  Even confession – that extremely dubious form of thetorical sin and absolution (meaning it is not in the gift of anyone to forgive as only ‘God’ can be asked to forgive) – is performed.  Ritualisation and order is established in – and this is fundamental to this religiousity – belief if only in formalised ‘uncertainty’ – and reproach is wasted within the confines of Jesuit minds and Catholicism.  That symbolises why the whole embarkation in mission in any age is subjected to ridicule, resentment, manipulation and scorn.  The symbolic universality is fixed not flexible in the human hands and ungodlike.  Image and theatre which Martin Scorsese is well practiced in is about – as religion is – about storytelling – not about the sciences of universality and human values inherently the same and equal – is employed as a narrative slightly old school as voice over and flashback but impeccably conveyed.

The elucidation in gesture and mannerisms and enunciation of the Japanese and American, Irish Actors is brilliantly delivered. Seldom in modern cinema have I been alerted to the importance of the delivery of language and line as a primary and essential aspect of dramatic filmmaking (Macbeth was the last time when I was conscious of making the required mental shift to adapt to the Scots accents and cadences within the Shakespearian rhythms of speaking as storytelling which worked for me but not as I said in that review for American friends) and as a consequence it makes this story very penetrable at all the levels it sets out to achieve.


Test of Faith

The assurance and confidence of Rodriguez is gradually changed and his character comes across doubt internally building and shaking beliefs at their fundamental level as they do in all that acknowledge it as humans.  In the desperation of one young Priest asking God for the truth of the suffering in Japan,  we realise the contemporary, familiar desperation known to the faithful and the secular, the atheist, we have no divine right to this life we embrace and share.  Less do we know it’s purpose and recoil in the conflict of good and evil in the presence of a creator in silence.  Silences are the root and branch of religious devotion and it is to the interior self the analysis brings determination and externally that alteration exists when the ‘real’ world is continuing on its vile course of inhuman acts, unable to listen to the guidance for all.  In one moment it is apparent ‘God’ speaks to Rodriguez.  In a moment when his faith is tested at the very threshold of his advocacy, in which denial becomes a very real necessity or choice, he is given the advice that forgiveness shall be forthcoming no matter what choice he makes.  It is an Abrahamic moment of judgement.  Allow the Son to die to live.

Directorial brilliance

Martin Scorsese has crafted a very profound and commanding film speaking ironically of the place of Faith religions in Japan and responding to the questions asked by placing different polarities of a point of view on religion.  He does it mainly through the cost of Priests and Christian followers of the infiltration to Japan in early 1600 of missionaries when confronted by National identity.  It is when they are called on to reject their faith publicallyband humiliatingly they begin to focus on the Silence.  First of these to face the call to reject their religion and faith is Father Ferreira played by Liam Neeson.  How come though it takes a no fee director and a cast on a pittance in Hollywood terms and maybe several other chips cashed in production, technical etc, wise, to make a film of this magnitude.  It is not a crowd pleaser nor is it pandering to convention in telling – in a year 75 years after the Japanese sinking of several submarines and vessels off Japan causing the loss of thousands of American Servicemen and women? – this narrative which has many many aspects which in any forward thinking civilised community can open up several strands of debate on our relationships in and through religions and with difference and how it is apparent that all choices are of a sacrificial kind. A loss to gain Not a gain to gain and then ultimately loose again.

 

Tadanobu Asano (Interpreter),


The power

The Japanese inquisitor Inouye, brilliantly, fulsomely, played by Issei Ogata, is almost a Devil incarnate playing with the emotions of Rodriguez when eventually they meet.  In several scenes, Inouye tells him that Christianity may be right for Europe, but it is wrong for Japan. Inouye is a supreme leader whose actions he characterised as symbols of his state.  His state and control therefore has no need of religion, it has its own as Liam Neeson explains, him having taken the Priest road less travelled and points to the Sun as their Son of God meaning all is in nature to employ gratitude and self identity which invokes astrology and cosmology as brothers in the science of discovery.  Inouye is mercurial and believable, a portray creating a real sense of Nationhood and most of these Japanese actors male and female deploy a level of gravitas and characterisation which Scorsese it seems has enabled them to ‘act’ to be unafraid of employing traits and characterisation to inhabit the part and screen.  It is absent in a significant part in my view.  Of that later.  By behaving as a evuncular wise old man with only his nation in mind and feigning sympathy – knowing the universality of religion God or no God undermines regime rule totally.


I think of the new polemic in Poland where feminism is challenged by a virtually statecrun monopoly on religion by Catholic based faith religious, forcing women who wish to have an abortion to underground risks and 10,000 women a year seeking abortions outside Poland.  There are now Welfare groups unattached to the issue of abortion being set up to recalibrate woman’s identity through yoga, fitness and general conversation and in relaxing environments.

It is the investment in common factors of emotion Inouye confronts Rodriguez with what he tells him is arrogance and puts forward the suffering he is responsible for in his presence and continual ministry to the faithful.  As every religion it is met with its own downfall through separation.  It is also the perpetrator of division in areas it succeeeds in bringing nations forward with it.  Be it imperialist Great Britain and the Church of England, The Demagogues of Jewish religions in Israel leaving behind the Judaism of their faith, the Catholicism spread as universality while being the foremost hierarchical assembly of Faith preserves on the panet.  China and large parts of Africa have no ‘established’ church and few places in Western civilisation have no presence of other than ‘established’ church which all secondary non-established non credal and non sectarian religions are supplanted minor followers in the body faith inherent in human kind.

