120 BPM : A Film Review

 

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120 BPM

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

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

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

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

1979 on dateline

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

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Out in the open

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

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

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

Aids America

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

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

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

Disease in full spectrum 

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

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

Of significance NOW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nahuel Perez Biscayart and Arnaud Valois are Sean and Nathan,

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

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

 

Conclusion ####4

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

 

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

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

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

 

John Graham

9 April 2018

Belfast

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

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The Square : A Film Review

 

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The Square

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

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

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Psychobabble

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

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Boundaries

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

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Pitch Black

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

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

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Social Contracts

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

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Is

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

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

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

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Comparative art

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

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

 

Prescriptivist

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

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

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The Performance Centrepiece

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

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

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

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Outside Borders

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

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

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

Fully formed

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

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Music cadence

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

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

Provocative thoughts

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

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

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Conclusion ####4

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

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

John Graham

23 March 2018

Belfast

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A Fantastic Woman : A Film Review

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A Fantastic Woman

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

Pablo Larraín, Sebastián Lelio, Gonzalo Maza.

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

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

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

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

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General synopsis

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

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Gender fluidity

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

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Simple choreography

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

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

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

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Barriers

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

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

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Appearances

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

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

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Fortitude and strength

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

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Directors note

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

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Conclusion ####4

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

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

John Graham

5 March 2018

Belfast

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Dark River : A Film Review

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Dark River

Written and Directed by Clio Barnard. Produced by Tracy O’Riordan. Cast : Ruth Wilson as Alice, Mark Stanley as Joe Bell, Seán Bean as Richard Bell, Esme Creed-Miles as Young Alice, Aiden McCullough as Young Joe, Shane Atwood as Tower, Steve Garth as Jim, Una McNulty as Susan Bell, Jonah Russell as Pete, Paul Robertson as Dec, Music by Harry Escott, (credit with PJ Harvey song of An Acre of Land), Cinematography by Adriano Goldman, Edited by Luka Dunkley, Nick Fenton, Production companies, Film4, Left Bank Pictures, Moonspun Pictures. Distributed by Arrow Films. Duration 1hr 29 mins. Certificate 15. Language, English. Country United Kingdom.  Supported by BFI and Wellcome Foundation.

Directors words

The third (after her The Arbor and The Selfish Giant) Clio Barnard film Dark River is a stark rural set familial drama which is unrelentingly grim and a reflection of contemporary unspoken and also prominent incidences of sexual abuse that are now surfacing as never before with revelatory troubling concerns. How Dark River is an example of the hidden domestic sexual abuse which is a scourge of society and is very hard to uncover is brought through the skilful yet sometimes evasive and metaphorical direction taken.  The water of the river in the Yorkshire setting is a place where it is both custodian and cleanser of the revelations made. Dark River is credited with a connection having been made to the book Trespass by Rose Tremain in its title closing credits.

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Beginning

Alice played with grace and substance by Ruth Wilson is returning to the place which is where she was once abused.  Having opened the film with her shearing sheep with equal speed and ease as men on contract farm work the sunny disposition of a shared lunch break is overtaken by the need to return home and lay claim to the farm she left fifteen years earlier.

Here she finds her brother Joe who is played by a strong oxen type of a young man in his thirties by Mark Stanley who must and does create a brooding sometimes menacing and broken keeper of the land of their father.

It begins with a lovely song by PJ Harvey, whose voice like that of Nora Jones, is set back into the folds of radio playlists for late time listening. Seldom is the story as close to the brooding melody and words of “An acre of land.” Differently it is to the scapes of the dales Clio Barnards cinematic eye is cast which is as a mostly dark and seldom warm environment. Beautiful it is but it foreshadows the emotions soon to be brought forth. The Bradford of The Selfish Giant is Beyond this environment. Where the poverty and determination sometimes playful and joyous in that film appeared occasionally no sense of joy is seen here. The landscape is the lasting thing but having returned to where she grew up, the home is too much a haunted place full of recurrent traumatic memories.

There is no mention of any substance to their mother and another departure is not made to explain the relationship which is like having a table with a missing leg. Instead the darkness is kept to be contained in the reaction and emotional torment faced by Alice in all kinds of confronting forms. By choosing to go back she is laying down a recapturing of her rightful legacy as a form of affront to the misdeeds and dreadful abuse she suffered there.

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Recovery

It is not possible or easy to reclaim the land in a bonding or empathetic sense, which is where Clio Barnard is taking the film. The river is not cleansing but is a habitat itself suffused with memory. Water is a splendid cinematic medium as a certain recent film testifies to. Alice in going back is troubling from the outset. She is firstly unable to live in the house. She instead chooses to life in the adjacent prefab. She has immediate flashbacks. The flashbacks are with her also in the life she has just left. Esme Creed-Miles as Young Alice, Aiden McCullough as Young Joe, create a bleak vision of the childhood tensions brilliantly and others such as Shane Atwood as Tower, provide a range of solid character parts.

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As well as visits to agricultural markets and the occasional pub, the landscape is significantly large as the land is shown with Yorkshire itself a broad scoping individual of a natural territory which the lens follows a formidable elemental beast. The North Sea is not far away from the river running to it. The weather and conditions are harsh and uncompromising. The skies are huge. The fields and boundaries wide. Some opening shots show the idyllic stone wall close cropped fields and padlocked animals as well as the straggling electricity pylons marching across the land of the white rose of Yorkshire as some behemoth. In exploring the two sides of the story. The land and its occupants it appears as though an attempt which Is unfortunately not achieved of a divination of some sort being sought or impending doom at the door.

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Landlocked

Joe is the custodian of the land and is brought to consider the harm caused by his father and carries with it an unspoken sorrow and guilt in having been there and unable to stop it. As well as his own lack of fatherly guidance to find a rebalancing for he is deeply at odds with the cruelty of the world and the bigger picture is someway seen through his innocence. There is talk of the big big world and his sole or limited excursions away from the farm concerned delivery of potato seedlings to and from Ireland.

 

That is seen as another green field. Where the grass is greener and the ways strange but a set of values of equivalence but not if his own. Such a position as we know is a gigantic misnomer. Keeping with Noe his sense of belonging is more complex than the film is able to document. It relies on conversations of alternative means of farming when challenged by Alice to make it work and go forward. The strength was and is in the soil and I heard Michael Longley speak of the isolation in Co. Mayo in its remoteness and his muse Carrigskeewaun. The town land of the place giving a broad expanse for the imagination to go wild and be entrained by belonging.

 

That land is mostly empty through immigration and escape to the towns near and far. Yet it remains a muse.

Here my imagination

Tangles through a turfstack

Like skeins of sheep’s wool:

Is a bull’s horn silting

With powdery seashells. extract from M. Longley’s poetry.

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Binaries

The land is cast almost as the ultimate boundary and to it, nature we all return. The lines of Longley’s poems infuse this sense of separation by the necessity of language, names , nomenclature to express their permanence as they newly cast out repetitions of themselves in life’s great mystery of binary codes. The powdery shells of calcium carbonate cast off.

Different lands but primordial things speaking back to us through the land as nature sustains location.

Dark River takes care to reveal this in Joe, and Alice is similarly a symbol for the land. How it is conveyed is through the absence of the connectiveness she yearns for that Joe possibly still possesses. The drama is the conflict of the two as metaphorical damaged people. The harm being internalised in Joe and he does not even know but Alice soon becomes distraught apart from her own remaking sense of belonging. Joe is approached by a land agent after Alice applies for tenancy rights. He is taken aback by the arrogance of Alice with her citing neglect of the farm and decline down to him. The buildings are in disrepair, the land boundaries broken in some places and tillage and unkept fields not consistent with tenancy agreements.

 

Mending fences

There is a period when the differences could be mended though Joe points out some home truths. The clear inability now she’s back, of Alice to unburden the hurt and harm and the unwitnessed haunting and recurring themes which we visit by flashback. The river is a retreat and a temporary escape. In previous times Alice had made her lover a young farmer called Spider and he is an occasional entry to the film. Joe is deeply disturbed by the possible change of role and the methods Alice uses to work the farm.

When Joe applies for the farm he is approached by land agents who want to remove both of them whatever the methods deployed. Without criminal or lawless action but by manipulation and blackmail the land agents set in play a set of irreversible actions.

There is a confused end to the film in which retreat is to flashback to carry the fathers hurtful and saturating part in the story. Alice is confronted by a set of new challenges which unfold from Joe’s disturbed mind. There is no remission from the causes of harm nor any satisfactory outcome possible but time is constant and this is a period of both their life’s which set them in conflict with each other and in need of repair.

