Fences : A Film Review

Fences


Directed by Denzel Washington, Produced by Todd Black, Scott Rudin, Denzel Washington, Screenplay by August Wilson, Based on Fences by August Wilson.  Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, Saniyya Sidney. Music by Marcelo Zarvos. Cinematography Charlotte Bruus Christensen. Edited by Hughes Winborne. Production company Bron Creative, Macro Media, Scott Rudin Productions, Duration 139 minutes. (2hr 19mins.) Country:  United States. Language: English. Rating: 12a.

Play on Today
Venturing into film directing for the first time Denzel Washington has chosen a play to adapt for the screen.  Fences written by August Wilson is shaped as a family drama set in Pittsburgh in the age of the cities growth and expansion.  The couple at is heart are Rose played by Viola Davis giving an Oscar worthy performance as a middle aged woman married to Troy in his mid fifties played by Denzel Washington.  As the two leads they do not place any cultural struggled as the drama but the relationships they have with their close family.  In fact the only outsider is an old colleague of Troy whose acts as a folk for story telling in the backyard.   Discrimination does come into it as an aside but it avoids political messages.  Where can you go wrong with such a good cast?

Primarily it is about the contest of father and son in a rivalry born out of disappointment and poor choices.  It begins with a dialogue between Troy and Bono at work on hanging on dumpster and emptying very lightweight bins. Trash being small beer in those days apparently. They walk home and discuss the complaint Troy has made about not being allowed to become a dumpster driver.  The move is implied as being blocked because of his race.  They exchange sexist and workplace banter, using the n word (which is a 12a classification as it is outdated racist language) as braggadocios they act out the past  in a contrived male language bordering on sexist as well as racial offensive except they have the licence to use it as it solidifies their masculinity in their minds.  It crosses over in a reduced way when Troy talks to Rose with in their case impish comic marital prenuptial negotiations.  Rose is a homemaker totally at ease and comfortable with her home and the possibility of it improving bit by bit without holding big expectations.  Troy is on the other hand in dreamland where he is searching for something other than the inevitable route to the grave which gives the notional premise to the play.


Premise

Sam Cooke wrote Jesus be a fence round me.  He had no fear of death therefore but wished to be protected by the Lord Jesus.  The faith which Troy doesn’t have isolates him and makes him sole defender of his place.  Fences to him are to be constructed here on earth.  Platitudes, clichces are trotted out in the script as reflection and in the language are akin to Church preaching on sinning.  Troy has a gift for sinning.  Sinning against himself in his early life by not concentrating on his baseball skills but getting immersed in crime which put away any chance for sporting advance.  Instead he spent 15 years in jail and it is the period after this when he has brought up two sons with Viola, one who is a man on a mission to be a musician, Lyon played by the mature looking Russell Hornsby, whose attitude of creative and loose come what may approach to things contrasts with the fixed ideas of Troy whose own creativity was lost back in time.  There is an undercurrent of jealousy in this but never fully explored.  There is also a more directly presented parable of their younger son, the 14 year old athletic Cory played with immense sensitivity and strength by Johan Adepo, who is but a mirror of the past Troy has had.  Troys caring side is expressed through his disabled brother.  A war veteran whose cranial damage required a steel plate which contributes to his polarised, asbergers type state, Gabe (Mykelti Williamson), has just moved from the house to display, alongside Lyon’s moving out, a blunt display of his independence which further challenges Troy.  Troy manages to deal with these moves but cannot face the last one.  Two strikes is used often and I see these as the two strikes.  Troy in August Wilson’s mind avoids being menacing though scouts the boundaries the further discontent and disconnection with Gods purpose manifests.

  

Father Son.

Building fences is the clumsy metaphor of the play and how it is made drama.  With it originating as a stage play it is very compressed and reliant on the set pieces around the interior of the house, the living room of which reminds you of the cornflour blue of the film Moonlight which has the colour line through it.  The interior is bright and very well kept in shiny chromium sixties style with furniture on hire for 15 years still in use.  They have no TV and they have a refrigerator which is the first thing Troy reaches into for his Jackhammer Dry Gin when he returns from work while he discusses the dinner and local gossip with Rose and how she’s been making out during the day.  The home is a stable place for Cory, Rose and Troy and the job on the rota is building a fence to an empty rundown property next door.  In a back yard type place the raggety overgrown unkept disorder is in a way comforting ascorder means urbanity and the trees, bushes, vegtable garden and others variety of tending makes for a casual mix of what might be a plantation workers yard.  The order and disorder are an important methapor in Denzel Washington’s approach as are other touches.  Troy takes his sons gift and puts it below the work and studying mantra he believes would better equip Cory.  To Cory this runs against plans he has made as adjustments.  His job at a store is to be replaced by a scholarship to a school requiring his baseball skills above academic skills where at the same time he will be able to study outside of the baseball training and paling.  He also has organised work at the store on available weekends. He has Rose’s backing.  Troy on the other hand is fixed and this is regressive for everyone.  Moving on is not in Troys mindset.  He is so selfish and everything around him relates to his own battling with the devil.  He also has cause to be contrite in later events.  As I noted musician Lyon’s has escaped the grip of his father and chosen his own future. There is solidity reflecting this in the paying by Russell Hornsby.

 

Setting

Being a play without the range of a Macbeth or Three Sisters this somewhat restricts staging as so many scenes are in the same set, the backyard or kitchen, living room.  For it to work takes a very clearly crafted order and this film moves from having at times flowing interludes to the jumping around framed set shots pictorially pretty but basically daylight lit nice couplets and monologues.  Thankfully in an important scene involving Viola which will be recognised as a career performance is filmed as a static framed head shot mostly which is right on the emotional visceral painful thrust of the narrative.  Rose brings a major problem of heart over head and examines Troy’s framework in unusual confrontation showing how deep her previous compliant self has gone along.  It shows up how much Troy himself has not addressed his past or confronted his demons.  In another scene a technique which I ‘dissed’ as a poor choice at the beginning of Moonlight, is here used to carry the flow and externalises briefly the carry of the narrative.  It is when a revolt shot is used and each face is ful of expression as they speak and the rotation carries the dialogue effortlessly.  If only the rest of the film had been laid out in a pattern and not patchwork of cinematic choices.  It has the feel of a play too much of the time and even theatre screenings of plays, National Theatre Live for one, have a form and fixed style and structure which does not flit about.  The style is rich on occasions and when time has passed – to the final act presaged by a snowfall – the formula is unbroken and fixed as before.  Some wisecracking critics often come out with directional reposts described as ‘well directed’ an underpinning of a film ‘not being well directed’ as if drawing attention to the cinematic values present at times – I think it’s important to say we’re a breakdown occurs and where a flow and assured passage carries is achieved or an outcome.  It is part of the viewing experience as is sitting in a theatre would be watching Denzel and Viola on stage would be totally different to this film.  Maybe it is Washington’s choice to cool down, to remove the menace and ramp up the garrulous aspects as his own persona is able to carry it more convincingly.  In a review a scene is described thus – “… of claustrophobia … there’s clear evidence that careful thought has been put into the quiet visual architecture of this film; …  example,  where Bono warns Troy of impending ruination, places the actors in the bottom right of the frame (a scene which does not occur in the play and is basically a wise move in choosing a spot to film/replicate impending trouble visually) while rubble and an empty field symbolically take up most of the screen. I disagree on the basis the film has few moments such as this. When they do as I previously noted, they only serve to disrupt a flow so important and not replicating a stage plays approach. They have not choreographed it for screen and several shots are staple stage replicates.  The atmosphere is achieved with the back yard being reminiscent of the rural they would prefer to bring up children in.