 Yōsuke Kubozuka (Kichijiro)

Historical base

For this cinematic portrait to succeed as story and story it is, it has been based on the 1966 novel by the Japanese author Shusaku Endo, preceding it and priding that is a level of construction fictionalised through small written texts remaining of the whole failed attempt at Christianising Japan.

Throughout I had a concern regarding the playing of Rodriguez and Andrew Garfield for me lacked credibility in his emotional regard and over involved in lingering looks and stopping his facial expressions as footprints of emotion – frozen faces I call them – not acting is not acting it’s real? –  instead of the dexterous and malleable and at times throughly surprising for me who was not a great AD fan,  sings and laments as every inflection and word craft is used in its strength ultimately due to the well crafted script into reaching out to the audience to be illuminated in the intensity of meaning.  It was thoroughly old school in performance terms and in itself the Japanese and our own duo of Cairan Hinds and Liam Neeson invoked acting as a craft and art form that is very thin on the ground in a lot of modern films.  Meryl Streep has stood up at the Globe Award ceremony having a set delays stab at Donald Trump while her curios Albert Nobbs or Florence Foster are not in my view ‘acting supremacy’ – the kind of performances we see too often and the yet Meryl Streep gives in to the trope of being a character actor in the way Glenda Jackson never could nor does/did.

Conclusion ****4

It will be sometime before it is realised how important this film is in the Martin Scorsese filmmaking library.  Before have come works of dramatic historical and societal challenge.  Each constructing a view of the world based on real events and characterisations of the stories they inhabit.  This is no different.  The Last Temptation of Christ took on a historical figure and the most significant of all and he layered his own telling of the quest within the Bible to his own imagined extrapolation.  It formed a huge divide in opinion as it was partially construed as sacreligious and wild imaginary diversions not appropriate to understanding.  Given the Protestant claim at the time of Erasmus and the reformation as belonging to the Mother of Jesus born of a young woman as the Bible actually states, not the Virgin Mary extolled by the Catholic Church, the pRotestant faith claimed itself to be more Catholic and since the division erupts from time to time.  On the origin of Jesus religions bent and twist. Aristotle included.  The ultimate repost is – What is important?  The baby Jesus being the child of God or Mary as the Mother of Jesus.  Provide your own analysis but it is plain what faith resides in.

The film captures so many levels of understanding it would serve many to examine the questions which Martin Scorsese provides elements which concern mankind and the search for truth and peace among mankind.  So it not only looks superb and atmospheric depicting a very beutiful, intensely civil, complex and challenged Nation, – except the filming takes place in America/Taiwan/Mexico – it shows all sides of the existence of humanity and questions versions of our origin and ultimately challenges all to consider our creator and our need to fulfill the morality and lawfulness of rational organisation of our life’s and sustaining time.

It is a film which is calling people to listen, hear and be enlightened.

John Graham

11 January 2017

Belfast

Continues on General release and at Queens Film Theatre until 19 January 2017

Film Review : John Graham 2016

THIS IS MY CHOICE OF THE 5 TOP FILMS SHOWN IN CINEMAS IN 2016


Blogs available

Reviews of all these are available on this blog by typing in the title to the top right box and pressing return.

Hopefully you will show some agreement if you’ve seen the films yourself and hopefully you have a list to agree with the basic judgement we have been treated to some awesome film making.

The short story of the year 
There has been a fantastic depth of very good film making reaching the Cinema Screens and now also through Netflix and Amazon more market penetration of otherwise poorly distributed films.  Most of all is the palpable sense of new film taking on innovation as a viable fully rounded act in cinema in response to the technical advances and sometimes non technical advances in the means of storytelling.  I believe this year has exceeded expectations and it started with the very successful Whiplash burning our ears with Jazz drumming, who’d have thought that?  Into the realms of creativity there and an accidental or otherwise treatise on modern jazz technique and the delivery of performance and performer.  It received its Oscars etc. but that aside and it is not important anyway – it’s knee jerk pigeonholing of genre and not loose enough to deal with the prodigious – say black new directors – those outside the Spike Lee Chi-Raq forms – very bravery and wise but ultimately failed attempt in contextualising Men and Women’s relationships through Chicago – the reference to Iraq being it is reportedwhile Chicagos Americas race murders are homicides are paroled. Given slack coverage and a film appears which gets no distribution on British Screens 13th.  About the incarcerated population being a form of slavery.


So where are the best films?  Some may like the escapism and reproduction of familiar traits in Blockbusters or Historical Drama.  Love and Friendship was a novella well performed and light with some serious overtones. I found/find Rogue .. Star Wars ..  whatever .. numbingly dumb directorially and as story telling. Below he back wall one giant moving projection cut with a foreground of stupid people advancing towards robots of a furniture kind.


Any chance this is not a new range of Harvey Norman Store Tables? and these poor souls are attacking across the landscape of a Hertfordshire Paint Hall in a CGI formed battle as – pretend your after a New Year Bargain.  These tables might fall though if any one leg goes.  Not even designed to stand on 3. Paint balling Star making at Pinewood!

Plot spoiler there is a fit young girl who missed the Olympics to do this probably.  Her time at Rottingdean or other uppercrustville secondary modern was well spent.  Gives it lots of yum.



Into
the real stuff then and no greater contrast than the unconciable life’s of others experience in the 3D world of Britains disgraceful hierarchy of poverty and underwaged employment manipulations for vast numbers which is focused in on by the brilliant returnee to the directors role of Ken Loach with the superbly constructed script of Paul Lavery with – singing of the same hymn sheet, because this is a tale of morality in a seemingly Christian society, where all comers are treated in the calling cards of Political enmities as equal and some times (here in Northern Ireland) under the Lord. – a story telling us how fractured society is becoming and how desperate it is becoming for the increasing many requiring state assistance to live.  Even the employed require the assistance designed into their work by Government past and present.