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Conclusion ###3

Very occasionally a film comes along to reach into the dark corners of domestic abuse and also the wider incidences in institutional abuses. Sports, entertainment and many Religious institutions are presently in the headlines along with organised criminal and community sexual abuse being uncovered across these islands. This tires hard to tackle the subject through a story taken from the core of the book Trespass by Rose Tremain and visualising and dramatising a single woman’s story.

This story departs greatly from the land ideal and the places ‘genus loci’ being ultimately eroded and land speaking like Longley’s Carrigskeewaun being almost a skeleton of the earths bones being seen again after mans tilling and ancient furrowing of its surface to raise a life on. An Acre of Land – the song speaks of ancient giving and the scrawny legacy it represents unkept. The environment is key as is our relation to it is the message and the human being is sinful in every respect and often unworthy as a keeper. Alice is a retrieval missionary but is thwarted by the sibling ownership of equal resonance. Almost the child is the father of the man in Hugh Leonard’s sense.

from the graphic violence and incest visited on Audrun by her father and brother to Anthony’s near-romantic love for his careless and selfish mother. Then, engineering them into an impossibly volatile situation – kickstarted by Anthony’s immediate attraction to the crumbling Mas Lunel, and Audrun’s determination that it should not be sold – she leaves them to reap the consequences of their wonky desires and impetuous actions.” A reviewers take on Trespass.

The subject matter is a momentous multi layered one which is hard to dial into. Landscape is evoked as a contestable territory where vices are in conflict through the unresolved past and methods and approach’s carry the leaden crook sacrifice of innocence as the nature is fought with and contested without remorse, solace or forgiveness. Like many cases the time has past where the perpetrator has long gone and ultimately the sins of the father are left as remnants of history to be picked over like crows on a sheeps skull. A difficult slightly wandering and confusing watch but a worthy effort on a subject so difficult to handle or bring insight to.

John Graham

02 March 2018

Belfast

Showing on 02 March 2018 until 08 March 2018 at Queens Film Theatre.

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J’Oscar’s 2017 : Film Review Awards

J’Oscar’s    A glass half full?

Here’s the envelope. Thanks. Oh this is exciting and after last year no mistakes, right? Oh it can’t be – didn’t it star, well he was under a white sheet most of the time, but surely you can’t give it to this movie. Didn’t he get embroiled in some sleaze about behaviour onset? OK, there’s no mistake.

The J’Oscar for Best Picture of 2017

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……. goes to A Ghost Story

Through clenched fingers up to my face and I Place at No. 1 of all the films I saw throughout 2017 the remarkable A Ghost Story.  As a Film is greater than the individuals and one should not destroy a films validity I discard malice felt towards an actor whose case has boot been publicly aired from a decision on the meet of a film. While some and those privately hurt by any actions that may have taken place will have their own reasons to denounce such a position it is to be balanced alongside,

 

1. Where it known, would the man have been given the part?

2. Does the entire cast and crew making this astonishing film have to be dismissed along with the actor making their achievements null?

3. Should film producers not have a role in calling out misdemeanours and passing on details to authorities outside the businesses instead of muck slinging inside it which becomes friable as a result when newspapers and other media get to speak of it?

Creating such a remarkable film David Lowery does not deserve to be snubbed in recognising the immense quality of the whole ensemble including Rooney Mara and the editing sound and cinematography contributions.  Blazingly brilliant film.

Perpetuity in a singularity 

A Ghost Story is a film about perpetuity and the ever moving wonderous world we inhabit and has a touch of heaven about it.  Surreality is dictionalised yet the reality is with us as we pause in watching this film to consider the outcomes we have been apart of and how the future will happen regardless of our presence.  The Ghost is us looking in on the immovable constant moving on.

Other awards go to ………

Mary Queen of Scots was a Platform for two brilliant performances from actresses, Ireland’s Saoirse Ronan as Mary and Australia’s Margot Robbie as Elizabeth the First. With them both having accomplished great roles and performances in respectively I,Tonya and Ladybird the closesness to Best Actress must be a sharp call. They are also challenged by Meryl Streep who many are in awe of despite the performance in The Post being lauded largely because it creates a large canvas and she as a fine actress has the skills of ‘pause and reflect’ timing which is allowed here due perhaps to the eras pace not the rush through a more contemporary part would have pushed upon us. So the Oscar goes to – see below!

The I,Tonya story is an excruciating piece of drama for lovers of fair play and points to the winner at all costs mentality pervading many sports. From dodgy injections in footballers to dampen pain before a very crucial match, to the Olympic level drug and substance abuse to the on road ‘replacement therapies cyclists partake in to get to the head of the pack, the story rarely is covered by cinema. No one loves a cheat and the scenarios are usually not pretty. The last time I liken an athletes grime story and reinstatement was the brilliant Matthew Maconaghy in The Dallas Buyers Club which was an epic and underated dramatic off road, road movie. The endurance and counterpunches of Margot Robbie whose immersion was instantly believably in my mind skated off with the Best Actress Award.

The J list

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Extras

Hogh flying films such a short Killing of a Sacrificial Deer and Insyriated will last long in the memory and of course are worth seeing several times.

The Farthest was a remarkable documentary worth mentioning and revisiting.

Notable hypes include Dunkirk and Real Actresses Don’t die in Liverpool.  Along with the over rated – exceptional though of the mark In his choices of going off on his own reading of the man is Gary Oldman. Darkest Hour.  The films Shape of Water and Ladybird rank highly but not notably and it is only through the gifted direction and playing of Saiorse Ronan does Ladybird achieve the distinction of a near miss director award.  That went to a someone whose films are gaining the storytelling and visual connection with audiences. (Jordan Peele – Get Out)

Much more can and will be written about this turn around year for Film making. Jennifer Lawrence is off on Exec. Producing the #metoo as a series. It will unearth and keep the profiling of the film industry high but not unfortunately with the added distinction of keeping belief in a fictional portrayal as a means of entering an issue or providing very important insight on aspects of humanity. Most is seen in the minutiae of drama in the big picture and The Florida Project was a sensitive other form of insight which is near the top in terms of films I rated this past year. It and other stranger ones.

John Graham

28 February 2018

Belfast

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Loveless : A Film Review

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Loveless

Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev, 124 mins, Cast: Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin, Varvara Shmykova, Matvey Novikov.

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A continent unseen

As winters black and white poles contrast the snow covered land and roads blend into fields the view in the opening of Loveless is of a lake with fallen trees alongside tall leafless ones.  Beside them runs a pathway with lampposts high and marking out a route between neighbourhoods.  On the horizon as the film scopes out tower blocks of mass housing and the community of a modern Russian city appear.  It moves onto a scene where a school discharges into the afternoon Alyosha and his friends are despatched from a careworn rudimentary education positing a regular uncared existence of a society in its own limbo.  The vastness of Russia occurs to me in reflection, from St Petersburg in its isolated North Western location from the Urals to the Soviet Kazakhstan and the lands forested and regionally contested over centuries where socialism became a lost ideology, this modernity is playing out right now.

When Director Andrei Zvyagintsev says : ‘Living in Russia is like being in a minefield’ it seems futile to suggest it is a generality after viewing this film.  The horror of that is where the Leviathan director takes us.  Into the minefield. Exploding tropes and myths by using frameworks of cinema familiar to audiences seeing drama of the most perturbingly psychological kind where films – L’Avventura, Scenes from a Marriage are mentioned as similar themes, take us in it is gloriously but troublingly insightful.

Emptying

A couple are in the process of separating, Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) Boris, (Aleksey Rozin) and on hearing an argument, itself a witness to his solitude and the lack of love from his parents, 12-year-old boy Alyosha (Matvey Novikov) goes missing.  The household is in a uniformly drab tower block and he is seen initially wistfully looking out over the winter cloak of white snow into the deep horizon of a vast Russian urbanity from his bedroom. The forest and nature is a form of consolation but his world is made ever more harsh by the insensitivity of the mother and father whose only child Alyosha is, giving him little love or conversation.  Zhenya has moved on, Boris has moved on and while they embark on selling their comfortable apartment, the despairing ‘elephant in the room’ taking care of Alyosha, hovers and causes even more antagonism which Alyosha is an unfortunate witness to.  Ignored and distraught he disappears with the abandonment itself becoming an almost fated outcome given the weaknesses and the couples selfishness.

