Frantz : A Film Review

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Dir: François Ozon; Starring: Paula Beer, Pierre Niney, Ernst Stötzner, Marie Gruber, Anton von Lucke, Cyrielle Clair. 12A cert, 114 mins.

Setting of Post World War 1

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The opening passage of François Ozon’s elegant interwar romance invites us to second-guess the story that links Parisian musician Adrien Rivoire (Pierre Niney) to Anna’s late love, Frantz. Frantz is Anton von Lucke.

A melancholic period drama, Frantz, is an elegant reimagining of the story behind Ernst Lubitsch’s undersung 1932 drama Broken Lullaby.  It is Post World War One in a central German hillside town called Quedlinburg which is a UNESCO protected location.  It is the backdrop to the family home of the Hoffmeisters whose son Frantz was killed in action on French soil.  The elderly parents remain,  Doctor Hans and Mrs Magda Hoffmeister (Ernst Stötzner and Marie Gruber) are in the middle of the town and still Hans practices as a Doctor.  They have provided a roof over the head of Franzt’s intended bride whose daily visit to the grave erected in the hilltop cemetery is her place of comfort and the families only memorial.
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Complex emotive story

This is a deeply sad and complex war story told exquisitely by the twin hands of the principles, Anna (Paula Beer) and Adrien Rivoire (Pierre Niney) alongside a strong supporting cast.  The town Quedlinburg is a lost empty place without the middle aged and young men it has given to the war.  In one scene in the Hotel, Tavern, which is the centre of town life in some respects, it is notable when Doctor Hoffmeister goes along to a meeting of the menfolk, how with only one year having passed and pain, grief an anguish are all palpable and hurt is within the very bodies of the survivors.  Those with whom some responsibility lies in sending their young offspring to war.  This hurt regret, remorse, redress, reflection, is not a redemptive theme explored by the very masterful direction of François Ozon but one of conscious.  Retaining your sense of self and direction is troubling for everyone. Ozon’s past films are absorbing emotional spirited in theme as were, the sensuous Swimming Pool and Jeune & Jolie, with soon to be unveiled, Double Lover marking a return to those emotive personal tales after this more constrained and brilliantly balanced story of the melt within Europe over borders you cannot see in the Isra she shoots across the view from Quedlinburg.  At a height of thought also, he takes this story markedly into a melting pot of ideas and that it took place almost 100 years ago it’s a vision and offering for our own times.

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Anna and Adrien.

Centrally Anna and Adrien are brought together in this aftermath.  This is a summary position of dealing which their individual pasts.  The footsteps are first taken as we see Anna, after an opening shot of a hot simmering country wide view in one frame in colour, then into black and white of Anna buying flowers at he market stalls of Quedlinburg.  The streets rise to the cemetery through ancient narrow cobbles, up a steep set of steps to the open plain of the graveyard.  It is drenched in bright sunshine and François Ozon begins painting frames as an artist does with the drooping darkness of heavy topped trees branches shading parts of the graveyard and it’s random pattern of stones laid in rough rows seem to lend a peace and sense of ease as the order is lost and not heightened as was the third Reich.  This has a poignancy exacting of the sense of place, its genus loci being this infringement between the living and the dead in memories.

The compelling question from the outset is – Why is Adrien leaving flowers on the grave of a German soldier, Frantz?  With a sweep of a leafbrush the graveyard attendant imparts his identity as that f aFrenchman who is staying in the aforesaid Hotel.  The connections have to be pursued and it is the object of both to reach a point where they can talk.
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Skip comparative reviews.

There is a school of thought which I deplore, in some reviewers making connections – as they have done with this in respect of Vertigo, –  the displaced person in a love triangle, – of the other, a Hitchcock rumination akin to Rebecca – which in this film are totally useless. That viewpoint actually labours the point to actually attune it more to this misread being the theme of the film in scores.  The film is enfused with hidden truths, conceits, contrivances made to ease the pain and harm of things past. It is even seen by one as being like the work of another director preposterously so. Being unlike Ozon is very Ozon. It is in fact gloriously rendered which makes any pathetic correlation a nonsense.  The film stands alone as an art piece and while the artist, director have long connections through their own process of becoming directors themselves it is not a place to put those connections to the fore as ‘influences’, that is a tedious comparison.  This artwork speaks for itself.  …. One review has discovered it is nothing whatsoever led by the fore said but still posits …    (although his influence on the final film is undeniable).  As if this should or would have any relevance to a viewer allowing the piece to tell its own story.  Superbly.
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Anna’s horrible dilemma.

The perils of Anna whose life is in limbo, a short time after the war, is polemic.  Her past life and proposed future is totally conflicted by the grief she shares with Doctor and Mrs Hoffmeister.  The performance of Paula Beer is a colossal depiction of grief internally residual.  She holds her grief intact and in so doing is asking questions of herself, throughout the first, second and third acts as she deals with new developments and disclosures.  She, in so doing, makes herself vulnerable and inconsolable at times, internally so.  When she meets with Adrien after observing him from a distance at the cemetery, she is both shaken by his perceived closeness to her lost fiancé.  In seeking answers she also is caught in a despairing, unrelenting story of loss with no parties able to reach out to the truth.  Adrien is adroit at making things appear plausible and acceptable.  He is handsome, has an angular tautness, is eloquent, thoughtful, possibly well educated man.  Perhaps too thoughtful and naive in the possibilities that might arise from his actions.  He is brought into the family home and with that deepens his lachrymose impediment, his imbedded grief, disabling him to points of disclosure, as the hurt would be unbearable.  Seeing them is a barrier to telling what he knows in full, with their openness and hospitality having been satiated by Anna in advance making this dramatic encounter when it eventually is arranged profoundly heartfelt.  What lies beneath this surface is not known nor will it be shared for sometime if at all.  This is the magnificence of the story telling, unfolding in aching timbre emoted visually touching through the actors prearadness softly set out in slow framed consciousness.  The cinematography has a slight taint to it in that it uses cascade at times out of synch with the unfolding piece.  For instance the changes from black and white to colour, the cascade, are intended to visualise the positive and warmth in relations iincrementally developing.  Yet it sometimes remains in black and white while that positivity is surging.  There are flashbacks to scenes described between Anna and Adrien of Frantz in the prior period.  That advances War scenes in colour and disharmony on the part of the rhetoric.  It could have been the intention to depict falsehoods in colour but that is neither the case.

Station to station

The belle indifférence with the previous pre-war world is seen in the French sequences of Paris seen as a repairing regrenerating counterpoint to Germany with strolling through the Louvre.  Looking at Manets The Bathers with beneath it, Le Suicide.  The Parisienne fortunes appear secure until late we visit the city and see its invalided body shattered and barely functional.  Losses are in the second half now relater back to the French mirror image with raw torn hearts spilling with their own grief.  The lack of manpower to rebuild also is evident.  The Cafe Belle Époque of the prewar years have vanished as if they never existed.  These times in France are frequently visited as in Therese Discomany, the Francóis Maurice love story or romance and in England it spurred Hillaire Belloc to read into the French and German dilemma such things as were prescient as his boook simply called The Jews reflects.   The era is a classic place of adjustment on the continent.  The borders of the Versailles Treaty escaping the paper constructs of power brokerage and envisioning some relenting peace are to determine so many revisions and the place of starting over.  Such memories of that war were psychologically damaged stubbing for the human beings that survived and were born into it.  This is a point well travelled by François Ozon.  The tributes to people lie everywhere you step.  The consoling and consoled.  The embittered and the vengeful.  The hardened and positive, negative deniers.  The words of the script are beautifully sharp and breathing every btreath allowing the characters to deeply affect you.  There are no persons within it who are trivialised by being seen as perpetrators, or being the enemy.  Far from it the sensitivities are enlarger by the resort to poetry as in the Verlaine poem recited at one point and the rendition in a public place of La Marseillaise. Discomforting in its – subtitled English excentuates the folly of some heroic words – presence there, right in the time.  The immovable shape of the form of war.
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Conclusion ####4

The film of the year so far for me.  Frantz is a lesson for modern living.  The exploration of the psychological depths people go to to either convince themselves of a truth or naively embark on consuming someone else’s apparent truth are startlingly effective. It is a sad and remorselessly engaging heroic film.  Anna is a flawed heroine as indeed despite his misreading of the reasoning he puts to things, is also an essentially flawed person with a ruined perspective of life brought on undoubtedly by war.  The thought is inescapable as the war poetry of many follows in this malaise of mind tyranny in order to cope and construct something at terms with the present.  Writers like Michel Houllebecq make the morose sexual eaae methods deployed in and out of war a frequent tap root of sorrow. The novel in its 20th century incarnations after Stoker, Shelley, Balzac, Dickens have given literature many versions of the nation and the use of borders as an identity rising as a continual denier of the universal truth of equality before God.  

John Graham
17 May 2017
Belfast

On from this Friday 19 May until and including Thursday 25 May 2017

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Jawbone : A Film Review


Jawbone

Produced by Michael Elliott, Johnny Harris. Written by Johnny Harris.  Cast. Johnny Harris as Jimmy McCabe, Ray Winstone as William Carney, Ian McShane as Joe Padgett, Michael Smiley as Eddie, Luke J.I. Smith as Damian, Anna Wilson-Hall as Mary. Director : Thomas Q. Napper. Duration: 1 hr 31 mins. Cert. 15. 

Seconds out

There is no place to go for anyone whose hope has gone.  The future is a place of roadkill.  It will swallow you up.  The mind sees things it cannot control and the future is best left alone so horrendous it seems looking forward.  So what is there to do except go backwards.  Unwind the past beyond the turmoil which formed the bridge between then and now.   Jimmy McCabe (Johnny Harris) has hope but fear also and his upbringing has been in a closed world of boxing.  A neutral corner in his life. A year ago his mother died and he is about to lose through this own disconnection with the world the tower block flat he grew up in.  His family as young boxer were his trainer Eddie (Michael Smiley), promoter Joe (Ian McShane), and club owner Bill (Ray Winstone). He is in control only when he is in the ring as a fighter. As a boxer he became at 22 an ABA (Amateur Boxing Association) champion which is the biggest step on the ladder to becoming a professional. 


Boxing bored of control

In boxing you are either a boxer or a fighter.  Unless you are gifted and are both you will not succeed unless you are so beyond being a fighter you become a warrior or like Evander Holyfield lightening quick and as balanced as a dancer at the height of their powers.  Some boxers are so gifted as to become a capable of outwitting your opponent in every move as it’s seen in advance and a matter of choosing the right time to unleash their demons.  Seldom do boxers come through on the scale needed to sustain a living.  Joe Calzaghe was a Welsh boxer who trained in himself with his father to be hard as nails and in a club without any distractions or manipulative promoters after a quick return and fall guys.  Another was Ricky Hatton who grew a Manchester and bigger following to become a super light middleweight and his craft was speed and accuracy.  A dynamite boxer fearless, fit and fast.  Joe Calzaghe was able to handle his rise through the ranks and another Carl Froch came up with him to be British World Champion boxers. 


Jimmy McCabe is a fictional boxer and this a cut at the boxing life not seen that often in film, never mind a British film.  The boxing clubs that thrive in the working class areas and inner cities from Manilla to Manchester.  This is not at the turbulent Rocky out on your feet kamikaze ruthless blood letting film which has arches of blood swooshing around and miracles off the canvas. Yet it has as a climax a fight choreographed by Barry and Shane McGuigan.  Those two also ‘advise’ ‘train’ the boxers/actors in their ring craft in the club.  Just as well it’s not true, they couldn’t train white mice. So much than you’ll not get a sequence here, how many Rocky’s?  Taking boxing by the throats is what the promoter does.  

Joe (Ian McShane), is a character smart from his Deadwood part, here as the chief fixer and fight maker.  He appears only a few times and is played as a cross between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Barry Hearn.  One a joker maverick skilled player and the other super spiv Svengali deal maker. It doesn’t amount to much here though and it’s only a passing element. He is close to fight arrangements and sets up something for Jimmy.  It is off the usual boxing radar and highly dangerous. His skill is publicity and hype as marketing need appeal to the lower end of the market, promising this is only the beginning.  It’s usually the beginning of the end as a fighters roster needs to contain a win to loss ratio of 10 to zero.  Amateur ranks are full of talent but their ring craft is for three rounds although in tournaments they find themselves boxing every three days sometimes.


The setting

The film has a straight forward arc and is from the very beginning establishing the despair and near collapse in Jimmy’s life where things pile up and haunt him.  He is fighting addiction and is near loosing his bearings which went after his mum died.  He now is in a fixed loop with nowhere to turn and the boxing is the only thing in his mind with any real pleasure or self of self.  He is not able to fix himself without some help so goes back to the Union Street Boxing Club.  In the club the old faces of Bill (Ray Winston) who is the overseer in the under the railway arches of South East London, Lambeth and beyond, is a reconstructed hardman type as age catches up with the character and the actor.  He portrays it as always with supremely brilliant timing and facial tone.  The rough and readiness is not a put on but an everyday projection of life in the lower reaches of boxing.  He is also the deliverer of some very well crafted lines and the delivery is as I say supremely well gauged as usual for Winstone.  Eddie (Michael Smiley) has apart of a dog eyed trainer.  His long bearded face, the hound of the training ring, delivered in nasal bass Belfast notes by a flaccid poor one dimensional character which Smiley occupies as a reciter of the McGuigan training words and gestures.  Then his other acting skill was to use his hands holding Jimmy’s head in place while he delivered a heated bit of encouragement.  One thing I noticed was he barely ‘smiled,’ no pun intended nor moved a great deal.  No animation whatsoever and someone said it was ‘brilliant’ – some mistake! – and we never got to see his impressive new gnashers.  Good boxers have a good set of teeth if they come out the other end and can afford the replacements the gum shield and constant battering have loosened.  Jimmy McCabe (Johnny Harris) has an impressive set.  Eddie occupies an awful lot of the film as it is shot mainly in the club with a lot of outdoor work and nighttime embankment solid very well filmed and a continuation of the work Jimmy puts in – and it’s far from fake – you get a strong sense of the depths of fitness needed for a fight and it is increased and increased with every frame.  In the club there are the newest recruits to boxing.  A failure of the story was its lack of engagement with any of the junior ranks.  Not one said a word.  Not even conversational asides.  Still this was a minor problem though the same could be said about the plainness of the storylines given.  Not too many sub plots.  So Eddie was ‘boring?’ but not Bill who you got some change from watching his mastery of the part.  Jimmy AKA Johnny Harris has put his heart and soul into this film and it is this ‘tunnel’ perhaps that separate it from being a great British film of the times, Tales of the Long distance Runner, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning genre.  

 

Redemption

Salvaging something out of a life of addiction and getting beyond the harmful effects, which can be lasting and take the edge of everything including pain, is a redemptive cause.  Celebration can come if a success is made of it.  Lately Antony Joshua became a world champion at 26 having been through a few of life’s knockdowns which involved petty crime and misuse of his strength involving also electronic tagging.  His tale is a reality. A very timely one as far as this film is concerned.  There is an unobtrusive soundtrack and it is by Paul Weller showing mixing skills hitherto unheard by myself with it used very smartly (in the way Raw and Jim Williams didn’t – see last review!) with it enhancing the impact of thumping sound mixed punches and scene crowd hysteria with an energy which has you move you chin out of the way of the latest punch.  It is a good cal to have it scored so well and with a light touch. 