  

Film Futures

America is lost in its Entertainment mould with the decades of Crime thrillers, Space age, Sci-Fi, War heroics, Pratfall College, Financial swindle, Corporate greed, Sexual shenanigans, and many more genre flowing towards the expectations of an  unsatiated Public whose expectations follow the hype and out of the mainstream ,assively omportant groundbreaking movies emerge despite the – and this critique is broad given it’s within a review – vast production and sometimes failing box office hit and miss targeting of audiences.  Manhattan, Apocalypse Now, Goodfellas, The God Father and many others of equal stature are not the norm.   They follow incredible journeys in cinema, On the Waterfront, In the Heat of the Night, the influence of Foreign Cinema, in creating a landscape where present day filmmakers struggle to be seen.  The films, especially in ethic rooted film is fresh and full on in examining issues and positions.  Society is reflected.  Also Fences is; and this is no slight on a Denzel Washington, there is a pecking order in the screening and output.  Denzel Washington’s profile is such that this film gets more traction than it might otherwise have had.  It is a very good debut and fairly safe and challenging as Troy’s character is not one you would immediately empathise with.  It opens up performances though which are from the first division.  Viola Davis and Jovian Adepo spectacularly inhabit their parts.  The screenplay for this 29 year old play was penned by the late August Wilson himself.  He carries through on Troy Maxson’s dance with the devil over a fence he is slow in building and likely to be caught out.  The baseball similes or straight references even, take to the park throughout.

The August Mr Wilson  

Conclusion ###3

I really enjoyed the introduction to the work of August Wilson and the stage plays set 29 years before in Pittsburgh must accumulate a large library of varied purposeful interpretation of the ethnic conditions playing out in a big city along similar lines to Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams or as a contrasting backdrop to the more explicit approaches to political hatred and manipulation in Orson Welles Mancunian Candidate. The demons are still around and while this film brings to new audiences including the Cory age, very well conceived drama depicting the important things in life.  The family and direction of travel for equality and a sense of a creator whose work is us.  Where is the life manual except in our genes and these now are being conquered daily as coping mechanisms for ill health and the mind is yet capable of controlling itself without derangement and falsehoods or projections which are baseless and void of fact.  The magic of plays is lost and the era is well documented by now so the primary focus of the father son relationship must be disposed to inform our enquiry.  This it does in part by the confrontational aspects which are repeated in various guises until the more informative exacting deep delving dialogue gives you in very rewarding viewing central reasoning and what the message concerns.  It is certainly an approachable watch and opens alternative viewpoints America and the rest of the world would do well to examine. The central themes may even be Aristolian or Homeric with male, female needs apart. Unresolved masculinity.   The blue don’t strike out.  They consider,  needs and wants and dreams as the film suggests at one point.  You would think music would be an important part but it is kept for Rose’s church going and A song passed down through Troy.  It makes for a well counterpoint to Gabes bashed trumpet and the ‘motif’ of collected and disused brass instruments unplayed, neglected and unloved.  There is a lot of love in this film and the hardship is in the entrapment. The poet said “Good fences make good neighbours” my current read, Prodigal Summer, reminds me and adds from Miss Rawley, “Oh, people just adore fences, but Nature doesn’t give a hoot.” Strange expression that as if suggesting without a hoot comes Road kill?

John Graham

22 February 2017

Belfast

On general release and a 12a rating.  2hr 19mins.

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Jackie : A Film Review


Directed by Pablo Larraín. Produced by Juan de Dios Larraín, Darren Aronofsky, Mickey Liddell, Scott Franklin, Ari Handel. Written by Noah Oppenheim. Cast. Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt. Music by Mica Levi, Cinematography Stéphane Fontaine, Edited by Sebastián Sepúlveda, Production companies, LD Entertainment, Wild Bunch, Fabula, Why Not Productions, Bliss Media, Endemol Shine Studios, Protozoa. Duration. 1hr 35mins. Cert. 15.


A moment changes the World

You are in for an engrossing watch through the dramatic performances and palpable tensions over an event which will last long in the memory of the Political and Social history of America. The 1963 assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  He was artly responsible for setting the foundation stones of modern America which were laid by a unity of purpose naively set up on the false hopes of the ‘All American dream‘ and even proposing – in a space race with the then USSR – landing a man on the moon. Most of America was fed through the very new media of TV and infinity of lifestyle magazines from Life to Playboy.  GQ would come later and in the Trump towers supermo’s office he has framed covers of Playboy and GQ featuring DT and with this film opening in the U.K. on Friday 20 January on the inauguration of the New President of the United States it is Donald Trumps turn to shape the USA dream or sign its death nail.

The blurb on the film is After her husband’s assassination, Jackie Kennedy’s (Natalie Portman) world is completely shattered. Traumatized and reeling with grief, over the course of the next week she must confront the unimaginable: consoling their two young children, vacating the home she painstakingly restored, and planning her husband’s funeral.  Jackie quickly realizes that the next seven days will determine how history will define her husband’s legacy – and how she herself will be remembered. Chilean director Pablo Larraín (Tony Manero, No) plunges us into the devastation using a series of finely crafted flashbacks that cover the fateful day in Dallas, Jackie’s return to the White House, arrangements for the President’s funeral, and her time spent accompanying her husband’s coffin to Arlington Cemetery.  

The role came to Portman through Darren Aronofsky, who directed her in Black Swan, for which she won an Oscar in 2011. He shepherded Noah Oppenheim’s script of Jackie for a number of years. Meanwhile, Larrain’s star was rising beyond Chile, in films largely about his home country’s history (No, The Club, Neruda). The Club won a prize at the Berlinale in 2015.  Sydney Morning Herald.


Performances to celebrate

It is a very tightly crafted film, very much keeping its focus on the psyche of Jackie Kennedy in a short period and time of immense change.  With all seeming to be heading sweetly for JFK heading into a second term, this was a joyous time and full of hope but is cruelly shattered in seconds.  The script is chillingly absent of sentiment, ideology, lecture or incidental fill.  It has a welcome electrifying directness giving insight to the persons at the heart of the event.  The conversations and efficiency of words infiltrate the mood swings and juxtapositions, allowing fractious clashes to ignite believably while personalities vie to capture their own space in the story.  The likes of the senior clerical Priest, Father Richard McSorley, played with assurity and gravitas by John Hurt, who is asked by Jackie to conduct the Funeral, is a fatherly figure with a breadth of intuative and needed kind wisdom, which he delivers in a long conversation with Jackie as they survey the landscape prior to the Funeral. The suggestion Jackie has a conversation with Father McSorley is not simply him seeking her approval of the arrangements but to have her unburden the thoughts he is aware she will not release. That in itself is a vivid illumination of the key central characters and the complexity of this world shattering event. Richard E.Grant is also wholly convincing as the ‘Master of Ceremonies’ in the White House, William Walton, anticipating and conflicted by the choices of Jackie in the now decorous White House she has recently restored and transformed into a ‘peoples’ house yet extravagance is not exiled.  The chairs once used by the Lincolns are retrieved from the English aristocrat family who obtained them. Peter Sarsgaard is tremendous as Bobby Kennedy.  He has the unfortunate job of burying a brother and looking after a widow both in grief. He is fragile and has black secrets. Bobby acted a lot of the time to keep the private side of his brother hidden while he also plays someone who deals with a wife who was aware of her husbands infidelity and mixing with the wrong folk.

Jackie asks

Jacqueline (Lee Bouvier Kennedy), (“Jackie”) 1929–94, wife of John F. Kennedy (1953–63) and Aristotle Onassis (1968–75).

