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

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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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No Stone Unturned : A Film Review

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No Stone Unturned

Directed by Alex Gibney, Writing Credits Alex Gibney, Produced by Maiken Baird, Executive producer, Trevor Birney, Producer, Brendan J. Byrne, Executive producer, Erin Edeiken, Post producer. Jonathan Ford, Executive producer. Alex Gibney, Producer, Eimhear O’Neill , Co-producer, Richard Perello, Executive producer, Greg Phillips, Executive producer Music by Ivor Guest, Cinematography by Stan Harlow, Ross McDonnell, Film Editing by Andy Grieve, Alexis Johnson, Co-editor Sound Department, Peter Miller, sound mixer. Aaron D. Kelly, voiceover recordist (uncredited) Editorial Department. Kyle Casey, digital intermediate producer Music Department, Robert Logan, Composer: theme music other. Duration 1hr 51mins.  Cert. 15. USA/UK.

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Event and Causality
The renowned American Documentary Film maker Alex Gibney, whose films include the very necessary expose on the American Catholic Church, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, has had various responses to this films impending release as he exposes the U.K. Governance and responsibility in maintaining a veil over their own and other actions.  Some responses are to avoid being sued as the press tread carefully with themselves standing back from full disclosure like the Government are similarly practiced at.  The film is clear in telling you who the suspects are that carried out the massacre of innocent people in a Public House. It begins with a re-enactment of the attack on The Heights Bar in Loughinisland in Co. Down, in Northern Ireland.  Within 6 minutes on 18 June 1994 of the Republic of Ireland having scored a goal against Italy in a World Cup match in US New Jersey a hooded gunman slaughtered 6 of eleven who were watching the match on the small bars TV.   To this day no one has been charged or put on trial for the Murders.  3 took part in the murder and they are named in the film.

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No Stone Unturned is an account of a sole event, many other examples are out there of similar injustices and many have walked free of other atrocities due to the Good Friday Agreement. You can only say may God be their judge and those who don’t believe in that deity are left hung and dry as no judge is equipped to punish these evil and gross deeds of human on human. These were also fellow countrymen but through allegiances were divided just as they were in 1798 when, Protestant was to murder by hanging Protestant, in a stupid revolt which saw neighbour and family upon family divided and distraught with the hegemony of a warfare based on Nationhood. Both times; other cyclical events are similarly illustrative, are a betrayal of Gods infinite wisdom (love thy neighbour the most important edict) as the stark reality is innocent lives amid protagonists of creed or doctrine sought their supremacy over others. It is an absence of individual faith which is marked and it is not as the film realizes for viewers in or gift to forgive. Knowing the truth however is different and we then ask for the perpetrators to themselves ask forgiveness which is in Gods hands.

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State Corruption

The bigger implication and truth shown here in No Stone Unturned is the state of Power in Ireland and Great Britain and their manipulation for their populous of events. A code of directives within a state lead by Sovereignty itself in the grasp of evil. The USA which this film seems to be aimed at, became involved with a funding of terrorists rampant and raising a myth of Irish culture and history. The diaspora Irish clinging to the romantic idealism of their past ancestors and country. Some also exiled terrorists under the shadow of green permits. Many of those ancestors had to flee to avoid cholera and typhus as fellow Irish along with the British and State Churches, Church of Ireland and Catholic Church conspired to ship food by the ton out of Ireland, Meat, Eggs, Poultry, Grain. The evidence in all documents as they were billed up and shipped while all around millions were forced from the land and six million emigrated of which many never completed the journey. Often they fell dying on the beaches of Ireland and their bones and dust were taken by the tide and some buried in the shifting sands forgotten forever.

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The USA became a pawn of their own miscalculations and saw hubris in becoming advocates for peace – famously George Mitchell forged the Peace Deal. The unity is frail and inactive now. In the consequence of legacy as a side issue and traditions saw their slate wiped. Only victims, and internally perpetrators, carried the burden as innocent and public signals and noises of PR or a new propaganda of an unaffected let’s move on regime were way forward. Little attention other than a slow bureaucratic process were in place seeking to the redress as it became. No Truth Commission ever formed. A slow waltz of the truth leaking out and courts, human rights lawyers hidden seen in full view. So is the legacy tackled by Alex Gibney on one atrocity brings with it countless questions. He makes a few missteps unfortunately captioning for an American or wider audience such errors as 3,000 unsolved murders, or the captioning of 50 million of retained unseen documents relating to the ‘troubles’ still being held by the State Authorities.

When the USA became an outworker for peace through Clinton and a Visitors Visa (the film shows a clip of the ‘clipped’ Clinton at a press conference – he drops in Clintonesque the word limited Visa) to Gerry Adams it was seen by many as an easement of the USA position at the behest of the U.K. Government who would have given their aggrement to it. It has the unintended consequences result rule come into play. The loyalist extremists saw this as a reason to ratchet up their own crusade against Catholics and so violence escalated. Loughinisland itseflcacreaction to a group of murders.

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Evidence

This is but one atrocity and it’s links to others related to the Glenanne group were touched on but not dwelt on. The reason is than that link also leads to others in the continuos of entanglement. Showing in the film that ‘Loughinisland’ as its known, is not alone is one outcome of the film, and this account is a mirror of others as no Police Operation has drawn the suspects in for questioning on the foot of any evidence held or in their remit to obtain. The film makers were able however to obtain or be given a piece of evidence in the form of a document, a letter from one of the alleged suspects wife which named the participants one of which was her husband. This is also a piece of evidence, she might have known, implicated her in the organization of terrorist acts. This is itself a criminal offense. So are we to take it the evidence was from say a woman scorned, fallen out big time with her husband or genuinely reflective on her past and the awful act which followed the Planning she purports to know about. All unanswered questions. The suspects are named in the film, one shown.

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Commentary
‘There is a brief word from Tom King, Northern Ireland secretary from a little before this period. Mayhew died in 2016, but John Major, then prime minister and overall head of the security services at the time is still alive. So is Sir Colin McColl, head of SIS from 1989 to 1994, and Sir David Spedding, head of SIS from 1994 to 1999.’

This is a short but important quote from The Guardians Peter Bradshaw on his sight of the film and a reaction from a person with no agenda other than explaining his views on the film which are full of insight. It basically asks Who the hell knew? – Why was it considered expedient to go ahead with this atrocity? A question which is based on the films information that the event was known to be happening by Security forces, handlers of Informants. in the light of renewed optimism coming out of the operations of ‘Diplomacy and Special Branch/MI5 intelligence? What price someone’s life is basically another question need be asked of the State and those counsel of collusion and commanding those acts. The Royal Ulster Constabulary Chief Superintendent is at all times through the period before and since culpable and the likes of Ronnie Flanagan, John Hermon Hugh Anerissly, all were in Commanding Positions and during their time there was infiltration of their force, by any means, of a covert Security Army presence of an inside network and alongside corrupt Officers acting on their supposed agendas of dirty tricks using the – films illustrative point – informant and tout arrogate is aloud and proud in ranks of fundamentalist Protestant – no Catholic Officers of the force are likely to be involved at this – an inside armed Police unit. The Forces Research Unit FRU also get few if any mentions. A good book exists on the FRU. I remember it disappearing from all good bookshops (it was pre Amazon) as the State and Police presumably – who loved its content so much – couldn’t wait to get hold of every copy. I saw a dozen or more disappear from a certain bookshop which is Fahrenheit 451 and Stasi like. I saw a number myself being lifted off a shelf – all that remained – by a large man who fitted the stereotype of a Police Officer and it may well be he wanted them as presents for his co-workers or Christmas presents. The shelf never saw another copy replace them.

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All kinds of truth
Aporia is a word which comes up time and time again concerning never knowing the whole truth. ‘I’d been killing him for thirty years,’ he says, weakly, ‘this was just when he fell’. Like a Minnesotan Prometheus, his original sin was cleverness. Which is from Fargo. The Aporia episode where the recognition that most cops want a straightforward solution to a case, he provided one, means, motive and miscreant all. It happens everywhere in all unreconciled problems, an untruth happens to fit. The Guildford 4 and the Birmingham 6 loom large. Governments are full of misfeance and miscreants. The most appealing is the connivance with the realm of Sovereignty when the instructions come within the Castle walls – our Royal family – none of these dirty wars must come to the light of day.

Even the sacred hollows of espionage at Admilitary Arch moves on and it becomes a Hotel as of late. I have sought an answer as to the reason why successive PM’s and their Secretary’s of State have continually been concealing and burying literally in some cases the documental evidence and paper trail of the atrocities unaccounted for in Northern Ireland and the only viable answer – the families in this film continually point upward as did D. Cameron did when confronted by more questions within Downing Street by the Finnuacane family on their Fathers murder – with the meaning beyond Government rules must be adhered to and in such are the Church of England whose deplorable unchristian values entered the political games and dealt out suppression and national supremacy to maintain its own.
The underlying legacy is that their lies and conspiracies are the bloody current and currency that runs through the many controversial and tragic events of the past 30 to 40 years – Bloody Sunday, Dublin/Monaghan bombing, Pat Finnuacane/Rosemary Nelson murders, Omagh bomb, the list goes on.

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The actions involved during the violence of the late twentieth century in Northern Ireland and beyond into the twenty first century by the use of informants and insiders to push their dirty war was to maintain the controls of power. Past misdeeds would be and are still traded in for silence and inaction amongst the people whose way of life was chosen as violence. From Soldiers and their chiefs like General Mike Jackson on (of Bloody Sunday infamy) there is long roll of former Military perpetrators of acts of violence organised and overlooked by their peers. Others served, most who were Soldiers of conscience, yet their legacy is mental health problems arising from the first instance the reconciliation of the brainwashing of militarism and realising there are among us, alongside, those who are unchallenged and stained without remorse. A fair trial is often off the books also.

Fargo is nearer truth.

