120 BPM : A Film Review

 

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120 BPM

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

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

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

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

1979 on dateline

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

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Out in the open

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

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

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

Aids America

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

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

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

Disease in full spectrum 

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

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

Of significance NOW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nahuel Perez Biscayart and Arnaud Valois are Sean and Nathan,

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

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

 

Conclusion ####4

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

 

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

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

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

 

John Graham

9 April 2018

Belfast

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

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Dark River : A Film Review

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Dark River

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

Directors words

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

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Beginning

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

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

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

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

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Recovery

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

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

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Landlocked

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

 

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

 

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

Here my imagination

Tangles through a turfstack

Like skeins of sheep’s wool:

Is a bull’s horn silting

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

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Binaries

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

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

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

 

Mending fences

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

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

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

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Conclusion ###3

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

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

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

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

John Graham

02 March 2018

Belfast

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

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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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Final Portrait : A Film Review

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Final Portrait
Written and directed by Stanley Tucci, Cast : Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Clémence Poésy, Tony Shalhoub and Sylvie Testud and is produced by Gail Egan, Nik Bower and Ilann Girard and executive produced by Deepak Nayar, Fred Hogge and Ted Blumberg.

Portrait of the artist by the sitter

The contemporary art world has its many critics and the American art critic James Lord is one who is here shown investigating the ambiguities and parallax views of abstraction and reality, through his invitation by Giacometti in 1964, into his studio to sit for a portrait. It follows James Lord interviewing Alberto Giacometti whose Swiss/Italian is a volatile mix of capitalist and socialist dogmatism. Giacometti sits lachrymose and reflective in the opening scene of their encounter at the Gallery which has as the exhibition title simply – Giacometti. With superb grace and fluid interpretation both Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer quickly set forward a relationship based on the repertoire of Giacometti’s work and James Lord as ‘spokesman’ for the outside world accepts the invitation into the world of Giacometti. Lord who is given through his own love of the work and appreciation, an entre nouses to the act of, in this case painting. Rarely will Giacometti have found someone to speak at length about his work while at the same time being the subject of it. The setting is in the Paris studio and its neutrality of colour produces a psychological difference to the other elements of the film which concern the outside life, contrastingly bright and vital with itself providing an unreal Paris of superficial at times Giacometti’s reality.

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Writers and Photographers

While the book on which this is based is itself a work which endures as criticism there were precedents. I have an edition (1996) hardback book by Photographer David Douglas Duncan who in 1957 did a very similar thing. His book is called Picasso paints a Portrait. It to follows the days chronologically as this films tracing out of time passes over. Poetically visual it deftly and precisely charts the process and an empathy emerges as it does with James Lord the inquisitior and the subject art of Alberto Giacometti in the human being. Giacometti seeks to inform how his work evolves yet the contrariness of both artists is evidenced, as well as ego concealed partially – less so in Picasso oeuvre – a gigantic sometimes overwhelming one – one which a note of caution is delivered by Giacometti in a midway mid-day stroll through the sunny graveyard he fondly uses as a basis for remaining ‘grounded!’. At the foot of this piece you will find some illustrations from that book. Two things stand out as key connections to the simple task in hand, their use of the wicker chair as symbol of today’s modernity and the other Egyptian influences. The ancient in tune with this ‘simplicity’ they cannot acquire except in a object of desire.
This film, Final Portrait is based on James Lords book, Giacometti : A Portrait, which many after seeing this will be seeking out to rehearse the insights we have here in a short time witnessed. The film has, like the title, two meanings and hemispheres. Cubism is to Giacometti one success which Cezanne spoke of as geometry speaking in everything. Cubes, Cylinders, Spheres. After all is trivial. This is also a point to collect a thought on Giacometti’s work which is linear and textured could not show the aforementioned but never recognisable instantly as being cubist.

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His early influences

Giacometti was a prolific student of drawing taught by his artist father and academy led with which he acknowledges his work was able to spring from and become the serious insightful presence of interpretation going back through a lineage to Egyptian art, Cycladic art, also work conceived by the African Dan tribe which eschewed literal by making symbolic protrusions, depressions, and which itself had no notion of itself as Artwork, more a record of the interior life’s present and enjoyed. Replicating the partially understood. So far and not beyond. Here in modern society we are blessed and equipped with tools of interpretation and also the comparison of work having gone before because this is the territory opened up by Gaicometti and our brief excursion into understanding it is part of the overwhelming wash of visual mental stimulation 21st century art through instragram, Pinterest, Google has put in front of us. There is no place it seems nowadays for things to be tentative as we know all too well the temporality of everything. Yet we revisit ad memoirium things and objects arrested moments. We love the memoriter.

There is one point in Giacometti’s life, very early on while he was in the tutelage of his teacher, Emile-Antoine Bourdelle, when his first model, and love probably was sitting for him and he realised this – His approach was inspired by one model. In the winter of 1920 he began a sculpture of a friend with whom he was staying and, after six months of her sitting for the work, he suddenly realised a complete fracture between what he saw and what he could make. This crucial turning point became the reference for every artwork he subsequently created; he claimed every portrait after descended from this one piece – the film does place the same into the narrative exactly when James Lord first sits down.

There is an important point of change in his life which is the death of his and Diego’s father in 1933. He altered his work becoming more ‘ruminant’ perhaps is one way of expressing it.

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Plasticity of words and work

The words, not coined by his Catalogue writer, Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘The figures were never for me a compact mass, but rather like a transparent construction.’ This was written in 1929 to Pierre Matisse on the pieces, Homme et Femme and more persuasively Femme Couche qui rêve (1929) which goes back to the African Dan tribe depiction of a woman and birth. It is telling that Giacometti relied on others as well as his tutors to remove the clouds around his art. Jean-Paul Sartre was trusted but he, Giacometti did depend on success or recognition at least to see it’s worth in continuing to work as he did. It was as most artists worth their salt dependant on shedding some insights on the world while their here.  He explodes at the point of a mark misplaced with the F word.  There is an ambiguity I saw in the latent homosexuality of Giacometti withstanding his prolific indulgence with the ‘fallen’ women he cherished.
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Hard discovery

He also took on the burden of thinking, as this film’s period shows the mortality and proximity and control one had over ones life. He disavowed while at the same time contemplated suicide but was in his bi-polarity state only briefly. Instead he devoured life around him and unlike Virginia Wolff was unable to attest to the sovereignty of life by ultimately cashing in her mind for, it is beyond us to see what state of mind took VW beyond the trouble she conceived existed around her. No explanation is offered into the needs and further explorations Giacometti needs to make except by the otherwise obtuse virtue of the title of the film. The Final Portrait.
As it is a test Giacometti put to himself which is voiced in the film I bring the Virginia Wolff discovery of herself unable to resist her choice in this final letter to her sister Vanessa Bell, herself a painter. “Sunday – Dearest, You can’t think how I loved your letter. But I feel I have gone too far this time to come back again. I am certain now that I am going mad again. It is just as it was the first time, I am always hearing voices, and I shan’t get over it now. All I want to say is that Leonard has been so astonishingly good, every day, always; I can’t imagine that anyone could have done more for me than he has. We have been perfectly happy until these last few weeks, when this horror began. Will you assure him of this? I feel he has so much to do that he will go on, better without me, and you will help him. I can hardly think clearly anymore. If I could I would tell you what you and the children have meant to me. I think you know. I have fought against it, but I can’t any longer. Virginia.” This was ever a similar but converse reaction to the ‘final portrait’ Giacometti never gave up on achieving.

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Telling direction

The ‘Final Portrait’ is itself decided by the very accomplished writing and Directing of Stanley Tucci. His grasp of the subject is immense. He is able to take away the familiar work as it is of a different time. He knows he is dealing with the later matured Alberto. He therefore cannot use the familiar pieces or work to ‘familiarise’ us with the extent and immense groundbreaking work he had produced. Only one piece I have seen before – there are sketches and variations of small and human scale pieces which are in the studio – one in the courtyard depicts this drawings final realisation in the courtyard entrance at the beginning of the film. The work of the twenties, thirties, forties is virtually uncatalogued but ideas are plentiful as is reminiscent stories for James to absorb while being painted. It is revelatory in the time capsule. It shows the duality of the scheme of life between the existence and non existence.

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Form and structure.

