Modigliani Female Nude 1916 : UMNI exhibit

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The Ulster Museum is Home to the Courtauld Institute owned Female Nude 1916 by Modigliani for several months and is currently on display on Level 4. until Oct 28 2018.

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In situ

In 1916 Amedeo Modigliani made his mark on the roll call of innovative painters and artists by discovering for himself a means of reaching beyond the normal day to day portrayal of figures and in observing their forms and persona.  His breakthrough was immense and it presided alongside other expressionist painters as signalling their forging of a method of seeing which hitherto had been associated with the primitive art of African or Tribal representation, themselves suggestions of nation or people in the essence of their existence, in the moment to be taken as informative of them and the way they saw themselves.

 

 

There were several parallel ongoing pursuits of these ‘laws of lawless art.’  The extent to which Modigliani was alone in achieving a breakthrough of this magnitude is a debate matching infinity.  Races singled out the line and drew on walls or on pottery, or paper symbols of the most interesting thing around them, themselves. The human shape and deportment became a goal of self realisation and the life force found was firstly lent in these simple lines as a record alongside animals and adornments while they often were seen sans clothes or with few garments.  It became their projection and mirror.

 

 

Beyond the Western ideal and sanctuary of patronage and mostly hierarchal societal record including the religious there was a necessary alteration by the twentieth century, of placing a fresh editorial gaze on the act of seeing humans and how they inhabit a picture throwing new light literally on the viewers perceived recited notions of self and arts role in life.  Some later exponents went beyond this as indeed did the practioners themselves.  Picasso became an obsessive and many would say a misogynist which is see often in his work.

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F. E. McWilliam’s Gallery Banbridge Co. down. Glass cabinet image.

Level 4

The precious object that is Modigliani Female nude 1916 is in a small room of the Ulster Museum for a short period and the high Victorian windows are draped partially with protective white cloth filtering the streams of daylight found illuminating the pictures within.  The filter works and the natural light is subdued. The daylight lamps of the artificial supplementary light is carefully graded in its presence allowing the vivid colour and individuality of this work to convey its communicative self to the viewer.  Many have been and return to see it time and again because there is no solitary promised answer in reading the painting and it is continually rich in its candid figurative depiction.

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You can see a window reflected in the glass protection of the painting top left.

Other paintings such as the O’Brien do not have glass only canvas and paint between it and the viewer.

What is seen is a figure of a female regards but not regarding by returning a look. She is in a pose which neither is common or contrived.  The purpose of line is a first engagement this painter makes with his model figure. She is neither a form meant to reveal a representative body or shape of a female but is a woman whose occupation or purpose is to lead the painter towards the aim of finding a means of conveying more than the body as a form but to imbibe an essence of a human who happens to have the appealing form of a woman in her full force of life.

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Woman’s Head. Artist:Amedeo Modigliani (Italian, Livorno 1884–1920 Paris)
Date:1912. Medium:Limestone
Dimensions:26 7/8 × 6 1/4 × 9 1/2 in. (68.3 × 15.9 × 24.1 cm)
Weight: 75 lb. (34 kg), Classification:Sculpture
Credit Line:The Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls Collection, 1997

By the time Modigliani has reached this point in his life he has tried his first love, sculpture but like many artists before him it did not lend him its mystery to enable his thoughts to come out in those three dimensions.

 

In 1909, after meeting Constantin Brancusi, Modigliani began to produce sculptures by carving into stone, completing about twenty-five works throughout his short career. The style of these abstracted, elongated heads is echoed in his subsequent figure and portrait paintings. Fittingly, this particular head, with its strong connection to African sculpture, was originally owned by the American artist and African art collector Frank Burty Haviland. Haviland lived in France and Modigliani became familiar with his collection. In addition to African art, Modigliani’s sculptures reflect his knowledge of ancient Cycladic, Sumerian, Egyptian, and Greek art.  Met Museum text.

The Romanian Brancusi was a favourite and revered friend of Modigliani and the connection is not lost in the application of visual effects as one is now finding the essence of his work accessed through the simple device of line on one plane.

Simple it maybe but it is incalculably intimate in its dynamic.

Painting dynamics

The piece is regarded as having an unorthodoxy in art taking it back to the primordial instinctive throwback beyond the renaissance and challenged th mores of the world of patronage of the arts while taking out the sensuous and sexualised component and objective servile diminished role played elements often seen band depicted previously in the horizontal form that feminine objectivity Picasso had shown ‘the regard as thief of the jewels of womanhood in his Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

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Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Painting by Pablo Picasso and a Photo by David Bailey

That regard in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon being sent back with spades to the viewer looking into the collective as a band of protective women creating a homogeneous foil and asking questions of the one who seeks insight of them/selves.

Life

At the age of 35 Amedeo Modigliani became the victim of Tuberculosis and died following his earlier periods of poor health. With his frailty he was occupied in hiding the illnesses he had succumbed to by the apparent act of concealment through drug abuse and alcoholism.  In order to appear as someone whose outward demeanor may have been taken as a consequence of the behaviours of alcohol and drug consumption among his fellow artists he nevertheless was in a worse state of decline than those afflictions might have has on him.  He was know as a poetic and romantic womanizer with his personality and health possibly driving him to those distractions.

The painting

In the models flesh tones are seen the blue faint covering of the ground where his technique has built up, through modifications and layers, a semi transparency as flesh is seen damaged and slightly coarse having it seems been achieved by hard bristles and Amedeo stabbing and stippling of the bodies fleshy tones.  It is not overly done as the blue tinges are apparent beneath. Also the belly is raised by the luminousity of a white globe of her stomach giving another view and state of fecundity.

White is found in the left arm in the elbow crevice and I took that to signify and it probably is not!, vitiligo as the meaning of her vulnerable working body might be found lacking in minerals and vitamins out of a poor diet. A kind of symbolism entering. Then there are other ‘marks’ and these are widely accepted, as the appear in the lower parts of the painting due to studio carelessness.

They add, do not detract from the vitality and energy coming through the painting. This is itself a derivation of a style which an artist displaying his continued and unsettled enjoyment of his own work is temporarily in a state of transition and wondering where on the next canvas abrushes mark should be made.

The production of his ‘muse’ through this nude figure is strikingly provocative in that it undermines the stasis and unsettles by its uncompromising frankness and the perfect non sexual overtones but the strength of the woman’s body as human strongly over arching the whole of the notion of ourselves as species.

How extraordinarily perceptive and resolved this work has become in complete conflict with its dynamic and continual motion and emotional projection. This surely must have been a component in Amedeo‘s sense of himself as an artist despite his longing to be a sculptor he had reached further than his peers and created a new radicalism in acceptance of flawed beauty in painting.

There is undoubtedly life in this painting after its seemingly resolved completion. It disowns tranquility, it abhors looking as a sexualised object, it resents the act of being regarded, it shows its point of belonging in human form. There seems to be an act disassociated of itself from its locality in the composed space by the organisation of the blue ground which in the higher part is more consistent and less disturbed than the lower segment implying a wall and floor where the red couch is protected in a vague white soiled sheet just visible beneath the buttocks of the model and affording some protection in its placement.

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My sketch pastel begins! A2.  The next stage is at the foot.

The Painting & Paint colour

What if it were a drawing and without ‘colour’?  I imagined it as firstly about the act of line drawing which it has a distinctive attribute. Then I posited the thought that ‘colour’ is only an embellishment. The rendering to produce light and share dynamics. This is a very wrong attitude with which to approach it.

The form of light and shadows is fully realised, in black and white by modern photographers such as one who put this above all other considerations, David Bailey.

The conquest is seeing what the light produces but Bailey’s work is akin to drawing, being in black and white.  Here in this painting the evolution from the line element takes many side moves.  The hair in the left is seen having been taken in, maybe a bulk of hair existed formerly and was painted back; it certainly appears that way, to effect the outlines flow rather than truly represent it and the right hand, possibly present and visible at one point, is kept hidden to achieve the flow of the line.

Then there is the mystery or discarding of a primary light point.  There is only the front universal point of light which negates reasoning as to where shadow is found. The paint itself is the shading element and it’s texture the convenience delivered by brush marks and of a sharp gouging effected in the hair for example giving that plural feeling of it having neither a source but being in sculptural form a third dimension advancing with movement. Under a kind of universal light.

Perfectly flawed it is a hard act to follow and this is as I opined earlier a feature I believe which gave impetus and cause for Amedeo to produce further and more challenging work.

The maturity of the return to painting in a further simplified and reduction of marks is seen in his later work as he is vexed by the ‘treatments’ and beautiful wonderous lines of centuries before and the earlier, the more profound, its own examination rewarded him in discovery.

Additions

A year or so ago I wrote this on the predicament of the model whose anonymity is transparent as she is neither the object of the completed work nor a character assumed from the past. The aloneness and emptiness is striking now when I think of the Modigliani pursuit of his art when consumed by this painting.

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Some negative aspects relating to the curation.

If there are some criticisms of the room and it’s interpretation of the lineage and common approaches to be made, it is the use of very tenuous art held by the Gallery in its own collection as a stark contrasting difference.  The delivery is failing in many places. Using the ‘theme’ of the model is the route taken, not the act of the mark and the line.  The servile component of life modeling is a trope and not what the painting is primarily about.  Ratifying it by using a ‘portrait’ by a local artist even a twentieth century one is laying claim to small connections.  So what if the artist in the glass mosaic is featured herself within the work shown?

Being in the work as model is neither near or revelatory in the nakedness sense giving a threadbare tribute?  To artists, imagined scoping is outside the context and in fact a distraction of quite harmful presence.  There is in the ‘life model’ comparisons, only one showing the contrast between a vertical nude and horizontal nude; the latter being the previous approach taken all through and since the renaissance.  A wandering connection again is made and it is a mighty problematic one, conflicting and not a complementary distraction.

In the O’Brien Life model with a barely visible child, as with the laundry woman, there is no substantive connection whatsoever in setting it alongside, in the room as a ‘relief’ of emphasis or anything else.  An allusion is taken in respect of ‘women in 1918’ which is quite facile and out of kilter with the main work.  This phenomenon goes back centuries and still exists.  It is wholly utilised in this way I find, because of what the UM has in its collection and is clutching at straw metaphors.

The best thing to do is to ignore the room’s additional works and concentrate on the immensity of the work and avoid this distracting padding.  The abstraction of colour and choices made to effect a flow had gone missing in all other work. I found myself sketching one, the face below for example, merely to find the quality of line. I also looked at the effect of a pastel line drawing on blue paper to see the effect of the colours magic within the painting and it is obvious the line and oil is a combination which is spectacularly successful here because of it’s transparency, luminosity, roughness and eveness in parts as handled and dispersed here.

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It ended up as this.  I believe the reason it became so different and colour, which is such an incredible thing to realise in seeing the actual painting with the blue and flesh tones coming out at you from the canvas means it needed something entirly different in approach when using something other than oil paint.  This is pastel on an A3 size pastel textured blue sheet.

John Graham

3 July 2018

Belfast

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On Chesil Beach : A Film Review

 

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On Chesil Beach

Directed by Dominic Cooke, Produced by Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley. Screenplay by Ian McEwan Based on On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan.
Cast Saoirse Ronan … Florence Ponting, Emily Watson … Violet Ponting, Samuel West … Geoffrey Ponting, Billy Howle … Edward Mayhew, Anne-Marie Duff … Marjorie Mayhew, Rasmus Hardiker … Waiter 2, Bebe Cave … Ruth Ponting, Adrian Scarborough … Lionel Mayhew, Jonjo O’Neill … Phil, David Olawale Ayinde …, Wigmore Audience Concert Attendee, Bronte Carmichael … Young Chloe Morrell, Bernardo Santos … Cinema Couple, Philip Labey … Bob, Ty Hurley … Wigmore Concert Attendee, Oliver Johnstone … Ted
Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howle, Emily Watson, Anne-Marie Duff, Samuel West, Adrian Scarborough.  Music by Dan Jones, Cinematography Sean Bobbitt, Edited by Nick Fenton, Production company Number 9 Films, BBC Films. Distributed by Lionsgate, Bleecker Street.
Duration 1hr 50mins. Cert. 15. Country United Kingdom. Language English.

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Short Navigations

This is a story told in three time periods and it begins and mostly occupies the earliest period and its immediate rub up to wedlock. Over 60% hovers around the earlier period. The later times are visited in reflection and as indications of how things have turned out for Florence Ponting (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward Mayhew (Billy Howle).  The times change them irrevocably and the outcome of this story is far from the imagined prospect when we first enter the story as it reaches the honeymoon reservation of a posh hotel in Dorset overlooking the shingle headland or bar of pebbles that create an other worldliness of escapism and is harbinger of hope and romance.

Setting

Where is Chesil Beach and is it sunny and hot? ; not always a pair.  Well it is the jurassic coast of Dorset, Southern England and more notable for its shingle and Portland Bill and Portland stone, no sand is to be seen along it.  Apparently the crew where filming this in late autumn 2017 and it was obviously a chilling time but colour grading works wonders.

People in 1962

Both these young people are acutely sensitive to the sensibilities of the times and in their being born during the war are acutely aware of the dynamics of peace and a new frontier of a Cold War developing in the struggle for supremacy in Russia and Germany alongside its reconstructed allies and temporary reparations in European idealised modernity.  Both have first class honours degrees and Edward is a product of a teacher and headmaster father Lionel ( Adrian Scarborough). He has two siblings, twin girls born after an accident befalling their mother Marjorie (Anne-Marie Duff) now housebound, if not naked and watching the squirrels as people inhabiting her comfortable and mature garden.  A recent short film at the Belfast Film Festival concerned itself with dementia and was called Monkeys in the Garden. Not to make light of it, it too was a vision of how lives are affected by a moments occurrence or breakdown of the bodies defences.

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Portraits

We see the view of Edward through this revision in his life, in respect of his mother’s injury and his anger, which is a feature not currently present, is recalled in anecdotes.  Florence (named after the City? hardly the type given the austere ma and pop!) knows little about him other than his reformed side and CND encounters.  An academic he is nevertheless keeping tabs on the grosser forces within him, his aggression is a tool and servant but he feels inadequate as it is his intellect and inability to deduce his own belief system.  He is shifted of course by events and this is borne out over the going back and reveal of certain aspects of his childhood.  OK I said there were three time periods, perhaps there were others crept into for pathos.

For Florence’s story it is also interlaced with similar anecdotes with a delightful toff in the form of mother Violet, (Emily Watson), a constantly austere wannabe Jackie Kennedy alongside her status hungry and sometimes mysterious husband Geoffrey  (Samuel West) and easily rattled egotist electronics factory owner played in intentionally hammy fashion. Florence  is a music student with a leadership quality and is wholly wrapped up in the pathways music opens. Florence has attained a post of behind the scenes general dogsbody at The Wigmore Hall, Wigmore Street which lasts three years. Her own aspirations in performance are fulfilled in lower recitals but cleverly she puts across a form of music which lasts.

Musics healing

I remember on the way home from work often passing the along the Wigmore Hall rear alleyway at a time uncertainty hung over the arts funding of that long established place and lunchtime performances by the and for the BBC Radio audience proved to be a cultural asset heavily embedded in good music played to the highest possible standard open for public consumption and egalitarian defiantly hoping against hope and Thatcher the continuance of the philosophy behind excellence as common property to be cherished.

The alleyway features here intact and unspoiled as before, its indentures prosaic and tangible despite the troubled periods seen through its existence.  It is a remarkable presence and feature of West London a little distance from Oxford Street and Harley Street.  Florence had the opportunity of assisting in performance as page turner to Benjamin Brittain and the evening performances had an international element equal in such a conservatoire atmosphere a smaller bolt hole away from the grander Albert Hall and Royal Opera House.  The atmosphere inside was a musical paradise and retreat.

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Notes as words

Throughout the film the choice of music is a stirring counterpoint othe emotional twists and turns and it is obvious this is a very important strategic tactic as it fills the cinema with a richness of audio pinnacles and troughs accompanying scenes of despair and unalloyed joy. Mozart, Bach, Haydn, Rachmaninov, Brittain, Beethoven all feature in the deliberate layering on us of a timeless appreciation of the emotions evolving. Were the music is at its height often the emotion is mixed and nervously exchanging between us and what we see a sense of elevation while it in reality is a one, visually which had none of the material a book can convey.  These are the awkward extremities of the young lovers own deeply felt disoriented disordered conflict of expectations.

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Mis-steps

Here I have to place my failure to accept, in large parts, the premise inherent in the novella.  I found the absence of enquiry or even a consultation of a Doctor by Florence off kilter.  There is a deficit and no dimension of mental disturbance in the mind of Florence whose horrible construct of the sexual act is a peculiarly obstinate block her life has not prepared her for. There was at the time a new emphasis on the workings of the brain and R D Lang etc. Freud preceding brought it forward into the public realm along with TV and middle class enquiry.  The book is able to push boundaries where a script will not allow and this film depends too much on the concepts of the viewer filling in the spaces and stiltedness of some of the imponderables.  The fluency of prose Ian McEwan is stretched to replicate in this screenplay.  On Chesil Beach she discloses in a speech, her anxiety in a long soul searching yet still unformed or fully expressed contempt of the actual response she articulated in circuitous explanation leaving Edward in a pale of despair.
There is a feeling the film does not convey the real problems on the side of Edward either. While we are left to assume certain things about Florence and then are unable to gauge the extent of hurt and damage they cause and with things also causing her uneasiness and tense suffocating anxiety. There is in Edwards situation a sense of male entitlement of sorts given his deliberations in the led up to the troublesome (more than) bedroom scenes. It would have been, either a sense of duty to perform or be heroic and actually create a magnificent, unforgettable night of continual passion and lovemaking (!) as if it’s something as a male he is programmed to do, he is also contemplating the strangeness of these feelings and unable to equate eroticism with the needs of his partner and new very virginal wife. Then it creates an emasculated reaction and even more harm. There is a chasm between their thoughts and the film does not deal with them sufficiently well to overcome the visual awkwardness. There is still in these times a fearfulness that the awkwardness and newness of the experience may not fit ideals. Those ideals are themselves at the root of the problem and the present day information and education. It depends where it is found and Edward is also a person whose intensity does not help which itself is not adequately explored. Florence has to ask about his character and that is supposed to be a formation of a judgement for a clearly clever woman?!

London, we have a problem.

The way the conversations are developed are very attentive to the authors intent and premise.  The question lurking is has he found a very unusual compelling story and is it to be seen as a wider component of the times and traditions, behaviours of the times.  With both having long spells in London and away from their parental conformity I thought it too much of a stretch to see them as hesitant, micro living reclusive people without own warnings and experiences overlap, usually and relying on their own lives experience which has dramatic absence.  Dorset becomes the past.  No place for Corset jokes.  A flaw is the inclusion of a later phase where shared living, in the 1975 period a collective and therefore contagion of sorts, fleshing out a sixties vibe in the seventies where – while sharing a bohemian household was frequent – the set up appeared forced.  In the sixties it would hardly have been less of a communal existence yet it was not explored or the arrangements for living not examined in detail.

Psychology undeveloped

Audacious as some of the story may appear; the exploration of the psychology at work having an unrealised importance, I felt a lot of the developing story had empty aspects, mostly concerning the limitations imposed on both of the experiences either had of life.  For present day young people this compressed uninformed pathway is unreal.  They are conscious as well as familiar with, such instinctive sexual stirring emotional decisions and are are empowered by numerous, almost too present, events of sexual diversity, behaviour and relationship guidance. Parental intrusion is not a problem and often is a shared appreciation of discovered evaluation. The advice is also overwhelming currently as the meaning of the bodies acceptance of itself is accumulated in a set of terms and outcomes, comparisons are often fluctuating between less obvious mental pictures.

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A lot of time is spent navigating the origins and the precipice we are on which is concealed within the story, in keeping with the dilemma of her heightened displeasure of the sexual act once it sets its seed inside her head in the inevitable pitch of consummating their marriage on their wedding night. This is a narrow filter unsuited to cinema as it is left hanging.  Even cinema itself is not approached although a nod to the times seen in the film which is in their orbit, A Taste of Honey shows a conflict of familiarity with sexual education.  The prospect is imagined and unreal and in her preparation she is compelled to refer to books which he4 younger sister who follows her every move, is equally excited about though not to the extent of imagining the meaning of the words outside her sisters own thoughts. Everything centres around the thoughts and wildest capture of ideas by Florence which she finds necessary and driven too by another set of conflicts which are not forgotten but suppressed. By taking the story through the motions of arrangement and outside diversions she is able to distract herself sufficiently to eradicate some of the worst until it becomes unavoidable once she is in Room 8 at the hotel and eager to please and share herself with Edward and embrace the moment. It heralds great stress and it is a staccato immersion into the ritual of love making which she and he have no notion of how it ought to serve them. Now they serve it and become overburdened lustfully not lovingly entwined.

Neither are practiced at the physical act of union and become transfixed by the prospect of it on their wedding night. Alone they discover that lives can become transformed by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.

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Storytelling

In the bibliography of Ian McEwan there first comes, First Love, Last Rites as if it became a precedence of his novella On Chesil Beach. The straining loss of words is compellingly tale of tense human love and bonding past feeling.

THEY WERE young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when a conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible. So the opening lines of the book draw us towards Florence and Edward in July 1962. Their day had joined their families in St Mary’s Oxford in a ceremony which went well including the reception and here having travelled in Florence’s mothers borrowed car arrived under a cloudy sky and with insufficient warmth to dine as planned outdoors. Instead they are together in the wedding suite dining and savouring the experience unique to both in many ways. In emphasis it is perhaps intentional to begin with the first two words in capitals in the book as they in the readers mind due some sympathy and empathy given their lack of worldliness. In fact it is not as it is a motif used in each chapter though none the less meaningful.