What happened? Who done it? the questions on the free worlds mind in 1963 when JFK, Jack Kennedy is assassinated.  It is not often mentioned but the Cold War was in people’s minds so the USSR would not only have eyes on it, they could – though we’re never cited – as possible assassins.  The immediate aftermath is the focus of this story as seen through the eyes of the highly traumatised and troubled Jackie Lee Bouvier, the widow with two small children, Caroline and John.  The world is watching and she is in a state of Post traumatic shock with few medics to help and just the White House entourage to relate to.  No one is close to her except Bobby Kennedy and her aide de camp, the lady in waiting type, Greta Gerwig whose guidance is both practical and humane.  She for instance tells Jackie how to tell the children, in the whirlwind of thought she offers clarity. It is a stellar performance on  Greta Gerwig’s part too.  Towering as she does, over the small grieving woman Jackie/Natalie whose only friend is her. Others to note if only for their presence excepting JFK are  Caspar Phillipson as John F. Kennedy himself, John Carroll Lynch as President Lyndon B. Johnson, Julie Judd as Ethel Kennedy, Brody and Aiden Weinberg as John F. Kennedy Jr., Mathilde Ripley as Jean Kennedy Smith all lurking in the wallpaper of the White House.  When HBO first conceived of the idea along with Darren Aronofsky, around 2010, it was envisaged it would be a four part mini-series, then word got about and grander plans were put together.  While it ‘rested’ at times it eventually gathered the full engagement of LD Entertainment and Wild Bunch with Darren Aronofsky at the helm if not the Directors chair.


The White House

The CBS TV black and White tour fixes us back in the day through contemporary and modern interplay of the actual footage and inserts for the actors which is in grainy b/w and the sound is raw.  Even watching black and white TVs dotted around and particularly one in a g-plan cabinet contrasting with the French decorous style of Jackie contrast and realise the era.  In the Presidens office there are many old maritime portraits of ships with masts contrasting with the decorated heros marine past. Alongside these the massive portrait of Bison and Bison (so singular an animal it retains the name unaltered on plural!) on stampede.  The Oval Office is late in receiving its bold red circular carpet.  The whole replication of the White House interiors was carroed out on the Paris studios. The sound is delicately adjusted from the b/w footage back to a smooth dialogue, say of Billy Crudup and the footage is also integrated extremely well with it having apparently been shot on 35mm film.  I had an issue with the choice of music and while it was not maudlin it was at times irritatingly harsh and unnecessarily present.

 img_8051

The American Route map to success.

The opening of the film begins on the Presidential plane with the entourage, the full works, preparing to land in Texas to go on that fateful journey into Dallas.  It is visceral expectation of her home state reunion and celebration of JFK having gotten to the White House and this stellar couple being examples of the American dream realised in a form of success matched by smartness and anticipation of a better future.  TV is the elephant in the room.  The intervention and prime inventor of those dreams.  The elephant in the room being the thought – you think you had and you sitting on the back as it’s pilot as it takes you where you think you intended to go – except the elephant is doing all the driving.  As with La La Land all is colour and CinemaScope.  The TV though is still black and white.  The arc of the film is the Life series of interviews and in this immediate period, with use of flashback and CBS footage of a White House tour – a key widening view of the hidden inner workings of the White House – the Life Magazine interview which is carried out by in Massachusetts after the event; only a week actually, with – ‘The journalist’ Billy Crudup  – as end credits have it.  It is of course the Theodore White interview which Jackie Kennedy sought and demanded total control over as she did with the State Funeral which went global in its TV and cinema showing of its extraordinary homage to a leader.


Life (other magazines Time, GQ are available)

Theodore White turns up at her remote lakeside home in Massachusetts at Hygennis Port in a timber colonial style high ceilinged mansion.  The brusque cautious greeting of Jackie is a trigger of thought and disclosure setting the tone and delivering a new way of journalistic intrusion.  Albeit a forthright discussion and serious interview, it is through the personality of Theodore White – whose loose collar and tie belie his penetrative technique – which loosens Jackie tongue and the core innermost telling emotions inside Jackies mind pour out easily.  His technique is simply using a notepad and pen, and his manner is stoic, serious and non judgemental, being notionally slightly deferential although he does not allow Jackie to get away from his inquisitive delving by upsetting her.  He is instead the astute and independent author of her words. Being agreeable is a ploy he will have used many times as a seasoned journalist knowing the thirst for this story and it’s massive trajectory in print. It will be her story, he tells her, as she ruminates over this slackening of the pressures post funeral  and of the historical marker she laid down.  “What I think of history?  Does that make it true?”  Her own struggling with the facts and perceptions. The truth of the assassination is always under the surface. For Natalie Portman  she had the stories to go to as the part was researched by reading the interviews, Her primary source was the seven-part eight-and-a-half-hour Life magazine interview conducted in the early part of 1964 by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. with Kennedy. One of three interviews she gave following her husband’s assassination, it was kept private throughout her life – so wiki tells me!

More insights to the way it evolved as a film are interestingly revealed on wiki and this is in a four year period which began with Racheal Weisz in the ‘titular’ part it goes on to – May 2015, Portman was confirmed to star in the film.  That same month, Chilean Director Pablo Larraín was hired having been approached by Darren Aronofsky to direct the film with Aronofsky subsequently working as a piloting producer.

    

Conspiracies aside.

The fact is this film does not dwell on the conspiracy theories or the killer(s) Ruby killing, the alleged assassin Oswald and it is intensely about the choices made in the immediate aftermath.  Natalie Portman is extraordinarily convincing in portraying a vulnerable fragile diminutive wife whose world is shattered and all known compasses are lost.  Portman was working on another film – Planetarium, with Lily-Rose Depp – during pre-production of Jackie in Paris. She prepares in depth for any role, but this one did not allow much time. She read everything she could find and studied footage of Jackie, especially her distinctive voice: silky, patrician and breathy, with touches of Long Island, where Portman spent part of her own childhood. That voice is a huge part of the performance.  Sydney Morning Herald. The strength Natalie Portman portrays, definitely Oscar worthy, is as if she is pulling her up, Jackie up and out of this extraordinary maelstrom event and is breathtaking through its simplicity and nuanced magnificently with subtlety and vocally with gesture, inflection and cadence.  From her adjusting her attire, make up, hair, and walking routine, for the outside world to her rehearsal and rehearsal of the tasks ahead with her lady in waiting, it becomes a legendary performance in itself.

 

Legacy for who?

The Life magazine and TV background of the aftermath is the question Jackie places centrally, concerning the public spectacle and projection of the legacy of her husband. The legacy is prime. She does all she can to make the cavalcade match the Lincoln funereal despite their legacies being poles apart.  With the help of Bobby Kennedy and Nancy Tuckerman, the lady in waiting, in a whirl wind she commands strength and the understandable flaky persona we have insight to, mainly due to the PTSD (as is our probable likely post-overview) which conceals an inner trauma with a sense of self she is continually framing the world view of both herself and Jack John Kennedy.  She and the Life magazine interviews which she retrieves partially – it is the widows prerogative exercised – as she is prepared to deny the journalists writing of it if need be.  This is clear to Theodore White in the journalists role and one he is prepared for.  It is too revealing so soon after the assassination she takes steps to reframe things.  In any event or so it is believed the truth may be revealed in time, however it never has been.


Conclusion ####4

In terms of reality, Jackie herself proclaims it very well, as she knows having been a Presidents wife, Public perception is often far from the truth, the managed truth.  She is at ease declaring the story is servant to the legacy.  The truth is another matter entirely.  The interview which works extremely well as the central plank of the film, is as though the legacy is assured as the fulfilment of what she wished for in terms of the funeral statelike removal of JFK was in itself testimony to the woman’s will and strength. This interview is a tail piece of extraordinary insight and it’s legacy is also hers.  Nancy Tuckerman, the splendidly relaxed and grounded Greta Gerwig is seen remaining and apart, left alone at the White House when Jackie leaves.  Don’t let it be forgot.  The words of Camelot. The invincibibility of the Camelot musical beloved of JFK who played the song, Victrola, as a refreshment after a hard day’s grind, is recalled by Jackie but she’s conscious there will be new presidents but there will never be another Camelot. On the page and of it darkness has its many shades.  The day today is just the first. A remarkable and very touching biographical memoir in a historically vexing film. While many will not be interested in the historical perspective it is a very touching story of how grief of any kind sends new priorities and shapes things so differently going forward.  It as a film asks more questions and is very contrasting for the current inauguration of a world leader going ahead right now.