Conclusion ###3

For a film to get you gripped by the main character it requires a bit of screenwriter craft to draw you into the essence of the person.  I never got that until it was too late with this.  It was actually in the last third with very little drama involving pathos or sympathy in the arc and I suppose it is because the character Jimmy is an enigma.  He was less enigma towards the end.  As a boxer it is a lonely place to be.  Every boxer is on the way to proving his worth and is out to give up little of his emotional underlying self.  Ricky Hatton, even Muhammad Ali were underneath a construct of multiple persons.  The violent man was suppressed most of the time while they were bodily mentally tuned to be destroyers and to reach the top they had to be just that.  Hence the incomparable Ali performing as a spokesman contender for the whole of the sportsmen of his and any era.  The affable side we also know and love. A master.  This is where the minutiae of live comes into crystal clear focus.  If we were able to see inside a bit more and discover the obvious and real demons – in the minds of al kinds Oscar sportsmen then this would have been a flyer.  That’s not to say it’s a dud.  Far from it.  It’s just that it got the canvas too many times.

John Graham

10 May 2017

Belfast
On at Queens Film Theatre from this Friday 12 May through to and including Thursday 18 May.  For Boxing fans a must.

Raw : A Film Review


Raw 

Director Julia Ducournau Writer Julia Ducournau Stars Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss, Bouli Lanners, Marion Vernoux.
Jean-Louis Sbille as the professor  Rating 18. Duration 1h 39m Genres Drama, Horror.


Probing the flesh

Raw is War in tooth and claw.  Red is cinemas greatest asset in showing in glorious technicolor our raw emotions that inhabit our conscious.  From the premise that within us is a primordial guilt and we seek revenge for the ills of our ancient past back to the dawn of existence we have been fascinated with the bloodlust of others and sometimes ourselves.  The driven kind features heavily and their appetite is satiated in a campus of post-revolutionary Europe.  In a University campus that of L’Universite de Liege, filmed over one summer, writer, Director, Julia Ducournau, in her debut feature film sees humans in a structure of hierarchy.  Garance Marillier playing Justine is dropped of by her affluent parents in a sprawling University campus.  They are past students of the same place and are perhaps aware of what lies ahead in more senses than we are initially lead to believe.   I couldn’t help thinking if they were in part authors or this rite of passage, being from the output from ’68, for their virginal daughter.  In a horrific incestuousness leading all back to the beginning.  Already at the University is sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) a year ahead.


Journey to self

At the opening frames which we go back to later there is a similar opening to many films.  A open large perspective of a rural connection of a tree lined road seen anywhere in Europe.  There occurs an unexplained event. Cut to the car wth the dog lapping the cheeks of the open eyed Justine whose move from childhood to adulthood is officially stamped.  No longer at home she is on an adventure called life.  This is an enclosed tale of rule making and conformity layered with the very present hormonal discharges of Justines sexuality.  Into this is added the self image and her beliefs which are more or less intact.  As a vegetarian she is setting herself out as having a love of animals which is taken to the point of her enrollment and the family belonging to an ethic of helping all creatures on this earth.

In this environment it is easy to see the disgust of meat eating and it is but not questioned here, a method of exploring whether we are indeed carnivores or as the ancient history will tell us after the ‘original’ sin we became sinful in killing and eating animals.  The proteins of other sources being accommodated only by locational advantage.  The China Study is a book which shows us how to remove meat as a protein source and also shows us how location, China can support a food structure in balance while others hunt and fish plainly because they have an abundance of wild animals, rivers, forests in which flight is not sufficient to save birds, nor speed a reason to escape an arrow.  The Masai will eat from nomadic cattle by slicing off a piece of hind while they walk, covering the wound with mud and eating it raw.  Their choice is confined to an existence without much plant growth.  So how is it God our creator has it in mind meat is a legitimate source of our diet.


Outside life

Justine is confronted by the meat eating fraternity without the family protection.  As a set up we see the family enroute at a roadside cafeteria and out of her ‘veggie’ choice – her parents have moved onto meat eating – probably by obliging the instincts to masticate on flesh cooked into unchained protein as a demonstration of the common predication for eating meat.  In the school of Veterinary Studies there is a ritual and it is a basic condensing of human rules and conformity writ large.  In it the Upper year students in the Dead of Night ambush the entire intake and involve them in a series of initiation subjections which are both a release and an imprisonment.  Mindsare pliable and Alex, Justines sister is already into the camp of the meat eater.  This is despite her own beliefs and she suppresses what Justine still holds as a basic right to decide what she puts inside her body.  

The initiation I won’t describe as too many writers on this film have drawn out all the little details which make it a full on exploration of human instincts.  First time Director at 33 when she made it (at some critics take a youthful age apparently though it is not an age thing, directing chops!) is giving this story an arch violently expressive with some tremendous scenes setting out with accomplished subtlety at times – in the Student clinic for instance there is a great piece of observational writing, then there is the location itself with its optimistic, bunker like, confrontational raw materials of architecture, stubborn forms plain and as the film afore mentioned – ‘What you see is what you get’.  Julia Ducournau has this locked down into Form follows function in excruciating bodily functional detail.  In Train to Busan which is a brilliant zombie movie from a South Korea from last year I took it on to seek more references to the human condition which explored along very similar lines what were its driving forces.  I found it to be the backward launch of the human, back through their mothers, birth a journey to ancient loss.  That read is found by putting into the top right –  search box – Train to Busan. http://wp.me/p2R05n-Hh


Sexual appetite

There are scenes which see Justines sexuality spawn a million seeds.  The male leads in the film are similarly stuck by the new circumstances they find themselves in and their preconceptions are not so much challenged as replaced by alternatives.  Love stories, strange as it may seem develop.  Within this – it is not – mash up – there are several failed relationships and new ones. All concerned with orgasm lust which draws into the equation love and ritualized belongin, hurt and betrayal.  This is another strand not obvious at first but it’s very much there.  From what I’ve so far implied and set out strands of story direction I’ve gotten onboard with the liking community for this film.  At times it will irritate the chops off you, make you cringe at the banality of some use of others tried and rested cinema scoping – the entry frames are so often followed it is tedious to see them range into view again.  I won’t name them but I do have favorites of this intro and they are totally memorable putting this so far below in the lower deck it’s below the plimsol line. Annoying.  There are other beautiful scenes held flowingly with one or two faults, camera hungry playacting, like in the first dance/techno sequence.  The music is by Williams, (son of John?) and it once becomes too much as it is used to ratchet up a particular moment.  It could have blurred out sound or disfunctional sound but it chose the conformity.


Progression towards …. 

The story develops over one year at University and takes on a form utilizing the group without elder supervision other than a few Professorial types who are strangely not equipped or bothered to set anything other than experiments and pick up on grammatical error while also giving Justine further concerns about her outstanding alacrity, skills, understanding of veterinary techniques.  Unlike her  fellow rookies who begin to detest her or at least some of them.  Alex and Justine become strongly connected and share similar demons.  They get into extreme bother and trouble, inviting the entire college to come down on them in their interactions with them.  It keeps ramping up in its violence and portray of the communal internalization while setting out no answers or analysis of the behavior.  Critics so far have placed it in boxes to suit their view and none inclauding myself were able to fix it in a frame of mutual understanding.

 Doctors daughter Julia Ducournau!

Conclusion ****4

Julia Ducournau has composed an odyssey through a young woman’s journey from childhood to adult and survival.  She has used a very able crew and set of young actors who fail nowhere in convincing us of the, beyond recognition, behaviors they portray while putting more than many young actors should in order to be faithful to the task.  The experience must itself been ground breaking on the minds of these young people and Julia Ducournau has probably learnt through it of the many potential pitfalls and erroneous steps, some life changing that enter people’s lives.  The ground breaking element nearly stretches it out to become a genre free film though it is not long enough or dig into the medical, psychological straits of the human pathway.  It is gloriously rich in detail, too much in many people’s minds and plays the willfulness and inevitable harm inflicted mentally on the sisters as in faith.  Julia Ducournau holds the characters hands throughout without being exploitative.  It crosses many lines but being Cinema it’s not a dilemma for anyone. Of course there is revulsion and sickening components but that’s Cinema story telling unleashed with a courageously minded group.

John Graham

27 April 2017

Belfast

 

  

On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 28 April 2017 and on general release.

Belfast Film Festival : Short Documentary Films 2017


Documentary Short films 10 only. In order of screening at Queens Film Theatre 2 April 2017

Introduction 
The Festival organisers this year decided to separate the Documentary Short films from the general submissions to create a different dynamic. One was the resulting drama, theatrical, visionary output of Shorts as entertainment and of a closer connection to Mainstream Cinema and independent’s of the previous days showing. Foremost among new filmmakers is the notion that they have a new story to tell and hence avoid finding replicant’s of films we are familiar with. The Short delivers a condensed story form or idea and scrutinises it with a particular scenes of occasion. A long form film does this also at times but can construct in the pyramid many routes to the same end. Documentary Shorts are a difficult medium also as there have been numerous exceptionally good ones over recent years. One in a style specific to itself, Amy, several other musical ones, the Iggy Pop one, Gimmie Danger and then there are the ones Notes on Blindness and Life, Animated. These were outside the realm of TV documentaries also confined to a set one sitting viewing. The tendency with Art, History and Science Documentaries is to chapter them. The recent brilliant Andrew Graham Dixon series – a trilogy on the Gothic willing my view for it to go down as a masterpiece of a study on the current sociological vicissitudes, and angst born out of the modern era where money and patronage gave leave for writers to produce ‘analysis’ on past times and create future visions. Post Dante and post figurative art. All these lead into the medium of Film. Exemplified by Frankenstein and Dracula with Hitchcock exploring along with the Gothic of Psycho the psychology of the species.  

Here goes.

The following are not exactly tending towards any sense of the gothic but they are oddly enough in many instances paying homage and advancing Gothic themes or ways of thinking.


I call to the Living and Mourn the Dead 

Very often a tragedy during the ‘Troubles’ – that misconstrued inadequate word for our recent history, is explored and it shoulders a responsibility to maintain in its purpose some truth seeking. This film is of a family torn by internal loss of a brother who fled Northern Ireland for fear of being shot. 

Told by his brother the narrative brings in Bombay Street, Ballymurphy as props and timelines. Neither event directly involving the family. Certainly being in the midst of it it implies may have provoked brother Kevin into IRA activism. Kevin became an on the run. We never hear what became of him nor do we get any insight as to the rights and wrongs of Irishman fighting Irishman. Both residing in Britain so Brit fighting Brit? It was a loss of identity or clamor for identity which drove the conflict on top of Civil Rights, supported by both sections against Unionist hegemony. In this film that intangibility is evident though very thinly explored. People do not as individuals represent the ‘Nation’ but people around them convince them they do and design a politic to suit the cause without sight of the consequences. Like the United Irishmen of 1798 the IRA who had none of the nationalist support of the unique United Irishmen had and Ireland in mind but not a United one. This is a film about everything except the troubles but is enclosed in telling a story about a particular family, a sense of remorse and loss, and a head shaking excessive in why? without any particular vision nor with any disclosure about what happened to Kevin. It was not like the Boston tapes which sought/seek to reveal what is unheard. This was a simplistic version of reality though in itself explains many families still are trying to work out what went on and how they were caught up in it others seeking justice and who will never stop through generations quite rightly seeking the truth on those dark dark days.


Forever roars the Atlantic

This is a stupendous alternative view of the North Antrim Coast as seen through adventurous divers, climbers with a good sense of a dramatic frame and larger appreciation of the wilds of nature that form our coastline. Like birds they fly into the air but as humans drop like stones into the breaking waves and surf crashing into the rocks. The depiction through the new equipment of go-pro lightweight cameras which have their own memory card and possibly new gimble aided cameras provide a brilliant active film of high quality and definition. To give gravitas to the adventurous by acknowledging what this awesome coastline is about – which after all is capped by the explosion of the North Atlantic Plate and The European Plate tectonically providing us with this habitat we know as Ireland – at the Giants Causeway – is extolled by the filmmakers and delivered – partially – by a 200 year old MacGonagle? poem itself a homage to this rugged active terrain. Except it to is not up to the task. Forever roars the Atlantic. That is not even close as this film will testify. The Atlantic is our definition of the Ocean formed after this Coastline took shape in the manner crudely described above. The Forever part is also untrue. These adventurers come to a place where for thousands of years these waves have repeatedly on the aegis of the moon cyclically been crashing in more or less the same way over a vast time. Seasons and moon cycles their driver. So it is to this beauty and awesome place we enter in a different way than we would otherwise see it through these filmmakers and it is a testimony to the gift it is to be witness of it or a part of its immense creation. The film reaches another level of understanding and it’s brevity is one possible reason it did not hold the interest entirely. It would have been interesting to see a greater variety of locations and people if holding the impression it was isolated and became a extreme sports film more than a locality, people driven film.


The Wee Shop

In Belfast the corner shop is a disappearing social staple. The Shop around the corner and later You’ve got mail by Nora Ephron are story films of the urban shop while in Belfast the Irving St John who belonged to a deaf family in Euston Street wrote the very funny play Boyd’s Shop which created a very portrait of the community focal point these places were on basically every road and inner city tributary. They even existed in the backstreets and their lights were on until near nine o’clock to provide for the essentials such as milk bread and sugar and non essentials such as cigarettes, lemonade and ice cream, the weekly pools coupon and a florid diet of gossip. The faltering entity is now a shadow of its former self as this short film makes a collection of a small number of stoical shopkeepers lament themselves about the struggle to remain true to the community corner shop provision they sustain on modest returns. Aside from the butchers and Chip shops and street cafes and fast food outlets they are seldom able to compete and this film is a tale which brings mostly dark humour out with the resolute frank telling of past times. Patsy on the New Lodge Road has plenty in common with her fellow shopkeepers Bill and Norman of Sandy Row and the Shankill respectively. The sorry demise of communities driven to the wall by successive governments undermining through lack of investment in all sectors of community life, the housing, schools, infrastructure, transport and a determination to structure destabilisation through housing allocation and lack of provision for families within communities is seen in these very shops which act as a last connection with the troubled communities they serve and served. By giving as one Shopkeeper explained Consuelo the bigger stores are allowed free access to a market through scale and mainly car accessible shopping. Monster supermarkets out of scale with communities and frequented by out of town bound custom heading to the dormitory habitations which provide identikit soulless housing on former farmland and undeveloped hinterlands of small villages. The film is a marker as were photographs of the same shops and former shopkeepers which provide another outlook and insight to the life of a passing community key. 


Seán Hillen Merging views 

This new short documentary portrait observes artist Seán Hillen as he creates a beautiful new photomontage. He shares thoughts about his work and recent personal discovery. The choice of making a work in the small studio of Seán Hillen is a tool adding emphasis to the incredibly interesting subject which is part of film making achievement; the detail the intensely focal frame.