Stanley Tucci is very astute in the delivery of this story. For its structure is easy to follow being based on a narrated daily journal of the sitting for the portrait. Day 1, Day 2 etc., and we are given a Film of two kinds. One is the easy chronological insight into the contemporary art world of the sixties and the emotional drivers of Giacometti through his loves and acquaintance’s. The story has love, familial compromise, conviviality, depression, joy, angst, joie de vivre, criminality, greed, regarde, consciousness, worldliness, humour, with very little disposition for effect.
The world is on the one hand depicted as a portrait of the artist with bourgeois representation and light touch Parisian gallic charm ruthlessly exploited with the musical pathos the serene views and historical significance of Liberté, égalité, fraternité and the Marseille Frenchness lightly painted for a film audience not to become vexed by the characters seen but warming to them in a symbolic way. The confronted, the confronted, the aesthete, the consort, the domicile, the contented. There are better representations but these token characterisations are employed here to imply the construct is made this way to give an audience its clear idea of being able to believe in the art and artist. The other way, the second, is Stanley Tucci delving into the very words Giacometti said about his work which he shows us is the basis of an insightfulness achievable through this two handed piece of portraitist and the sitter. In it is life explored. The arc of Alberto Giacometti is clearer for the method used.
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His studio

The studio is a back street 46 rue Hippolyte Maindron and it is what he tells his wife Annette – played beautifully, constrained and wild in equal measure and a devotee, by Sylvie Testud – as home. It is literally like a void only filled by the work and the presence of people. It has not affectation. A word he delights in using. Then there is the Café life, the Café Adrien which is more a fully developed restaurant. The outdoors comprises a few streets and occasional boulevard but mostly is the graveyard with its Mausoleum’s and Standing Gravestones. As well as this we meet in the studio the visiting lover and consort under no pretence of it being otherwise his favoured muse and adulteress Caroline played with coy affected joyfulness by Clémence Poésy. In one scene it is a place he visits disconsolate and adrift in search of the lost Caroline in which there are sheltered under the hood of deaths doorway heavily metaphorically the mistresses of petit morte.

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So his world is captured in a few locations and this allows the words to be expressed between James and Alberto. Ever watchful is Diego played by a very balanced Tony Shalhoiub his talented brother, talented in measurement, of the presentation and value of work who exercises influence whenever he can to see things do not get out of control. He also produces small pieces and lets them alone to exist as material objects not having apportioned value. Diego had a child which Alberto represented, un-childlike but as metaphor, in a famous sculpture which recognised love. Over the days their conversations become more complex and both become at ease. These illuminate the story as Stanley Tucci uses these periods to delve into the place of the primary issue being scoped out. That perhaps being the artists battle with the void in art which is seen in every sculpture and painting, sketch he produces. This emptiness has the force to be greater than its minimal presence. In the studio there is a collection which he either consoles himself with or as stimuli to create better versions of his works. It is a very sparse but cluttered space.

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James Lord is able to follow the painting process while continually, at his partners unamused confusion, postponing his departure and is able to extend for weeks, his insight observing and getting to know Giacometti. He is able to eventually discern which brush Alberto picks up and which stage of the process he’s at. Infuriatingly he also gets to understand the method of working is just working. That A Final Portrait can never be. He is conscious the work in a split second can be over done and then Alberto lifts another brush to put it to negative effect subtracting what he has worked.
The Working of this film has a duality is as I noted earlier. There are very persuasive actions, mostly achieved through the characters, of Tucci finding opportunities to place empathically the core person behind the career which is famously and at times misconstrued.  The tyranny of his loves, the tyranny of money, his oblique but absorbing view of the small habitué of his studio and district, the machinations of dealers some of whom he is very friendly with and grateful to as they recognise largely the work and they facilitate it reaching a wider audience than either his brother or he could contemplate spending time pursuing.

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Conclusion ####4

This is a fascinating film on a fascinating and visionary, special artist whose work as a Sculptor informed us and many other artists of the extremities and location of limits in the pursuit of a depiction of his reality which overlaps and underscores each and everyone of us capable of sight and observation.  The extent of his drawing is seen in the fact the film comprises in the main act of portraiture advancing.  There are two sides to it also – the futile and ordinary everyday particles comprising life which are oversaturated in light touch direction by this first main feature length film by the appreciative Stanley Tucci – then the intense part – the art and its delivery which is in negative tonal black and white colouration mainly.  It exceeds expectations and is much more than a depiction on film of a book by the highly astute observer, James Lord played brilliantly by Armie Hammer.  To act alongside Geoffrey Rush whose interpretation seems flawless, is itself a task well met.  Geoffrey Rush even gauges the walk, including at this time his limp from a car accident and short practices of working a clay or poster mix (the pieces are complex but textural) and his eye shows the sight and detail the work entails.  Also the framing is Giacometti like in its plainness and directness. Detail is examined and good touches of – what might have been difficult within a studios confined, cluttered space – is done with accomplished smooth ease.  It is a work of loving appreciation and as much accuracy and truthfulness such a journey takes or needs.  Beautifully crafted this will be seen as a highly effective insight to the master at work at leat in the window of the narrow time frame.  The exploration it seems it compels into the other work – Diego sat each day apparently for seven years and was his first and last subject – implies his figure is the everyman.  It is quite a unique piece of work in every sense.

John Graham

16 August 2017

Belfast.

FINAL PORTRAIT will screen at QFT Belfast from 18th August 2017 until 24th August 2017

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Influences

 

Annette and Caroline

 

Picasso

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Moonlight : A Film Review


Moonlight      Oscar time and the winner is!     This time they eventually got it right.

Director. Barry Jenkins. Cast. Alex Hibbert as Little; Ashton Sanders as Chiron; Trevante Rhodes as Black; Mahershala Ali as Juan; Janelle Monáe as Teresa; Naomie Harris as Paula; André Holland as Kevin; Jharrel Jerome as 16-year-old Kevin; Jaden Piner as 9-year-old Kevin.


Story in 3 parts

Barry Jenkins has taken a history of a boy to man and set it in three chapters.  There is a different name given to the same person taking the journey.  From Little to Chiron to Black we do find out what becomes of him in these chapters as these are the phases in life which mould and control the advance of the boy.  He is so small all call him Little in the beginning.  His choices are few.  His drug addict mother is a loose cannon and he is a wild child who makes his own way to find food and survive on Miami’s streets.  Liberty Square and Liberty City project were key.

 “It was the first time someone had come to their community and wanted to represent it onscreen, and since Barry Jenkins had grown up in that area, there was this sense of pride and this desire to support him. You felt this love from the community that I’ve never felt in any other location, anywhere in the world, and it was so strange that it happened in a place where people were expecting the complete opposite.”  Local reaction.  Police escorts filming were also needed.

It is another film without the father figure to lead the boy through the wilderness.  He is of the type of child whose wits need to be sharp and he is streetwise switched on kid.  The survivors instinct remains as a child and it builds barriers other circumstances more civilised will have an immunity to.


A substitute or replacement father figure is presented in the form of a low life dealer Juan aka Blue.  Chiron also is given an alternative mother in the form of Juan’s girlfriend, Teresa.  She provides a place of refugee when home is off limits.  There is an identikit friend, Kevin, who acts as a foil to the apparent destitution Chiron finds himself in, as a kind of compass point.  In dealing with all around him he becomes aware of his sense of self and sexuality and masculinity in particular.  Kevin the friend is the daytime school crutch and compass. Life becomes a shade perplexing when his mother enters his alternative world also due to her addiction. If you want to see this as a love story then it would serve that purpose well as a means to carry it through to the end.  It clearly has a central focus of love.  Absent or emerging.  All those experiences of the exhilaration, hurt and beauty of loves roll call are heartfelt and dealt with, with precision and clarity, for an boy caught in a mess not of his making.  The pleasure, if you can call it that, is the directors ability to draw us into the imperfections and choices made.  Gracefully tenderly and astutely levity of kind deeds and sometimes redemptive acts occur.


Filmic sense of place

There is a claustrophobia about the ‘hood’ the techniclour neighbourhood which if it were not for the separateness,  the sense of entrapment, the shut off segregation by class context, its so discordantiy uplifting.  It is a failure of integration and also generated by the mood music of America – the sure and undealt endemic racism –  which has credal, national boundaries.  Into the first frames we see the neighbourhood and relaxed men talking on the street, and Juan played superbly by Mahershala Ali crosses the street to meet a pair talking and they then imply upfront talk about the deal on drugs going array.  Juan settles things and shows his dominance an function as the top man on this neighbourhood.  He identifies with the role with a tall cool gait.  The cinematographer, director annoyingly follow and old circular walk around of these three before moving on down the street where a parked car and its occupants have drawn his attention.  This start is easy but limiting.  It presents no contrast or order or place.  Fortunately that is a minor blip on starting a story which involves Chiron and his mother – the Oscar nominated Naomie Harris.  Her living conditions are less well kept and are a backstreet compound of chalets in blocks and most with boarded, or grilled up windows.  The transition central to the story as coming of age is for some plain others get the subtlety of brotherhood and Little looking up to Kevin who is ‘gifted’ in pleasure potency.  Little borders on loving Kevin and they share a blunt and Chiron gets to know a bit more of how he works.  Seldom clear it shows the muddle he is in. The lack of sexual insight and experience continues and the only therapy is his imposed identity persona as a crutch which ends up in the third act well expanded. Barry Jenkins makes the point not to be clear to an audience and leave them thinking despite the numerous comments that it is a gay based movie.  That’s not what he intends it or wants it to be.  More evidently it is a mixture of social and human frailties and strengths in circumstances which they are trapped by.