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Boris has a new partner and it’s a bit of deja vu with love and kisses for him like ‘starting over’.  His younger companion is less sure and new to the expectations of making a home. She is also a step removed but not as far as Zhenya, from her own mother.  Some of the pleasant rites of passage are visible in her outlook and it is not played or cast as naivety but as raw concern of new horizons.  In the case of Zhenya her partner has a daughter reached only by Skype whose fortune is outside Russia. He is a oligarch type or class protected older man living in a futuristic ‘dacha’ which allows his thai chi to evolve.  Zhenya has a protector and savior after the mistake she made hastily leaving home and her cantankerous mother for Boris it appears.

Measured scenes

The film follows relentlessly the intensity of emotions clashing around the central loss of Alyosha.  His disappearance heightens the immediacy of untangling the weave and knots of a broken loveless marriage.  Each scene is carefully economically placed in a line of almost fated tragedy but the inferences and questions which arose are put to the viewer as whether or not a good outcome will materialise. As a type the film could be categorized as a procedural crime thriller but as Andrei Zvyagintsev insists through his artful direction it is much bolder and thought entangling.

The tension throughout is heart felt and the possibilities of loss are slowly dawning on and emerging from the recesses of Boris and Zhenya’s insular thoughts. From the moment the rescuers come on board an cautious element of optimism, ever so small but present arrives – after a very well handled portrayal of the police element – a huge and stoic but helpful officer puts the cards on the table as to the probabilities and the needed actions.  The apparatus of Policing is as tough as nails the film proposes but their is goodness within.

With the form of a crime drama this Russian hiatus of intense emotional drama is a warning of how brutal our world is becoming. The themes of realism in concert with dark nationalist, unrelenting Religious angst ridden theocracies, our complaint and complacent conformity is shockingly portrayed through the medium of a lost child.

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Working environments

Disappearance is a wholly unconscionable notion for a parent whose duty is foremost the child while the breakdown of their aspirations affect the state of their family unit. The forces around allow freedom of individual choice. The central protagonist is Boris, (Aleksey Rozin) a lookalike Fidel Castro. I recently learnt of the early demise through mental illness that the late Fidel Castro’s son who bore a striking resemblance to him recently took his own life.  Boris is not easy to like and his workplace environment is a large corporate type well heeled office and it appears as though his job is to create fake news.  The whole building is in the process of regurgitating propaganda for the Government via. an agency run by a Religious zealot whose compromises regarding family issues are finite. Zhenya is in charge of a Beauty salon and is in an orbit of similar disappointments as conversations with her employees draw out lines of dissatisfaction but in a pleasant stoical way. Society is to blame. In the background, sometimes foreground there are TV broadcasts of Russia going wrong and the outsiders being to blame. Society is to blame but not their own society. Rebellions are put down and countered by the fake diet of news the outlets spill out.

This vastness of the Directors ‘minefield’ is part of the bewilderment that franks this film. How the individual is facing contested self image, from the day they are born through a fixed national identity from which it is virtually without moving away to escape.  Escape routes are taken in parts of the story but none are a satisfactory retreat or utopian alternative.  It is a quarter of a century on since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The currency of the occupation and sequestration of the Crimea is seen here.  The former autonomous republic of the Soviet Union, now a region of Ukraine, is configured into the narrative to show the lack of progress and the democratic deficit apparent through the world to observers. The West as ‘actors’ may maliciously have a hand in the Crimea annex but whether it does or not is merely a statement of man made divisions.

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Individuality

There then is the fate of the individual in the context of family and in a wider sense extrapolated here in the workplace where Boris is in a setting where family is a signal of unity of purpose and it is given a religious slant here also. The Lutheran idea of individualism is challenged by the preorder of Catholicism and adherence without scrutiny.  The theory is that (Protestant suicide attributed to free spirits) the greater concessions a confessional group, the less it (Russia) dominates lives, the less its cohesion and vitality makes to individual judgement.  In this film it is perhaps being said that – without the suicidal propensity angle – that the weakness of the mind when empowered by thinking and ‘sensible’ things developing reflective powers renders them susceptible to morbid impressions.   So is the film portraying in a minor part of its vast observation that there is a failure arising in individuals not accepting their affinity within community and necessary interplay?  There is the added dilemma of the titles presence itself.  Lovelessness existing maybe because the lack of self control, earlier as youths when bad choices were made and for intractable headstrong reasons – or finding in their individuality sensations and temporary joy from exploration and satiated desires. Such pitfalls are almost arbitrary in most lives.  The form of the film is of it taking time and taking an external view of the many sexual intercourses – they are short on words and are for the most part in one take – makes me think the intensity of the pleasure seeking is being portrayed paramount as each characters driver.  There is time taken also after intercourse when to differing degrees they express their new found love as a place where they are safe from the outside.  So what does it say about the presence of love in a place where other sacrifices are made for the common ‘good’.  The male is seen to ignore these emotions as the society is harmful from whichever way you look so they take it as it’s found,  by finding also what they seek.  The family togetherness is implicit. The detachment from the birth family is evident in each relationship.

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Hunting

When the disappearance of Alyosha happens another element takes on huge significance.  In the absence of a ‘proper’ process of police management of the required intensive searches it is the whole community who rally voluntarily and in a shape which is performed to take charge of every forensic and civil aspect of the search.  This is again implicit of the community in service for others. Where the state has failed this is the alarmingly professional organised communities answer. Therein implies the strength of Russians beyond the stereotypes of indolence and trammeled individuals found routinely.  Each has forsaken their time and individual diversions, needs, to focus on finding Alyosha. They have his welfare in mind untiringly.

A hero emerges in the form of a leader of the large community unit in the shape of a pragmatic and smart coordinator, veteran (Aleksey Fateev).  Some of the most harrowing scenes are during the period of the searches and stoic stark raw emotions grip with the growing tension of not finding Alyosha.  The searches are coordinated and segmented and woven into the parallel story of the couples breakup and their new relationships forming and the connections each has with their ‘estranged’ families.

The world itself is not loveless but a host to our misguided often secular illusions.

There is then the division individuals within a family unit is on trial and this is central to the films narrative.

Plausible synecdoche
Russia is both a place and an image. The Sochi Olympics in 2014 came into play in Loveless in a simple but significant role. The tracksuit top which the freshly reinvented and reborn Zhenya wears as she steps onto her outdoor treadmill at her lovers and now her home, is a Bosco white and red shock of the new top. Emblazoned with Russia across it the notion – it is symbolic – is challenged by its director Andrei Zvyagintsev as a mere coincidence of our times. Without synecdoche it would not amount to a message of any kind he mildly insists. An actor from the town of Novosibirsk he is responsible as one of the most respected directors of his time in putting out work which is formative and provocative and using storytelling from the initial success, The Return, (2003) about brotherly tensions on reengaging with their father on a fishing holiday, through The Banishment, (2007) Elena, (2011) which is a story of a capital class and marital gloom, to the large scope of examination in rural Russia of Leviathan, (2014) marking a tense conflict in expansive steepes uniquely epic in its portrait of a Russian psyche. The beast is universal, a sinuous, spiraling, undulating, or serpentine line or linear motif, in the obvious mode of Thomas Hobbes philosophical treatise on the organisation of society politically. It floats and pins you and grabs you by the throat with unsettling force. Ballet never was meant to be pure and white as the Russians understood, understand.

If talk of synecdoche is to be made it is only on reflection due to the cinematic exposure and storytelling quality found often in Russian novels from Gogol to Solzhenitsyn and the play’s we are accustomed to seeing being replaced in this time by art of a different luminosity. Film has come a long way to provide other than features in the pleasuredome. Conflicted memories and historical propaganda are challenges filmmakers can treat with the memes of our times. In Loveless, Siri gets a question, so the Oracle is in the detail of storytelling in a candid frank and shocking way not for pure entertainment or underpinning presumption or prejudice. We are as my review of Loveless pressed, 25 years on from the dissolution of the Soviet Union and with sport being the glue of the masses, sans Cicero, about to embark on a post Sochi, World Cup, Andrei Zvyagintsev is probably more concerned with us getting his first name right, Andrey or Andrei, than fixating on the politics which inevitably come with filmmaking. The production of his work takes many players to embrace the work for multiple reasons. Factor in the Russian state support of only Leviathan his task is difficult enough. Shaping the story in a plausible and parallel synecdoche path is a skill which we can ourselves welcome and be fortunate to be presented with. No one actually makes or draws similarities between the films in their construct but it is a common theme to appreciate the human examination in a fully coherent form is achieved in each individual work. When asked about his politics he is clear in those separations given his role is as a filmmaker not as a protagonist or spokesperson for a viewpoint. He considers for example the period over which he has developed his oeuvre. “In the 1990’s there were real hopes. But now, with the re-Stalinisation and the re-Sovietisation, there are negative tendencies.” *. In the report noted it is recollected by Andrei Zvyagintsev the appeal of the mirrors reflection is undeniably at times unattractive. Something un-contestable..