It was a pretty smart day’s work, all told. He understood the positions and motivations of the pieces on his board and made the necessary moves. More Fargo. This world like Fargo – appeared to be taking place in a haunted forest, replete with animal heads, crossbow hunters and decapitations, like something from the tales of the Brothers Grimm if they’d been animated by the German Expressionists instead of Walt Disney. Or reality. Or like the Big Lebowski on the morning after the apocalypse. There was a sense that it was an Other Place, a limbo in which no one questions the customers on why they are covered in blood and are armed with crossbows. Or guns. Because a now reformed (deacon or cathedral guide bought and transported guns from South Africa – 2 times – one a backed off photo call – the other the successful gun run) gun supplier walks God’s path unhindered except internally by guilt without absolution. Wrong kind of faith. What kind of narrative makes people act this way but the past – stories told as untruth – which encompassed soul transference, the life of Nachman of Breslov, the Massacre of Uman and a knowledge of Yuri’s cossack background, suggest an otherworldliness that is not uncommon to Fargo. Questions arise. Series/Episode 3.8 Who Rules the Land of Denial? Fargo.

No Stone Unturned was the false promise of Patrick Mathew while standing outside The Heights Bar in front of reporters looking for this sound bite and giving the British Secretary of State the primacy of writing down those prophetically and gruesomely inaccurate words, while a car with forensics was towed away, while a gun went to the forensics lab, while a holdall with balaclavas in it along with other items were taken away from the crime scenes locality.

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Detail is occasionally given to the viewer of this film No Stone Unturned but Alex Gibney is caught between a cinematic journey to delve into the human psyche to deliver a palpable story crisply told, and at the same time answer questions that have been left unanswered for longer than twenty years that go back into the origins of the violence meted out during the unpeaceful times. His motives are not questioned but his smarts are due to the tendency to roll out unchecked – the proposition 3,000 murders remain unsolved.   That is quite a statement and it is close to a very large number but probably nearer half is closer.  It also gave the impression the British Army were culpable in those murders not being solved forgetting the combatants – they were alongside and playing games with – were two sectarian groups intent on a national identity – theirs having supremacy.

Both were and are entrenched in, and inwardly opposed to, the concept of any settlement involving a shared community Border/No Border, and one which has had the historical backdrop of divide and rule since John de Courcy and Henry lll, the English Pope and the Wexford landings. Rule the coin and you rule the native. Roman was the guiding master of power then as now and several interchangeable imperialist dynasties have come after de Courcy’s time.

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Rupert bearly believable.

It is also an issue South of the Border. This is a report from a source. Bernadette McKevitt. In 2003 indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu:81/fairtrial.html

Former Irish Prime Bertie Ahern has expressed his concern in relation to the “Stakeknife” reports, however once again he demonstrated how he was willing to let the media colour his judgement. One would have thought first and foremost his concern would have been to uphold a citizen’s right to be presumed innocent until found guilty by a court of law and to have criticised the trial by media that took place over the last number of days. It seems ironic that he was alarmed by the reports of MI5 operating agents in the “Republic” seems ironic that he was alarmed by the reports of MI5 operating agents in the “Republic” when one of those same agents will appear before the Special Criminal court Dublin in four weeks time to frame an Irish citizen. When approached by (me) in Portlaoise town during his election campaign last year, Mr Ahern emphatically denied any knowledge of MI5 agents operating in the 26 counties, he advised (me) to go to the Gardai if (I) had any information concerning this issue! How then does he explain Garda Assistant Commissioner, Dermot Jenning’s liaisons with MI5, where according to MI5 documents (an extract of which was read at a recent court hearing) Jennings had urged MI5 officers to “remove” certain reports that would have made David Rupert “an untrustworthy source”.

Glenanne Report

Some days have passed since a judge already ruled the Police unlawfully – Chief Constable ultimately responsible – frustrated any chance of an effective probe of the so called Glenanne gang killings count during the 1970’s. On the Historical Enquiries (HET) account they were disbanded in advance of an almost complete 80% (subject to corrections) report coming forward of the Glenanne investigations. Currently the Chief Constable ignores calls from the High Court to disclose the finished report by judicial review. Since the HET were found to be not fit for purpose and another ‘mechanism’ – again designed to heavily thwart process and openness, the misery of victims families whose lives were affected and whose remaining relatives are left without answers are still being subjected to undue neglect by the State on many fronts. The rights of man are ‘subject to corrections’ as justice is incremental and fragments are given which is subject to revision as new fact after fact emerge. That is the policy in operation – Operation No End. Having a committee dismantle the HET a new version came forward. The PSNI establishing an in-henhouse Legacy Investigations Branch (LIB) and insufficient resources were committed to it by Government. A backlog and raft of retirements put paid to any formative turnaround in truth recovery. It is absolutely repellant and undemocratic for the machinery of Government which is he people’s representative servant to be engineered by a Sovereignty which is outside their control or answerability. The latest control broker is James Brokenshire whose MOD allegiances are clear.
Nothing will be revealed under his watch is his mantra. His predecessors presumably sanctioned the payment of, in five years, £1.8m to informers. That does not include the human cost and manpower running those ‘agents’. So his use is perpetuation of this ‘intelligence’ network while he refuses to fund additional independent work on the Legacy trail. Emptying the bins is not his mantra. The waste management is sterile and a paper trail however clean is buried in a sinkhole of platitudinous and vile commentary. Collusion, conspiracy, corruption is rife and the truth is their enemy not their ally. Faith will come someday I would hope.

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Conclusion ####4

The film is full of intense meaning and is purposeful in telling the basic constituent parts of one atrocious event in the deaths over many years of exhausting violence. Proof if it were needed of the acts of collusion and cover-up are documented. It opens up questions concerning the further crime showed of destroying forensic evidence. A holdall, the murder weapon, and even the getaway car all provided as did the location it was dumped trails of evidence which an uncorrupted Police Force could assemble a case from. The shocking examination of the event of The Heights Bar Shooting is in plain sight as a Corruption of the highest order and implicates the regime in control at every level. It provides the viewer with the names of the suspects which are in the mind of the Police Ombudsman, whose own part takes a primary part in disclosure – without removing the code for the assailants under suspicion – is disturbing and a source of mounting anger, discomfort and discontent, not just for the viewer but it must feel as a breach of basic trust in our Security Forces through their manipulation by state agencies which this film clearly point to. The charm offensive has to stop and the documents which are held back – intelligence on perpetrators a resource which would answer many questions is self evident. I found this film hard to take and despairingly forming a worse opinion of the operatives on many fronts. As the above has a tendency to wander in review so anyone who sees this film will go on their own journey and it does not stop there. It is a need to make peace through truth and knowledge. Another realisation brings this phrase to mind – You get used to things, without getting used to things. Paradoxes fold into each other and the atrocities too are linked by self evident truth that faith had been principle in denial.

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Today I went to a talk and reading by Michael Longley which centred on the First World War and poetry arising from it and during it.  Some lines are worth noting here.  Highest among them I took the poets own words after reading a War poem by Edward Thomas. “I think our world is still in sorrow.” and he added as time was closing in, “I have so much more to say.” There were words about the finish of War and one of Siegfried Sassoon s saying “All of a sudden it’s over….. and we can all go home.”  A call as it were by the angels.   Another phrase. Beauty is like the setting sun.  The singing will never be done.  Michael Longley here added….. “the singing never was done, we have done nothing but grieve since.” A reflection from the son of a boy who went to war at sixteen, killed as ‘Citation’ reads at nineteen, and survived to have his family. Michael having a twin brother whose life was taken early.  The words came forth from Michael as in memorium.  The Seigfried Sassoon words again. ‘You are too young to sleep, and when you sleep, you remind me of the dead”.  Think about the people who go to sleep tonight, each night with them thinking about the memory of the ones who went to sleep and sleep with them still in a silence.

John Graham

8 November 2017

Belfast

The 6.00pm screening on Wed 15 Nov will be followed by a filmmaker Q&A (details TBC).

No Stone Unturned will screen at QFT from 10 November 2017 until 15 November 2017.

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The Killing of a Sacrificial Deer : A Film Review

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The Killing of the Sacrificial Deer
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos, Produced by Ed Guiney, Yorgos Lanthimos. Written by Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou. Cast. Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone, Bill Camp. Cinematography by Thimios Bakatakis. Edited by Yorgos Mavropsaridis. Production companies. Film4, New Sparta Films, HanWay Films, Bord Scannán na hÉireann/The Irish Film Board, Element Pictures. Duration: 2HR 1MINS Cert. 15.

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Synopsis

Dr. Steven Murphy is a renowned cardiovascular surgeon who presides over a spotless household with his wife and two children. Lurking at the margins of his idyllic suburban existence is Martin, a fatherless teen who insinuates himself into the doctor’s life in gradually unsettling ways. Soon, the full scope of Martin’s intent becomes menacingly clear when he confronts Steven with what appears to be a long-forgotten transgression that will shatter his domestic bliss forever. It is not until midway through the story takes an unexpected twist but it requires a stretch of the imagination as to is basis.

Variety Magazine reviewer Peter Debruge writes of the tome  – Nara Park, Japan, spotted deer were long believed to possess divine properties. To cause the death of one, even by accident, was a capital offense. Halfway across the world, in ancient Greece, King Agamemnon learned this the hard way, invoking the wrath of the gods for killing one of Artemis’ beloved deer, for which he was obliged to sacrifice his own daughter, Iphigenia. The obvious lesson: Don’t kill deer. But what if the deed is already done? … it does feature two key scenes in which a hunting rifle plays a critical role.

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Pulse racing performances

Colin Farrell in his element as the the male archetype in the movie by Yorgos Lanthimos’s “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” whose films have found a co-conspirator in the shape of Farrell.  With jest, indirectness, satirical amusement along with Nicole Kidman he possibly continues to play with audiences in the after screening press interviews – this is after all part of the intruque which filmmakers keep up the hype and surrounding mystery of their film.