The intensely imaginative world of Newry native, Séan Hillen in his present home of many years in Dublin is entered as if stepping into the imagination itself. From the immediacy of an introduction to the dark outside and the loved fat bastard of a cat getting a food treat offered with profanity, a source of warm engagement and audience laughter enters the film theatre as The Wee Shop did with its non stop mix of pathos and humour striking a chord here in Belfast. It is a rare thing indeed to see an artist in a studio and while Warhol identified a niche to have photographers, artists, authors committed to coming to the factory and making their written and visual record of it itself became product. Like the late Basil Blackshaw who eschewed the rigmarole of publicity and never courted it Séan Hillen is similarly not keen on intrusiveness. When filmmakers of the aptitude and moxie of Paddy and put it to you they want to make a piece about your work it’s a different matter altogether. The work too becomes an artwork. I was reminded of the groundbreaking film following Francis Bacon back from The Colony Rooms to his house and his immediately getting prepared to paint in the wee small hours of the night. Bacon took time to ignore the witness and get on with the work in his mind whereas there is a participation advanced here in this film, to welcome in the viewer to the processes which attest to their inherent honesty. 

To carry out an explanation of how he works Séan gathers together an assembly of thoughts surrounding a new piece of work. In common with the photomontage works he has been making for nearly thirty years it is a leap into the unexpected each time it would seem and is as I perceived it a conduit of his mind extrapolating for us our own heralded metamorphic conjunctions on possible truths of previously upheld views. His explanation and it’s not given as a foundation but possible source of our connection with his work, is our brains priority in placing – seeing as believing – first ahead of further analytical deconstruction. The eye tells the mind to believe what it sees. Given the mind is relying on a chemical reaction which is fed though light onto chemicals transmitters and is a part of the brain itself we are in teleportation land. In the depths of the oceans we know of creatures that have no eyes. We are aware of the senses prioritising light and colour followed by sound smell taste and touch so reality exists to be broken down intuitively when we encounter only the two dimensional figurative statement of a photograph. Ireland has a complex narrative as does ever inhabitant of it.  

Those in the past have questionable histories so why not confront alternative functions for those times and perceptions because memories lie and people do. Mythology is an art form in Ireland from the pipers lament handed down through millennia to our Newgrange polemic ancestory. We have an Eros of harmony in our lives which is equated with that ancient Greek goddess of discord and the sister of Ares. To the turbulence of the universal rules and reliances we bring construct more often than not based on simple untruths be it, democracy, loving, civilisation and fellow treatment of all living things. To this is the melee we have to call discord, identified with the Roman goddess Discordia. In Séan Hillen’s work – most notably Irelantis this discordance is highly prevalent. The discordance which Séan Hillen relates to and with in the film is his relatively recent knowledge of his having the Asperger’s condition which has performed a cathartic revalation for him to the extent previously unexplained attributes were held at arms length rather than their current state of becoming part of the reasoned dialogue.  

To an artist this must be a great benefit as well as a perpetual commitment to the Aldous Huxley doors of enlightenment. Huxley was taught by his father of the possibilities the mind could extend to. The Prelude And Præterita of Aldous therefore were built in his DNA along with the affinities the mind constructs. Seeing here is the artwork progressing along those very lines. Such was the source of the Huxley concepts of cosmic and social order to effect a transformation in Western thinking parallel must be held appropriate in advancing towards recognition of viewpoints we are yet unable to understand but have a belief they are of such magnitude as to affect our present existence in unknown ways, we are basically staking our whole existence past present and future on that construct being manifest. Whether it is true – and these art works as well as many other artists works – tend to that possibility – that we are not yet able to see it – is what allows us the freedom to make such conjectures. Ireland, Eire has Greek connections to the word Peace the opposite of discord ironically. 

There was a palpable stunned silence as the revelatory images became clear and that we were witness to a photomontage which proposed the absurd to not only to be a possibility but had certain other occurrences happened, they could not be dismissed as mere juxtapositions of intangible fluid thought and were reminders how we perceive things alive and active. Advertisements and the land of fictional representation, the apparel label logos identity symbols and members of the semiotics of visual language. While many are on the parameters of fictional forces there are others which are disablingly, perplexing and of deep embedded truth telling however ‘inconceivable’ they might appear. Our consciousness is at a place we’re we are incapable of dismissing them, as perceived certitudes divide us and make us what we are. In preparation for God it seems our goal is to seek out beauty in harmony with the universe. This simple aim is difficult for the human as existence is made all the more confounding by the Bible quotation of God being sorry for making us this way… ‘failing’ you becoming ‘sorry’ in the KJB. 

The Irish Film Festa10 asked of Paddy Cahill 3 questions 

Why did you choose to make a film about Seán Hillen?

I’ve been a long time admirer of Seán Hillen’s work but it was last year, as I visited him at his home to buy one of his prints as a present, that I knew I wanted to make the film. I wrote to Seán right after asking if I could make a short documentary about him and his work. Seán has an amazing backstory, which should be told in another documentary, but I was really fascinated by his home/studio where he creates his amazing work.

The film is set in a small room:

How did you work in terms of frame composition and editing?

When we filmed it was just myself and Basil Al Rawi, our director of photography, in the house with Seán. It was very important to me that we would be a tiny crew, although not much more would have fit in the room anyway! One rule I tried to keep was that Seán would only talk or answer questions while he was making work. That way it would be less like a traditional documentary interview. I thought that watching Seán work while he spoke would be more interesting to the viewer. This also gave Basil the freedom to get right up to Seán’s shoulder and compose some really beautiful cinematography.

And how long did the shooting take?

Along with producer Tal Green we were planning the filming for quite a while but the actual filming was over the course of one night only. I wanted the audience to have the same feeling we had when we filmed as if they just dropped in one night, to this unusual house on a normal looking terrace street in Dublin and got to watch Seán create one of his works.


Oor Wally

There is a pride about Elena Taylor as this film shows about her beloved Stenhousemuir Football Club. In the introduction she tells the unseen cameraman and us, ‘This is the Toilet’, then shuffles along fully kitted up as Stenies long in post, mascot Oor Wally. Or Wally if you prefer. Being a Wally is an unfortunate choice but like the Broons, and Oor Willie they kit the name out with further embellishment so as not to frighten or lull the away supporters Wally is a push over. Decorum is very much Elenas take on it. She is a woman on a mission and gives her all to the role. She takes the cameraperson up the bread aisle of her day job in – well it looked like Asda – and into the toilets. On the wall are framed awards, the latest has yet to be mounted. The Frozen foods aisle brings us and the camera person back to earth as Elena spreads her cheerful banter about her workmates like jam on a scone. When you see Elena sans outfit she is a normal middle aged lovely heart warming person with a radiance she likes to hide, well most of the time, under her alter ego Wally. Once the bloomers are sorted the undergarments correctly in their place on goes the outer shield of the Stenie shirt and leggings. Then Wally the presence, the overlarge head. Then all sorts can be expected. When she walks to the ground past folk going about their business she hardly causes a stir – other than a cherry hello – but on the contrary would be missed if unsighted. As a mascot she takes on dangerous tasks as a meeter and greeter with contact with away fans a thrill no doubt of any day. Newcomers to the home end are easily spotted and welcomed along with the regulars. Defeat is often considered up to fifteen minutes before a match and then a switch is flicked and defeat is out of the question. Warm up coaching of senior players, (l doubt she would berate a younger player) is a forte. Hitting balls over the bar doesn’t go down well and admonishment comes fast and flavoured. This is a memorable film unlike the season they often have. To survive is one thing but to live the dream is another. This is a delightfully made, sincerely felt, no half measures Film – grit loss victory treated just the same – but overall it is a portrait of a lady who goes out of herself to provide an added dimension to the 90mins + added time and long may her reign and Stevie’s need for support continue.

Roys Story

Along with the film below this is similarly voyeuristic of a delusional. A rural storyteller in this instance who is no Len Graham. Being a short it sets up a middle aged man in a field with a microphone to tell his stories which all involved se some stength in. I came to the conclusion swiftly it was a waste of time. Sorry but this was banality writ large.


Raymond

There is something exploitative of finding a lonely old farmer whose lived in face and accumulation of history and things is penetrated for its Irish eccentricity. The director has become aware of this man who lives almost hermit like and who makes a life for himself with the fishing and stores he has in isolation. Maybe he is able to sell some of his catch. Sell some potatoes and vegetables. Instead of this existence the portrait is portrayed by the whims of the existential needs of the filmmaker as it could sit nicely in contrast with the nature surrounding the elderly gentleman. The hubris of an elderly man putting his hand on the Bible unprovoked I presume and him telling a story of empty confused allegiance to an almighty or faith element is an infringement which I found it both unedifying and plain damnable by a filmmaker. To see this old man and hear what he supposes a reality from the living while they are the stuff of delusion and an uncritical perturbed complex mind is a travesty. To see it got and it does not surprise me in the least. There is always an appetite for this voyeuristic cannibalism of the form which is painted over with the smoothness of wet bogland, rivers coursing, banks of standing reeds and is as unpoetical and pretentious guff as they come. It is no great insight to rural Ireland and though it records away of life which hopefully is on the decline, there are numerous colonies of self-formed groups living ‘off grid’ but this is quite common in the face of rural agricultural land ownership and immigration. Indeed this man is a returnees so has plenty of experiences which are contrasting. 


Casion : A Chiptune Documentary.

For the second time in this Documentary set we see an art film and a well considered vision of a section of music rarely encountered. The niche is electronics made with Game Boy and Computer Game sound effects. This is like the Seán Hillen work an analogue type of art form. While extensively digital it is conversely instrumental as it is the controls of the devices that enter the latitutude and longitude of the scales and contort, conspire to be a cascade of sound. Set in the environs of public performance in a small club – having been introduced to the subject by the protagonist, player, Jamie Belvedere of his standard nomenclature of Chipmunk this sideline is a very attractive creative outlet which reaches into the aural space of a small rom with familiar vote and sense of alternative sources for of sound. The audience are appreciative and get it, the cinema experience can only touch the edges, and they shuffle, look around and take in this vibe with knowing connection. The intensity of the raw sound and its boundaries are well captured with editing filling in direction of travel. From production to trepidation and worry of ‘will it work’ to it coming together joyfully in a club as an essence of a particular module of electronica. Itself limiting that’s not really a concern but it’s conception as a medium is uniquely choreographed for the reasoning of musics own art form and it’s seemingly unlimited contagion. I enjoyed this dark and driving film with its new delivery of a niche. If it receives attention beyond short film viewers and sound freaks or everyday avante garde travelers then it surprise a few but it’s unlikely to get to reach very far unfortunately.


The Fashion Show
I’ve placed this film short high on my list of preferred films over the Festival. It’s unasssuming erudite, irony and clever depiction of a rural moving on timepiece of a Summer Fete is of a pathos, humble, Ulster form self parodying and reflecting on the time taken out to be at ease and just have fun. The camaraderie is placed on top of a headline (McDonnell – Glenarm) Scots-Irish backdrop. The fact the estate is so large and festivities are a local staple annually preserve the falsehood of landownership while being a countenance to its presence and inadvertently provides a soft landing for its ugly sequestration. The hero of the film is the stoically alert, intelligent, wide thinking Ruth Morrow who contests herself into becoming an alter ego in the form of Game icon. Super Mario and sidekick Luigi. Luigi is taken off field duties leaving an upset mum. This is temporary but Mum is unaware of this and weaning is not easy. You’ve guessed who fits the bill for Luigi’s part?

In The Fashion Show is caught a bright light in the world of Ruth Morrow trainee shepherdess and the Gamer heros were a breathe of fresh air too. The sublimity – (solid to gas to solid again seems appropriate) – of the world of a rural community letting its worries pass into the afternoon sky temporarily was a lovely escape exquisitely creative and insightful. The surreality of the theme developed was a natural phenomenon and a really enjoyable watch, thoroughly well done by a burgeoning talent. The way it took us through the fete was itself an insight without being intrusive. For example we never learn who the ‘entertainers’ they give a massive swerve to are and likewise no morality or judgement is passed. Only the curmudgeonly like myself who set about seeking a higher meaning or sense of displacement onto other things, by attachments, sentimental or otherwise, have occasion to appropriate the message of entertainment in a simple form. It’s just it is done very smartly and with a beginning, middle and an end which is itself an achievement for a short film. The view from the estate is wonderful and it is something all love to be connected to despite it being in someone else’s ownership – perhaps that is why the Sea has its draw.  Any answer Ted Hughes from far?


Martin 

Established and busy photographer Donal Moloney of Dublin noticed on his frequent movements around the inner City a homeless person who on meeting him turned out to be Martin who disowned the title homeless as his home was underneath Pearce Street Station under arches. Donal was attracted to Martins presence Ashe was a fixture of this locality and was intrigued enough to investigate. We have the resulting film which follows on in perverse logic some photography work with the ‘homeless’ Donal Moloney had been engaged in over many years. Father Peter McVeery who is a Catholic Priest who makes it his life’s mission to help Dublin’s homeless and disadvantaged. The Arrupe Society in Summerhill being the probable source of food for Martin and the biscuits he crushes under his boot for pigeons around Pearce Street. I did not hear his name crop up or did I miss it? This instead avoids spirituality as a hindrance to proper discussion. It takes the dubious philosophy and delusion of happiness into acceptance on the part of the Director for its scenic unmaterialistic value set yet adds tokenistic view of society from the perspective of a person who lives on its fringes while spending time reading in a library in the worst of times. Weather beaten and with pure instincts for survival Martin has become a model inconvenient tag ‘homeless’ person to partner with Donal’s photographic skills so identifying a product and a placement which the pair have contrived as a contribution to art. It removes itself from definition, parody or pathos as a singularly lax story, I can’t think if one is more deluded than the other but as a film of a nomad on the streets of Dublin whose sadness and rejection of the assistance is temporal according to him, one of rejecting help is sanguine, almost sanguinary imploding as a mystery, is of little merit given the conditions of crime, poverty, addictions, child abuse and societal hemorrhaging seen as a white canvas to invent illusion upon. The Belfast Film Festival Documentary Judges Committee came up with this as the joint winner amongst all the above with Raymond. They, to my mind, share the same insensitivity, and intrusive voyeuristic tome required of insensible unconscious filmmaking. There was not a creative moment to be had beyond contrived happenstance.

Belfast Film Festival Short Films 2017


Belfast Film Festival : Short Films 2017

In order of screening at Queens Film Theatre 1 April 2017.

Briefing

Mystery, Death, Life and Reflection on all our natures. There is a rather loose rural life skirting each programme in contrast to the dramatic and dystopian type narratives of the previous year.!
The basic parameters of the short films selected to be shown in the Belfast Film Festival season have numerous presences and absences of the Irish film world. Seen through the direction and vision, the film screen can conjure with our local vision as a mythical or unintentional reality. Reality is frequently asserted as a starting point as it comprises characterisation, location, a foothold of a concept which will go forth and tumble and rise before us in a picturesque journey. The journey is sometimes held in a narrow gate, sometimes commonplace, sometimes unfamiliar yet known.
The road and genus loci are non specific (local does not require genus loci in my view – a spiritual sense is enough and the senses combined can detect it) in many giving us a wider view than the Ireland of the origins of the story or filmmakers output. Many of these films have been supported by Ireland based ‘film institutions’ and some with local authority, even Credit Union backing. The locality is in many senses not important for the universality of the psyche has no borders and the themes realise this time after time. It is worth bearing in mind the displacement while seeing contexts and settings we are normally overfamiliar with. Such is the wealth of new filmmaking we are getting used to seeing locally developing progressive waves of filmic thought being swept onto film, digital and otherwise and skilfully, beautifully realised. The acting, cinematography, music, direction and production capabilities are seen here as gaining traction year on year. This season is roaming into different melts of concept and vision than others, therefore directionally original. They stand as individual units too within the season itself and each differentiates between the alternative frequencies of thought they engage. To bring positive critique to each is difficult as there are a range of competencies and instilled vision coming out of them. They each however have a single story on screen and of it as well as having a future to penetrate and become more widely experienced.