*via. translation in Irish Times 07.02.18 interview, Donald Clarke.

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Conclusion ####4

The simple form this film takes draws you into the harrowing story of the disappearance of a 12 year old boy and provides an unsettling experience seldom found in cinema.  With Director Andrei Zvyagintsev‘s commitment to delving into the conditions faced by his fellow Russians.  The political constraints and formation of society detaching itself through state indifference and corruption from the family of community is foresaken in the materialistic pursuits found on the edges.  The individual is found floundering and having lost the direction of shaping a meaningful life. In the disappearance of a Alyosha many realities become exposed.

For the viewer, this one, it is compassion which is driving through this film despite the invidious world of circumstances and is seen through the societal response.  The true egalitarian response when harm is encountered.  The edginess of the relationships pale into – albeit parallel dominions of supposed utopian thinking – minor concerns.  The real protagonist is the duel of state and the suppression of the individual and at what cost is the freedom sought to be accounted for.  The polarities are Religious, Molecular, Unknowns, Universal and contribute to a very vexing movie.  It was hard to sympathise with the couple at its heart yet there was some sign of they felt enormous pain and an outcome would be found to satiate the pessimism and sense of disorder that grew as the film progressed.   What outcome is likely.  You will have to sit gripped through its daunting telling to find out and draw your own conclusions.  A spiritual minefield.

John Graham

8 February 2018

Belfast

 
Opening at Queens Film Theatre Belfast 9 February 2018 until 15 February 2018.

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The Final Year : A Film Review

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The Final Year

Cast : Barack Obhama, John Kerry, Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes. Producers : John Battsek … producer, Diane Becker … co-producer, Alice Bristow … associate producer, Christopher Buchanan … co-producer, George Chignell .. Production Executive : Passion Pictures, Christopher Clements … Production, Executive: Motto Pictures, Ann Rogers,  associate producer, Kerstin Emhoff … co-executive producer, Julie Goldman … producer, Tyler Gurd … associate producer, Carolyn Hepburn … Production Executive Ann Rogers … associate producer, Andrew Ruhemann … co-executive producer, Nicole Stott … Production Executive: Passion Pictures, Erikka  Music by Philip Sheppard Cinematograph  by Martina Radwan, Erich Roland, Film editing by Joshua Altman, Langdon Page. Duration 1hr 29mins. Cert. 12a.

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The Final President

Home Box Office have created a documentary of the final year in office of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama’s tenure of service from 2009 to 2017 an inevitable expectancy reaching a form of closure.

THE FINAL YEAR is a unique insiders’ account of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy team during their last year in office. Featuring unprecedented access inside the White House and State Department, THE FINAL YEAR offers an uncompromising view of the inner workings of the Obama Administration as they prepare to leave power after eight years.  It is an ‘fly on the wall’ without the depth of the intimacy of private wrestling with the pervasive conflicting day to day manifestations of outfall not just of past history but managing the present.  It is inside and insightful yet is disappointing and troubling to watch.

News Management has soared to the top of everyone’s truth seeking senses.  It seems we are all on a course of becoming a component in an agenda of mismanaged futures through the choices made in elections everyone is on someone’s line of trajectory.  People as commodities.  Holding firm to truth and where it emanates from is as ever a pathos, as stories crush and compel arguments across Governmental desks.  Challenges are of unique carefully drafted message enveloped in media forms confronted by the reveal of history none were anticipating. Paradise papers and whistleblowers.  Julian Assange just recently became a citizen of Ecuador while the GB Government has him under house arrest.  Democrat disjunction, disfunction, is here to be seen also writ large ahead of the triumphalism of the anti-Athenian D. Trump.  Dialogue is free and interpreted instantly.  This film takes us up to that threshold and we are in the arc following when the choke was taken off the master tapes of the White House and Twitter accounts tell of internal wrangling.

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Term of Office

No longer is there a President of the United States but a franchise which is part an incumbent of enemies trading powers privilege staying off legislation. A News managed for the mass consumption in return for a route to launder currency is all it took to dismantle the final office frontier. Nations and boundaries no longer matter and instead a block chain of political dimensions untaught in manuals or educational establishments, for that is what they were, are grounded on blocks of power. High yield is a derivative played by arms provisions.

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Adjust the War

Barack Obama was the last President concerned with solving the long trail of a Rothschild type Imperialist agenda which saw the Gaza Strip as a battleground. He could not avoid it but it was not an analysis of sufficient gravity but a long held (dis)belief it was not a religious warp. So religion and it’s many dimensions never became part of the guidance on either side. Read the scholarly Saeb Shaath on the legacy.  Syria and The Middle East have held a long sword of unremitting horror over its own people extracting themselves from a century or more of exploitation through its  own tyranny.  http://saebpress.com/2013/08/saudi-arabia-funding-unrest-in-middle-east/. 20c Oil has been the catalyst for the resurgence of the Arab world to again become valid citizens in a fallible relationship with its surrounding neighbours and fellow followers of peaceful unity but it has harboured the hurt and damage caused by invasion and exploitation of corporate thieves. Now the calamity is in a frame of technicolour news as daily reports of intolerance, genocide and divisiveness saturate continents and infiltrate the outskirts of formerly untroubled Nations. Migration by displacement is a shared world problem.

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Calmness is a convoy of aid and here in the film of the round up of conventions and diplomatic dancing comes another narrative. Blaming and shaming. The aid literally is blown up by an actor for the world to react to, showing the failure diplomacy is. UN outrage is blunt and name calling. Putin is intent on alarming the world by showing here it is a crime to want peace if you do not accord with a rule of one Federation. The former Soviet Union is revengeful and Ukraine which barely gets a mention in this documentary is as near as we can place a truth of division outside of the Middle East used as a bargaining chip by both sides. The Hillary Clinton input is put aside also.

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Global Diplomacy

Heavily featured here is the Vietnam veteran John Kerry. He justifiable carries the burden of spokesperson for the nothing war which claimed and still does the lives of many of his fellow combatants and by mines left unexploded awaiting a victim. The Vietnam War follows through from Kennedy whose armaments fed the Vietnamese regimes fighting Communism to the Johnson and Nixon destruction both of their own troops and many civilians in Laos and thereafter came an legacy where there is still a long unbroken chain leading into Presidency after Presidency. Obama is intent on doing his peacemaking tour around the world and finds it gratifying and just in going back to the past and looking to repair the broken shattered peace and being a fitting memorial for drawing a line. Japan and Hiroshima will also feature.

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John Kerry is on the alternative narrative of dealing with today’s catastrophe while ignoring the elephant in the room of USA defence weaponry manufacture and industrial warmongering industries. Safe to say he is not a pacifist as late on he declares and at the same time purports to be seeking peace. On USA terms. The other handgliding drone in the room is a UN Ambassador whose job is to make the obstinate squirm and show up the fallacy of their ways. Samantha Power has the unusual insight of an Irish Immigrant background; disqualified from running for office by that origin but equipped by having been recruited on the basis of a journalists approach and her book on origins of war and where they are taking us, at least that was my original take on its premise. The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University (sic) was the institution Samantha Power established a Human Rights Foundation in. From writing about how 20th century genocide was ignored (wide generalisation given the WWII and continuation of The Great War) is lost in narrative with the title The Problem from Hell. Women’s issues are highlighted and it is neither seen as a fashion thing about wearing hijabs or subjection but a basic lack of equality. Religious dogma is not writ large. Kidnapping and slavery and terrible abuses are documented while the daylight of a USA where a form of women’s subjection is to open on news fronts across industries in a #me too narrative is in the shade here. Truth will out eventually. One of the guides they fail to recount is John Stuart Mill, not only on divinity recalling the individual broadly used not as freedoms footnote but as a economic distribution ethos.