Performances

For Chiron there are 3 actors each giving a very connecting depiction of their adopted character.  The innocence and uncomfortable, questioning, uncertain and with a ready smart intellect clearly challenged Alex Hibbert as Little is first to capture your interest and enquiry.  His co actors in principally, Mahershala Ali as Juan; Janelle Monáe as Teresa; Naomie Harris as Paula; all give him latitude.  As they react and relate they summon belief in these people and the grim unequal situation they are in.  It is pure unpoliticised but a sense of real America without the dragging in of hot notes of comparison.  It is all done through the characters themselves gathering in the audiences belief in them.  There is a humanity and faith underlying but again no Chaplain or holy moment to underpin an anxiety or piece of hateful racism.  All is done on its own terms.  The central ‘Chiron’ has another age of reason to play with, Ashton Sanders as Chiron does it again with his portray of the sexual emergence of the self put to the test and masculinity including bullying from a constant Terrel school classmate excentuate the hurt and confusion while Juan rfeatures less here but he and Teresa provide more help as things get worse.  


Barry Jenkins in interview points out – : I think in the story, one of the strongest moments is when Juan unpacks the word [faggot]. I think for a kid to see that scene whether they identify as LGBTQ or not is important. There’s this great quote about the film that says, “Juan unpacks the word but he doesn’t unpack Little with it.” I think that distinction is very important. I think because of the journey this character goes on in the film; you watch, and you see how this guy gets further away from who he is. I think when you see the power we have to affect people for ill; I would hope that kids would humanize and identify with that character.

In a further element on period which is 1987 in feel he returns to his own upbringing  No work. [to the Liberty Project buildings] I don’t like to talk about time stamps; 1987 or 1989 or things like that. But that place feels to me, largely the same as it did when I grew up. It’s part of the permanence of whatever is the spiritual and cultural gumbo that’s in the air. To be honest, when I read the script that’s what it was. I thought, “This feels like my childhood, but it also feels like now.” It felt like a very contemporary story or how stories are rooted in our past. So we didn’t have to do a lot to augment Liberty City to make it feel like the place where we grew up. It literally is the place where we grew up, and it hasn’t changed a ton. People who have watched the film talk about the imagery, but I didn’t do much. The walls are painted that color, and they have been since I was a kid.  From http://www.chocolategirlinthecity.com/      An interesting blog for a great variety of reasons.


Colour

Finally the significance of colour.  In the original play which itself has provided audiences more insight its title says it all – In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney.

Tarell Alvin McCraney: It’s difficult to narrow down why I wrote it in a way that feels generous to the process of it. It was really self-serving. There was no real representation of myself to see, and to purge ideas on and to look at for models of. I was trying to figure out my manhood, my childhood, and my personhood. I was the son of a crack-addict who had just died from AIDS-related complications, but at the same time, I was on the precipice of a life-changing moment.   The writers view.

I was struck by the visul imprint based solely on the title.  From the appearance of the Cornflour Blue of Juan’s Buick to rooms, to looking down on chairs outside, the colour turns up with frequently as a subtle glow of the saturated good life taunts the screen characters.  The saturation on Niaomi Harris in her home is significant and redolent of type.  As for Oscar worth it’s not up there for her in my view despite her throwing herself into the acting and working with a ‘type’ scripted in her part lamely.  She took a bit of persuasion as she did not want to play a crack addicted woman and it shows the script let her own also.  The rest get a better deal.  So if inference and facial angst is enough for an Oscar it wouldn’t be the first time.  Talking of which this has coming of age similarities to Boyhood.  Equally enriched and out of type, mainly.


Conclusion ####4

Being on the surface a coming of age film it differentiates itself by putting up the conditions and everyday mostly drug dominated complexities of restricted life.  The restricted containment and lack of connective integration seen in New York and very large conurbations, where the sheer scale allows for little else other than integration of a more natural kind, is expressed here because perhaps paradoxically the people have the space.  America is so huge the enclaves happen as a easy out.  Not many look at it this way but Planning, Counties, States have grown up and been shaped this way over years perhaps excentuated by the 50’s Political driven life.  This film has broken through the barriers and provides an astute though at times trope laden story which crosses boundaries in inhabiting the characters space and giving huge performances.  It has certain limitations but it is undoubtedly a very unique and great film for these times and predicates more and carefully created work ahead. There is also a very good musical score and sound tapestry. Very mature and spot on.

John Graham

18 February 2017

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre from 17 February to 02 March 2017.

Loving : A Film Review


Loving

Directed by Jeff Nichols, (Mud, Take Shelter, Midnight Special) Produced by Ged Doherty, Colin Firth, Nancy Buirski, Sarah Green, Marc Turtletaub, Peter Saraf. Screenplay by Jeff Nichols, Based on The Loving Story by Nancy Buirski.  Cast.  JOEL EDGERTON -RICHARD LOVING, RUTH NEGGA – MILDRED LOVING, MARTON CSOKAS – SHERIFF BROOKS, NICK KROLL – BERNIE COHEN, TERRI ABNEY – GARNET JETER, ALANO MILLER – RAYMOND GREEN , JON BASS – PHIL HIRSCHKOP – MICHAEL SHANNON – GREY VILLET.  Music by David Wingo, Cinematography Adam Stone, Edited by Julie Monroe, Production companies – Big Beach, Raindog Films. Cert. 12. Duration 2hrs 3mins.


The blurb

The true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, who were arrested in 1950s Virginia for the crime of getting married.  The year is 1958 and the Civil Rights Movement has barely begun. Richard, a white construction worker, decides to propose to Mildred, a black woman. What should be a happy beginning to their life together soon becomes an arduous legal and political battle against the state and society. Driven out of their hometown, Richard and Mildred Loving spend almost ten years fighting for the right to live as a family in the town they consider home. They push their case as far as the Supreme Court, resulting in the landmark annulment of the discriminatory Virginian law banning interracial marriage.

 

Story unfolds

Opening with the face of Ruth Negga, pensive and seeming forlorn the frame extends to include Joel Edgerton as they contemplate an event that will cement and form their relationship.  It is in this context of inter-racial harmony, togetherness and unity we are then shown the integrated social Virginia backdrop.  The backdrop of motor racing or as they have it, drag racing petrol heads and enthusiasts of different races, no pun intended, relax and compete and show their macho skills in basic road souped up cars.  Nothing too fancy.  In the late fifties when this is an automobile high customised era of ‘winged’ chariots with valances, fins, chrome, tailegate motors expressing freedom these racers are mere tools of competition and all the scrutineering follows the rules.  Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) is a bricklayer/blocklayer working mainly on new houses with a white crew.  It’s noticeable the workplace is segregated and I didn’t see any black workers on the sites where it is a good payer and is regular work.  Mildred Loving nee Jeter (Ruth Negga) is s field worker in a plantation of tobacco and is part of a young coloured community whose work is labourious and achingly demanding.  The mix and split of these Virginias is already an orchestrated unity.  They are joined but separated by class.  The hoe-down after the Drag racing shows them together as free spirits raised and enjoying themselves. The reality is the separation is constructed by the state racial fundementalists to manage and control them.  The sense of order is plain as no revolution is happening and only later when the marches of Martin Luther King emerge via. the TVs screen which is a new medium delivering its dose of engineered mostly white produced programmes, is there a consciousness of the underlying oppressed people.


Breaking the circle

By telling this true story with an impeccable faithfulness to the events and without overdramatising the conflicts Jeff Nichols knows what matters.  The couples relationship is dealt with as an everyday love between neighbours.  Richards family is a farmstead with a few barns and no father.  His father in the past worked with for a black man andtherefore Richard’s heightened awareness of difference has another dimension.  He knows the establishing of a means to make a living is so important and management of the returns, resources, is a separate thing entirely.  Unions and workers rights themselves in their infancy.  Richards home is a 5 step timber house. I call it a 5 step verandah house as it is the Southern style of open porch under a roof edge raised as a stoop common throughout the vastness of the country they live in.  There is room to breathe the night air.  Mildred’s house hasby contrast a 2 step verandaed home.  There’s is a slightly lower less long established home.  The settlers of white stock brought this form as a colonial imprint and the black people who they now lifted with took up the style of living. Jeff Nichols takes this environment as his main template going forward in the story.  The day to day is familiar and working to mutual advantage within the restraints and constrictions.  It would be acceptable for a white and black person to live together, sleep together providing they were not married and they would have to suffer the isolation having offspring would bring and perhaps be forced to move under those circumstances.

