Love & Friendship : A Film Review

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Directed by Whit Stillman, Cast, Kate Beckinsale, Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell, Morfydd Clark, Jemma Redgrave, Tom Bennett, James Fleet, Justin Edwards, Jenn Murray, Stephen Fry, Chloë Sevigny.

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Funny Sexy Witty

Love & Friendship based on a short Jane Austen novella she wrote before “Pride and Prejudice” is witty, funny and entertaining, just like its heroine Lady Susan Vernon, played with fiendish electrifying linqiustic precision and pace by Kate Beckinsale. She plays a young widow, seemingly for appearance sake in mourning but is requiring to cast her fortunes to others to furnish both a home, her in-laws, and a position to encourage a future which serves both her and her daughter who is at boarding school.cinitially for appearances she is accompanied by a young lady in waiting who is made welcome and uncomfortable in equal measure.  The daughter Frederica, played with authentic youthful coquettish innocence by Morfyyd Clark and has a large part to play in the chess game Lady Susan has to set before us and enact.  The deployment of coy attractive bewitching ‘genius’ is virtually unstoppable and suitably preposterous given her skills.  Her aim is a lover of high marriage and untouchable impeachablility, less her aims become known.  Some things have a strangeway of turning out and Jane Austen was never shy in geometric manouvres to manifest the Mansfield Parks and Pride and Predjudices of this world reliant on the relations of the genders.

The roll call opens with frames of each Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan Vernon, Chloë Sevigny as Alicia Johnson, Xavier Samuel as Reginald DeCourcy, Stephen Fry as Mr. Johnson, Emma Greenwell as Catherine Vernon, Morfydd Clark as Frederica Vernon, James Fleet as Sir Reginald DeCourcy, Jemma Redgrave as Lady DeCourcy, Tom Bennett as Sir James Martin, Justin Edwards as Charles Vernon, Jenn Murray as Lady Lucy Manwaring.

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Bomb proof Kate Beckinsale

There are seldom roles made to conquer for women in the Jane Austen repertoire/cannon given the screen adaptations repeated with routine rapidity leaving few remaining but as this involves a novella and lesser performed piece it is mastered or mistresses by Kate Beckinsale to put down a marker for assured brilliance in the body of work achieved by numerous illustrious British actors; I’m reminded of the feminist need to drop the ‘ess’ Doctoress etc.,  and it merits no small mention being the first of many such superb performances by the entire cast.

The story is a typical lesson in the mores of the Middle and Upper echelons of English society at the mercy of the match making requirements of the period.  1760 thereabouts.  Set in England, filmed entirely it appears in Ireland, Powerscourt, Howth Castle and with a ‘London’ giving identity to Edward Street and (Upper) Seymour Street, -.mentioned a few times previously in my reviews as firstly Turners first abode in London, also the swimming pool used in the ‘vomit’ scene in a Monty Python movie – on an indoor – scaffolded out – five aside pitch I used to frequent in West London – it shapes as the location of the abode Lady Susan ‘retires to for plotting liaisons and conflicts of the heart which reach crescendo in London and disapate just as the designs require as acted by Lady Susan Vernon.

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Period gender Portmanteau

It is a portmanteau piece of the highest quality.  A tale of the two sexes in ever alarming relations or misintended liaisons in meaning and practice. Every nuance and detail of speech, setting, period, costumery is superbly realised.  The interiors are so simple understated and unfussybas to distinguish it as exemplary in taste and period refinement.  The smaller furniture designed for the Ladies of the house, and the larger more flamboyant pieces for the Gentlemen of the house are carefully utilised to invoke status. There are hints in a woman to woman relationship with Alicia, Chloe Sevigny, whose husband is the buffoonish Mr Stephen Fry, which is purely a act of conceit and further manipulative guile by Lady Susan. Lady Susan also makes a habit of discarding most decorum regarding furniture and when possible purloins the larger higher status items.

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There are other occasions she is conversely suitably demuring to her hosts and as with the widescreen framing throughout of conversations, of which the film compacts into high density attention grabbing eloquence joyous; for the audience, reams of vocabulary and inferences of high restoration comedy demanding your distillation.  Many still scenes of interaction are employed as the customary vignettes the story relies on. She cups her palm in resting a tea cup in reflection of her host, or holds her hands, withdrawing into a closed finger grasp of meaning no ‘grabbing’ or tokenistic intentions. The acting is not short of finer befitting signals as both guide and convincer. Lady Vernon is in scenes often eye catching beautifully dressed, so when she appears, the allure of the whole essence of her style is captivatingly instantaneous.  Some dresses are costumes Alexander McQueen would have been proud to have tailored. The richness of colour and vibrancy is at times visually stunning.  No doubt this is a fully intended contrasting approach once again delighting the audiences expectations of more intense jaw dropping scurility as another twist and orchestration bounces like a diminuendo round a stately gathering between acts.  Morescandalous intrigue to follow. It’s mere seconds away. Keep paying attention to the outpouring of words and the nuances of facial reticence Kate Beckinsale has to offer.  Many opening of scenes are like miniature plays unfolding in another form of the female skillset outwitting and unexpectedly barely believable.  Still they are thoroughly intact by the close of each scene as being pure genius in completing the tableau, for the time being.

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Nobody’s Fool De Courcy.

Few Irish people will not be aquainted with the origins of the De Courcy family, it’s antecedents lying in our own Carrickfergus Castle circa 1166 (when the first invasion of Ireland by the English – troops and other invasions occured periodically we’re told – Lady Theresa Villiers the latest incumbent) and tradition of folklore has this Hugenouet dynasty come via. Somerset; the films De Courcy’s somehow hail from Kent.  It being where Churchill (Church and hill crop up a lot) after Blenhiem lived.  At Westerham, no Churchill estate per se.  The De Corcy’s of Irish fame and obvious later fortune were indeed quite clever as assets to Ireland, however with the minor oversight of being authors of a policy to monetarise Ireland with its own coinage – the John De Courcy Silver farthings in public view can be seen in a small undistinguished case next to the large photograph of Carrickfergusfergus Castle in the Ulster Museum.  Quite simply the most informative exhibit piece in the Museum informing you of the origins (money) of England’s transgressions into Ireland.  Historical fact unsequestered.

Ross McDonnell

Father Son and Daughter. Country hosts.

Son. Xavier Samuel plays. Reginald De Corcy to his fathers scrutinous oversight, being the only male descendant, brilliantly.  He is the foil for Lady Susan who establishes a bridgehead on this young mans feelings and desire for intelligent intercourse of the non physical kind though it undoubtedly features in his often troubled mind.  His intelligence is almost a match for Lady Susan.  When he is vexed; it’s a frequently occurring theme, he asks the most direct and simply intelligent questions he can afford.    He asks them often. It is treated nearly everytime by Lady Susan like an in her prime Serena Williams as a second serve slam dunk.  His intelligence and own dignity befitting his junior age to his attendee is never lessened as he knows he is in the throes of a contest of like minded – with one or two key exeptions – compatriates.  Her calumny is greatest and with it constructs the greatest hurt.

Father. The father. James Fleet as Sir Reginald De Courcy is something of a half lit lamp.  In contrast their is a very consumate scholarly husband to the De Courcy daughter whose beauty is for appearances miscmatched with her older husband – a common enough occurrence in these tales – and his speed of thought is often incisive when it comes to the linguistic entanglements that arise.  His wisdom is softly delivered without any pretense of affected impress.  It is another quality performance.  With Catherine De Courcy there is an affectionate wish to please and entire while she also is continually using her under utilised intelligence in deciphering the nuances of relationships and movements of those around her.

Daughter. Emma Greenwell as Catherine is herself an unsung beauty. With a friend of some confidence in Lady Susan she, Catherine, with her blond hair and dazzling good looks as counterpoint to the sophisticat, whose dresses and hair style steal the scene in Lady Susan’s favour always and as directorial intended.  While Lady Susan’s tresses cascade in ordered disorder with black curls dancing, Catherine’s appear to just sit and her stack of hair looks provincial as the designer has taken care to pronounce for us.  It is virtually flawless in the making though one or two scenes are edited to the quick. The shortness of some intros misses a beat as for example, a servant has broken into a walk from a standing start without the start visible or with a walk upstairs also too quick off the mark.  These are trivial matters andcitvonly gets a mention as nothing in film making can ever be perfect nor should it be.

Martindale

Throughout the film crops up a character, Sir James Martin admirably played by Tom Bennett  who is the but of jokes and with directness Reginald De Courcy defines as a blockhead, the non-de-plume of period custom.  His unstoppable nincompoopery is that of a special skill of its own.  He is scarcly believable in overstating, understating, mis remarking and chasing incidents in his head down the stately blind alleys he boldly interjects upon. Such is his reputation the females scatter like the queens corgis when Prince Philip enters a room. His overtures for Frederika are the mainstay of his large fortunes necessary disposal.   His eye for agricultural curation is singularly acute as certain observations he makes testify to.

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Interior Piece of England

Observing England through its Downtown Abbey’s its Jane Austen blockbuster books and the Wolf Hall take down, erroneously of Roman Catholisicm is hard core history gone soft.  Like The a Recent Hollow Crown it’s very Stacey and multi-layered skillfully portrayed craftsmanship but it leaves a hollow soul in the heart of the real dark periods England would try to emerge from and post war is still seen as a time for reflection on those two world wars. It’s the kind of foil to the Recent Peaky Blinders view which has some traction. Sunset Song was a recent historical film which stood out in terms of credibility and though this film is obviously a piece on society and morality at a certain time it is seen by some as real time struggle of the gender differences and often seen as reflecting feminism.  It could not be further from that as it puts women in a place where men often are as manipulating and often self seeking in their desires and wishes.  Feminism is about the right to identity whatever form on the spectrum it happens to take and thankfully certain bigotry is being lost to the fresh approach to the hackneyed views, almost 1700’s in perception and are towards a new enlightenment.