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Unintelligible is the strength and power of religious idealism and internally humanity overdoing any ‘value’ hierarchy brought about by trade. JSM relies on ‘constructive empiricism’ while seeing or rather not seeing ‘nature’ – the storms of civilisation alongside the natural phenomena of our daily bread – constantly putting us in our rightful place demanding reconciliation with it and ourselves. For JSM his wisdom also produced solutions peculiar to himsel& and in his relationship with Harriet Taylor evidenced an equality of existence even the Church could not form. Itself a ‘periclesian’ mode which was denying no one their individual freedom. The suffragettes at the same time conducted wicked and detestable bombing and created a scourge still not acknowledged as a means to an end. Democracy. Enemies were many and often with good cause. So this is a backdrop History is failing to include in the breath of those forces confronting the so called ‘leaders’ this film seems intent on eulogising in a passing river of consciousness as it reaches down rebranched tributaries and flows continually caring the waters which it will always carry.

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Dressing wounds

Narratives are forms of life and no history of the world can be written without the diaspora having a say. From the Anglicised retention’s of rule in a Fedralised America to the Religious strength consumed and abused in the USA and nations from the tip of South America up to Alaska, Canada, across Europe and spread dishonestly as a rhetoric of truth comes another will. The will of America to prevail and be prevalent as values which we are overhearing in the everyday talk of the rooms of power.  No mention of the G20 or Peter Sutherland, Goldman Sachs or any taint of monied America getting its hands dirty?  Just another HBO narrative with displacing counterpoint in soundbites hurled with intended anonymity into the whirlpool of chaos two steps behind the developing story.  At the beginning of the film comes a follow me routine. The feet fast and well shod on prepared ground. The diplomats timetable run out as prescribed in advance but always a beat behind. It’s as though they are insistent on not being their on time so as to disown the past.

Imperialist allies

Britain invented Israel as a removal of a family of languages and people. the afroasiatic form called Hamito-Semitic, a family of languages including as subfamilies Semitic, Egyptian, Berber, Cushitic, and Chadic.  Syria is Palestine and holds a bitter division in opposition to the Imperialist Israel Project with Lebanon as a hideout. An interesting novel character is found in a speech writer whose compass matches Barack Obama’s.  Ben Rhodes is an under forty master of spin and incisive vective. This is a part of Obama’s person he (Obhama) can’t devote time to so has allowed a surrogate to unfold his theories and unlock his wisdom. Unwittingly or is it intent, he is cast in the mound of a Jewish intern general with a false past which is possibly denuded of the Religious might he is from.

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Religion is swerved here. His Episcopal Father and Jewish Mother are tongues he listened to and listens internally to now it would seem safe to assume. No faith is to undo the legacy of an infant Israel heresy. Muslim or Christian. Judaism in a bold type of monotheistic reason is adhered to in American eyes.  Both these travellers, Obhama, Rhodes, are Religious in degrees privately it has to be assumed from other media but often as not it is left outside the Oval Office. Neither seems to realize their part is based in Religious heirachy and they are beholden by virtue of their cloth. That sets them apart and mitigates against their understanding of others values not matching theirs. Fundamentally in the Middle East.  Winston Churchill is apparently their mentor or past leader of choice for guidance. He was beholden to America also and Blenheim Palace became the gift of the British Crown for his persuasion in getting the USA to enter WWII and send supplies into a Europe which was under siege from that genocide The Problem from Hell. More like the problem of Hell. How not to see it. How to not recognize its advance.

Hell is in the clouds and earth.

Speeches set the tone and every new room entered has a pathos to be delivered. For Barak Obama it is the American Declaration of Independence and is foremost in lectures to the gathered. It was what a Congress was derived for. July 4, 1776, and the words were set in Washington’s Presidency. Those words were conscripted from Ulster’s Francis Hutchensons philosophy brought forth by Thomas Paine as exiles of the yoke of imperialism they so detested.  Unitarian in thought and principle their ideas were nevertheless based on individuals allowance of free thought. Less words would carry such might as those distilled here. Yet where are the notions of the Declaration in assignment against the tours of combat since embarked on. Only the hideous genocide of future generations in Africa and Asia would equal the waste of WWII and its legacy borne world wide. Now the countries are being stripped of their assets by new entrants from China and the G20.

Conclusion ###3

Rich as this film is equipped with the sensory media behemoth of the United States of America in history mode it fails to direct the camera in any decisive illuminating way while illustrating a West Wing narrative which is high on ideal and lacking in scuprles or any game changer dynamic.  The anticipation of office has been swamped by time advancing with greater perils opened up through truth emerging in histories recall.  As a mission to complete the 44th Presidency many repairs were sought to be made by Barack Obhama while his steadfast troops both suited and fatigued were deployed on present day flanks with much of the common talk broken into slow burning flames of hope.  It is a film worth seeing as a reminder of the removal from the political sphere a genuine worthy experience of mankind reckoning with their own failures and beholden by powers immensely conflated and misunderstood.  Philosophy is in its a bit but it is a failure to define politics as a motor of governance for the common good which is all too clearly absent given the extremes of the states and actors involved at the heart of our world order.

John Graham

18 January 2018

Belfast

Opening at Queens Film Theatre Belfast 19 January 2018 until 25 January 2018.

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Rocky Ros Muc : A Film Review

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Rocky Ros Muc
Documentary
Director Michael Fanning. Contributors Alphabetically : Seán Bán Breathnach Broadcaster, Kevin Cullen – Boston Globe, Ronan Mac Con Iomaire Author Rocky Ros Muc, Peter Kerr Trainer, Pat Nee, Mike Newell, Sean O’Mainnin, John ‘Red’ Shea, Marty Walsh – Mayor of Boston, Mary Walsh, Mother of Marty, Micky Ward. Production. Below the Radar, Máire Bhreathnach producer,, Trevor Birney executive producer, Michael Fanning executive producer Music by Andrew Simon McAllister, Cinematography by Ronan Fox, Film Editing by Michael Paisley, Visual Effects by Chris Scott visual effects artist, Music Department Jake Jackson score mixer. Ireland. Duration 1hr 32mins. Cert. TBC. Partially subtitled.

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Boxing Documentary

This film is a tale of one mans journey from his home village of Ros Muc in search of his identity and fame which takes him to America and back again. It involves the diaspora identity and the identity of Ireland itself. Even the introduction has nightime shots of Times Square and Madison Square Garden. For contrast the sky drone takes us over Ros Muc. The famished regions and outskirts of larger cities which draw in the young from near and far. The man is Sean Mannion a middle weight champion boxer who rose to be a contender for the World Title Belt in 1984. The journey was a tough one and in between bouts of boxing he often became derailed by that diaspora scourge of drinking heavily. A strong man he could handle it but the mental damage it must have caused would have been a great drawback. Angelo Dundee as C. Clays trainer said if he had Sean at twenty instead of thirty which is when they eventually joined up he would have been a World Title holder many times over.

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The story is told in the most part by a fan whose book is central. Rónán Mac Con Iomaire who is also a Ros Muc man who has written the whole story or as much as lines on a page can deliver, this extraordinary life. It is a capsule though of many people’s diverse lives as immigrants whether Italian, Polish, Irish and the simple truth of the Country they reach never viewing home. The bi-polarity of a mind in two places is hard to deal with. His mother lived a long time and he has brothers and sisters who were distinctly Irish Gaels as Sean himself was. This inculcated identity was of a locality is about 35 miles south west of Galway.

One doesn’t need to be into pugilism or well-versed in Gaelic to appreciate “Rocky Ros Muc,” a documentary that is as much about roots and identity as it is a portrait of Irish American boxer Sean Mannion. Hailing from the village of Ros Muc, some 37 miles south west of Galway, Mannion, like many of his fellow emigrés, formed a tight-knit community on South Boston’s Dorchester Street, where the light middleweight would find eager sparring partners including members of Irish crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang. LA Times reviewer Michael Rechtshaffen delivers a shot on the chin.

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America Constructed

As Americans and MR will know this perhaps having an migrant background of some sort, the story is as much an American story as an Irish one. Martin Walsh of Ros Muc stock himself, his parents emigrated years ago when they were very young, as Boston’s Mayor ‘Marty’ Walsh, is another from the stage of America’s fortunes or misfortunes. Walsh was brought up in Southside Boston, Dorchester and he participates in telling what he knows of the life of Sean and the Irish of his neighbourhood. The Director Michael Fanning puts across through interview and film footage from ESPN and HBO sports along with family friends and others Irish diaspora who took a criminal route to their lives, he uses the central biographical account of the native Rónán Mac Con Iomaire heavily and journalistically forensic in telling Sean Mannion’s journey with huge respect and homage to the man, Ros Muc, the region and Island.