Humanitarian rights

In this story the most important thing is the groundbreaking change the Loving’s bring about.  It is told from the very first instance when they decide to get married out of state in Washington D.C. Colombia and in a matter of fact way it happens in a registry office with Mildred’s Dad as a witness.  They all have a journey to D.C. Which underlines the backwardness of where they came from.  In the recent elections the states around Washington D.C. were distinctly democrat hence the poor turn out for the inauguration.  The movement of reconciliation – first of ridding themselves of the colonialist English/British enslavers then the Abraham Lincoln abolition of slavery had its focus here.  The slavery remained in effect through the inequality and suppression of cultural freedom which the right to choose who they married underlined.  

So the first time the legal side of things arises is when they live openly as a married couple and the local police act on instructions to arrest them.  It results in a court case and with local representation they accept their fate and move out of state to avoid incarceration and separation.  Mildred is very much now the focus of the film as she raises a family with the help of relatives they have a home and we notice the children growing in a small enclosed space.  Some direct referencing by Neff Nichols to the urban nature of this existence is played out but now the singularity of their case comes to the notice of the American Civil Liberties organisation and in steps another principal performer. Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll) who is a rookie human rights lawyer full of optimistic favour but little common sense.  There then is the highlight of the movie for me a meeting in which he sequesters an office of a Law firm and manages to take on the gravitas and bearing to welcome Richard and Mildred to the concept of challenging through the courts the injustice they met in their home state of Virginia.  His niavity is very funny if it were not so devoid of reality.  Nevertheless as things move on they find a way to advance the case.  Into the package comes a Human Rights Lawyer who knows which buttons of legislature to press and the sequence is followed through.  Quite interestingly and it’s an obvious choice made, little ‘Courtroom Drama’ by way of the tension filled portrayal of landmark cases some directors ratchet up, we are treated to a matterfact brief hearing of the issues in succinct facts which is a very, very important factor in this films mastery of a difficult a prolonged process. It is a very wise move not to Labour on the machinations but put the case up front and central.  Cohen. And his cohort spelling it out. Judgements follow.


Pace and time

 The film is slow and changes in the story are therefore anticipated given the known history if not the longevity of the whole sorry apartheid.  Racial conflicts and violence are eschewed and it is a story well told due to the simplicity of the families confined to the story.  The movements between them for certain events and the passing of time is only loosely appreciated by the children.  An awful lot of the time Richard is tinkering at cars and is on the sidelines but fully behind the  battle Ruth takes a great deal of interest in and is the titans holding on to the political and gigantic nature of it.  Possibly it might be true to say the film sags in the middle and is in need of an uplift which comes in the form of the case taking on its seniority.  The state of Virginia need be challenged in the Supreme Court where about one in 400 cases assigned to it are every taken up at this level. As interracial marrying was against the law – a matter of “miscegenation”, that notably science based attribution, has them after the harassment and being locked up, guided through Mildred’s having initially written to Bobby Kennedy,  the ACLU is able to take their case all the way to the Supreme Court and change America’s ugly Jim Crow race laws of the 50s and 60s.


Conclusion ####4

I found this film worked by following in the middle of the story the emotional switches and triggers Mildred Loving nee Jeter (Ruth Negga) produces from the very first frame.  She is intelligent, graceful, dignified and assured of her worth.  Richard is also sure of his love and is unable to express it the same way which shows when he is a backcourt no comment reply outside a courthouse to the TV whereas Mildred is despite the signs to the contrary – hopeful. Jon Bass as Phil Hirschcop is splendidly youthful and fits the pieces of the jigsaw together in terms of the Law.  Both he and Nick Kroll as Bernie Cohen derserve a second mention as they are a unit playing off each other’s belief in the strength of the Law and the ability of the Supreme Court to hear and accept their arguments which in effect they do and it is no small achievement.  Micheal Shannon who appears in several character roles in Jeff Nichols films is cast as the Life photographer reporter who visits the Lovings and creates a US media phenomenon of them as a normal couple in a normal state of marriage growing up raising children.  They are hard working and it’s is as he shows it.  Despite the dip in the middle this is a carefully crafted and very watchable film and has important nuances and insights which are seldom given space.  I thoroughly recommend a viewing.

John Graham

2 February 2016

Belfast
 Screening at QFT from Fri 3 Feb – Thurs 16 Feb

.

Silence : A Film Review


Silence

Director. Martin Scorsese. Cast. Andrew Garfield (Fr. Sebastião Rodrigues), Liam Neeson (Father Cristóvão Ferreira), Adam Driver (Fr. Francisco Garrpe), Yōsuke Kubozuka (Kichijiro), Issey Ogata (Inquisitor Inoue), Tadanobu Asano (Interpreter), Nana Komatsu (Christian Villager #1), Shinya Tsukamoto (Mokichi). Language English. US/Taiwan/Mexico. Drama. Cert. 15. Duration 2hr 41mins.

Bicameral doubt

Silence refers to the God unheard.  If your listening, the bat kol that boundary of the divine voice is silent.  Over time everlasting God has been silent and in the words of Jesus he alone speaks of the Lords guidance of supreme glory and seeks our passage into the kingdom of God. That is of course a personal view and one about pursuit of truth.

“The nature of secularism is fascinating to me, but do you wipe away what could be more enriching in your life, which is an appreciation or some sort of search for that which is spiritual and transcends? Silence is just something that I’m drawn to in that way. It’s been an obsession, it has to be done… It’s a strong, wonderful true story, a thriller in a way, but it deals with those questions.” – Martin Scorsese


Silent story

Set in the 17th Century, the film follows two Jesuit priests who face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to find their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) and propagate Christianity. The priests, Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garrpe (Adam Driver), arrive in a country that, under the Tokugawa shogunate, has banned Catholicism and forbidden almost all foreign contact. There they witness the persecution of Japanese Christians at the hands of a government that wishes to purge Japan of all western influence. Thousands have already been executed and they eventually convince the Jesuit leader Cairan Hinds, to allow them to travel from Europe to Japan, in the prologue as we are introduced to the subject of finding out the actual whereabouts and circumstances of Liam Neesons fate.

Young missionaires

It is through Andrew Garfields as Rodriguez a Portuguese Jesuit Priest who along with Garrpe played by a gaunt and frail looking Adam Driver, the main bulk of the post history of Christianity’s penetration of Japan is told.  By enlisting the very dubious help of a guide played by Yōsuke Kubozuka (Kichijiro), who features throughout and is hugely integral as a link between the races, they enter Japan in the remotest island paradise, ironically verdant, beautiful and incongruously capable of sustaining a civilisation without hindered even of any kind.  By Gods design.  They instead reach a place where the remaining Christian Inhabitants are isolated unable to trade or move and are in a despairingly wretched place barely able to eke out an existence.  There are parallel and also isolated village communities which also do not communicate between each other as their memories and fears are ofspies and the inquisitor of severe repercussions that may manifest.


The ‘return’ of missionaries in the form of the brash, over confident, singularly fixed and uncompromising Rodriguez who is the opposite of the questioning, more grounded, philosophical and extentialist Garrpe, gives the Japanese Christians Renewed hope as Kichijiro introduces them to a group of villagers literally on landing.  They are welcomed into this fragile barely existing remote territory and the Christian faith is uplifted by their very presence and re-ritualising of the faith.  Even confession – that extremely dubious form of thetorical sin and absolution (meaning it is not in the gift of anyone to forgive as only ‘God’ can be asked to forgive) – is performed.  Ritualisation and order is established in – and this is fundamental to this religiousity – belief if only in formalised ‘uncertainty’ – and reproach is wasted within the confines of Jesuit minds and Catholicism.  That symbolises why the whole embarkation in mission in any age is subjected to ridicule, resentment, manipulation and scorn.  The symbolic universality is fixed not flexible in the human hands and ungodlike.  Image and theatre which Martin Scorsese is well practiced in is about – as religion is – about storytelling – not about the sciences of universality and human values inherently the same and equal – is employed as a narrative slightly old school as voice over and flashback but impeccably conveyed.