I have tried to give a view which is helpful, of personal insight and each will differ according to the expectations of the viewer as it happens to be the case everyone’s view is different and valid. Chekhov said you should write everything – except denunciations. So do not read into these opinions as anything other than impressions.

Childer
This is a domestic comic thriller/chiller of a simple narrative form. Well shot and full of colour it has a simple theme of keeping nature including its unpredictability in humans prone to error at bay. Living on the outskirts of town in a nice elegant stone clad brand new house with lots of open space would seem a grand place to bring up your family. The childer refers to the children on the fringes of this dream home. In the house are mother and son. She is anxiety riddled and has a compulsive obsessive disorder she does not take pills for and is incessantly cleaning organising and vexing on her domestic chores.  In Persil freshness she hangs out the whites, no colours, (despite her penchant for – directors choice? – red dresses and clothing) which brings her into contact with, at the bottom of the freshly mown green sward garden, four children. Two boys, two girls aged possibly between seven and thirteen. When she sees them and is discomforted by their affinity with their surroundings, they goad her and disobey her retorts which makes her go on retreat and counter planning more strict protocols which in turn test her child’s sense of belief in this obsessiveness. His contribution is to be the brunt of some actions. We see her become obsessed and the huge dreamlike forest becomes in her mind contested space and overwhelms her. The sunshine only serves to enhance the borders and confrontations. It is played heavily for black humour and slickly filmed in a normalised world and it fills the curiosity of how absurd it can get. It does not go too far in its reach and is a fairly decent conversation of the borders of civilised behaviour without going too Gothic, too horrific, to dismiss and it’s good entertainment. Avoiding biblical metaphors it is simply put – cleanliness is next to the forest. I wonder if a male director could have got away with making the woman the brunt of such a waywardness?  I add another common frailty in a later review – The Clock Makers Dream about costume referring to this film also.  Director / Writer Alison Clarke. Duration 18:43


Break
Tedium takes many forms and film about it is, from the outset dangerous territory without a handle to alter the tedium and vision or groundhog premise. With a world of coffee shops next to workplaces and multiple nuanced choices our principle play is satiated while alongside it, the attraction here is for loner and desk jockey Derek that of interacting with a Coffee shop assistant, Jenny with overdeveloped familiarity, constructing in Derek’s head in its empty spaces outside the workplace scenarios beyond reality. One swallow of coffee or joke does not a relationship make, however foreseen it raises its head in absurdity in an overcooked way.  After the inevitable comes the readjustment. None of the aforementioned is sufficient to hold any empathy and it is ultimately lost on a worthless cause in every sense.  Director/ Writer Brian Moran Duration 11:00


A long shot
I’ve had several bets on the Oscars and I wouldn’t put money on this story short making it anywhere near the winners enclosure when the turn arrives next year. The sporting juices are satiated in visions of Croke Park Dublin. An unlikely but true location for a soccer match between Ireland and Germany and the iconic stadium is the star as it presides over a flat land North County Dublin. A place where the sun also rises. The setting of a couple, the girl, Sarah, lad, Larry who are sharing a house, was one which took time to get my head around with a bedridden Dad asleep upstairs and downstairs barely a stick of furniture. The sparseness being a disjoint. Dad frail as he is, is called upon for anecdotal tone setting about the rare oul times – pre Johnny Giles up through the Keane era to the present halcyon days, comparable to Italia ’90 when Ireland became European when Ray Houghton’s left foot took Ireland to a confidence never before believed. A wager is conceived by Larry for a change in fortune except the money wagered is not his. The roles are well played and it is quick into its pace while it arrives at its pay dirt result in a shaky state of unease and has a small twist in the tail. It was an unlikely concept held together with some decent dialogue and feeling but it failed to stimulate as a complete cohesive peace in my view.  Director / Writer Andrew Jordan. Duration 14:55


Cousins. 
More than a friend less than a brother, the  observation goes about Cousins which opens its story on a shoreline and becomes disjointed in its indoor outdoor chosen environments.  The cousins – unstreetwise Jason (12) and his cousin  – risk taker bully Leon (14) who have never met before are tested and soon their bonding becomes a complicit compact with both taking part in a savage brutal violent act which is off the limits of anything either has previously done. As a film construct it is overkill.  There are numerous more effective ways of delivering its message but it also not in either character no matter how the idea got stuck in the writers head.  Getting unhinged has its signals and though people may not see them the clues should have been more subtle. The lame lane scene is insufficient on this score.  It spirals into a confrontation with authority. The young filmmakers are no stranger to the vicissitudes of normal life in Dublin and apparently know no bounds as far as Dublin’s scope is concerned as their theatre of film making marks out familiar places. The fault I have with it is, it brought no more than standard situational inner city struggles while it kept within its own (constraining group work lacking leadership, ownership?) remit – without extending, contrasting its place within drug culture, out of control criminalit.  It tries to imitate (unScorsese like – a film handle used) and they need to their game at a remove or two from this with a complexity beyond the easy familiar – which they deliver assured and  confidently enough – to allow criticism which holds they appear to have smarts but need originality, twist, presence altered and refocused on societal problems, to intimidate and put the heebeejeebees into an audience as Scorsese can do with all sorts of things including Jesuit Priests.  Director/Writer Ciaran Behan. Duration 14:01


A pornographer woos

The title is an overplay of an underplayed act of seduction. A married couple on the beach have the sunshade up, the mother in law in a deck chair, the kids hyper in sunscreen and the reconstructed Michael Smiley as said pornographer fully clothed and reading as he also surveys his wife’s curves and constructs a love poem – stand over John Donne. Melanie McHugh soaks up the sun in a classic black bathing suit and seduces the camera along with Michael as both ignore their family adjacent. When he passes the poem to his wife it creates a central peak and – no spoilers then will follow. It is a sunny smiley film with an almost perfectly formed play on attractions fuel except it never reaches a climax. Dreams become flesh and although it felt awkward at times, like sucking on a boiled sweet, it moves swiftly enough past those minor slips. It is all the more pleasurable that we don’t get to see MS in MS trunks, boxers, sporting a range of bodily delights kept only for his partner MS, and he only speaks a few words in his Norn Ireland drawl. I do like to be beside the seaside and the sangria can wait. Post a love poem and see what you get?  Director Patrick Myles. Duration 07:00


Incoming call
The highly original take on having an alter ego or future/past tense embodiment is an instant draw to this excellent short film. Songwriter singer Kerri played by Naseen Morgan is debuting her talent in a club, Voodoo credited actually, I thought it was Menagerie but the Voodoo have ripped off their vibe and look! For an uncomfortable introduction just before she takes to ‘stage’ and the open mike she receives an incoming message from her future self. If only you could get them to tell you whose hot and whose not in the data world and who won the war we could play God. But it introduces actually a good format for a longer tale perhaps when the instructional self is your primary driver and risk is removed. It provides tangible perplexing truths as to whether you are the best judge and need you commit to something to achieve – what? The story is well put together and the mobile phone footage is so good it leaves you comparing the normal scenes with it and feeling short changed. Only a few films I recall have a decent club feel and then sporadic. The brilliant Victoria set in Berlin 2016 has the many sides of an interior. There is a big range in Berlin and it’s not the Bergeron type or the KitKat type club films have yet to go there but nevertheless is close to the hedonistic style this club fetishes over.  Director / Writer Eion Cleland. Duration 11:20


Dam
Several of these films unfortunately for me don’t fit into the review format I used last year – a)Plot, b)What’s good with it, c)What’s bad with it, d)Verdict. This one does not fit either as it’s too sharp and distinct to narrow it’s feel and the variety of readings it projects. Basically it is a young mans guide to survival when tragedy hits and there are few opportunities to speak of it let alone to peers. So we are transported to the Spelga Dam which itself is a fascinating and camera hunger location.  The penned sheep in the publicity shot is a comedic take on imprisonment of the mind!?  The two principles – one an annoying and insecure foppish young adult Dikey, whose more ponderous mate, Smurf (on the outside – both hold in hurt memories) go back to the place where their mate took leave of this mortal coil. The fact they go back is a challenge and they look for distractions in conversation and the exploration of the place which is a good choice in taking time to breathe and take in the story.

Once the film settles down – when the vodka bottle they have brought along in anticipation perhaps of a measure of courage how ever negative – takes a part as a token messenger. You’ve the bottle speak – another metaphor, the film becomes mature though falters in its use of ‘imitation’ peril. The symbolism of the Dam holding things back is a deluge waiting to happen in itself whether intentional ( there s a mention of their friend Enda holding things back) or not but figuratively it projects sense and sensitivity into the whole body of the work. The core message is clean and delivered with sensitivity. It is no small measure of the ability to convey such hard felt los and the crushing reality harboured that talking helps. A core message delivered that despite being young, wet behind the ears, holding natural fears, using substances as false props the decisive thing is to bring clarity and purpose to bear and connect with people who listen and look for advice and answers and basically love for yourself and fellow human beings.  Director Conan McIvor. Duration 18:00


The Order
Darkwoodsmen don overalls, hit the kill button on their cause celebre and plot the demise of an informer. It’s neither done with grace, insight or sense of reality or governance of a terrors that organisation taking on the Stakeknife role of enforcer. They even brought a seat along for a a wait. It couldn’t have been the Larne woods then, where the PSNI ate their sandwiches while the stash of guns were buried. More like the Wicklow Hills which doubles as a conventional hit squad location of choice. It was a miserable film with a cockamayny twist and ultimately forgettable.  Director Matthew Brown. Duration 12:53


My father, my blood
Young eyes old witch, middle aged man in longcoat. A child watches their father murder a woman in cold blood. More than and other than the first thought of it being an exorcism it’s fiercely terminal. As they continue to live nomadically on the west coast of Ireland, their relationship begins to break apart. Both in the wild mountainous terrain of home territory. John Robert Brown has crafted a film which is outstanding as a drama mystery. His actors, Daniel – Jordanne Jones, Cillian – Barry Ward, principally, and Hag – Maire Hastings, Siren – Anarosa De Eizaguirre Butler, Father – Wesley O’Duinn, Mother – Miriam Devitt, Little Girl – Jade Reidare are the most convincing seen in this season of shorts and of such capable, significant talent they enable the strangeness of this tale to impress on the viewer a real almost Shakespearian sense of surreal otherworld. It is full of the atmosphere of many of the plays without imitating any. It is hard to figure out what is going on. The relationship in the centre is full of mystery as it was revealed to me – the father, referring to the girl as boy, is wishing she was a boy.  Jordanne Jones is incredible as the young Daniel and is full of emotive nuance and bewildering mystery as the girl juvenile in a central role which only points to an natural acting talent who is aware of the finer acting needs some of her peers and several a-listers could gain from attaining.  In RTE Red Rock an older actress who has similar credentials is Leah Minto as a Garda. Leah calls her part Ash as having street smarts. She is another actress who reads her role extremely well. The space shifting and shortness of this film is its downfall as it is of a potentially wider scope and maybe like Magpie did for Stephen Fingelton act as a calling card for a main feature film. It is shot extremely beautifully and assuredly by Ewan Mulligan though it’s over SFX’d at times. The whole team however deserve credit as it’s not easy to give this look and feel to a drama and give it an Irish feel which is well capable of fitting many stories and maybe reinventing familiar narratives – wildly – as long as the include the talent of J. Jones!  Director/ Writer John Robert Brown.  Duration 12:40


Pause
Here dialogue is delivered by tape to a woman in a place she is either returning to for a break, reflection away from the rat race or here to redress and confront a troubling past. It appears this is partially true as she is familiar with the tapes and within them are an uncomfortable record and it’s not Eleanor McAvoy or Shania Twain. Heartfelt are the revealed troubling accounts she rehears. Times are like Get Back Up or Better Times but this is a remote island, Inishbiggle in Co. Mayo, where there is oddly a faint signal for mobile reception. There is a confusing, for audience and Janine Hardy and the viewer of a sense of reality which is evoked mainly by the landscape. It is play on modern necessity to revisit the past, as opposed to previous generations who had to forego the luxury of this journey. Nonetheless people do find a need to sort out particular parts of their past life’s and move on but the memory is not always reliable and things often turn out to be fluid. Other means of exploring this are of greater effect and while it is a decent shot at a particular Pause in a persons story it is does not sit in the memory for too long.  Director/Writer Niamh Heery.  Duration 08:17


Moira Fortuna
The immigrants story is colourful as is the case in this experimental drama which incorrectly is described in programmes as being composed of only three shots whereas it begins with the Moira pacing through the tree lined streets of Hampstead to the Heath where awaits a chance encounter with Mark a young, introverted, shaven headed Irishman contemplating the non sense of space he finds in a remote shelter where his counterfoil Moira arrives seeking a light for her Gauloise cigarette (I imagine) like a winged charioteer of the logo she sweeps into the mind of Mark as a gallant inquisitor. The premise is easy on the eye and it is an escapist stylistic work reliant on tweaks and colourist framing eccentricity whchnos old/new school filmmaking and slightly indulgent. The narrative, dialogue is self centred and vaguely Proustian. As an adventure it is sadly overwhelming of the two main participants whose contribution is very engaging but untested in silences, activity or personal connection.  Director/ Writer Ed Smith. Duration 19:18


The Climb
In the life of others there are unknown hardships and family tragedies which never appear on the surface and then only through contracted framed incidences. For a short to take on grieving and loss in through the metaphor and literal reenactment of a Climb on a mountainside in Northern Ireland there is a sense of jeopardy portrayed by the two participants in the Climb. The teacher and the novice climber this is a depiction based on an actual tragedy and carries it with emotional quality and sensitive slow paced revealing how how such things are overcome. Loss by the widow played by Joanne Crawford, with Ian Beattie as the instructor. Some parts of the intended story do not carry. It is easy to miss the element that this for the fictional Julia is a climb on her adventure loving late husbands favourite mountain, Hen Mountain In the Mournes for example. For a true story it is deals with with a degree of moderation and sensitivity which fails to make it push itself as a short film story of far reaching insight. However well conceived and put together it is with the largesse of a consistently efficient film company it fails to deliver in the main part of new vision.  Director/Writer Lynne Davison.  Duration 09:20


The Ladies
Be prepared for toilet humour of a moderated kind. No harmful or toxic elements are shown, seen and all is piloted very well in the quest to give a set of dating circumstances a new slant. Apprentice dater, the amusingly inept and self-effacing youth Robbie a callow boy wishing to rose to the occasion of a date in a posh restaurant. He is seated waiting for his date to turn up and then sees an Aunt and Uncle who require to know too much. In getting an alternative seat a mate who happens to work at the establishment is asked to direct him to the toilet which is the source of the central plank of the introduction to the protocols of dating. Don’t listen to others for advice being one first rule. Whelehans Wines (Restaurant) of Loughlinstown I am sure would wish to assure future customers that the scenes in the film are entirely fictional and there is no shortfall in their excellent hospitality nor their facilities meeting all the needs and proper expectations of their diners. As a comedy piece it is well directed and well cast with a fresh and good paced unwavering sense of that area of entertainment it is extremely difficult to deliver something fresh, rounded and with a uniqueness despite the heavy measure of iterhaps having only one real joke to relate. It is a short so it is not going to trouble you with the what happened next. Though it has a cute ending.  Director/Writer Juke McKane. Duration 09:44