Conclusion ####4

From beginning to end this film transports you to an illogical but presenting universe and the formidable manouvres of male and female in search of or retention of status and the rigour of polite society is challenged by the genders compromises and we are entertained with a very particular core group of British acting talent, added to which Chloe Sevigny holds her head high and it constructs the period piece so well known and sometimes well worn delivery of familiar novels.  This of course being the strident workings of Jane Austen reacting to her times and delivering what were held to be unspoken truths or rather little discussed or considered oppressive elements most severely felt by women and then in the working classes which this work avoids. It is a brilliantly beautifully observed piece and should appeal on many levels.

 

John Graham

25 May 2016

Belfast

On at QFT from 27 May through to and including the 9 June 2016.

 

Green Room : A Film Review


A Punk Rock thriller. Director, Screenwriter : Jeremy   Saulnier.

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Starring:Patrick Stewart, Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Mark Webber, Eric Edelstein, Macon Blair, Kai Lennox. Genre:Drama, Thriller. USA. Cert. 18. Duration. 1hr 35mins.

img_2189Journey into the unknown

Be warned this has extreme levels of Violence.

Not for nervous novice film goers. It’s intro takes us into the gentle, hitherto fairly uncomplicated world of a band trying their best to do something different by doing the same all new bands reluctantly/intensely/purposely – it’s a matter of personal choices – to give it lots. So how does this everyday type occurrence turn out badly for them, because it most certainly does?  They are in a town which has rewarded them poorly for the gigs performed as part of a Club bill normally and are in desperate need of some alternatives.  The intro to the film has them wake up off road and in a field in their Band van or bandwagon come to that.  It’s a decent fit for the five band members and one is a girl bass guitarist.  They reveal their favourite method of continuing on the road by acting illegally to obtain fuel to continue on to their last gig.  Once they arrive in the town they rendezvous with the contact, a Mohican coiffured punk who is both putting them up and who has arranged their gig.  He does this because the band money is split 50/50 and the bands part gets divided by five!   He is straight with them and after the lousy fee he feels obliged to help out more.


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Not THE GREYHOUND Croydon mosh pit!

This is really where the story begins.  He sets them up with a gig further North and near Portland.  Now Portland is a fine decent place in my mind,  I even saw the Portland Oregon Free Choir last year here and the multi-racial religious mix and not to mention their singing was blissfully bridge building.  So outside Oregan; the band, especially Alia ask about the redneck rating of the place.  The Mohican gives them a heads up saying it’s OK but keep stum and don’t say your Kewish or whatever.  They go and drive into a Club based in a clearing in a wood with trailers, sheds, a Barnlike Clubroom and are greeted by the Mohicans Uncle/Cousin contact who fills them in on protocol.  It isn’t the warmest of greetings and the deal is quickly agreed to accommodate the Club manager who has a striking resemblance to Chris Moyles (ex/off on R1 DJ) and he is business like and knows what he needs. He even asks -and this is a kind of false sense of security director Jeremy Saulnier places in the script – ‘Are you using the House kit or do you want to use your own?’ – so the band is all the House manager is interested in to feed his customers their music needs, to play for the hoard of young redneck hard hells angel remodels that comprise a hard indie rock following or as the case may be a bunch of malcontent youths willing and able to be led by white supremisists if that would be the order of the locale.  And guess what that basically is the set up.


A mosh but it’s too orderly! How is that?! Only moderate pushing and shoving and no gobbling?!

They perform and then one of them sees something they shouldn’t.  Now this is some  30 – 40 minutes in so maybe I shouldn’t be telling you this.  Actually that is the simple part.  Understanding the set up (it’s not a set up) is instrumental in showing how innocent and unclear they, the youth and the band, are about the undercurrent present in fringes and backwoods of America.  It may or may not ring true but Director Jeremy Saulnier has written this with a clear sense of authoritive ‘I know what I’m talking about, I know what goes on, I want to show you a dark venomous delinquent dangerous, monumentally prejudiced and dangerous side of our sweet old US of A.’  My words not his. It is constructed with a knowing insightful base and in the jugular, head wrecking, off the wall, unconsiable violent, psychotic behavior present and up front. I hate and also despair of violent movies and see no point in them being made.  They pander to a group mentality of debasement as there but for the grace of a God go I mentality. If only that were the half of it.  The baseless of criminality is not entertainment nor is it informative.  It’s just a modern updating of slasher nasty violent thuggery seen in second rate films of any era.  Has it a political point?  Don’t think so.


Ok she’s a lead guitarist!

“We can’t take it so seriously,” says Anton Yelchin, the bands bassist Pat points out. So comedic value? No! It’s as scary as most films go.  He is in the midst of this very bad situation looking for deflection techniques and he and the others come up with some of the bat stupid ideas they quickly discard.  How to deal with the situation is the making of the story.
It’s only pretend but it’s also Shakespeares drama and gore rolled up in a ball of in your face violent action and mayhem. Deliverance has been mentioned, Assualt on Precinct 13 will appear as mentions in many reviews.  The club owner of familiar menace is no other than Mr Star Trek himself, the brilliant actor, Patrick Stewart showing how despite his familiarity to us all shows amazing versatility only top class actors can delivery.  Hubris, depth, along with assured claustrophobic driven direction of sitting on the shoulders of the protagonists gives the heft and heave of chiller thriller of the filmatic tundra the direction brings.

img_2180Superb portrayal of an angsty modern 21st punk.

The programme of QFT said of the violence, ‘ .. technique .. : allowing the horror to manifest itself in the mind of the viewer as much as it plays out on the screen.’   Well if only that were true and we had less visual gore and front on full graphic violence.  The act of showing these acts became gratuitous and despite the refinement of light, claustrophobic rooms, The Green Room of the title in particular complete with the sliding bolts, was gruesome beyond acceptable cinematic value.  It screwed the picture up to make it have appeal to a particular audience who say ‘your never going to believe this, this is awesome in your face violence and seldom do you get an 18 these days so you’ve got to see it – face jaw dropped – exclamation mark.’ That’s as purine a piece of marketing film choices as befits box office before film making. Neither mutually exclusive. Young hopelessly out of their depth the young band are in a dangerous place and their dilemma is brilliantly cast and portrayed with grimacing tight teeth clenching edge of the set reactions from yours truly. I’ve not gone soft and I see the fact of film making enabling the tension it is inconceivable to rationalise, with suspenseful (literally) direction of a strong narrative at pace. Son of Saul recently opened and the writhing in agony of asphyxiation was plain to anyone with imagination. No visual content was expatiated. It did not intimidate you into constructing a fierce distaste and more importantly the means to speak openly and forcefully against all forms of violence.  Its depiction therefore illuminating lay of contrast. Need necessity are as matters of loss  of a single life whaatever the extremes of removal of the liberty of life and have a stark equality.

Conclusion ###3 

Despite the ‘prejudice’ against movies purely out to shock and gain an audience this film is well made and full of suspense. Some Directors like Wes Craven like their screen violence and say it is morally fine as it is …etc.  Cinema and the punters are more discerning. It overdoes it as far as violence is concerned and maybe to make a point about the state the good old US of A has become or may become.  It anesthestises youth and conspirators as being the power cult hero of psychology analysis. It shows a set of young people aspiring for better things caught up in a tundra beyond their school grades. The performances are collectively very convincing with special character playing managed as a singular lone star spirit by Imogen Poots.  At times deranged at others constructive, intelligent and stoic. As for Patrick Stewart, his performance is no more than effective with some accent problems, is it American? is it English? and a physically strong presence, thoroughly believable but somewhat restrained as though depicting his role as a Nazi sympathiser being a considered level headed dude.  Being level headed is his form of survival.  As the events run out of control he has to be the wise guy coming up with alternative solutions which he does, though some are far fetched, such as the final fix. So that’s another imperfect crime scene for CSI to unweaned.

John Graham

19 May 2016

Belfast

To be screened at QFT Befast from this Friday 20 May through to and including 26 May 2016.

Everybody wants some : A Film Review


Comedy. Rating 15

Writer, Director. Richard Linklater.

Cast. Will Brittain, Zoey Deutch, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Blake Jenner, J. Quinton Johnson, Glen Powell, Wyatt Russell, Austin Amelio, Temple Baker, Tanner Kalina, Juston Street, Forrest Vickery.

After Boyhood Findyourselfhood

After the hugely successful, in cinematic frontier ship at least, comes a sequel of steadying the filmic ship.  Onto a perhaps another phase and time much familiar with writer and Director Richard Linklater.  See my link there!.  His 1980 set film Everyone wants some is a East Texas College based campus piece devoted to the ballsack baseball progenitor type set of relationships setting sail amongst adults with fixed ideas as male competitors.  There is a raft of fine athletic type actors drafted in to fit certain prefixed role playing characters as an ensemble carefully chosen to depict certain approaches Linklater sees as adult models.  He himself sees this ahead of the game as a cerebral non dormitory hedonistic pratfall diet visited in the eighties and seventies.  His is now a historical piece of observance.  Given the prequels we all possibly know this is has added Jung, Freudian, Plato, Hobbes, Spector, Ronettes, Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summer, Studio 54, Petty  and Strinberg, Ginsberg and Kerouac filters.  Post Vietnam and Post Black Panthers now Carter, Reagan.

It covers the period leading up to College starting.  Literally day by day leading up to the least interesting thing on the agenda – a career defining education.  It is about the new premises.  The baseball team have been gifted two giant adjoining  suburban garden front and back detached houses.  The girls are dispersed about in dormitory holiday type/motel type accommodation chalets and part of the narrative is an important love story of a central film defining kind.  One central pairing as a focal point amidst the distractions intentionally placed in the pairs way.  Not by their friends but by the director.  It is essential and Jake (Jacob Bradley – Blake Jenner – I have him as the grazer but like the others there’s more to it than that, and the performing arts student – who picks out Jacob from the pack, entrusting his open faced clear sighted view the others don’t have or conceal – Beverley – Zoey Deutch). This is a very interesting mix and it is a good paced never boring but a tad stereotypical. 