       
John Graham

19 January 2017

Belfast
On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from 20 January through to 2 February 2017.  And on wide General release.

What’s not on General release is the ‘road movie’ a political thriller of 104mins. 2016. by Pablo Larrain

Neruda


It’s 1948 and the Cold War has reached Chile. In congress, Senator Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) accuses the government of betraying the Communist Party and is swiftly impeached by President Gonzalez Videla (Alfredo Castro). Police Prefect Oscar Peluchonneau (Gael Garcia Bernal) is assigned to arrest the poet. Neruda tries to flee the country with his wife, the painter Delia del Carril (Mercedes Morán), but they are forced into hiding. Inspired by the dramatic events of his new life as a fugitive, Neruda writes his epic collection of poems, Canto General. Meanwhile, in Europe, the legend of the poet hounded by the policeman grows, and artists led by Pablo Picasso clamor for Neruda’s freedom. Neruda, however, sees this struggle with his nemesis Peluchonneau as an opportunity to reinvent himself. In this story of a persecuted poet and his implacable adversary, Neruda recognizes his own heroic possibilities: a chance to become both a symbol for liberty and a literary legend.

From the fibula.cl website where you can also see trailers of other films by Pablo Larrain like Fugue.
La Casa Films logo is so good I have to show it! 

The range of Cinema in Chile is astoundingly captivating.

Containment : A Film Review


Containment

Just this past week the Hinckley Point, Somerset, Nuclear reactor was given the go-ahead on behalf of the United Kingdom population, by Theresa May, Prime Minister, following a false standoff with Chinese and French providers since her elevation internally by a group of her party seeing her fit to govern us, a new found ability to take decisions. This is a decision which should never have been made to be taken. With the daily occurrence advances in battery technology and solar power retention and storage from that huge object we know as the Sun, it is within a very short time very likely we will individually at our homes or collective of homes have our own power stations. Nano transformation of energy which allied to similar advances in motive power shall also have an effect of reducing carbon output. Berlin is now a zero carbon city for example so where are the British in this revolution?

Documentary

Containment A Film made in 2015 by Directors, Peter Galston and Robb Moss. It is film documentary on Nuclear waste production and storage. The USA/Japan co-production brings forward the extent of Nuclear waste currently abroad in what is basically a state of deadly toxic limbo.

Getting to screen it.

Interested in bringing Containment to your community, conference, festival or campus? Share your details here at containmentmovie.com or email us (them!) at containment@filmsprout.org, and we’ll (they’ll!) be in touch right away!


Framework
The first frames show Fukishima and a woman walking alone seen by the cameraman/woman surveying the limbo state this empty city has become. It alone needs a containment scenario this film addresses elsewhere in the Art graphic animation discourse for a place in the USA. New Mexico. When did the first scenario arise?

It begins by pointing to the Cold war period after the second word war, when nuclear warheads were accumulated and agreements placed to disarm these weapons of destruction by putting them into vast radioactive ‘landfill’ sites comprising mainly a site in New Mexico whose irrational acceptance as a location for a nuclear waste dump defies logic. The terrain was chosen primarily because of its geological fingerprint. It was a location with a vast unique strata of salt which millennia had proven stable and a medium in which a frozen ‘time’ capsule could be maintained. It had the hallmarks of having the capacity of being an enevelope for storing the radioactive sludge. However the bunds and lagoons created on top of it were and still are reservoirs of storage for a hundred million gallons of toxic waste. This means of storage is but one part of the cycle which includes other non-associated methods which involve inward shipping of nuclear waste in vessels – carefully checked when transport protection is removed for leaks. Each vessel is thoroughly x-rayed for casing integrity. Watching the magic gieger-counter being waved by an operative circling each container begged the question had they replaced the batteries in it. From this part of the process it then went sub-strata via. a long passage of tunnels by vehicle to hopefully it’s final resting place and presumably back filled at some juncture. Other processes included pouring liquid nuclear waste via. robotic arms manually operated into glass containers. Giant Kindle jars of high tech composition presumably.


The only problem is they remain mostly in their last location since a shut-down after a freak accident when a material failure allowed leakage to occur from a container – it’s past x-Ray and scrutiny failing to identify ahead of time any possible flaws or defects – which in turn jeopardized operatives and future containment activities. The decision was to put the entire site under lockdown and begin a clean up operation estimated at the time to be in the region of $300 million dollars or was that billions? In any event nowhere on earth is capable of storing the material waste China America Middle Eastern and European countermoves have plans to accumulate never mind that already stockpiled and in state of transition limbo.


Deep concerns

The film is concerned with not only the accumulation as well as a key part the Fukushima meltdown catastrophe which we are shown in its raw elemental state as a no-go locality but with the figurative signaling beyond our times into periods frankly inconceivable, ten thousand years hence and multiplications thereof. The means of alerting ‘others’ unaware of the backstory our history are explored in real time exercise a of futurist projections. Cockamamie American pawn brokering is one way of describing it. Put it in as a trade and see if any idiot will buy it.


The film becomes cartoon depictions crudely fascinatingly naive ventures of our humanity expressed as a vent diagram and delineation of rogue versus alien versus well the ordinary Joe or Jane whose curiosity got the better of them. Pictorial semaphore signals as used by pirates might have easily substituted or maritime signals heralded by symmetry as unnatural presence of danger put in place by those previously occupying earth. Ie. Humans.


Other reviews.

How do you plan 10,000 years in advance? Containment asks whether we are adequately caring for future generations with current storage methods for radioactive waste. A visit to the nuclear ghost towns of Fukushima shows what will happen if we fail.

—Karl Mathiesen, The Guardian

Peter Galison and Robb Moss remind us of the lingering threat of radioactive waste. What to do with it? How can we warn people centuries in the future about the danger of waste disposal sites? With inventive animation and incisive reporting, Moss and Galison aren’t going to make it any easier to sleep at night.

—Peter Keough, The Boston Globe

The film…attempts to articulate the beautiful and complicated problem of how to render the future a part of the present. It offers glimpses of a future beyond our societal imagination…and goes beyond ordinary documentary filmmaking to bring forward this future image into the minds and sensibilities of its viewers. It is in attempting this communication with the audience beyond the here and now that the film has its greatest success.

—Zoe Jones, Spook Magazine

I admire Containment for its zealous questioning of a situation that is ignored, misunderstood, and obviously—thanks in part to this film—urgent. I’ve been thinking about 10,000 years from now ever since.

—Erin Trahan, WBUR’s The ARTery and The Independent Magazine

The way we tell stories about who we are, what we did and how we considered the consequences of our actions is moving and profound in Containment, told with investigative care, sadness, fury and poetry.

—Andrew Lattimer, heyuguys.com


Three titles making their world premieres at Full Frame garnered plenty of buzz…Containment, Peter Galison and Robb Moss’ latest documentary, also taps into another controversy magnet—nuclear power. The directing duo aren’t strangers to hot-button topics. Their 2008 Sundance hit Secrecy chronicled the massive efforts by the U.S. government to classify data from the general population. Containment, about the scientific, moral and philosophical problems that surround the disposition of nuclear waste, is sure to spark a national debate.

—Addie Morfoot, Variety

Alarmingly frank but refreshingly optimistic, Containment tells a great many inconvenient truths but its coda assures us that all is not lost. The future will come, but we will endure.

—Phil W. Bayles, oneroomwithaview.com

Where did I see it? – this list shows its progress.

Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Remembering Hiroshima, Imagining Peace, Pittsburgh, PA — August 5, 2016

Pilgrim Legislative Advisory Coalition, Jones River Landing, Kingston, MA — August 20, 2016

CBK Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands — September 3–November 27, 2016

Virginia Tech Research Center, Arlington, VA — September 8, 2016

Case Western Reserve University, Physics Department Colloquium, Cleveland, OH — September 15, 2016

Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast, UK — September 17, 2016

Department of History, Brown University, Providence, RI — September 21, 2016

Willard Straight Theatre, Cornell Cinema, Ithaca, NY — September 27, 2016


Conclusion ###3

A loose three is attributed to this as the central theme of Containment is heavily here approached using an Art based form of narrative.  This in itself is a very lame element.  It practically philosophies about different advanced and abstract notions.  It focuses while doing this on the processes involved in capture storage and transportation to a location with interviews, protocols of public meetings and the personalities in ‘local’ politics making huge global impacting decisions.  Maybe the highest rank of Government was County Official.  No Presidential, No Congressman, No State Govenor is addressed.  Why not?  Didn’t want to speak? Unsuprisingly? So instead why not make cartoon versions of supposed dialogue and their answers to the Containment question so artistically examined?  Except the artistic endeavors are in my mind not even at the level of a third year student of Architecture whose grasp would no doubt evaluate the obvious pros-cons of symbolic gestural, linguistic, extra-terrestrial scenarios and much more as established throughout mainstream sci-fi non-fictional examinations and the plethora of commentary overloading the Internet from one campus to the Daily News in Singapore or Daily Comet in New York.

Point Blank Failings

I am afraid it lets the fundamental differences of responsibility being attributed to the decisions made in Nations which ignore this Containment issue.  The commentary is not validated while a ‘Nuclear’ Authority speaking as a Police(woman) whose role oversaw protocols and practices came nowhere close to the target.  A question of where possible ‘dangers’ – the plain direction of the conversation marked out terrorism as a principle if not top concern, – got lamely tossed back as ‘Couldn’t possibly answer/speculate!’ kind of moderation the film should not even allow as any direction of investigative informative journalism.
Take a look at the website for additional and valuable source material as the film is only part of a projected discourse and is a beginning – as far as ‘multiple locations’ arise by example through the stark reality of Fukishima.  Mr Nissan is interesting and in a semi-comatose state as his life is Groundhog Day – this is an insight in itself but only, only a miniscule part of what is required to be examined and dealt with by Governments and activists post UN interventions which are of a Human Disater reactive kind not fundamentally addressing ongoing Nuclear exploitation for Billions of dollars/yen/euros of Business.  It’s about the money stupid.
John Graham

21 September 2016

Belfast.

The Childhood of a Leader

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The Childhood of a Leader  Director. Brady Corbet . Writers. Brady Corbet, Mona Fastvold Based on The Childhood of a Leauder by Jean-Paul Sartre
Cast. Bérénice Bejo, Liam Cunningham, Stacy Martin, Robert Pattinson, Tom Sweet.
Music by Scott Walker. Cinematography Lol Crawley. Edited by Dávid Jancsó. Rated PG. Duration. 1hr 56mins. English with some subtitles. Filmed in Hungary.

The films basis

From a novice director, Brady Corbet comes a fully formed insular chamber piece.  It presents a story originated by Jean Paul Sarte which itself searched the psycology of childhood.  His book Words – an introduction I grew up on which itself declared Sarte was not the over complicated author people thought – his quote from it is famous – I loathe my childhood and all that remains of it … So he plays out this troubled time in his stories.  The Childhood of a Leader is the summation of a look into the past and where the hatred and turmoil emerges in this small internalised boy taking on his elders.

 What’s in the picture

This film is overwrought trying too hard on a budget of £5M to reclaim some kudos for first time director and actor Brady Corbet ably assisted by fine performances.  The heavy ostentation given in exclamation marks of the score – the sixties deep voiced balladeer Scott Walker took a avant garde turn late in his career dumping the work which made him famous and tried composing and rearranging songs – whether it is suitable here is up to you to decide but it was just more mish mash for me and rendered the work insipid. The film begins with stock b/w footage of the World War 1  and is called by way of what? – insightful connective tissue? – Overture. Indeed. Not.
It moves into the grainy introspection of a Church Choir in rural France away from the neighbouring Versailles talks in which the father of the central character of the boy Prescott played by Tom Sweet is absently involved as a mediator.  I at once thought the father played brilliantly with very serious and convincing effect as an absentee Dad, by Liam Cunnigham with resolute American accent, is in a quandary if he cannot control his son.  No affection is seen between them.  His mother equally is not versed in raising children and doubts arise if she ever intended to marry, so although mastering four languages cannot communicate with her son either.  He has no schooling to worry about, no siblings or pay ate foils to vent his anger and it is into a series of (3) chapters of tantrums we are lead.

First tantrum concerns the very Church first mentioned.  A French Catholic box like chapel on a town land where Prescott engages in hissy fit no.1.  Violent in kind.  Here enters the only – Mona excepted, the aging housemaid and sometimes broker in difficult situations – is the Father Leydu. The only nice rational person seen! No affinity can be found with anyone.  In negotiations an aside is thrown of a stock Irishman concluding religious differences should be resolved in any agreements – maybe it was on a Good Friday. Trials and torments ensue and caught in the middle are the housemaid, Mona and an English teacher of French, the gentle youthful vital girl Adelaide played by Stacy Martin.  She is conformist to begin with but baulks as Prescotts manipulations gather pace.  She is an angel of sorts, Brady makes no bones about showing us her credible persona.  A credit to Ade in the final roll call needs further research.  The titles are shown practically full length at the beginning and repeated after the ultimate point of closure.  It has many faults – the inevitable black horses and Breton dress of mid – France is overplayed. The film is shot in a very dilapidated Hungarian lodge of rambling unhouse like appearance.  More resembles aHunting lodge and inn.  It is full of drapery.  Father Leydu has a verynice muslin drape and some elements of interior are well achieved.  Setting tables is quite a standard thing in period pieces for authenticity and here is no exception.


Friend of the Director, Robert Pattison plays leadenly an English journalist with a sad backstory and he is very fond in most senses of Madame – Bérénice Bejo. She is concious of the closeness of the environment and the darkness overshadowing the place with her own lack of purpose other than running a house which is nothing to engage her intellect with.  Brady Corbet in fact presents no context except the wrongful idiom of idleness for her and Bérénice Bejo does her damnedest to extract some characterisations to grasp hold of.  Perhaps it is this projection of failing he wishes upon her with affectations leading you to think she has leaning towards Ade who she in part envies.

The black horses and pictorial grainy setting is very attractive to look at and the still painterly pace of scenes with long walking shots towards a fixed position and repaetative location of camera positions – ie. Prescotts bedroom.  The lounge and library are fixed allowing some pondering over the detail.  Exterior shots are expansive contrasts to the heaviness of the lodge interiors and we see a pivotal element when the talks are adjourned to this location for ‘secret’ unconstrained talks. The glass empty of politics is given a full texturalisation here for a pungent flavour of the almighty flawed carve-up brought about to allow Germany – in the main to repair itself from a path taken.  It fits a narrative style of Capitalism being first in line to receive the bonefides of each.

A coruscating element – is that contender for that Northern Ireland extracted Woodrow Wilson overlord –  over stretching his high most to create a freedom contemptuous of the Native American stock and the Racial conspiracies of his homeland which were along time, (are they yet still unresolved) being prepared for their own reparations.  Ask most races on the planet who have been under the cosh of imposters and they will advise you the Irish North and South have been instrumental through their impeachment of the Lord in various guises one of which are appropriate to the oneness of the creator, for numerous continued injustices. Aboriginals are aghast just now at a facial cartoon to hit the Antipodean cultural fermament.