I, Daniel Blake

This film was extraordinarily hard to watch and I, on first seeing it nearly got up to leave, such was its tragic effecting story of the Country/Nation we inhabit.  It was a grave indictment of the system and as the last photo above shows not the people.   It is a scourge of capitalist animals who visit the poor as wage slaves and recruit their labour to fill their own expanding wealth. Technology is abandoning many in corporate rush to accumulate and ‘create’ wealth through buying up and selling back product to everyone.  They have a political elite and charities providing their cover and spreading the disease of a Country which has many in it – most – who want things to change for the sake of having a sustainable future not based on greed. Ireland is no different.

Room

Next film which must get mentioned is Room.  It is an exceptionally well constructed narrative with exceptional acting at every level.  It is a marriage of a scriptwriter – author of the Book.  Room. Emma Donaghue Lenny Abrahamson and exceptional leads in  Brie Larson as Joy “Ma” Newsome, Jacob Tremblay as Jack Newsome.
Jacob Trembly, is outstandingly intuitive as kids can be in depicting the central persona of an inquisitive boy, being aware of how he can puts himself in the character is amazing for later enquirer to watch and find out. In final credits after long thanks etc the names Christina and Jacob Tremblay are credited. This is appreciative of the real mother and son relationship on which film making is entrusted.

Napoleon Reconstructed epic with more promised.


I sat through this and was rewarded by an act of Cinema unequaled and a forerunner for so many types of film making and the inherent worth of cinema as proportionally gigantic in its cerebral reach.

Wow!
See the tracks in a race scene of the camera vehicle having preceded the horses, wagons! Fun and biblical gravitas delivered with mishaps aplenty and it tails off a bit as ambitions meet a budget deficit I’ll be bound.

Life, Animated.

Many people warm to Disney and Owen is no exception.  His own use of it is perfectly inventive and his fathers astute locking on to his sons difference makes this way and beyond any visual representation of a spectral condition very misunderstood and even more traumatic to contend with.  The animation is as expected with Disney a jumping off point.  The wonderful The Jungle Book, this year being a sequel of utmost integrity and piercingly singly entertaining experience for a range of ages speaks of young helpful insights delivered through cinema on parables however bizarre and magical.


Beautifully rendered by Ron Suskind as a new version of his book and the book illustrations take on a new direction of animated verve which could in itself have the makings of a long form story.

Notes on Blindness 



Confoundingly this is a visually attractive exposé on the deficit of sight loss and its occurrence.  Through the Notes originally made on tape the talk over technique using John and Dora’s voices synced to the frames of the co-directors detailed trawl of available senses is for us to encounter this viewed by existing sight, the other sense.  The loss of sight is thrust into an embrace of water and words become raindrops as a downpour on the floor and typewriter as explanation of what rain is accompanied by the feel for outdoors and being in it.  Many superb acts of courageous empathetic nourishment is given to anyone who takes this film in.  It is also an accompaniment to others deprived of seeing the film, who may only be able to hear it described to them while presented with it.  Through layers of contact for the community with this ‘disability’ with notes or the subtext it may seem like an LP cover sleeve notes, for those of us who are sighted, of the old accompaniment kind, in much else is encountered besides the vinyl.  This is an analogue adventure and it is unexplained or beyond comprehension particularly for John whose Christian ethos is harshly challenged.  Having studied Theology and being a Theology lecturer at University this is a minor but immensely mindful watch.



The analogue device which John Hull practically (literally) prescribed to launch many many book recordings for RNIB


Snowflakes are  made for memories everywhere.

Julieta

 

This the best photographic image.             Explained!

Pedro Almodovar has reached the point where simple framing and contrasts can be light and softly intimating a story. He takes to a train and dual depictions of Julieta in this superb film.

The best frame is the afore title mentioned Street frame of I, Daniel Clarke.  I will explain myself.  In Daniel Clarke this image is intensely moving and it delivers with sheer insightful subtly the ridge in the story where hope has reached.  They are walking into an unknown future in a modern world with hope and alongside it determination.  Little else needs to be said.  Just look and look at it and it will cause you much deep thought and sense of the story it depicts.

As for the Julieta, in wide shot with a 4:3 ish! ratio centrally basically, Pedro Almodovar treats this as a Vermeer type painting in the shadow of the rural and metropolis disposition seen throughout – art is enlisted by the borrowing? of paintings of an acquired ‘class’ – and this is a new portrait for me. Julieta, Emma Suárez, is engaged foot forward in loose figure draping cloth involved in writing the story which this film is the reveal of. Some pages of the story  written are spread as cast offs on the floor.  Her choices testing her as to what she can safely reveal.  It is glorious and gorgeous in restrained effective beauty.  There is also a sparcity to the way Julieta lives which is evident.  It gives a sense of Julieta needing only small things to reconfigure and adjust to a changed life.  Emma Suárez is extremely effective in this whole Spanish delicate story.  Pedro Almodovar has created one of his best films and Emma Suárez has her own filmic genius invested and evident as other characters also have delivered alongside in this terrific film.