Place the cast as YOU find them. The Competitor – Failure is not an option.  The Delusional – Already knowing but way of kilter. The Questioner – Why would anyone do that? What’s that all about?  The Analyser – Team editor sorting wheat from chaff  going with base instinct.  The Grazer – seeing the field and taking up the best available idea and working with it.  The Spirit – Trippy existentialist philosopher of cosmic micro analytic dimension definer.  Awesome.  The Groundling – Barnboy nature harvest ancient mariner in for the long haul.  The Weirdo –  if silly shit turns up then turn it on to eleven buddy.  The Van Halen – (spandex proofed) Hyper today’s happenin’ where the rules are a crowd surf.  The External – (There’s none – their highly unathletic and follow on from the Velvets to Tom Petty to Punk rebellion) and stay in hamsterville. Living on the wheel consuming fashion belting out attitude conforming and dying at the same time. The Multiplex – No side just an amorphous embodiment of the age.  Like a Ordinary Joe content to see the story and blend in.  The Tin hut – physically one the money and unaware of limits and finding them hard to define as pain comes and goes withoutvanybsurface lessons. The Cocksure – Safe and confident.  Able to fit in with the leaders demands but needs led.  Teamster not a railroader.  The Simpleton – There isn’t one but if you are too happy it’s likely you. The Fence Breaker – Breakingbthe racial barrier outsider.  The Asiatic – (There’s none in the team.) Basically only Americans play dude.  So spot the very occasional Chinese person (in a Union Jack tee-shirt). They were called just ‘tees’ in those days and often lacked the upper arm to expose its power and a bottom midriff to expose the body hair and lack of a tub.  


The car park 

Apart from the Chevrolets, Mustangs, Custom roadster, hoodster and Station wagons occupying the campus car park the steady stream of incomers were themselves a picture of middle class American college girl students.  With a low level aerial view we see the Baseball team meet and greet with an eye on all the girls arriving and it reminded me of, strangely, Brian Moores novel The Great Victorian Collection in which his protagonist awakes in a motel overlooking a car park which is filled with an array of Victorian fine antiques.  This is a period of the eighties generation arriving in fully primed sexual health, shiny and having attained the grades, entering the fresh knowledgable world as vintage, polished and tuned.  All furnished as relics of the States modern history as infant dwarf cabinets of the US modernity post madmen allure and this is in front of their new female dorms and quarters.  So a slow tour of all that is pristine, enticing, temptingly tangible and on display and the Players take their time to navigate this soon to be held up close and personal or not depending on attraction, rejection, fertile field of womanhood.  Eyes on stalks and little self concious banter is called for.  Here are Health Care masters, Literary incarnates, Chemists, Thespians, Artists and other self directed burgeoning feminine man or woman traps with their sexual odours circulating the car park  (and I was in a back seat of the cinema theatre and could sense it!) under the hot August Sun.  The music of this film is never far from a scene.  


You could write a whole musicology homage to the many period time signature hot songs anthems, though they took off after Peter Frampton had ‘squared it’ for a legion of copyists after Disco was king.  Too many nuances, side turns to go into here.  Except one song will hit home with people of ace retain age and even younger from not so far away and I don’t mean the one John Peel played twice as soon as it ended first time round at 45 rpm on vinyl.  The Ultra Disco of the parent generation still fills the floors.  The music is one of the key and multi entertaining features as a set of contrasting  tastes or even fly by zones of escapism.  I’m beginning to like this film the more I write about it as it is not a deeply involving though definitely a perceptive insightful look back at a recent piece of recent history and those that forged the Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Boeing, etc.


Period setting

The campus is so pre Columbine, so free and easy and lager fueled the psyhchedialoa of their parents laid back lifestyle – or not – fundamentalism and hardship, broken marriages, post war veterans and all kinds of American family patterns will be on the outside this inside is about, exist, and at it (Everybody wants some can be the golden ticket or scoring the nearest and easiest healthy ones of the opposite sex – no homo eroticism except the odd preening nappy holstered body shock fat free torso in their room hoisting their nuts skyward and forward in front of the mirror in a self loathing come test.           Well not so sexual but a closet type of Adonis is often Charles Atlasing in the Neighbourhood.  Nor are there any anti feminist, anti gay asides as this is in Richard Linklaters eyes a pre meltdown pre apocalypse world.  None of the outside wars are seen, no starvation, man made or natural disasters touched on.  No cultural reference except the culture of Sport and American sport at that, and sexual olympics with a multi verse Musical tapestry.


Just an excuse to put in a Julie Delphy photo! (Left R. Linklater sleeves on suit too long, Right E. Hawke too cool with hand in pocket.  There with an awesome woman – what’s got into them?!)

Conclusion. ###+ 3.5
I liked this film from the started and liked it even more as the story developed and it became clear this was a recent history tale of a former America and of a condensed set of friends and fellow students at the edge of the new decade and another years teaching and social bonding flipping and falling in 1980. It is a formidibale fast paced comedy and all through very engaging, perfectly constructed cast with all playing it like naive trivets to their parts (the types I identify are the main preserves in the jam these young ones are bottling into human multi personal forms. Their adult entry story.
The title is of all things. Everybody is lookin’ for something.. Etc. what it is is not often clear. It is somewhere in their DNA – yet to be encoded – on their mobiles – not one too be seen – three or four old people appear for less than retention seconds each – forty fifty sixty somethings – all looking into the theory of everything. Go get it never stop looking we all need it.
It is a very watchable constantly humorous, never uneasy – a purposeful exclusion – with some memorable scenes. One in the room they first Jake and his housemates meet, the Bar farce, crushed ego stare off, the diving bombing into the same pool of life, all different exhibitionist or otherwise acts, the love tyrsts, the Disco moves and the Baseball first practice. The drop out and the portrait of the near future. All is a daze for some and this is going to settle into a niche of formidable memory as technicolour sunny, funny, cocktail – you know what a cocktail is? See cast – portrait of a time.

John Graham

12 May 2016

Belfast

Screens at QFT Belfast from 13 May to 26 May 2016. Check times dates as this week to get Hillsborough shown some films were shifted. Well worth watching this and the sound is awesome in the Cinema also!

Mustang : A Film Review


Mustang

Director co-writer. Deniz-gamze-Erguven. Co-writer Alice Wincour. Cast. Güneş Şensoy as Lale, Doğa Doğuşlu as Nur, Elit İşcan as Ece, Tuğba Sunguroğlu as Selma, İlayda Akdoğan as Sonay, Nihal Koldaş as the grandmother, Ayberk Pekcan as Erol, Erol Afşin as Osman. Duration  97 mins. France/Germany/Turkey. subtitled. Cert 15.

Portrait of tyranny 

There are tragic notes and despairingly sad moments in this Turkish first time Director piece on the semi-recognised crossroads of religion and secular society in this trouble torn conflicted nation.  It is a modern identity struggle between not necessarily ages but the soul and spiritual perceptions abroad and especially as focused on here among the young women, bearers of the future. A horror movie on patriarchy some have said.  It certainly is and the means of its delivery are coached in surreal accentuated prison conditions with a large number of elderly relatives; the girls have lost their parents and are cared for by Uncle Erol and his mother along with a plethora of increasingly adverse group of fundamentalist Muslims tied to inequality and a male dominated society inside a home which turns into a lock down basically as gates and grilles are added.

Stylised Story Direction

Far from being a tirade on the conflicts of a society riven with problems at state level and local traditions this film is carefully constructed in an almost hyper reality form.  The heightened colourist painterly direction is one clue. The is of humour and small elements of narration with portrayal of ordinary life which when the subject of marriage comes up becomes a tableau of choregraphed acting.  Not by the ‘Actors’ but the people they portray act the roles passed down to them in a ritualized form as a domestic aggrement of arranged marriage is formed.

The girls all five have an beautiful existence next to the Black Sea from the youngest, Lale through Nur, Ece, Selma, and Sonay the eldest whose joint meeting school end in celebration by dive bombing in the sea with boy classmates as innocent fun becomes the reason of their future ‘encarceration’ after word gets out and this willfulness is interpreted as sexual expression.  Virginity is a central part of their indentity in this society where marriage is contrived as firstly the woman being ‘intact’ as they describe it and then in a position to marry according to their parents or guardians wishes to whoever they choose.  Uncle Erol and his mother are tyrants with a grip and formidibale power.

 Beware the Clooney he’s married.
Football supporters miss the bus.

Beach Forbidden

The episode on the beach becomes the fulcrum on which the film shows us the extent of the power of tradition and Uncle Erol whose very large home and farm/small holding provide all with a handsome living, is troubled.  Sometimes he is forced to adopt the role of Patriach and leader of the household and then at other times sees the sisters as a loving Uncle wishing them the freedoms and absence of anxiety they have suffered.  The state and Church have imbedded a deep and entrenched obedience in the elders while the world changes all around them.  They do not get to spend their summer on the beach ruin the woods or around the hillsides and adjoining village.

Hyper real and Counter Sexualising

The girls have in contrast the modern appearance of any well of child in a place where freedoms are open and unquestioned. This tears the generations apart and the business of matchmaking is abusive and despicable adherence to oppressive practices. The filmaker expresses their sexuality by their differences growing.  Where they lie together and the camera constructs a painting they have all different knees arms legs toes which the cinematographer singles out as defining them as different characters each not sexual objects of the Turkish severe patriachical male object driven vision but as girls as essentially women of growing awareness containing very different inner dilemmas within the context of mutual identity.  It is neither overtly Feminist or remotely Sexualised.  It is a tribute to womanhood understood by the filmaker and is the internal hyper reality the film delivers.

Present day Hypocricy Democracy

In Turkey there are more journalists in Jail than in Russia. Human Rights violations are a daily occurrence and a decades slip in advancing Human Rights in response to the EU backward slid is atrocious and Turkey has suppressed the rights of women and young women’s d monstrations. The middle classes are now facing the lack of visa free travel which calls the Parliment to seek visa free travel.  The refugee crisis is becoming a tool to attack the EU while at the same time not providing a solution to the movement of people.  Greece might be relieved and having to save fewer lives from the sea.