I think he and indeed Nicole Kidman are entirely onboard the bombast and delivery of cinematic cathartic supernatural realism which they connect on with the directors flaming lunacy. As it is another bizarre take on all our lives and all humanity swerving to avoid the nasty death scenario, which was brilliantly provocatively absurd in the Farrell and Lanthimos tale Lobster.  https://johngrahamblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/the-lobster-a-film-review/ Here normality takes a central role and gets turned upside down by an outsider. Using a medical backdrop is crucial in our expectation of ourselves burying thoughts of fate intervening and Farrell is a composite survivor. He is both survivor and repairer.  Clinically adept at keeping people alive where major organs go into a test of will against your brain in trying to tear down each edifice constructed to thwart the reckoning.  Dr Steve is intimidating in an unfashionably easy going way. Never one to concede he up’s the ante every time by diverse and quite clearly self deception with his wife Nicole Kidman is a fellow traveller on the make believe.

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A shape of truth

Lanthimos has constructed the archetype in the Jung manner as a universal truth or shape of the truth. The pathway to success of any kind having choices in respect of home life and family as well as protecting the young ones from evil and ensuring they too have a chance to exploit their potential. Full realisation is probably what Lanthimos is aiming for and the troubadours are both Kidman and Farrell. It is not all things in the sense of any universal truth but realised as section of it. I thought throughout the film of the scenes playing out as sections of life’s absurdity placing its own direction in front of everyone in a happenstance way. Jung’s was more a collective idea, of possession of inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., universally present in individual psyches. Mastery is debunked here in the film lots of times.

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A boy who is revengeful and is prostyled as a God with special powers. The film opens beautifully with a Franz Schubert choral heraldic outpouring of the master at work. Colin Farrell at work as the renowned and respected heart surgeon Steven Murphy alongside a rich but inferior cardio-anesthetiser Matthew. The whimsy feigns on the walk through after the operation we’ve just seen as they exchange the bourgeoisie optics of a choice in diving watches. Steven is quizzical and monotone. Reviled, known, accepted. Dr Steven is after none of these attributes to adjust his psyche, he just portrays out the facts, the shape of his and his family’s life in their simplicity. At home this is particularly evident when the tasks are divided on the grounds of logic. For instance Bob their son who declines to have his hair cut before a school party is told by his father in gentle reasoned terms that it is too dangerous for him to walk the dog.

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Characterisations

Nicole as Anna is splendidly anti-Stepford wives as another archetype and is happy with the odd indiscretion and is as a clinician and I think of ophthalmologists thus, able to smoke the odd cigarette, it may even be weed given her off the cuff and leisurely comfort when indulging in a smoke. It is the same with Steven. A scene or two throws up their bedroom routine which is also a vision of their private selfs when this coupling is itself purely on their terms and not a formulaic expression of love which ‘tropes’ ‘protoreality’ might encumber them with. I think Lanthimos has, and it’s almost hidden within the film as a calming notion, a signal the achievement both have is the joy of sexual love on their satisfying terms. Without any sign of inner anxiety Anna embraces the composite union of their sex life as a non material act or with either partner having a dominant leading part. The parts are equally erotic and evolving. The nuances again are played out through the medium of their adopted speech patterns so it only becomes tangible – for them as human beings acting on their own instincts, and as a satisfying ultimately pleasurable and worthwhile shared gift – it spools out (film simile!) when they are in silence. Give or take a few noises off. It is one way of looking at their world but then the horrific enters and upsets all parables or prophetic notions.

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The covert boy steps up

Early in the film we get to know of a boy who is close to Steven and whose relationship might even be taken as a divorcees son having set times for meeting up. That’s not the case and their meeting is also not thought to be sexual but presents us with a problem why and what it actually amounts to as it passes on covertly. Barry Lonegan who turned up alongside Mark Rylance on the boat in Dunkirk puts on his best American accent (a very good all round take for a young Irishman) plays Martin whose father died on an operating table with both Stephen and Matthew holding the dinner plates. (Defibrillator needed?). For Martin it was a murder and he embarks on a conversational journey with Stephen.

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Quite how Dr Murphy allowed himself to be a foil for a Martin in the first place is beyond reading. They meet in picturesque, solitary open aired spaces under the Cities bridge, Cincinnati a likely location but it’s an anywhere place. Or they meet in a cafe or diner. The set up is odd to say the least and part of the ensuing implausibility which never looses it’s annoying grip. Allowing for the metronome action of sections of life going onward, in which most is highly predictable, an illusion is constructed to be shattered. At around midpoint dark and strange unexplained things happen.

Martin has acted to visit these appalling life changing acts upon them or that’s the premis and the family Murphy are drawn into a battle with life itself. The rolling story is now at its scariest and darkly intense. Moods alter somewhat with Doctor Stephen no longer a spokesperson for medical triumph but is set on a course to discover it has no solutions to what seem to be psychosomatic conditions. A fanaticism/realitist is in the Nicole Kidman stroke of genius as she alters her verbal continuity of external wafer thin communication in unison with Steven – they up to then are participants in a fantasy neither want to disrupt – and she is the fluctuating chime on the timepiece that is misbehaving. Family Murphy are in chaos.

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Superbly realised

The cinematography is immersive and beautiful cleansing as each location is pristine and choreographed to within an inch of is serenity. The nerveless cascade of a couple in the wonderful lifestyle and home immunised American success story is where we begin to intrude. Nicole Kidman plays no lesser a wonderful medic as an ophthalmologist with her own clinic and she is fit to the boards in terms of screen presence and the couple as actors share this gift of portraying absurdity as normality. Farrell in Lobster and Kidman in Dogville, The Hours, The Beguiled.  The cadency of this pairing is part of the fallacy, false world we are to be absorbed into.

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I chose the word cadency as it is primarily a function of both actors to not use any voice technique which is normalised. As with the a slight falling in pitch of the voice in speaking or reading, used by Colin Farrell in Lobster, he perfects once again the clinical talking and its as if it’s being read asa read through. Except the story is entirely told this way. Nicole Kidman to a lesser extent engages in this device and the deliverance is acutely jarring and then mediates as a voice of comfortable upper middle class America or any national ‘pride’ in being along for the merry joyful ride. You begin to wonder are we going down a path of horror movie and revenge driven hate for an act of – it is never conclusive – on the operating table accounting for the pain inflicted. Satirical, metaphorical, meta psychological it may be but once more Yorgos Lanthimos’s direction is not potable as any cocktail of these genres.

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Pain is at the end of the line always

At around halfway as I’ve noted earlier the film takes a nasty turn. As a revenge movie and it’s formulaic only in the sense no one gets out without pain or hurt being inflicted and even death is a visitor, it provides twists and agonising drama cinematically intense and involving. The cinematography is a clinical beautiful sweep of the inner pages of the narrative with also real emotional depth in close ups being sought out alongside the framing of rooms and corridors methodically and invisibly forceful. The colouring is contrastingly sharpest when a few bloody acts are contended and claustrophobia kicks in the deeper the harm becomes.

To elaborate further on the different scenes or twists taken would be to spoil the immediacy of the shocking effect which happens often. The black comedy and satirical take on supposed bourgeoisie is not a place to park you ideas but as a troubling film it delivers much more. It is no laugh a minute for the child actors and strains a bit however adaptable and good they are. Kim (Raffey Cassidy), a wide-eyed teenage girl, and her younger brother, Bob (Sunny Suljic) are the children in the story and they will be equally perplexed as to their part in it.

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Conclusion ####4 

The breadth of this film does not match the previous works of Yorgos Lanthimos but is need not be compared to his previous work given each piece is of a particular well honed view on life as each narrative shows separately the energy and profoundly valuable cinematic experience it composes.  Neither should you be too troubled the male character is again in the place where blame arises.

This film is a dream like journey of success which is destroyed by the traverses of life which interrupt and have elements of love and tragedy.  Sacrifice is a huge word.  The greater claim is what haunts this film which is at times horrific and bloody (Cert.15) and it graphically delivers both the beauty of a deer and the tragedy of a killing.  If you also park the male lead again ‘to blame’ in the absurdity, you’ll get by.  The surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim means Dr Stephen makes a choice holding to these thoughts. It is a claim therefore of the Director that good people become spoiled by apparently small acts and reason is lost. On both sides of this film anger is controlled until an awful outcome seems too – and you have to go along with the absurdity to aquaint yourself with another reality – is visited upon this happy successful family. A success which is based in medicine.

We see the surgeon at work and incidentally also dealing with saving lives routinely. As a hero he does not embrace the healed or the recovered in a heartfelt (sorry for the inexcusable pun) hug but routinely moves onto the next endeavour.  This is a brilliant conceit which Colin Farrell masters along with Nicole Kidman whose acting is superbly nuanced and provocatively challenging to the twin peaks of the present and the past.  Surveillance of the present and going forward as one is their menacing, troubling (to any outsider now in possession of the view) attitude and behaviours grit and twist while the plausibility is tested with pathos of speech styles and patterns forming.  It is both breathtakingly smart and highly disturbing and we’re it not for the completely visceral violent content which is in all probability actually close – you could imagine – to a real life tragedy – it is nevertheless a troubling element of the film and not a five rate drop film.

John Graham
2 October 2017
Belfast

The Killing of a Sacred Deer will screen at QFT from 03 November 2017 until 16 November 2017.

 

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Bad day for the Cut : A Film Review

Bad day for the Cut

Directed by Chris Baugh. Written by Chris Baugh and Brendan Mullin.