The elucidation in gesture and mannerisms and enunciation of the Japanese and American, Irish Actors is brilliantly delivered. Seldom in modern cinema have I been alerted to the importance of the delivery of language and line as a primary and essential aspect of dramatic filmmaking (Macbeth was the last time when I was conscious of making the required mental shift to adapt to the Scots accents and cadences within the Shakespearian rhythms of speaking as storytelling which worked for me but not as I said in that review for American friends) and as a consequence it makes this story very penetrable at all the levels it sets out to achieve.


Test of Faith

The assurance and confidence of Rodriguez is gradually changed and his character comes across doubt internally building and shaking beliefs at their fundamental level as they do in all that acknowledge it as humans.  In the desperation of one young Priest asking God for the truth of the suffering in Japan,  we realise the contemporary, familiar desperation known to the faithful and the secular, the atheist, we have no divine right to this life we embrace and share.  Less do we know it’s purpose and recoil in the conflict of good and evil in the presence of a creator in silence.  Silences are the root and branch of religious devotion and it is to the interior self the analysis brings determination and externally that alteration exists when the ‘real’ world is continuing on its vile course of inhuman acts, unable to listen to the guidance for all.  In one moment it is apparent ‘God’ speaks to Rodriguez.  In a moment when his faith is tested at the very threshold of his advocacy, in which denial becomes a very real necessity or choice, he is given the advice that forgiveness shall be forthcoming no matter what choice he makes.  It is an Abrahamic moment of judgement.  Allow the Son to die to live.

Directorial brilliance

Martin Scorsese has crafted a very profound and commanding film speaking ironically of the place of Faith religions in Japan and responding to the questions asked by placing different polarities of a point of view on religion.  He does it mainly through the cost of Priests and Christian followers of the infiltration to Japan in early 1600 of missionaries when confronted by National identity.  It is when they are called on to reject their faith publicallyband humiliatingly they begin to focus on the Silence.  First of these to face the call to reject their religion and faith is Father Ferreira played by Liam Neeson.  How come though it takes a no fee director and a cast on a pittance in Hollywood terms and maybe several other chips cashed in production, technical etc, wise, to make a film of this magnitude.  It is not a crowd pleaser nor is it pandering to convention in telling – in a year 75 years after the Japanese sinking of several submarines and vessels off Japan causing the loss of thousands of American Servicemen and women? – this narrative which has many many aspects which in any forward thinking civilised community can open up several strands of debate on our relationships in and through religions and with difference and how it is apparent that all choices are of a sacrificial kind. A loss to gain Not a gain to gain and then ultimately loose again.

 

Tadanobu Asano (Interpreter),


The power

The Japanese inquisitor Inouye, brilliantly, fulsomely, played by Issei Ogata, is almost a Devil incarnate playing with the emotions of Rodriguez when eventually they meet.  In several scenes, Inouye tells him that Christianity may be right for Europe, but it is wrong for Japan. Inouye is a supreme leader whose actions he characterised as symbols of his state.  His state and control therefore has no need of religion, it has its own as Liam Neeson explains, him having taken the Priest road less travelled and points to the Sun as their Son of God meaning all is in nature to employ gratitude and self identity which invokes astrology and cosmology as brothers in the science of discovery.  Inouye is mercurial and believable, a portray creating a real sense of Nationhood and most of these Japanese actors male and female deploy a level of gravitas and characterisation which Scorsese it seems has enabled them to ‘act’ to be unafraid of employing traits and characterisation to inhabit the part and screen.  It is absent in a significant part in my view.  Of that later.  By behaving as a evuncular wise old man with only his nation in mind and feigning sympathy – knowing the universality of religion God or no God undermines regime rule totally.


I think of the new polemic in Poland where feminism is challenged by a virtually statecrun monopoly on religion by Catholic based faith religious, forcing women who wish to have an abortion to underground risks and 10,000 women a year seeking abortions outside Poland.  There are now Welfare groups unattached to the issue of abortion being set up to recalibrate woman’s identity through yoga, fitness and general conversation and in relaxing environments.

It is the investment in common factors of emotion Inouye confronts Rodriguez with what he tells him is arrogance and puts forward the suffering he is responsible for in his presence and continual ministry to the faithful.  As every religion it is met with its own downfall through separation.  It is also the perpetrator of division in areas it succeeeds in bringing nations forward with it.  Be it imperialist Great Britain and the Church of England, The Demagogues of Jewish religions in Israel leaving behind the Judaism of their faith, the Catholicism spread as universality while being the foremost hierarchical assembly of Faith preserves on the panet.  China and large parts of Africa have no ‘established’ church and few places in Western civilisation have no presence of other than ‘established’ church which all secondary non-established non credal and non sectarian religions are supplanted minor followers in the body faith inherent in human kind.

 Yōsuke Kubozuka (Kichijiro)

Historical base

For this cinematic portrait to succeed as story and story it is, it has been based on the 1966 novel by the Japanese author Shusaku Endo, preceding it and priding that is a level of construction fictionalised through small written texts remaining of the whole failed attempt at Christianising Japan.

Throughout I had a concern regarding the playing of Rodriguez and Andrew Garfield for me lacked credibility in his emotional regard and over involved in lingering looks and stopping his facial expressions as footprints of emotion – frozen faces I call them – not acting is not acting it’s real? –  instead of the dexterous and malleable and at times throughly surprising for me who was not a great AD fan,  sings and laments as every inflection and word craft is used in its strength ultimately due to the well crafted script into reaching out to the audience to be illuminated in the intensity of meaning.  It was thoroughly old school in performance terms and in itself the Japanese and our own duo of Cairan Hinds and Liam Neeson invoked acting as a craft and art form that is very thin on the ground in a lot of modern films.  Meryl Streep has stood up at the Globe Award ceremony having a set delays stab at Donald Trump while her curios Albert Nobbs or Florence Foster are not in my view ‘acting supremacy’ – the kind of performances we see too often and the yet Meryl Streep gives in to the trope of being a character actor in the way Glenda Jackson never could nor does/did.

Conclusion ****4

It will be sometime before it is realised how important this film is in the Martin Scorsese filmmaking library.  Before have come works of dramatic historical and societal challenge.  Each constructing a view of the world based on real events and characterisations of the stories they inhabit.  This is no different.  The Last Temptation of Christ took on a historical figure and the most significant of all and he layered his own telling of the quest within the Bible to his own imagined extrapolation.  It formed a huge divide in opinion as it was partially construed as sacreligious and wild imaginary diversions not appropriate to understanding.  Given the Protestant claim at the time of Erasmus and the reformation as belonging to the Mother of Jesus born of a young woman as the Bible actually states, not the Virgin Mary extolled by the Catholic Church, the pRotestant faith claimed itself to be more Catholic and since the division erupts from time to time.  On the origin of Jesus religions bent and twist. Aristotle included.  The ultimate repost is – What is important?  The baby Jesus being the child of God or Mary as the Mother of Jesus.  Provide your own analysis but it is plain what faith resides in.

The film captures so many levels of understanding it would serve many to examine the questions which Martin Scorsese provides elements which concern mankind and the search for truth and peace among mankind.  So it not only looks superb and atmospheric depicting a very beutiful, intensely civil, complex and challenged Nation, – except the filming takes place in America/Taiwan/Mexico – it shows all sides of the existence of humanity and questions versions of our origin and ultimately challenges all to consider our creator and our need to fulfill the morality and lawfulness of rational organisation of our life’s and sustaining time.

It is a film which is calling people to listen, hear and be enlightened.

John Graham

11 January 2017

Belfast

Continues on General release and at Queens Film Theatre until 19 January 2017

Chi-Raq : A Film Review


Chi-Raq

Director. Spike Lee.  Written by Spike Lee and Kevin Willmot.  Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Teyonah Parris, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson. Music by Terence Blanchard. Cinematography Matthew Libatique. Edited by Ryan Denmark.

End of

Prevent war remove sex. How does that work when women enjoy it much the same as men do and can be just as distraught if it’s not on the horizon?  Based on the 411bc play by Aristophanes it tells the tale of one woman’s mission to end the Peloponnesian War. Lysistrata played by Teyonah Parris who projects a sexualised image, convinces the women of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands as a means of forcing the men to negotiate a peace.  In the blink of an eye this scenario presents in Chicago as a modern day philosophy on manhood in the hood with the female carrying the fall out of violence as most of them choose not to carry a gun being polar opposites.  Renaming it as Chi-Raq which is one of the leading gangsters name, that part played by Nick Cannon, is explained in the opening frames which are launched as a set of rap lyrics with smooth multi-faceted lessons on the reality in slanguage spoken by rappers.  The old Dr Johnson meaning – to rap – speak violently augmented in a slick roll of red print on black introducng then the figures of deaths in Afganistan, Iraq then America which are in ascending order and deaths by gun crime amount to more than the other two combined over the period up to the present.  Chi-Raq is in a feud with Cyclops played by Wesley Snipes. The killings go on through their turf wars.