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When those times were presaged by moral virtue and humility it is only proper, as the Vicar might say, that they were chaste lovers on the brink of a loving long relationship not without reward for their sacrifice of self control. For Florence her talk with her Minister is an ordeal and both find it difficult to identify with each other and the preposterous notion of not getting married is one option Elizabeth takes as an absurdity. The pleasure quotient is not spoken of. Duty is the key instrument here and she is as first violin a leader in all she accomplishes. The prologue is not a good one.

Indulgences are meaningful only if they are satiated and lent great impact in the fact they are prove positive of unrequited love.

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Burden of the past

Belief is something neither have a great deal of time for. The realities of home life are its representation and compliant structure is the invocation. Some mores have it as a societal burden on pain of loss of a godly blessing.  The morality first coming from a Church and sanctified by a class of ancient ritual.

Ian McEwan compresses into a short novel the disturbance of tranquil exquisite expectation by moving into the bonding of a young couple empty illusion. The physical prospect of penetration was for Florence no longer a misty concept formed out of friends explicit stories or happenstance and part knowledge obtained by the troubling loud engorged actress screaming in high pitched orgasmic ecstasy engagement. Of Edwards pleasure and own needs she would have no knowledge only in his expression would she see his physical endurance while both would be marrying each other’s thoughts in their new union and one neither had felt before. Before the Vicar and hiring of the hall for the reception Florence seems to have mislaid her concerns until the moment of the actual aloneness.  If in the journey to the Hotel she was anxious it was suffused with the pleasure of filing away all the memories and even the road ahead was newly seen.  Observation does not seem one of Edwards strong points either as the anticipation is always countered by the more effervescent reality. Twenty two years have passed and new things happen all the time. These are however formative moments and ones to signal and lay down markers for the future they would share.

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Hidden Histories

Edward knew from University about the collapse of empires and his sojourn into conquering his love would have been shaped beforehand by a strategy to be a most humble and obedient servant to his new wife in satisfying her desires he would have comfort, not of a strange woman (The Comfort of Strangers another notable McEwan!) or innocent (The Innocent) passing encounter but a long to be lasting companion for life with all others forsaken. It is an occupied territory long held by Ian McEwan, this folly of loves testimony. Regardless of motive or morals he has attested to the problems enduring through many creative characters all having a degree of familiarity in our recollections but some are born out of sheer fantasy and the innocents here are in a realm which would have been common enough if borrowed thoughts and language are required to see it manifest in the pages.

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How accurate?

There must have been couples off to the seaside hotel with anxieties and pleasure equally mixed in a heady cocktail of expectation in earlier times, say the fifties and even earlier. Would protection be worn would they have enough passion or energy after the matrimonial ceremony and ritual acceptance of good wishes that heralded their journey into this future? They would not sometimes have had a rehearsal of lovemaking or been conscious of the powers within to see them comfortably through and in isolated limbo until they lay sleeping newly married and partly fulfilled in their dreams of finding a partner who became in that moment a formula for life. Improbable as it may sound or seem, the casting of Saiorsce Ronan whose previous collaboration with the authors vibe was her breakthrough movie, Atonement, and then as a fourteen year old, is once again fixed in the lines of the book.

Ian McEwan has described (at his lucid best) his twenty two year old bride ‘as bringing to mind an American Indian woman, a high born squaw. She had a strong jaw and her smile was broad and artless, right into the creases at the corners of her eyes.’ the remarkable aesthetic of the beautiful candescence that Siarsce Ronan can occupy the screen with.  In one publicity picture she is (freezing) on the Chesil Beach sitting with a forlorn gaze looking to embrace a situation that is exciting alarming and new while pouting over thoughts of days ahead. She fits the part remarkable as most illustrious actors do. having the facial balance and restrained openness and beauty which beguiled and captured truth of a kind rarely seen in cinema.  While sexuality was always present they each have, had an allure beyond that which is where this character is required to be in her worldly thoughts of beyond sexual pleasure and its meaning and wanting to know what that building block is in essence why they need to stick together.

Both are on the front of this dilemma as they are at twenty years old inadequately prepared in the era and societal cultural doctrines open to new consciousness. As adults together learning.

While watching, it is ones own knowledge and experience which fill in the gaps of language used by Ian McEwan in the book, a novella which is searching in this film to pass on the eloquent and carefully composited words and juxtapositions employed in the book.  Without self knowledge this film will not work and it is obviously crafted and made for a mature audience. With it als obeying seen in our media profuse times there is a connection to be made by the younger viewer and empathy is even more raw and intensely gripping. A sliding doors routine of what ifs.

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Weather the storm?

My favourite beach is at Blakeney in Norfolk where the seas-edge is forever moving, appearing to me as the edge of the temporal and physical world. That horizontal bent line which formers the outermost point is out further than the moving edge. The curve of the earth visible in the melding of the sky and seas infinity ingathered but going untouched out beyond us. Chesil Beach possibly has the same frontiers. There is the headland of Portland Bill to be found close by.  Behind it is the masons yards where hewn stone is cut and honed to facilitate a memory or vision to be put into a building.  Land is present there.  In Norfolk the elements see to it there is continual erosion.  No land is safe as the coast is claimed incrementally in tiny invisible motions of waves relentless cycle.  That turning of land into minerals swept away is almost the tangibility of the lovers quest to become another human being by having cause and effect.  There is no going back.  Immortality is attained while life is still present. Such are the promises and such are the illusions.

Conclusion ###3

It is difficult, particularly after ladybird to critique a film Saoirse Ronan is in and which she is on her game and filling her obligations and more.  Alongside an equally  strong performance by Billy Howle who goes through a more exposed later life, and with a very well cast supporting group there is a painful conclusion this film is not reaching the high bar it sets given the prose and narrative strength and form the original book achieves in spades.  No spades on this beach but a lot of digging and hiding of sensitivities none more alluded to than the core of the psychology Florence has become accustomed to.  There are few of any joyess parts and sadness is always present in particular what might have been.  The couple are ideally matched and are able to dispose of their similar but separate forms of middle classery.  They are intellectually matched but both are without the stronger need of emotional intelligence and it is obtained through hard learning.

Ian McEwan has created a new version of the story and my recommendation after seeing the film would be to visit the book if you have t altedy done so all that time ago.  There is a good display of the boundaries of film and story which is requires masters of the genre to overcome.  In the book those mis-steps seen here are not in the least visited and the beauty of language – the spoken words are few in the book and the reliance is on your constructing and building your own characters even visually and the casting has lent as much support as possible.

An enclosed compressed tale which it is hard to unravel.  Complexity exists though there are narrow confines expressed here denying access to what you have come to understand.

 

John Graham

25 May 2018

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 25 May to Thursday 7 June 2018 and on general relaease.

 

 

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Jeune Femme : A Film Review

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MONTPARNASSE BIENVENUE Jeune Femme

Director: Leonor Serraille, Cast: Laetitia Dosch, Souleymane Seye Ndiaye, Gregoire Monsaingeon, Jean-Christophe Folly, Nathalie Richard, Arnaud de Cazes.
Produced by, Sandra da Fonseca, Bertrand Gore, Nathalie Mesuret, Written by Léonor Sérraille, Music by Julie Roué, Cinematography Emilie Noblet, Edited by Clémence Carré. Production company, Blue Monday Productions.

Duration : 1hr 38 mins. Cert. 15.

QFT note: Léonor Serraille’s Cannes Camera d’Or winning drama stars Laetitia Dosch as a 31-year-old struggling to find her place in the world following a break-up

Prone to being her own worst enemy, Paula lugs her ex’s pet cat around Paris in a cardboard box, freewheeling but determined to get back on track in life. As she meets different people along the way, there is one thing she knows for sure: she’s determined to make a new start – and she’ll do it with style and panache.

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Jeune Femme

The starting over in the world of relationships requires many things. Firstly the previous baggage of the previous life choice is in need of assessment and revision in the learning or unlearning or making sense of other people as they find you and you find them.

Paula is out of a 10 year relationship which has been a high reward low risk conscript. Safety and no children or ties. So to find herself without the means to survive is a shock of the first order and she is in a compelling meltdown when we enter the picture. As for the future it happens from the circumstances outside the flat her ex partner, Joachim Deloche’s identity is not brought in for a long period.  Fraught phonecalls only.  The only companion going forward happens to be their estranged cat, rescued from the neighvours store.  This is a very sharp fall from a high level of what seems a normal existence and the suggestion of difference or reason for the break up is not clear. Every indication is it ought to have been sooner which is probably nagging throughout the following period while new answers are sought.

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Outside looking in

Horrible as it may be the notion of breakdown is treated comedically here. Horrible as the notion of looking inward on someone’s problems is almost voyueristic and as approach it requires for our benefit to be done with sensitivity and prove unlike any invasion of privacy. Believing this is relatively easy as the outward play of antics unfolds. The new partnerships of herself with every aspect of her life are calibrated. We are asked to engage and engage we do with the dilemmas false and positive states Paula encounters.

If it is not refreshing, refreshing in the sense Paula is freed from this past, she verbalises it instantly.  Paula is a realist and needs to be.  While the circumstances have altered greatly, she is virtually without funds, resources, or outlook or job and has been estranged from her family. No siblings, just a Mum whose one live is as a loner who all have left her to her own devices.

Ten years investment even without creating a body of work in concert with another, anything representing a life lived is almost ambiguously absent here. The high reward has been the cocoon of comfortable living which may have superficially or otherwise been of benefit to the onward and upward Joachim but is the total opposite as it is found for Paula. Weird as this may seem it is were we are. This is Paula.

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Travelling companions

Paula is here in the central representation of a modern woman whose future is in flux at 31.  Therein lies the test of the film. Do we believe this pretext do we engage and go on with the premise? As it is it is very easy to become part of the whimsy and progress if only because it is not our journey. The meltdown mentioned at the beginning is a force which exorcises the anger. That says plenty of the observed strength Paula gas and similarly you ask would I be so strong? The authorial interest is writing a series of questions.

Who am I Paula begins to ask and when asking herself is able to suggest she is who she makes herself.  Not defined but someone else’s love. ‘You the world to me’ type of trope which presents as when reversed, ‘I no longer have you so I’m nothing’. A variation of this is a positive and mortality is better than immortality if your alive sort of thing. The viable life is all that need be of concern to Paula and her focus is played out by her adopting various personas on a trial basis so to speak – in increments she tries various tactics of approach in meeting people which is problematic often and surprisingly gainful in others.

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Pulsating self

Clubbing an music are in her heart as a strong connective muse or even identity though that is not entirely properly explored. I saw her embrace the music and discard the palyacting and physical involvement often overarching its ambience and drive.

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Determined to set a fresh positive start again, going at the objective of finding a partner is a priority for Paula and her assistant is a curate cat. There is a premise in the making here where the prospective lover must like cats though not necessarily be as driven and cat dependant as Paula. Meeting new people is not a problem and with the whole of Paris, the city of romance a map of lovers imaginings in all directions Paula has the positive notion of claiming her rightful place in the bewitching quest mere mortals find a life’s work. The different people she meets is the passage of this story and it reveals to Paula and us the audience revealing aspects even a 31 year old had forgotten or mislaid in the past, 2solemnly lost faith in the other part of a relationship taken for granted and through that misled into the future.

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Redesign

By creating a new future and being adaptable – Paula insists in an interview one of her opportunistic happenings – she constructs a person who is meticulous, sporting, methodical, unconflicted ambiguity employed in a beautifully framed episode plus humour. One of several identity formulating encounters which makes for great cinema and form neatly composed portraits and each asking and straining to avoid placing Paula in a pigeonhole of convenience. Paula is evasively loveable. She is attractive in more than mere presence and given the reddish aspect of long locks she combines outfits in a multiple method acting ethos sometimes a ‘hint pop star’ haute couture aficionado or arty bohemian. It is all productive in the sense it provides us with multiple viewpoints but for a Paula it is a case of being all over the place. We learn as she – gently – does that she is her own worst enemy. For empathy we are fellow travellers, at least I went with it and given the superb mix and flow of the various disparate elements each following very different paths it was very watchable and entertaining often gruesomely funny while also having edgy bottom notes which are typically well handled as French cinema is at ease with. Never leaden and stale the good and bad are evoked with relativism and beefier in Paula’s problems and her dealing handsomely and genuinely with warmth to claim the prize of delivering a very good film.

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Transient visual loving eye

Visually this film carried with it the history of masters of the art of storytelling in French cinema. There were overhead views of street scenes taken at the poised easy pedestrian pace importantly defining place and other elements passing by unobserving what we are watching from above. Their are several scenes you will probably want to remember as they are formative. One I loved was during an on the move job interview where the interviewee who was a dancer took us on a joyous sense of movement up to a maids room in a longish sequence. It was beautifully done and in its contrast with previous and later scenes lent choreography to the viewers experience while removed from dance. A piece of confident and imaginative cinema.

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There were other scenes. Roaming scenes, one with her Mum, one inside and out of a shared sofa apartment with someone who believes Paula connects her with her past. The Paris invoked is not over sentimentalised or over evoked but is compellingly real which is certainly a big positive for a debut feature director.

Portraiture by camera

An instinctive panache means ever new beginning is treated with sumptuous panache and devilry by Léonor Serraille’s habit of playing the positive and not subscribing and making Paula subscribe to the desperate negative aspects and sometimes harsh reality in play. This is then visually expressed in the vivid colours and interchangeable almost clothes horse persons of Paula herself as she mediates her self in the circumstances as thrown up or found, actively sought out.

Parachutes are deployed metaphorically and an internal mechanism is activated announcing new starts. She is able to land a job, in fact two and one is as a babysitter to a young girl whose introspection and absence of ‘love’ is given life after several errors and misreads by a paula. This is the dancers part and it is a constructive form providing contrast to the other shopping mall job where she meets again another earlier acquaintance. Ousmane is another character we meet whose job does not fit his ambition and the comprises all round are length and common. Material things are not the object of many but the consumerism is what has them survive wither as sales people selling a dream or minding the spectacle it is another strand. Also I began to think the professions similarly were in a strange place.

Choices

Deep into the film there are choices arising for Paula involving relationships and there are further encounters with a Doctor who herself is open, and in keeping with the exploration, she too is seen to look into the past for meaning.  They spill out from everywhere, emotions caught in memory, always present and demanding.  The past tells Paula things she has not been bothered with and newness presents a clean slate in many ways.  The estrangement with her mother is also a recurring theme and Paula is kept searching in that part of her life for its meaning. Something is still harming her from within.  It I spoke something’s that she holds onto and cannot free.  My take on it was of her looking for an inner sanctity which she never had and only occasionally does she find it and it appears to her in aloneness when with other people.  The music and Yuki influence draw on this.  Even the job in the lingerie mall has its aspects of learning.  Men pay attention! The luxury of lingerie is a means to pamper which all women look to as preening for themselves and is a solitary thing, a skill in touching their feminine empowerment and from that whatever comes comes.

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Comes discovery

Towards the end these choices however hard in the gathering are considered in the new mindset. While it is seen to evolve and accumulate throughout their is a knowing Paula played with drive and passion bearing fruit in every scene, by the exquisite multi faceted Laetitia Dosch whose companions in the action provide a superb robust support and ever pairing is special in some way. To name them would be be mildly patronising. There are several very, very solid performances which are needed to connect and deliver the levels reached by Laetitia Dosch in her emotional gymnastics and electric sound performance.

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Conclusion ####4

Very often the title such as Jeanne Femme is a prologue to a let down but here the title only introduces a very well gathered opening into the observed world of one young women after a breakdown.  Never trivial but incredibly full of fun and light-hearted air filled space, the visual appeal is intimating the approach taken by a Paula who is – as cliches go – her own worst enemy except once ‘free’ so to speak after a very long and significant relationship is only concerned with being positive. A cat (Muchacha) gets much publicity and air time as a reclusive friend and foil.  It is a female of exotic fussy tastes and contrast to, it has to be said, of the chameleon taste and forced re-identity moves Paula is forced into confronting.

This is a very brave and rewarding tale on just a view of feminine worlds and the multiple characters, many formed very robustly and assuredly, are thrown at the complex recalibration going on and shedding some more and valued insights along the way. The slate may be wiped clean but is it to be subject to putting down new markers and reinterpretation of the past and memory and how do the fates unfold. A lovely film and instinctively sharp delivering a very decent story of contemporary searches for self.

John Graham

18 May 2018

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre form 18 May until 24 May 2018

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Michael Inside : A Film Review

 

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Michael Inside

Written and directed by Frank Berry. Cast : Dafhyd Flynn, Lalor Roddy, Moe Dunford, Robert Walsh, Steven Blount, Hazel Doupe, Tony Doyle, John Burke, Shane Gately, Stevie Greaney, Elaine Kennedy, Ally Ni Chiarain, Terry O’Neill, John Quinn.
Production Subotica, Write Direction Films, Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board.
Produced by Donna Eperon, Tristan Orpen Lynch, Aoife O’Sullivan.
Executive Producer for Bord Scannán na hÉireann/ Irish Film Board, Keith Potter.

Cert. TBC (probably 15)  Duration 1hr 36mins.

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‘Michael Inside’

Press release
Michael Inside tells the story of Michael McCrea (Dafhyd Flynn), an impressionable eighteen-year-old who lives with his grandfather Francis (Lalor Roddy) in a Dublin housing-estate. Michael’s life is changed dramatically when he is caught holding a bag of drugs for his friend’s older brother, and is sentenced to three months in prison.
Researched and workshopped with former prisoners from the Irish Prison Service’s Pathways Programme, the story of Michael Inside is an expression of many real-life experiences. The film takes a realistic look at the circumstances that lead to Michael’s conviction, his time in prison, and how prison has affected his thinking and his behaviour when he gets out.

Truth on Irish Prison System deficiencies http://www.iprt.ie/key-issues from the Irish Prisoners Reform Trust (please read after review)

Structure
By keeping a tight focus on the narrative of the ‘rites’ of passage the story of Michael traces him into adulthood with his ‘life is changed dramatically’.  No longer a  juvenile he ends up in the Prison system instead of the youth system which then provides the revelatory, insight sought by the director of this part of the justice system and shown in all its complexities.  It is the portrayal of a life going into a spiral out of control, the chosen direction of Frank Berry in writing and making visible Michael’s life, he brings in all aspects of the journey.  It is well paced and the Prison element features only some way into it.  In the arch of the story at the beginning a wrong choice is made and Michael is enticed into helping a friend whose older brother is dealing drugs on a wholesale scale.  It is serious business and the act of crossover is shown in the brother been seen to be a fundamental part of the internal life of their neighbourhood.  The trade is all around kids of all ages and very few indicators of surveillance are present though somehow Michael is trapped.  From there onwards the story continues to follow the trail of downward struggles and the domestic interactions are finely woven into the film indicating boundaries.  There is throughout the film an exchange of place going on.  The Courtroom, The Police Station, The Prison environments, the outdoor rambling hills, the routes to and fro are used very effectively as frames for the story.  On the road and inside their is also the mediation in the mind of what is happening and why.

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Sense of a story
This is a story based in metropolitan Dublin in a city estate where most of the houses cover acres looking exactly the same. It focuses on an 18 year old whose life is moving in the right direction, after what appears to be a period where his Grandfather has moved in with him in the absence of his imprisoned father as we learn.  His mother’s not around either.  As we see the story going forward in the present we are filling in some elements for ourselves. I guessed that his Grandfather was no recent arrival and we are told Michael has been out of school previously, hence my saying he is moving forward, he is on the relearning path back attending school and with hopes of a professional qualification which he is well capable of achieving as encouraged by his teacher.  The cast in this film is unbelievable first class and very intelligently formed.  The young female teacher approaches the task of teaching Michael with warm encouragement swathed in reality and humorous mild cynicism for example.

For this story to form director Frank Berry has meticulously scoured the prisons and youth communities researching via. workshops, as noted on the Subotica and Write Direction Films press release, yet there is no laboured documentary replication or false dialogue in any scene.  He has taken the subject matter of the reality of contemporary life in the justice system and the conduits of social deprivation and lack of social development to shape a vision which goes beyond the mere postcode of Dublin.  The stories lineage is from the home to school to employment and self development, the absence of suitable role models and the historically corrupt system, presents that which envelops most youth, not given the learning opportunities and advantages of the ‘gameplayers’ whose sole interests seem embedded in their chosen corporate or government chosen level of existence.

The latitude of film making allows for and is representative for those without voices. This is a truth spoken on the complex state composition and boundaries which are challenges set before youth.

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What’s Inside
Michael Inside is both the internal mind and thinking of a young man as he sees each day. He is seen to be intelligent and diligent while his peers are a mixed less well equipped group and he hangs around sharing the outlook without options.

GAA is not on the horizon and handpicked sports other than boxing are off the radar. Michael is on the edge of trouble as it becomes evident the drugs scene around his postcode is strident and has his peers as bait and prey.
The Inside part of the shaping of the mind is very hard to convey. The way it is dealt with is through the learning experiences passed on through the generations. School is now re-engaged and this is read by Michael as attainable and within his scope and self understanding.

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Francis the carer
From the beginning of this film to the end you are never far from realty.  The story is based on those examined events and interviews/workshops found by Frank Berry of those in prison and outside.  The role of the central character is to maybe show the viewer that young person Michael as someone on the interior of a nightmare and live with it and it’s message.  Every scene is collected in a tangible tacit way with the viewer in almost within the story. Hard as it seems the closeness is delivered by the direction and cinematography which is devastatingly immersive.  There are the pacing scenes of the tracking outdoors and between places but mostly the scenes are as witnesses.

My early attention was drawn to the dynamic which is the relationship between Michael McCrea (Dafhyd Flynn), and his grandfather Francis (Lalor Roddy) because in itself it became a core balancing act of dilemmas facing each. The family now consists of them. It becomes evident the father is missing and incarcerated. Michael’s mother is no longer around and Francis is looked after by a paternal grandfather down from the North whose job it is to raise Michael in the parents absence.