Nigel O’Neill as Donal O’Neill, Susan Lynch as Frankie Pierce, Józef Pawlowski as Bartosz, Stuart Graham as Trevor Ballantine, David Pearse as Gavigan, Anna Próchniak as Kaja, Stella McCusker as Florence, Ian McElhinney as Eamon, Brian Milligan as Jerome, Shashi Rami as Vivian Lalor Roddy as Leo McMahon, Ryan McParland as Ossie, Andrew Porter as Damien.
Production Katy Jackson and Brendan Mullin, Music by James Everett, Cinematography by Ryan Kernaghan, Film Editing by Brian Philip Davis. Six Mile Hill Productions. Cert. 18. Duration 1hr 39mins.

Before I start I update the blog as I’ve discussed s covered the meaning of the title but not its allusion to the Film itself other than a lot of people get cut down.  Apparently it’s an Agricultural colloquialism – I’m sure it’s not confined to Tyrone, or Antrim – and it is when the conditions are foul or the forecast is foul for the necessary cutting of crops and harvesting.  I hope the Sundays Harvest Service (29/10/17) All Souls Church goes peaceful and s uneventful. Today (Sat.) the preparations are going well inside, decorating ever nook and cranny.  That is Entrance, window cills, corners, pillars, pulpit and Choir pews. Looking forward to it.

Debut promise
The Chris Baugh debut feature Bad day for the Cut is a modern Irish revenge thriller with a broad scoping and complex plot driven along by the dark secrets of different family histories in this troubled province.  At times it becomes a trail of bodies and sets off after a flashback, more later, with a farmer living the quiet life with his mother in an Co. Antrim farm.  Scenes of domestic rustic rural harmony  prevail with the caring son Donal (Donal O’Neill) eager to ensure his frail mother is not neglected and this is seen initially as a caring need and relationship.  Donal is fond of shooting rabbits for a stew and his country and western music, which is not a rarity here and he listens while he fixes old cars or does work on anything that takes his fancy , away from the tedium of routine farm work.  Into his existence comes another star of the film a neglected Transit as a payment for work on an old banger which he turns into his boys shed over a period of time.


Open Country

Donal’s world becomes forever turned upside down when he catches the wrong end of an act of violence one night at his own home.  An absentee from the film are the Police except for the presence of two Detectives (back view only) as a result of this disruptive and gruesome act of violence at the farm.  This is quite probably due to it being entirely filmed here in Northern Ireland were the risks of reprisal are clear sadly and it may be why ‘impersonation’ was not an option.  From then on in the violent frenzy that happens they are not to be seen. Filmically too is a stoic political call by the Director/Writers on the Scandinavian noir of clever troubled detectives not being a Northern Ireland familiarity.  (Shallow thought!)  Crime fiction is a local speciality (look up No Alibi’s independent bookshop) and like this film it is seldom a reflection of more destructive truth no matter where the written word takes you.

Donal is completely at a loss to explain why this atrocity has happened until he himself becomes a target of violence. Then the wheel turns and it is his turn to act. From small beginnings Donal is now the avenger/revenger and the genre becomes a wide expanse of multi-cultural links forming a jigsaw puzzle no one has completed image of and it is this we are drawn into.  The Latin word, synonym, for incredulous is Aporetic.  From the word Aporia which is thrust into and occupies much of Northern Ireland rhetoric.  The film could have appropriated that name.  A local artist, Gail Ritchie has a forthcoming show at Platform Arts Belfast on external War memoria which will co-incide with all kinds of Remembrance. This film is about not knowing the full story as people never do.

Aporia : a difficulty encountered in establishing the theoretical truth of a proposition, created by the presence of evidence both for and against it.

For empathy and good versus evil there is no actual clear station of rectitude or resolution.  Once Donal is in his revenge mode he looses any rationality or credibility.  One feature of the film poster is its likeness to the Spaghetti Western standards, Django, Fistful of Dollars or the one with a Belfast connection – A Town called Bastard starring Robert Shaw of (some connection!) to these parts. This genre approach is a virtual context and allusion which is narrowly made.  Comparisons of inner city hoods can be found in the Dublin centric Cardboard Gangsters reviewed here earlier.  (Put the film name in the white box top right to obtain the post likewise other notable films)

While it is true the chronic violent riddled town/city certainly Belfast and Northern Ireland has been, with its tragic magnitude of violence and as it still has hurt as an undercurrent to the everyday, the post traumatic shock has embedded in many citizens whether directly affected or not. Hence the medical bill.  Other cities are subjected to variations of the lack of moral discipline and the film tries to reflect here in Belfast the story of families affected by their tragic misfortune and wrong choices theirs or others.   I happened to be re-reading a chapter or two of the 2000 book, Northern Protestants – An Unsettled People by Susan McKay which documents district by district across the province the interrelation of acts of destruction and their impact and legacy left of very similar disregard for life.  The untenable becomes tenable and the ‘new normal’ (media speak), goes further as past lives causal projection is cyclical which is seen as one of the most forceful effects of this film.  Unforgiving and God forsaken is the message to be taken in deploring all acts of violence and the meaningless outcomes they accumulate. The ‘actors’ of violence perpetuate the hurt creating new grave passages.


Currency

New times have arrived and racketeering and the gangster riddled combatants work the undercurrent of a superficial peace.  Memories and family stories are woven in a weave no one has a complete picture of.  Aporia.  An unlikely mobster is a family woman.  Susan Lynch plays her femme fatale best inhabiting the part brilliantly, her face expressing rage, inner strengths, bitterness and she conveys potent sexual latency as a jewel among thorns.  As a highly driven woman her role is large in the film as she is intent on achieving her objectives regardless of the cost but with a motherly hand towards her own daughter in contrast to her own past.  So two vengeful people are the at the centre of the story and the opposites create a battle of wills.  Let the contest begin or as Northern Ireland has it continue.

Without a male partner she runs a prostitution racket with her stock and trade initiating in a bodies count, a ruthless and violent streak of heavy malevolent business as she tries to remain in control.  There is no indication for the largesse of wealth, – ‘the drive’ is Belfasts go to hidey hole, – she has become used to as she brings up a single child, 5 year old daughter whose exposure to the everyday business is mostly obscured though Mother does let her mouth loose with words and temper tantrums no child should be witness to.  The script realises it but it is ‘accomplished’ in one or two scenes.
The lead male character and co-driver of the film is the large stocky farmer we know called Donal O’Neill, played grittily and with determined off the scale rage, a man in his fifties whose part in the machinations or outcomes of the ‘troubles’ is miraculously innocent and of little affect.  How he has avoided the obvious is not clear.  His mother Florence is portrayed by Stella McCusker, whose part requires a completely convincing woman carrying as many women in the country do, a burden of grief and remorseful tears locked up and unseen while secrets are held. Stella McCusker carries it off superbly in a sensitive subtle nuanced way, with her reservoir of theatre and film expertise, the convincing portrayal of a woman with memories, secrets, worried but still in charge of her own world courting for us nevertheless a source of intrigue. Acting as a shield to others, her offspring, her peace is disrupted as the past unravels.

The film opens with to revenge taken on a man in palliative care with a breathing mask filling his lungs with oxygen while he is in the last stages of life. Lalor Roddy is the man. With his usual prime attendance to his craft he opens the film in an interesting short introduction which turns out to be a flashback.



Sunny skies

From there the action returns to the present and a Northern Ireland picturesque and getting along nicely with the entrails of back office culture jobs and telephone call centres in the very heart of Belfast City.  New tech and science STEM is a sole captivator of nuanced 21c life.  Sidelines are the artistic interpretations. Game of Thrones being only a symbolic us of this Ulster theatre in a vaguely conjectural transportive escape.  Capers and criminality is a parallel world real and unreal.  Life in redressing the postcard image is on message. Any murky past is not for outward consumption. An archive of injustices and the undealt with past is locked up in memories along with state and terrorists files never to see new light. Property is lush and shows signs of prosperity as the braces are attached to pull up the ragged trousered philanthropist cloth of the Linen City in true entrepreneurial Ulster style.

The past traffic of ingenuity which was and still holds up, is scotched by the economic equator we live on. New commerce a roguery is the diet we enter. The other villainy is the stock and trade of impure violence.
The vision in the film is of the fictional underworld in a confined and largely inaccurate form.  It is a fiction based on contemporary instinct.  No telling of the real story would be sufficient as access to understanding. These strands are separated and contingent on whose version of events you believe.

The truth would be completely scary and would in many cases lead to greater unconstrained levels of revenge violence – excepting the likehood generations are unlikely to form into self-destructive groups – except the no-hopers hanging on to the coat-tails of handed down myth as a means to lever power and accentuate their projected legacy of ill read history and infect new generations with their appalling virus.


Whether the film is embraced as a depiction of a society continuing to be incapable of dealing with its past and truth hidden harbouring realities of unspeakable betrayal and insurgence is questionable.  Outside the Island the narrative will come across as a unnerving catastrophic revenge movie full of provocative instinctive shades of red mist exploding causing more cyclical damage and as an action piled up body count it puts it on the same shelf as revenge thrillers of equal intensity – it will be interesting to hear how the Chinese subtitled version went down. It is already out of the blocks as it premiered at The Egyptian Theatre at the Sundance Festival last year and Edinburgh Film Festival and was locally was the closing film of the Belfast Film Festival of this year.

Because it is adult cinema and particularly a local community based narrative with a fictional web making connections to many people’s lives and understanding of the legacy in their lifetimes, it is to be toured across Northern Ireland in venues chosen to bring out a wider audience than the ‘Moviehouse’ screens across the province.  The tour dates are below.  As a film of universal cinematic value it also is intentionally provocative and any tool in the box – lead character Donal is a man whose ingenuity is seen as someone who reaches more than metaphorically for what’s handy, ‘that ‘ill do the job!’ – which makes people deal with their own past and the get on the path to resolving differences of blockchain theory’s in their heads. New light and fresh dilemmas are surmountable only if the past is recalled with truth and remorseful probity.

