American Honey : A Film Review


Director: Andrea Arnold. Cast: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough, Arielle Holmes, McCaul Lombardi, Will Patton, Bruce Gregory, Crystal Ice, Dakota Powers, Shawna Rae Moseley, Chris Wright. Duration : 162 min. Cert. 15.

Directed, written by Andrea Arnold. Camera (colour), Robbie Ryan; editor, Joe Bini.

Cast. Sasha Lane, Riley Keough, Shia LaBeouf, McCaul Lombardi, Arielle Holmes, Crystal B. Ice, Verronikah Ezell, Chad McKenzie Cox, Garry Howell, Kenneth Kory Tucker, Raymond Coalson, Isaiah Stone, Dakota Powers, Shawna Rae Mosely, Christopher David Wright.

img_5770

Walmart Art piece.

From an eyes connect moment the song – dance throb Calvin Harris and Rihanna’s 2011 track “We Found Love (in a hopeless place)” sounding out in a cavernous Mid-West American Walmart places you in a love story evolutionary curve.  At the risk of immediately setting off cliche ridden, conceptual freefall idiotic drama, Director Andrea Arnold nonchalantly wraps up this splendid no holds barred uplifting music as the gateway to the oncoming love story.  It is a very adept intro heralding, as those into Electronic dance music (as I am) a fair helping of more dynamism and makes us hopeful of a soundtrack not likely to overwhelm the main body the story and movie.  This is a road movie of colourful concepts and motivations.  Colour dynamic is quite possibly down to Irish cinematographer Robbie Ryan’s loose and sharp eyed connection with the Director Andrea’s targets she focused in on.

The set up

Director Andrea Arnold has formulated a storyboard belonging in the long tradition of road movies set in North America. She combines an analytical view of the pressures, context of choices available – or not – to children entering the outside world with a group fixed upon adventure in a crowd.  Taking inspiration from an article on door to door sales of magazine subscriptions, notionally attached to University education the gang (of mainly non-actors) here are lead by a the uncompromising Krystal played by Riley Keough. She seems to be pitched as a savvy young attractive slim symbolic cheerleader of this generations American Dream.  She is fond of wearing USA regalia pitching up in a Stars and Stripes bikini as an identikit.  Alongside her is of on boyfriend Jake played by Shia LaBoeuf whose mall recruitment brings our principle Star played by a thoroughly immersive, knowing and alert Sasha Lane to the roster of workers.  Star brings an abusive childhood where we first meet her in the mall in charge of very young siblings who she eventually leaves behind with her dysfunctional, self obsessed guardians.


Star is the everywoman

She also brings to this film a normalcy which might be lacking in the remainder of the ad-hoc crew.  In a new A5 pound land notebook (essential gear) I’ve scribbled down, Missouri, West Virginia, New Jersey, Florida, Nashville among the origins of the crew. Star is form Texas and now in middle America.  This is a film about the road trip as life. The discovery on the journey of – 1. Current state America. 2. Potential for dreams.  The soundtrack aforementioned kicks of the continued vibe, is part of the script in that it speaks much better at times than any interaction between the players might.  It conveys like many movies before it from … to music films on Kurt Cobain, Brian Wilson, Oasis, Amy Winehouse, the troubadour content of generations attaching themselves to various professors of Hamelin, spokespersons and pied pipers for their generation.  The dub and rap features alongside the Rhianna, Calvin Harris collaborative dance music pop with this generation also pursuing via. Lady Gaga, the Andy Warhol, Madonna trick artifice born into performance art after the fifties.  A Dadaesque sequencing of expressive youth.

img_5782-1

Krystal’s US of A Methods (she is strikingly confident in her s/s bikini, her uniform and guard – a bit needy of identity?)

Here it happens in white mini bus with a attached low box closed trailer for their suitcases.  Krystal and Jake travel everywhere in their white open topped convertible. Krystal high fives and roll calls and sets strict rules – frequently broken – sex between crew happens often and the relationship between Jake and Krystal is open and this sets up a problem for Krystal.  Admonishment or keep the crew working and bringing in the money.  Advance to the goal – make money by lying connivance, shades of sexual favours in entrapment of punters? noises off, and a variety of areas are targeted. Very wealthy and authentic mid-America which is seldom depicted in this way.  The movement, road takes them into the huge heavily populated city of Kansas where a few Superman jokes are thrown in – a dog is in on the act.  Spot spotty.  Also the Motelsa re better stop overs.  Their is an arrangement of rooms booked by Kyrstal – “you’ve got to pay for all this shit.” – are usually three. Boy, Girl, Gender LGBT? and Krystals.  They keep to themselves except one encounter, with some black guys, musicians possibly, which had a nice vibe going is seldom repeated.  Krystal gets more tetchy and control freaky as the film dynamics appear as a team and the inherent sacrifices, places in the hierarchy evolve.  Some are along for the ride and adventure and do a days work and enjoy the side stuff such as a plentitude of weed.  How a certain companion doesn’t become an addict is anyone’s guess.

img_5776

Love love, hate hate.