Childhood Satre reminiscences. The Psycology.

I found Words very disconcerting in my teenage years, in the sharpness of thought and given the life Satre had it was of significance.  The film concerns a sociopathic child, the young son of an American diplomat living in France as he learns to manipulate the adults around him teaching him fascistic tendencies. The tendency as a kid growing up at least at Prescotts age is to believe all childhood life’s are the same but then the truth sharply roses up and throttles you.

These times are the post war leading up to the signing of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, and even though the film does not refer to the fact – Scott Berg, Pulitzer Prize winning author wrote in his Woodrow Wilson autobiography that the USA President spent nearly nine moths in Versailles in attendance unbeknownst to his electorate. Scott Berg also claims him to be the most important man of the 20th century.  The case he makes in his book. – without this hanging over the film and the peculiar manipulations of Prescott, played by British child actor Tom Sweet, is of isolation within his family setting without a father  – the father here Liam Cunningham as I said is on top of his game, is he would appear lack negotiation skills one would have thought appropriate for a diplomat as he is so easily manipulated.

The construct is to my mind – that of the Jean-Paul Sarte mould of not beholding to anyone – here it begets the  state of violence (in the child ruthlessly exploiting the non-existence of boundaries) and indicates the shallow threshold breached to succumb to the ungodliness of the act in the adult as preparation for war.  The idea is one of the striking prophetic (Words is a summation written in 1964) analytical examinations within the works of Jean-Paul Sarte when compared even with contemporary scientific, root and branch knowledge gathering attained by the human race in the intervening years.


Jean-Paul Sarte film influences.

Jean-Paul Sarte was brought up in a world eighty years behind the present, by his grandfather, after the early loss of his father.  He also was a war prisoner.  Far from it being a restless uncertain childhood, he had a fortuitous learned upbringing.  His father who was of Alsace (?) background was a man who took on the physical appearance of the Holy father to many people – big dominant full beard – and was quite authoritarian.  The fact Jean-Baptiste, the father died while Jean-Paul was quite young proved something of a blessing.  J-P wrote – and this plays directly into the film – Even the most authoritarian gives orders in someone else’s name, some holy parasite – his father – and passes on abstract violence since he himself accepts.  J-P avoided this acceptance of obedience and in his mother Anne-Marie, who was compelled to return to her parents to raise her child, found herself again imprisoned.  J-P discovered he had no Super-ego  – he reflects on this later, (the child presumably not into those words, sociopath included) with his father not being there, piggy backing his codes. His father had shirked his responsibilities and left this world aged thirty. Instead for parental guidance as well as the wealth of books his grandfather spent days over,  J-P’s giantess of a passive mother was his sister almost, with her becoming a child again in widowhood like a virgin tarnished in her childhood home. Her name was Schweitzer.  Anne-Marie would share her troubles with ease, and engendering a democratic spirit I thought, and he promised devoted protection.

This is the basis of the ‘incestuous’ (it was merely I thought a writers trope for discovery through writing itself) narrative Jean-Paul Satre has used on several occasions and indeed this is evident in this film.  He imagined in fact that he and his mother who shared a bedroom were the ‘children’, both minors and both maintained.  He maintained; and it is completely plausible, given his acute ability to analyse human constructs, that – In fact, my fathers hasty retreat had conferred on me a very incomplete Oedipus complex; no super-ego, I agree but no aggression, either.  My mother was mine and no-one challenged my quite possession.  He – and it is crucial to his personality – was not exposed to jealousy directly nor was he subjected to other people’s violence’s and hatred’s.  No one else’s whim claimed to be my law.

I think you basically have the scope of this film right here in the Words of Jean-Paul Satre.  On top of which is…

Germany’s largesse and power lust.

Evident in political history is the emergence – aside from his own childhood – the effect the grander scheme of things, here it is The Versailles Treaty, – is Hitlers continuing presence in Austrias Parliment in Vienna as a young boy, a teenager fascinated by the whole Central European amalgam that had this Parliment represent so many regions and languages. Incidentally it was languages which provided a living, the early upbringing of Jean-Paul Satre when they moved to Paris. Hitler while he grew into it, did not then set adult upon adult, he was witnessing their own account of differences; he compiled a version of required leadership which had him at the head and formed the volitile and violent mind to enact it.

It is the lebensraum effected by the ruthless – the additional territory considered by a nation, especially Nazi Germany, to be necessary for national survival or for the expansion of trade.  Britain may, most probably, also have been enactors of this ruthless expansion.  It operates in the child to man as discovery of the inner self is made from making new space, where we can move around inside ourselves.  A secret personal representation – from thinking.

Being in a position of power leaders have often is unable to defer from his own presence in the public realm and so – as Hitler was inclined, falls to art and architecture for a prop of the psyche of higher things and these present ideals.  Music is here employed to effect as well. There are similarities to the Swedish rulers he may have learnt from.  Here are some extracts of writings by the art historian noted below on Cal-Gustf sending out some very clear messages to those running here.

He left his dog in the freezing cold of some luxurious ski resort and had erotic parties with teenage girls from the suburbs. Sibylla might have been able to help him with his separate- ness, letting him have his oilcloth while learning to separate the “me” from the “not-me”.  I know all about your secret life,/your feminine mystique,/your falsity./Your innocent promiscuity,/ and you hypocritical cruelty/hold no mystery/to me.  Felicia von Zweigbergk. 2011.    

Hippolytus slave puts it another way: “Gods ought to be wiser than men” – the tragedy is that they are not.They are amoral, impersonal, unfeeling, as Hippolytus in the end finds out for himself. In other words, man, in the full range of his capacity for goodness, for suffering and sympathy, is a creature on a higher spiritual level than the universe in which he is set to live. Felicia von Zweigbergk. 2011.  
Mediation is the goal of his father and Woodrow Wilson turned up at the signing
As well as the traditional themes of the aphorist: the hypokrisis of society, the vanity of human wishes, the sham of love, the ironies of death, the pleasure and necessity of solitude. Sontag Susan: Under the sign of Saturn.

Conclusion. ###3

An audacious, senses-shattering feature debut. A powerhouse international cast. This is some of the hype attributed to this film which I thought – and there will undoubtedly be disagreements (lately following Saul, having only last week seen The Prodger, an Irish play, the commemorations and memorial services, seen the exhibitions locally on the Somme, the miluea of articles can only affect more critical senses) – I found this film overwrought.  It is very well achieved in many parts and tries to be innovative without a rein or bridle.  It is aDirector breaking in his world of entertainment adventures and choosing a large subject which is tenuously and intermittently realised in its discovery and telling.  It is a very commendable film on the machinations of the art form being practice but some will find it two hours of over tedious and Tom Browns Schooldays sort of out of control child – we see Tanya, call the nanny nowadays as a guide or mumsnet.  Bérénice Bejo love pick up the phone or the mouse and Google tantrum child ADHD. On the other hand see the film read the Sarte book canon.

John Graham

17 August 2016

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre from 19 August to the 25 August 2016.

Paws for Thought

Belfast

20140710-194840-71320744.jpg
Skin of different colour
Dedicated to Gunner and Eliot.
Ministers of Dog in developing countries, England and Ireland respectively.
Hot Dogs
This week has been hard for those unused to the heat. Working in this weather and many have to outdoors can bring tiredness and mild heat exhaustion.

You will know that this work and I am thinking of work in the fields so well executed through years of practice bears fruit of some kind.

‘Abide in Me, and I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.’ (John 15:4)

We as friends of all things human can be consoling and a companion when too much self reflection is going on, You can usually tell by grumpiness or a raised voice and nothing seems to be going their way.