The Story Envelope

As most of the above deals with the construction of the locality of the rural community which is beset with modern ideals of equality and as sought and obtained to a large degree in other parts of fringing Europe the story has to tell the experiences felt by five sisters in the heart of the conflicts they find themselves growing up with.  The story goes through the enforced marriage of two of them, the rebellion it brings within them all and a deeply tragic, heart reaching pivotal moment which is brought to bang home the effect such a society or parts of it inflict upon those who follow the strictures consigned by the Church and State.  The rebellion is very dramatic and forces the elders into a place where some of the women who have gone through much hardship and total oppression over their own lifetimes, to address the teenage emotions through their hearts and to ease the path.  It is very hard for all of these women to alter what is an endemic systematic corruption.  It is exploited at so many levels and any rebellion is accompanied usually by myself gyration and Turkey has suffered through migration and is itself under great strain and pressure to accommodate the exodus from Syria.

How this film concludes is open ended at the same time salutary and asking as many questions as it began with.                    It is a far bigger development of the questioning of frictions and oppression withinTurkey as is replicated elsewhere and extremely well told.


Conclusion ####4

A very good interpretation of religious and cultural pressures on women in Turkey through hyper real scenes and general feel of opposites juxtaposed to bring forth a very serious and angry forceful delivery and on behalf of women’s rights.            It is on a daily basis Women’s rights are suppressed in Turkey and it wonders how it cannot become a country, it has in the past sometimes achieved it, without sectarian forms of imperialism.  It is a question put to the Muslim Faith of equality of Man and Woman.  No differences existing Christian religions and though axiomatically the Christian Faith is also at times a place of inequality and with divisions not just in having women of Faith practice as Ministers, as leaders of theology, of having the right to marry and remain Priests and that’s the men! there is no singularity or consensus.  This film tackles central women’s oppression through non-religious practice positing itself as of God while denying Gods word and equality amongst all human beings.  It does it in a love thy neighbour way conspicuously and forcefully so it may become in itself recognised as part of the argument. It is indeed a well crafted and brilliantly achieved piece of cinema with many layers and welcome views.

John Graham

4 May 2016

Belfast
At QFT Belfast from Friday 13 May 2016 through to 19 May 2016 . Cert. 15.

Short season : Belfast Film Festival 2016

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4 sessions of Film Shorts @ QFT Belfast as part of the Belfast Film Festival

There has been a truly great 2016 season of one of the most testing of film making that of what is the short story in film

Film Shorts. Roughly in the order screened.

It is in my view all to to with the story however simple or complex audiences want the sensory experience to be complete by their adding in those absent senses infilling reactively to a cinematic viewing which can be animated, surreal, factual or a fiction historical or contemporary. A story.  The story escapes the screen to be shared.

There are in the first wave some common approaches or location use which seems to be a dominant strand.  The shore and the rugged Irish landscape crop up in several.  Another common element I noticed was a delivery of fourth wall connections.  From dialogue to intermittent apparent logging into engage an audience with facial expression.  Approach and entry too were elongated introductions to a core plot point.  Hands detail etc. lingering atmospheric shots including use of colour and temporary deviation to obtain a visual kick.  Many have a give away, hit me with it title. Here they are.

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1. My Bonnie

Time is precious and to separate, pull apart is like abandoning a past, even declaring it a waste of time.  Some of this comes across to a couple who the film imparts early are a coupe in a crisis.  The male is chasing the escaping female but their having a picnic, metaphor here?  The setting is on a coastline and the place they share temporarily the woman making herself knee deep in the sea and engaging in a ritual cleansing.

The Plot – A middle aged couple adrift and sharing through self absorbed insular reflection an island.  Not John Donne in essence.

What’s right with it – It explores unsentimentally by its visual clues and confronting dialogue a shape of a relationship, it’s complex part loving, part hating and an inability to communicate and placing those emotions in their correct places.

What’s wrong with it – The presence on islands is a correct visual context but it is overdrawn and long shots are not intimate as they come back to close up instead of allowing us to lean into the narrative to ‘hear’ through the words crucial parts of dialogue.  It needed more finessing and dangerous and problematic to film with a great touch of lightness on a seaboard resolutely dark it fashioned out the basic problems of drawing faultlines when one or other chooses to force issues.

Verdict – Good dialogue except point fillers (I’m never sure if it’s coming in or going out) daft if it’s the relationship, pointless if it’s tale of the tide and the odd line.  The actors were very committed and the excercises was very unique if a little tied to its own credentials.  It could have done with dumping some lines and relying on the actors whose own connection was already advanced and on key.

2. Awaydays

This is related but not an attached part of the Stephen Fingleton The Survivalist.  The programme word, The Prepper’ is a ghastly cumbersome and unlikely carry forward of the adult male lead.  Brian Graham. As this introduces the two brothers of the aforesaid main feature as children we are to believe the narrative of the father preparing his sons for a catastrophe. 

The Plot – The sons are weekending in a forest location with their estranged Dad.  He makes it clear they are in for a bit of adventure and instruction and he bullies them into accepting his premis. Unluckily it involves gore and violence.  Mental abuse is also a card he plays.  

What’s right with it – The cinematic film making experience is good.  The acting of the kids is good and realistic. The basic truth of some kind of ‘event’ coming is itself one that is prophetic in many arenas.  Not least the brutally effective The Survivalist which is dealt with in another of my blogs in depth.

What’s wrong with it – The script is hit and miss, the ‘present day’ children mistreatment is implausible.  Firearms included.  The red neck Dad is far too one dimensional which Brian Graham expert skills can’t hide and his contributions tend to be over employed shoutiness.  It dragged and does not have a great title never mind the lagging script. I think it’s the directors first attempt at this dark environmental psychological type of narrative and it would work on a less is more basis.

Verdict – A disappointment on many levels.

3. Insulin 

The Plot – This is after a collapse – the Jared Diamond, Stephen Fingleton territory.  A couple, the woman in a wheelchair in need of continued supply of insulin lives in a lock in pharmacy with her male partner.  No exit to the outside world.  They have callers who exchange food for their diminishing supply of drugs.  A visitor has insulin to trade.  A deal is fixed or is it?

What’s right with it? – This is a short at the junction of very good and brilliant.  The story is unique.  The situation prophetic if unreal in present eyes.  The emotional pull and fabulous close controlled camerawork in a very confined space is nothing short of stupendous in its delivery.  It has an interior light only by a battery powered Prescription sign which was a call of imposition chosen by the brother directors.  It has you gripped and waking for more resolution.

What’s wrong with it? – There is little to fault this film. It length and quick fix delivery is sharp and exacting in detail and emotional heft.  In fact this paragraph is an extension of the previous.

Verdict – Best short Film in this Festival?  See end for a one two three.

4. The Great Wide Open

The Plot – Set on the Glengarrif Co. Cork coastline we met a Granfather living in a boat he is restoring at th bottom of his families garden.  His niece provides the narration and helps to reinstate The Great Wide Open.

What’s right with it?  This is over in ten minutes and has an uncomplicated family story of connections across generations.  It does not produce any surprises and is simply an easy watch. The acting is homely and sweet.

What’s wrong with it?  The story is barely constructed. Painting a boat and putting out to sea has a limited tableau.

Verdict – An excursion which is never moving, merely pedestrian and normal interaction.

5. Prison door.

This did none of the above being a recluse hermit in a prison system refusing to leave his cell.  Familiar tropes of skinny inmate, dirty disheveled surroundings, along Kesh fitted the bill, almost behaved to type.  It avoided being a missed opportunity but was only just cinematically instinctive being able to show the sameness of the environment, the walls stick up photos, and the long corridor as static forms which people entered, left or never moved.  It had a facial closeup nearly fourth wall but out of it I got – never trust a man who wears a hat indoors.

The Plot – A prisoner confines himself to a world of his cell and washroom.

What’s right with it. – It makes a lasting impression of the old Long Kesh and the fact humans lock up humans.

What’s wrong with it. – Slighlty too detached in period as conditions ought to be less dirty in UK jails and the plot is one dimensional.  It contains a bird confined no doubt by the filmaker behind a sheet of glass which doesn’t convince me as the expression of freedom.  A very tiered trope.

Verdict
. Good production neatly and claustrophobic sense of improsonment. Still shots of corridor good green/red reflect the day and control.

6. Death of a Projectionist

This I am sorry to say was a poorly, predictably scripted walk up for the actors involved.  Some mechanics of the reel projection Ian McIhenney portrayed was not exactly a sweat filled angst ridden role.  None of the joy of Cinema Paradiso.  The interior hardly engaged.  The Strand Cinema was utilised but had not much of its unusual decor or ambience entering.  There was a big slab of a dog, an old persons home, a ever asleep wife? made up in bed as if in open coffin mode. Roma Tomelty trying not to stir. Small parts were never a sub-plot even though shorts can do sideline text. It was barely mood altering and had the effect an alkaline-seltzer might have had to the pretend corpse.  The slab dog disappears.  Left at another Sea shore.  Your never ten meters from a screen showing a shot of the Sea here in Ireland.

The Plot. – The local cinema (Strand) projectionist who spends his way time visiting his unconscious wife in a grand health care home and lugs a large dog around.  He meets a change as the cinema staff do of moderisation. Going digital.  It disturbs him and his mental health and he becomes less cheery and sees death around his corner.

What’s right with it. – The fate of a suburb cinema is tested and the reinvigorated picture house shows a hybrid cinema with multi use entertainment mostly, (political meetings not so) with a retro feel.  Well acted though it is cumbersome in places.

What’s wrong with it. – It is a see what it says on the reel tin.  Not enough digging and entry to the reel technical difference. The flash stick USBs shown contain trailers and it is a bit of a memory loss. Also not an acting role for Roma Tomelty who could have been slightly more animated

Verdict – Too safe and slow.