Ammunition

Spike Lee is on the case of Gun crime being a act of community self annihilation by recreating a  closely fixed tragic-comic opera to the cinema screen for consumption by all those wise enough to see the message as relevant to the times and a picture of disconnections between white and black/brown Americans in inner city environments.  Taking a play from 411bc is a act of performance totally formulated on a stage with us as the audience and we have a MC – one Samuel L. Jackson as a compete who is an invigilator expressing to the wide audience range anticipated the shape of the drama as it unfolds.  He is snappily dressed with a cane who comes on between acts. The fourth wall is like a pro-cesium arch with real backdrops.  Spike Lee filters into the set progression reality.  The actors themselves are frequently those who suffered and their injuries are explained whereas the dead don’t speak.  They are forgotten.  Yet into this is reality in the form of memorial with portraits of real live lost shown as a memorial tapestry, a mural of the lost victims.  Like any memorial March, say the Bloody Sunday victims these images are not for suppressing but remembering.  This is our Selma a roster shows.  


Configuring Chicago 

Profanity, sexual patois is dispensed like everyday language, it is layered and layered in effective meter as in Classical drama.  This is Titus Andronicuos with violence a daily experience.  Here it is confined to neighbourhood slaughter off screen with innocent victims – central to the story is the death by a ricochet of Paula a ten year old child.  Her loss is a figurehead cause bringing in a local Ministers involvement, Father Mick played by John Cusack as a man on a mission, who instead of explaining the Christian view of suffering having no reason or purpose other than to examine our own life gift.  He uses the criminality as a signal to mpower the people and entreat their brotherly/sisterly love.  In this there is no cliche.  No make love not war, no woman on cry, no peace no love, but the stirring of the women leader Lysistrata who in meetings and rallies has persuaded many to withhold sexual privileges or options in their relationships, whether lovers, husbands or casual acquaintances.  It is immediately about the sexual politics prevalent in the age then and now.  

The speech and address to the Congregation gathered at the funeral of a child victim, is neither a sermon nor an admonishment.  It is a monologue on the ills of society in his outreach and is a plea muted, support of Lysistrata as the focus is on the child and its loss through gun crime.  It is a brilliantly delivered tirade and is about the only thing I found merited credit in the film.


Single issue combat

It is not about domestic violence, feminine rights, child sexual abuse, procreation rights which the original play also excludes.  The simplicity of the scenario therefore limits the narrative by making it almost comedic and farcical.  Never are the roles assessed or the possibility of programmed lives as culture dictates.  The sexual behaviors outside this community is not challenged.  When child abuse was prevalent in the upper classes and boys, girls were regularly ‘bed warmers’ the destible practices pervaded all strands of society.  Herecthe play is focusing on the powerless.  Restoring unity among warring factions of society is the aim of Lysistrata.  

It is at once a problematic issue in reconfiguring the premise of the ancient story to a vast group of people in present day Chicago.  Firstly the role of females is crudely stereotyped into different characterisations with the leader 


Methodology

Many parallel plays come to mind in respect of war and methods of creating peace.  The recent film Napoleon while being a War film illustrated a lesser accepted fact that religion has less to do with wars (Ricky Gervais please note) than constantly  trailed out as fact.  The Academic record states otherwise. Napoleon the film might even gesture towards being anti-war.  The Silver Tassie by Sean O’Casey, (banned by W.B.Yeats as being too anti war and anti-British also) is another.  So much for the sentimental poems as sophisms of sense of place.  More than any I’ve seen I constantly return to the Ballet/Play I first seen performed by the Batheseba Ballet Company of Israel perform.  It first was performed in 1934 and is a solemn link to the past and presses the vision of peacemaking without arms.  Powerful as this is similarly powerful.

The use of sexualised imagery is both like a bad rap video exentuating all the hot spots including a rating of women afraid to loose their lovers if they do not fill the stereotypes they occupy.  Relationships are not a battleground but a mutual place for love to flourish in a home and rewarding in all parts.

 The Spike Lee choice to hype up the sexual ramparts of bling culture, rap culture and neighbour hoods presence and effect is definitely overplayed and it saturates the film with profanity a needless representations of misogyny.  Lysistrata is plastered in bling and their are repeated visits where she is visiting every corner of the neighborhood drumming up support.  There are stand off replicating city gun stake outside and delivered operatically.  These are juvenile in concept and over simplification at which point I began to realise – the people who this film is supposed to be about, and the roll call of ‘one eyed monsters’ – Cyclops is indeed sightless in a jeweled one eyed eye patch and carries it to oversimplified responses when confronted with the dynamic.


Americas dilemma

The rest of the country is as recent elections have show are a mirror of racial tensions born out of discrimination, oppresiveclaws and poverty which has a large majority livecin below the poverty line in the disenfranchised communities of non-white background with about $12,000 an annual income to live on for most non-white Americans which includes non state health care provision.  The point quickly made that the poor are a business generating incomes across the board from, welfare workers, lawyers, schools and healthcare which compare unfavourably with the high tech prisons and state bureaucracies leveraged by the poor.

3 themes present in all seriousness.  It’s a serious matter from 411 bc.

The three themes are: peace and unity, power and gender, and politics. Peace and Unity The main theme of Lysistrata is peace and unity. This is the main theme because the goal of the women is to create peace and to restore unity in Greece.

Instead of a group of Old men and Old women choruses we have a nifty police force and military.  They are the power base.  There is then the Trojans and Spartans with religious oversight stuck in the middle as moralists.  The wooden fires of the separate factions is replaced by ear defenders and loud music of indifferent and stereotypical soundings.  The Mayor role covers the Commisioners role who is played as an overaxous to please congressman type who is both a fascist and realist.

The opera is rather long and drawn out and strange choices are made by Spike Lee to put up the resolution and gravitas in a conclusion.   The absence of a workable conclusion makes it presumably be termed a Comedy and one of 11 surviving plays of Aristophanes.

Conclusion ###3

Giving this time to develop and for it to piece together without demeaning Chi-Raq citizens is a tall order not achieved by Spile Lee.  He patronises his possible audiences and maybe communities with the stereotypes of people who actually experience the deaths visited in the city of Chicago.  The jigsaw pieces are large and fitted together but it’s all bling and gung-ho and does not do justice to the people who actually are in the community.  It uses their experiences and mirrors them back in a disfigured, profane and facile way.  Sure it hits hot spots and reconfigures, contextualoses the notion of life there but it is a lost opportunity given the – and the choice of play is merely ironic – might of film and the reach to audiences.  It will offend plenty and it will get lots of plaudits but it fits into a category of being too sensationalist and crude representation of very proud people who have come through a lot.  Greek wisdom is partial as a projection of a problem not a summation and fresh viewpoint.  The overall display pace and look of the film despite some repatativeness os a work finely crafted.  It is such a shame the contents are supplanted by mockery and lack of soul, Minister Mick excepted.

There are lots of good performances and one of the standouts is Angela Bassett in the role of Miss Helen who is one of the more articulate joiners and has less ‘rhyming s language to slaughter the ordinal pay with and its audience.  There are plenty of interesting provocative one-liners but they are scattered in the middle of a ‘slanguage’ contest for who can be the profanist unfortunately.

John Graham

1 December 2016

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from 2 December through to 8 December 2016.

Train to Busan


Director: Yeon Sang-ho.  Cast: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Su-an, Kim Eui-sung.  Duration: 118 mins

South Korean Zombie thriller with subtitles.

It’s Summer box office but summers gone!

The summer is over and a cinema filler thriller zombie movie arrives.  Frightening Korean style apoplectic travellers get severely disturbed in this closed carriage apocalyptic journey taking you somewhere you booked for without the hazard warning lights and warnings of a perilous journey ahead.

For a zombie thriller the cast assembled create a family unit, bonded in adversity.  They are the source of humour, ridicule, fantasy, implausible courage and outrageous good fortune.  They inhabit their parts with enormous energy and carry the story along as it develops wildly on guess what – The Train to Busan.  A separated father in the middle of a messy divorce (Gong Yoo) has custody in his luxury apartment, managed by his quiet suffering mother, of his daughter (Kim Su-an) whose birthday is a day after we are introduced.  The father is a workaholic, fund manager in his late twenties say, and oversees many corporate placements.  