The Ros Muc origins are worth telling as they bring in the imagination of the man. Within him he realised his strengths and his athletiscm which would later be focused in Boxing. With a pal he would spend time exchanging blows with a sparring partner and together they bought a pair of Boxing gloves. This would mean they would swap and Sean ended up using them most. The Television of Crystal dreams of black and white Boxing was a staple or escapism. GB had Henry Cooper popularise the appetite and Jack London with eventually the one who Cooper famously knocked down, Cassius Clay known later as Muhammad Ali coming into the scene with a legion of followers after the Olympics and he brought out the Irish and GB love of Boxing as a sport. From Hemingway to Shaw through, Conrad, Runyan many writers have taken in this rawest of sports. It was this magnet which put into Sean the notion he could be as good as them if he worked hard. There was a local club found and it was run by Michael Flatherty whose own knowledge and wise head as well as counsel would create a ring fighter. Very soon the young Sean Mannion would hold 17 County and Provincial titles which would taken him further to the National Amateur Boxing Championships. These were six round contests and they were televised. On the back of his ring vest the words – St Oliver’s A.B.C. Girley were printed in copperplate letters. If I’m not mistaken on commentary, uncredited, was Eamon Andrews. This is your Life sharply ironically his claim to fame alongside his astute eye for sporting drama.

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Boston’s twins

The Boston part of the story is the arrival to fight for further fame and glory by joining a gym still a teenager. At Connolly’s Gym his sparring partners included a member of Whitey Bulger’s Winter Hill gang, Irish-American mobster Patrick Nee, who, another Ros Muc native. Also around was another Irishman, former mobster John “Red” O’Shea. Author of a All Souls Michael Patrick MacDonald who lost a large part of his own family to Gangsters is active in combating violence and now lives in New York. The arrival brought many bouts as Sean rose to as they say to become a contender and the appetite among the Boston Irish for a Champion was not lost on Sean and he saw the virtue in ring craft as opposed to gun craft. Both sets of groups in the Southside were not at loggerheads but one probably detested the other for the image of their identity being compromised. There were many Champion boxers in America of their own making. Hearn, Duran, Hagler, De La Hoya, and one Mannion would eventually meet in the ring, Michael McCallum. The later was and is lesser known but he was a lean tall long reach fighter who was not a warrior but a truly great boxer. His encounter with Sean Mannion whose unorthodox Southpaw style; it couldn’t be tagged as even truly southpaw was one which only a gifted boxer could adapt to and counter. Mike McCallum now 60 and paunchy was a Jamaican boxer who competed from 1981 to 1997. He is a three-weight world champion.

In-Chul Baek was a boxer Mannion had to face to go up a level and fight McCallum. There was a very unusual outcome to this fight which is covered in the film with damage having been caused by Baek through him hitting the sorest punch of all on the small rib on the torso. He clearly injured Mannion but other things happened to make the title bout happen.

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Being a Contender

If you don’t know your Boxing look away and continue to next section. The fight was for the vacant WBA Junior Middleweight title of which Roberto Duran had been stripped of when he chose to fight Tommy Hearns for the WBC title instead. McCallum coasted to a fifteen round unanimous decision. The fight marked the first time in history two women judged a world championship boxing fight. 1984-10-19 : Mike McCallum 153¾ lbs beat Sean Mannion 154 lbs by UD in round 15 of 15. Location: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, USA. Referee: Tony Perez. Judge: Carol Polis 149-136. Judge: Carol Castellano 150-134. Judge: Johnny LoBianco 149-133. So despite the controls being handed to two women which was itself a big move they were unanimous in declaring the fight which went the full 15 rounds in McCallums favour.

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This is the ibroresearch.com part of McCallums history at this time.

….Four more wins, three by KO and McCallum was declared the mandatory challenger for Roberto Duran’s WBA Junior Middleweight Title. The Panamanian was given until April 10, 1984 to meet McCallum or face being stripped of the crown. Although the “Body Snatcher” was a dangerous challenger he was not a super star in the eyes of the boxing public. Like Wall Street, boxing is all about risk versus reward. For Duran this meant a fight with McCallum’s teammate at the Kronk Gym, Tommy Hearns made more sense. Facing Hearns would be risky for the WBC champ but, worth three times as much at the box office as facing McCallum.

Adding to the Jamaican’s predicament was Emmanuel Steward. As trainer of both Hearns and McCallum he would make far more money from his cut of the purse if Hearns faced Duran. McCallum was odd man out, as Duran elected to face the “Hit Man” instead of the “Body Snatcher.” Stripping Duran of his title, the WBA declared that Mike McCallum would face number two contender, Sean Mannion for the vacant WBA title. On October 15, 1984, Mike McCallum became the first Jamaican to win a world championship in the Island’s history. Mannion showed he had a tremendous chin and courage but not the skills in losing a unanimous fifteen round decision at Madison Square Garden in New York City. When McCallum returned to Jamaica it was to a hero’s welcome and a national holiday of celebration. Needless to say the business relationship between Steward and the new WBA champ was over when Duran agreed to face Hearns. McCallum signed with Duva Promotions and acquired a new trainer in George Benton.

Boxings knife edge

There are fewer boxers who would be as brave and fearless as Mannion as this fight showed. McCallum was a brave and master of his craft and wily as both were the Boston Irishman was in a league full of many different fighters whose status is now legendary. The wear and tear on Sean Mannion was carried with great grace and in the ring respect is crucial despite the hype and Entertainment content before and after. Fans love an equal match up no matter the level and each form get is unbelievably tough when this happens for both. McCallum would have gained plenty in this battle for the title. Sean Mannion would have gained his inner knowledge he took part in a dream. For Ros Muc and the man this was a sacrifice of his own body on the line at the utmost height of his capabilities. The fighting Irish would never have been more soundly represented and he was able to hold his head high and still can given the shear bloody mindedness.

The film puts over the main facts of diaspora identity challenges.  The homeplace Ros Muc is one many had been forced to leave. The land and commerce were limited. The former potato blight would have seen many very able people leave under duress and failure of the State governed under the yolk of a Sovereign Britain whose colonisation was upset in the USA which is the sole place immigrants could seek their ‘fortune’. They sought only to be given the tools to live if truth be told and many went beyond their own self beliefs and went to prove a point. That they were as good as anyone on the planet.

The likes of the mobsters featured self analyse with hubris and unwarranted inflated egos. A bullet is no replacement for a mans humanity or warrants a life being regarded as having value. Their sum is lost values and they have taken peoples lives without any remorse. The Boston Mafia also involved itself – after destroying people by exploiting addiction tendencies through monetising cocaine, then later heroin – in more money making schemes sending consignments of Arms and Semtex to Ireland to fuel a terrorists campaign which was itself bound in warped sense of self and national identity. The identity they chose to construct was a fantasy way beyond any Irish probity.

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The Cottage Padraic Pearse grew up in.

An fear a thug an Piarsach go Ros Muc
D’iarr Pádhraic Ó Conghaile ar Chonradh na Gaeilge duine a chur anuas as Bleá Cliath le scrúdú a chur orthu. Ba é an Piarsach a tháinig

The Other Star

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Conclusion ####4

A verdict is easily found for this film of it being a great life story of a brave Irishman well told.  The challenges in and out of the ring were contests which face many in less dramatic or intense ways.  A book Motherland came to mind as it involved travelling the length and breadth of Ireland to explore identity.

Certain things on the periphery but important to explain the man were tentatively danced around. Also the fate of MCallum was never given the strength of telling it deserved. Sean Mannion fought a man who none of the main men would fight – again an extract from ibroresearch.com –

the “Four Kings”, as writer George Kimball had called them; McCallum had failed in his attempt to get any of them into the ring. Marvin Hagler retired in 1987 after losing a disputed decision to Sugar Ray Leonard. Leonard was inactive in 1990 and would lose to Terry Norris by lopsided decision the following year. Roberto Duran, like Sugar Ray was also inactive in 1990, and would lose by TKO due to a shoulder injury to the infamous Pat Lawlor the following year. Tommy Hearns won a decision over Michael Olajide fourteen days after the Watson fight for his only activity of 1990. Did the “Four Kings”, duck the “Body Snatcher” or was he just a victim of timing. Boxing historians can debate the merits of that charge for the ages, but we can only speculate what would have happened if McCallum had been able to get any of them into the ring.