Homecoming
The narrative here is a familiar tale here North and South of migration and return. The take on it here is a young man working his fathers farm part time alongside his brother who we don’t meet and it shows his routine of daily feeding the group in lower fields presumably late autumn. There is another returnee, a young woman about seven years separate their last encounter having grown up together. An overlong sheep trailing intrudes, adds as a needless buffer and it replaces a missing part, a third dimension or diversion – even an introduction – like – taking a shop trolley back to the local one village shop/post office and meeting the person and saying you’ll drop by later. Instead we get an angry almost phone call? What’s that about? It had potential and it realised it partially in the good conversation dialogue of thoughtfulness regarding both these modern young Irish people. It had some solidity therefore it getting the message across but was let down in my view by other choices.  Director/Writer Sinéad O’Loughlin. Duration 13:55


Emergency stop
When you see another road trip expect human or alien interventions. So when we get the emergency stop it arrives in an unusually disorientating form requiring immediate explanation. The two characters are the girl behind the wheel and what the stop calls for, a partially dressed young woman. The driver at first appears to be in shock but it turns out very different. A male –  I wonder again – if the horror and the desperation which is laden on to be a character cinematic shock – fulfilled plus – would be seen as acceptable and necessary to achieve the reveal.  I think it would have been scorned as a bit patrightfully. It is a brief piece of nastiness anyway and is of shock value only. No heightened colour or darkness, (? tried to make it as naturalistic as possible so as not to give away the – you have to disclose any level of …. occurs anyway?) no distinct shape or vision in the camerawork or editing and it comes to a stop leaving you feeling disappointed.  A momentary Diane Jessie Miller lapse as there is very good work preceding it.  Director / Writer Diane Jessie Miller. Duration 05:41


Narcan
By far this film is the most like a mainstream movie and potentially of a bigger form. Even a mini series.  The story is set in New York with a great scene setting and character intro which shows a paramedic crew setting of on a day’s work with Irishman Sean Ryan leaving loose ends on a day’s start with his wife and child. They fit a tangible unit and subject setting up several possibilities and secured in this beginning Séan is revealed as full of anxiety unlike his negro co-driver. The daily routine is far from it and involves visit after visit to familiar haunts of them caring for seriously hurt human beings hanging onto life as they are called to apply first medical assistance which is life threatening – sometimes in both parts of the equation. It is brilliantly realistically shot and the acting too is superb. The part of Sean’s wife is handled empathetically and convincingly as a woman placed in a foreign city in a homemaking unit with the trappings of improved lives emerging put on the precipice through the job Séan does. It is well scripted and for a New York narrative it is unusual in that it follows an ‘ordinary joe’ going about his day job in the city streets. Several films I am reminded of go into the place of seeming to reveal a part of NY unseen by use of an effective core. Ira Sachs film of last year Little Men does it brilliantly.
This is from a Limerick man and it’s won several awards for Peter McNamara and crew and cast who do a mighty fine job.
The title is from – Naloxone, sold under the brandname Narcan among others, is a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in overdose. Naloxone may be combined within the same pill as an opioid to decrease the risk of misuse. When given intravenously, it works within two minutes, and when injected into a muscle, it works within five minutes. This film works in 20mins. and has after effects. I leave it of the roster for my favourite as it is singularly expansive and has is clearly outstanding with a very professional result which I nominate as a Special Award Joscar as I want to highlight other ‘firsts’ deserving special mention. So the origin of this film is also revealed as – While working behind a bar he would hear a wealth of stories from migrant Irishmen but one set of stories in particular stood out from the rest, An Irish paramedic working the streets of New York who would regale him with stories of being on the job and everything gritty detail that it entailed. Fascinated by what he heard he began to write during quiet moments while working in the bar, the blueprint of the Narcan screenplay was ultimately born from these scribbles on the back of beermats and napkins. It’s made.  Director/Writer Peter McNamara.  Duration 20:00


Second to none
Cartoonified twins are competitors in old age. While they presumably never had any hang ups while growing up and why would they the clock doesn’t lie. One came out first and one has just become the oldest living person in Cartoonville. The expressive and deeply intense animation is broad and well shaped. It puts up a gripping little story on a mere seven minutes that flies by. In the end you are warmed and horrified and made sceptically of all elderly folk who look unsettlingly cheerful. It might even get a 12 certificate as it’s only plasticine/clay?!  Director / Writer Vincent Gallagher. Duration 07:10


Groundless
Mary played by Love/Hate Aiobhinn McGinnity is an inner city Dublin single mum. It’s probably best getting that role out of the way in a short! Niaomi Harris, she alleges, did it in Moonlight. Here there is a difference with Mary retaining her faculties.  It could become a hoop around any good actresses neck portraying a subject familiar in so many outlets fact and fictional.  Son Mark is in with the wrong people. Dorset Street is typecast as a lonely street of crime and Garda chasing their tails while hell spirals as a flood about everyone’s ears. For the narrative this film takes it to the ultimate test of love and tests the appetite for continued immersion in a face of violence never seen in reality except to those close to and in the locality of actions which see the body bags and those who arrange the internment of their loved ones right in front of them.  While it is a very accomplished piece it does unfortunately only unsettle and is of incomparable relation to the street crime seen across Ireland and a constituent of most deprived urban western cities. Narcotics are a normal feature. The same weekend – unplaced out in media were the deaths of five young people in the Belfast City area with probable links to contaminated drugs supplied but the violence meted out was and is a destroyed body. Not shot but shut off with drugs instantaneously.  This also in the line of other more savage crimes also having young victims around the same time in the same locality. Narcan fits the spaces and more as far as the complex arbitrary exposure to harm and death with the important key of the Paramedic’s daily trauma clearly setting it apart. Director/Writer Eimear Callaghan.  Duration 10:20


Lady Death
The cloak and spectre of death which is a visitor to everyone comes in the (offset) horror genre film short telling the world of a guardian who is not angelic but places herself as the arbiter of all things final. Lady Death has a way about her which is basically too fundamental. In a journey of youthful discovery Lady Death who is twenty something harbinger of doom in her day post – seeing to the soon to be despatched, tortured souls, – is caught in a frail limbo and sees contentment which she only is able to enable through her portentous clients. She has wisdom beyond her years and is herself fixated with life’s carousel though in the converse to us – as she witnesses wrong choices of doubt, self analysis, which death is not intended for. Having scruples she seeks out the vulnerable to become their Gabriel. As writer Director Karen Quinn puts it ‘Death is not the bad guy, life is.’ With her lonesome task carried on young shoulders she meets a young man whose plight in his hands is doomed. The ill-boding stars align to tell this bearded youth of an apocalypse imploding in his mind while around him the world produces its daily beauty and cycle regardless tempting and fate to his conclusion. Karen is of a similar age to the actress and actor and is instinctively sharp on alternative views. She also delivers some great words – ‘Death is not meant for the young’ ‘Fear is a part of life’. Move over Aristotle. While Lady Death and the young man meet on the waterfront, one sees the bright lights of Belfasts central riverside in two shades, the bright fast moving daily hustle contrasting with the lit up colour of the night sky and moon reflecting on the water all that calmer but equally perplexing – the other sees no joie de vivre but I won’t say which one. The cinematographer though does as the film is shot particularly insightfully around the weir walkway and some ‘Cy Twombly’ (there is a lot of referencing him in my my reviews so learn about the cinematic angle if you haven’t already!) painterly colours and vibrancy lifts the mood. Again an insightful choice.  There is a sharp moment courtesy of Tesco Lisburn Road near the fair trade bananas which is a non sponsored moment. This is highly interesting, entertaining take on the old certainty by a light hand with a deft crew and only the occasional wobble. (Referring to the backdrop of brick which is too much of a students staple – leaning against walls! and multiple [edit?] to and fro on the bridge ‘encounter’ sequence – it moved too much) But all said it was a very good piece of work and the smoothness of a longer piece may create a breakthrough film. The writing being the chief strength. All to mature and form still hopefully as it leaves you wanting more but not necessarily the same thing.  Director/Writer Karen Quinn. Duration 11:40


Pebbles
The territory of Maeve Binchy or a terse Hugh Leonard or even Brian Moore spring to mind in seeing this narrative unfold. The rich seam of the future providing the newly married in an earlier era of say the fifties had authorial potential as well as real possibilities. We have here a Film of a woman returning to her honeymoon hotel to meet with her now estranged husband whose promise of fifty years previously was – whatever became of them – they would return to the Bray Hotel in which they first became a wedded couple. The pebble is a symbol pressed into the hand all those years ago.
Pebbles are strange things and on a woman being brought one with a cross on it after she said, bluebells are best left in the hedgerow, the suitor said ‘It’s a sign the marriage would be blessed.’ For her reply came ‘No Priest can bless a marriage where there isn’t one.’
Many beaches will have similar tales. It is far too literal and unidirectional to see the woman here on the beach with a heavy suitcase in her comfy trainers, with aa dress on and heavy coat to then traipse across to the seafront hotel missing a vowel from its sign. There are a smart young couple dining in the window seat watching each other’s eyes like they’ve discovered this weeks lotto numbers and won’t tell a soul. It only would take a minute to cross the street and get a ticket. All sorts come to mind as this slow work gathers enough steam to boil an egg. Pity it’s sans salt and an egg cup. Basically the film lacks substance and will he won’t he is barely of interest as so many similar tales seem good at first sight on the page as the author has embellished the notion with plenty of asides and meandering to escape the fact it’s a non story of sentimental value for the idly curious. The ‘couples’ place and hotel act well in their assigned parts but it passes quickly with the Sky hardly changing.  Director/Writer Jonathan Shaw Duration 14:55


The Clock Makers Dream
Time holds everything in its hands. For a filmmaker, animator the time frame has stopped. The magic begins when the Clockmaker introduces his management to time. Here is a whimsically travelled, very well doctored reality in a kind of visitor Centre Ireland town or village with the clockmaker returning to find all things stopped not least the town clock. George Meilie is cited as an inspiration. Ever since I saw people parading around racecourses a decade or more ago with quite effectively courtiered horses head pieces on to spin the atmosphere and ironically not to frighten the horses, I’ve seen the use in film as a cop out of imagination. The same flaw entered wth the very first film in the set here at the screening, Childer. There are several inspirations and it had me thinking while watching of Jacque Tati whose absurdity was in the same Gallic charm this conveys. It must be the Brittany connection. Even Dali is a bellwether. Our Clock Maker is in a world having not found live ŵhen time stops and this is the sadness of the piece which propels him into action and adventure. So another lesson there? You only find out you have been inactive in your search for true love, or insufficiently charged before time comes to a standstill and ‘the chase’ has also stopped and love is not only sought but needed.
The concept of the stopping of time is cleverly teased out to play with notions of living in the present. Only now existing. No future release tracking of time is needed. Conversely all the above takes time and this is the fascination of momentary belief suspension. See what I did there?! Shocks appear on screen in this arrested time as it is important to realize the resolved does not happen without a time lapse. Take the Irish historical narrative for one. Blow up Nelsons Column and you get to regain 100 square feet of territory in O’Connell Street. Now what name did it have before? If you look back in time as the clockmaker does the past is seen as a precursor to that broken heart you have or that grief you once had. The present is unresting because it starves you of memory and displaces the potential plans of tomorrow. How many hands have you got and where are they to point? The clockmaker remembers things he has made and now remembers for that is all there is left to do. The doll after doll made before clocks turned to him. If time had more time it would be its shadow. If your hands do not gesture you are not alive and moving on. As they say time heals.  Director/Writer Cashell Hargan. Duration 13:30


Gridlock
In the holiday season, especially in the Wicklow Hills it’s easy to take a back road and find yourself in a traffic jam. It is a welcome sight when it’s on the screen and your not in it particularly as this script has crafted together a loose collection of screwball half witted and cockamamie,ad as hares traveling folk who each have a story. Which has the story? They all have a part in unearthing it. Form the back seat of a car the child getting on trying to behave as if this was what her friends at school think would least expect her to be subjected too and the sun is splitting the sky and there are so many other kids to play with. No. She passively sits and listens to her Da’s rant. When her Dad gets out of the car to see what’s going on he finds a hay art turned over and Goya black horse lying as dead as it can act on the ground. It’s surrounded by a squabble. When he returns to the car straight away he finds Emma is missing. The instincts kick in as he looks all around to see if she’s gone for a pee or is down the other side resting her legs or talking to someone in another car. No. She has gone. The car driver directly behind is quizzed followed by anyone who oscnear. It develops into a very acerbic, horrifying piece of black comedy and every character plays it for pathos and unbelievable truth. The unbelievable truth being half the stories they tell as if it is factually making sense to everyone. This is the least unformed story of the entire set as a film it is too bloody believable asa possibility and puts every parent on warning for kidnapping in every moment of their lives. So they are in a car and lots of people are caught up in the same very narrow road and all wish to move on. How could a child disappear under this intensely claustrophobic set of conditions? Yes she does and into this come past histories, character unhinged fragility, tragedy, complacency, stereotyping and filmic cliches. The manhunt, the dark impenetrable woods, the pressure of time, the police stubborn static unhelpful authoritarian control, the jeopardy and wild imaginings. If it were not for the ordinariness of the main characters and the ease with which these actors seamlessly act together it would be set for critical mincing being a tale of child abduction in appearance. Yet it rises above the horror of the concept to keep you gripped to the end. So why no award? I left it aside as it was far too short and it weaved everything together in a short space of time without time to be excruciatingly terrifying. It missed a beat somehow and I’d have to see it again to explain that to myself again! Perhaps it was trying too hard to be just plain stupid and comedic? Perhaps it was too well shot? Perhaps it was answering your questions too swiftly. It is very cleverly engrossing and is as another aside a kind of everyman portrait. You know the type – where an everyman gets out of bed – something bad happens and his character shifts dramatically – for whatever reason this side is confronting and totally opposite to the earlier persona and can it change back etc.  Director/Writer Darach McGarrigle.  Duration 19:45


Prick
Overstretched fitness fanatic seen in go-pro enhanced camerawork is diabetic Tom. It overshadows his life as body confidence is blunted and sometimes he does not take his medication. Insulin pricks we learn quickly are a nightmare at times and the need for one in a young adult sportsman when competing for example, is our subject here. The director Adrian Rowe with fellow writer Emma Louise Dodds take a great deal of thought in assembling this narrative so as to 1. deliver a short effective insightful entertainment. 2. Be conveyors of health awareness and advice. You are not alone in other words as a young man whether you are a cyclist, rower, GAA player or netball, baseball player or any active young woman or man. A graph of the line of the sugar levels depletion is deployed aka The Survivalist opening frames come to mind! Another survivor but here in the real world of City life and girlfriend, relationships and the uncertainties of the future. It is great to see this kind of work as well executed as it is here and all perform to make it that reality. It is not a usual subject and it is not that complex with results, once the ‘reveal’ of the medical condition, this is not a spoiler as it is flagged up as being about a Diabetic! so it has a empathetic pull and it is exemplary without being brilliant on the levels of others reviewed here. Don’t take that to hard filmmakers because there is a lot of very strong work here!  Director Adrian Rowe Writers Adrian Rowe and Emma Louise Dodds.  Duration 13:58