7. Introducing Brian

This was the most loudly engaging film for the audience with one joke to kick off a collapse of a man living his past in a rear lane covered by apprentice graffiti. Standing there for godness knows what reason except it is a colorful backdrop.  Not to hang a scenario on in normal cinema parlance.  More fourth wall, even after the joke turns up.  The personality of Brian is of a mentally disturbed elderly man grabbing in flashback to his past.  More engagement via. Colorful inserts of his past and then.  Well the past is the past and the present round another corner.  The Lawrence Street Workshops are a participant and it is from the Colin Reid stable of music which lifts the mood.  The place itself not on screen except perhaps as portional set?

The Plot. – The homebound pensioner Brian is low on spirit and talks to who or whatever looks back at him including the pigeons and seagulls in the back entry.  He recalls his youthful exuberance and childhood wonders.  His outdoor life is lonesome and carries us on as Brian never gives up hope.

What’s right with it. – The fate of the elderly is to be buried anonymously in neighborhoods of change and separated at times from their loved ones.  It is a bit of a struggle Brian copes with, without vices, drink etc. and has a survivors mould.

What’s wrong with it. – It is a case of mixed successful unsuccessful scenes and too navel gazing at times.  Even Brian doesn’t get and even break.  Only the humour is a lift often.

Verdict – Too low key and dependent on, granted, good laughs, so wobbles often.

8. Mama Hen

This is a film documentary of a side of Belfast which you seldom come across.  Mama Hen is a North Belfast lady who rears birds.  Rhode Island Reds mostly and not often for the cooking pot but for people to keep and obtain their eggs.  Egos are few and this lady leans over her half kitchen door surveying the ones roaming around her yard.  There is one bird in particular who is bonded to this lady as she has no beak (the hen) and relies on her to be fed more than her poor one beak scavenging musters.  Now a plan comes into being which might explain the metal unicorn thing poking out of the forehead of ‘Cornflake’as she’s known. Ye know the Kellogs bird is a model likeness (not) and things, tensions build to this perilous operation.  

The Plot. – Being a homemade documentary it is a tale of live and fowl deeds.

What’s right with it. – Unfortunately chickens are not as dumb as they look and Rhode Island Reds aren’t camera shy.  Cornflake has character a bit like a female Mel Gibson – all strides and panicky trying to hide a soft as putty heart. Cornflake does a Braveheart and pecks away at the dust menacingly yes and attitude beyond the call. She has a survivors mould. The tension – yolk – builds and children wonder after visiting whether they should eat chicken. Maybe they stop at the KFC to think about it.  It is a glorious and multi faceted little tale of endurance.

What’s wrong with it. – The winter times are absent and the hard work of surviving the Belfast of winter probably causes a few fatalities. Nothing really grates in this film and it is user friendly.

Verdict – Isacch Pearlman once while playing; he wore calipers and put them aside to play, broke a string and carried on playing with three.  Asked why he did not stop and repair it and start again he said, ‘I know how much music you can make with what your left with.’  This is a testament to struggle in a little film which you are not expecting life lessons from as great as Pearlmans.

9. The Drive  

The Plot – A woman driving, baby in the baby seat behind, pulls over to talk to the Doctor on her mobile.  After the call and getting out of the car she has a mishap which has her in a panic.

What’s right with it?  – It is a salutary tale of keeping your nerve and not being distracted.  A choice is made with not catastrophic results but it is a bit concerning for a little while.

What’s wrong with it? – If you dislike car journeys and sorting out problems on the move this might be a lesson.  Otherwise it simply a small tale reasonably well told.

Verdict – it may have seemed a good idea at some stage but it shows a woman in a fit of pique and disorientated. Not a film treatment of value or extended thought.

10. Displaced

The Plot – This is a documentary on the displaced in Ireland.  Coming from a variety of nations it firstly bizarrely starts in Germany, and then introduces a comparison with Arabic culture there and here.  Another displaced person is a creative young South African woman with positive attitudes and a varied and wise view of her displaced situation.  A traveller describes his displacement with great effect and it describes partly the reconfigured state.

What’s good about it? – These people offer without motive their view on the word displacement and how it affects them.  Some provide obvious but nearly always overlooked, the differences such as the young South African woman describing brilliantly how in her homeland she could once pick fruit from the trees and that is now gone.  The traveller man is equally illuminating about living in houses after a lifetime of traveling.  A young Irishman worker in London shows us how the Ruislip GAA ground provides a useful backstop and focus for some of the diaspora.  It is very well shot and is an intimate look into the simple needs and large outcomes such connections make.

What’s not to like? – In some ways the variety and interviews are themselves displaced and a cross over happens and recovers later as a sort of resolution.  It pops about too much and a steadier more calm approach would have been more effective and provided a coherent message.  It had a common touch but that would have developed a bit better if for example the young South Africans story had been woven together better.

Verdict – it is a while since such a good diaspora film was available given the new climate ‘after the fall’.  The generosity of spirit and Irish people welcoming and recognizing their own nations movement is part of the message though it could have been much stronger and sometimes the obvious needs to be stated.  It would have been useful to hear it expressed by different nationalities in new words.  Words of the present time.

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11. Doting
The Plot – This is a fairytale Lady from the Sea (non Ibsen) or a search which is made by a young man drawn to a seashore to find his dreamt vision of a beautiful woman.   A fantasy becoming a reality and realised partially.

What’s to like about it? – Probably its ambition at telling a mythical tale with little but the seashore devilish good constrained actress, actor and use of mystery and controlled watery atmosphere. Some very good engaging camerawork.

What’s not to like? – The juddering and poor ‘special effects’ are painterly, affected, but little of visual impact being of old school drama type tools and it takes away from the balletic touches provided by both players.  There are ponderous meaningless shots of entrance, hands, long walk and after found again a following which goes no where.  The opening scene of the marsh grass and entering stranger is sufficient and a good start.

Verdict– A general disappointment given the alluring potential and balletic movements and scenery.

12. Unhappy Endings

The Plot – This is a bizarre barely coherent short story adapted for the screen featuring a writer.  His story as a young man – we encounter him as a aspirant with a tale to tell of finding the best looking woman in the world and .. what could he possibly want?  We meet him again as a grey ponytailed writer with a American accent telling a similar tale to Theresa Russell on great form. Will it end badly?  How else?

What’s to like about it? – Scalanis restaurant has never looked so decadent.  It is faux glamour as is the tale.  A poor Tales of the Unexpected, dressed up with triumphal humping, (over ponderous rear images hard to displace unfortunately – ugh) scattered bedclothes and a bit of unremitting … X Y ++ Z.

What not to like? – It is a hammy story of the aforesaid series type but with technicolour distasteful cockamamie wise guy antics and blatantly misoginist and demeaning.

Verdict – Filler material for a late night obscur TV network with subtitles.  The Spanish are masters of this kind of film and are leagues ahead.

13. Testimony Based on a true story.

The Plot – The legal fight in the Family Court involves in the centre a young girl barely ten years old whose Testimony is setting parents in conflict and making her too a damaged party.

What’s to like about it? – It points up the adversarial construct of a Court system necessarily delving into the core problems at the heart of a family in breakdown.  It points out the centrality – among all the adults – of the core hurt child.  Disowning or telling stories against one or both parents uncertain of the outcomes. The child’s face was full of expression and this was a key focus of direction for the importance to the narrative and the implied consequences.

What’s not to like? –  I found it at times formulaic and some of the answers given by the child were illuminating but it is very invasive not only in reality but as a film project it shows what most know is a badly constructed environment.

Verdict – Intrusive and not dissimilar from a vast range of cases no doubt.

14. Fallen Bird

The Plot – A prisoner make use of his time to create using paints and writing his story through the images.  He is connected therefore to his motivations and his harmed prior life.  This enables his work to become visionary and a recognition of the problems and difficulties that have brought him here.

What’s to like about it? – This is a very mature reflective picture of a prisoner able to combat his depressive and negative feelings through examining his thoughts through art.  His work is inventive and includes the narrative of the fallen bird close to friends but falling.  It also shows in flashback his days or nights out in Temple Bar and in the city with all its potential problems if mixing in bad company.

What’s not to like? – The story is only due to its short profile a snapshot where deeper and more questions arise than this is able to answer.  The past present and future are all pulled into this short with good insightful work but it is self limiting. The prisoner is himself a great example of people having the strength to move on and any damage thankfully he has coped with and drugs or other injuries have not I hope damaged him.  That’s the impression given.

Verdict– A very thoughtful film unearthing a Prisoner of talent previously compromised by a lack of opportunity or lack of educational institutional awareness.  A well made and told story worth showing to other Prisoners I would think as a positive source of hope.

15. The Captors

The Plot – A tiger kidnapping goes horribly wrong.

What’s to like about it? – It packs into a short time span half a dozen or so twists and turns with a cast and direction fully fit and on score.  The settings and construct start out as believable but it courses into mayhem as betrayal after betrayal interweave with gruesome effect.  A good plot worth going along with and well scripted.  Not a masterpiece but I was relied Brian Graham’s character was deep enough to bring that actors skills to the forefront.  He acted with constraint while he mulled over the way out of his predicament. A well shot scene in a bathroom was dificult to shoot but expertly handled.

What’s not to like? – It is a bit of escapist entertainment and though filling all its desires.  It was dark realism but had some unresolved moments. “I’ll go to the police if you play up!”  ?

Verdict – A good film for followers of crime fiction shorts. Not a series or pilot but a one off.  Well executed.

16. Blight 

The Plot – Father Brown this is not.  It involves a young priest sent to perform an Exorcism on an island when summoned.  The child bearing woman at its centre is a manically possessed demon.  Things take several twists unforeseen.

What’s to like about it? – Visually captive and thoroughly atmospheric.  Dense colours and shot in genre stylised way making it enthralling and horrific at the same time. The actors are all well versed in the demands of this drama and it unfolds with a very well controlled pace.  It doesn’t linger or exit scenes too soon.  A bold and brilliant entry to the genre with an original script.