This is a telling part of a story not told. It’s a bit novicey to leave out the background in order to focus on the main event. McCallum fought in the UK a lot because of this. Ever good boxing show has an undercard and this is missing it. Connemara itself is a great underlying facto but again only family and drone shots give any true shape to this Atlantic outlier. America will love this underdog type approach as well as largely focused on the diaspora and Irish abroad. Nonetheless the story is only partially told and it is a sociologically complex one which has currency in our world today. What is the identity of Ireland now?

John Graham

24 November 2017

Belfast

from Friday 24 November 2017 until Thursday November 2017

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Movement is Political – more thoughts.

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Film Star’s Don’t Die In Liverpool : A Film Review

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Directed by Paul McGuigan, Produced by Barbara Broccoli, Colin Vaines, Written by Matt Greenhalgh, Based on Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool by Peter Turner, Cast Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Vanessa Redgrave, Julie Walters, Kenneth Cranham, Stephen Graham, Frances Barber, Leanne Best, Music by J. Ralph, Cinematography Ula Pontikos, Edited by Nick Emerson, Production company Eon Productions, IM Global, Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, Lionsgate. Duration 1hr 45mins. Cert. 15.

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Short and Bittersweet

Love stories can be rife and fleeting as this one, a tale told firstly by Peter Turner in his memoir. A British actor who encountered and formed a bond with the famous actress provocateur come auteur Gloria Grahame is the story he reveals. Annette Bening was found an ideal partner in Jamie Bell as a foil to her elegance and fire. Outrageously nailing the actress part, as you half expect, Annette Bening scopes out this story in a fiendishly accurate portayal suited only to an actress of her own standing. The part would be meat and drink to many actresses but it is a fine line to be over indulgent and too expressive and here the trap is held shut. Jame Bell is at ease throughout showing his own mastery of roles. Both run the mill of emotions. Bell playing Peter Turner is adept at being a chameleon he proves again here. He is in his element fancying a much more successful actor and getting back a mutual attraction.

Tabloids love sirens

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The Mirror Newspaper tells it as it is! But what on earth brought Gloria Grahame from palm-fringed Sunset Boulevard to the no-nonsense reality of Liverpool; from the gold-paved Rodeo Drive to Penny Lane, the heartbeat of the Beatles’ music?

To understand that, you need to know of the carnage of a life which preceded it.

You need to know why, on September 29 1981, a critically ill Gloria Grahame phoned Peter Turner from a Lancaster hotel and pleaded with him to take her to his home in Liverpool.

Told she was dying, she refused to believe it. She was convinced that her streetwise ex-lover could outsmart the doctors.

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Acting excels

Despite the sterling troubadour performances it is not immediately clear why it needed to make it to the screen. As a true story it was something of a two hander and the families of whom Turners feature quite significantly aware brought it as they provided a roof over her head while ill and in support of their son. It shamefully reminded me, through its resounding central casting of place, of the Liverpool series, The Liver Birds, or eighties series The Boswells. Stephen Graham channels his Liverpudlian spats as Peters brother with a curly mop of black hair and minor detail spoiler here he is Sans Moustache. No young souscer  in the ‘Pool would be a man without the Ian Rush, Terry McDermott, Graeme Souness, (Liverpool Footballers) and numerous others tashe in the early eighties. It might be because this household were Everton supporters. As a brother he is an argumentative but ultimately supportive type. Stephen Graham has little to work with. Mother Turner is the delightfully immersive Julie Walters striving under another era wig and suitable kitchen friendly poor costume selection. She channels her rough tongue Liverpool style. Also in the frame is the robust and earthily appropriate Ken Cranham. Vanessa Redgrave and Frances Barber have camp roles as Gloria’s mother and sister respectively.

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1981 to 1979 flashbacks galore

The opening is a scene which shows Gloria Grahame getting a curtain call for opening a play in the Watford Palace Theatre. She collapses and it is then forward to the diagnosis and then the games people play. GG had four husbands and two were movie producers of some clout. She also had great parts in some very famous movies from Oklahoma to Its a wonderful life. Hollywood provided the warmth and the pain. While we reel (no pun intended) from one scandal to the next the fakery of cinemas main value itself becomes an overlarge obstacle to truly absorb the experience as knowledge forming and it becomes a part of the narrative. This is one aspect of the film which it inadvertently assists in analysing.  GG also saw a realism she lacked in Hollywood in Liverpool.

Oasis swampland Hollywood

There is a dream called Hollywood and it often turns into a nightmare as recent revelations accord. This would have been even more so in Gloria Grahame’s time and she worked with the biggest stars around. Humphrey Bogart and Errol Flynn the latter whose life as a rake made progress to the escape through women of this ‘stinking bloody world’ as he patrolled the film world and beyond the affections of the siren film noir Gloria would not have escaped his attention of conquest. Errol Flynn The Untold Story by Charles Higham covers this sordid world or alternatively if preferred for sensitive folk, the ‘disturbed dream state’ of Los Angeles. Flynn’s own autobiography was a fictional version to cover ‘My Wicked, Wicked Ways’.

Gloria Grahame was not as careless wise as Flynn probably as the weakness for drugs and other substances harmed him during his career and despite this even a tamer version of him during illness, such as in The Prince and the Pauper brought screen brightness. Gloria Grahame’s screen presence during the same period was as an electric siren and idol for women having strength. So it is characteristically Hollywood’s pathos of touch to bring a dramatic and ruthless conclusion to her career.

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Another JAMES BOND

It would have been more interesting if the film had not laboured on it being an account of Peter Turners involvement in a few years if it were to introduce more of the wider career and then stories of great interest from her early years and her drawing those comparisons. Instead we are in third and fourth gear and stop most of the time. I5 became irritating to see the device of one door open and the change of time scale to change as it was made theatrical without it having any stage presence, never mind screen presence. It just was a formless device as were the backdrop illusions.

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Billy Elliot can dance

The thing Jamie Bell channels is his louching Chris Eccleston Everyman. The hands diving into his jean pockets, the legs, one straight the other pointed to the side. It must be an acting school think and though unlikely an in joke. The acting is theatrical as is the direction. Emphasis is on framing and static views mostly. It is clearly a choice of direction to scene set with the use of ‘backcloth’ motion and moving skies, sunsets and car drives. It does not fill a hole which is story size. Everyone who watches this film can see where it’s going and it’s not too cheerful. It involves the fall after the rise through a very debilitating period in the 57 year olds life.

Look Jamie – This is THE way to stand.

Conclusion###3

It is a dampener to place a three on this but it is full of very boring and unalarming notes. The famous actress is not as well known as some from the same period but the consumption of movies is multi-versed. Biopics are a subject which can serve brilliantly in Cinema. This one is a Case of a good cast being there and on their game without a robust approach to the story. They are a pleasure to watch as performers. They know the business. Billy/Jamie wants JAMES Bond. Barbara Brocolli is in the producers throne so you get the picture. You wanna be in pictures.

Over the recent past the scrutiny of the public is focusing on behaviors and they are at a loss a lot of the time what they are confronting. The mild manners of the male are in this case at opposites of the usual role call and the male is a cougars conquest and some detail of being used as well as loved is scoped out but it still did not add up to much for me unfortunately.

John Graham

18 November 2017

Belfast

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool will screen at QFT

from 17th November 2017 until 23rd November 2017

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The Florida Project : A Film Review


The Florida Project

Director … Sean Baker, Writer …Willem Dafoe … Bobby, Brooklynn Prince … Moonee, Valeria Cotto … Jancey, Bria Vinaite … Halley,  Christopher Rivera … Scooty, Caleb Landry Jones … Jack, Macon Blair … Tourist John, Karren Karagulian … Narek,  Sandy Kane … Gloria, Jason Blackwater … Ticket-Buying Dad, Carl Bradfield … Charlie Coachman,  Jim R. Coleman … Cabbie (as Jim Coleman) Kelly Fitzgerald … Twistee Treat Girl’s Mom, Seitz Sabina Friedman-Seitz … Church Group Sarah.

Produced by Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch, Kevin Chinoy, Andrew Duncan, Alex Saks, Francesca Silvestri, Shih-Ching Tsou, Written by Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch. Drama. USA.  Cert 15.  Duration 1hr 55mins.

 


Synopsis

Warm, winning, and gloriously alive, Sean Baker’s The Florida Project is a deeply moving and unforgettably poignant look at childhood.