As we know as the master and sent by the Chief Kennel Carer the world for them is a complicated place, poor souls. Never a day goes by without a fresh worry. That is when I act calm and hope they too take the hint.

The Lord is always there and is there for everyone. All you have to do is whistle and The Lord will be at your side. I was worried myself the other day when I heard about a new dog that might be coming here.

Firstly it is MY patch and the scruff may not even be related, may take up loads of room and eat all the food. Mariel thought there is enough to go round and if it didn’t wash or was uncouth then she would soon tell it it was unladylike.

My ears pricked up when I heard it might be a Lady and there was me prejudging the situation. Most I have known have smelt so sweet have doey eyes and are easy to romance so a smooch works out both ways. I call it validation but some call it love.
Both of us could be the others kind.

The point is you see if you jump to conclusions, to digress – I jumped in the air 10′ 6″ last week caught a soggy ball and all to impress the ladies who weren’t best pleased as my breath stank – then you can be badly hurt and hurt others.

By refusing to allow someone to live in your community, to bring the variety if their own habits to a place you clearly don’t OWN you are only making things worse for yourself. Why for yourself? I hear you ask. Well simply because you are denying yourself a new vision and also denying yourself the opportunity to share each other’s vision of GODs creation.
This is GODs universe and we are here but a short while so getting along is only a problem if you make it one.

All bring things you cannot
The creation like the pooch I was fearful of may have a different coat or skin than me and may not be able to leap 10 ft like me but can run twice as fast but not for so long, it becomes clear the only vision needed is the vision of GOD.

Many colours and varieties of people as us Dogs have different skin.
We might have suffered by having the Dog eugenisists try and screw up
various races of us Dogs forgetting Huskies like the cold and dislike Barnes Common racing, whippets hate running in circles and greyhounds at Wimbledon, how pointless is that and as for mastiffs only looney air guitarists like them.

Whatever the colour the blood runs through us all the same colour.

We look to GOD sometimes to repair our road. Damage always occurs with traffic up and down a road used by many. By allowing each to use it and that means groups to march up and down freely singing their songs so long as they are unhurtful it is their right. The Notting Hill Carnival is now well fixed and multi cultural.

In that place Belfast there is no tolerance of others just a victim hood to be asserted.
Every time annual parades occur they get territorial. The Ardoyne formed by Thomas Andrews Linen Mill was to provide jobs instead of war. It symbolised the peoples induction with modern means of living.

The symbolism is not unique and from the Andulucian horse trail I memory of Jesus and the celebrations along the way to the more secular and at the same time religious affirmation of Mexico’s All Souls’ Day to Maypole pagan festivals all culture needs expression. It’s diversity is what is us.

Blimey we were able to turn around the mass eugenic experiment of the dictator and ethnic killer Hitler and return to our path, our road yet deranged people think their religion is more important ant they are right and more important than GOD ever made us. When no offence is given none can be taken.

It is clear to us Dogs that we have these differences as humans do but they refuse in many places and at many times to abide with GOD.

Simply GOD asks us to go the way of loving thy neighbour and giving your thoughts over to Jesus to show you they way. Reading, reflecting, talking, acting, all the fellowship of ALL mankind is the redemption from the world that provides us with our living.

When we refuse to do harm we have reached a goal and can say to others it is the way without fear. Fear is within.
The soul is in you and when the world has reached the point when ‘Our Kingdom Come’ the soul will have done its job.

The job of the soul is to be your witness here on earth. Should you reach the highest goal and be at one with GOD the soul will have done its purpose. It will have been with you as GOD is and the light will not fade.

Listen. Observe others. Hear. Love.

So be it.

Amen

Paw note

Eliot and Gunner are real Dog but they are usually too occupied to sit down and write about their thoughts though are being to do so. These views are my own and I have only the inferior understanding of a human beung therefore can only put these views across as insights from observing these fellows. They are as wise as us it would appear and have no inclination to make an atomic bomb thank goodness as we may be in serious trouble. The thought never crossed their mind which makes me think of them as superior.
Pity they are so hard to train and wash.

Written from and idea inspired by
the Reverend Elizabeth Hanna
Writer, Photographer, Theologian extraordinaire, Wise (owl) peace maker, friend maker. And her actual dog called Eliot.

John Graham

10 July 2014

Jimmy’s Hall : A Film Review.

imageAt the crossroads of sllence.
The film begins with footage of America and its 1920’s.
It finishes its titles then begins as a film of some sorts with instant lamenting of two men on a trap behind a piebald pony that has seen better days.
The kaliedescope which sound brought forward is imagined by Jimmy who is one of the pair returning, sure was there never a story without someone leaving or returning along these twentieth century tales.
The two wind their way back to Jimmy’s mothers place where, it is a mystery where or if there were any others in the family, a farm once was tended.
Back in this Leitrim Jimmy is soon recalling the earlier days of the twenties when he was forced to flee after creating the hall of the title.
In it Pearse and Connelly were memorialised and it sat was ever so innocent and new to an Ireland defining its modernity by all expressive means but primarily around its lore and love of music.
Where the folklore of escapism had only little meaning in the midst of everyday hardship, these influences were possibly of a senseless trivial nature in the real live everyday patterns of survival undergone at the crossroads Ireland.

This apparently was first a play and I feel it should have stayed that way.
The cinematographer has nothing to work on, the exclamation mark expressions are sometimes ham mish while other performances are subtle. The script is not subtle and is politics for beginners, the desparate hold of state and Church is a well known fact and has been for decades, the Wall Street Crash, – LOOK LOOK SEE Loach almost exclaims Just like NOW SEE.
Isn’t is so prophetic!! Ugh?
It is as vapour rolling off a BMW sunroof in the post-tiger car park of Dublin Airport. Far much more was and is important, this shallow tale is but a tiny view on the oppression. It is insular and mediocre.
The police, the priests, their lackies are all bug eyed monsters but plainly in most cases Irishmen, including the Door smashing Northern prod cop on a mission from God, or the Tabernacle Church. Found a monster lets condem him to living somewhere else. No muscular take on how an Irishman could stoop so low against his fellow Irishman, and do they still exist, Well of course.
They want Jimmy sent somewhere less favourable than this state run for the British and landed gentry with the sanctimonious approval of the Church of Ireland (under the tutilage of the Crown supplicants) and their fellow veiled bigots The Roman hierarchy with the country, Ireland at its heart. Never mind the poor or the sacrifices made in the name of this peculiar God, the peculiar God that has them lording it over everyone, has them taking riches for the purpose of the Church, from collecting tithes, condemning people in the Lords name, visiting approbrium on them, played with apoplectic illusion by Jim Norton as Father Sheridan.
Despite all the tales from the Churches very few films, The Magdalane Laundries, Philomena actually rip into the coursing veins of Ireland’s conscience. There was of course the extraordinary Mea Maxima Culpa film by Alex Gibney, a Northern film production giving documentary homage to the current religious fortitude held for people of this earth. Since then a change has come about but things that could change immediately show no signs of actually occurring.
Jimmy’s Hall by comparison is puerile, seeking to acclaim one individual fighting against the state apparatus with a ‘penny whistle’ while the war dead of the wars fought barely get a mention. Such contradictory pale drivel is unlocked as cod politics without even showing the hatred of the others except through, ( it gets a 12years a slave erudition scene) stereotypes and cod Irishness. In the cringing scenes of ‘Jazz’ demonstrations pointed up real Irish life then A few authors down the ages must have missed the trick. At the beginning of the eighties there were around three and a half million in Ireland of which one million at least were living below the poverty line. This country was one Britain and Europe continued to ignore until the cute ones got in, Fianna Fael were not out of Government until the crash happened since independence yet the sowed the seeds of Religious wanton vileness and pure greed as mimicry. The iRish no longer being Irish but being these cod-Americans Jimmy seen back in the ’29 crash.
Barry Ward as Jimmy Gralton does his dampest, likewise Oonagh, Simone Kirby as his former sweetheart have put in splendid performances adding some emotion to the tardis that is Jimmys Hall. We’re was the war? In the dance halls of morality. Well it was in the workplace and in the new cities of young industry North and South.