When the seagulls…
The format of this short is a buddy type movie with a twist. All the more so given it involves basically one scene. It is of two men about late twenties who have come to this isolated beach (Norfolk is credited?) to despatch the remains of a friends ashes whose wish they are fulfilling. On the dunes we loook down to the pair, with an empty deck chair set on the rustling maram grass. Setting the scene they both stare out to sea and both become uncomfortable with this act which neither has done before. They converse with many reflections on themselves the person in the urn and even inform us quite accurately, well almost of what remains of remains and the person once cremated. So far so good. It is a whimsical and thoughtful script and process with the more confident of the two, after all he’s carrying the urn share the moment and a degree f gravitas is entered into. The story is well held and it gives you plenty to think about during this short period. Neither overlong nor short this tale has a twist which none will have anticipated.
Suffice then to conclude this is a very good short film of the type of real life narrative which seeks to be more than the contents, appearance of a short entertainment on observance. Observance is there of the two, of young men’s unfamiliar on the most part o loss and how to grieve. I takes it further by becoming a lesson well told and it becomes visual and the metaphors of the open expanses is singularly potent in becoming part of the confinement even for ‘him inside’ while introducing a heavy closure. There are several morality, finality tales with it seeming when the statistics of ourselves are shared, that that is what we are, just numbers. Another spoken one is that naivety is a greater sin than cynicism.
‘The Foggy Dew’ is played on a great soundtrack an the angelus bells provide the tome of sober paused reflection.
Having been to the cinematographic Norfolk coast on many’s occasion I never forget the vast openness of particularly the location of Blakeney Point where the very earth seems not to exist in any semblance of permanence, with tides and sands constantly exchanging their spoils. Eerily it becomes even more ethereal out at the point itself and the producers/director may have seen something of this location in their choice of exit.  Director/Writer Alasdair Killen.  Duration 13:30


The Cyclops
The double of graffiti and glue sniffing give Duncan fewer brain cells to think with and his relationship with his Mother is on a downward trail. It is attendant on the concerns of youngsters while delivering no new outlook or observance that I am aware of. While it has truth and consequences, such a trashed ‘flat’ – very lucky lad getting any kind of flat anyway on an Irish City – it hangs your interest on outcomes you know require redemption from within the family. I struggled with this as either exploiting a very serious section of life. As well asbeing described as a social realist film and taking on very well formed dreamlike/nightmarish effects interweaving them very well into the narrative ilacls thump kudos and delivery of a social ill dismissed. The teenagers have other interests besides these and no contrasts are exploited whether a short or not having the result I didn’t quite get it as a completed piece.  It may be that the director is not after a vision of reality and is playing with the themes.  Fair enough though talent such as this needs to assert its self fiercely to enter the broader wide long form which is obviously hanging in the air.  Director Hugh Mulhearn Duration 15:00


Six pack and crack
Black and white footage is employed with use alongside coloured flashback to provide the consisting local village shop life of an alcoholic mother Val and her estrangement from her 16 year old son Shane. She has used and is used in a relationship with a Russian whose delinquencies are greater. Joe, her partner has an entourage whose drug choices cover the bases. Shane the son would become a punchbag if he were to live at home. It doesn’t stop him from acting courageously to see his mother make other choices. Even so he has demons which make him wasted. The crystal meth environment of home comes with trading in drugs which accrues money which disappears. The money is put to use in the form of a resolution. It provided a great central role for Shane as he tied the content together while his mother portrayed in gripping, stark, tragic state was compelling. Unable to empathize with Joe the villain should not take away from the menace he projects and conquers any misgivings about the ensemble. It was a good film in many aspects and though it delivered twists and turns it was not my kind of thriller.  Director Rita-Marie Lawlor.  Duration 17:00


Time and again
For two fourteen year old boys the prospect of time travel is not confined to comic books. Two Brian’s appear.  The young and older versions.  The basic subject is very well trodden ground.  Given the chance would you go back and change a life changing event?  Would it be possible and these boys try to imagine it might.  Even a Stephen Hawking probably would have us take the position – the jury is out and the evidence is filtering through. The Eagle type comic is the subject of ones conjecture while the other is a more irritatingly science/professorial kind. The voice of Brian is adult as he narrates the older Mr Jones. Oisin at 14 is technologically secure and insecure. He has false perceptions and his name choice – Ossian being a favourite of 18th century Scottish poet James Macpherson who travelled further back to the poet Ossian of 3rd century ad is as close as I got to engaging with the entertainment yet irritation coming from the protoscientists. The retelling is poorly achieved from the other characters of Mum and Dad and the absence of a father while a good device to provide the impetus it is shallow in complex and does not work. The Tom figure is a type – the adult who says do us a favour son and don’t be havin’ nightmares – all cosy sort of, so it’s not a difficult challenging watch.  The type of safe short the BBC and other screeners favour.  Director/Writer Aiden Largy Duration 13:48

The Party
If ever there was a film to be had of a party in a back street in Belfast in 1972 as aconveyance was f showing sectarian hatred in the hands of violent men and women it’s not here. The utility of sanders and lerbstone paint also adding false notes. A UDA shooting in an area with rwb kerbs? A late bight party attended only by someone who had lost the plot and completely out of their head on drink morexprobably but not eyes wide open. It was a ridiculous and if harbours any nuances or side issues I did not see them. The cross dressing man on the run stupidity is a crude choice.  Given there were trans and LGBT in ’73 as ever, this is something left to perfect.  It may have conceivably got its supporters as an on edge of town bars/discos or The Harp Bar as harmless and indicative of a different paradigm was a good point while it never got anywhere close to a Neil Jordan type twist or visual foil. The interior shots if not the dials hue were good and period convincing.  The doorbell answered is also a conceited  stupidity.  So did anyone get shot for having a Party? Unionists, Nationalists, Socialists, Communists, Lecturers, Councillors, Reporters got shot and killed for having Party allegiances but for the other it didn’t make sense as the film failed in large doses. The triviality is not mine, it belongs four square with the films mediocrity. It doesn’t even make it as false history but ludicrous weak history poorly conceived.  Director Andrea Hardin. Writer Conor MacNeill. Duration 14:00

THE END OF THE FICTIONAL SHORT REVIEW.  MY WORDS AS A PLACEMENT OF OPINION HOVERING NEAR TRUTH HOPEFULLY.  Thank you for reading and if I’ve been too tough or critical on those who are responsible for the film content apologies as it’s meant only perversely (positive criticism) to encourage better and if that’s wrong too then I’ve failed to watch it more closely perhaps.

Non-Fiction Documentary Shorts Belfast Film Festival 2017
I have reviewed a few of the separated Documentary films shown a day after in a group with what I found weird results as far as awarding went as these two were in my view very worthy of winning as opposed to those who settled for ‘obvious’  cineworld reasons having missed the wealth elsewhere. Big time low.

The Wee Shop and Seán Hillen Merging views get my Joscar17 Short Doc award.
2 different and joint winners in my mind. Anything that can bring joy and laughter to a small film theatre in the heart of Belfast on a Sunny Sunday afternoon when the choice has been made not to join the promenade on the beach or car chase on the motorway to catch a barbecue or walk the park avoiding dogs is supremely deserving of any number of awards. In The Fashion Show caught a bright light in the world of Ruth Morrow trainee shepherdess and alter ego film Super Mario and Luigi gamer heros were a breathe of fresh air too. The sublimity – (solid to gas to solid again seems appropriate) – of the world of a rural community letting its worries pass into the afternoon sky temporarily was a lovely escape exquisitely creative and insightful. The surreality of the theme developed as a natural phenomenon and was a really enjoyable watch thoroughly well done by a burgeoning talent.


The Wee Shop

In Belfast the corner shop is a disappearing social staple. The Shop around the corner and later You’ve got mail by Nora Ephron are story films of the urban shop while in Belfast the Irving St John who belonged to a deaf family in Euston Street wrote the very funny play Boyd’s Shop which created a very portrait of the community focal point these places were on basically every road and inner city tributary. They even existed in the backstreets and their lights were on until near nine o’clock to provide for the essentials such as milk bread and sugar and non essentials such as cigarettes, lemonade and ice cream, the weekly pools coupon and a florid diet of gossip. The faltering entity is now a shadow of its former self as this short film makes a collection of a small number of stoical shopkeepers lament themselves about the struggle to remain true to the community corner shop provision they sustain on modest returns. Aside from the butchers and Chip shops and street cafes and fast food outlets they are seldom able to compete and this film is a tale which brings mostly dark humour out with the resolute frank telling of past times. Patsy on the New Lodge Road has plenty in common with her fellow shopkeepers Bill and Norman of Sandy Row and the Shankill respectively. The sorry demise of communities driven to the wall by successive governments undermining through lack of investment in all sectors of community life, the housing, schools, infrastructure, transport and a determination to structure destabilisation through housing allocation and lack of provision for families within communities is seen in these very shops which act as a last connection with the troubled communities they serve and served. By giving as one Shopkeeper explained with conspicuous accuracy, the bigger stores are allowed free access to a market through scale and mainly car accessible shopping by Belfast and surrounding Councils.  Monster supermarkets out of scale with communities and frequented by out of town bound custom heading to the dormitory habitations which provide identikit soulless housing on former farmland and undeveloped hinterlands of small villages. The film is a marker as were photographs of the same shops and former shopkeepers which provide another outlook and insight to the life of a passing community key.  Director  Siobhan King Duration 11:00


Seán Hillen, Merging views
This new short documentary portrait observes artist Seán Hillen as he creates a beautiful new photomontage. He shares thoughts about his work and recent personal discovery. The choice of making a work in the small studio of Seán Hillen is a tool adding emphasis to the incredibly interesting subject which is part of film making achievement; the detail the intensely focal frame.

The intensely imaginative world of Newry native, Séan Hillen in his present home of many years in Dublin is entered as if stepping into the imagination itself.  From the immediacy of an introduction to the dark outside and the loved fat bastard of a cat getting a food treat offered with profanity, a source of warm engagement and audience laughter enters the film theatre, as The Wee Shop did earlier, with its non stop mix of pathos and humour striking a chord here in Belfast.  It is a rare thing indeed to see an artist in a studio and while Warhol identified a niche to have photographers, artists, authors committed to coming to the factory and making their written and visual record of it, itself that became product. Like the late Basil Blackshaw who eschewed the rigmarole of publicity and never courted it Séan Hillen is similarly not keen on intrusiveness. When filmmakers of the aptitude and moxie of Paddy put it to you they want to make a piece about your work it’s a different matter altogether. The work too becomes an artwork. I was reminded of the groundbreaking film following Francis Bacon back from The Colony Rooms to his house and his immediately getting prepared to paint in the wee small hours of the night. Bacon took time to ignore the witness and get on with the work in his mind whereas there is an égalité, an openness, participation advanced here in this film, to welcome in the viewer to the processes of the artists role which attest to their inherent honesty.  A lot of art historians, curators, art critics, galleries do not get this work in its collective worth.  Some and hopefully fewer now, miss the continued trajectory from the Renaissance through to the prominent British artists, Mark Wallinger and Damien Hirst whose continued work excel propelling renewal of thought.

To carry out an explanation of how he works Séan gathers together an assembly of thoughts surrounding a new piece of work. In common with the photomontage works he has been making for nearly thirty years it is a leap into the unexpected each time it would seem and is as I perceived it a conduit of his mind extrapolating for us our own heralded metamorphic conjunctions on possible truths of previously upheld views. His explanation and it’s not given as a foundation but possible source of our connection with his work, is our brains priority in placing – seeing as believing – first ahead of further analytical deconstruction. The eye tells the mind to believe what it sees. Given the mind is relying on a chemical reaction which is fed though light onto chemicals transmitters and is a part of the brain itself we are in teleportation land. In the depths of the oceans we know of creatures that have no eyes. We are aware of the senses prioritising light and colour followed by sound smell taste and touch so reality exists to be broken down intuitively when we encounter only the two dimensional figurative statement of a photograph. Ireland has a complex narrative as does ever inhabitant of it.

Those in the past have questionable histories, so why not confront alternative functions for those times and perceptions, because memories lie and people do also.  Mythology is an art form in Ireland from the pipers lament handed down through millennia to our Newgrange polemic ancestory.  We have an Eros of harmony in our lives which is equated, set alongside, that ancient parallel Greek goddess of discord and the sister of Ares. To the turbulence of the universal rules and reliances we bring construct, more often than not based on simple untruths be it, democracy, loving, civilisation and fellow treatment of all living things. To this is the melee we have to call discord, identified with the Roman goddess Discordia. In Séan Hillen’s work – most notably Irelantis this discordance is highly prevalent. The discordance which Séan Hillen relates to and with in the film is his relatively recent knowledge of his having the Asperger’s condition which has performed a cathartic revalation for him to the extent previously unexplained attributes were held at arms length rather than their current state of becoming part of the reasoned dialogue.

To an artist this must be a great benefit as well as placing a perpetual commitment to the Aldous Huxley type of exploration at the doors of enlightenment. Huxley was taught by his father of the possibilities the mind could extend to.  The Prelude And Præterita of Aldous therefore were built in his DNA along with the affinities the mind constructs.   ‘Seeing’ here is the artwork progressing along those very lines.  Such was the source of the Huxley concepts of cosmic and social order to effect a transformation in Western thinking, a parallel must be held appropriate, in us advancing towards recognition of viewpoints we are yet unable to understand but have a belief they are of such magnitude as to affect our present existence in unknown ways, we are basically staking our whole existence past present and future on that construct being manifest.  Whether it is true – and these art works as well as many other artists works – tend to that possibility – that we are not yet able to see it – it is what allows us the freedom to make such conjectures.  Ireland, Eire has Greek connections to the word Peace the opposite of discord ironically.

There was a palpable stunned silence as the revelatory images became clear and that we were witness to a photomontage which proposed the absurd to not only to be a possibility but had certain other occurrences happened, they could not be dismissed as mere juxtapositions of intangible fluid thought and were reminders how we perceive things alive and active. Advertisements and the land of fictional representation, the apparel label logos, identity symbols and members of the semiotics of visual language. While many are on the parameters of fictional forces there are other ideas and imagery which are disablingly, perplexing and have an inherent, deeply embedded, truth telling ‘voice’, however ‘inconceivable’ they might appear. Our consciousness is at a place where we are incapable of dismissing them, as perceived certitudes divide us and make us what we are. In preparation for God it seems our goal is to seek out beauty in harmony with the universe.  This simple aim is difficult for the human as existence is made all the more confounding by the Bible quotation of God being sorry for making us this way… ‘failing’ you becoming ‘sorry’ in the KJB.

Director Paddy Cahill. Director of Photography Basil Al Rawi. Producer Tal Green.  Duration 10:00

The Irish Film Festa10 asked of Paddy Cahill 3 questions

Why did you choose to make a film about Seán Hillen?

I’ve been a long time admirer of Seán Hillen’s work but it was last year, as I visited him at his home to buy one of his prints as a present, that I knew I wanted to make the film. I wrote to Seán right after asking if I could make a short documentary about him and his work. Seán has an amazing backstory, which should be told in another documentary, but I was really fascinated by his home/studio where he creates his amazing work.
The film is set in a small room:

How did you work in terms of frame composition and editing?