Train to Busan


Many will have noted this as a probable genre derivative film of limited scope.  South Korean audiences made it their highest grossing movie ever and they are not a zombie movie audience but discerning group of widely appreciative movie goers.  No Bollywood Hollywood fodder and able on their own terms to create films of origin.  It took me by surprise as I often dislike this trope as meaningless though effective cinema.  Horror is best left to filmmakers who try hard not to make it stereotypical and far too few are they able to.  What works here is a story of fatherhood and absent modern parental solidity.  The age is now and the traumatic event is the dismantling of life by life.  The cannibalising of the dead living by the living dead.  It is monumental in scale as a national crisis unfolds.  The train is the interior world navigated by a desparate group of assorted human beings who happen to share a destination.  It unflods as a gripping story taale of memorable significant difference.  A horror zombie movie catapulting the real world into a unreal confrontation.
Under the Shadow


This film is another extraordinary venture into our world vision with a deft and dynamic spellbinding feat of ingenuity and political depth charging genius.  Under the Shadows makes it as a lesson in what filmmaking is all about.  Discovery and realisation.  Provocatively depicting a Tehran in turmoil in the first Iraq war of the late eighties this is a horror film from a point on the compass someway north of the starting dramatic course.  It follows an individual incarcerated within a physical and mentally torturing world.  One scene in particular leads you into the immense complexity of the imagination challenged by the realities each day presents.  It involves a scene of a woman dancing in utter silence.  Only her time is in the now and her daughter is not far away as a witness and parallel displaced refugee from exterior pain.  It is astonishing from beginning to end and practically flawless and my review was well received and got what I was aiming for in delivering some very crucial commentary to enhance its presence as an outlier film and one which actually ended up as MK the go to reviewers film of 2016.  That takes some doing in this year.


What I wanted I got on Twitter!  Lips added by me!


The Survivalist started off as a new release by local director Stephen Fingleton in a no holads bafrred representation of a post event modern world in which Martin McCann acts his socks off and various other items of clothing in a perilous world of the kind found in Margaret Atwoods searingly futuristic novel The Handmaidens Tale projecting all functions in disassembly along with The Survivalist proving alertness and vitality is key to survival.  It is a brilliantly conceived and unconventional – it leave nothing to viewers to grasp as a soft landing intentionally purity driven with forensic instinctive techniques.  It is shown in Cinemas with a central speaker to avoid directional playback tropes while at the same time a creative raw sound is palpable and every sense is engaged though taste, smell is intuitively your own reality!  It also is filmed entirely without artificial light and interiors are very distinct as a character playing its key serviceability role as apostate to the probable earlier homes and gardens the immediately period post dates.  It is a hefty story and tension is coarse as the environment it inhabits.  The future of it exists! holads evidence of a filmmaker intent on pursuing the art form outside of boundaries as conceptual polemic ideas and upturned orthodoxies are in every sense appropriately being set upon by the story maker, Stephen Fingleton whose grasp of motion and stillness times ahead and behind are in his gift to shape into new film work alongside his script work.  Martin McCann last time I spoke was involved in the Dierectorial debut film being made in (Scotland+?) by Woody Harellson. Mia Goth below married Shia LaBeouf who appeared in a starring role in American Honey.


Mia Goth


Andrea Arnold’s American Honey is a 4:3 ratio Road movie of young people brought together to join a team of magazine subscription sellers as a means to live by a female Donald Trump character Riley Keogh, surprisingly spot on – her performance in Mad Max 2 stands apart, very different but also spot on – and the visual metaphor is given with her wearing the Stars and Stripes as a two piece bikini.  It is the use of the bikini  as a character statement by Krystal, uncompromising and savvy.  It is very observant of contemporary life but has some repetitive elements.  Very much ahead of similar attempts of national identity realism films in the US.


Andrea Arnold  gets a rear end shot also!  I’m on to something comparing her character as the Wannabee Queen of America type Donald Trump huckster.  Very right concerning the ‘type’as it turned out with all that DT history unravels. Savvy and uncompromising.

Victoria


For the final listing and the top film of 2016, I am very certain Victoria is unmistakably number one.  Some reviewers thought it sometimes as a gimmick but were completely lost to its value and immersive integrity.  A brilliantly achieved narrative of the state of a youthful group separated from the mainstream perpetual driving commercial City world.  Berlin in 2016.  Anxious.  It presents the young lives altering morality in the stark commercial world which they roam through while it sleeps ready to churn out another capitalist day’s work. They are a small alternative but driven to crime and results in mash up of a conclusion except it is all done in real time and reality sucks.  This is today. While some sleep the alternative escape is narrowly – and by night light, with only the distraction of the stars. The other distraction all commerces wndows.  Boxes of homes.  Streets of linear lamplight and occasional passing traffic.

 

Victoria Director. Sebastian Schipper. His film is set on the streets of Berlin that plays out in real time in one continuous, 138-minute camera shot.  Victoria herself is played by Laia Costa, a young woman we see first of all in a club. The Norwegian camera man is Sturla Brandth Grøvlen.  His credits are foremost at the end.

Variety Magazine were harsh in the extreme 

Sebastian Schipper’s exhilarating heist thriller is stunt filmmaking of a very high order.  

Very much someone who likes the thrill element of 28 locations but not the development or reasoning of the story.

A.V. Club. Misplaced rhetorical observation.

Victoria demonstrates why it’s a bad idea to shoot a movie in one take.

The film is certainly impressive, but “impressive” and “great” (or even “good”) aren’t remotely the same thing. 

Complete balderdash.  Looking and seeing are two different things.  It is not the response of film goers to go away ‘impressed’ dull idiotic selection of stature.  Nor is ‘great’ a movie attribution of any valid quotient in assessing a films worth. Possibly ‘good’ but whose good?