What’s not to like? – Disturbing as it is it petered out towards the end as extra characters turn up and the story comes to its conclusion.  The misty moments in the boat were good but moderately false in appearance.

Verdict – It was a very imaginative take on a spiritual world fixated with demonic unknown enemies visiting the unwary.  It should appeal across many levels, even those not interested in horror or poltergeists etc. and things that have your children ( don’t allow them near it) hiding behind the sofa.  Would give your granny nightmares also.

17. Spacer 

The Plot – A young homeless man berfiends a lost dog and they strike a deal.  Feed me and I’ll help you out of your rut.

What’s to like about it – On Dublin Quays and throughout the city there are far too many ( ones too many ) homeless. This is a story of one who is up against it surviving and a dog turns up.  He gets the name Spacer as (not) they both sleep under the stars.  One is betrayed but needs must.  This is well crafted and makes you think of how little it would take to lift the barriers to a ‘normal’ existence of such selfish regard did not permeate society under the state missives and malfunctioning greed it pays homage to. 

What’s not to like – The canal side life is almost everyday but the separations are not raw enough and the ignorance distance rejection not given abrupt focus.  The 20€ scene is close but pure fantasy and unreal.  The work is put in by all and Dublin is a Fair City but not for some.

Verdict – very decent well scripted and expected film in not easy conditions.  Not hectoring but also slightly twee in its approach. An undoubted clear choice as it is only a short and it gets across a lot of the message. Them and us is us.

18. Recorded Absence

The Plot – Billed as experimental this is confined to a rilict cottage of a bachelor farmers final home.   

What’s to like about it? – This despite the billing is of a simple presently unloved house which is a time capsule memorialising the former occupants life.  Inserts of radio dialogue and the voiceover of a neighbour paint a colour ful tapestry of a life fled in rural Ireland.  It is done with awareness and clear vision and delivers on its small promise.  

What’s not to like? – The cottage is part of a parcel of community disconnected and retreating back to the land it came out of. More imaginative investigation could have uncovered places more far gone or those about to follow an established pattern.  Compare and contrast perhaps with the narrators own home and his equally significant memories and similar ices or otherwise to contemplate modern life. Holding onto a mobile phone talking to dispora for instance.

Verdict – it’s a miniturised world and familiar to many whose own past encloses such memories.  It is possible it may penetrate other ‘jurisdictions’ and provide a small portrait but is slightly limited though beautifully done in its approach.

19. Breathe 

The Plot – The phenomenalily effective actor John Conners appears centrally as an Irosh traveller.  He has a son whose troubled and does not fit in as he has other unusual perceptions of who he is.  It is deeply troubling for those around as hey recognise his inner struggle.  The father comes from a tradition to man up and his peers bring this to the forefront.

What’s to like about it? – This is a taut complex story with some challenging confrontational interactions.  Conners is able to deliver the unfamiliarity with the things presented to him and his struggle to love his son.  It is completely immersive and delivers a story of love and pain on the hinterland of modern society and its reconciliation with itself for difference and the help and understanding to overcome that difference.

What’s not to like? – Absolutely short on any failure of dynamic, courage, complexity and clearly knowledgeable of the pressures of tradition.  The tribal instincts must prevail but do they?

Verdict – Excellent in an educative positive insight.  Proof of love existing all around us.

20. Pockets

The Plot – At a lake on a parkland bench a woman, Mary McAvoy sits observing the water.  Also observing is a young (cynical wit and wise cracker) man whose troubled and separately in his own bad place.  He joins her on the bench in search of a smoke.

What’s to like about it? – The presence of mind to take on problems in a different way and provide a plausible construct woth twists and comedic inserts.  The value of life’s and each person being alone in their travels bring to the fore the John Donne – no ‘man is an island’ philosophy with a modern take.  Like fellow guards on the battlement they dismiss a few interlopers summarily.  It has some great lines.  Why a Cork man would be at Powerscourt, or Blessington or wherever it is located is beyond me but a rebel turns up and his line is “I’ll be leaving Ye at it so.”  Magical and spot on line like a lot before and after.

What’s not to like? – There is no reason to critique this on any level really as it delivers for its modest ambitions. The tourist is awkward though.

Verdict – Another life lesson mode of movie and life affirming despite the subjects and problems at its heart.

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21. The Way Back

The Plot – A woman scientist revisits her past and a loos some twenty years before.  Her anxiety never leaves until an opportunity – scientifically challenging – comes to hand.  Will it resolve her pent up continuing distress?

What to like about it? – It is an ethereal stretch  taking us on a redemptive exploratory journey. As the visual and effective flashbacks and present merge the empyrean steps are posing problems and a resolution is dangerous territory.  The playing is excellent within a confined script.  Would a side issue help?

What’s not to like? – It’s absurdity mostly and locked miniscule premise.  It hard to relate without spoilers but that is not the filmmakers fault, hence the brevity of this retro look at it.  It is timorous and stealthy but not enlivening.

Verdict – A limited look at an event without its resolution in the beginning and without resolution in the present vision.

22. The Boy Murderer

The Plot – In a community coming to terms with child suicide there is a compass of thought closing down on the why and how to come to terms with you gloss and how to prevent it being ‘imitated’.

What’s to like about it? – For unknown reasons I put this film way back in my memory and remember little about it except through referring to my notes.  It is a shocking film which in my view I’ve put away its impact as it is a subject around us if not the outcome delivered here.  It is very well conceived and delivered.  Notes have these elements.                                             Beautifully paced – Implied transference – Dream hallucination – Correct casting – Great script – Well edited – Born wrong – Every segment has a link to the next. Rare. – Consumately handled family encounter wished on no one – Object lesson on care and insight.

What’s not to like? – The central conceit of the reveal. It lowers the films penetrative reach if not an incumbent demeaning approach.

Verdict – Troubling to watch. Untruthful by the plot reveal despite the heft it manages to deliver.  A thinking story.

23. Good Boy

The Plot – Another foreshore another emotional edgy story to encounter. Isolation in a small cottage.Three feet thick walls. A woman lives alone and has a loss which she seeks time to repair the emptyness. A dog again is a bonding agent.

What’s to like about it? – The trusting character is present, their goodness and in contrast the problems of family life, the pressures and perilous relationships which have a problem which neither partner are aware of a solution to.  It is crass of mr to say a dog is a bonding element but as a short it provides a connective link across very different characters and it does it well.  A smart film in several ways.

What’s not to like about it? – The unexplained or lack or proper clues in the beginning are a bit confounding.  The later stages are excellently conveyed but some props are unnecessary story indicators and its conclusion is a happy ending however benign and resolved it fits awkwardly I thought.  It’s me being cynical and too demanding.

Verdict – A well crafted emotionally connecting film well worth seeing. 

24. Hurt

The Plot – Very short date gone pear and apple shaped.

What’s to like about it? – it has a deliver on a short twist and is effective as a beware of your expectations and choices. Has an accomplished feel to it and is unhurried.

What’s not to like? – Plainly creepy.  Unsustainable Tales of the Unexpected type twists. U busy Scalanis restaurant is always busy.  Is this a misoginist dated film?  You decide.  I disliked the fourth wall as it is a formulaic short trope. Effective, needed sometimes but not here.

Verdict -It’s over in a trice.  It’s a roll of the dice and a three and a four making it lucky seven.  Things like that just don’t happen.

25. The Hiding

The Plot – A story of implausible loss and unconsiable retreat from reality.  Damaged parties all round.

What’s to like about it? – There is a warm feeling at the beginning and we are taken on a peregrination to interior of grief and landscape.  Very provoking although barely believable or sustainable. 

What’s not to like? – There is no relief in this grim story.  The actors do make it plausible but it is dark and indulgent of a weak story. 
Verdict – my review is short as it tries not to reveal anything other than it is a story of grief and unrelenting sorrow.

26. Doting

The Plot – Balancing new life with old and a wake at which reconnection happens is a struggle across the generations.

What’s to like about it? – This is a good idea for contrasting ages, times modern and old.  The family allows a division through generations. Each belonging in a section of siblings, parents, grandparent mode.  Therefore the disjunction is more evident. The flow of this is very neat and pace deftly handled as are most of the technical issues.

What’s not to like? – It sounds like an overdub is in use and little atmospheric addition is employed. This is a major role distraction for me as it is distracting as it may be for most expecting ‘realism’ or a construct to justify it. Some cuts are also poor but this is only my view.

Verdict – A good film slightly spoiled by the cooking and small things hurt the bigger picture. It’s unfortunate but only part of the process of learning crafting story in difficult circumstances.

27. The Current

The Plot – A buddy movie with local identity and usual compromises and choices.  It’s all about what life has for a catch on the end of your fishing line.

What to like about this? – The acting and entry to this film is convincing and assured. Despite some not so buddy inflicted dialogue it moves along quickly delivering plenty to digest.  The story unfolds and the opposite male viewpoints collide and draw out universal things.  The comfort and friendship outside of home both male and female are strands of everyday life.  The escapism shared and explored is there. There 

What’s not to like? – Some of the tests each gives the other are a bit contrived and unconvincing.  The film may even been a bit better if certain things were left out and the audience making their own construct on things.  It’s extremely difficult to master that in the art of the short film but this is close to achieving it making that annoying.  An annoying if only. There are interpretations of it having a homoerotic aspect but that is not the intention is took from it.

Verdict – A generally good and fairly unique take on the way people, men and women depend on friends outside the stronger relationship of partnership and marriage to give them and their friends perspective on things. It is a necessary outside assistance enabling countless people hold onto things.  So I see it beyond the easy tag of homoerotic given it plays across the sexes in its accomplished insightful story.

28. Leave

The Plot – Ireland has visited upon it in many a county and town seemingly inexplicable murder and crime not known up to say the eighties.  The consequences on communities is horrendous and bring up children in these environments are constantly a battle with resources. This is a crime completely unexpected in its source and outcome.