When we filmed it was just myself and Basil Al Rawi, our director of photography, in the house with Seán. It was very important to me that we would be a tiny crew, although not much more would have fit in the room anyway! One rule I tried to keep was that Seán would only talk or answer questions while he was making work. That way it would be less like a traditional documentary interview. I thought that watching Seán work while he spoke would be more interesting to the viewer. This also gave Basil the freedom to get right up to Seán’s shoulder and compose some really beautiful cinematography.

And how long did the shooting take?

Along with producer Tal Green we were planning the filming for quite a while but the actual filming was over the course of one night only. I wanted the audience to have the same feeling we had when we filmed as if they just dropped in one night, to this unusual house on a normal looking terrace street in Dublin and got to watch Seán create one of his works.

More to follow on the Documentary submissions and the above two repeated.
John Graham

15 April 2017

Belfast

The Secret Scripture : A Film Review


The Secret Scripture

Director Jim Sheridan, Producer Noel Pearson, Screenplay by Jim Sheridan, Johnny Ferguson. Cast, Vanessa Redgrave, Rooney Mara, Eric Bana, Theo James, Aidan Turner, Jack Reynor, Susan Lynch, Siobhan Redmond, Adrian Dunbar. Music by Brian Byrne, Cinematography Mikhail Krichman, Edited by Dermot Diskin, Production company, Ingenious Senior Film Fund, Voltage Pictures, Ferndale Films. Cert. 12a. Duration 1hr 48mins.


Beyond Dublin in the Green

Some people have got this film horribly wrong and are unable to cross over into it’s tragedy in a trinity of hope. The Irish Times gives it this ‘tribute’ – What’s that? Who’s he? Where’d that come from? When Barry’s novel was published, several critics argued that the final unlikely twist felt at odds with a hitherto disciplined narrative. It says something about the film that the reversal feels perfectly at home among so many even greater lunacies. It even casts sectarianism into a new vein without making comment of how diffuse these things are to convey – it seems in a blind alley Ireland. The mastery of the Bible both potent and conclusive lends written comfort to Rose, a woman betrayed.  It is within the unspoken reading between the lines we go with this film based on the novel of the same name by Sebastian Barry which makes for more imagining than the act of storytelling in film this is.  Nevertheless it is handled extremely carefully with a melding of eras and in themselves drawing comparisons.  The landscape is more familiar to the Irish and the need to know (Philomenas Story is a close relative) diaspora from Canada, America or Britain whose children are the fathers and mothers of new generations of the ‘departed’.  In complete association too are those left beneath fields, institutions buried so none would reflect on their memory except the mothers and those in the know.  From Priests to Police to Orderlies. Into the equationn come knowing townsfolk contributing to the complicity and getting on with their lives by ignoring it in order to straighten their own existence in the changing world.  For the story to begin we enter the present day at Rose’s Hospital and Residential Care home in the midst of it closing down.  Some lessons are learnt and there is clearly an attempt by Director Jim Sheridan to acknowledge Times have changed and the bullying and treatment of people like animals has been removed.  In this present environment there is real care and a making good with what is at hand.  Even the prospect of Rose being able to go to somewhere other than a mental asylum has reared its head.

With the dramatic stroke of a pen Sebastian Barry conjures up a back story to the aging and institutionalised grande dame Vanessa Redgrave playing Roseanne McNulty whose 50 years committal to this decaying and listed for demolition Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital, is transported on the journey of her earlier life and circumstances.  Doctor Grene (Eric Bana) is sent to determine whether Roseanne is fit to be released.  The younger Rose is played by the affluent and Irish connected, Rooney Mara whose arrival in a small village in 1940s Ireland causes two men, a fighter pilot and a priest, played by Jack Reynor and Theo James.


New horizons revisited

Jim Sheridan has Oscar-winning debut My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father as home based movies and into Irishmans habitual magnetic pull to tales of immigration he went and it did not fail him with the exile story In America, and was an acclaimed award winning film also.  Some subsequent entries to the mainstream movie still didn’t seem to suit his work and this is a return of more recognisable formats and it is an attempt by Sebastian Barry to story tell the periods which define present day Ireland the diaspora and wars intervention.  This of course brings in relationships as the bolstering narrative force.  The auld triangle of a beautiful young woman and two bantam cocks clanging the auld triangle and creating conflicts?

Rose has kept a dairy all these years and we enter its tableau – shortly into the arrival of Rooney Mara from Belfast where it’s unsafe after bombing there.  The arrival of a beautiful independent woman is on this West Ireland landscape in the shadow of Yeats Benbullben outside Sligo, is to an already developed hybrid of gentry, Anglo patrons and a subdued, suppressed by Religion ‘compliant’ malcontented population.  They are not mercifully at war though many across Ireland went and fought alongside the British as it was 1. an option 2. There was little for them at home.  The mainstay of any small community is its perverse sense of hierarchy and those who disobey and act up are likely cast out.  Rose is recruited into her Aunts Hotel Temperance establishment and quickly the honeypot of the scented air takes her into the midst of village taboos.  The first ‘normal’ encounter is with a young man called Conroy a labourer for a hard nosed local family.  They have a built in hatred on the English and when there is another approach not altogether religious and skirting his own anxieties surrounding masculinity and his sacrifice comes Father ..    Rose deflects such straight eyed advances and goes her own path while accepting invitations to the local dance.  The presence of the Church is everywhere and in the dance hall they are required to keep apart while hoAldi get one another while the Priest including the presence of Father …. they leave enough space not to be sinful.

The film is drawn out using a great deal of passage from the present to the past.  It in done with good untroublingbpassage and with the versatile Vanessa Redgrave playing the Lady Rose and the unnerving accurate Rooney Mara as the younger vunerable Rose.

Inconsistencies and alterations. Implausibilities? 

Very strongly held views on this film have come from many who find the story confusing and too contrived in its far fetched coincidences and shaping of characters that feature less in the book than put to purposes dramatic here.  Some even call it a travesty.  Sebastian Barry having sold the rights keeps his counsel and his silence is taken as being far from endorsement. There certainly are large parts of the long history left in the book and a Rooney Mara’s Rose here has a prominent role in a central love story which contains its central themes.  She is an incomer, she is a beautiful sophisticated woman, she is of independent mind, she is entering a part of ‘remnants of occupied’ Ireland beset with unfettered resentment, she enters a village which has ahigh morality  driven by the Church, she is also in proximity to state institutions which remove children and separate single mothers from their babies and lock them up and give their babies away for money.  She also is in proximity to a Medical system crudely operating the appliances of ECT and shock treatment as normal for mental illnesses or difference.  She also notices the formidable rectitude of everyone to hierarchical status including her domineering Aunt (Siobhan Redmond) who’s name along with a few others are not easy to find on press credits oddly.  So is it deplorable to drop large parts of a book and get Shakespearean in this gazette of Ireland observed by the Filmaker Jim Sheridan who wrote the script along with the late Johnny Ferguson.?  There are central characters in this which do not sit comfortably with some people.  The airman flying a Spitfire – they ignore the reconnaissance tasks in the West Coast Atlantic seaboard where U-boats were often found and Lough Foyle famously being the last outpost for plenty of U-boats and also forget the American airbases – the recent BBC My Mother and other Strangers gave you the opposite to this film, delivering a War soap opera – which were in Fermanagh and all across Northern Ireland full of troops and airmen training to be pilots in preparation for the Secret D-day landings.  8,000 in Kilkenny Co.Down alone. While the book may have consorted with the flying mission instead of being a land based soldier, it matters little.  Bonzos are quite capable of shooting down ‘foreign’ planes and planes crash.  Many flights no doubt took place over this very stretch of Ireland’s republic.   Where do you take fault?  Is it the neatness of parts of the linkages.  Is the element of delving into people’s past too trite?  Sheading interesting characters? Is the ludicrously large white collared Priest Father Gaunt too comical and pathetic a figure. His character is volumously turgid and corrupt of a conflicted man. Are the nurses of the old school too clean and Matronly while being intensely underlyingly cruel? All these questions to my mind are nonsense and in the core of the film Rose is telling you how unstable memory is. The record to has advanced writing out that history.  Some of it is fantasy and in parts some of the grim reality turns out to have another side.  I don’t care if half the time the story finds a simple way to the next part as we are closely kept to the woman at is heart trying to imagine what happened to her.  Can you imagine how much she must have struggled to put that behind her.  For her imaginings of what happened to ultimately coincide with a partial reality?  The questions need not be effecting in terms of how they are coming to you as essentially they are in the realm of broken fractured memory.  The script actually places false directions in Rose’s mind only.  The other characters are real and no such bewilderment is visited through them.  Their part is sometimes savage and brutal.  Rose’s is in a state of protection in a fixed world she has inhabited for 50 years?  Can you imagine the damage caused to her and many women like her?

Similarities

I opened the play The Steward of Christendom at random and came across the same times as here. There are common investigations and trials of the past – society in Ireland – undergone by Sebastian Barry of which I rate the play as masterly, profound, haunting, sad forgotten history, much as this film indeed takes us into and it is quite political but Donal McCann made it definitely ‘other’ about the human improsoned in Ireland. Inside the Institution and outside on the Island fighting seeming wrongs. It made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end in its horrific prescience. Even now it inhabits the same place – even more so given the recent barbaric dreadful disclosures of previous generations guilt and the pain inflicted in those institutions.  Here’s the line I found straight on opening its pages of the powerful orderly Smith – Even in the ward of old dames with their dead brains, have some of them opened their eyes and are weeping to be woken, with your bloody shouting.  Do you want to go in with them, old man? After I beat you! Sebastian Barry on the case even then.

Eric Bana takes a high dose of listening to his requirement for enquiry about Rose.
The rich dramatic material at play and the fascinating historical backdrop means there’s plenty here that proves initially appealing. The young Rose is trapped by her sexuality, arousing interest in men without the slightest provocation on her part yet facing the full force of blame from those around her. The film briefly explores the complicated rituals of dating at the time and the dangers of a bruised male ego when a woman dares to turn a man down.
Initially there was a backlash in contemporary Ireland to the book with its closeness to history and claims of abuse ever in the headlines playing out.  It was seen in reviewers eyes as being far fetched and characterisations of romance purile and simplistic. For the film it’s seen likewise by many. The closing of the film is too contrived and unexpected as Vanessa Redgrave holds centre stage with her marbles intact.  The Secret Scripture use devices of story telling which only flow smoothly in books but it is admittedly hard to convey in the time period of a movie.  Demands of twists and turns though have been dealt with very satisfactorily by Jim Sheridan and there is no overplay of the gestures and realisations as they unfold.  With Vanessa Redgrave playing Beethoven’a Moonlight Sonata, (an accusatory critic paled at its repetitiveness) in solitary moments in a room, we see the breathing diaphragm of a living person recollecting her past.  It is not only sweet and convincing it is powerful and moving.

For the time periods to intermingle we have to have contrast and Susan Lynch playing the part of a present day nurse becomes a key vehicle for the sensitivity of history learnt. Her knowing, caring, is in seeing the woman in Lady Rose and reflecting on what she has gone through over forty years.  With the instruction having been given to assess her being taken up by a psychiatrist who is intrigued by the fortitude and forceful will of Lady Rose, is Eric Bana who plays admirable the ‘outside’ caring professional, quick to note discrepancies in the work of his peer, the notable Dr Jello  of Adrian Dunbar who is in charge with emptying the establishment and sees it as in ‘the line of duty’ as a role he plays with predictable solidity.   Dr Grene on the other hand is given slack and time by Sebastian Barry to develop a quick relationship of patient and Doctor which in present times of austerity are unimaginable.  Nevertheless an authors due – the slack given on occasion to movies due to time scale particularly in adapting books – is to make plausible a story’s reach.  Eric Bana and Susan Lynch form a convincing team and share the sandwiches, lunchbox treats and soups etc. or whatever sustenance is at hand in between Rose’s rest and elderly ramblings.  They too remain in the ghost like building emptying around them.  That is when switches occur back to Rooney Maras action packed life take us into a believable village – preposterous to critics of the book – with fabrications of conflicts infighting and japes and foolery unbetoken of Ireland of the time.


Irony lost on viewers

Sebastian Barry has of course given some ribald irony and an edit of preposterous heft to the story as if to say – Ireland, you were present when this was happening around your ears yet all you could do was turn a blind eye and more than that get caught up in rebellion against a country at war and a religiosity which tore the faith in God out of you and created a purgatory here on earth. It is tangible to see this cussedness in Irish people of that time but it causes more pain it would seem.  The truth always too has its victims. That is the line, the horrific line this film wishes to take us over and into a powerful emotionally troubling period for the characters who represent in fiction real people’s lives unimaginable at this distance horribly corrupted and ruined.  So there is a backlash of morality fighting for concealment as due reflection turns over too many stones close to the perpetrators unable to come to terms with their own families part in these vexing times.  Why drag up the past?  The reason is it uncoils itself in many ways not least in being held in so, it becomes repeated as a manifestation of ancient held in guilt in the sub-cncious passed on.  The doplar effect of the mind.  Séan Hillen in his Irelantis fictional world creates a counter narrative in art with the juxtaposed John Hinde visions of Ireland and as richly as film and novel forms.  More is essential for understanding ourselves the better.

There are scenes in the film which many will find arguable and condonable however I see those particularly disturbing pieces of work as entirely plausible credible entries to the hidden stories Ireland has masked for decades.  It may not be the truth but it bears an uncanny resemblance to the unfurling detail.  It is why it must be examined for what it contains, not for what you would like it to appear.


No chemistry? It’s not totally about their relationship but what hovers around it.

On parallel works

Hence the auld triangle goes jingle jangle. From Galway to Dingle, from Derry to West Cork it’s been happening for decades. Both the internment of the young and vunerable and the institutional abuses therein. The Steward of Christendom by Sebastian Barry was an intensely brilliant play I’ve seen several times and had on it acting – the unforgettable The Dead film character of Gabriel Conroy played by Donal McCann whose performance in John Huston’s 1987 film of the Joyce short is itself a piece of Irish history and also a masterful core part of Irish Cultural excellence in all its various themes.

The themes of the play are not equivalent in this film but provide another shape to the times within this film. For a synopsis of The Steward of Christendom – I’ve extracted the following from a ubiquitous source. The play opens in a county home (an inpatient psychiatric facility) in Baltinglass, Ireland in 1932, some years after Irish independence. In the opening scene, Dunne (Donal McCann) appears to be raving incoherently, reliving an episode of his childhood. As the play continues, Dunne slips from moments of lucidity to reliving parts of his career as a senior officer in the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP), especially the handover of Dublin Castle to Michael Collins in 1922 after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. He also relives memories of his family, particularly his daughters, Annie, Maud, and Dolly. Dunne is also visited by the ghost of his son Willie, killed in WWI; Willie’s ghost appears to him in the form a 13-year-old child but dressed in the soldier’s uniform of his 18-year-old self.

Here the date focussed on by Barry is the early 1940’s. The institutions had been around and become part of the identity of Ireland. In Belfast the 1932 move to Stormont from what was and had been the Northern Ireland Parliament one hundred yards from QFT in the now Theological College since partition in 1925. Sebastian Barry covers this ground in much of his work, of institutional Ireland of State and Health the life on the streets and rural world grippingly as he loosely affirms family connections with the Thomas Dunne the Dublin Metropolitan Police Commander in the play. So too this film for its depiction of a former period of important movement in Ireland. These histories are intertwined and Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera both had ‘seats’ at the Belfast Union College but never once collected from the fifty boxes of the MPs the Order papers of the day for that emerging Parliament. One could play the card Eamon de Valera was a double agent to the British hegemony as future republicans were to similarly trade their countries status. Not in a film though as truth is mainly stranger than fiction.