Be wary of all reviews!  Mine included.  They should point you to the core of the intentions and deliver insight.  It is always about communication as the Ballet Master Sir Peter Wright, an express reel filmmaker also says Communication is the key, dance drama film music and all the arts including painting.

These reviews are lame inquisitorial attempts at placing the film in a context which does not exist.  Hitchcock and others tried but Carl Von Dreyer and Ordet – to Victoria, are fellow societal effective dramas with very different backdrops and suspension.  

Time lapsed

Other films are overlooked only as their type is not of a permanence I think the above are – including the ones mentioned without listing among the selected five.   Very good films are not mentioned. This is exile, Sonota, The Idol, Hunt for the Wilder People, Captain Fantastic, Tale of Tales, The Commune, Versus (Ken Loach doc.) and where are the Amy Adams such as Arrival?  Arrival is an example of a well formed rigorous piece of exploratory cinema delivering a reasoning outside something you may not have looked into in books, science fiction, science narratives and along the Brian Cox type BBC futurology.  



Arrival brings very polished skills along in story telling by film.


If all time is eternally present all time is irredeemable. T.S. Eliot.

Bad ones, curates eggs.
Obviously there were some really bad films and some greatly overrated.  In the latter category there was  Anomolisa.  In the bad category was The Truth Commissioner.  To finish of a trio I also disliked intensely Green Room which Patrick Stewart who is a great Dickens Scrooge is front and central in a nasty film.

John Graham

31 December 2016

Belfast.

I am not a serial killer : A Film Review


I am not a serial killer.

Director. Billy O’Brien. Produced by James Harris, Mark Lane, Billy O’Brien, Nick Ryan, Robbie Ryan. Screenplay by Christopher Hyde, Billy O’Brien.  Based on I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells.  Cast. Max Records, Laura Fraser, Christopher Lloyd, Christina Baldwin.  Music by Adrian Johnston, Cinematography Robbie Ryan, Edited by Nick Emerson.

I am not a serial killer delivers as a psychotic horror film set in a Mid West America small town called Clayton in a surprisingly luscious shocking and intensely entertaining way.  Shooting began in Virginia, Minnesota, on 28 February 2015. It premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival on 13 March 2016.

Teenage kicks

It follows a teenage high school boy who lives with his Funeral Director Mum and business partner Margaret while he gains hands on experience of preparation of cadavers on the white ceramic lab table his Mum (Laura Fraser) uses to embalm the many corpses the small town accumulates.  Being allowed in the workspace is the first surprise.  Very much from the beginning a gore fest is imagined as coming at you.  The first, as the film opens,  is a murdered mechanic, 53 years old. In the opening scene and in typical Robbie Ryan cinematography we view the Maun Street from behind the yellow tape line as we observe the body being carted to the rear of the ambulance in broad daylight.  The mechanics slightly incomplete body makes it to the Funeral home via. the mortuary. Young John is midspace and closer and on his bike observing in Ryan’s long shot.  When the Ambulance departs a quip remark between the police officers and John set the ball rolling.  The basis though is kept to the real process without any directorial, script writing flannel.  A focus on the personalities develops with ease making this an enjoyable feast of detecting who are the good, bad and victims, perpetrators in the rollout of the – far enough away for it not to be our town melodrama, crime thriller.  But it is every town.


This Mortal Coil

As any youthful encounter with death might, this mortal coil contests young John played with ratcheting tension of his own uncertain derivation in a convincingly confronted boundary crossing boy.  A machine known as the pop up features as a character and is the solution stopping instrument doing the cathartic transformation enacted to preserve a corpse and have it melt in its own way back to dust once all sense of liquicication has gone.  The body returning to its earthly final resting place and through that portal of death to burial and.  John has few school friends given his macabre home situation.  The co-habiting women are diligent providers of a service not many would choose.

The thing is this is a special movie in the sense it delivers a story which seems so peculiar and natural as an adjunct to normal life.  Challenged by his headmaster early on when his essays are delivered with added mortal content, given his increasing expertise, John is asked to become more normal and John contests the premis he actually is not normal by reciting back to the headmaster the fact it is he who is defining normal by making John appear abnormal.  John is a near neighbour of the star of the film – Christopher Lloyd who could not be further from the Back to the Future wizard – playing a seemingly affable elderly gentleman whose routines are fairly, well routine and he displays a youthful vest full adoration of his homely wife and all seems fifty shades of normal.  William Cowper is a part which suits Christopher Lloyd so admirably.  He appears a shade frail and has gotten on into his dotage (in the film!).

There is a powerful underlying spirituality accumulating as the film progresses and through its numerous deaths.  Well you didn’t think I was unlikely to tell you there were several murdersnot just one and there is therefore a progression to the horror? After all a big clue in the setting of a boy in a family Funeral business is fairly indicative of where these well developed characters are going.  The other indicators are the Stephen King (esque) mentions, The Thing, the Halloween trailed at school where John turns up dressed as a Pierrot character subtexting it with lots of movies (hyjacked as previous films as a ‘Killer Clown’ stik) I prefer the Gerard Dillon multidimensional use of Pierrot in so much of his work and one (he was an artist born on the Falls Road in Belfast if anyone is asking) whose split mental state called on Pierrot in a lot of his work alongside Chagall influences.  Check them out.  We are invited into the cerebral John with his essays and his own self analysis.