This has been a programme of involvement appearing to have been in existence for some time. Francis and Michael help each other out with the day to day tasks. Another thing is the bond which is warm and positive. While there have been issues regarding education and breakdown there is in place a future which Francis sees developing with Michael on both their parts containing an outlook determined to beat the shared history disrupted by the family circumstances.

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Even a future addition (I’m stretching it! his girlfriend is very young and the incredible actor Hazel Doupe who has become a go to in so many short films and other TV drama roles) to the family is suggested to acquaint Michael with a love interest. Dafhyd Flynn is restrained and controlled in his playing of this difficult part. His approach is to be lean and often reflective and relies on the skills he has in small gestures and unhurried but electric delivery. Along with the film this might be compared to Starred Up with its central character played by Jack O’Connell (Unbroken, ‘71) they are twinned in having created their parts with equal skill and give superb performances in this zone of seldom engaged role.

There are questions for the young woman/girl, Michaels girlfriend Orla Kerr (Hazel Doupe) to think on. There are messages to be found in the words softly spoken but ultimately delivered – noises off – by the sparsely attended pine lined Courtroom female judge whose own tones are very youthful. There is the excursion to the Prison and the process where the pace is slowed down and incremental taking in detail such as pier pressure from other prisoners whose language is their own anxiety spat out at the wrong person in absence of mind. The detail of the blue lit holding room where it is impossible to see a vein if the prisoner has smuggled in a drug to self administer is seen.  There is the non-threatening pleasant demeanor of the Prison officers, themselves doing only their duty and never being abusive or overstepping the mark or authority this ‘justice’ hierarchy has put in place which is considered truthful and honest currently.  There is a harmony which Frank Berry makes sure you become aware of through the pace this core part of Michael actually crossing another threshold into an adult world fee are prepared for or find as they perceive it.  Then the journey of the Prison incarceration is dealt out with unpredicted sharp short shocks as they follow on, opposite in character from the closing naive words of the Courtroom Magistrate echoing all around Michael. The journey is dealt with in revelation for those not familiar and even as fresh insight to the ‘system’ users (both sections) themselves.
While this is a fiction of the state of life surrounding societies justice system in Ireland and the pressures and relentless challenges brought about as manipulated by victims and perpetrators the acting out of a story in this way can only have positive outcomes. It informs on many levels and it may persuade more than conventional and framed sectoral prognosis some in the bleak place this conveys.

 

The political bit (avoid if editorial)
The tolerance and mutual strengths are explicitly laid out and engaged with it becoming apparent Michael has ambition which is driven by a renewed vigour in his life in education. Being in the environment – which in one instance is read by a fellow prisoner as a trap they are all caught up in as if they are being institutionally victimised. The life strategies are limited and very bleak given the mess the corrupt system and spoiled institutions harbour for the neglected communities which make up the suburbs and inner city ‘ghettos’ . The hope delivered over the years is powder and dust since the period of modernity following the sixties and the JFK spoiler of the state of the Republic of Ireland. Backwater tax machinations are the industrial hegemony inherited. Where Ireland began and faltered on the backbone of division of the Island in the 1920’s socialist, Republican idealists held empty political promises and became corrupted by its own violence. A delivery of labour to manifestly be subjugated in a mimicry of the British working classes while the rich rewarded themselves even becoming Premiers and messengers for fantasy politics. From De Valera, Lemass, sycophancy and Church adherence, to Abernathy meeting the Golden circles pig swilling and in exile money laundering, Reynolds and Haughey showing their vestages of impurity in ego driven leadership. Mothers of Ireland hanging their heads in shame of the child. Absent and forlorn or in flux.

There is a perception in lots of political conversation that there is a one part enemy to be taken down.  While a political philosophy may have its positives there is the overriding human negating the order sought and it is – once ‘licenced from above or below – the latter being a vile act repeated such as the introduction by the IRA of the car bomb – in this film the brother of the friend is caught up in this mechanism of political abuse.  He imitates those above and below.

It remains those egregious methods once blamed on the top echelon of society (it is quite legitimate so to do) only progress by the use down the rungs as those below use them to clamber up. Seeing there is a contract it is broken denying the Wesleyan concepts being not misunderstood but discarded. That is a notion coming straight out of the novel descriptive of 16th century society I happened to be reading! The Mermaid and Mr Hancock.

Prison reform

Here I have to mention the reform happening within the Republic of Ireland Justice and Prison system. Incrementally change is happening. Lord Longford once was heralded as a legendary lone wolf prison reformer. (His daughter Antonia Fraser once said he couldn’t boil a kettle and Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson famously stated that Longford had the mental capacity of a 12-year-old.) Privileged as he was and totally wrong on many issues he nevertheless found a clarity if not notoriety in Prisoner Rights and formed some shock filled relationships. There came from it good works. ‘He also initiated practical measures to ease offenders’ reintegration into society. He founded the New Bridge in 1955, the first organisation dedicated to ex-prisoners’ welfare. In 1970, he established, in New Horizon, the first drop-in centre for homeless teenagers. Until the end, he spent time at New Horizon’s offices, oblivious to its users’ sometimes rough teasing, anxious to understand what had alienated them from the mainstream.

He also contributed a series of learned reports on penal reform during Labour’s period out of office between Attlee and Wilson. He chaired the committee which, in 1963, recommended the setting-up of the parole system, still the bedrock of the current system.’ Guardian 2001.

Now such reforms are a staple of the work of Prison and Justice practice. In ROI the justice system is improving but many issues remain. With the idea of ‘privatization’ abandoned in the early part of the decade, and a new approach to practical measures this is borne out in the approach this film takes. Nevertheless the listening to Prisoners phone calls, the use of a separate Healthcare system, (4 babies born last year in Mountjoy) and the class of rehabilitation stymied by cost and process there is much wrong with the resolution of the causes and effects presenting.

 

Real Cinema
This film is as close as cinema can get to a subject without destroying the object of exploration and learning by the process. I am reminded of the modern Irish Shakespeare, Dave Duggan and something he said at the time of his second encounter with a major health problem – thankfully he is out of the vicinity of that, in 2014, – while writing Makaronik, an archival piece! He traverses the same topography know in the Irish psyche that cinema is using in specific people driven storytelling. (Read more at: https://www.derryjournal.com/news/the-indestructible-dave-duggan-1-6402054) of which he states on Theatre “My plays may seem to be varied, but they are essentially all about the same thing. They are all about humans in a small group, be it in a family or a work place – and they are dealing with an issue against a bigger backdrop. There is a unity to their experience – what I write may seem to differ greatly from work to work, but my plays are all about the human experience, the human condition. “They are about the choices people make and how those choices affect them and those around them.”
Along with this approach he covered ‘the troubles’ by the method adopted in AH 6905 (2005), produced in Afghanistan in 2008. (1969 to 2005) Well worth seeing.

You can see the family setting he refers to applied here with the disintegration almost palpable and coming at you out of the screen. Lalor Roddy is superb in this and brings the soft gentle Beckett strange delivery he has within him, that it needs to soften the blow. He does this for Michael and with decent well honed words this astute wisdom is tangible and the actors gift which is delivering the core of the elements gathered and intersecting. The weave is complex and difficult and could easily have gone wrong numerous times. It is totally astonishing how well this film is able to hold onto its simplest message while calling subconsciously for your thoughts to continue beyond the walls in taking this third wall onward to read beyond this time.

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Conclusion ####4
From the opening of this film it creates a picture seldom visited in Cinema other than in search of heroics or misfeasance often over saturated with alarming violence and few shades of truth. Amid the diet of crime situational drama and the oversimplification of crime dramas this is a portrait of a family facing its destruction unless the struggle is confronted with stoic and stark realism. Michael Inside demands a very questioning approach from the viewer in order to receive the accumulation of wisdom the method of workshops, listening, scripting and story telling have unearthed. Frank Berry probably seeks your attention to the interior mindset as it is equipped at this age, 18, of Michael in this set of circumstances, in a modern Dublin in an educational system as divided by class and wealth as most western ‘democracies’ in Europe. (Scandinavian education aside!) to which further circumstantial predicament presents. The film observes through a brilliant visual and meticulously developed script a story conveying a small element of struggle which is huge in its message and insightful approach.  There is no over reliance on the violence which is both present and frequent.  There is a crossing from Home to Court to Home. From Home to Court to Jail.  Journeys are relayed by Francis and Michael and paths traced out.  Together and alone. Almost visions of reflection themselves.  Interludes and false ends are visited and complexities reasoned with. When it reached its conclusion it made a very distinct manourvere which made me recall the film Ordet by Carl Theodor Dreyer. The ending is similar in that it leaves you hanging and wondering what happens next in a way seldom seen in cinema. I wondered how connected the two films might be with this device being used, where there is absolutely a pure expression of something beyond that you will have to find and fill in for yourself.  Extraordinary and valued achievement.

John Graham

14 May 2018

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre form 11 May until 24 May 2018

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Belfast Film Festival Shorts 2018 : Film Review

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Belfast Film Festival Short Film Review

Belfast Film Festival Short Film programme at Queens Film Theatre for 2018 proved packed with gems and new thoroughly well packaged cinema which met a full audience over the day’s viewing.  Formulaic work was absent and refreshing alteration on story telling made for a complex mix of seeing as believing.  Initially the programme came with strong family stories.  The type where misunderstanding prevails and a reveal is the twist in the tail.  Each found a way to deny you the obvious answer but produce a strong alternative for you to wrestle with.  On the delivery of further films the depth and scope altered significantly covering some animation, some narrative tales, some films based on true stories and several versions of horror and surreal boundaries of belief.  A venture into science fiction and two short stories materialised as ectoplasmic excursions which rattled the nerves over a range of ages.  For local interest there was plenty.  The tropes of political history were examined with varied results.

In the order they appeared I have written a short opinion on how they appealed to me and offer some criticisms purely in the sense no one will really get to write on much of these and I chance a few thoughts in helping to progress talking or reviewing the hopes as they reach us.  How to? is not my approach but as with most reviews I take it from a personal viewpoint in how it struck my senses and where it accorded with my thinking or changed it.  The pleasure was to see the advancement and this raft of films shows there to be plenty of talent in every aspect of film making with in this case most of the British Isles covered.  An excursion to the Czech Republic also produced one of the most distinctive professional pieces in assured wonder.

In the sequence shown

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11th     B/W

Director : Naomi Waring

Arrivals at George Best City Airport and an ex paramilitary, Fisher,  turns up and goes on the homeward taxi drive to his mothers house. Stella McCusker is alone in a loyalist estate watching over a vacuum with concerns careworn in her eyes. In black and white this film gives a profile to the estates and hinterland loyalism is in. It’s bonfire season and with sharp edits and close ups anguish and hard looks coil around the close knit community.

A young boy on a bike exchanged barbs and inquiring probes and he pushes the story on to position the incomer as on a limited pass to his own post terrorism territory. The young actor and older man form the core of the encounter with this eve of twelfth of July run in. It makes you think his prospects are much better than the protagonist who returns to the place after the ‘troubles’ though that is tentative.

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The voices in the local working drinking club pitches a strong rendition karaoke style of ‘Penny arcade’ with floor singers welcome to the up and coming club contest. Shades of ‘Benidorm’ timewarp entertainment witnessed. References to the past Troubles are through pictures on the wall and insignia. The talk is of the day to day and in order to speak to his daughter who is at the club, a meeting of sorts is contrived. The past is inferred as family breakdown and the conciliation is sought by the incomer to redress his past. With the pace and lively approach including the stirring of tribal ritual as a backdrop and the pleasant homely feel of the exchanges and people in the community it is a well conceived though under developed piece of drama. The resolution is flat and it sits without a full exposure of the tensions which do exist and none of the everyday working life of the estate is seen to any degree. The playing and story itself is where any value is traced and the trademark acting is first class.

4* A serious attempt at conceptualising current dynamics and the pitfalls and reconciliation at a family level in our broken local world.

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Sparrow

Siblings Cara and Nathan are on different paths and Cara’s return from University is the theme of the welcoming return. For Nathan he is a live at home attendant on an alcoholic mother.  He is lamenting the hullabaloo over the simple terms of the homecoming and while loving the fact his young sister has achieved something he compares it with his one stalled hopes and career as a music teacher by being to the boil his anguish as this reunion prompts all the wrong emotions. The whirlpool of the welcoming party is seen through the eyes of a Nathan principally and his actions. He sulks alone and then the central comparisons take shape with acerbic doubt fired general differences which are mostly based on their different perspectives. The tally of right and wrong is grey territory with each having good reasons to be at the point they find themselves.

Like a lot of the films of this season it concerns itself with reconciliation of relationships spoilt by the past with a pressing question of who is right and is anyone to be faulted. For a short film it is ambitious to come up with any real solid answers and it does leave much undisclosed and unexamined. While it puts forward a very good trajectory of story easy to make some connections to it relies on the excellent cast to bring out its overhanging sadness. The script is initially laboured but the sciences between the two principles are very heartfelt and extremely convincing. In every home a dilemma if not a heartache. The difficult part of the drinking mother is played with unabashed fluidity and convincingly by the mother who is somewhat exploited in her stereotypical role with no really shocking or unexpected lines.

4* Fractured beginnings and endings with no winners. Has very good moments and universal themes.

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Lost memories

Director : Eamonn Murphy.  Cast : Emmet Kelly, Aoife King, John Kavanagh, Nicole Poletti

Here is a road trip with a difference. It is of a place where many have found themselves in with a seriously ill close relative advancing to confront your emotions and family relationships with love bearing down as the core central part of life visited darkly and in the very present reality of someone’s passing. Seán is an artist seen initially dropping of a canvas to a central Dublin Gallery and with flashback and scenes of celebratory exhibition modes traced there is an exchange of timescales where Seán is seen making the choice to deliver the piece to the Gallery as opposed to staying behind and being with his mother who is dying slowly. His own selfishness or neglect is called into question by himself and the trio of phone calls which come into his journey on the new highways of Ireland’s opening up of its meaning and separateness is all too familiar and an easy route or so it seems, to take. The journey is the central part.  The conflicts each phone call takes feeds the emotions. First there is his Dad calling, then his Sister, then his girlfriend.  Each pulls out a different framing of his love and indeed his notion of himself and where he is at in this new contextualised place.  Cleverly the struggle of being his own self is examined and is carried very well by the actor who we see responding to tiny and implicit alterations and nuances as he drives.  The burden is manifest in the darkness of nighttime driving and of the tracing out of the road in this Ireland of shallow and solid opportunity. “I’ve been very mean to you, I wish I was better to you.” Comes out of very many circumstances and lives. The mixed vibe is very good and industrially complex in not allowing a standard reaction to be held. I found the road scenes very immersive whereas the other open, ‘standard’ shots were not on the same level and dulled the effect.

4* Very good dynamic and lifting the spirit while demolishing it in an emotional excursion full of tension and original knife edge touch on familaier reality.

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Listen

In the workings of a family of three there is an unspoken tension and it is not discernible to the audience of the mother who in her domestic day to day converses with a young daughter on the stories she comes across in school. The couple are late twenties and the girl around seven, eight.

The Gaelic Children of Lir and fantasy is an enjoyable framework for the educational needs as are other myths and stories of the ancient world. The appearance of the father is somewhat as a hectic perhaps civil servant with his bran flakes and tea/ coffee a hurried morning routine. The women of the household have a natural bond over the wordplay and story telling which is a feature of the day ahead. Of learning and the things and moral tales those educational paths bring. However the edgy troubled state of the husband is without explanation or even a cause the audience see and the woman does not. In a few short minutes. The film is only ten minutes long the suspense and it is nothing solid or an unnecessary flight of extreme probability but a thoughtful relevant and progressive denouement.

4* The Woman need not worry as the outcome or resolution of unexplained, behaviours, unkown series of occurrences is set to put her mind at rest as indeed it will yours – depending on your silo! or lack.

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Peel

Director: Annika Cassidy, Writer: Annika Cassidy. Cast: Lauryn Canny, Ally Ni Chiarain, Seana O’Hanlon.

On a rainy day without rain umbrellas for effect are raised as two young teenage girls walk home from school. Implied (according to one younger viewers I spoke with) is a gay relationship perhaps going to emerge as the storyline.  What happens in the first minute or two is the pair splitting up and after affectionate exchange of words one disappears to an apparent home of warmth and welcome where the other goes home to the detached and isolation of a leafy Dublin suburb to be greeted by a dilemma and house with a lack of paternal love or security. This is a film which gives a sharp shocking heartfelt thump to the emotions given the actors play out the scenario in a effective way. With its range however I thought the science choices and handling could have been much tighter and less frippery or less overdark fixed framing would have made it a very solid piece.  The last scene in fact is with the young girl at a sink peeling the spuds for dinner. That is a reckoning for the title. It is a Vermeer type shot and if the whole of the film was of this closing quality with its observance and unspoken undercurrent it would have blown you away.

3* I thought the story was worth the telling but was distracted by the – in my mind anyway other views are less troubled perhaps – motion and scenes juxtapositions but possibly I was missing something in what was after all a very straight forward story of two separate experiences for the two girls though the First was not and may not have been as good as implied either as it was not dealt with in ‘mirroring’ the differences.

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Guard

Director : Jonathan Harden, Writer :  Bronagh Taggart,

Getting Katie to drop her guard outside the ring will be Kieran’s toughest battle yet the story goes. Funding notes – The film boasts an award-winning team, including BAFTA winner Michael Lennox, who was nominated for an Oscar for his short film Boogaloo and Graham in 2015. Lennox will produce, while multiple Emmy-award winner Robert Sterne credited with finding lead actors for hits such as Game of Thrones and Wolf Hall will cast the short. Former The Voice contestant Leah McFall will provide music.

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The Belfast of sporting opportunity is cleverly and brilliantly projected in this story of a girl boxer training on the lone path to find her spine and core self in the way sport challenges do and asks questions of the mind and body.  The girl Katie comes across the Westlink in Belfast on the footbridge running after coming from the derelict GAA stadium she has been pounding up and down the terraces of.  Good hand held shots and a continuation of her situation is opened.  Her father is at home and his return is ‘on probation’. He keeps at arms length or further away as he disassembles his narrative with his daughter. Bronagh’s Husband director Jonathan Harden is assured and with the stories unusual broad reaching quality.  Bronagh Taggart never drops her guard in the playing of this character.  Bronagh Taggart who has appeared in The Fall and has also a part in the film on Conor Magregor coming up, is this story’s writer and she conveys a cogent, very strong statement of a girl approaching her circumstances by trying to test herself, possibly to the limit.  Her portrait and portrayal is brilliant.

Positioning herself in the frame centrally and not speaking any words save six over the whole of the 13 mins. With the speedy trajectory she offers an eagle stare and fixed presence of being in the world, wanting to perfect something imperfect and damaged.  The damage she carries and conveys obviously setts her apart from her father. No spoilers here then.  Not estranged but pragmatic and demanding Katie wants to train hard and her fathers skills are not declined in training in the backyard of their shared home. It is a home with bad memories and both live on its fringes avoiding talk of the past. Katie and her father make a pact and the local club St Joseph’s is enrolled to allow her to spar and ringwork. The boxing club manager is our own version of Ray Winstone’s trainer style (Jawbone a boxing film) Ian McElhinney.  When punch comes to shove or fist comes to face and guard this film is intensely sharp and on the money. It gives as food as any film of its kind and is sharp witted while being totally plausible. The Commonwealth games now wound up are a mirror of the tenacity and intensity seen in this one of depiction of one girls pathway.

5* It ticks most of the boxes for me in that it is an absorbing forceful unapologetic disconcerting take on complex family troubles and making amends though in the drama a hovering unexplained poison exists which in a wider concept might provide further and added riches. A very well constructed smart story and brilliantly delivered.

Update on Commonwealth boxers! Both Michaela Walsh and Carly McCaul failed by the narrowest of margins and contested decision in the camp, obtaining a Silver Medal for their skills against top class opposition with determination and proper attitude speaking volumes as sportspersons of character.

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Murirglheilt

Director : Tara Hegarty, Writer : Tara Hegarty, Cast : Gary Crossan, Naomi Cooke, Rachel Walker. Music :  Karen and Jolene McLaughlin.

The fables of the sea are many and for a Lough Neagh eel catcher he failing to remember or keep the letter of superstition fully on board has the misfortune to rock his own boat. This involves the discovery of myth and legend immersed in the deep waters even so far from the Sargasso sea bring all kinds of crazy ideas to met up with him. Mindful as he is of the woes that might befall him he fails to comprehend the circular nature d the female of the species once he has troubled or mistreated their magic mysteries and powers of persuasion in ladies from the sea.

An explanation does nor exist in this fable of a C. Andersson fable (Agnete og Havmanden) it has within possibilities as origin. Those children of the sea free also. In the ballad, a merman woos Agnete to leave her children behind and come and live with him in the sea.  She does so and has several children by him.  But one day she hears the ringing of church bells and with the merman’s permission returns to land to visit the church. In some versions, the images of saints in the church turn away from Agnete when she enters. She meets her mother, telling her about her new aquatic life. In most variants, she then abandons the merman and stays with her previous family. In some versions from all regions, however, she returns to the sea.

The filming is difficult in the confines of a boat and only a few missteps or choices were found distracting. The costume design was very effective as were the aquatic skills of the cast. It dwelt a bit on the confrontations and comic played out the joke a bit labouredly. The underwater photography was a stand out.

3* With wet sails and a fable to follow the eels of Lough Neagh do not need any help in escaping the thorns of this vessel. The boatman is a mere transient in the hands of the women and is put to his penance with other worlds anticipated. The sea is wider and more expansive and I yearned for a more gripping tale along the lines of the one mentioned which Ibsen put into a stage play.