Set on a stretch of highway just outside the imagined utopia of Disney World, The Florida Project follows six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince in a stunning breakout turn) and her rebellious mother Halley (Bria Vinaite, another major discovery) over the course of a single summer. The two live week to week at “The Magic Castle,” a budget motel managed by Bobby (a career-best Willem Dafoe), whose stern exterior hides a deep reservoir of kindness and compassion. 

Despite her harsh surroundings, the precocious and ebullient Moonee has no trouble making each day a celebration of life, her endless afternoons overflowing with mischief and grand adventure as she and her ragtag playmates—including Jancey, a new arrival to the area who quickly becomes Moonee’s best friend—fearlessly explore the utterly unique world into which they’ve been thrown. Unbeknownst to Moonee, however, her delicate fantasy is supported by the toil and sacrifice of Halley, who is forced to explore increasingly dangerous possibilities in order to provide for her daughter.  a24films.com summary.

Baker’s immersive examination of lives lived in the shadow of a fantasy world holds no clichéd, feel-good lessons about love or families. Instead, it boldly takes us to a place where momentary joys, a mother’s devotion, and a spirited girl called Moonee can find a home.  QFT inticement.

If your growing up in Florida expect sunshine tornados and fantasy. The very grounded film The Florida Project directed by Sean Baker brings together as a societal compound, the life’s of a group of residents in a Florida State Housing project on the periphery of swarms of tourists descending on Disneyland and to play the local golf courses. The swath of colour which opens this film – unusually main characters cross as titles at the beginning – over a musical blast of dance music coming down the speakers rom Earth Wind and Fire. This is the sunniest intro to a film I have seen in an age. The ‘project’ is top to bottom, roof to car park floor, in lurid garish purple and other neon colours in shocking shades. The columns supporting the three storeyed open landings are a contrast in white. Under the staircases kids sit bored and vocally intolerant of it. They are the encapsulation of what The Florida Project is about. They provide the Florida orange juice effect in spades or by the juicer, wringing out their life’s path. A six year old girl with a fine skill of acting is central. Brooklynn Prince, real name! plays, literally, Moonee whose mother is in a flat on the second level. Bria Vinaite brilliantly gets to match her acting partner daughters skills and gets the vibe and process of this emotionally conflicting film. Both warm and scarily hard it is a take on contemporary America and also in its purpose a depiction of what it is like for a particular, and probably generally like for a kid growing up in these times and first on their mind to fulfill is the nearness of the fantasy which infiltrates the world projected through the adults construction of a world vision. The adult world also involves fantasy and fiction and is short stopped by reality several rungs along the rope bridge walkway they traverse.


This is America

Following on from the remarkable Tangerine filmed entirely on an iPhone director once again outplays other more prominent mainstream directors by choosing alongside the films chief Central pivot Willem Dafoe in a height of his skills, he has assigned roles to actors who are inexperienced and yet totally on message and getting the nature of this socially pragmatic fare. Brooklyn obviously has not acted before and the same applies to her little friends. Bria as the mother Halley is astounding and triggers all kinds of empathy and sympathy. The ensemble is by Sean Bakers method of hyper confrontational close up very unlike Stanislavsky and inward emotions hidden and difficult to read. The warmth of the piece is driven I think by the rationale of Willem Dafoes part playing the janitor come social worker and The Florida Project’s fulcrum. He has obviously put his fellow cast members at ease and allowed them to achieve a presence of themselves getting their emotions out and expressed. How Brooklyn has found the skills to act in this important shifting part is staggering to watch. She is not to be outdone by a legendary, Platoon, Hollywood elite actor. Dafoe is careful and knows these children’s own discovery and fascination – which the film outrageously brilliantly delivers in spades – the wonders of seeing the world open its peculiarities and beauty and dismal consequence of extremes of life. The tribulations are seen by the children as they are in the process themselves of interpreting it and this is simply another means. Astory told on camera and laid out by adults who ensure they enjoy what they are doing no matter how vexing or troublesome – lots of tears and tantrums – they know about.


Other side

Set on the wrong side of the tracks, the highways and roads leading to the fantasy capital – Disneyland – this is outside the tourist and hotel traffic of middle America or savings America seeing the fantasy in reality. It is far removed from the bought experiences of chosen illusion, the Golf Ball circuits and the entertainment hype is a commodity the people of the Project see as a daily crazy juxtaposition. Helicopters lift off as the children gesture finger wagging at the drone of the whirling bird ascending into another world. The children walk the edge of the drainage collection waterway. All but dried out and unkept. The houses beyond after the global property meltdown now lay empty and as a ghost of hyperville brought home to roost. The colorful dwelling each a reminder of the dreams sought and put up to obtain. Now empty the kids see the world as aa playground. A forest in their midst. The waterway hidden by reeds and alligators get a mention. The project itself is the left over spaces of a rundown hotel which has recut its cloth by leading to the State ‘The Project’ for a surplus of need. The hotel itself is out of bounds and only Bobby, Dafoe, gets to trade in the grounds by way of advising his host of the management he has in place for the breaches, and there are plenty, of the rules and regulations of fraternizing with the incomers. A fine piece of observation is the proximity of a Christian Foodbank which shows up outside the front of the Hotel to distribute food and wrapped meals and an abundance of donations. When they are first seen to be too close to the Hotel the host tells them to go round the back.


Poverishment

Form the early sunshine overspilling and the imaginative diversions – they are a directors guided tour of the elements of Wonder – the kids – Brooklyn mainly, set off on as adventure and the Aristotelian ethic of striving for arete, is seen – like the child seeking out the top of a mountain in its mind.

Brooklyn is on a mission. Able to know what a virtuos life might entail, they are on the road to – and Bobby, Halley keep their optimism up – to discovering a road of exertion is needed not only delving into intellectual or physical endurance, satisfaction, amusement is not always the co-traveller. These elements of the story are set to contrast with the adult plight of poverty and need with Halley and another parent, a woman whose daughter could not handle her granddaughter and they bond after a furious argument. The kids do to. The choices that Halley has to make are knifedege existence. To find her rent is a daily struggle. Bobby as ‘social worker’ is a kind, firm but fare Sargent. He is seeing this as a reality his own circumstances remind him of. His son is briefly in the storyline to show where he is and has come from.

There is through the film hope alongside the despair and the contrasting fortunes of each character is very well charged. Even the generosity of the Hotel patrons and a bit of criminal and predatory proximity is salt and pepper to the films societal examination. You will go a long time before finding a film so buoyant and atnthe same time drowning under the eweitghtbof the humanity flagged up so perceptively by Sean Baker and delivered by the cast.

Conclusion #####5
It is a joyful must see film which will have you feeling strongly about the sharpness of its meaning and perhaps for the portrayal of a filmic view of what must be a very familiar plight in America where the poverty is still a major issue. When you think of the number of homeless in GB at a level of around 350,000 you can Project and add some to the scale seen in the USA. Federal changes are rolling out and also incrementally rolling back with it becoming a lottery where you end up. This film shows one state project. The Florida Project is a beginning of a indictment of Republican Politics and failed, Capitalist based Obamanomics which itself is being pummeled and redesigned. You don’t have to be Aristophanes to understand where children fit in this future. The al to plain to see fantasy of materialism is captured in the simple existence of Moonee and her gang. Instead of the remake intended of the Lord of the Flies. The Girl version look no further to than this for a coruscating example of the nature of child’s anxieties and the place of them. It might be summer break and schooling is not on the agenda but healthcare and education as well as having a safe and good environment to grow up in is paramount. A good name for a flimsy company. The upshot is this is a terrifically emotionally complex film warm in its weird way and hopeful in its quest of putting it out there for America. An artist I spoke to Sean Campbell, who had conceived and created an American Stars and Stripes in a large Plastic Bricks (Lego!) on the floor of a Gallery at Platform arts said he intended to take out bricks as the show went on. I asked was this representing the dismantling of US values and he took the opposite view and said (or words to the effect) that it was an act of taking out individual parts as they can create the anew the future without that burden of the flag so often a wrongfully adopted symbol of nationhood or the individual. It is very true to look at the positive things as this film testifies. The burden is upon the individual not the state to act correctly – the state can follow.

with award season soon to be up there the prospects of a new Film World wracked with scandal and sexual abuse and exploitation there is sure to be no La La Land moment or Moonlight shading this years films.  The Florida Project sneaks in behind The Ghost Story as one of the best of the year.
John Graham
10 November 2017
Belfast

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