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Conclusion ####4

I began with a mindset carrying ideas of the lukewarm critical reception of the book and film, both inhabiting that doubt common to adaption of part historical narratives.  I need not have concerned myself too much because this film opens up a layer of life which is seldom considered in its continued influence and in the magnitude of its shaping usand the identity formed as a Nation on its multiple layers of relationships across continents, across short sea journeys and across hedges and parishes.  It harbours a fiction I see to contain many probable realities. I never read the book.  In the depiction of Lady Rose played brilliantly on both parts. Rooney Mara as the young independent free spirited, intelligent incomer beauty full of warmth and expectation and the kaleidoscopic thespian skills not wasted or lost of Vanessa Redgrave, herself no stranger to loss or to Ireland’s perplexing past, is not only endearingly charming but purposely disjointedly harmonious and comforting in its plainness.  There is nothing plain under the surface no matter what the Irish take or spin on it happens to be or where the deniers – and they are the ‘plain’ folk of Ireland themselves, mostly due to present many frstations of suffering across the world would prefer to banish and put away in a state of complacent bewilderment.  If only that were our only path.  The Secret Scripture is written – a form of blasphemy- in black on the Bible – as in the Temperance Hotel (you could say it was a depiction of Ulster which has many many connections with Sligo) – here is a Lilliputian Jonathan Swift world of male believe.  Now and then.  The Bible being the only book – in this puritan hotel – is the only marginila Rose has to take into her incarceration as a hidden diary.  For its uncovering, not matter it’s Preposterous retrieval there are unsettling truths like the words of the Bible itself.  As it is not a Book which is safe in the Clergies hands nor taken with pillars of salt in communion amongst the suppressed and mal treated citizens, already infiltrated by a siege power of a monarchist force.  Since the 1166 occupation the persistent and systematic entrapment is in plain sight from the pulpit and before the pulpit.  Both the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland contrite and corrupt in unity of suppression against Gods will.  This film will be seen initially as a passing anecdotal fable worthy of a watch but light on appeal.  It will upset and conflict with perceptions narrow and broad but I would say it will after several viewings reveal itself in time to be full of its own contested narrative slowly bringing a reckoning to bear as its bold and more extreme view is received as history continues to recite its clarion vision.  It is there for us to see in a wider sense and while novels, films can only open some fictional presentation of a past long gone it is always a sudden shock to see its proximity to truth and realisation is slow but within reach.  On a question alone of the mix up of plot and some too fanciful occurrences I knock it back from being a 5 as it is to my mind of a very determined voice setting out to familiarise the world and those closer with the inexcusable period in the past in this country – worse if most probably being effected unknown to us in other parts of the world – and it is a piece of the pyramid of truth being built in memory of those children and women.

It is like a whisky chaser hitting your throats but this is why the fondness for diversion is like dashing your head on the rocks.  So much is ventured there is no small comfort to be had except through thinking along the lines I think Jim Sheridan, Sebastian Barry and the fine strong cast found themselves nurturing.  While it is discomforting it is due plenty of deliberation.

John Graham

22 March 2017

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 24 March through to and including  30th March and on General release.

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Post Behan Brectian Proustian stories

In Ireland the confinement of Women and Men distinguished little in Mental Institutions from the Prisons like the Mountjoy that inspired the Dominic Behan The auld triangle goes jingle jangle. The lyrics still are chilling and how the Bi-sexual Brendan Behan came to them is anyone’s guess but the waking traingle of the Prison warder still makes people sit up and listen to these lyrics – the last verse.

In the female prison there are seventy women 

And I wish it was with them that I did dwell 

And that auld triangle, went jingle jangle 

All along the banks of the Royal Canal

Was the mind of Ireland imprisoned during these times?

From The Quare Fellow of 1956

ACT 1:
A hungry feeling came o’er me stealing

And the mice were squealing in my prison cell,

And that old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

To begin the morning

The warder bawling

Get out of bed and clean up your cell,

And that old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
The screw was peeping

And the lag was weeping…

(SONG BREAKS OFF HERE)

ACT 2:

A hungry feeling came o’er me stealing

And the mice were squealing in my prison cell,

And the old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

On a fine spring evening,

The lag lay dreaming

The seagulls wheeling high above the wall,

And the old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
The screw was peeping

The lag was sleeping

While he lay weeping for the girl Sal…

(SONG BREAKS OFF HERE)
The wind was rising

And the day declining

As I lay pining in my prison cell

And that old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
In the female prison

There are seventy women…

(SONG BREAKS OFF HERE)
The day was dying and the wind was sighing,

As I lay crying in my prison cell,

And the old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

ACT III, Scene II (end of play):

In the female prison

There are seventy women

I wish it was with them that I did dwell,

Then that old triangle

Could jingle jangle

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

To this song provided for The Quare Fellow by brother Dominic we can add along the themes of imprisonment is this universal song. 

I shall be released

By Bob Dylan

They say ev’rything can be replaced

Yet ev’ry distance is not near

So I remember ev’ry face

Of ev’ry man who put me here

I see my light come shining

From the west unto the east

Any day now, any day now

I shall be released

They say ev’ry man needs protection

They say ev’ry man must fall

Yet I swear I see my reflection

Some place so high above this wall

I see my light come shining

From the west unto the east

Any day now, any day now

I shall be released

Standing next to me in this lonely crowd

Is a man who swears he’s not to blame

All day long I hear him shout so loud

Crying out that he was framed

I see my light come shining

From the west unto the east

Any day now, any day now

I shall be released

 

End

Personal Shopper : A Film Review


Personal Shopper
Director. Olivier Assayas, Produced by Charles Gillibert, Written by Olivier Assayas, Starring Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz, Anders Danielsen Lie, Ty Olwin, Hammou Graia, Nora von Waldstatten, Benjamin Biglay, Audrey Bonnet, Pascal Rambert. Cinematography, Yorick Le Saux, Edited by Marion Monnier, Production company, CG Cinéma, Vortex Sutra, Detailfilm, Sirena Film, Arte France Cinéma, Arte Deutschland/WDR, Cert. 15. Duration 1hr 50mins.


The Outline

A young American in Paris works as a personal shopper for a female mega-rich celebrity. Personal Shopper Maureen played by Kristen Stewart seems to have the ability to communicate with spirits, like her recently deceased twin brother. Soon, she starts to receive ambiguous messages via. text from an unknown source.  Her travels take her to and from London and she is stalked by these messages while she is figuring out her brother Lewis’s ‘presence’ while advising his late partner and friends on the forms medium enquiry takes, as all try tying up loose ends concerning the former home the couple lived in.  While it is on her mind she remains there in Paris addressing the spiritual effects on her.


Acting Sharps

Love or hate central character Kristen Stewart either a cool, ‘calm and self assured way … in the portrayal of Maureen who is an assistant operating as the title says in a shadow role … ‘ as someone very competent, smart and young as others see her (male and female acquaintances come up with the similar infuriating answers) that she acts perilously close to appearing to have let off a sneaky fart.  Her facial expressions in other words conveying this repose. Not exactly the way of conveying criticism but there is a public appetite for simplification and many ways of expression co-exist.  I differ though as though I am not entirely taken by her acting while appreciating here and in the previous collaboration – she seemed better in – Clouds of Sils Maria, with director Olivier Assayas.  This is a sensational chilling, at times disturbing, ghostly twin peaks thriller.  That is more than overkill as a description and instead it could be – some fellow viewers say it this way – as a plodding vision on spiritualism explored using 1900 references, musical, novel and filmic as well as a large presence of abstract art.  Being critical of Kristen Stewarts presence and acting impress is valid due to the high profile she has attained.  She has her smarts choosing parts suiting her and this again is one that she excells in my view as she ‘inhabits’ the part and allows its slow release.  Optimum high drama is not her style and a lot here depends on her not reacting to situations as a witless overacting actress quite legitimately could have portayed it. It will be interesting when another more dynamic dramatic challenging part requiring altered states of acting rather than altered states of mind – laid on her courtesy or constrictingly here by Olivier Assayas.

Trope trailing trowels

We are no longer in the vulnerable trope female genre age (I sincerely hope) and as a personality the bi-sexual individuality of Stewart operates on a higher plain.  So much more is – in her projection – about you seeing a woman thinking on her feet. That is how it should be. Film making advances and KS is up with tat unquestionably.  Choices in fashion shops for someone else, to Kyra (Nora von Waldstatten) who she doesn’t empathise with and while things happen in many ways as she tries to contact her late brother Lewis firstly via. a stopover in the house he and his partner, who has since vacated it, lived in.  This is something she delivers on.  The shallow part is in the drama internalised.  It is impossible to convey – otherwise our Director would not formulate filmic distortions and overlay them. The layering on of some actress throwing up water of liquified gung down screen and walloping us with ‘fright bites’ tells you the actress is apparently aware of a ‘presence.’  So that’s the chops of limitation gone. Terrifyingly the film ‘Under the Shadow‘ did it so much better as did Narges Rashidi’s Shideh acting even allowing for the presence of a child.  It is light years ahead of this film.


Lessons in doubt

Maureen being a twin has been consumed by her late brothers interst in ectoplasmic experiences and his intoxication with spiritualism. If some viewers actually extend the idea she is herself a medium, it is not quite that distinct in the fiilm and purposefully some dialogue indicates that. The co-relation of the twins is used as a deep connective configuration advancing and allowing us to give credibility to her need to go into this means to connect.  Also advanced as a secondary way is the story of prospective purchasers who Lara, brilliant delivery (Sigrid Bouaziz) has arranged a provisional sale with – providing it’s not haunted.  Quite how they got to be aware of this possibility is another unlikelihood.  Hey but this is story telling and poltergeists are everywhere.  Victor Hugo gets an approval rating by way of a filmic diversion explored by the search engine world all inhabit.  It’s not just employed as a screenshot on a phone but is itself put up in 4×3 ratio as a cut into the film itself – placing it as a condescending educational aid primarily as it is counterproductive and another piece of confirmation Maureen is not fully up to speed on large figures of medium history.  Odd?


General Major Von Ruff (Lars Indiger) from BBC’s SS-GB turns up as a companion of the Mega-rich Celebrity Maureen and equips it with a side story but the sensationalist use of both characters is for drama content only absenting itself from the plot.  Into the ingredients come supposed markers in the form of Phone text exchanges as Maureen continues to buy things from Paris and London, furnish the clients wardrobe and only briefly interacts personally with.


Work of Hilma-af-Kline. (Other images seen in film)

Abstraction

This film takes us through the territory’s of well documented followers of spiritualism from the abstract artists to the novelists though not going as far back as Shelley, Wolsencroft, Yeats etc. and Hugo is highest in exploration while Steiner and Germanic themes dismissing spiritualism are advanced along with an atmosphere borrowed from Cabaret and musical underpinning which adds up to a concoction mash up rather than a rather good recipe which on other occasions may have expanded the thesis or directors aims, understanding for us to be satiated in this complex ‘other’ world.  Presumably Aleister Crowley was a no go area and too unfashionable.  Swedish pioneer Hilma -aft-Klint is the most clearly ‘startling’ face of examination on the subject while Hugo is very obviously the exponent of the written conquest of the forms and ideas.  Conquistador, never thought I’d use that, but the film has Victorian and lots of diverse angles, unfortunately in a mash up.
Maureen is a supremely assured young person in Paris who clings to the memory of her twin brother Lewis who has recently died.  His widow .. is coming to terms with the loss and is almost separate in grieving.  The effect on her of loss is never explored properly which sits badly. Her character is strongly projected and lifts and contrasts with the central dynamic.  The lack of awareness is ascript problem with presence taken with other choices themselves pedestrian and in danger of seeking out artfulness.  Is it attempting to convey the everyday?  Contemporising the vision of ordinariness/complexity each apparent, in our existence with unexplained spiritual questions a fixed part of life explored variously but where is the hook and ponderable intensity of the question?  It’s virtually lost as will become clear by anyone seeing it through to the end.

Subtraction of anxiety

Because there is an appetite for skilful drama on subjects of family loss and the strangeness of further and further examples of concealment – not in plain sight issues and ideas or science based constructs – we are hopeful of it being satiated.  That is where Cinema a sets itself apart from other ‘media’.  Film has delivered the technical age of impersonal interchange.  Scream. Nightmare on Elm Street.  Under the Shadow subverts this completely and intelligently using a blank TV to put the self into and see things there.  Text requires your imagination – it’s no secret – has to put in absent words became se of the truncation. Cinema has past history unparalleled in taking us into challenging peaks and troughs of life.  Life itself defined here crudely in death.  The only part of our awareness of life is experienced by death. Time shaped life is present in the moment collated through memory which itself is plastic.  For a true picture of the phenomenon unstarstruck this is not the place to look for answers and ‘arthouse’ is a looser bond here in the speel given in other reports as to its veracity or filmic depth visually or storywise attributing as it does too many ‘representative’ tokenist tropes and planks of assumed knowledgeability of the topic to have it drop the ball somwhere over the Seine.

         img_9371-1 img_9387.   IMG_9390

Other psychics are available – Aleister Crowley                         Victor Marie Hugo also wrote his original thoughts on mediums

Conclusion ###3

I was initially interested in where this film might take the ectopsmic hinterlands of spirituality in the authorship of Olivier Assayas but was quickly disappointed in its seemingly directionless plot building.  Fashion houses only are of passing interest – after Comme Garçon all pails.  The bling of glitterati in hot house shops conveyed the Personal Shopper role without intimating any lack of form or shape to the body of the human placed in the centre being at odds with that occupation.  It is and was a mere occupation apyingbthe bills and any opportunity to convey materialist notions of contemporary value systems were non existent.  So what then?  Maureen clearly was using the job to pay the rent and apart from some passing exploration of the sexual content of the choices she was making for her clients identity which were at times matching her own it too was trivial in its effectiveness.  There is not a lot an actress could do with the clothes except cosset nourish herself with their temporary escape and then move on.  The void was so apparent and uninteresting.  As for the spiritual enlightenment none came to pass. Quite a few reactions were of the ‘presence’ of absence which is stretching the task of using language to fit the void in extremis.  It may have worked with emphasis in different places but it didn’t shape up at all.  As for its tendency to factorilise the brief of the ‘medium’ it was tediously condescending it is attempt at gravitas.  While many will like it because they like the look it is hardly going to be held as a new thought provoking exemplary piece of film making.

Kristen Stewart needs better work and can outlast this temporary indulgent blip.  I certainly hope and expect her to excel somewhere along the line.  I was said in a ‘proper’ review! nameless that  She possesses an uncanny ability to turn her natural charisma into diffidence. You can’t take your eyes off her, even as she ..  That view has a different outcome for me as plain blandness.  The view related also paying film fans. Still in a parallel world – the world of Russian Vogue I believe KS turns up recently as a fashion model and all the clothes are radiant and colourful.  See the web for the blonde new look attire.  Strikingly photographed.  No hint of irony but clothes listed in Russian!

John Graham
16 March 2017

Belfast
On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from 17 March through to and including 23 March 2017.  Also on General release at selected Cinemas.