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Must do is a Good Master

Director : Gerard McKenzie.  gerardmckenzie.com

Do not let the title distract you. It means, what has to be done, has to be done. It comes from a saying often spoken to the director as a child by his father. What ever it takes, it takes or words to that effect. It will not provide you with a necessary truth or pathway here straightforwardly as this is a tale of grim telling. In the mode of a road movie this is a beautifully tight little short film with power and very lucid cinematic tension and fear woven in. When the broad road of the Czech countryside is first seen – the film begins with a wide frame shot showing you the environment in the best tradition of a short film introduction, then to the road vertically as a hitch hiker asks the driver who is Irish for a lift. It turns out the man taking the lift is a contrarian who is irritable and he makes his poverty known in an oblique way which is not his best course of action. He also in a dialogue sharply constructed and edited let’s us warm to the driver who is going out of his way – not in the literal sense – on this remote wood lined snowy winter route between towns for a fellow traveler. The crafting of a story is around the Irishman’s unconnected existence to this place. The question immediately is the reverse logic of immigration. While Ireland is populated from Donegal to Wexford with East Europeans this Irishman has gone in the opposite direction and drives his comfortable car into the tundra of a Czech winterscape.

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Whatever his object is – and there is a hanging dreadful end to consider by the last frame we are left to behold the title. In closing also we notice he is a conversant comment Czech speaker which added seven further to the burden of ???

5* We have here a beautifully professionally created terror of a film which is in its absurdity surreal as well as brutally confronting. It is shot with a clean air depiction of different lives lived for reasons kept hidden but as paths cross the lives are taken intertwined and interlocking. Nothing further should be said until you see it. And the thing is seeing films – Must do – otherwise your none the wiser.

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Marky’s bad week.

Director: Daniel Holmwood, Writer: Daniel Holmwood. Cast : Caoilfhionn Dunne, Neal Harrison, Darren Smith. Daniel Condon associate producer, Daniel Holmwood  co-producer, Paul Rowland producer, Liz Wilson executive producer. Cinematography by Stephen C. Walsh, Film Editing by Daniel Holmwood.

The volume is turned up on the life of a canal side drug addict who in a bright sun filled day is settling into his habit to start the day on the wrong (right) vibe. The colour is turned up to ten and is almost off the dial with the costume department furnishing this hard worn disheveled man, Marky, Martin and Marty – his moniker is disputed – possibly given the worst yellow ribbed jumper someone has cast off for Christmas – several Christmases ago.  It’s summer in the city of Dublin and Brendan Behans bro’s words warn of the jail down the road which (the keys go jingle jangle ok!) madam freedom is a hard road. For Marky it’s not helped by having a female acquaintance whose on moral guidelines appear to have slipped down onto the towpath and both are at each other’s level.

Spaghetti western music ups the ante with the visions of rattling saloon doors and you talk in’ to m scenarios as noise’s off. No one except Oscar Wilde and Behan would have doubted Marky’s predicament. Behind was a user and Oscar was a star gazer. Marky has had a bad week and he is in need of his fix of the smoking kind. The resin is lost however and this sets of a bad trail of events and comic relief is harshly sent to us for our entertainment. On occasion there have been exploitative films on these lines but here there is something different. There is a Wldiean pathos and beauty about this one. It puts on the towpath a curve to life outside – our own – hopefully few are in this discomfort – and unpatronsngly gives a heft and a push of hope in desperation ion as an antidote to the fate of Marky. A recent aside from someone to me on the subject of drugs was an observance “They seem to be the happier for it” is well wide and no comfort either.

4* A four square film with candor and carefully handled despair. It was provocative and well constructed and evidence of the state of our society in unseen parts. The coloration and musical elements served to produce a sunny vista for despairing scenario which itself realized its objectives of keeping us locked into believing the story and having a connection with the characters it showed.

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A Tell Tail Heart

The Tell-Tale Heart

Director: Patrick Ketch.

In an opening which was missed it is possible my perception of it was falsely formed. So by way of introduction I give you the story synopsis upon which it is based. Without giving away the narrative, this is a bleak and dark story of intense psychotic verve.

The narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” is generally assumed to be male. However, some critics have suggested a woman may be narrating; no pronouns are used to clarify one way or the other. The story starts in medias res. The story opens with a conversation already in progress between the narrator and another person who is not identified in any way. It has been speculated that the narrator is confessing to a prison warden, a judge, a reporter, a doctor or (anachronistically) a psychiatrist. In any case, the narrator explains himself in great detail. What follows is a study of terror but, more specifically, the memory of terror, as the narrator is relating events from the past. The first word of the story, “True!”, is an admission of his guilt, as well as an assurance of reliability.[6] This introduction also serves to gain the reader’s attention. Every word contributes to the purpose of moving the story forward, exemplifying Poe’s theories about the writing of short stories.

Here we have a man loosing his mind while caring for an elderly man whose health continues to deteriorate.

In medias res there is explanation which the visual prompts display. I enter the story in the middle in all respects. So something Homeric might emerge and it almost does. For literature to shed its narrative visually it is possible this story might have been the most difficult the film creator could have taken on. Tell-tale things are often natural paths followed. There is an unnatural path taken here in that the perpetrator of the central element of a past act in the course of being executed is taken in parenthesis. How could such a thing have happened is the quest of the story yet the film offers only small snippets on this observance. Why is question and only a backstory of some consequence would enable the reader to be satisfied of having grasped the scope. 2 to 3 hours sleep is taken by the old man whose illnesses are House confining and his attendant is fixed on his own measure of care. It ends in grave sufferance for all concerned and the outsider looking in – two Garda are silent at the story end – are even less informative.

4* A brave attempt at visually representing a complex and perplexing; in its own reasoning, of the story The Tell-Tell Heart by Edgar Alan Poe. It is a very static film and therefore depends on but sometimes misses with the inferences derived from the facial examinations. In its mid section it is something of a slow unconvincing ‘act’ of betrayal. It gives up without a fight in some respects. Decent effort which may reveal more.

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Casual

2017/Ireland (11 min 58 sec)
Co-Directors: Aoife Nic Ardghail and Kate Dolan

Notes.  Maura, an aspiring poet, has been dumped in a voice mail. It was only a casual thing, but she’s still stuck with those grim feelings that come with rejection: self loathing, anger, resentment and an insatiable hunger for chocolate mousse. And bacon. And wine. To get out of this funk, she decides to take control.
Her mate thinks she’s a dope, but Maura’s sure she’ll win the guy over.

The event of a text dumping annoys and perplexes Maura whose ideas of a relationship in its short life, may not be the thing worth dwelling on never mind putting the rejection into poetry.  On the other hand poetry can compensate for blemishes and failure is made the more resolved.  Another idea is food craving and food combining added to the mix.  For food combinations this is a recipe for pathos and held indifference.  Maura carries an urge but her friend Emily, whose relationship with the male is in a space not fully defined, on FaceTime is a friend with other matters on her mind.  One perhaps with her own longing for the unseen male.  Probably best if she didn’t listen or text or read poetry we can agree.  On the chances of this fine beautiful soul getting a relationship dependent on more than a few words of poetry are huge and unseen by her or her friend. It will come down to the wishing well and a meeting at the bandstand.

Toe to toe or the bench position of looking out to the same horizon without looking in each other’s eyes. The latter is selected as she sits to make the encounter bring out a new reward. Whether it is a song or dance or a love on a rocky path there is much to be discovered. We see the combined mind games and thoughts of love accumulate while we look to find an alternative she has overlooked. Opportunities exist but Maura is intent on her lost feelings or abandonment getting a result which she deserves. It is a wonder which way it falls. The playfulness of this dilemma is dealt with irony and aplomb by a series of filmic adventures delivering a pleasant comedy of mini rom com proportions. A girl never reveals except to a few close friends over a drink after a bust up maybe what the bloke was like as she lists the pros and cons. Good sex bad sex good cook bad cook and numerous details too ugly to mention and the fact few resolve her situation and what comes up in the next relationship is all that matters. This is an age of ‘perpetual’ innocence is betrayed by the fact those men questions which I would have loved some feminine insight to were absent.

3* Playful and entertaining it didn’t get the rub of the green – after all I’m an old cynic – it had its uplifting moments and ponderous ones but it though it lacked perhaps a bigger lesson on the male side of the equation. His character was one dimensional but it claimed no victims in its passing.

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Transit

Co – Directors : Kathleen Bridget Murphy & Louis Tornero-Moffitt

Early morning and the road again. This is a tired factory worker returning home from a night shift and he encounters an obstacle on the road which he only just avoids.  We see the uncommunicative but alive obstacle and the nearly trashed VW Golf, (brand placement everywhere these days) and he gives a bit of a ranting telling off to this semi inanimate obstacle. It is unmoved by his guide to staying in one piece and he takes the said obstacle off road and in his car to a destination yet to be found. The incident is stacked up with questions surrounding its principal parts inanimate or otherwise. The journey is a difficult one and it’s conclusion is precise and thoughtful and maybe just plausible in the scheme of things. Nothing really struck me as a dynamic of sufficient thrust and core bristling interest to warrant this good and well produced and carefully filmed piece. The script was on the ball and was full of believable reaction but in its completeness I thought it lacked a crucial identity and presence in forming a proof of purpose.

3* A creative and satisfying narrow road trip with a subtle difference was entertaining enough but failed in view of the work that surrounded it to stand out as a lone wolf signaling difference and originality. It was a chiller first, a mystery secondly, a conundrum thirdly and finally a concluding drama. It was a decent piece of work.

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Monkeys in the Garden

Director: Marie Clare Cushinan, Writer: Marie Clare Cushinan
Cast : Sophia Adli, Susie Kelly, Maeve Smyth.

In the initial set up you can tell were this is going. Elderly Mummy is suffering dementia and is at the last looking glass of her view of the world. Weirdness comes with the territory as does compassion and dilemma. Beautifully choreographed to show the different sides and perfectly acted to show the believable shape of things it took any watcher into the perhaps unknown bewilderment facing those around dementia and served a very good drama in its telling. It was set in a local semi detached suburban house with an extensive garden. Ordinarily it would be a very nice place to spend those last years and it was up to a point. It shaped as a narrative in which the woman was blessed with two caring daughters, Keira and Amy, whose own lives are very engaged and active. One is the principal carer and is strained in managing the day to day with her at odds with the reality she habits as seen by the mother. Unreal things as the title gives you the trajectory; it’s so helpful sometimes when a short film puts in place an absurdity to look out for and it perhaps enhanced our enjoyment if that’s not to facile a word, to focus on the participants and the navigations they make around a persons confusing, emotional instability all to do with changes in the brain and not the character. Some staid and tiny set pieces were a bit rigid but the whole was a very good piece and it had an excellent cast who dealt with their own balancing act of love and tolerance in showing real concern across the ultimate kinship and family needs. There was a real sympathy felt for all those in that place, that raw family alteration. The garden is another player with beautiful apple blossom interwoven to the trauma of the interior worlds.

4* This was a piece which gave more than its gentle aura initially promised. It covered in depth and with a caring insight the necessity for tolerance and patience when a family member becomes different from the person you grew up with. While change and no going back – although there are a range of indicators progress could be soon made in respect of illness such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Multiple sclerosis, agents of disease in the nervous system which have so many debilitating and seemingly irreversible effects. The film stands out as a very good educational piece for people unaccustomed as I was to the Monkeys in the Garden which is a metaphor in itself for the estrangement nature places us in. We are several steps removed now from the Garden of Eden. I write this on the day it is reported four orangutan’s collaborated in escaping from a medical facility. Someone therefore may well have been witness to new occupants in their garden.

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Burglars

Director : Phillip Lewis, Writers : Richard Kearney and Phillip Lewis.

The key to this short film is not believing all you see as it turns out.  It starts of with a drive in – leaving the car keys in and bold as brass use of the long driveway – then a balaclaved daytime saunter through a luscious well kept garden to a period house and rear conservatory.  No garden today then! In the audacity of the film maker putting the thought these burglars know what their doing – they have their own key – it sets up questions you flick through – workmen copying them in clay or making a quick replica somehow etc etc and you are a dope on rope. As I say all things are not as they seem and is anyone in the house? Will they get their comeuppance swiftly and violently?

The expectations are out there and grabbing you in.  For the two boyos their audacity is to be completed dumbfounded.  The results are a mixture of comedy, tragedy, misplaced hope and a divisive turning point.  The sometimes misplaced simplicity and from a film angle occasional untidy piecemeal passages of script are unconvincing and required better treatment or a less obvious and less wordy might have driven it harder and more frenetically to the ultimate fallout.

3* I am being a bit ruthless here but I honestly was not taken or carried along with this particular piece of lunacy.  Even with its salutary lesson or moral message it lacked a dynamic to match the acting and locational advantages.  Good entertainment but not that memorable.

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Leap of faith

Leap of Faith is written by Dave Thorpe, directed by Mark Smyth and produced by Jonny Farrelly for PIO Media.

The new rejuvenated apartment saturated domestic scene in Dublin is a far cry from the unplanned City from the sixties onward. The prosperity brought about by creating a sovereign state as a tax haven resulted in boom and the despair of bust is recognised by having a plan in absentia for Forty years down the road has freshness and renewal concocted now jam and biscuits tomorrow. The impossible burden of debt accumulated, written off for the Banks is sitting obstinately on the edges of the working world. Superman is needed to enter the mix. So the story provides an escapist adventure in the splendor of a pair of youthful optimistic singletons those realities don’t visit. While on her top floor balcony one day across the communal architecturally clean courtyard she sees in an adjacent block a young man exercising and taking it very seriously to the limits and she is engrossed in his routine. It turns out all is not as it seems. An incident is witnessed which changes her outlook entirely and she is more than intrigued but compelled to find out what is going on. By following him and shadowing him some things become clearer. The spooky and surreal is visited while the obvious is not followed. The shape shifters and decievers are in the building and normality is put to the side as found nonsense everyone else behaves in accordance with.

3* From the outset I found the discomfort of this vision of the Dublin altering unappealing like Seoul without the soul was and taken to a place where reality does not fit in only allowed and the film became one lacking substance while simultaneously carrying all the models of the genre competently and with fluidity. Cinematically a very good piece of photography neatly rounded and sufficiently different to keep its edge however blunt or sharp it was from time to time, was vaguely entertaining. Some folk like this escapist genre for its examples of otherness. It never reached into the zone of Blade Runner nor harvested or borrowed from another trope but relied too much on intended ordinariness to go just above the surface of believable narrative. Simple Japanese films (Taiwan/South Korea are also fine sources of inspirational work) have a gauge of this sort off to a tee and are the main point of reference I would use. The filmmakers could be served by looking into the similarities they seek to harvest or convey as they have sufficient talent, skills and dexterity to robustly shape an idea to succeed somewhere along the line. Disappointed viewer here. No religion, no guru, no faith.

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Coranna

Director Steve Wood, Producers Steve Woods – Cel’ Division.

Chester racecourse at the time of the famine is the improbable destination for George Moore’s (beneficiary of land due to The Napoleonic battle of that name) racehorse Coranna. The Moore family were the owners of a large tract of Antrim land in perpetuity.  They made good use of it and it’s inhabitants.  The one element this story fancifully takes for a story is probably less interesting than the actual facts. The jockey on a Coranna was one Francis (Frank) whose far from indifferent persona as played on intbhis animation was torridly fierce and a huge success. Born into the family of The Duke of Richmond’s family in 1817 he became a formidable horseman with tenacity and bright eyed sharpness. None of this appear in this laconic tale. The young man thrown up in the saddle of a brilliant mare to win the Chester Oaks in 1846 was far from the depicted boy in a mans job. Conceit or lack or research may have made this famine tale more palatable but in it as with Irish rejection still of large holdings by current British landowners in this province it actually galls. The Chifney brothers were as the extracts from the Sporting Life Book on Frank Butler are testified to in the accompanying extracts the opponents and in the writing it too lacks proper regard of the circumstances. There is no way a moderate filly would finish second in the Oaks ((Epsom) as it was the oldest most valuable contest on the turf alongside its brother The Derby. It would have to have been a very bad year. The animation is repedatative and loose while conveying something of an attractive story if your wanting to underpin regardless of fact the lack of ponying up of the British state to feed the itinerant famine plagued Irish. It’s obscenity is tenuously touched upon.  The famine I saw seen as basically an aside without the horror conveyed other than the screenshot I’ve shown (my title). The story effects a bluster and cod English mocking approach which is simplified beyond fathoming.

2* I was interested initially in how the exposing of a families attempt at saving their skins by duping a young jockey and the fallout fro all concerned might take me. The shallow end is where it went despite the very good rendering painstakingly shoring up (an unwalled) Chester racecourse. I once sat on a horse the day before, training on the sand of Strangford and he went to race and win at the tight bowl of the town walled Chester Racecourse a valuable handicap the day after. To capture the real buzz and effort of the achievement was no in and out venture. Even the lovely Dee is not noted.

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Echoes

Directed by: John Carlin, Written by: Aaron Gray and Paul Skillen.  Cast : Katie Goldfinch, Antony Achaempong, Nigel O’Neill.

A disclaimer for film school aficionados is given, I dislike the genre of most Sci Fi outreach portals cinema of no particular sense or form. Those seeing Silent Running, I grew up in a generation spell bound by it (namesake local band were not bad either!) or 2001 A Space Odyssey will be curling up in perplexed bewildered angst given the paucity of the story here. It was presumably put together with strong endeavour. The filmic quality, cinematography, is very assured as are some of the leaner dialogue passages but it is very static predicable and unsharpened in lots of elements. Set mainly and primarily in a cage of a dystopian altered enigmatic film genre inspired container on a transit loco (foley is brutal reminder) and two male – security as a name check – so they still don’t d The bogey room of vessels with in transit bodies is appallingly trite. There are problems in finding a new angle which are not addressed here. A story without robust and conspicuous conflict and endangerment is not one the confused Echoes appears to me in creative juices. What Echoes are we looking at, what drama is unfolding, what is the mission really in aid of. The time signatures put in text, in the frame, sometimes almost missed because of their duration and the changing background serve only to indicate the time it will take to come to some sort of conclusion.

3* it is a very attractively filmed and polished VFX rendered film all the way through and actress, Katie Goldfinch as Gouldine to hold the premise together is the saviour of the film and its uninteresting fodder commonplace fodder.  Amidst the dry ice and ball of confusion which probably fell out of the doughnut of a story. Somewhere related to Planet of the Doughnuts? was the injection of the younger couple as the tedious grew with apathic Monet after moment. Some have called this the best Sci-Fi short film of 2018.The. It lacks any intensity or shock value and originality rests with its integral internalised viewpoint. A big disappointment and along the lines of the reviewed Leap of faith above, (horror) I would suggest a similar rethinking tales place. Simple Japanese films (Taiwan/South Korea are also fine sources of inspirational work) have a gauge of this sort off to a tee and are the main point of reference I would use. The filmmakers could be served by looking into the similarities they seek to harvest or convey as they have sufficient talent, skills and dexterity to robustly shape an idea to succeed somewhere along the line. Disappointed viewer here. No religion, no guru, no faith.

See Katie Goldfinch in Animus for a better shot of a film.

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The Wedding Speech

Turning a tragic story into something of a comedy is a false move to begin with. This film will be in the provinces record of loss of life in circumstances other than the troubles is stretching good taste. Maybe it has been one way the joint writers – a short story version s credited to Isabelle Broom – has of dealing with very personal loss and tragedy it certainly is. The premise aside I was not greatly enamoured either with the stain and strained efforts excellently made all the more obvious by the grimacing ‘principal boy’ virtually continually coiled like a small Chris Eccleston, in fending off the moment he would have to greet instead of rehearse The Wedding Speech which was to be non-standard.

Perfectly sound in its filming and evenness of dialogue and following the ludicrous concept it managed to weave through on dialogue and characterization something meaningful.

3* A relatively safe short but made difficult because of the nearness particularly in this community of the central subject and is immediacy or reveal which may horror some in less strong positions to encounter this core life consequence. I was left wishing I had locked out of it rather that take it through such was it’s I’ll regard at least in my own mind remarkably not to be made mockery or comedy of.

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Unforgotten

Cast : Mel Tuck, Director: Alexander Wilson Flynn
Writer: Alexander Wilson Flynn, Cast: Mel Tuck, Alex Kilner, Justin Turnbull, Joyce and Jaqueline Robbins.

The far off Canadian province of British Columbia is where this is set.  It was formerly once occupied by Indians whose land down to Washington was wrested from them by force of arms destroy for communities once having several dialects, languages, and freedoms which heck, Trudeau and Trump don’t actually relate to. This is a revenge film. At the old folks home setting is in black comedy gainful nuancing, having a couple of grey haired young old lady twins at peace and mirrors of the age on inactive promise, the scene is built for a story with added value throughout.  Its balance of intrigue and intention is nevertheless built without tension. However it sets the scene for some bizarre outcome it seems.  The direction it will take is held in uncertainty.  There is a picture of tranquility with an old man watching the summer pass him by and as he surveys the pleasant outlook across a table next the main window looking into the car park we are given several red herrings.  No food jokes here.  The roominess and comfort is beyond question and the staff pleasant and unhurriedly carrying out this pace of daily routine.  A car pulls up and a young family disembarks. There is fateful twist to this peaceful environment.  A new male patient arrives and is shown to his new abode which is a delight and airy. He looks a bit like the Hundred Year Old Man and I wonder if he’s to get up immediately his belongings are packed away and escape through this new window on life. I could tell you more but that’s not the point. What happens is entirely plausible and very dark indeed with a universal theme and as I say it is a revenge black dark drama of no quivering or disjointed misplaced weight.

4* This film carries its subject very well and extremely professionally.  Engaging from the outset it carries on keeping you thinking and in its conclusion shocks beyond any measure of expectation at least as I found it to appear and reveal its darkness. Excellent dramatic short film and very cleverly observed in the gentle persuasive making.