  
We also get to know he is referred by his Doctor on the basis of therapy in his ‘fatherless’ environment to a young nerdy psychoanalyist played by the Irish actor Karl Geary with a hammy, a little irritating Irish/American droll, though it is most times buried by highly crafted psycobabble along side some incisive thoughts. On route we also get a bit of William Blake and have a Blake off (sic) recitative to which I will side step with this Blakeian wisdom as follows.  Blake saw us inhabiting a world with real spirits among us. They would be seen by him in fields among the workers picking crops, would be seen observing us from a tree, “their luminous wings, ‘bespangled every bough like stars.’”  It is something similar to another incident in another film I picked up on.  In it someone had died and responsibilities for the death were mixed.  While neither had caused the death both protagonists confessed to each other they couldn’t get the person out of their head, they were with them all the time. So maybe those ghosts linger if a resolution or reprieve can not be found.

This brings us onto the night time patrols that – as all vigilante style small town anguish descends into – ratcheting up our expectations of more gore.  We are not disappointed.  For me the middle section of the film dragged a little, as bodies themselves got dragged about.  I began thinking of how this Halloweeen, Thanksgiving, Christmas period movie might put people off their Christmas dinner but no.  Much bigger frights and scaryness lay ahead and believe me it was well worth the middle section wait.  It takes on very gripping tense narrative with the entire town becoming paranoid and the Bill character as alluded to earlier is much more than outward appearances suggest.  More split personalities and psycobabble is poured out.  Mum has another child to worry about an Emily, Johns sister eschews the family business for in deep witty contrast goth style rebelliousness.  At least someone sensible is around for ou counterfoil emotional baggage.  No it is perhaps the loafing young friend, perhaps Johns only friend, Nathan who is a nerdy but cool and clever moderator and even for his Dad who is a reactionary Hapless participant in tabloid, News channel hyped angst, Donald Trumps finest companion on the road to hell.


Colour my world. Colour is my world

Robbie Ryan and Director play on our need for progression with little vignettes of comedic black moments and we throughout get a CSI approved black gooey liquid slithering out and resting on each crime scene sans body.  The cinematic value of this contrast of body organs, fluids is astonishingly receptive to this quite unique visionary filmmaking technique showing us; on the one hand – just what I mean, and matterafactly, viscerally, body parts such as mortuary excavated organs, livers, lungs, heart, count them out count them in, – the afore mentioned black goo – the exchange of the darker blood from a cadaver with in the whirling flask sundae coloured ice cream pink red juice lovingly devoured by the lens and also through its plastic pipe progression returning to the body into carefully mechanically photographed sumblime choreography which will have people open eyed and mouth wide open such is the beauty and clarity of almost documentary style educational simplicity conveyed by Robbie Ryan and the pace orchestrated by our Director.

John Wayne Gary is also a sleuth and his detective edge gets him up close with murder.  “Fear is a really weird thing,”    “People are afraid of things, but they’re never afraid of their own actions.” The bestseller book of Dan Wells 2009 is itself comic and dark brought here with the teenager unafraid and possessing what are know as the three parts of the “Macdonald triad” predictors of violent sociopathy. Dr Neblin, Karl Geary, believes he is “a good person” unassuring for us.  Large irrating – it becomes stupidly expected of a nastie/horror film to inflict a dose of bikes, panda masks, clowns – in some of the steerage class plot liners come too much retro navel gazing antics.  It is unfortunate because the film has intuitive other worldy character transformative engagement and blackness enhanced with class 16mm cinematic bravado.  The Christening of a new Christmas horror ‘must watch‘ is sadly just falling off the newness factor in delivery.  Coming close but no palaver.  I kept looking for a dirty white van with ‘Don’t open these doors, there is a decomposing body inside.’ Something Johns Mum, Laura Fraser, might have asked him to draw as she is slightly unhinged not spotting the idiocy of training a teen in the dark and Strwberry Milkshake sundae arts of preparing corpses for ‘removal’ – we are taking you to your place of rest.  Enjoy.  Pick up a leaflet on your way out.

Good as many reviews have been with caustic deep referential content they mostly miss the purity of the act of dying and the momentary lapse only one – a psychotic unreal inhuman being – has any time for.  I think Billy O’Brien and Robbie Ryan choosing to stand off – far away in the first period – then closer implies they don’t get the catharchic experience.  Many a training outing with dark assassins missed probably which is unusually clever being Irish.  Frances McDormand sees them coming.


Don’t make me. Or your going up with Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit in the Sky.

Conclusion ####4

It makes it up to four courtesy of the new offerings.  While reservations on the Robbie Ryan familiar stand offish; at times, beautifully atmospheric locational driven camerawork and the wacky inclusion of nod after walked off nod to pluralist film tonality, tones it figures as a splendid creation.  Highly thoughtful and conflicting as to whether you blame anyone on John’s risky approach – is it his inherent fatherlessness heaping his own remit of boundary escaping and the simple motherly love which takes too many things at face value sometimes imperilling her as well as laying on thick the hard work of keeping the work balls in the air (metaphorical) and family cosyness stuffing the turkey for thanksgiving and presidents at Christmas it is a deserved success.  There is surely more work to come in this vein and Laura Fraser and Max Record provide award level leads with heaps of smaller characters excelling the call and pitching in cult like, the model of intention required as a sideline wack.  Taking of which one scene literally had me jump which takes some doing.  A sudden piece of unexpectedness.  For the hot of the film though you have to hand it to Christopher Lloyd whose Mr Bill Crowley will last very long in the memory and film analysts will be crawling over his every word and character development to see the nuanced stage and screen general occupy the space of .. you decide in a deranged horror film. Suspenseful for Christmas fare it is not – just a hyper realistic thriller becoming a drama of latitude.  Everything is resolved at the level of the earth not in the sky.