 
Story setting

The beginning of the film is set outside in a Korean industrial city outskirts with a de-contamination process going on with vechiles entering or leaving this industrial sprawl. The film shows from early on its intentions to shock and make you jump.  I certainly did from early on.  Back to the flux and flow of characters we encounter. A large Everyman character who I last saw in A Touch of Sin, (Ma Dong-Seok or maybe it was Jaing Wo, both similar) a monstousrously effective and highly charged underated Chinese film of again deploys a brilliant convincing though sometimes superman proportions facility for doing the impossible and guarding those around him, including his young pregnant wife (Ma Dong-seok). There is a homelsss man (Choi Gwi-hwa) who is the archetypal outsider who is a victim of circumstances denied entry to the ‘world’ the rest inhabit.

The star of the film is the quick jump action of zombies doing the following – turning on people unaffected.  Together they become in various multiple aged identities as reformed carnivores of humans. They act instantly and this is the thrill on a split seconds instruction at the interention of a sense.  A sight, sound, (no surround smell) that enters their collective paranormal psychotic self absorbing world.  More on that psychology later. We are confronted every which way, every, minute practically with a fear and jeopardy moment.  From the get go the selfish father, the fund manager, is talked into taking the train journey the next day to let Su-an see her mother and they arrive at a central Korean highly polished and effiecently laid out railway station only to find the train they wan being singularly alone and helpfully manned by an extravagantly efficient train driver whose duty of care is both memorable and funny.  He is brilliant in his attention to detail and hyper real in care of his charge of passengers.  It’s worth it just to see this and its development. Your allegiances are soon called onto sides.  For the action Korea has to go into what is a’virsl’ tailspin which as TV screens reveal early is happening through South Koreaalong the same lines as encountered here on the train.


So obviously enough a Train to Busan is summoned into becoming a character and a journey – with a few hiccups to start with – takes us into the beautiful sunny domain of South Korea on the K-Train.  The super train, TGV type modern train – it doesn’t have upper decks though – it would have made for a more complex snake of a train – its compartments, toilet facilities, intersecting doors, windows and seats all get abused in un Translink fashion.  The Train is the scene of much nastiness and the occasional stop is not enough to derail the fight between good and evil as the evil ramps up.. communications also play a part and all phones work.  The Samsung Galaxy exploding phone – South Korean cultural and apocalyptic failurecof industrial status is no where to be found and there are worse things as it so happens in the Trin to deal with. . Communications are fraught with news inbued from outside,  with downloaded apps coming to their rescue – the good gang trying to remain separate, together apart from the baddies, comes into action.

The Pictorial Experience

Although I could not decipher the end credits, I assume no rail stations, tracks or infrastructure were damaginged in the making of what in all ways seems a big Korean action thriller. This means it has been a tour-de-force in its ingenuity to weave together the extreme pyrotechnic, crowd spilling, stunt driven, dangerous collisions and violent fights that cups the entire film in its 118mins. duration.  There are respites but they are few and the technical delivery, some of the back of trains while actors are in full speed movement, close ups and internal claustrophobic shots inside the tiny box toilets for example are seemlessly thrust at us.  The crowd sciences also deploy an effective jerky jump motionto the zombies making it more surreal.  As it does not pretend to be anything other than a highly polished zombie thriller which it achieves without question, it does not follow some routes and does not rely on tons of gore.  Sliced arms hanging off guts, entrails pulled behind fleeing fiends is not the style – thankfully – it is more measured and finely aesthetically gruesome and energizing to the actors own performances.  It is a fairly conventional take on the zombie trope but I suggest it has underlying themes which are – though not sucessfully enough rendered or prounounced as to shape into the films advancing message –  highly provocative given the times we live in and the scientific growth of the worlds knowledge and the catastrophic consequences we seem to be unable to address.  The over population, the removal and derangement of the planets resources, the spiritual, intellectual, sexual values of the human race and the technological divorce of rationality from reason in the machine age.  The biological destruction of the natural world and animal kingdom while exploration of space and other life forms attract indulgent, misguided indulgence.  Mars is quite enough as small and unambiguous a territory for exploration as you could come up with given the even greater expanse out and beyond for which reasonable verification of other lives are on the blind side of our vision.  In other words it is a conceit to believe these ‘close encounters’ – the moon, mars and elements of our solar system are of significance in the ‘larger’ state.


The strange thing is …

Lesson one
Poor fund managers. They get pilloried and blamed for everything yet this one might resurrect himself. He works as a head decision maker and what he unfortunately does in the initial phases is createcfor himself a zombie bank (nation) as prime investment goes wrong. But will he Sell? Nsteadcof folowing the crowd he acts alone. A precept coming up for air as it is finally telling his world tanked, how does he react to what he has created going wrong. He takes the high road. The moral path or what is directed as the correct approach. His pilot is his daughter. The daughter his mother looks after as he fights a bitter divorce. The mother has awordcor two of wisdom in his apartment, like marriage guidance and restorative action.

Lesson two

For full observance of the Korean spell of zombie narrative I take to dispel their constructs of bare tangential visualization by referring to an all time symbolic reservoir – the images from the Eranos Society, Eranos Archive for Symbolic Research, by Olga Froebe- Kapteyn, an early follower of Jung. The mutli complexions of what become dying notes or transformative journals are held intact within these miraculous scriptures. Melancholy and harmony reside within. There is a further carriage of these individual art works within the work of the Henry Moore sculptures, of Mother and Child. He seen the transformation post war, of the modern paternalistic world reckoning with itself in a tangible ‘fatherless’ world. He foresaw the alteration coming through the violence of a maleness which had lost itself to war. A matriarchy had formed inside his world and no less a figure than his wife made this apparent to him. In this film and absurdly the notion of a zombie fate is evident and matriarchal. The earth goddess mother – one character sacrifices herself to make amends for her selfishness by putting herself in harms way. It will occur to you after, not before as it is well hidden – advanced in the theories of a Henry Moore, an artist of intellectual bearing which his female contemporaries saw the reverse side of – Barbara Hepworth and Elizabeth Frank advanced and perhaps domicile the male in their earth mother inhabiting of the goddess through their work – how else would they venerate the essence they held? Not that art historians tend to overcompensate, they just miss through being non-creatives these absurdities across several forms.  

Lesson three

Cinema is full of mixed content and fairly limited scoping out of the themes and this film is particularly unclear or unconcerned with the monumental, merely being statuesque in its zombie mortal world versus spirit world phenomenon. The uncontrolled dead amongst the stereotypes of modern life. Clash of the titans. At a stage of symbolism the uroboros consuming itself. The plucked consciousness of the male visiting the virginal states. The fervent male rationalist tethered to convention then the symbiosis of mutuality – still unreconciled in the extreme mental states of Isis and demigods of nations. Both symbolically thrust to the forefront in the paradoxical form of Clinton and Trump.

The biological determinants are frequently being revised scientifically without any societal impact. Thus the political dynamic is counterintuitive. As an art form it is fairly and conspicuously inherently divisive. It has neither feminine grasp nor male depiction in sight. Nor does it construe the extremities as biological reference points. Most male and female humans act naturally and conventionally holding a straightforward identity comprising of the both but pertaining to the one sex. The form they are in and larger measure undoubtedly within themselves. The perilous outcome is when the natural separates one part and looses its relation to the entirety. Ubiquitous feminism meets rampant facism. Idolised in Hitler. Conspicuously the contemporary is in a massive cathartic revolutionary state. I mean it has found through 20th century history a rejection of violence – we are led to believe there is a distinct decline in overall violence – that it mitigates on a paralysis of rejection of a God or human principle based universe – based on certain inherent underlying unseen truths – that are essentially here among us. The enormous changes brought about in the 20th century are playing out now. Films are a way of showing it. Zombie movies are inherently strong frankly absurd at times extremely funny in their projection of psychokinesis as to become entertainment fodder. Which one actually convinces or reaches core value status?  


Lesson four

Join a feminist movement.

Lesson five 

There will be fewer lessons you are capable of self thought.

Lesson six 

Their is a thing known to all mothers that the baby has to be told the meaning of Mine

Conclusion ####4

The genre usually is a take it or leave one as far as I’m concerned but there is quite a committed and less gory almost folkloric trait to this hugely involving story.  It has been a work of very clear high standards with a deeply convincing cast – even the little old middle class ladies taking the train get to examine their own consciousnesses in the interplay with hobos, destitutes and other society fabric.  It rushes and rushes with a physically demanding vigor and is never giving you sufficient time to sit back and ask ‘technical’ questions, how did that stunt come about, how on earth did they do that without destroying the infrastructure of South Korean Transport?  The characters inhabit familiar types and then the adaptitoions they are required to make are complex challenges removing from them and the audience set standards of objective thought.  It brings out many a fine performance even if it is just one scene.  The horror is only moderately restrained in the scope of movies of this kind and it therefore is setting out a larger sense situation be it the modern world or our singularity, individuality in the community of the sense of belong to a race which need to survive.  It Carey’s you whether you are into the morality scope or the freaky zombie fest and crowd pandemonium, it has a sense of humour though some are not convinced.  I was conciously wishing for the objectives f some to materialize and non pluses at the sufferance of others such was the disposal of any rational.  It was entertainment of a different kind and not overlong – with and ending etc. a tieing up of loose threads as much as possible.  Now if only they had the good sense to look closer at the Samsung Galaxy battery design and its capacity to short circuit.  This is a thriller beginning to end.