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The Music Room

Director: Mick Gordon, Writer: Eugene O’Hare, Cast:: Isaac Heslip, Patrick O’Kane, Aislín McGuckin, Terry Keely as older Ben. The Ulster Orchestra. Production Kevin Jackson & Chris Parr, Cinematography by Ryan Kernaghan, Film Editing by Brian Philip Davis, Production Design by John Leslie, Costume Design by Diana Ennis, Makeup Department Sarah Blair assistant makeup artist. Duration: 14mins

Sebastian Bach, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Johan Pachabel perhaps even Sergey Prokofiev, and Dmitriy Shostakovich all would be grist to the baton of the 10 year old Ben, who puts up with a lonely home life having an irritable father who is not pleased with his sons choice of hobby or obsession which is taken to a level he himself was not expecting. After a good spell in the TV drama My mother and other Strangers, Mr Heslip is in command of his acting. With the very accomplished Theatre Director  and now by Mike Gordon this is the outstanding work seen at this festival in my view.

From a home which is full of modern advantages, his life within it is claustrophobic and to this he puts a solution into practice in the expanse of the music room he makes his attic retreat. The school he attends has a music teacher whose guidance and soft persuasion allows his passion to grow and evolve. The sublime understated love and well placed tutelage of Stella McCusker the very leafy surrounds of his school, puts this combination totally into the great onward tracking of the actual flashback and dreamlike smooth passage of story telling at its best. The comfort is also in the music which is performed with – a cinema elevates the receiving – of an outstanding stirring set of combined pieces to many to relay here. A little divertissement with a fellow pupil raised a laugh of musical criticism. You will be blown away I hope by the audacious ‘orchestration’ of the piece and the play of the baton skilled Mr Ben in action and his command of the music source which I will say little more of given the splendid and fantastic delivery it brings to the viewer, listener. Thoroughly rounded and extremely well filmed and edited giving a smoothness which belies its undercut complexity to deliver a many layered opus.

5* A very well rewarding piece in the viewing and full of brilliant playing and with twists and core intense delivery for such a short film. A perfect little masterpiece for all involved and will be seen in the near future on wider screenings and wider audiences.

Simon Rattle is old news Ben is the new kid on the block. Thoroughly enjoyable. Finis coronat opus.

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Safe Haven

Safe Haven’ features actors Bronagh Taggert (The Fall), Brenda McNeill, Luke Walford, and Sid Ralph. Produced by Margaret McGoldrick and Chris Patterson, and written by Spence Wright

This turns out to be a well conceived short horror pice wth fright and a child’s peril adding to the mix when he is left alone. His mother is called away from their Belfast flat on receiving a phone call from a person she is a carer to and despite it being her day off and she has to attend to their things she puts herself out to respond and therein lies the danger for young Zoran left behind. A volcanic ash cloud has enveloped the whole province and Belfast is under an umbrella of darkening skies. The television is the initial bringer of bad news on the Ash cloud and the views of twenty four hour news delivery on a lessening scale the impact. All is not as it would normally seem with much more to this than the grounding of airplanes and reduction in utility delivery, communications and movement.

 

 

The mother is played by Bronagh Taggart whose Guard is reviewed earlier.  She is a very talented actor this time slipping into the role of an East European single parent with pathos depth and energy in which she delivers the arch of the dilemma and the peril element as an underestimation. There is a clear mother’s affection.  Another character who enters is an elderly neighbour whose take on his name, Zoran, for Belfast woman is an aside and showing detail is paid to fill every local treatment in this well written story. It plays like any other European country would be proud to give exposure to. It is up with any comparable fear and horror of its kind in the field heavily populated by poor fudge. In the telling the young boy becomes the focus and his acting is well caught and unhesitatingly gripping for such a young lad. There is an ectoplasmic overtone which is not overworked and the close up attention is gripping when the story bites.

4* An excellent drama which is full of tension and altering perceptions as it approaches its conclusions. Bronagh Taggart excels in giving it a heft and gravitas which in lesser hands would have lessened the high resolution impact of this doom laden story. To my mind too much is told in the explanation of the film in the programme so avoid the notes they gave!

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The Date

Sinead and Brian, played by Charlene McKenna and Rory Fleck-Byrne. Director : Selina Cartmell,  produced by Claore Gormley for Parallel Films. Writer : Liz Quinn with a layering of Owen Roe, Camille O’Sullivan and Donnacha Crowley. Plus the band “Darktown”.

In a misty evening with the sun having gone down on Bray the Dublin Bay lights fringe the town as a young woman enters the neon fashioned Ballroom of romance known as The Bray Head in a normal life. Life here is in suspension with her entering a spot singer holding his vintage microphone doing an awesome job of the blues set which will permeate and wet the appetite for loves fling. The bar is empty and a lonesome lady sits like a fixed mannequin (Camille O’Sullivan) while a few bar flys talk next the slot machines at the end of the bar.

‘If I can’t smoke it, I don’t want to know’.  What film of its kind doesn’t have a lasting line.  A bad one.  The young girl sidles up to the bar and is given a cocktail an awaits her date. For the date not to be first is a step back and the film is paced in this negative turning back of time. Rather than the alternative route of the evening racing forward into the unknown, deliberately there is time taken here to ponder. The encounter is friendly and a match is made in a place on the edge of need. Both are wanting this to be the return or frontier of golden promises. What is told by this simple tale is fairly bluesy in its fragile tenuous existence.  The players both in the band and on the floor of romance are very clearly on their game. Only slight awkward moments arise occasionally when they seem to momentarily run out of ideas where to take it.

4* A very good feel of a film with great music (Darktown) and steady as she goes easy acting makes this a very decent short with no great expectations with the foi pace indicating you are not going to be in for a rollercoaster.  Sit back and enjoy.  The word I used is very appropriate it comes to mind again. The piece is a frontier imagining of loves promise ahead taken at an easy pace.

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Kubrick by Candlelight

Shot in Tullamore, County Offaly by David O’Reilly, Cast, Darragh O’Toole (Red Rock, South), Amy Hughes (Dad’s Army, Vikings) and Phelim Drew (My Left Foot, Angela’s Ashes) crew DOP Stil Williams (Convenience, Gone Too Far) and producer Vinnie Jassal (Fast & Furious Six, Kingsman). Brian Cox as The Narrator.

A short film on a much loved historical excursion by Stanley Kubrick. Like Stone in your Pockets did the business of theatrical musing around a film being made this is a romantic costume drama Barry Lyndon (rereleased last year) mixed into the Seventies and ‘73 in Ireland to be precise.  A posh portrayal of a young Kubrick is a bit Brass Eye in its presence.  Also the young extras are sent into a world of absurdity even for seventies rhetoric.  Given that the scene set is once again a very good delivery of the genus loci of the set at this time.  In an Ireland at the edge of extinguishing itself the last thing you want to see are British redcoats in your border town of anywhere else with garrisons all over Ireland put to the back of British legacy this serves as a stark reminder of the undercurrents still in 2018 not lost on us. A third director is blonde, something about Mary, out of your league and beautiful, just as the stereo type black haired and ravishingly attractive Irish girl would be the counterpart the decorative elements and irony is laid on thickly and very comically though not in the unmatchable Graham Linehan irony of Father Ted or Black Books and IT. The crowd pleasing of making a film is even for Barry Lyndon with Kubrick perhaps spotting the irony of the historical context in the period he is returning to the soil soiled there is a fabulous multi-layering of the mindfulness played in rich tonal and an embracing realism of contrasts in the story. It has comic candle capers and beyond the pale politics in Offaly pleasurably recalled.

 

 

4* A very rewarding and thought provoking piece if only for the preposterous fixed repetitiveness of our own history being juxtaposed and shown in a very flavoursome visual treatment. It only ran for a short time but it could promise expansion into area# which we would have similar anxieties towards. I liked it the more I thought about it afterwards which in itself tells you something assured was working in the telling of it as it unfolded.

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Soil Engineers

Directed and Written by Dominic Curran

Of the worlds fauna Darwin we are told favour the most productive and elemental to be the worm. This is the worm turning the soil of purgative dynamism recycling the organic of life we depend on. In a time when there is a massive depletion in insect life putting our kingdom at risk the keys to the locker room who transform the earth are busy as this film endeavors to trace. It unlocks only tentatively the story and there is one in there. In the Lough fisherman’s eyes these worms are only bait to allow him to catch fish. Every time he returns for more to the same sort of location he is drawn into thinking, as we are about the life of the worm.  It is something of a ponderous tale and the word (not worm) in the notes preceding the film showing which is used is Sisyphean – the meaning of which – a son of Aeolus and ruler of Corinth, noted for his trickery: he was punished in Tartarus by being compelled to roll a stone to the top of a slope, the stone always escaping him near the top and rolling down again. Has its own methodology in comparison to the fisherman’s tale.

3*  While it was an interesting film taking a viewpoint and extrapolating a curveball on it I thought it was visually static and only occasionally of sufficient vitality to continue going with the story. It was of course original and it had its moments without doubt.

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Recruited

The film was produced by Elaine Forde from The Playhouse, directed by Declan Keeney from Island Hill Productions, filmed by Chis Byrne from Pillarpix Media, and features a whole host of local acting talent.
The film was funded by the Department of Justice through the Policing and Community Safety Partnership Assets Recovery Community Scheme, BBC Children In Need, The Department of Foreign Affairs and a private donation through The Ireland Funds. The Playhouse is core funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Derry City & Strabane District Council and the Community Relations Council.

Sometimes films are carefully constructed to draw out a proskomide prophetic preachy script to follow.  The writing of Colin Bateman here takes a set of standards conditioned to within not an inch of their lives, with young paramilitaries and immediate family in stereotypes suffered for ages by the Northern Ireland public that we are sick to death of all them.  Here they are though one dimensioned and so institutionalised are the parameters, no references to Dublin, the East European criminality or the middle class small pond wheeler dealing linked with various mafia types in their twisted property dealings, embracing Portuguese and Spanish money floats. No instead of the who, why, what and where of a good streak of journalistic  drama we get the street criminal hiding behind a car with his mate, his tearful mum, his journey across town, the Bolshevik drama queen, if only doorstepped and ecclesiastical on rendition about you wasters think you run the place.

Friars Bush graveyard gets a visit from the Derry crew for famine input? and we get a drama of flashback and staunchly anally receptive security messengers foresaking film originality for something like a TV pre Christmas Don’t drink and Drive warning. Very tedious and fun the ball.

2* They threw the works at this one.  So much for Justice a quantity of worthy flag wavers stuck up their logo of support in credits flowing out afterwards. Technically proficient, sharply edited and with ongoing action and excellent characterisations by the principal players it was intact from beginning to end. The only problem was the condescending viewpoint it placed the apparent protagonists and audience it imagined would wish to be receptive of it goes into the millions of pound of funds sent to cure this ill.

Peace processes aside and outside looking in.  Absolutely dreadful but well acted. Friars Bush graveyard awakened too.

Within a few yards of the funeral was a wall where in 1847 or thereabouts, (Black ‘47 is the Season opener) 2,000 people whose names where not recorded were cremated alongside the burials of the – recorded in a tablet next to the entrance lodge – and never once recognised. My how times have changed. It even had a **** drone aerial view introduced for extra flavour!

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The Hidden People

Director Ronan Corrigan, Writer Callum Dziedzic

In the calibration of photographic history comes the Cootingley Fairies. Someone has happened upon this Yorkshire phenomenon in setting it to a contemporary setting which seeks to extrapolate a continuance of familial resonance. By taking as a central character a boy whose own happening upon this phenomenon brings out some pubescent lodgings and predicaments. While he is scolded by others familiar with this ‘nonsense’ this boy has wider thoughts of its living form. Out of the nest he is in a precocial state and is reliant only on his own senses.

3*  The tensions between brothers is played out effectively around the story it centres on. While it is visually entertaining and maintains its interest I found it lacking in that special hard to find electricity a subject such as this might light upon. A decent but unmoving piece.

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The Gift

‘The Gift’ comes with the simple tagline “A gift can be a blessing…or a CURSE!”. Writer/director Murat Akser is a filmmaker based in Belfast but born in Istanbul, Turkey.  Murat is currently developing his first feature film and teaching film production at Ulster University..

Much misunderstanding exists around ritual and religion.  Myths and superstition is often a particular disturbance deflecting from spiritual gain or guidance. The reward for adherancece is often extremely negative and even life threatening. So the story here venture to flake us into a foreign fantasy. The early appearance of the retiree ‘Your Highness’ Roma Tomelty is a gift to begin with. She is bedecked in barbles, scarf and rings when she evokes and conjures up a spell for a wedding couple and sets their future life on a steady force which must for its sanction appear to be compliant with the inherent culture. The inherent culture includes symbolic knives and imagery to be taken none too literally.

Telling this story is only the half of it. Enter the NI security forces as a SWAT team and then entered an idiotic in accurate cop interview pressing a claim to a verve it fails to present. Mr Stuart Graham of recent things such as Line of Duty is brow beaten into regurgitating hateful demeaning words and puts into plat a NI trope of Racial hatred.  Well done there then.  Only the absurdity and misreads, perhaps my doing also, were of any genuine value to me.  I was out of sorts with the lack of core substance and even believable characters ntent to sway me. Not forthcoming.  If a political message were invested in this it is dealt with in a narrow and purple way.  Well documented and common images of swat operations are universal and here it is a case of not moving on.  The treatment is too overplayed and the focus of the intention of placing traditional misunderstanding at the heart of this is lost or diminished.

3* Great to see the lovely Roma once more in a fashionably exotic if over the top role. She delivered it in a lovely, very great dramatic soft timbre. The remaining content was unable to keep up.

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Good Girls

Good Girls, written and directed by Niamh McKeown and produced by Jack Cowhig, is about Pinkman’s finest student and head girl, Bonnie, who takes us on a tour of her school as she tries to round up the school captains in time for the school photo.

Made by students at Edinburgh Napier University as their final year project, the film has been praised for its visual style, cinematography, set design and direction, with the judges commenting that it was like “St Trinian’s meets Wes Anderson”. The spiel not my words! Or view!  The Kubrick film was superior in many respects but still failed to be my no. 1!

St Trinians and modern finishing school for posh girls is an area where knickers, bare thigh flesh and unabashed girl attitudes are often fashioned into a hedonistic trial of the state of the nation. From the primordial to the eloquence of educated civility is a step not to be taken at the gallop. Henrittas and Georgina’s are inescaple and top of the pile is a Scots head girl with attitude, Bonnie. She is on the case of further publicity to enable the floundering school to survive. A Green Wing type is cast, thrown to the dogs as headmistress and in order to fulfill this the wonderful school architecture becomes a backdrop for rounding up the needed party for a group photo. From tennis course to gym to libraries to corridors to courtyards they are sought. The voyerism of St T’s is in the ante as is the fruity language and interplay of frustration Association in a closed community of learning. Very Theresa May I thought.

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3* This film packs a good wallop but covers with nods very often to similar comedy set in the boarding schools of England something staid and worn. Albeit never attempting to become the Girls School version of Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange it just came and went. The woman from the former constituency of Merton has no connection to the film. I would not tarnish it with her madness. Bombs – where do we keep them girls? Oh in the Chemistry lab. Good oh.! Put her in a strait jacket until she wise’s up please.

E463EC67-91DC-4168-91BA-EF29F0D04C26Calling Home

Director and writer Megan K. Fox Cast. Natalia Kostrzewa and Aaron Taylor.

In the setting of contemporary London this is a story of a young Polish girl hoping to pursue a design course to become a fashion designer. There is a vibrancy to begin with which is quickly arrested by the notion she may not have chosen the best boyfriend who is controlling jealous and a prat. They drink and carouse with the boyfriend seeming to want to impress his friends rather than commit to a loving relationship. Dorothy is played by Natalia Kostrzewa and Aaron Taylor unfortunate to be cast as the abusive boyfriend.

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Dorota moves to London with dreams of becoming a fashion designer, but her path is altered by an abusive relationship. Despairingly this becomes a story which is indicative of the plight of a woman whose fortune alters drastically and she is left in a very dangerous situation without a home or money. One third of homeless women are victims of domestic abuse. The film brilliantly portrays how homelessness, sadly, could be a possibility for anyone as Megan Fox points out. She builds the tension and predicament compellingly with Natalia Kostrzewa creating the part brilliantly and believably she imparts the terror of this dreadful situation. It als has been compared with the American film of last year The Florida Project as it shows the vulnerability of homelessness and the various ways it materialises.

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‘Calling Home’ is an impactful short film about domestic violence and female homelessness. The film was made with the support of leading homeless organisations including Inside Housing, Shelter and Women’s Aid. With its inspiration in part coming from documenting homelessness and it coming 50 years after Cathy Come Home by Ken Loach this film achieved the award to commemorate that anniversary last year in the Reel Homes Competition organised by Inside Housing a Homeless organisation.

It can be supported on this link where it can be viewed also.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/calling-home-festival-fees-film#/

By supporting the film you will aid its entry to further Film Festivals and also extend its outreach. Soha Housing also support it.

4*  Film can show our society as we may have not experienced it and this film shows how homelessness is pervasive and the lack of housing or proper social mechanisms to deal with sudden problems is shown to be very harrowing.  It is more than that of course but the film highlights and does it in a very dramatic way just one pathway to extreme hardship.  It is well shot and there is an outstanding performance from Natalia Kostrzewa.

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The Overcoat

Director Patrick Myles. Cast Jason Watkins, Tim Key, Vicki Pepperdine, Alex Macqueen and Dominic Coleman.

I loved this story when I first read it years ago and have sen a few stage versions, one of a very high standard at the Hammersmith Theatre late ‘80’s. This is a variable feast of filmic playful black comedy which is slightly less than the sum of the story despite the huge efforts of this costly high end production. The sense one is meant to feel is Kafkaesque or with the satirical heft of a Terry Gilliam film. Not exactly 12 Monkeys or Messing with Don Quixote but this one is tilting at windmills with the ever daft Jason Watkins. This is a fairytale telling and adaption which follows a well worn path. There is a 1926 version of over 1hr and several shorts and an animated version short last year. The story is revamped not a Orwellian/Dickensian working office and the withdrawn and isolated man, (Jason Watkins) of the story is consumed by his lack of esteem and is forced into acquiring a new overcoat to show the world his worth. He is then toiled with acquiring the funds to buy the best he can possibly afford and this is beset with many threads of woven dramatic pathos and philosophical nuance as well as salutary lessons which the original story in effect delivers in spades. Ownership is not without its trials. The Nell Gwynn Tavern gets a look in along with Zadok the Priest.

4* This is a very decent effort but given the revamped version I would have hoped for more of the originals darkness and gravitas. It comes across a little to lightly unfortunately given the dynamism of the exuberant casting acting overlayering the effect rather than pulling back. Cillian Murphy does the voice over to the animated version and it is good fun comparing the others as this is a favourite story and fable not to be missed or mislaid.

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Young blood

Director: Rian Lennon. Cast: Helena Bereen, Niall Cusack, Aimee McGoldrick

Ever bold and horrific in finding new ways to disturb us the Northern Ireland director Rian Lennon comes up with a dark and gruesome tale of Lazarus type rejuvenation and older folk trying desperately to hold on to any life they still have. Earlier short work include student Devour winning film The Dick of similar small room but widely removed ilk. By giving them the tools of Methuselah an elderly couple, in becoming the authors of their revival, the writer provides, creates a scenario involving a small living room, a couple whose life is etched and close up and crazed with a captive believed to be the answer to their prayers. There is a medical basis to their ideas and like Kith Richards they surround complete blood transfusion employed in Privacy to inject some much needed vigour. Consuming the vial of renewal can come in many forms and these two veterans of the Northern Ireland acting scene give it all too a horrific edge and don’t disappoint in their madness.

3* A grim and overthe top renewal of a story of impeccable implausibility which is the trope of certain filmmakers. The more dubious and contrived the better. Unfortunately I give these a miss and with the dimwork confined to shock and awe with facial expression s very important in the telling of a conspicuously predicated Line to follow it takes the breath away, not. It leaks out after a while to pale desperation in conclusion. One or two end up dead bad.

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A Break in the Clouds

Director: Tristan Heanue, Writer: Tristan Heanue

Cast: Gemma-Leah Devereux as Sarah, Marie Ruane as Natalie, Tristan Heanue as Jack, Linda Bhreathnac as Ally.

In the beginning there was a child. It was found in Connemara. We will call the child First born.

This is a thought provoking film of depth and formidable weight in a contemporary telling of the way families have in most locations; there are happily some exceptions I’m sure, become fractured. The modern pressures of a simple homelife are a struggle and loneliness along with post natal depression are foremost in this story. Compellingly insular despite the vast beautiful scenery. It cannot be called a backdrop as the sky is huge and land vast on the Atlantic seaboard. The place is stunning and the hopes of many generations have yet to come to terms with the society that they inhabit. Even down through many previous generations the demands are immense. No less so here though contemporarily communications are better there is still distance between family units who might previously been relied upon to assist child rearing but are now apart. This is the dilemma and the heart of the story to my mind. It is accompanied by the problems of identifying quickly and adequately responding to the problem arising. Tristan Heanue who I spoke to after the screening was not giving much away in responding to my take on it which was to that immediate effect. I might have caught him off guard as this is s very profound piece.

An interview I’ve subsequently read tells the origin of it partially.

Tristan Heanue Plays the father and is not afraid to have him show his inability to cope or communicate his feelings. He covers the ground in very perceptible darkness and vulnerability himself with much

It came from a few different places. A few friends of mine had babies in quick succession and I saw first hand the different types of strain that it had on them. It just stuck with me and I wanted to tell a story that showed what the pressures were like for both sides during this time. I guess it was me also putting myself in their position and wondering how I would cope with it. The same http://gearr.scannain.com interview told of the significance of that location. Under the Direction of Paddy Slattery it took on new meaning.