John Graham

15 December 2016

Belfast

See I am Not a serial killer on 19 December 20 December 21 December or and 22 December 2016 at QFT Belfast before going back at year end to see Donnie Darko.

The Box has arrived as you can see!

img_6988

See I am Not a serial killer on 19 December 20 December 21 December or and 22 December 2016 at QFT Belfast before going back at year end to see Donnie Darko.

The Box has arrived as you can see!

Life, Animated : A Film Review

Life,Animated


Director. Roger Ross Williams. Cast/’Featured’. ‘Owen Siskind, Walt Suskind, Cordelia Suskind, Ron Suskind’, Jonathan Freeman, Gilbert Gottfried, Ron Suskind. Genre: Documentary. English. Running Time: 1hr 29min. 

Documentary

This film is an extraordinary example of human willpower overcoming deficits within the human form. Deficits which cause it not to work in the way most of us anticipate and hope to carry forward.  Autism is a complex neurological disorder which has a very wide variance across the diagnostic spectrum.  Some elements of motor malfunctioning takes place with limbs and head being given to spasmodic movements.  At the age of three the portents showed in Owen Suskind was not like other children of his age. Parents Ron and Cordelia Suskind notice the change advancing swiftly taking their son prisoner.  They describe the onset with frank accuracy giving us account which the Oscar®-winning director Roger Ross Williams uses home movie footage to outline the passage of Owens disorder.  From then onward Williams uses illustration alongside conventional conversational interview and observation, inspired by the illustrated Ron Suskind book together with the beginnings of Disney Movie referencing.


Family hope.

Ron Suskind reveals a moment of discovery for him into Owens mind and how it worked. Previously playing and acting out characters from Disney movies they had watched had made no connection with him.  In a scene which also reveals Owens fathers determination and willpower on learning what they all confronted Ron breaks down a wall of the prison when an enlighted moment works out the Disney characters have a great deal more meaning than mere entertainment.  Astonishingly Ron becomes a transformed parent with some hope.  The downside is that the evaluation is circumspect in the conservative diagnosis of the specialist they work with.  It signals language understanding but no expression of connected meaning and linkage. The discovery of the language key that unlocks speech and the ability to converse is itself a wonderful moment and well explained in the film by Ron while it is illustrated by the flood of beautiful rolling animation.  I will leave you to discover how the journey begins. 


Owens world

Owen is in a world he knows by means other than ours. This awareness is a core issue. Nosce te ipsum, temet nosce (“thine own self know”) appears in The Matrix translated as “know thyself”.  Dad and son ignore the strictures of Medical niceties and begin a dialogue henceforth based on the most part by relating everything to Disney movies and more particularly the characters.  The reveal for us is how it works.  Owen is introduced to us early on at his ‘present’ age of 23.  We then meet elder brother Walt who is a grounded individual full of empathy and common sense and a great friend and foil for Owen to relate to literally.


Owens story

From the beginning of this film we enter the agonising world of evaluation confronting the family. Conceptual thinking is confined to Owen describing bad times as glop.  He taught himself to read through the films.  Films do not have subtitles so how!  Every encounter in his early years is fraught with strangeness and after two phases of schooling one of which rejects him because they do not have the skills to cope and his piers in learning difficulties themselves are leaving Owen behind.  Even so this is devastating and these episodes because the belong to the past are where director Roger Ross Williams works with the book illustrations animating them with full frame pictures of Owen as a young boy bewildered and looking over his shoulder.  Developmentally though Owen is using his own imaginary tools – films – observing his family and their emotional drivers to produce a world of absolutes.  Certainty is found in The Lion King, Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, Bambi, Aladdin, Dumbo, Beauty and the Beast with brilliant accurate reading of each characters roll.  Ron and Owen could run masterclasses on Disney movies and this in fact is what – at the age of 23 – Owen does at the learning facility by starting a Disney Club and becoming not only a Disney lecturer but to teach his fellow students how to read the stories or rather bring out of them the meanings they are aware of to recognize their connection with the real world. Pitfalls and all.  The journey is not easy and darkly intimidating for the mixed ability classroom.


The Disney Emotional lexicon.

While he has become an expert, acquiring a collection of VHS of hundreds of Disney films and recorders and remote controls manipulated like Darth Vader, rewinding after rewind over parts of films he notes as stimulating. Captain Hook is a favourite, he is in all other ways a normal guy.  When it came to reading expressions and mannerisms he finds it hard and likewise it requires a lot of attention to see how Owens behaviour has its nuances.  In lots of autostic folk there is a tendency to stoop forward and look at the ground while walking – Owen and his therapist note this and also discuss Awareness while being outside.  Of where to cross a road and paying attention.  I found watching Owens expressions when he was in a ‘autistic’ moment, one in which he was calculating or trying to work out a thing his right eye would be partially closed while his left eye would be open wider than would be ‘normal’.  When Owen was firing on all cylinders and telling a story – a lecture features – his eyes are as would be expected normally.  Alert and evenly open.  

The simple but precisely how it works as a film, approach by Roger Ross Williams is the brainwave, excusing all those parallel aspects, is to use the very thing which Owen and perhaps other children, teenagers, adults, can utilise – it is seen in the film as having similar effect on other pupils – the Animation in the film of his own construction including a very highly Disney inspired story, from the beginning, narrating the growth and life perils Owen encounters and how it moves on.  Itfeatures in the middle of the film and has the makings of something much bigger.  Get to it Disney!