John Graham

2 November 2016

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from Friday 4 November to Thursday 10 November 2016.

A fright filled zombie fest in the safety of your friendly local art house Cinema.

Sonita : A Film Review



Director
: Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami. Cast: Sonita Alizadeh, Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami and further members of the family and the organisations supporting her.  Wasatch Academy. Utah. Genre.  Art House & International, Documentary , Musical & Performing Arts. Written by: Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami. Duration: 90 minutes. Cert. PG. Subtitled.


A real life story told differently.

This film, set in Tehran, Iran, Herat, Afghanistan, and Utah, America, is creatively astonishing and alarming as well as delivering to a wider audience the issue of the still practiced female subjugation in the form of, mainly child forced marriage in Afghanistan still manifest and unlike Iran un-evolved.  It is the story of Sonita Alizadeh, a young Afghan girl whose overflowing gifts of performance art, drama, singing, songwriting, theatre design for a fifteen year old whose creative world is driven (and you may wonder the magnitude of her gifts outside this) by the politics and plight she finds herself in.  Spanning broadly, 2014 to 2015, filmmaker Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami turns this story into a crossover of documentary drama having found Sonitas story, presumably via. the social media, SoundCloud, or whatever platform her main song met the world audience in which it is acclaimed as being a breakthrough rap song of immense clarity, succinct hard hitting lyrics.  How Rokhsareh was drawn to it doesn’t really matter but it presents for us the form which is sometimes viewed as staged, rehearsed, eavesdropping in the family situation Sonita is locked into.  

Here is a review sentence from the FT which quite rightly draws attention to the fine line documentary makers – for this is the onlay genre the makers wish to push the film, its in my mind a format which genuinely takes in theatrical performance and sublimely, if that’s not too pejorative – taking care to deal sensitively with the very harsh subject.  The view stated was FTGhaemmaghami’s various, blatant interventions in Alizadeh’s life (shooting and posting a video to one of Sonita’s songs that went viral, negotiating her passports and visas) probably broke every documentary-making code. 

It definitely crosses the line, I’ll agree. Backtrack it with the song Crossing the line Yamasata Winwood and Shrieve.  Long gone tune which expresses lots of things.


Sonita a refugee

Sonitas life is within a Tehran charity called The Society for the Protection of Working … (and nowhere can I find a link – yet OMID is a similar but women not child based charity) run by an Iranian woman, herself an irrepressible honest broker with vision whose wisdom allows access to Sonita who is after all under her guardianship, so no small element.  It is a place where, with due respect and local cultural deference she is, within the building they are housed; a free person, allowed to move around the city as an ordinary citizen, and able to mix with other girls her own age. We see through the vision of this refugee workers insightful management of what is an emotionally damaging situation – separation from her family, no papers to establish her identity formally, no proper education, no role or life management – what in fact is The Society’s purpose is to provide life skills to a girl entering womanhood.  The charity delivers hope to all the children in its care, not alone Sonita.


The cloud she’s moves underneath from.

By telling the story from an initial school based situation the parameters are defined.  Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami takes the role of an interviewer and asks Sonita as she beds down in a small sparse room on which she has a scattering of posters including one artist whose reception in Manchester this week was such that it’s overwhelming volume near hyseria had —-! leave the stage as it was impossible in their eyes to perform normally.  The next night in Birmingham was more constrained and both concerts showed the pinnacle of musical status her looked into in Tehran as an impossible dream. 

The questions are about her situation and Sonita keeps a private art diary/notebook of ideas, expectations/ambitions/observations full of perceptive irony and fledgling artistic ability.  By probing away, advancing the narrative Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami is delivering a deep involving complex picture of the background Sonita comes from and the central issue. Sonita has come from a now relatively – and that is only notional – safe environment of Herat after Taliban conflict she has not seen her mother for six or seven years.  Her father has died.  Father was old and mother was young as she shows Rokhsareh a family photo.  She tells of her Dad marrying a young bride, her Mum obviously and this is what is expected of her.  A marriage to be arranged which her mother shall sell her, and to someone of twenty years senior has already been put forward, for around $9,000 which may even be as little as $3,000 given her current exile status.  If she were to leave Tehran she would not be able to return.  To establish her identity properly she would have to return to Herat to authenticate her passport application no longer making her a refugee.  Another twist of passports is that Iran will accept all passports except American ones as valid.  The whole scenario is as complex as it sounds and in the film is shown though the sequencing, directorial clarity brought through the surreal depictions, ‘flashbacks’ cleverly linerally delivered by the astute Director and with I would imagine the input of Sonita and the primary ‘actors’.

 Identity 
Conventions of Female Subjigation

The pressures of being subject to a course of action out of her control and being manipulated from afar – it is the families ‘proposal’ back in Herat – along with a brother who appears not on the very fringes of this film, exherts pressure on Sonita to acquiesce to this child marriage for the sake of the family.  Beyond the immorality of the sale as is tradition in Afghanistan, not Iran, by being sold for so many dollars, – the figures of the film take on a life of their own – $9,000 say – it would allow her brother to then buy a bride in turn.  This trap is only a peculiarity and the number of girls in a family allow the Male dominated society to perpetuate the sale of daughters for such sums of money which amounts to the same as sheep or cows being sold and hence a basis of livelihoods.  It is this Sonita is highly charged about centrally, no surprise there then, and is what is behind Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami’s diligence in making this risky politically charged exposure of a specific family situation.  It brings plenty of risk which strangely and perhaps inevitably she has been able to convince various members of the family, especially Mother to participate and ‘act’ out their roles under her direction in order to project the story.  Several scenes are clearly rehearsed and not spontaneous as is the prospectus.

  An uncannily similar image appears film and Goya speaks!
Going viral

The songs are put together through a series of encounters which managed or unmanaged bring out the darkly striking rap song Brides for Sale which went viral.  The accompanying video and the interspersed additions of work take this film beyond any perceptions of transgression or willful interference.  It is an act in need of sustenance, established accord, and wide, very wide exposure which Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami has employed in the past.  She knows exactly what she is doing/has done and far from clouding the boundaries with irrevance of orginisational finger pointing she uses the art of film making to create in itself a poignant emotionally complex drama theatrical performance piece establishing Sonitas art.  Her art happens to explore her hardship and like many who cannot get to express their hardship in any shape or form Sonita charges ito also fully aware of the boundaries and is so imaginatively advancd as to grasp it for those who cannot.  The rappers in Chicago, Hidden China, Remorseless India, Battered Britain, Bombarded Palestine and many other exploited, suppressed regions share the same humanity as all of us but cannot express it.  Even such as Pussy Riot, Malala, The Idol, Deephan along with recent films are centrally political and important.


Conclusion ####4.

As the play’s of Shakespeare, the traditions of No theatre, the Morality plays Film again takes over the wider view of intensely important visulisation of ourselves in our times – since the invention of Film! Cast as a documentary to all platforms, Sonita evolves with magnetic, crushing, compelling engagement.  It is impossible to avert your eyes or shift your mind to blank out the at times surreal, avant garden polemic foisted on you rewardingly by Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami and Sonita Alizadeh whose life is at the centre.  Oblivious as most of us are to the extraordinary desparate conditions of culture inflicting subjegation on extensively, women.  We are present among our own preoccupations and prejudices and on a much reduced level – though clearly many women at the heart of a crisis rightly would disagree – in the so caled developed world.  The thrust of daily live often places compromises in front of us but we need to be aware of the ramifications of indulged political parameters and speak out against them.  Sonita provides documentary, wide vision and self awareness seldom seen in any other locatity enormously assisting those in the front line of argument to fight these outrages.  By having groups of allies outside who can support their fight is how it can advance change.  This film is a nucleus for change among many.  It is deeply entrenched in the goodness seen portrayed under ridiculous circumstances and delivered to our view by its many contributors including Grandma Alizadeh whose tentative but knowingly astute presence lever’s up an other plank from the rocky road.  

John Graham

27 October 2016

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from Friday 28 October through to Thursday 3 November 2016.