It was surprisingly very enjoyable. Mainly because I was blessed with an absolutely amazing cast & crew who worked so hard and made it all happen. I also had one of the best cinematographers in the country shooting it, Narayan Van Maele. He was a dream to work with. We spent a day down in Connemara planning all our shots and also left things loose enough that we could change stuff up on the day if we felt it needed something different. When you surround yourself with very talented people it really does make your job a lot easier.

Also in conversation his film Today could not be overlooked. Made by them in 2015 it was in the same setting of Derryinver/Letterfrack/Tullycross region of Co. Galway and featured John Connors and Lalor Roddy. It is a film I won’t forget.

5* It is an inspiring film given it is made with the thrust and knowhow of being in touch with a particular take on humanity in its writing and ease of communication through the direct medium of film. It is of a young couple at a point of crisis and thereby figuring out and responding to the messages the film opens up, partakes of and delivers in quantities seldom found in film brief or otherwise. I hope it will reach a lot of people and provide some comfort and degree of information for parents old and new in such an important time of their lives.

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Bless me Father

Director and writer Paul Martin Horan, Cast: Francis Magee, Phelim Drew, Glynis Casson.

At the end of the day the truth will out or will it? As time moves on a man is preparing for his leaving the earth’s parish and decides he needs to fess up to his past misdeeds. Some of them might do with placing low down the scale of levity but others may cause great problems in their revealing. It is confession time and box no. 1 in the local House of God is calling. As for the third character she is perhaps the face of rectitude.

For the Priest the confession he is about to hear is to affect him deeply. He is faced with a dilemma. There is no violent crime confessed nevertheless it is a life changing thing he will hear. Where does the duty lie with the person hearing the confession and is he to give absolution to Michael who is now lifted of this burden which he has carried for years.

It goes to the heart of life in a small rural Irish community and its strength lies in the deliverance it brings to the people who are lost and nor solely under the protection of their maker. They have their own to contend with without the Catholic hierarchy deciding what’s right or wrong for them.

4* A much tighter film you could hardly construct. Set in the Church of the confession box it focuses in on the Donfeesion box itself with a close camera angle fixed on both sides playing out this dialogue between parishioner and Priest. It is a delight to watch and is essential Irish while universally full of primary primordial life aspects unfolding as the years go on.

A lot of these films are available online to view and I hope you get to see a few and support the filmmakers whose time and effort is on the screen as created.

I disagreed with the Grand Jury!

For a film to be totally on score and brilliantly entertaining there is no doubt and it got the no.1 vote was The Music Room.

If I can nominate in a parallel position against the rules of having another to be up there it is as follows.

My favourite film of them all was Guard which was a local copiewpoint with many aspects and a valued insightful piece of provocative film making

Leaving the damage central to the arch the unspoken and unknown event was itself disturbing along with the craft of Bronagh Taggart whose film story this was to put across.

A Break in the Clouds and Callng Home were both excellent broad scoping films which are exceptional and well worth seeing.

John Graham

26 April 2018

Belfast

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Loyalist Statement : 09/04/18 comment

 

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On 09 April 2018 a Loyalist Statement ahead of 20yr anniversary of The Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland was read out in The Linenhall Library, Belfast.

Linenhall Library Belfast assembled group.

Rev. Harold Good, Jim Wilson, Retired Archbishop Alan Harper, Jackie McDonald, Rev. Norman Hamilton.

Combined Loyalist Military Command, Fernhill House Belfast, Ulster Defence Force, Ulster Volunteer Force, Red Hand Commando.

The delivery of a Statement by the CLMC grouping in conjunction with several Religious enablers on 9 April 2018 took place in the Linenhall Library Belfast.

Below extracts are extracts from the Statement removed for my comment.

The context is unaltered.

1.
‘For too long we have been berated for our past.’

There is always expectation such history need be included in discussion.

No one has a eraser for the past.

No one is impressed by apologists but in factually correct acknowledgement of their past.

The GFA already has provided a get out of jail free card.

It does not dispense with seeking the untold truth or compensate for absence of concluding information.

2.
The words – ‘in the context of republican reliance on divisive identity-politics’ – disregard the very same conditions loyalist and unionist politics chooses to identify itself by.

Having a teapot and calling it a coffe-pot. The point being the tea leaves not coffee are used in it still.
Other metaphors are available.

Democracy enables no-one to be excluded. It is proven.

3.
‘We have made this clear many times and have indeed contributed to previous work on dealing with the past.’

Yet when an informer gives evidence against his former allies he is threatened with violence.
Other opportunities in respecting the need for a truth process have been undermined by the ongoing challenges and threats made to Ed Maloney and for what is contained in the Boston Archive which is in part accessed by the PSNI.

4.
‘We further declare that any engagement in criminal acts by any individuals within our organisations will be regarded as placing those persons outside the memberships.’

This implies the criminal acts will be found through due process of the Law and post conviction.

It fails to go on to say any information concerning criminal activity will be passed on by the ‘loyalist group’ to the PSNI should they become aware of unlawful activity.

5.
‘Loyalists must have ownership and control of their own future.’

There is no removal of ownership to require this statement.

The elected representatives – council – assembly – parliament – are the carriers of the future aims of citizens.  In recent elections even endorsements of the preferred candidate has been underlined in publications, press statements by loyalist groupings so it is who they elect to represent them that responsibility is to be shared.

6.
‘Now is the time for a renewed loyalism, with a new impetus to meet the challenges ahead.’

This statement again is not cognoscent of the available currency of process and outcomes presented within ‘loyalism’ regardless of timeframes supposed or not. Nothing is altered by this set of words. The context is made to seem uplifted by this nebulous meaningless phrase.

It avoids Civil Rights, Human Rights referencing and therefore is unconnected to any direct policy or concept.

7.
‘We want to see a better future for all in Northern Ireland and where the residual effects of conflict are recognised and addressed in a reparative manner.’

It is only reasonable and just to expect nothing less and this should indeed be axiomatic given the broad church of the people in Northern Ireland.

Futures past

It has long been held a conflict resolution process is in need of a resolution path.

The UK Government undermine this and the HET has as the film ‘No stone unturned’ shows provided only partial answers to and are not complete or with intent to complete.

The actions against any actor of violence including security forces persons are not without culpability and require to face Court trial as those who were freed under the GFA were processed through Law.

The difference is the actors not yet facing trial whose cases are live and intact need face justice at the earliest opportunity.

Comparison should not be made and is not made here with the premature release of Prisoners first sanctioned by Secretary of State Mo Mowlem in Agreement with Prisoner Groups outside local process of consultation.

The release of Prisoners under the GFA was a de facto proposition made possible by the Secretary of State after her discussions on the prospect with those in prison.

The proposition was a brokerage point – unjust, unfair and failing in criminal process – under which Law is maintained presently.

To conclude the statement on a note of sectarian exclusivity with no progression to mixed communities sought or acknowledged this merely parks division interminably. It asks it to be aided by others who accept this condition of insulararity politicised and not to undermine gained peace.

Footnote.
The main item taken from this statement by most observers is the element concerning criminality.
The fact other items on truth and justice for victims and parties bereaved by acts of violence by paramilitaries and in some cases in conjunction with Security Forces remains outside this statement as unaddressed.

The remainder of the text is positional marking of the GFA twentieth anniversary and is a choreographed exercise presumably organised by the NIO and British Government with ROI input to ensure the optics of Loyalism has a functional presence at the date of the Anniversary.

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It is also noted most local newspapers have been advised and given notice of the ‘theatre’ of Political underpinning in order to converge on a unity of purpose – that of analysis fed by prompt avoiding ‘fake news’ diversity.

The orchestration included the ‘adoration’ of the City of Belfast by conferring the Freedom of Belfast on two American participants and enablers of the GFA.

The currency of the GFA is hugely undermined by the timeline underpinning the main lack of progress in eradicating sectarianism and failure to meet levels of social equality.

The excluded are further undermined by Political stalemate and economic (Euro/Sterling) argument predicated in withdrawal from the EU.

A footnote exhibition opened one week before the GFA anniversary at the Ulster Museum on a redesign of ‘The Troubles’ curation. Within it are numerous very poor exhibits and very badly written text which give a wrong historical narrative to coincide with the false political optics presented by the statement and events surrounding it.

It is an indictment of generations of naysayers and lying to the public remains the States priority.

Press

The words of Suzanne Breen in the Belfast Telegraph on the day the great and the good came to remember the Good Friday Agreement of twenty years previously to the day, put this work in context.

“It appeared yesterday that loyalist leaders were just trying to join the Good Friday Agreement anniversary circus. The public want real change on the ground. Not much chance of that.”

Like all of us we will believe it when we see it.

There is a pressing need for both loyalists and unionists to see beyond their own horizons and to connect with others to build external networks and courses of action. A more open and confident sense of Britishness would help facilitate this evolution.’  Graham Spencer/Rev. Chris Hudson.  Belfast Telegraph 10.04.18

During ‘The Troubles’ is was Britishness, confident and open that drove the sectarianism led defence of community of their identity into violence.  The invasion and burning out of Catholic families were loyalist protection of their community.  Later ‘Spokespersons’ came to the fore in Loyalism justifying tit for tat murders and the Glenanne gang were aided by security forces. Army bases were used for training under the umbrella of TA and UDR tags. Membership was based around an assured identity under threat.  Those such as David Ervine, later to renounce his violent past; he took the road of violence following the Bloody Friday Bombings, were cheer leaders for hatred and ensured recruitment and loyalist districts became terrorised just as they are now by opportunists and criminals in the name of their cause. Alongside was intimidation and internecine warfare where a loyalist would shot and kill a disobedient loyalist.  Others who disagreed in a provocative way by speaking out were executed.

The words ring hollow as they did back then when Ministers and Priests saved lives by giving shelter and guidance to those who chose not to become involved in violence and by acting as mediators but those actions were few and far between though it would have been a whole lot worse had they not. Families were split and divided on fundamentalist lines. Like Religion differences the Clergy made their trademark distinction exactly that. A distinction without conformed unity. The Rev. Roy Davey, a man ahead of his time set up before the conflict called ‘The Troubles’ began the Corrymela foundation for peaceful reconciliation and love among races.

Prominent compacts have come and gone. The Women’s Coalition is no longer around. The Civil Rights Movement no longer exists. The Nationalist Party, Northern Ireland Labour Party all have left the stage of Socialist politics and silo politics rules the province and without a representative  Government.

This is the context in which the statement and the past theatre of resolution politics is to be seen.

 

John Graham

13 April 2018

Belfast

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120 BPM : A Film Review

 

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120 BPM

Director: Robin Campillo, Writers: Robin Campillo, Philippe Mange, Cast principals : Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adèle Haenel.

Cast details : Nahuel Pérez Biscayart – Sean, Arnaud Valois – Nathan, Adèle Haenel – Sophie, Antoine Reinartz – Thibault, Félix Maritaud – Max, Ariel Borenstein – Jérémie, Aloïse Sauvage – Eva – Simon Bourgade – Luc, Médhi Touré – Germain, Simon Guélat – Markus, Coralie Russier – Muriel, Catherine Vinatier – Hélène, Théophile Ray – Marco, Saadia Bentaïeb Mère – Sean, Jean-François Auguste – Fabien.

Production Co: Les Films de Pierre, France 3 Cinéma.

France English Subtitled.  2hr 23mins.  Rated 15.

1979 on dateline

When Aids came crashing in there were few prepared for its deadly tragic consequences. Amongst the alienating devastating effects for individuals a collective panic arose across the Western world. Aids is still around and is epidemic in Africa were trucks pull up to relieve their crosssway paths and prostitution is spreading disease in places were no treatment is readily accessible. If your heart beats let it beat at 120 BPM the Film seems to say. The life is short lived when Aids is encountered and the outside world is a mere external hospital wall away. For the middle classes of France and many European cities and for that matter towns and rural communities the Virus meant their liberté, égalité, fraternité, is truly turned upside down.

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Out in the open

The film begins with the weekly assembly of the Act Up Group after a disastrous protest concerning the lack of government pharmaceutical and health assistance surrounding research and tackling the scourge of sexual intercourse. They interrupt a convention on Medicine, one where the release of drug results is withheld and they confront the speakers and one protester accidentally takes it too far and ballon bombs a spokesperson with fake blood.  Horrific as it may seem that the transmission of Aids is frequently through blood products and contact with infected blood this is quite an outrage.

In a University lecture hall the meeting at length profiles the scale and extent of anxiety with a mainly young male audience.  Women are to the fore also and take part with equal measure of purpose to Act Up.  The fraternity is compulsive and the raucous determination resembles the ‘68 protests also seen on the campuses of Paris. Then the freedoms were fought for without the brinkmanship and set ideals and a framework I would say for the Socialist ‘Reality’ of workers rights we now see exposed in France today with the SNCF (railway) workers seeking protection of their rights.  Like the brilliant film with Marion Coutillard of 2016 Two Days One Night, the solidarity is squeezed to the margins. This film has the quality of discernment and authoritive public action in the form of activism. Political activism has been a staple of France for decades and Macron is as a new broom trying to sweep that under the carpet instead of widening the structures of protection of people’s rights to a life without the perils of exploitation he cosies up to.

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The disaster turns up the flame and it points up the calamitous path that they fear they might tread on.  Victims are everywhere.  Class boundaries are non existent as Aids and being HIV Positive is no respecter of gender or status. Tinder the gay app. is currently in trouble over its data breaches in allowing (allegedly) access to users data thought to be held private exchanged in relation to HIV status.

Aids America

Before this film came Dallas Buyers Club also about the difficulty of obtaining treatment and was it a superb underrated piece which Matthew McConaghy excelled and created a guardian angel role in a motel on the outskirts.

The battlements (battements is Francais for beats) are drawn in this French activist movie though it’s pace is laboured and it is slow to produce a core force of nature in response to nature’s deliverance of a plaque. Initially the piece is off the group responses and tactics and instead of the exploration of positions in depth the focus turns to the plight of an individual.

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I have seen photographs of protests into the eighties in the Netherlands, other places where sit down protests were still needed to highlight the failings of medical interventions. It is still a massive medically under resourced disease world problem. Apart from war the epidemic affects the largest percentage of world population than any other individual disease. See https://www.avert.org/global-hiv-and-aids-statistics

Disease in full spectrum 

For the film the disease is visual and viscerally in the main frame. Attitudes of Doctors and Politicians are scarily – and we recognise the same double speak in the same areas today – platitudinous and patronising.  We are looking back to the gross niavity of those times even though it was a high profile and deeply concerning time for all who engaged in sexual acts.  Deeply felt ‘morality’ judgements came forward out of the decade of the sixties promiscuity yet the sixties were nothing compared to the STD proliferation of Victorian times with Capital Cities awash with prostitution in response to poverty and male power.

This is thrity years ago and to put this on the map is an achievement underestimated in its value and profiling of the ‘problem’ which was widely misunderstood and misrepresented – so as not to cause alarm.  The unknowns caused the inevitable panic and regressive negative steps.

Of significance NOW

Clearly we live in different times but the proliferation of Aids is endemic still.  What the film achieves is the stark reality this is highly contagious while treatments only happen on the basis it’s found, treatments are accessible and the debilitating consequences are shortened and halted in a clean environment.  The film is of enormous educational value.  For children born in that period and unaware of its widespread effects this is a fully dramatic depiction of the times and highlights the constant awareness needed in repaint o sexual intercourse.  At the same time the internet (and Facebook now have 53/54 gender customised fluid sexual identities) has enabled faster discovery of the facts and help lines along with the possible outcomes.  While this is not available in under developed countries and there is enormous ignorance and blatant blocking of the facts in areas where it’s associated with practices not considered active.

Would you believe some reviewers are citing the issues as ‘mostly solved’.  A hideous ignorance of the presence which is while treatable as a disease does not eradicate the disease.  People live daily with it and it consumes them on a daily basis and would see them depart this world were it nor for programmes of measured medical interventions which often go alongside other diseases.  Nothing can stop a Multiple Sclerosis sufferer from acquiring it for instance or an amputee or disabled, sightless, or deaf impaired person from obtaining it.

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The Morocco-born director Robin Campillo,(Palme d’or Winner The Class) and his co-writer Philippe Mange are following the personal tales of lesions and debilitating and the death inducing virus.  This is  not a celebration of the fight being fought but a coruscating immersion in the reality of the disease found in those times.  I found it both a refreshing replaying of hidden detail alongside the harm which never found any particular mainstream avenue of explanation.  No real previous ‘fictional’ dramatisation of events – there have been individual cases and films of Aids sufferers before – has cut into the blood as strongly as this it would seem.  The choice and some reviewers are after an educational discussion on the whys and wherefores of the personalities in the powerful position of drug development, distribution, production, dispensing and complain their knowledge gap is unfilled.  This is a deplorable route to take as the director is reliant on the factual ‘bacterial’ progress forward and back, control of the disease to be catalogued elsewhere.  The progress of the medical breakthroughs, understanding the politics of dissuaded elements are interesting but not the purpose of the film.

Finding out the bleak sorrow and end of life stories is very upsetting in this account. The portrayal by the cast is connective and unbearably shocking at times.  When the scene which stands out for many of the messenger as character is telling their story on the Metro and outside the Metro train there is a beautiful Paris contrasting with the enclosure of the train it is chokingly subversive and involving.  The young entering inevitable death is shocking.

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In the early passages where the group refrain from clapping.  They click fingers instead to denote approval there is a developmental logic entering.  Of difference.  The group leader/organiser Thibault (Antoine Reinartz), is to interpret and direct the flow.   As with civil rights there is a counter productive element who have to be persuaded to be less unproductively militant even violent.  Like Civil Rights and throw French until recent times; the resurgence of the Le Pen monolithic selfish nationalist propensity, there is an element who may destroy the goal and objectives.  Just for example as the IRA and it’s Loyalist counterparts (alliances within Government co-conspirators) brought down decades of death and destruction and and unachieved liberty of peace and rights.  For this line a ‘choice’ of sub-lieutenant is a girl unfittingly.  Sophie (Adèle Haenel), is deployed as anger central.

There is a cause of love centrally in the film.  A Mesut Ozil (Arsenal F.C. & Germany) young lookalike, you might see the resemblance!

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Nahuel Perez Biscayart and Arnaud Valois are Sean and Nathan,

The illusion of a world order is displayed in World Football leagues and with an alleged 1 billion audience for a Man City v Man Utd football game two Saturday’s ago the priorities of this world stilll are extraordinarily maladjusted as is the Arsenal Football team the adore mentioned multi-million earning Germam could testify to.

For the relationship it becomes matured before Seán reaches twenty.  The openness of their relationship becomes immaerial and contrary to the norms found they are pioneers of this short lived freedom which is their adjustment and almost only measurable success.

 

Conclusion ####4

The importance of this film is its multi layered excessive in truth telling and its very significant contribution for the youth of today to the examination of, learning of, that ‘commodified’ element of their lives, the sexualised part and the difficult primary function within their lives which is where the love found came with deadly consequences often. Blue Is the Warmest Colour, in 2013 is another young film of similar intensity.  A French teen (Adèle Exarchopoulos) forms a deep emotional and sexual connection with an older art student (Léa Seydoux) she met in a lesbian bar.
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche

 

There are plenty of curve balls thrown in this one, like the normal day to day jobs or lack of, the rallies converge which is never examined.  The reason being the disease is classless and it is an undercurrent you are supposed to feel.

The biggest curveball of all is how is this not a centralised political and human concern of the highest proportions?  How could it be very productive to take it fully prioritsedand perhaps be a redefining part of our essences in learning the basic human relation to sexual drivers?  Everywhere there is dysfunction and everywhere a basic degradation is visited on the human form including the psyche with the occurrence of diseases only a measure of this dysfunction.

For a heart beating at 120 BPM there is still hope.

 

John Graham

9 April 2018

Belfast

The film is showing 06 April 2018 until 19 April 2018 at QFT Belfast

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The Square : A Film Review

 

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The Square

Directed by Ruben Östlund. Produced by Erik Hemmendorf, Philippe Bober. Written by Ruben Östlund. Cast. Claes Bang as Christian, Elisabeth Moss as Anne, Dominic West as Julian, Terry Notary as Oleg Rogozjin, Elijandro Edouard as Nikki, Christopher Læssø as Michael. Cinematography, Fredrik Wenzel. Edited by, Ruben Östlund, Jacob Secher Schulsinge, Production company, Plattform Produktion, Coproduction Office.
Cert. 15. Sweden/Germany/France/Denmark 2017
Duration 142 mins

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The Object
The Square is a 2017 satirical drama film written and directed by Ruben Östlund and starring Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West and Terry Notary. The film is about publicity surrounding an art installation, and was partly inspired by an installation Östlund and producer Kalle Boman had made. A co-production of Sweden, Germany, France and Denmark, it was shot in Gothenburg, Stockholm and Berlin.
Christian Juel Neilsen (Claes Bang) is the bilingual Chief Curator of the X Royal Museum in Stockholm. Julian (Dominic West) is the artist. Christian is flanked by a Contemporary Art hierarchy competing with world Museums for different ground breaking art. Where some rely on the old school contemporary artists and reframe their context his object is to project original work and capture the zeitgeist. Unfortunately for him he gathers around him the inauspicious tools of bad observation, repeated times and laboured consciousness. Vital signs are missing and backdrops of tired mendacious perfidious work are cut into the film. Maybe it was an intent. Similarly the centerpiece is a worn concept of conflicting societal battles. The feminist movements in art become like Trojan horses compared to this. Their strength lay in original modernist thought. Here a Carl Andre type warfare is present. The CA whose whole personal resume went up in smoke when the attachment to the death of his partner Cecilia Vicuña having fallen to her death from a 51 floor Hotel window. The erosion of prescriptive art took a new turn of activist art along with the fundamental causal expression of many unknown women artists. The Swedish psyche seems to harbour the checkerboard Soviet pawns of yesterday’s acceptable art. Multiple geometries are persuasive. Place many of the same objects in a Square and you have the crowd acceptance of multiple conventions.