Conclusion
##2
This film fits into the begorrah nonsense narrative so loved by the Ireland’s Own reader in the off shore island of Britain, to the East and favoured by those directors contemplating there own separateness, less an island but a border of class difference reminiscent of their own background. Why it was made I will never know, why no one realised the subject of this bitterness has been performed in much better plays and books and covered by so many academic studies only the absent minded will have no recollection of the things Ireland has been through and a bit more alarming than this charade of escapism.

John Graham

27 May 2014

Belfast

A Touch of Sin : A Film Review

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Director Jia Zhangke-Ke. (China)  2hrs 10 mins.  Cert. 15.

Chinese Chapters

Unprecedented Access
It starts off with Village corruption and takes in Corporate destruction.
This is an unprecedented film giving insight and exposure to a view of contemporary China in a Le Haines type social immersive narrative.
Through small incidents, for the most part true, it conveys a vast continent of great beauty, varied landscapes and a pioneering drive that is seemingly relentless.
There has been a protected idealism in revolutionary China which concealed very harsh conditions resulting in a slow industrial revolution.
Nevertheless China was first to come up with iron steamships and has many other world changing contributions to our modernity. It does not differ a great deal in national terms, being a combination of provinces and integral uniquely individual development patterns. Think ex. Germany, Ex. Soviet Union and the identity trials are deadly similar.

This film is a present portrait of four stories of four people each living separate lives. Seldom do they overlap and only as a loose interplay never likely to have occurred is used as continuity.
1st Act
Jiang Wu as Dahia
The first and most violent part is the unsettling governance and treatment of the villagers in a Mining operation which has been wrested from them by corruption. A one man crusade against the new owner and his backhander conspirators outrage the lone coal miner who now lives in a false environment, with immigrant labour and a disintegrating village which is turning into a Wild West frontier town. This is a compelling first act with the acting and realism shockingly face on. The miner is played with increasing compassion and unleashed rage by Jiang Wu, broad of back and morals which themselves are quickly unravelling, so we are seeing him in effect ditch his protocols and enter into the heinous world of destroying things.
An irreligious uncoupling like a broken down train carriage in a siding, he casts off this shell and enters another modern and not so modern world fast tracking his own form of justice.
2nd Act
Wang Baoqiang as Zhao San
Second up is another worker who travels by motorbike and has a preference of being a highway robber and city thief. He is driven by a thrill seeking narrative. It allows him to leave his family and mail back earnings.
He eventually returns to see the extended family at New Year when migrants are on the move all across China and in buses, in cavernous rail stations.
He has a natty tatty desperado dress sense with huge leather knee pads akin to equine saddle kit and other bravado flourishes.
Youth, senility, hard worn faces, fleeting lives cross each other’s paths In the astonishing transit places as the director shares this sensation of movement in through the many provinces..
The action is China’s restless and indulgence in the forbidden fruit of meaningless symbols of assumed sophistication and Nuevo riches.
The outlaw of this second installment returning to his hometown rejects their hanging onto the rudiments of agrarian life and their still intact community. He possibly resents their hard, comfortable, honesty and ancient ways, as he witnesses the China of many provinces, link arms in a culturally divisive plan, also watching as it fails to reinvent itself having lost its way with the grave digger, capitalism. He takes flight again leaving his son with a memory of a mysterious father.
3rd Act
Zhao Tao (Wife of Director) as Xiao Yu
In the third act we come across a couple who have an affair which is across one marriage and a young woman whose city life is working in a sauna and whose lover is reluctant to cast of his other life. When they split, putting off once more, a new life, he in a carriage, her alone on the departure platform, from a state of the art railway station with the future pointing down the endless platform into an out of focus future.
A breathtaking shot which is a kind of stop and observe the undercurrent of the worlds progress. It echoes the over confidence found in recent years when several high speed trains went off their concrete freeways killing many. In returning to her work she is accosted by a sauna client while on a break, the recurring pestering drives her to a radical solution and gIves the film one of its stand out visual statements and  she is on the move again. Her womanhood is violated mentally and physically in this prostituted existence.
Direction : Credible Case for China
Director  Jia Zhang-Ke is quick to visualize the baseless and disintegration of identity as China carries on with as yet unrealised outcomes. While the West has had its comeuppance and is trying to address war and greed, China is in a limbo type state as demand for goods and production slows, and as Western scavengers exploit the ready made labour force and mineral wealth in businesses as diverse as solar wind energy, to pharma exploitation. Jia Zhang-Ke is doing China a huge favour in much the same way cultural ambassadors Lang Lang and Wei Wei give global credibility to the underlying, ever present ancient sensibility and innate confidence which all struggle to build upon. He depicts the human cost and the visceral amnesia or wrong diagnosis of the Chinese condition. It also may be exporting its youth as many
It is as comparable as all human condition enveloped in its own backstory.
4th Act
Li Meng as ???? and Luo Lanshan as Xiao Hui
When we are now thoroughly immersed in the pace and revelatory passage of this wonderous vision of misunderstood place, it brings forth a youth perspective. We meet up with a young journeyman factory worker who finds routine and repetition jaw droppingly gruesome. He inadvertently causes harm and, given what seems a reasonable punishment with bearable consequences, he takes off on his own to another city and enlists help which comes in the form of a ‘waiter’ ‘youthful Conceirge ‘ and rapidly becomes entranced with his beautiful co-worker who comes from the same town. Hunan. This youthful ‘lotus flower’ Li Meng has a handle on social media ‘fish wanting water’. Both these young actors are dangerously stoic and accepting of their circumstances and they rely partially on each other’s company to extract the real human out of each of them instead of the false acted part of this well heeled corporate aimed sex hotel. Li Meng very capably shows the contrasting realities and the newcomer Luo plays his role with conviction. Fish needing water is unnervingly accepting of her fate and like a restaurant fish tank, her companion girls swim up and down their sink pool.
When he returns to DongGuan the industrial city where Foxxcon is located he sees nothing changed. When Li and Lou had off time she took him to a Buddist Monastery to which she took her soul for nourishment. It is her greater self standing for her and as her, the spirit is present and the only religious consideration on this film’s which in itself spoke volumes.
There is as Dostoevsky sense of vast spaces in China as in Russia where Churches/Temples reach upward above the skyline, seen distant as a village signifiers, yet empty places on arrival in the main. The spiritual life invisible and untended.

Conclusion
####4
The China Element
It, the extra element, is the landscape, culture and cultivation. Amongst the construction which provides a continuity of focus depicting the ongoing China rush, much of it incomplete, in progress. The cinematic metaphor for the forces of change is a convincing motif of Jia Zhang-Ke learned talent, using it in tunnels, roads carved through beautiful stone, pristine stations city edges unmade, (like Joni Mitchell Hissing of Summer Lawns, stylized album cover, confrontation of nature and cityscapes coming to mind) – one LA based reviewer took the USA disparaging tack, – conspicuously lame and off beam, considering (perhaps because of desired detachment) with his apparent Chinese origins, – that this was a drama without psychological or social truism. It is a bit rich coming from the gross nature of Hollywood or the US and his conclusion that it was a mish mash is a case of art denial. Probably never made a Film in his life and under appreciates the vexatious problematic individual and national generaliseations necessary for this media.
It is a memorable important part of the developing Chinese cultural landscape and though heavy on the depression and violence conveys much.

John Graham

22 May 2014

Belfast

QFT Friday 16 May until 22 May 2014 and other good cinemas.
Sorry for late review – didn’t spot this one coming.