Autism is so complex

This I think relates to the cerebral cortex which has the left side of the brain working with communication skills, words, speaking, memory and vocabulary, developing complex thought to communicate (it also controls the opposite hemispheres eyes, facial features – the right eye for example) while the right side of the brain deals with spatial awareness, three dimensions and creative things which are worked on internally before being shifted into models of use – i.e. Writing, drawing, expressing through hands, sculpting, manouevering trough the outside space.  The left eye in Owen is showing this I believe.  When a thing is seen clearly in space and tangible.  He also expresses this with his hands, his left eye opens wider controlled by the right side of the brain. When at the same time the way to vocalise this is problematic he shuts his right eye slightly while processing the thing in question.  This obviously is a feature crudely observed but along with other things such as hearing and loud noises other senses are involved. I recall a young mother recently whose daughter suffers along these lines, in a shop when the fire alarm went of the young girl became intensely worried and after a few minutes was clinging to her mother.  Once the alarm stopped her mother had to calm her and introduced a diversion for her daughter.  She said “We need 6 large eggs, now where shall we find the eggs?” Another, “Which cereal shall we get this week, I don’t know which, would you like to choose one for us?”  After twenty minutes or so this ‘work’ was over and the daughter copied her Mum by putting the items on the conveyor at the checkout and joining the queue.  It was a clear and very direct example of how autism affects so many children whose learning is different to the rest.  


Left handed folk. (Owen is right handed so spoils my argument to follow straight away, but bear with me!)

From a little knowledge of (being a left hander) how left and right basis works, I have been told during the pre-birth period if a trauma happens the developmental process is adjusted while the right side functions that are developing cannot continue for a time, the left side of the infant brain processes these ‘right’ side normality in the left hemisphere until normal service is resumed!  It sounds logical enough and I wonder how it occurs and whether it would be amplified in step with the presenting life problems.  A death in the family, an emotional trauma for the mother, a change of circumstances health or otherwise, an accident – falling, breaking something?  There is bound to be a pivotal point where this is manifested.  In recent readings I have become aware of the discoveries in psychology on how malignant aggression may be disposed through a trauma enteringthe world at the point of childbirth, difficulties at the time of birth.  There is also discoveries prenatally in Basic Perinatal Matrices (BPMs) where indications of traumatic ‘histories’ inform life itself and behavioural tendencies.  We are only at the edges of discovery presently.

Where to now

As a family the Suskinds are aware of their own life span and of Walt who is a huge part of the film though Cordelia and Ron are in the frontline daily, has his own life prospects to consider alongside his love and caring for Owen however things may move on.  In the film we have met his Disney Masterclass mates, even a few ‘stars’ of the films and we see the emotional, juvenile rite of passage which Walt has some dilemmas in drawing out, with one of Owens classmates becoming his girlfriend over three years.  Emily is in the same school and plans are progressed for Owen to move out as a matter of course from the family home to a Life assisted living residential home where he will have his own apartment, his own condo and Emily can move along with him to an adjacent condo of her own. 

There is a website set up by Ron Suskind called Welcome to Life, Animated. As follows – lifeanimated.net

Our son Owen, like so many with autism, has an ‘affinity’ — in his case, a deep connection to the Disney movies he’s watched countless times to make sense of an often-bewildering world.

When we first shared Owen’s story, we thought he was one in a million. But the wave of responses we received showed us that Owen was really one among millions. We learned about autistic men, women, boys, and girls all over the world with affinities from movies to maps.

Conclusion ####4

While recent trends in documentary making are used, integrating forms of drama and illustration in ‘sequence’ played out as if the ‘action’ is unrehearsed and legitimate observation – here there are several incidents of ‘happenstance’ when Owen is observed as a link looking at the very same ‘pointer/reveal’ in the Disney contenr and it flows on.  This is moderately irritating but in fairness to deliver in a short time frame – this is a movie after all – the storytelling has to move swiftly to get to the next important thing.  The important thing being to inform us and empathise with the whole situation.  The system of healthcare, the specialists at times floundering on the edge of experience- after all Owen is himself a pioneer and brings plenty by his energy and perseverance – to the need to be in a calm place and his parents moving out to Cape Cod and a beach existence which would soothe anyone – from New York work commitments foe Ron who is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.  It reveals our own perspectives are lax and the learning is here so well delivered we become advocates or perhaps shall share the knowledge going forward.  As a documentary it is of the highest quality given the ‘disclaimer’ I make immediately above and it is also a work which all involved – Disney published the book on which it is based but did not get involved in any editing, selection of the Disney catalogue and their sister company Pixar films. Owen has possibly memorized the entire catalogue and could make it as an advocate for more animation which is a Law onto itself in many respects.  It is the diet of so many young folk and expands.  I flag up the industrious and talented British creator of an entire series, Mr Moon, Kate Veale whose success for Disney Playtime is huge.  Mr Moon, created by Kate Veale, from Anglesey, will debut on the Disney channel this summer. The series is a collaboration between art director Ms Veale and animators in Singapore, London and Canada. She was inspired to create Mr Moon one evening in her back garden but it took 10 years for her to realise her screen dream. The series centres around Mr Moon, who looks after the night time sky with his best friend Silva Star, while Sunny takes care of the daytime. That was in 2000 and it is a cult children’s series now!

Get to it Owen – give us a seminar on the world of Mr Moon and outer space.  There is no Dark side of the Moon, matter of fact it’s all dark.
John Graham

8 December 2016

Belfast

Wonderful inspiring Documentary insightful vision of Autism on at Queens Film Theatre from this Friday 9 December up to and including Thursday 15 December 2016 and on VOD and general release.