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Psychobabble

The first thing to say about this film is that its the product of a Swedish psyche. Knowing the social contract, not Rousseau’s, that crazy but intelligent neurosis driven Swiss genius reformer who liked to run naked through the streets and be chastised by women for his brazen behaviour, not this form of social contract though parallel idioms exist and contour this film. Sweden became less polemic after the early part of the 20c as is witnessed in the libiterian plays of Johan August Strindberg, as also the films of Carl Theodor Dreyer began the journey now taken over by the modern Swedish film makers. The dynamic is not at all like Ibsen whose use of a Norwegian folklore and trolls ran almost parallel to Strindberg rationalism. In France the Dreyfus affair is part of this liberality I believe. The Jewish man sworn to have committed treason on France amongst its neighbours. All come together on the same page of the Sarajevo precipitation of the First World War. Divisions and idealist principles were conflicts repercussions.

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Boundaries

Idealism is questioned here. It is a random journey though. Having chosen art as the medium of angst head and heart problems our Chief Curator is himself disposed to accept his position as a filter of ideas. The cost is to pander to the associative burden of patronage which uses his skills as a safe haven for their dangerous liaisons with culture. Enrolled under his boss the Peggy Guggenheim type matron with a gold phone a conservative decorous contained anarchy, excited only through her game control of unruly art.

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Pitch Black

There is little by way of a story or structure other than the object of the title and how it comes to seal the deal. In conference over the forthcoming exhibition we see the assembly about him of museum staff, a ragtag rebellious contrarian and sometimes visionary humans but all are flawed scarred mental habitats of survival.

There are the subalterns a Arabic woman Nikki  (Elijandro Edouard) and a African American Michael, (Christopher Læssø) whose place is to obey yet their observations are to contribute the pathos to the absurdity of what goes on in their workplace, the boardroom and Gallery discussion groups. For artistic purposes our director throws out some bones to annoy and have an audience hyperventilate at this kitschy putsch for baggage. An elderly grandpa or late father brings a baby to the office. The future is rocked in a baby cradle. The audacious Black comedy of the meetings is like a claw hammer hitting a fine mahogany desk. In come art babes in the form of two male artist agents who are there to market and pitch their patrons product. Then there is a woman at the table who is the laptop recorder and she is seen to get excited at whatever point of incredulity we are at in any given moment. Whether it is satire or a medley of art protocols spoken as ‘art soundbites’ the meaningless is swaying around like a baby innocently in a cradle until the penny drops and the fallacy of the whole venture is brought to a conclusion, sort of. Nothing is even concluded except in the virtual world. Even the viral caustic outpouring which is the outcome of the first artistic gallery conference.

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Social Contracts

Rousseauism is of its time coming before our revolt of 1798 and France’s own tumultuous wresting of monarchy from power. Swedish psyche is foremost the subject exposing the dilemmas a social contract creates in the creative environment of an Art curators behaviour and installations. Splendidly I can refer to the recent book which sets out the exact period as a breakwater point. Now it seems the whole of Culture is taking a look back and immersing itself in the canons of the past.
Rachel Hewitt’s A Revolution of Feeling: The Decade That Forged the Modern Mind “In the 1790s, Britain underwent what the politician Edmund Burke called ‘the most importamt of all revolutions… a revolution in sentiments’. …

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Is

The Square is the installation. Like the Julie Shapiro The Dining table of 13, 13, 13, dinner plates representing by illustrations of important women by a vaginal image fro each arranged as a triangle the Square is in itself a close, very close companion piece not only playing with geometry but the occupancy of a space in a human scale as object.

The Square is an object. Jean Jaque realised the importance of societal structures well before the reformers of religious freedoms of self organised belief systems routinely disposing eloquent tales of a higher authority. His epoch making breakthrough came on the persuasion of kindness as a tool for life not to be delivered as consigned by adherence to religious privileges.

The Square controls privilege. With a range of 21st century immigrants mainly Romanian, the influx brought with it the relatively new experience of begging to their major cities. Why can’t the state deal with this? Why should I as an individual give to the beggar any money or help? The state of Sweden had and has a social nuanced contract. Plainly the individual giving to another individual will not improve the receiving persons life conditions. It only is s temporary position.

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Comparative art

In Judy Chicago’s piece the women of the world were likewise left to one side neglected as to a lesser degree but still totally underrepresented, with a voice – in that case a visual metaphor of a baby making body and it showed beyond that identity and difference. The Square is a series of contests of the choices and dilemmas in behaviors and oddly enough it’s director has taken up a similar theme unintentionally connected to the piece I mention in having the Art curator seen as a user and commodifying translator who is not the bringer of such moral affronts but is himself an indulgent and messy actor in the reality of present sexual and personal politics. That reasoning should become clear.

The Square has been replaced by another square. The Palm d’or winner was made bigger. It is to spite the film industry Director has made his film longer, much longer in order it does not fit the screening operative times of cinemas which is why he believes some critics said of the original Palme d’or winner it was too long. As a filmmaker he had already made the choice to construct the piece as its original package. In some kind of angst ridden protectionist statement he developed a larger square. Why bother? The new and now released edition he fails to name The Square Largesse. Re-editing is always possible and we get a never intended larger square. For densities sake it must be held as a considerable re-atoned ‘completeness’ he is making. Having been to the confession box the priest has told him his original film was too long so he now atones for that by reconfiguration inventing a new branch of the church of film.

 

Prescriptivist

One famous American female artist was to once say with great anxiety – the sense of limitation that economics makes this malfunction was realised. The limitation of expression. So when a choice is confirmed by this director for another version on the basis of his economic ability to do so is a corruption of the power politic. As a male director he used his largesse to shift the boundary. I think that speaks as much as the film does about the inequality he tries to wrestle with.

The Square is targeting an art house audience in showing the world of 21st art as a facsimile of life in motion. The Guerrilla Girls are familiar in the modern art movements history. Locally at a recent exhibition out of context, a male artist came with his Gorilla mask and pin striped suit to stand alongside what was a joint exhibition to dandy up his own persona. Dating as a contemporary of the Guerrilla girls and dated in his own unthoughtful resonance this film does likewise with the tome.

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The Performance Centrepiece

The Square has as one of its centrepieces a male performance artist, performing – would you believe it! Oleg Rogozjin (Terry Notary) was inspired by a real incident with the artist Oleg Kulik, who performs as a dog and had attacked people at a notorious event in Stockholm. Other artists parodied in the film include Julian Schnabel, Robert Smithson and Carl Hammoud. Much of the art depicted was crafted for the film, with installations influenced by Robert Smithson, an authentic Garry Winogrand image, and another work by Östlund and Kalle Boman.

The setting in this film is a large lavish dining room and carefully laid out decorated tables. This time with a herd of rich businessmen and women invited to the exhibition to witness performance art and they become objects of art themselves. It’s all gone a bit Peter Greenaway or Monty Peyton. (I prefer the Monty Python gorging and the exploding man? – filmed in what was the drained Swimming baths of Seymour Street West London where I often played 5 aside football after work with other soccer mad London based teams) There is announced, over tannoy, a warning and presentation of what to expect and how to behave in relation to what is about to happen. In a bravado scene, full of tension and a mob acceptance, initially, is seen the rich herd mentality explained with the notion of passive response, even staged stasis, group behaviour meaning individual survival. The ape like ‘guerrilla’ performer tries to enact the running man or reactive fear response and is met by group behaviour. The instinct of ‘it won’t be me if I remain the ‘invisible’ within a group. All acting the same way and any seen to react differently become the prey and victim. Dramatic and intense it is overplayed and drawn out with our changing sides and being witness to a moment of absurd violence to the King Kong instincts loosely portrayed.

A behavioural scientist is not needed to see the artifice. I found the actual route of plundering performance art which is the most developed side of multiple themes in art, with particularly the opposite hand of feminism showing themselves ridiculed and abused by male preoccupations with their bodies a conceit in the hands of this director whose shock tactics were unreal. Art world feminist movements acts of brave exposure were sharply real and this is a mediocre particularly Swedish act of analysis given their encounter with the ‘fear’ of their own differences in the ‘economy’ of choices available for immigrants showing their white advantages.

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Outside Borders

Non gender political differences are evident but the theme of acting together was flat. Maybe the proximity to Russia allowed this wavering. Vladimir Putin is a practitioner of the control of a social contract which is abstracted and with ‘Loveless’ being a totally more effective and perturbing drama of social realism and which to my mind was streets ahead of the Oscar winning A Fantastic Woman and this film The Square, I have the luxury of not having to review a film for a public expectation but am only making analysis of my own anger at the direction this film narrows to.

Fashionable, visually startling on occasions, remarkable it is not. The pretention of art being the vehicle becomes tedious. As filmmakers take on the visual arena of art the stratification of the horizontal as a metaphor for levelling the very nature of what is being expresses levitates to here a dining table level with ourselves. The arrogance however of making the Art disown its intention and lapse into indulgence is very apparent unfortunately. It is perhaps due to the proximate psyche lines which are worn.

The appearance of Elizabeth Moss is early in the piece when she comes to interview Christian on his vision for the Gallery.  X Royal Museum. It is one of several outings of ‘interviews’ and press gatherings at which the art soundings are most satirized and pathologically uncomfortable in a skirmish sense as well as satirical faux fear content. Enriched we are not. After one of these soirees Anne bags her man. Then they argue about conception obliquely and also about who conquered who and their matings value.

Fully formed

To give Christian a backstory into the equation come his two young daughters. Around ten and twelve they are beyond his parental skills level needing nurturing and love he only barely makes it possible for them to survive as he exposes them to ridiculous danger actually loosing them at one stage. Alongside this he shows remarkable protective skills telling them through the concept of The Square – that “you regard other adults as potential threats” though as they are barely mid-teen it works only partially. Perhaps an intentional focus in on Christian being totally Gallery centric. He illustrates the power over artists he exerts in framing their work. Elena his boss on the other hand is a font of old school control. Maybe the appeal of the Dining Room passed her by. I noticed from one scene outside it when an elderly couple stood for a photograph the next scene was of the dining room and another elderly gentleman of similar appearance was a wine waiter showing the scale of differing roles existing among white people also. The jungle was about to have a visitor. Calamity ensues.

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Music cadence

Very effective is the score throughout. It weaves counterpoint and places sweetness under violent thoughts, wicked satire and gruesome intent a rich embroidery. The power dynamics are subtle objectified and I found it overegged, ingrained in our host Christian. His intelligence at odds with the role play of work. He for instance uses the premise of the early encounter of being ‘passively’ mugged on the street to catapult ideas into the Gallery. His role is to bring ideas not become the creator himself which is something Gallery Curation is itself another art form but not product.

The director lays claims to the liberation and justice as it counts in society. By seeing the Museum as a mantle piece for a societies well being or otherwise he places the object in its role as such. The Museum is the Square at times. In it tolerance is explored. A Tourette’s incident at a public q&a becomes a contestable space for the gathering. Whose place is it to disrespect and ridicule by pointing out to the individual how disconcerting it is for everyone else having them remain part of the gathering. It only just survives becoming ridicule itself.

Provocative thoughts

When Christian receives a gift which seems to go to his core belief in having power, itself a misnomer in relation to the incident, he is somewhat emboldened and performance is restructured into the medium of the Museums arc. The Square is becoming a composite piece. The plasticity is taken outside into the streets as when he returns to correct an error of judgement. There is a media storm on the ‘enfants terrible’ who make up their story as it unfolds in relation to The Square. A viral YouTube unapproved short hits the internet and causes great disquiet.

For the opening after party (aforementioned soirée) there is venture across a boundary. Behind the Museum lies the Palace. Opulence is genuflected to and decorum is acted out. The ignoble noble ignorance of reality shut out is a dark curtain of relativity. Power is giving to the refugee and receiving being unable to live a basic life. The love interlude is a diversion taken. Following is the scene were they compete with stackable chairs collapsing after a fashion. Christian seems to distill the thought that external forces are what drive him and they are responsible for his emotions. It is an occupancy he lacks control over.

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Conclusion ####4

It gets a four out of five due to it being irritating and contestable as a art form itself. The fact I have derived such acrid dislike for its plundering of the arts and who hasn’t before though declared their inspiration, and no one is original discuss. Forms of cinema are tutorial, instructive, informative in relieving the senses of ingrained already born thought. It nurtures it and bring out in us those lesser known details but they harmonise in a collective sense.  Attribution to another art piece is acceptable and leads to coherence in finding out the culture of the contested places. Development of the film involved intense role play both by Claes Bang (Danish) as Christian, Elisabeth Moss as Anne, Dominic West as Julian. Terry Notary as Oleg Rogozjin auditioned or was found by trawling the internet for man performs ape and the U?S. actor had appeared in Planet of the Apes. So central to the satire was a human instinct as to our vulnerability.

Östlund won the Palme d’Or for The Square, marking the first time a predominantly Swedish production received the honour since The Best Intentions in 1992 and the first time a Swedish director won since Alf Sjöberg for Miss Julie (1951).

John Graham

23 March 2018

Belfast

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We’ll Walk Hand in Hand : Play Review

We’ll Walk Hand in Hand Lyric Theatre 21 March to 31 March 2018

We’ll Walk Hand In Hand is a new play by Martin Lynch marking the 50th anniversary of the Northern Ireland civil rights struggle.

Theatre Synopsis.

Vincent and Lesley meet at University in 1967. Two working class kids from Belfast, they find themselves at the centre of the explosive student reaction to the Civil Rights movement.

Their involvement in the movement leads to confrontations with their disapproving families and ultimately to conflict with each other. Vincent and Lesley are confronted with decisions that will mark their lives forever.

When the story leaps forward to 2018, their granddaughter, Michaela presents the older Vincent and Lesley with a different kind of civil rights challenge, the play then explodes in an entirely different direction. We’ll Walk Hand In Hand explores what civil rights meant in 1968 and what it might mean in 2018.

A co-production by Green Shoot Productions and Queen’s University, We’ll Walk Hand In Hand will have an exciting combination of professional actors and community participants.

Please note this play will contain strong language, potentially controversial scenes of protest and violence.

1968 to 2018

The scene is set by a wide landscape of deep reds blocks, powder blue sky’s, sunset orange and level blocks of layered platforms forming a road of many directions. The cast are all onstage giving a strong sense of community. Rainbow colours flicker and embody the cast’s vitality in the clothes fashion of the first era we enter into. The late sixties. The set is expansive and inviting many interpretations. In the second half notions of a big fish and the Titanic building give approximate identity. Belfast is the setting and a couple who are the centre of this play some fifty years earlier overlook and remark on this nostalgic view. The older pair are played by Lesley Gilmartin (Susie Kelly) and Vincent Maguire (Noel McGee) in this first half. They see their young selves develop and innocence shows in their grimacing or shock at their youthful exuberance and sometimes naivety. This trick by Martin Lynch is to play out the expectations and also look back with hindsight at wrong moves or right ones and the road taken. On another circuit of the story it might be found other relationships are reconciled with a faint nod to the ma’s & da’s finding love outside the ranks.

The play takes care to circumnavigate, death, victims, political unrest, post Good Friday killings and bombings and other issues such as corruption, racism, immigration intolerance and economic division and failing public services. But that’s OK as the nature of the beast is our own struggles to even understand what has come about.

Long view

50 years separate the half of this plays noble celebration of people confronting their lives in places still gripped in fierce prejudice and animosity. Now on the edge of right wing resurgence over Europe and in countries where no democracy exists we look down the road of the future and see intolerance looking back. Almost 50% of the world lives without a proper democracy and daily wars are fought in proxy villages and towns by despots of capitalism and fascism. Crown princes reign over the suppressed.

The narrator of this play is the group of many actors in multiple roles. The past of 1968 is illuminated by the roll call through Ireland’s back history in a short adjusted viewpoint. Anthems are the chosen messenger. Music is to flood the play with its more biographical shorthand. Songs of future past. The group are in the beginning introduced by their allegiances and a picture emerges of two families. The Catholic family and the Protestant family. Martin Lynch has put in place a structure which brings these two families into conflict through the aegis of their offspring. Lesley (Emer McDaid) is a Protestant girl, no siblings, who is set to go to The Queens University in Belfast. Her father is a tradesman working in a timber merchants. Conor Grimes takes the role of both fathers. Maria Connolly also gets cast as both mothers. Grimes also takes the role of a sage old pensioner whose outward glance at the whole shambles is a gravitas amidst the lighthearted skullduggery played for overkill and wicked humour in the absurdity of the circumstances each is entangled in.

Working class stereotypes

We visit the Catholic family and are met by the headscarf wearing, almost never without it, Joan who runs a house with only one in it working. Or most of the time. Conor Grimes playing the father Is a Dock worker. His time is spent in the house getting orders from Joan and she carries the burden of his narrowed choices with the humour he lacks, or the oddments such as an iron he walks out the Dock gates with along with sundry other items. None of particular use only occasionally. The discrimination spelt out in the opening sequences are stark and a political edge enters. The youngest in the family is Vincent (John Travers) who in putting up a case for going to The Queens University is mocked by his father whose choices never reached those heights.

Vincent is convinced he can act. Both lead actors are very expressive and do not fail to project their characters written trajectory. Emer McDaid has a greater task as she is in a women’s place already oppressed and without a voice. Her skills of speech and voice control give layers and gravitas to some otherwise dead lines. She lifts the whole on numerous occasions by the focus she brings in her highly animated choreographed and pure gestural effective acting skills. Nuance is present while that depth is lacking in other places. The ‘edge’ is taken to excess on too many occasions. In a city where there are weekly sectarian clashes among uneducated youths. Where punishment beatings and internecine neighbourhood criminality is rampant. Where the rich are immune to the poor state of the communities health and compromise is to go private door your health. Absence makes the heart go wonder. There are numerous breaches of historical strengths accepted by both sides now sold to the highest bidder.

Trends

‘Sold his soul for a soggy roll and a streak of hairy bacon.’ Flann O’Brien. Over the Bridge and tribalism still accounting for territorial rights and rituals to save the two poles of ‘state’ are uncontested in narratives here. A timid disclosure in the play that we are on the brink of equality is both a misconception and an unfounded optimism. The fate of those new to our shores and in need of refuge are neglected and treated abysmally as being without anything other than a presence. The play is short on this issue despite the later wedding scenario. Organisation and Institutions feed of their uncertainty while coining it for their own reasons. Some good some complacent and unchallenging to any degree. The outreach happening is treated as almost ‘state’ intervention yet it amounts outside to minimal assistance portrayed as proof of intent. Endemic camouflage in news control is massaged by those with their hands on power.

Learning across the void

One of the objects of the University is to stimulate his political knowledge and grand theatrics is a mode of entry. As a young Catholic wanting no part in his fathers battles with himself. His fathers lack of opportunity and a cause in national identity to atone for he is frustrated and is intent on avoiding the warring past. Like his father and family Vincent is aware of the Unionist vice like grip, vice being the operative word along with the Catholic Church, brothers in harm. Unions and workers rights are not mentioned yet these were among the Labour Party and Nationalist Party (pre Sinn Fein and SDLP for those not paying attention) united grievances also present in the People’s Democracy collective. Solidarity. No mention of G. Fitt MP shoring up a Labour Prime Minister or the use of a Governor to accommodate Unionists in a quasi colonial controlling role. No Shipyard baggage or ballot papers alongside the bombs, burnouts and bullets are roped in. Industry which was the technocrat Wilson’s suit and saving Labour Party vision brought no prosperity to Ireland.

Brickbats

Instead of political name checks, Terence, Michael, Bernadette, we get the Vincent Maguire’s elder brother known as Chip Shop and his orbit is to be a man on a mission to fight for his rights but his weaponry is not his wits alongside his beleaguered and rightly upset old da. The sulphuric on the matchstick.

A University may do the following for a young student. It might first inspire by the liberal humanism of professorial teaching, the contemplation of beauty and the cultivation of personal relations as a spiritual antidote to the rootless, mechanistic ethos of this age. Fruitful or fruitless. Both Vincent and Lesley are given hope and learning by the education few of their age or orbit attain or aspire to. Ideals were not just the pursuit of the radical activists in America and elsewhere. The notion of a set of standards to benchmark progress was initially their aim and unity was a key. The salutary words of those in the Civil Rights Movement were much sharper in terms of the deficit than Lesley and Vincent seem to confront or as envisaged by Martin Lynch to remain ‘le innocents’ for the stories feel good arc not upset anyone.

It actually denies their intellect and they get betrayed by the writers hand by being dressed up as ‘hippies’ on the first march they are to join. Another odd placement was the request of ‘actors’ to use some ‘international students’ flat for rehearsals in the first half when they were as rare as hens teeth except for the transient (Kevin Myers + journos + rads + escapists) who came out of curiosity and found themselves an education albeit a Unionist/Conservative institutional one. Heaney and Longley were a lifeline as the arts were at that time essential to the truth outside the University. Practicing status quo students got along just fine and made sure of securing their boundaries and pulled up the ladder securing divided education.

Unclaimed brutality

Politics was a dirty word except it was a proxy for their fortune come voting time. The awkward questions are avoided and the familial is, and it’s no harm in itself, made the drama, Few casualties are found in the debris though. Read on.

The American Samuel Adams’s saying that “It does not take a majority to prevail… but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men” is presenting the prospect of a minority view gaining power. Trump’s deficit of 3 mill. points to that, therefore unified clarity of purpose and solidarity is how meaningful progress can take hold and we are wiser and better equipped down the ages, or are we? To see the past for its lessons.

Sholom Aleichem said: “Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor.” Ironically those Jewish words are so directional they are not heeded in the world of Israel’s politics in pursuit of greater weaponry to destroy the back of a Muslim faith and push Christianity into further divisions.