Dark light

Polish actor Józef Pawlowski as Bartosz, Anna Próchniak as Kaja, carry the new international phenomenon of a transitory youth into Belfast and Ireland.  Neither have a desire to remain here and one of them has stronger reasons than the other to get out.  By scoping out the story the writers bring a reality of immigrants settling in a cove of their own narrowness through concern of not belonging and integration torturous and complex with the backdrop of sectarianism on acting on their will.  Existinence is survival to be built on.  The tailoring of other characters, chiefly the hoods is deftly cast. Florences younger brother Eamon (Ian McElhinney) is a townie who keeps himself away from trouble and leaves it in the past. Stuart Graham playing Trevor Ballantine who is the no.2 to Frankie likes to be suited and clean shaven.   He gives off an air of being on the precipice of incompetence while unaware of were he is and what his motivations are. Why he chose the work is pure guesswork and he is always one step behind the curve. Frankie on the other hand is a woman who is compelled to joining the action as her edifice crumbles. Bartosz and Kaja are in this drama up to their necks and centrally Józef Pawlowski excels working alongside this mad bunch out on the edge of their acting chops and getting into it with as much nuance as his eyes can convey. A learning experience for all no doubt.


Conclusion ####4
Like a narrow gauge railway traveling too fast this is a train of thrilling revenge souring and escalating beyond redemption and for practically all on its journey the lurching and weaving slow down and wrong turns add up as the film careers out of control down into some soon to be discovered abyss.  Then there will be silence. There will be liberty.  There will be peace.  Not on these terms the cast say.  We need a result to suit our knowledge and our grief is the premise.  We do it for the sake of everyone gone before and to follow. By being completely deranged ejjits high on the adrenaline rush of survivors instinct they boil the stew of violence into a deathly conclusion.  The deliverance is summoning up lots of sage parables while partly glamorising the affects by not making it dark enough.  They skip the bloodied heads, the unrecognizable body parts (I conject for the possible scenes the viewer may or may not see!) and it draws back to gain audience retention yet is still Cert. 18. A badge of dishonour?  It becomes a shade predictable and no character really is seen as someone to empathise with save the foreign ‘visitors’.  Those need foreign audiences.

Be warned it’s mad and at times bloody and totally bonkers.  It has a feel of a step back to following in the aftermath of spaghetti westerns trying to find a new field. The field is Belfast/Templepatrick with the North Coast of Ireland thrown in for chutzpah. Slightly demented but truthfully entertaining as a misguide to the violence around us.
John Graham

20 October 2017

Belfast.
The 8:30 pm screening on Tues 24 Oct at QFT will be introduced by writer/producer Brendan Mullin and writer/director Chris Baugh.  After a run at Queen’s Film Theatre (20 – 26 Oct) the tour calls at:

The Picture House (Ballyclare) 28 Oct
Portrush Film Theatre 9 Nov

Subterranean Film Club (Omagh) 10 Nov

Dungannon Film Club 15 Nov

Fermanagh Film Club 15 Nov

Newcastle Community Cinema 18 Nov

Foyle Film Festival (L/Derry) 23 Nov

Tí Scannán (Mullaghbawn) 1 Dec

Some events will also feature Q and A session with Chris and Brendan (tbc) so audiences will get to hear the (literally) gory details of the process of making the film and taking it to the big screen.

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The reality predicted in around the late 1960’s by Guy Debord never took on the self-radicalization of people as combatants for nations but it has tangible companionship as his fellow traveler Raoul Vaneigem accounts in The Revolution of Everyday Life.  It is a form of prophecy as is the intended alteration of history which combatants always see as their revolutionary act in their age.  The violence continuing on a scoping out of spectacle for themselves.  We are not just talking about the phenomenon of  ‘Mad Men‘ and spin but the vestigages of memory remployed as almost regal revelatory mindful discovery.

Inauthenticity is a right of man … Take a 35-year-old man. Each morning he takes his car, drives to the office, pushes papers, has lunch in town, plays pool, pushes more papers, leaves work, has a couple of drinks, goes home, greets his wife, kisses his children, eats his steak in front of the TV, goes to bed, makes love, and falls asleep. Who reduces a man’s life to this pathetic sequence of cliches? A journalist? A cop? A market researcher? A socialist-realist author? Not at all. He does it himself, breaking his day down into a series of poses chosen more or less unconsciously from the range of dominant stereotypes.”

Daphne : A Film Review

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Daphne

Directed by Peter Mackie Burns, Produced by Valentina Brazzini, Tristan Goligher
Written by Nico Mensinga. Cast Emily Beecham – Daphne, Geraldine James – Rita, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor – Joe, Nathaniel Martello-White – David, Osy Ikhile – Tom, Sinead Matthews – Billy, Ryan McParland – Jay, additional cast, Ritu Arya – Rachid,  Richard Banks – Cigarette Thief, Gary John Clarke – Homeless Sandwich Guy,  Maurisa Selene Coleman – Friend,  Karina Fernandez – Beth,  Erica Guyatt – Cashier, Timothy Innes – Jimbo, Rania Kurdi – Sofia,  Amra Mallassi -Benny, Stuart McQuarrie – Adam.

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Daphne rules
There are a few Cinema Daphnes about. Nearly as many as the parts Domhall Gleeson inhabits in the film roster presently.  Playing opposite his A.A. Milne and the mother of (Goodbye) Christopher Robin is wife Daphne, the similarly multifarious Margot Robbie. The narrative here is of a single woman, Daphne aged 31, a local in London. Played by Emily Beecham, Daphne’s experience of life is given new perspective as a result of being a witness to an act of brutality.

Her life as a Chef in a busy, no bookings needed restaurant, run by Joe played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor – whose on the spot as a boss and as an irascible potential lover – is a vibrant one on the move with some night life and her scary attitude to sex (but precautions taken!) require her almost daily reading of modern philosophy as self analysis (Slavoj Zizek) in the afterglow of her habits.  The staff are usually knackered but in a response to this modernity of capitalist driven London and servile work on limited rewards they share dope.  It is recreational and supposedly non-threatening to them. We never get to know the backstory or delve into the present story of anyone in particular other than Daphne.  Centrally it is about the demise and nihilistic life taken.

Storyboard

I am therefore I watch. So onward.  It shapes up as being about the people’s present lives and getting along with things. The ‘and then?’ question asked by the novice Ida in the film of that name is studiously evoked in my reading.  Daphne is in some ways in an enviable position, on a career path to become a Sous Chef and up to the challenge with her admired taste buds. She is living alone in a nice house next to the contrasting crowded housing of the borough she lives in.  No mention of money worries is made except for a friend we meet a few times who ends up in a single bed apartment with another girl which is not a platonic relationship.

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Personally alive

This and other scenes point up the contrasts of her life to others and are neat asides of observance throughout never making us sure of whether we are going to like her character or not.  Situations of her either alone at home or with a random pick up are glimpses into someone finding a lack in home existence.  The relative safety and comfort of home is disrupted only her Mum played by the superb Geraldine James who is very alive but holding on with a life threatening disease and her use of mindfulness, Buddhism, is not a reality shared by Daphne.  Daphne is annoyed and at the same time loving towards her quixotic, mindful(ness) de-stressing mother. Anyone else she can deal with in her own home but solitude does not help her once the nightmare intrudes.  It is quite early on when the trauma occurs and it is then a case of where the story will take us.

Altered state

Daphne is slow to realise the effect of a changing shape to what was a life of vitality amidst work colleagues. Having assembled what she was aiming towards in her working life – service to not only customers but society it melts. Joe of the acerbic, Irish cutting driving general steering a loose lively crew is no longer meaningful along with everything else. Daphne begins to act oddly. Any certitudes have been dislodged. Her noisy colourful life was with tools forever lifted to help others happiness and the event which is central to the story has taken its toll.

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Contrasts appear.  Instead of likening her food which she excels in (taste buds only mildly acknowledged as effected by other dubious ingestitaions – drugs) her foodie happiness disintegrates and even eating is a chore.
Now the alternative to the wild exuberance of going out and enjoying herself and meeting her mothers psychological and familial needs are washed up.  The choice turns unappeasingly to alcohol and she eschews her mothers zen like world of adulthood in which she has created a daughter she loves, cherishes and hopes will share her idiosyncratic ways in some way but not cloyingly.  Anxiety, anger and bewilderment come to the fore. The signals she gives are clearly exposed. Daphne needs to express her feelings and several times she is partially allowed to which is where some of the more consequential parts of the story give reward.

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Hope

Part of the problem is her mental enclosure of the harm it has done to her. From a place where having the gift of making delicious meals to enjoy, the embodiment and thrill of sexual pleasures on the outside without to many commitments, produced sufficient temporary joy and escape. Attempts at reading philosophy before and after becomes a drastic recalibration from where she had some fix on or connection before but now she is unable to process or distinguish using whatever is available what things are important and what is fleeting and irreconcilable. It is because she won’t share with anyone the truth behind it or seek help. There is hope however as this itself dawns on her.

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Portents

For a writer to place a dilemma of a young woman’s world being confronted with an act which is random and futile might be difficult to have an audience adhere to. Writer Nico Mensinga and Director Peter Mackie Burns – whose first feature this is – do achieve this through small steps by putting Daphne through the mill. They take her unravelling as a component we connect with and partially empathise with her state. Here is one of the saving graces of the film. Given what script she has to work with – a misfire scene in a kitchen comes to mind as one of a few flaws – Emily Beecham is brilliantly on message and though there are no soliloquies or toxicity – the underscoring of her post traumatic state is not sufficiently persuasive script wise in my view – she offers a parallel imaginative world akin to a Jane Austen or Daphne de Maurier innocent heroine.  There is also a ‘rom’ drama there with the characters Joe – exhaling his love by giving Daphne a bye ball on several counts – a signal unseen – and David (Nathaniel Martello-White) the nightclub doorman Daphne meets persists with his eventful pursuit.