What’s to like about it? – The moody slow pace of rural life is as quiet as a sheep on Sunday.  The depiction of a community shop and passers through is gently handled.  The people within it entirely believable.  About 3/4 stories interweave eloquently and to deliver a tragic twist with many unexpected, some in flashback, neat touch well chosen, to a conclusion which is full on.

What’s not to like? – Probably little as I have little concept of life in rural Ireland but am aware of its connection to similar places all across the island in incidences of crime.

Verdict – An imaginative compelling story deftly delivered not lacking in skills in any area.

29. Today

The Plot – The multi faceted superbly adept at understatement John Connor turns up in a car awakening there in a Connemara landscape.  His phone on mute.  Why is he ther?  It becomes clear very quickly and he is facing a new reality. It is one he must face up to and help comes to hand.

What’s to like about it? – For a story opening in a bleak landscape and us not full of expectations it takes us on a very deep emotional journey and into the male fragilities faced in modern Ireland.  Into the immediate clarity comes assistance and another very fine actor gives an awesome performance as if he was born into his character. Lalor Roody at his finest.  I would say this is the besting he’s got his hands on in years.  Their exchange is full of unsaid so and knowing glances.  It is a brilliant deliver of simple connection with masterly delicacy and finely tuned, courtesy of the real cinematic nucleus of Irish identity in film as light and vigorous in intention throughout. 

What’s nor to like? – Far from having faults it shines as beacon for Irish film making of any generation.

Verdict – Just as fine a short as your ever likely to see.

30. Cruelty  based on a short story by Anna Blanford

The Plot – A young couple having a heart to heart walking at night by the canalside come across an badly injured dog.  It becomes a test of will and then they have their own problems to sort out.  Staying or parting?

What’s to like about it? – The titles! Excellent.  The fact they have the foresight to use a short story they like, even though I disliked it, it shows they visually imagined it in its entirety before pursuing it.  It looks good and is handled well in its problematic night setting.  No stretching things for the medium. It just flows and tells a story of commitment.

What’s not to like? – Unfortunately the trope includes another dog! Can we have an endangered swan neck in a splint! Savage and manic while getting help! Then the black swan white swan love story interwoven? Or something like that instead of a soppy (not so soppy here) dog story.

Verdict – A tight story with good pace and twists which continue and show ability to handle very different environments without making thenm appear disconnected.  So,Erinyes that’s needed but they have an awareness here what is required.

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31. The Mountain 

The Plot – The sense of a Mountain controlling your life is the premise in that it, in your growing up must be acknowledged as nature being a form of protection.  You need to respect the spirits of the mountain and the boy growing up encounters through his grandfather stories, his Doctors warning about health a consolidation of self and identity.

What’s to like about it? – For a 10 min film to tackle and deliver a message of a complex spiritual existence which touchs people at some point in their lives has to be something of a miracle and I have to say it delivers though I didn’t realize this at the time of watching it as critical nerves were set to absorption rather than the spaces in films where you can do nothing but set the dial to ‘is this effective, affecting?’. So that’s an unusual thing in itself I hope others experience.

What’s not to like? – Given the scope the domestic parts are only just on the edge of parity with the outer world.  They lack an atmosphere regardless of the fine chaacterisatoons of all the actors.  I can’t suggest those particular points but they might be found if the director takes another look at that lack of link.  Maybe I’m totally wrong.

Verdict – An excellent wide scoping film bigger than the sum of its parts.  Excellently cut, slightly wrasping sound, unnecessary cadences in them used, good song though The Emerald Armada played. A very good film and all round perfect expression of the form.

32. Dust

The Plot – This is a story of abortion with the ex only learning afterwards, the young couple apart might reconcile.

What’s to like about it? – Able to convey young people struggling with choices and their relationships this is a hard film to get across the mixed tangeledemotions in such a short timescale. With workshopped and some improvisation it comes with no easy answers and has hits of current themes and questions who has the right to decide except the parent(s) of a potential life.

What’s not to like? – There is nothing to disregard or have you reject as the subjects are themselves experimental fictionalised for those involved in the making of it and they carry of the subject with commitment.

Verdict – See it for what it is. A question outside everyone’s reach except those at the centre.

33. Brenda

The Plot – A young woman addicted to heroin has a daughter who she tries to keep way from her dark world by the thinnest of viels.  Brenda the daughter is the central focus as the observer of this tragic circumstance? Methadone is used and the streets and lanes of Dublin traversed for failed connections and fellow users.

What’s to like about it? – It’s the fact a story is realised which is acutely realistic and opens eyes to the damage of compartmentisastion of users whose manner of dealing with their addictions and the circumstances they have to live in, some destitute, without a home, dependent on charity and fringe stretched charity instead of welfare centre and health access of the road to recovery absent.  It is a mastery piece of depicting addiction through the device of an innocent, perpetually challenged young child.  All handling their roles superbly.

What’s not to like? – Some of the lane shots and side talk is loose and underdeveloped or awkward.  The cuts between scenes need not have the gap they have. All is plainly minor.

Verdict – Who are we to judge is one clear message.  There are several and foremost is the presence if we could but see it, it were not treated as a them and us, the state is looking after it attitudes which would take little to alter were we big enough to demand it.  “Because their sick and your not?”  Instead of playing to the manipulating governance making issues out of water and borders.

34. Orchard Road

The Plot – There appears to be a world shortage of apples.  There also appears to be an insatiable appetite for apples in a young boy who loves nature and has an indulgent loving Dad, no problem there, who has a mischievous mate.  There is one in every Ulster street or townland.

What’s to like about this? – The crew of two responsible for this are a very young pair, completely adept at story telling.  The writer, Olaf I’ll call him, didn’t catch his na,e has constructed in the Ulster landscape a universal little comedic and satirical sweep of benign friendly folk in a place facing possible shortages.  Made comic the delivery is astuteLy shot and the writing wonderfully acute given its from an outsider it capture Ulster folk and their humour very well.  On top of that is a director Ida-Maria Olva who has a neat hand and excellent eye.  The Knockagh Monument appears in an early shot, (early shots in a 7 min film!) as a dynamic signature geometry of the frame, and deftly throughout, nature is absorbed close and from a distance as well as in transit in the jallopy of a car; I can say that because it’s old enough to have a cassette player.

What’s not to like? – Apart from a cod sign on a community farm there’s nothing else.

Verdict – This is likely to herald deeper more affirmative serious work from a pair of young old hands and it was a very pleasurable watch given it caught our zeitgeist pretty well, just for one thing of many attributes it discovered. I was also envious of their excellent original titles giving it a great closing look.  How did they manage it!  More power to them.

35. Violet    an animation.

The Plot – In a fairytale setting of high refined costumer you and period palaces a bit of the Hogwarts fee scale we meet a girl growing up afraid and dismayed at her reflection with all the surrounding opulence a fiendish countervailing goal.

What’s to like about it? – Around the meter of a poem excellently orated by Aiden Gillen an amazing delightfully, vivacious, flouncy, elaborately decorative story of the societal contest of finery, used historically as an expression of wealth and the lack of a need to dress for mundane tasks of labour conflict with this young girls perception of herself.  It is a brilliantly executed piece of observational filmaking bigger through its poetic sensibility and deft weave.

What’s not to like? – it could hardly be faulted with no false notes.

Verdict – This standard of animation takes on the big moguls with their assured graceful approach and not reruns of familiar tropes and already visited stories.  Much for children and adults to enjoy in an assured fairytale.

36A Sign

The Plot – Une Signe Un Gest. Holy worship is a struggle for a woman at a bewildering point in her life.  She is an aging prostitute whose life has been ever this.  The streets of Paris at night are a harsh unsentimental apparently Godless place. Rosaline then becomes a muse of a kind for a special type of artist who she literally stumbles across as he tends his basement steps in the dark.  He dances to a different tune to the rest of the lonely punters. 

What’s to like about it? – This film of 18 mins duration is allowed to develop and for us to discover its heart.  The contrasts of her co-workers ways of shutting out their reality is given a brio and a polish through coarse street dialogue.  The ‘punters’ are feared and befriended in a sentence or two with the potential charge of violence ever on the screen. From this is the message of discomfort, routine, abuse, marginalization, fractured existence, loneliness in company and survival. With hope a sign is needed.  Will she be let into the world without healing without God? Will she listen to noises off?
What’s not to like? – the period it’s set is unclear but maybe that’s a concious decision as the dress, the clarity and flow of the story does not need, in fact probably benefits from some suspension of the realism a ‘period’ signature might dispose.

Verdict – Not an easy or comfortable film and it has undercurrents requiring the attention it may not receive in casual viewing.  Well worth seeing several times a it has without doubt many layers and shifting ideas.

37. Children and Animals

The Plot – Set in a film school workshop the Course Ttor has invited a young, ‘name’ actor to shake up his class and learn about the art of the professional participant with certain unique perspective. They meet something more than they are asked to take inspiration from. The title will resonate soon enough.  Might have been Don’t trust Actors.

What’s to like about it? – Martin Lynch, local playwright (so rich he had a record player Ibrahim his bedroom in late sixties/seventies) said there’s no such thing as black comedy.  I agree as a recent poem of mine contended. So this is about a bonkers unhinged actor playing a knowing tutor when he hasn’t a clue about himself or anything else.  Putting himself (the actor) in this role takes a bit of nerve.  The young Wicklow Film School class take all as instantly dismiss able and the hydraulics of this film are racked up with blistering wit and skill by the pupils.

What’s not to like? – It is a film with many types of approach in it.  ‘Reality’ interviews, harassed script writer, fourth wall confessions, moderate scene play and a mixture of all things.  Ireland’s got Talent feel.  Wildlings Ahead warning. A bit David Brent likey likey.

Verdict – Despite some hiccups and being,all things, all knowing, not meant to be funny shtick,  it travels well entertaining all through. 