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First Act Actions

In Belfast there is simmering interest in peoples rights with the far of city of Derry having put down a marker on the sectarian divisions and corruption of power which gerrymandering made housing allocation a major discriminatory practice for Catholics. The International Hotel was the first location of the stirrings of an encounter with the phenomenon of Civil Rights crossing the globe and enfranchising parts of the local body politic. This is the cause Vincent believes he needs to be a part of and join. His family have other ideas not least his father who is driven to set up a cabal of IRA volunteers, his son Chip Shop under his command. The OC is not for pacifist politics. For him and the rest of the core their time has come.

When the two worlds collide the tribes are divided.  Youth has in ‘68 the best ideas. They need change and the television is igniting the flame. For Vincent it is Martin Luther King being assassinated, for Lesley women’s rights to equality are an eye opener with her getting into University and politics is also opening channels where she is free to associate with the other tribe. Hippy ideals and civil rights are seen as the same thing in this view. The television beams out a world of information and vision of nations. The oppressed are kept off the screens and a diet of American pulp television invades Belfast and Irish homes. The stridency of The Peoples Democracy is seen obliquely as an odd doomed to failure mission with Protestant power foremost and initially the progression to marching is filling the stage with unfolding unity across divisions. Lead by student activists and rooted in minority voices now talking loudly of institutional discrimination the province is collectively at a place where it must decide to act or retreat to old divisions. O’Neill (Terence) gets mentioned several times. Michael (Farrell) leads the marches. Devlin (Bernadette) is chivied at the speeches in a minor role. The male prerogative is alluded to.

Incident anticipated

For authenticity the contestable origins are blurred and a general picture is shown without stridency or complexity. Strobe lighting cinematicallly conveys the B Special brutal confrontation with the peaceful marchers. The lights go out on the story. Michael is portrayed as having warned the marchers what to expect. It is from advice passed on by the police. The Free Presbyterian led onslaught of rabble with Police standing by and in the final concluding destruction at Burntollet Bridge top and tail the brutal attack on a mix of juveniles and passivist unarmed marchers. The destination Derry was not to be reached.

Worlds apart together

The American experience is running parallel in the intervening years.

King and the Kennedys are gone, Vietnam never ends, Nixon has been elected to roll Civil Rights back. Committed first and last to the classic rad-lib notion that rigorous thinking and precision journalism can seize the times and talk things better, Small Talk foregrounds the first two stages of Agitate, Educate and Organise.

The issues the second half highlight are transient and not knuckled down in the thesis. No Nama. No Money Laundering. No Drugs. No Poverty. No exploitation of Youth. No Back office Nation. No Holiday illusion. Just the very edges of the immigration story. Without the Larne Camps, Without the Home Office conditions, Interviews, and Living in Limbo, No Higher Level Education Rights. No rights to work in their field of training. No GFA Human Rights, Brexit and EU dawning and no word of a compromise. Homes not being built. Pig in a poke agricultural policy owned by big companies. Land grabs. Even Parliament being shut doesn’t make it to the stage. Marches abound. Women’s right to choose is shown to be a Marie Stopes confrontation – an overlooked and overplayed re-enactment – and the conflict of conscious is between airport announcements and a happy clapping form of worship. Out of many avenues these chosen roads are taken. They are not conclusive nor are they intended to be. Nevertheless they are not sufficiently robust enough to place other meanings on familiar issues as plays ought to obtain. In a minor scene or two – when the bickering and liveliness has died down only occasionally – that is there sufficient time for reflection and with the removed entertaining bawdy and adult humour device which is ratcheted up to often. There is also a misstep in having a Somalian woman swear in delivering what would be even a contested viewpoint that she would otherwise not deliver. Maybe it was hearsay or maybe a lesser being uttered it but I found it very regrettable that it even was included. It serves no purpose and misrepresented the tone as I know it, many others know it.

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Where the second half survives without a backstory that is presumed factual, the test comes to create a pathway for the characters. Archetypal cliched types aside there are a moment or two that hit expectation too closely. A reveal by Michaela is so evidently oncoming it is loudly received in its audacious stupidity. Therein it does a disservice to the actual characters solid craft of pacing out the troubled complexities of the abortion on her mind. Would she have been so gullible to fall into the trap and be so unwise? Later voices from her are contrarily astute giving her part a mixed mission. Emer McDaid deals with it extraordinarily well such is her flexible range and it is for women to assess if she is believable in this situation. I thought it was weakened by the ‘trip’ and later sympathy was hard to deliver.

October was cited as a point of no return or as the play had it where the change happened. There are straight lines and paths lead away from other choices. Peace versus War. Terrorising was an instrument for sectarian division to replace passive consensus and resolution. Noises off were the order of the day. Attendance to deals and trades were overlapping degrees of atrocities and the British state sought containment without regard to their overarching conservative colonial hegemony. Making itself important as a world leading force was of more importance than evenhanded delivery of rights. It still is.

The Revolution will not be televised

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The Global Scene for Civil Rights unfinished.

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Beruit and beyond

For an American take on Civil Rights you don’t go to the normal messages. The people sang about it in words rhyming and music embalming their wishes and worries. Gil Scott Heron one such writer whose words and music were vital and spiritual food.

These extracts from The Wire 108 (February 1993). Continuing racial tensions are apparent in the USA.

It’s Your World (Arista 1976)

Within an evolving, conscious, self-determining continuum – Afrocentric, politically cognisant, historically correct, forthright and indignant – GSH is the disciple of many traditions: of Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez making, in Larry Neal’s phrase, “juju with the word on the world”; of the flaming oratory of Malcolm X and H Rap Brown; of Coltrane and Ayler speaking in tongues ancient and cosmic; and of the fundamental Blues of James Brown and Curtis Mayfield. In the crucible of It’s Your World, these particles of Blackness explode. This is the hour of chaos (or rather, one of many) – Civil Rights is sidelined as America spirals towards the political and economic shut down of a world recession. GSH and BJ respond by steeling their people with sustaining words (“It’s Your World”), by summoning inspirational spirits departed (“Trane”), by reinforcing the power of communal celebrations (“17th Street”), and with bitter socio-political satire (“Bicentennial Blues”). Reworked versions of “The Bottle” and “Home Is Where The Hatred Is” preach abstention from alcohol and drugs on political rather than moral grounds – like, if you’re out of your head on malt liquor and crack, how you gonna fight the white man when he’s down on your back?” (NW)

They created song for their voice to be heard just as now rap and hip hop dominate music shouting out about injustice and disharmony when we are avoiding the obvious and relying on lies.

On a road never taken

From South Africa To South Carolina (Arista 1975)

“Whatever happened to the protest and the rage/and whatever happened to the voices of the sane/and whatever happened to the talks that gave a damn?/Did that justify dying in the jungles of Vietnam?” In the early 70s, even the most popular Black American music shifted into political gear (pop acts like The Chi-Lites, The O’Jays, The Undisputed Truth, War); shattered by defeats and retreats, the general mode by the mid-70s was frankly escapist.

Shakedown

Space Shuttle (Castle 12″ 1989)

Amnesia Express (Castle 1990)

For GSH, the 1980s were a personal wasteland, a long, dark night of the soul that matched pace with the deepening collective anxieties of African Americans as they watched the Reagan administration slap down Civil Rights and liberties. Throughout the 70s, he had chanted of the day-to-day suffering and spiritual degradation of a people trapped in a racist culture. Now he fell silent.

…….. he suffered the consequences of neglect and indifference. He developed a spiralling drug dependancy (which reached an apotheosis of sorts when he was deported during a 1989 UK tour for possession of cocaine). His occasional European appearances – one is documented on the two hour live set Amnesia Express – revealed a withered spirit.

……… on the song “Must Be Something”: “Tell you something, tell you something you can do/Keep on moving, keep on moving for what’s true.”

In Print

GSH began his engagement with creativity as a novelist and poet rather than as a musician; as a teenager in Jackson, Tennessee (he was born in Chicago) he was writing pulp detective stories. His literary direction shifted with his move to Spanish Harlem in the Bronx in the mid-60s, where he began factoring in a vivid socio-political dimension. He followed poet Langston Hughes onto the campus of Lincoln University (where he met Jackson), then took a degree in creative writing at Baltimore before moving on to the University of Columbia (eventually dropping out to pursue less academic callings). To date, his words have appeared across four volumes. The Vulture (World Publishing 1970) and The Nigger Factory (Dial Press 1972) are both novels. Small Talk At 725th & Lenox (World Publishing 1970) is a collection of poetry that provided much of the material for the album of the same name. So Far So Good(Third World Press 1990) reproduces the poems that originally appeared in a booklet that accompanied the 1979 LP The Mind Of Gil Scott-Heron.

When you read these words in conjunction with the play’s trajectory of this Islands history it is apparent there is still a world wide need for Civil Rights to be established representing the original Civil Rights needs and working to ensure battles won are reinforced and made available were they still remain absent. Attitude’s are changeable however the knowledge of this Information Age being much greater than the catalyst of Television broadcasting previously incrementally challenging those visions of National difference and harm has in these digital years, completely altered the framing of the issues. This itself is not generally accepted as a global societal tool outside of government but it is irresponsible not to engage in wider communications based on passive terms towards equality and sustaining our earth’s resource.

Conclusion ###3

For the arc of the play to cover fifty years in History made and being made it is a large task to contain the multi layered conflicted narratives of the past and narrowing on the present predicament of the absence of Civil Rights still apparent.

Reference is made to the outside world and some aspects of struggle s elsewhere are cited.  I have compared the diminishing local reporting of the period as far as the play is concerned but put in several wider elements to illustrate the huge importance of this movement of Civil Rights.  I believe it is the authors aim to show output past in the local sense but it is not challenging enough and never strays into too much contested territory.  The players on all levels do outstanding work lifting the moods of the play and acting roles which at times are stereo typical without the hard edge sacrifice of a dead body or two to mourn over.  It is an extremely difficult subject to handle and hopefully this will encourage other treatments.  The legacy is with us and will never leave.

About the actual work. Martin Lynch has chosen a structure which avoids the them and us polarised viewpoint but restricts it to a formula belonging to a certain sectarian riddled ‘everyman’ dialogue. Incidents fed the first half as hindsight fills the second. The central protagonists of Lesley and Vincent are pegs on a play board in a narrow working class range of experience. The wider community of the Lower Falls and Woodvale are locations where even the pigeons live shortened lives. Unlike the Woodvale Pigeon Club pigeons there are peacewalls and discriminating state institutions to navigate. The road taken is filled with choices. Location is predetermined division and the extremes are in 1968 unreconciled and badly lead by church and political powers. It was Ulsterman Thomas Hutchinson who was instrumental in fashioning ‘The Enlightenment’ in Scotland and the philosopher became a powerhouse with a hand in writing the American Declaration of Independence which happened to be the removal of colonialism from the North American continent. It came at a cost and is a settlement still contested. Black and Negroe rights were the Firestone of the Civil Rights Movement in America and the transgressions of the USA in other countries enabled by the ceding of voting rights to gain recruits to the mainly white armies, was a cause young Americans took to their knowledge driven Political ambitions. Television brought home the disgrace along with the actual witness of fighters and reporting which challenged the Presidential hegemony. The Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland had leadership and ideals which were quickly overan by violent republicanism which was met by a state which never ceded land without a battle and seldom relinquished power as it saw its place in the world, and still does as a force for good. Large built on the locality and condensed management of land, resources and scientific breakthroughs it built upon the assets stripped from around the world. Northern Ireland was and is a service star run from a distant attachment going back into the Street names.

John Graham

27 March 2018

Belfast

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A Fantastic Woman : A Film Review

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A Fantastic Woman

Directed by Sebastián Lelio and written by Lelio and Gonzalo Maza, Produced by Juan de Dios Larraín,

Pablo Larraín, Sebastián Lelio, Gonzalo Maza.

Cast: Daniela Vega as Marina Vidal, Francisco Reyes as Orlando, Luis Gnecco as Gabo, Aline Küppenheim as Sonia, Amparo Noguera as Antonia, Nicolás Saavedra as Bruno, Antonia Zegers as Alessandra, Trinidad González as Wanda, Néstor Cantillana as Gastón, Alejandro Goic as Doctor.

Music by Matthew Herbert. Cinematography Benjamín Echazarreta. Edited by Soledad Salfate. Production company Fabula, Komplizen. Film Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. Duration 1hr 44mins. Country Chile. Language Spanish.

It is the first Chilean foreign language entry Oscar since Pablo Larraín’s No, and the first ever Academy award for Lelio, in this follow-up to the highly rated Gloria.

Daniela Vega plays Marina Vidal, her lover is Orlando (Francisco Reyes).

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General synopsis

Marina and Orlando are in love and planning for the future. Marina is a young waitress and aspiring singer. Orlando is 30 years older than her, and owns a textile company. They celebrate Marina’s birthday one evening, Orlando falls seriously ill. Marina rushes him to the emergency room, but he passes away just after arriving at the hospital. Instead of being able to mourn her lover, suddenly Marina is treated with suspicion. The doctors and Orlando’s family don’t trust her. Marina is a trans woman and for most of Orlando’s family, her gender identity is an aberration, a perversion. So Marina struggles for the right to be herself. She battles the very same forces that she has spent a lifetime fighting just to become what she is now – a complex, strong, forthright and fantastic woman.

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Gender fluidity

Gender fluidity is a subject no longer hidden or made unreal. It is a feature of human beings often misunderstood or not seen clearly. There is no such ambiguity in the portrayal of Marina who is played by Daniela Vega as A Fantastic Woman. She has become transgender and is sharing a relationship with Orlando played by Francisco Reyes, a well off textile company owner whose love for Marina is unqualified. Orlando is a fifty seven year old and Marina an unspoken twenty eight year old or thereabouts. They share an apartment with a docile Alsatian dog called Diabla. It begins after a scene of fluidity in a wide opening shot of one of the wonders of the world Iguaçu Falls, formerly Victoria Falls on the Iguassú River, on the boundary between Brazil and Argentina. This film is set in Chile’s capital Santiago where the city life is international and commercial. Opening with Orlando in a male sauna with its steam and busy masseurs pummelling backs and muscles, his thoughts are on Marina and the gift he has prepared for her birthday.

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Simple choreography

Scenes are choreographed almost as rigid set pieces as the story is without any complexity other than the elements and range of emotional responses each conveys. First contact is through their eyes meeting in a club where Daniela Vega who plays Marina Vidal, is a singer and she sings “Your love is like yesterday’s newspaper” while fixing her gaze on her lover Orlando as the love story is revealed. From this introduction they enter a luxury restaurant to celebrate Marina’s birthday and the night continues with them dancing at another club and after to the apartment and a love scene.

What happens is a life changing moment. Orlando suffers a stroke which in a very short time kills him. It sets in train a whole accompaniment of conflicts and dramatic arrangements which involve the families with to a greater degree, Orlando’s family which includes a wife, child and several brothers and extended family. There is a funeral to be arranged and public persona to be kept in this still conservative society.

Marina is with Orlando throughout his last moments except when they are separated in the Hospital Emergency Rooms. The choreography is taken very thoroughly through roles and expectations with the arrival of an older brother, Gabo or Gabriel played by Luis Gnecco, who is aware of the relationship and knowingly accepting of Marina’s depth of love and loss. He asks the authorities to pull back on certain intrusive investigations but there are a sequence of very invasive examinations and a part in this is played by a Medical Officer specialising in gender relations and sexual crimes. The medical officer, Adrienne Cordez establishes quickly that no non consensual criminal acts took place and is does not suspect any abnormal events to have taken place. She is conscious through her own history and long experience of what is going through the mind of Marina when these assaults on grieving and adjusting are taking place. Memory is prominent in Marina’s mind.

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Barriers

The way Marina takes control of the situation is by keeping quiet and not reacting by showing her frustrations and she has to keep down a job as a waitress at the splendidly carnivalesque fun-fair themed restaurant she works at. Marina’s understanding boss is a savvy woman who does not interfere when she becomes aware something has happened as she witnesses a detachment and less ‘gay’ employee. The way the film builds is around these relationships and the comparisons of alternatives in acceptance of Marina for what she is. It is hard always for Marina to be stoic and strong in this grief and it is clear it brings in the prejudices and heightens them in this modern but conservative setting.

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There are a series of rebuttals and Marina is faced down by several entities. By showing outward calm this is a way of dealing with the loss of Orlando. His spikey son Bruno (Nicolás Saavedra),turns up at the flat unannounced and reads the riot act, insists in calling her by another name, and stakes a claim to being the bigot of the piece. Others line up throughout to wrest the claim of bigoted and homophobia embittered lives stalk the city. Dignity is a sword Marina draws on constantly as she weaves her way through the arrangements which are not as she was prepared for and which are detaching themselves from her despite her efforts.

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Appearances

Difficult as it may be to put oneself in her shoes. High heels are her mode of walking transport. The outward appearance is precious and a barrier to naysayers and bigots. Transgender life is seen to be a battleground in which the feminine genes are contested by male and female protagonists with crudeness and superficiality. The place of subtlety is oblique. Rendering first a barrier and a convention which for the most part is seldom questioned in everyday situations with Marina’s non-androgynous feminine movement and composure. They simply are to be navigated but always there is an anxiety present for the viewer, hoping it carries at every point and seeing negative aspects arise. The quest for normalcy is shared across the screen. No Culpa, negligence or guilt is worn by Marina.

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That Spanish word is latinesque in its casting back to ancient sexual diversity and ‘queer’ practice. An improperia of Catholic censure is evident in this Chilean society. Unbraided intemerate live’s are expected where in reality the worst of things exist and pervade and menace society entirely separated and detached from sexuality and it’s nature. The culpa is seen as self-reproach, avoided by Marina in the most part while in a relationship but now it begins to challenge. The challenge which may have existed earlier when the realisation occurred is revisited. Some of this self-reproachment is delivered in visual questioning, the persecution is real in an event which goes to the depths of hatred without going to extremis. Unatoned parallels are present in this revised world for Marina and happiness will it seems, once again be hard to achieve.

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Fortitude and strength

The strengths of the film are in its simplicity and its strong story of a struggle by Marina as a young transgender person in a highly conservative nation trying to achieve their right to happiness and be comfortable and making a life with purpose and meaning unfold as God intended. This is achieved by the continuity of the narrative unfolding. There is a beautiful choreographed set of relationships or scenes of encounter constructed through the film. A relationship which neither would have chosen to have is that between Orlando’s ex-wife, Sonia (Aline Küppenheim) and Marina. It features heavily in the centre of the story and it causes a bit of drag which is one of the films few drawbacks. The middle is slightly larger than is necessary and some tender moments would have had better preference in my viewing of it. The sideline characters are one dimensional although the sides of Sonia are sympathetic in deference to her own dilemma in part giving an alternative perspective. In some passages the hyper anxiety of Marina comes out in hallucinatory experiences. When she is trying to escape the present by going to seedier but safe clubs she is confronted by the overseeing memory. Late on a new dimension of Marina is shown in its full glory with her attending an elderly tutor whose own love for Marina is not hidden surfaces. This aspect of the film is glorious in its modest framing and brings in a major lift and ultimately cathartic moment which is brilliantly created in a requiem of repose for the soul and living beyond. Director has been saving up some very graceful and harmonic notes for us in releasing the grief in an expansive denouement and finale. The musical score by Matthew Herbert’s and the visually gripping cinematographer Benjamín Echazarreta‘s work which makes use fully of the electric gaze and demeanour of Marina. The sea is an undercurrent of the theme of turbulence as well as perpetual life outside human control as is manifest it seems in the events occurring and how they throw the weaker ones to the rocks.

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Directors note

I see A FANTASTIC WOMAN as a film of aesthetic splendor, narrative vigor, tension and emotion. Polytonal, multi-experiential, multi-emotional. It’s a film that is both a celebration and examination of its main character: Marina Vidal. What will the viewers see when they see Marina? A woman, a man, or the sum of both? They will see a human being who constantly changes before their eyes, who flows, vibrates, and modifies herself. But what they are seeing isn’t precisely what they are seeing, and this condition turns Marina into a vortex that attracts the viewer’s fantasy and desire, inviting them to explore the limits of their own empathy.

-Sebastián Lelio

Conclusion ####4

The sumptuous and well paced delivery of a story of grief and its aftermath is cleverly and sympathetically played out here and no part of the films object is ever seem to be implausible or overarching. It is a delicately handled story of tensions not least of transgender understanding by outsiders of a relationship which is loving and cherished. The imbalances of wealth, position, status, are seen as barriers which Marina and Orlando have made a pact with. Orlando’s private life and public life are kept separate except from trusted few and also through the break up of Orlando’s marriage. There is an immediate warmth to the film in its beginning and a few red herrings including almost key which turns up as a constant issue as well as a grim and unpleasant medical intrusion set a difficult set of circumstances alongside the rather straightforward and argumentative parts of conflicts around the actual funeral and the keeping up of appearances in a bourgeoisie upper class family. For all its predictablity in terms of – oh her comes a confrontation to type – a Doctor, Policeman, Son, Brother – only slight irritation is taken as the transactions are comfortingly disturbing for the expectancy is borne out of prejudice and bigotry which wrangles and causes the tension to build in the viewer against such unfeeling societal urges. The cast delivers an excellent thought filled movie and carry the dynamic and magnetic Daniela Vegas literally transformative part on to a very high level.

There have been other films of late, Loveless, Insyriated (others appear on the list) which count a great deal more in my mind of pioneering work and A Fantastic Woman is Fantastic as another piece of enlightenment and a very good cultural interpretation of a global issue and human gulf of understanding of non binary sexuality and how the manifestations of gender fluidity need better understanding and most of all acceptance and assistance. The achievement of an Academy Award is an immense lift to the profiling of the issues it raises and is well worth the added momentum. The more political films are obviously going to be less able to be lauded in such a commercial arena as Hollywood given its love of money and selling issues back to people via. stories of ‘atonement’ ‘endearment’ ‘unreality’ ‘creature-features’ and fables of many kinds.

John Graham

5 March 2018

Belfast

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