Making it work

Remedies are choices found in life as simple methods producing blocking out mechanisms and we follow the path wondering what effect it would have on whoever found themselves in that place.  Order is not a right.  Change alteration comes with every interaction.  The writing is sharp as is the direction but the former is not exploratory.  At times we see from overhead and long shots Daphne going about the street life busy and quiet in equal measure and recognise her isolation is conveyed.  Gently hope is given and certain reconciliations are brought out as possible routes to improvement.

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As a personality driven film taking persuasively, by excellent acting and direction, the trauma of small events which are not of themselves harmful to her but have a bearing and effect, demanding she process them, is broad reaching and very effectively delivered. Events before and after haunt her giving contrast as an indication of how she is dealing with her embattled mind. Essential focus is brought to Daphne in the Met. Police sponsored professional therapist Adam (Stuart McQuarrie) is brought through as an enabler. It is effectively called upon in the film as a dimension of contemporary experience though it is not always used and lesser mortals may not be up to facing a therapist in a comfortable home with a clinical environment more probable in boroughs where victims are created every five minutes.

Recovery

When she takes on board a therapy session only to find herself challenging the therapists lack of literary taste. One particular trait she throws irrationally at them – I saw another mor alarming one – behind her was among other books a Hillary Mantell volume. Only a demented soul requiring defective history of a form they aquaint with would give HM house room.

Daphne who has fallen into the abyss of a world of hate and harm when the brutal act is witnessed also meets a family, the family of Benny (Amra Mallassi) affected by the event. The family of the actual physical victim are themselves victims. There is another shore and marooned she becomes mentally fraught and things begin unravelling. Her first choice is alcohol. Bewildered, any meaning sought becomes unreliable. The values of friends are brought into disturbing clarity. The effect is completely unsettling and charged. So there is choice on the table and she has to select from a varied menu which challenges her unknowing unencoutered mental emotional tastebuds.

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Footer

Oh, and of Goodbye Christopher Robin, think Post War Mental Trauma, pastoral recovery, genial acting, stepping stones, pooh sticks, intelligent children, estrangement and manipulation of others. The accent is on the embattled duties of parenting in a publicly enhanced living environment where strange priorities take over and wrong choices are made. Another version of nurturing but I will not be embarking on a spiel about ‘Mother’.

Conclusion ###+3+

A promising debut feature. As the story is delivered it manages small notes of drama though some of these are underplayed.  Often, as Daphne becomes something of a reclusive, not able to communicate her troubles and moving on from very halting starts, in relationships and with work, it relies on your transposition of her state of mind.  On levels Daphne picks up on the chemistry of her attractions but shows she is unable to accommodate it in her mind.  The reclusive element presenting after the event is outdoors ‘external’ and not only within her home.  Mentally something has to give.  Disaster or release. This dynamic is the crux of the film’s premise. By only providing through talking aloud dialogue in a few scenes any illustration is partial and lacking gravity.

From the outset (if you’ve not read the above where I have not divulged my conclusion) I have to admit this film was not very engaging.  It only had one particular theme.  The central characters altering state of mind. Although it was a strongly acted piece with a significant beautifully focused Emma Beecham performance, it lacked sufficient insight.  Beyond the external scenes of depression and anxiety it is not cinematically expressed – to do it is very difficult and performance requires some devices to work with.  It requires subtlety, distinctive nods and pointers and not one liners indicating the ‘act’ which was used occasionally and a bit ineptly to show it had residency in Daphne’s mind.  What occurred to me was the question of how would you achieve the more connecting messages cinematically and I thought it is often the use of surreal devices and flashback with viewpoints taken as first person in those elements and thrown out as a vision of what Daphne is experiencing.  This duality of perspective was missing and it is consequently narrowing for this film to tell its story.

Daphne’s grinding spirit is her emotional world.  Emily Beecham is able to express and accomplish it with her reading of the character lifting it up, otherwise it might have been buried in emptiness.  Desires are satiated in her form of lifestyle and she shows these and projects a feisty willingness (making the Scottish connection more acute – the English bottling things up premise?! eschewed the question?!)  Dealing with her mothers pain and rightful need to connect properly with her ‘wild’ spirited daughter is a welcome relationship which Geraldine James does inhabit brilliantly.

On this I think the release – the actual knowledge of her mothers fragile existence and her coping mechanisms – happens to come inward to Daphne.  Here it delivers within the film’s narrative.  As a form of reference – her mothers illness – she uses it as a claim to reality.  Instead of rejecting the troublesome and loosing her ‘thread’ she is converted to owning her anxieties and then seeking opinion and help.  From no-one being around to help except Joe – (Chefs Issues?) Rita, Mum is the obvious ingredient missing as her confidante.  So resolution will it happen?  You will find out if you see this shortish, 1hr 28min. contemporary psychological treatise.  A lot depends on your own experience in filling in the gaps.

 

John Graham

5 October 2017

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from : 06 October 2017 until 12 October 2017

 

 

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Insyriated : A Film Review


Insyriated

Director. Philippe Van Leeuw, Written by Philippe Van Leeuw.

Cast. Hiam Abbass as Oum Yazan (no birth name), Diamand Bou Abboud as Halima, Juliette Navis as Delhani, Mohsen Abbas as Abou Monzer, Moustapha Al Kar as Samir, Alissar Kaghadou as Yara, Ninar Halabi as Aliya, Mohammad Jihad as Sleik Yazan, Elias Khatter as Karim, Husam Chadat as Man 1.

Music by Jean-Luc Fafchamps. Cinematography by Virginie Surdej. Film Editing by Gladys Joujou. First Assistant Director, Jean-François Ravagnan.

Producers: Guillaume Malandrin, Serge Zeitoun. Co-producers: Tomas Leyers, Pierre Sarraf.

Duration 1hr 25mins. Country, Belgium. Language, Arabic. English subtitles. Certificate 18.

War in a day.

This is a social political drama which claustrophobically is set in an apartment building, in the war torn Syrian capital Damascus, surrounded with the sounds of war. Occupying the fourth floor of the building is matriarch Oum Yazan played superbly by Hiam Abbass, a very well known Israeli/Palestinian actress whose films include Lemon Tree (2008) Amreeka (2009) The Visitor (2008) and Inheritance (2012). She is despite the war danger all around her, is not for moving. Having found a home it is unconscionable she should give up what has become her family life. Heading the cast she and Juliette Navis and Diamand Bou Abboud are joined by the remainder of the cast, real Syrian refugees who’d never acted before so all the child are on a formidable journey in many different ways.
Cinematographer turned director Phillipe Van Leeuw deals – again, with a stark war situation having previously delivered an equally horrific film; that is a warning already, set in the Rwanda genocide – The Day God Went Away. Like this film it concerns itself with the humanity.   He avoids the politics and us and them scenarios but deals with the war’s impact and people’s mobility, immobility.  This is filmed in Lebanon.  Undoubtedly it is a difficult watch.  Unforgiving in its telling and though slightly overdoes it on occasion, it never underestimates the dreadful negative power of violence underpinning not just individuals but nations.  His use of a hand held camera is a very effective tool in the confines of the apartment and it pulls you in almost as an involuntary observer.  To the sounds continuing outside, rapid fire machine guns, sniper fire, overhead missiles flight, bombings, sirens, explosions, you react and every tension is felt.  Never are the politics of a domestic civil war and proxy international war any part of the message except the axiomatic one of wars never having solutions with these stories part of the telling.

Our interior lives.

For a film to confine itself to the interior world of an apartment it immediate sets up the people within it to interact, by each revealing increment, individual nuances of the characters own place in this Damascus oppressive and stifling setting.  Every character is neatly framed in their willingness or stoicism acceptance of this strange and rapidly altering unstable place.  The children too exhibit fear and confusion of what it means as a part of their lives. All compartmentise their lives within this space.
Seemingly assured and on the other hand, equally concealing her terror, matriarch Oum Yazan takes the audience into the screen.  Each movement becomes, in the hand held direction of the camera, something tangible and present.  We enter the bedroom to be introduced to a sleeping Samir played by Moustapha Al Kar, with crouched leaning back against the bed a softly reflective Halima whose face is like a Botticelli. Played by Beirut born Diamand Abou Abboud, with Void (2013) Stable Unstable (2013) and Doukhan bila nar (2008) on her roster as well as being a writer, she is a mother with turmoil ravaging her thoughts.  The family Samir, Halima and baby son have flight on their minds.   Her expressions draw you into the tragedy of the situation and her part is pivotal with a life changing act following on from another hidden horror.

This sense of insular tense insecurity grows as the fellow occupants of the apartment join the story.  Oum’s daughters Yara (Alissar Kaghadou) and Aliya (Ninar Halabi), a son Yazan (Mohammad Jihad Sleik), her father-in-law Mustafa (Mohsen Abbas), and their maid Delhani (Juliette Navis).  Then there is the family mentioned above, Halima (Diamand Abou Abboud), Selim (Moustapha Al Kar), and their newborn child who have come down from a floor above and Yara’s boyfriend, Kareem (Elias Khatter), child after child is introduced.  The children being non-actors perform extraordinarily and it occurs to you that this is the common currency of their lives, being Refugees now in Jordan. Then the cast absorbs you completely with their story.

This film, as reviewer MK has already quickly noticed, bears a similarity to one of my favourite films of the recent year gone, Under the Shadow. Both are set in an interior World. There is horror in both. There is a common deception and an inability to deal with issues among people and the terror is not held back by withholding truth. People deceive even when they are relied on to be honest.  Coming to dilemma early on, Oum Yazan is confronted with choice and it is a real one with her being told something witnessed by the maid Dalhani.  I think it is a valid choice given the regard for their safety and time needed to take in the enormity of the incident.  Some others record it differently.  Their choice and both valid as neither of us will have had that choice to make.
The burden of knowing is torturous and the tension is felt unbearable within the film.