38. Afterwards   B/W

The Plot – Kevin is a time nourished young drifter round the modern movingIrish town he is still attached to.  He has escape routes but they are pharmaceutical, sexual, impulse driven.  He has a mass of ideas and is troubled into reflection as awareness is about the what next?  The teenager questions, the young adult questions arising as What happens next? The time referred to as Afterwards.  About escaping the experience and wanting to graft onto another.

What’s to like about it? – It is a good story well crafted and ideal territory for a short film.  It doesn’t do big things on the surface but has the heft to project them through very good acting in believable situations.  The belief comes from the truism of the journeys between slow interludes themselves incident and not asides. A functional almost dystopian vision. Good promising work.

What’s not to like? -Some characterisations are stereotypical.  The places are at times underused and dialogue though sparse enough had the promise of more even though it was visceral and coherent.  

Verdict – The confidence to shoot it as black and white making it require you to listen (the soundscape wasn’t adventurous enough) while the contrasts are cinematic and atmospheric as the techniques promise and deliver.

39. Love is a Sting

The Plot – This is literally a headhop containing a malignant lonesome needy mosquito.  It arrives in through an open attic window of a reclusive writer artist with a degree of creative block.  A bearded youthful thirty something his life is of being a recluse never interacting striving to arrive at the solution to all things and bypassing his extensive Dublin lofty library; it seems to gather dust he is uninspired now interuppted.  Only the mosquito is animated and its quest is not to swept away.

What’s to like about it? – Set as an hors d’oeuvre or a main course of finale this story hangs together as a narrated by Ciaran Hinds feeling this tale of one of Dublins finest unknowns, Harold Finch.  It is an attic of careworn studious mark previously occupied by a procession of artists.  The scene is replete with invective as Ciaran Hinds delivers acid drops of the needy insects desires contrasting them with the unwitting and unconcerned emotional balance of Harold lack of muse mainly due to the prevailing disconnect he inhabits and love never abjures. Very finely crafted and engaging throughout.

What’s not to like? – Sometimes repetitive, a tad solemn despite the splendidly into aged textural expressive narration the contrast occurs of too much ‘normalcy’ and a buzzing insect can only do so much.  Despite that it carries through without hesitation.  So I’ve just contradicted myself!

Verdict – A well developed beautifully choregraphed surreal tale with a cross over of animation and real film dynamics it’s hard to tell, never a problem what’s CGI what’s animation and what’s filmed in loco is subltely blended.vSpeaks of the breadth of skills employed and giving us a thoroughly intelligently handled screen entertainment. 
That’s about it.  My views are not nailed on views and relate to one viewing in a stream of screenings so if your not mentioned, (Directors Writers Actors and Funders, Supporters are not listed as they can be found following the belfastfilmfestival.com own links and other avenues) it does not mean you were not brilliant.  The whole act of making a short is awesome in itself and you should be encouraged to do more or if you haven’t done one try and you’ll find out perhaps something magical may happen.  I was truly thankful and appreciative of seeing these and good luck with your future film making and viewing.

My favorite films  were as follows –

1. Insulin (no. 3)

2. Today (no. 29)

3. Breathe (no. 19)

Others to commend are Pockets (no. 20) Mama Hen (no. 8) The Current (no. 27) and obviously more that could be added.
John Graham

1 May 2016     ‘Up the Workers!’ ‘Keep Left!’

Belfast

Son of Saul : A Film Review

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Son of Saul.  A haunting compelling, utterly unflinching embarkation into the Hungarian and Jewish experiences of the Holocaust told by a debut Director and profoundly affecting delivery from the collective ensemble.
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Writer Director: László Nemes. Starring: Géza Röhrig, Levente Molnár, Urs Rechn, Sándor Zsótér. 107 mins. 15 cert.
This a bewildering audaciously confronting examination of the complex trail of events taking those involved into a zombie like zone which cannot be imagined except through desperate experience. It opens a door onto needed understanding in its intention.

It’s beyond comparison

The day I saw this film the report on Hillsborough when the Liverpool fans died of asphyxiation and crushing included a reaction from Bruce Grobbelaar. It was an FA Cup semi final against Nottingham Forest. Asked if he had seen anything like it, after witnessing the dead being brought onto the pitch and him using and directing those carrying bodies to use advertising boards he said it was probably the worst way to die. There was no blood, no shrapnel, no outward sign of death he recalled. There were around fifteen dead bodies he saw straight away being carried onto the pitch. It is as close we can get to imagining the horrific testimony of the Holocaust this film goes into in a telling, partially of the story of those conscripted to act as labourers to carry out the actions surrounding and including the extermination of many thousands in their camp.

1944 bordering on the invisible

The scale is the first striking thing you notice. The invisibility of this so far into the war is incredible.  The almost industrial organisation and manipulation through fear and merciless enforcement put to work to carry out the Holocaust within the forests of Germany and here in South West Poland.  
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Sonnerkommando Auschwitz 

Saul is one of many Sonnerkommando whose job it is to perform the tasks of in the Auschwitz Concentration camp. He is seen firstly shepherding large numbers of people off trains rounded up by the Nazis and transported here. For this film I noticed that children were not asked to take part in these re-enactments though many thousands of children were among those who stepped of these very same trains. It was obviously too horrific a concept to inflict upon children for them to be involved.
Saul is marked by a red X on the rear of his overcoat and he continually wears a cap as it also enables him to be identified. He as a Hungarian is among many fellow men and women from that country who are ‘appropriated’ to carry out the most vile and dehumanising tasks such as disposal of the ‘pieces’ as a human body is known. They are separated in camps by gender also and he in his work is able to, or required to adapt to the work going on in different places. It may be in the gas chambers cleaning out the detritus of left over body waste. Or in the coal house where boilers are stoked to burn to ash the ‘pieces’. He is also able to visit through tasks given, the room where autopsies are performed. The living amongst the dead feel the dead speak to them somehow.
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Intricate and intimate following Saul.

Through this film the camera, hand held and giving mostly head and upper body shots, follows Saul everywhere he goes making the story his exposure and link to all the various things that go on in this Concentration camp. To say it is replicated elsewhere is now known to magnify what we are viewing here. It is the piecing together of the pieces and those people who were alongside the destroyed people. The potency of the images are continually immersive and bring forward a view of the unimaginable. No senses except sight and sound are with us on this viewing encounter. No contact by touch, by smell, by taste is possible so the amplification through those present circumstances are portrayed through elements of imagery such as scarfs, masks in parts of the camp. By following Saul there is a contention being made of the redemptive journey of Saul to Paul in the biblical reading. How is that depicted? It is possibly through the wasteland depicted of life destroyed and treated meaning less and worthless. It is also conceivable that the redemptive journey the film takes is showing how whatever adversity faced Saul is on the journey to become Paul.
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Sweeping along with God

Of all the prisoners in the camp around one hundred are deemed fit to carry out the arduous tasks. They have in effect a stay of execution by co-operating by carrying out assigned work. Otherwise they would be dead and join the others. What is taking place among them is the fulfillment on behalf of the many thousands that pass through this camp; there are one one day around three thousand sent to be massacred. The act is itself one of betrayal once they arrive. The fulfillment of the duties carried out is a defiance of will by the ones left to live in that they all believe in the creator and see this is the work of those who defy Gods word. The judgement on them not the prisoners sweeping up the remains and following instructions.
Despite this retention of belief which is fixed here on Saul and his journey, there come frequently others practicing in secret and discreetly their religion giving memorial those thos e just perished. There are Rabbi celebrants with distinctive appearances both Hungarian and Arabic Hebrew priests. They are a conduit through which this persevering faith is held and exemplified. It is entirely misunderstood by the German Command as baseless worthless and based on sentimental tokenistic beliefs. It is not seen as a vision or life force given and held by these disparate people whose Destiny is defined by their faith and Religion which has brought about their purge. Saul is not a Messiah but a prophet of a kind who has through one act which is central and the purpose of the journey undertaken that of giving a young boy a Jewish burial.

Boy remembered 

The young boy not yet a man, and be is the only child depicted, is the Son of Saul of the title. He has come across him in an extraordinary way as a boy left behind and dead to the world, seeing him as his own son. We learn he is the father but not from his wife who is in a separate part of the camp carrying out storage and domestic duties in the units were clothes valuables and the like are processed. 
To achieve his aim which is commenced in the earlier part of the film he has to obtain the corpse of his son and to find a Rabbi to perform the burial. Both these tasks are seemingly impossible but he puts himself in jeopardy many times to carry out his wishes.
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Principles and hope unextinguished

I thought during the early parts of the film each act taking him away or exposing hi,self bybnot acting as expected or normally he would be spotted very easily but for reasons unclear he navigated virtually ever occasion where it seems he is about to be caught carrying out something which does not fit in with his supposed assigned tasks he escapes the moment to move onto another act of courageous and seemingly foolish risks.
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Conclusion #####5 

This film cuts into your psyche asking phenomenally difficult and prescient questions.  Covering so many aspects of humanity we are stil struggling with the writer director, 38 year old Laszlo Nemes whose first feature film this is.  For a relatively young man he has seen the necessity of putting uncomfortable to say the least of it an on screen examination real dialogue and politically hamstrung forums cannot go or have no possible common embrace, this film gives us a fully extentialist means to embrace the problems and narratives it again unfolds.  It gives them uncompromising stature and directs the viewer into asking themselves to ask more and to confront their hidden constructs and dismantle barriers and walls they have and all have erected to keep these issues – here giving a contrasting compelling reflection on present visited miseries to the necessary wider forums we engage on.

The youth of Laszlo Nemes and his Hungarish nature have compelled him to use his inherently observation editorial and concious skills to provide this directly immersive viewpoint.  We can only thank him for his foresight and insight and hope as he undoubtedly hopes it provides shape and form to current interpretations and avoiding the perils of reductive analysis.  Such is the value of Cinema as an outlet to vent and confront unspeakable things.
John Graham

28 April 2016

Belfast

Son of Saul opens at QFT Belfast http://www.queensfilmtheatre.com on Friday 29 April until Thursday 12 May 2016.

Check above site and other information outlet’s for details of opening times.