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Humanitarian chains.

The humanitarian dilemma faced in the place, the apartment building all would call their home, begins to loose its sense of permanence and stable routine has now vanished on the will of others which imperils this group with fate no longer determined by them but by the external and the fragility of living in a war torn conflict zone.  World power struggles are on their street and huge resources of phenomenal destructive war weaponry is the reality just outside their walls. Even weaponry which is banned from conflict use is in being deployed. The bare rule making and war baiting has no longer any place or role. Outside their home, in its streets, it is incandescent with fury and the complete failure of mankind to reconcile or recoil from violent means of governance.  Liberty, equalitarianism is nowhere to be found.

Stark reality.
When the rooms were the film takes place within one day, are seen they too tell a story. Syrian, Arabic decor is never primary in flour and this is part of the design in this film. It puts across colour as intensity removed. Blues, Yellows, Greens, Reds, each soulfully reflective of nature. There are the washed walls which are lightly colour and not dark heavy boundaries. The curtains too are exquisitely patterned in Arabic sometimes modernist interpretations of ancient patterns. In the old kitchen the tall tiled splash back wall tiles are circles and swirls as in micro form natures patterns disclose under the micro scope. This is the home Oum fashions in a decorous respectful history for herself and her children. She looks into the horizontal oval of the bathroom mirror and Syrian life looks back with modernity ranged across the shelf under with a collection of multi colored toothbrushes and the usual soap, shavers, milieu of homes anywhere in the ‘developed world. The bombs and machine gun fire provide a symphony from the devil.  All the rooms have wall hangings. In the room Grandfather sits, the acquired and steadfastly defended ante-room off the Dining Room, he diagonally faces the world from behind the corner of a small square table around which are four chairs. It is strange initially to see him not in a comfortable chair but his chosen spot is too a symbol of the insecurity in everyone’s minds.

Arranged along the wall facing towards the open arch to the Dining Room is a vast collection of Books arranged up to the ceiling. On the wall lithograph black and white pictures, prints possibly, illustrating the Syrian mind.  One is of a pair squatting on the ground in an exterior as if they have stopped on a journey. Something of the Bedouin about it. They look at the centre and above it is and behind is a bird with other smaller birds in flight above. Another has a long mountainous valley with a dark side on one side and slightly lighter on the other as what appear to people walking away through this valley perhaps to an unknown place. There in a few prints you have fixed society, harmony and pressing on. A red rug is hung on another wall and around the Dining Room are family photographs carefully arranged in decorative frames on fine furniture. Then there is a centrepiece on which Oum in a scene displays a longing and almost listens to its pro memora for its advice. A moment which has similarity to a scene in the aforementioned Under the Shadow. The Dining table is a huge eight seater mahogany or walnut split highly polished table with all the matching seats. In prime position as a focal point of the held traditions Oum holds tight to, it is providing solace and assurance of identity, manifest in a continuity of history now in the throes of alteration which might be irretrievable. This is something everyone can relate to and is very cleverly used as a cinematic device of profound significance.
What passes for modern.
In contrast to the interior so far described there comes the hallway decoration which lifts itself into the twentieth century uncompromisingly with on one wall a Warhol type red lithoprint of possibly Blueswoman Janis Joplin. A far more impactive design carefully chosen by the imaginative Phillipe Van Leeuw asserting his wide ranging skills is in the room where the family from above are given. It is a child’s bedroom given over to the young family. On its walls are a Dave Matthews Band Psychedelic band poster.  Above the bed are arranged Small white discs like linking stars. Most imaginative, as we see when we look at a distraught Halima holding her cherished baby, are two space posters. On the left is a spacecraft launch looking like the USA, ballistic missile propelled Voyager, with alongside it a Russian equivalent.  Hugely implying hope and unknown destiny and a race between nations for greater status and I think contextually it has a shocking convergence on screen, within the film, with the image collecting narratives and spilling them out for our digestion.   A pretty remarkable but simply resonance for us and of the Directors overall intent.

Supercharge tension.
Only occasionally moments of terror and their pace seem wrong. When it is mentally rushing scenes occasionally lack the consistent pace and fall flat or flow in the wrong way. One which is fully on pace and very intense is the treatment of a core brutal act of violence which has the horror of mindless acts enter the flat itself. There is a climb towards a horrific attack inside the apartment which has a deeply impacting very brutal effect on the group. With the outside militants having the home in brutal fashion one young family member goes outside, as another had done in the beginning, to take on the courageous act which puts him in the same danger. He sees it as his duty and bravery is implicit through the whole ensemble facing down entrapment.  For a young person this is testimony to him of the proximity of war and the need to survive.  We see how all symbols of war, conscripted ancient allies have been corrupted unimaginably and it puts forward too the very present act of mans suppression of woman in search of power and control which these infidels see as a medusas head or a hydra of myths of Andromeda and the space allusion again used as an allegory which is a departure from God.
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Infidels
Infidels, they are known in the Muslim faith as kaffirs have contested meaning.  Both, according to my own beliefs, signify someone who lacks all and any faith Christian, Muslim or other.  For faith is to have belief in the simple message of the Word a God the Messiah, a Prophet or messenger of religion found in acceptance to a higher dominion one no one has complete knowledge or control of.   Fundamentally this places the infidel as someone who rejects all dominions of faith. It is not exclusive to one religion or another but is a part of the human flaws which religious beliefs seek to offset and overcome through faith.
Using these terms as absolute is not adequate either. It seems Infidels themselves appropriate rejection and not inclusion as a belief to suit their own worldly means. To me an Infidel is a person who disbelieves or doubts a particular theory, belief, creed, and other extensions of the spiritual world and each belief form has within it detractors and ‘infidels’. This film puts across a faith in humanity despite the infidels war on people’s souls right outside and visits their home. Some religions have not found in their own faith enough to appeal to reconcile differences and project the ‘love thy neighbour’ credo. This is through perhaps division and separateness from a core simplicity. The Word if you like.
There are no shortage of views on this fundamental disconnection with the intrinsic human core of goodness. One we see in its various forms in Insyriated. The distractions have been overwhelming across the millennia and this film places another fine contemporaneous view which is extremely explicit in its focus on the humanity trapped inside and by false projections brutalisng all humanity.

Here are some other words I revisited lately. These words are recalled Well, God is in his heaven And we all want what’s his, But power and greed and corruptible seed Seem to be all what there is. Some might remember it is Bob Dylan’s Blind Willie McTell describing for me the void, absence of common sense and covers and crosses boundaries will remaining within the pain. The peril of the people is even more tragic.

Conclusion ####4

For some the title will appear uninformative and it is a strange choice especially as the European Director (Belgian) must have a handle on what is impactive.

        

Insyriated is perhaps a Syrian translation ongoing and a portrayal of interventions uncalled for and unwelcome. More than unwelcome the are faced with a tyrannical regime and a counterinsurgency with multiple heads and aims. Captured in a domestic vice with war raging all around in one day we follow the outcomes as they change within seconds facing further and further brutalisation of their existence. The very connections with Bedoiun nomadic lives are kept fast as the film takes care and very vividly drawn us into its claustrophobic world which gathers and grows ever menacing and disturbing through events unfolding before our eyes. We are a the eyes of an observer who is in the direction almost within the rooms where the scenarios unfold.  Each room tells a part of the story and the apartment is sizable enough for scenes and people to separate and be alone with their knowledge. Each of the children play a great part in seeing as we do things as they contrast with their world expectations. The hand held camera is a device which grips us and won’t let go of the escalating and worsening fate. As invisible characters our eyes are intimately gathering and making comparisons and judgements based on our own views. The nerves bristle and sudden changes impress on the viewer and force reactions which are in the moment as you place yourself inside it albeit avoiding the consequences in others harms way.

There will be few films to match this dramatic gripping treatment of a conflict we know little of. Aleppo is another place and where another entirely different but genocidal War is being carried out while other detached twin warfares carry on in other cities and settled rural communities. Documentaries and heavily edited news reporting are often the only means of being witnesses to the wide arena of war zones. This film takes us away from the politics and culturally fights a battle for humanity with the brave and superb acting of people whose investment in the film is over and above anything you see on a regular basis. The actors have invested themselves in this and it is clearly something which they care for with passion. There is one scene where they retreat to the kitchen which is the ‘safest’ refuge on hearing explosions are close by. The camera remains still and the rooms atmosphere pours out in the movements and reactions of individuals as their movements shift in harmony and with individual anxiety. It is like looking into a Biblical painting as it is intensely absorbing. One of the occasions when they pause and wait and we watch flabbergasted, shocked and overcome along with them. Disbelieving and suppressing the truth of the reality happening everywhere.

John Graham

14 September 2017

Belfast

Insyriated will screen at QFT from 15th September 2017 until 21st September 2017.

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God’s Own Country : A Film Review


God’s Own Country 

Directed by Francis Lee. Produced by Manon Ardisson, Anna Duffield, Diarmid Scrimshaw,  Jack Tarling.  Written by Francis Lee. Cast . Josh O’Connor, Alec Secareanu, Ian Hart, Gemma Jones.  Cinematography Joshua James Richards.  Edited by Chris Wyatt.  Production companies. Inflammable Films, Magic Bear Productions, Shudder Films. 1hr 45mins. Cert. 15.

Introduction

The BFI sponsored Gods Own Country provides this introduction – Both post-gay and pre-Brexit, Francis Lee’s debut feature is anything but a straightforward coming-out tale. Instead it’s an eerily beautiful love story between two men and the wild Yorkshire landscape. The film is partly based on writer and director Lee’s own life, where he also had to make a decision to either stay and work on his family’s farm, or whether to go off to drama school.

Basis

Francis Lees first feature film is a portrait of contemporary life in the Pennines for a family beset with troubles keeping their small farm going. Johnny Saxby played with grim determination, by a frequently sullen Josh O’Connor has the task of taking on his fathers chores and running the isolated hill top farm above the city of Bradford in its foothills. Keithley is in the civic boundaries of Bradford yet is a generation or two away from the complexities of urbanity and the arduous task of taking on a farms relentless time consuming running.


Ponderous Pennines

Endless labour and maintenance sits badly with John. He is nevertheless conscious of the help needed, as his father Martin played with sturdy robust effectiveness by Ian Hart, is in recovery from a stroke and is unable to walk without the aid of crutches.   His grandmother who runs the house is the resolute Gemma Jones making up a strong cast who are joined by the fourth pillar of the film, Romanian worker Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) a seasonal worker. They have put out requests for assistance on the farm and his was the only reply.
From the beginning this film is framed simply around the central activities of the locality familiar to rural people and the land is suitable only for sheep grazing and rearing and the keep of some heifers.  They are few and they are equally on a limited mission to produce the occasional calf.   The work is centred on the sheep flock and the season is spring when plenty of work is needed. Day and night.

Labour

Johnny is seen in the initial stages as this forlorn character who is capable and knowing, in the labours and tasks which his father daily repeats.  Martin still in charge, puts across his replayed management regardless of the wishes of a Johnny whose job is lonely and unsatisfying.  The forlorn part of him sees no evidence of a future as the daily grind is unremitting.   Also clear from the beginning is his waywardness and mental need for company and he embarks on satisfying his wants by having gay sex with a local who offers him this release which he uses as a separate but fraught fulfilment.  It is contrasting with his bi-sexual failings with a young woman who has briefly returned from College and shows his anxiety at not being able to construct what might have been, signalled only, an alternative relationship of mutual satisfaction.  He rails against this young brief returnee who all too clearly puts in place his fixity.   He cannot and will not let down either his father or Grandmother and sees the road ahead as a tough and daunting reality which he must endure.


The predicament is played out extremely sensitively to show the sensitivity of commitment, to severance,  with what is – the other member of the cast I failed to mention – Gods own Country – and the beautiful countrysid.  It has barely altered rugged stones hill as grasslands climbing above the tungsten lights and sodium arcs other city of Bradford below.  It venerates both the city and the locality of the farm in essence placing town against country in the narrative.

Land aplenty –  another country

Gheorghe Is the incomer and Johnny is in need of his assistance big time.  The work is gathering pace with work on fences, stone walls tumbled, feeding, heifers as well as sheep in the throes of birthing new born calves and lambs.  Gheorghe is a stronger and more mentally attuned to the agricultural labours needed around him.  That quickly becomes apparent this is something of a salvation for Gheorghe as it takes him back to the farming he grew up with.  He comes from a country which has a greater wealth of agricultural land and is capable of feeding a large part of Europe but is is as he tells John, a Dead Country. Despite the Romanians having kept hold of a tough and contested country and past the days where the Romanians, because of some of their nation’s population being nomadic, denying them the rights of ‘landowners’ – the landgrabbers exploiting the displaced as well as the soil.


Education and self definition via. Religious or Cultural establishment was the legacy brought up to and into the 21st century. The land in Romania is unlike any other but migration has destroyed that country after fascist leaders and dictatorial penance brought on by countries neighbouring Romania continuing the explorations and failing to restore a country in turmoil from generations of internal torture and wilful suppression. The EU stood and watched and acted very slowly and inadequately which outcomes now confirm all too evidently.


Ways of living 

Gheorghe Represents another way of doing things and he is in some harmony with this Pennine landscape as it reminds him of the lost opportunities fixed in his mind. Every task is fairly routinely known for him to manage as a farmer should and as many hands make light of work he brings a sense of comfort. John is drawn into exploring the world of Gheorghe and in a central part of the film they converge as both creatures needing each other’s form of contact. They become explicitly intimate and as with earlier scenes they engage in sexual acts which are filmed as escalating bonding.

With this central bonding taking place on the hills in the lambing season and the work interrupting their figuring out what their relationship means to each, the film tries to boil it down in the simplest terms and follows actions as each work away separately and in unison.


This period in which their friendship moves from initial hostility and challenge to friendship and then intimate sexual acts is also a time when John is less in need of the alcohol which his frequent disabuse of has his father and Grandmother outraged and despairing of. He also begins to appreciate the nature and the location more though it’s far from clear what is to happen.
In the hills they are alone to develop their unbridled kinship. It is drawn from their resources and from emptiness and creates a bond which John finds unquenchable. The story is lifted into a soulful place which is matched by the physicality of their relationship.


Bonding alters things

When they return after many days away on the hills living rough in tumbledown stone buildings and only a ‘student staple’ for a diet, (some lager is labelled but no product placement takes place!) it is to a different atmosphere as the routine is shifted with the father Martin being less clear as to his son’s mood and detects its alteration. It is a film about challenges and family with compromises and uncertainties. Both men are at similar points in their lives and are in choices are appearing. Gheorghe Is more fatalistic while at the same time is optimistic. John has no direction in mind and sees only the family responsibility as his primary focus. The stakes rise and the choices are starkly addressed.

I have colour enhanced some of the photographs from the online screen source and trailer and this is a brighter visual than the one seen.

There are a limited number of scenes away from the dales but when it reaches the dales in the hill camp while they tend the lambing sheep and look around them there is a rough and ready state contrasted with the natural continuity provided by the seasonal changes. Though shot for springtime the weather is harsh and little sunlight reaches here.   It would have a brilliant resonance where it to carry on as a film into the ‘summer’ of a relationship as the fragile bond is seen in my mind as one which is left in the compass of things like an uncrossed border.  Though everyone can make up their own mind there is a limbo of thought involved.  There are shades of the family coming out narrative but again the backstory is unfleshed and comprises only the four principals.  Apart from those shades the colour of the film is dulled beyond recognition and there is no metaphorical brightness of contrasting emotions on view.  It is unfortunately meek and dull in colourist terms, which conflicts with the way the place and emotions might and could be envisaged.  It is fixed in the melodramatic depressing theme in all honesty.


Spatial wonder of colour

When it is played out the only seemingly permanent thing possibly to be drawn from it would appear to be the relationship of people in need of helping one another and their being no sole path nor right or wrong way of approaching things but to be capable of discerning what choices are bad ones and not to be reliant on expectations.  The other is the title provides, Gods own Country may seem a bit cliched as a title.   It probably is and no God fearing etc. Tolerance was contained within it – to the naked eye – but it revokes a lot of prerceptions people might have on how relationships form and what attachments are drawn to them. It is a naked attempt quite literally by the writer to have audience affected by what they see and to put down their judgements and not to place notions of – cliched rhetorical retorts – onto something which ought not to concern them while putting forward means to adjust. While it is something of a long drawn out film to make such a point given the meter of open discussion on same sex marriage or civil partnerships, it also seems it an axiomatic subject and deals with the formation of relationships from wherever they gather.

 

Conclusion ###3

The initial stages of the film are a shade dismal with the central figure, Johnny binge drinking, random sexual encounters and overstate the dynamic with some predictability on show.  The authenticity is only raised by the farming composite – in Gods own Country – as it feeds the narrative and the quad bike is a staple road trip type journey into that landscape. Johnny on the farm duties after being told like a schoolboy what his tasks were by a disabled and confined bitter father.  Bitterness rubbing shoulders.  Mud and trailers and binder twine.   There is a lot of shaking of hay later numerous sex scenes and they are sometimes overdrawn and I thought pointless in length and voyeuristic.  They are mixed in locality for variance but after the initial physical bonding they develop little conversation of what they initial thought of each other or about themselves as relationship of any type require. The dialogue is brusque flat Northern and abrupt as well as dulling ly avoiding the centrality of what’s meant behind the words.

The encounters do fill space and the unfolding dynamic is perhaps necessarily spoken through the intimacies.  There is an excellent eye for detail and the film was presumably able to get by with a limited budget and is not overstretching itself by being something of a cinematic juxtaposition of city versus rural visions and it seldom actually puts itself over as being of a lesson on England. It could in fact be anywhere. Montana. Utah. Austria. Romania. Spain. Shades of Brokeback Mountain perhaps.  With the reliance on all those places on patterns of living which are changing rapidly and old values are being supplanted.

The realism is a feature which has the characters develop with some surety in their story and it is believable in that regard. It is an odd set up though with an only son, no relatives, – a scene at which some might be expected is a no show – and the mother never mentioned is not a narrative enabler but a stumbling block perhaps. It is a commentary made, narrow ranged, very well acted and thoughtful film of interest to many quarters but it laboured for me and didn’t offer too many tokens of insightful oblique unique view warranting it’s greater exposure. It was great do to see the exchanges though between the generations and the opposites colliding.

And there are plenty of secrets here. Following his father’s stroke, Johnny Saxby (a terrific, stoically anguished performance from Josh O’Connor) has been forced to take over the daily running of the farm. Surveying his efforts with thin-lipped disapproval are his grandmother (Gemma Jones) and his dad (Ian Hart). With vowels as flat and hard as flagstones, they pass judgment on his efforts. It’s hard to say which weighs him down more – the responsibility or the massive chip on Johnny’s shoulder. To numb his dissatisfaction, he binge-drinks and engages in angry bouts of gay sex with strangers.
Then Romanian worker Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) arrives to help out over the lambing season. Limpid-eyed and almost painfully handsome, his presence unnerves Johnny, who finds it hard to unpick the difference between aggression and attraction. Their first sexual encounter is all sweat and spit, dirt and urgency. But Gheorghe brings some of the tenderness he shows to the animals into what soon becomes a relationship fuelled by Pot Noodles and stolen moments. Through Gheorghe, Johnny can once again see the beauty in the land he had started to regard as a tomb.

John Graham

7 September 2017

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 8 September through to and including Friday 21 September 2017.
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