This is every generations hopes and dreams in a short dose.  It is also one of the songs of this generation and will be around for others as well I would think being a cultural staple.  Others including one chosen by a Christian beef trucker is a target song respected far and wide.  Talking of which the group splits up at each location in pairs and they go about their business and into this is felt some jeopardy creeps in because behind some doors lunatics live.  The first encounter the freshman team of Sky and Jake whose relationship is up close and central to the film is with a wealthy woman in charge of a no holds barred birthday sleepover at which the contrasts of American live’s infiltrate the statement projected by Director Andrea Arnold and it is a gloriously multi-faceted scene portraying greed avarice sexual tension polarity niavity and political bankruptcy.  It augers well for the forthcoming elections (not) with this diversity.

The central pairing and Krystal.

We only follow the one pairing. Who will win out in the chase for the dream? A conscious choice is made.  Firstly the Star/Jake/Krystal triangle is set up.  How will it unfold or erupt? What sacrifices are justified or made by each of them?  What are each of the three pursuing?  How do they see their future?  How do they relate to others?  How many roads can you travel before you find one that feels like you belong?  It is the question you could put out America and Americans as well as stopping of to discuss the effect on the world.  Director Andrea Arnold has an environmental message also as she explores this vast continent as a living organism.  Star’s name is an allusion to it, the road is a seldom seen view.  It is exploratory.  There is a core element of the crew going into an oil state where every hobo (one whose fortunes been made and didn’t want it after all?)  driver, worker, is possibly a millionaire and fortunes are made in 17 hour days with suburbs and families set up alongside.  Savvy Krystal points out their psychological profile acutely accurately as a piece of training advice of how to act and approach their target.  This happens, Krystals pep talk, advice, tactical nous, and notably a going into battle song which is as in war separates you from the projected enemy you are about to face and he are rip them off for as much as possible.

I spent an age trying to upload Director Andrea Arnold’s photo as a kind of insistence she is beautiful without the zany hair!  Her film on the other hand is zany chaotic beauty and a new testament to youth who need overcome previous generations greed and attempted ruination of this planet we all live on!

Conclusion ####4

It’s easy to say this film is overlong – as it is – at 2hrs 44mins – it is without question entirelybfeasible a condensed draft could have delivered in sharper detail the central themes, characterisations and left as many questions and answers as we needed to appreciate this contemporary take on a slice of American youth.  Director Andrea Arnold has seen it as an outsider and it’s generally been held as an honest and vivid colourful tapestry of choices faced by youth and of mid-American relentless pace and how it defines a country.  Jokes are made about the Kansas skyscrapers for example – whoa look at those huge buildings or something along those lines comes to mind –  because it fits the message, as a kind of alien invader, a time traveller looking out of a window at the cluster of buildings and wondering why and what they are for.  Indeed why does every enterprise have to have its own statement skyscraper and likewise which is your condominium?  How high up and isolated can you be.

The actual themes are for me delivered gently and as a free form of film making which you are asked or invited to take at whatever level and pace you see fit.  Nevertheless after seeing it the themes do weave together into a cohesive mural of realisation what it entailed.  It is as mentioned soundtracked with a more than mood setting environmental steer but a cohesive integrated part of the script.  An enlightened, heightened innovative way to work.  It is despite its scuzzy nests a very attractive beautifully, sensitively, modestly, evocative intelligent film and due to its length concentration may not be up to scratch making it viewable several times opening up new ‘vistas’ – a word lock arrived and that’s the best I can do!  It’s been a longish review! entirely well worth the admission ticket.  As for those kids born in America, some have grounds for asking for their admission money back. The three principals are extremely on their game with Sasha Lane never putting a foot wrong despite the emotionally complex parameters and Shia LaBoeuf becoming a very skilful actor portraying the serious, nerdy, sexual, moody, un-confident, confident niches this film puts him in. It augers well for him and hopefully further surprises are in store. ##News## just in !!! Shia LaBoeuf (30) and his longtime girlfriend and co-star in Nymphomaniac Mia Goth (22) born London, got married in Las Vegas in an Elvis themed wedding at the Viva Las Vegas just last week apparently. What can you say about Krystal, Riley Keough, consummate controlled, sublimely attractive and despite her forceful attitude she depicts the USA icon wannabe, stereotyped person at the head of the road drive.  Antlers, horns, cow bars all to the fore and she does it brilliantly and could easily be overlooked with the Stella performances of the other two which is not deserving.

John Graham

12 October 2016

Belfast

On at QFT Belfast from Friday 14 to Thursday 27 October 2016 inc. and selected Cinemas.

Advertisements

Son of Saul : A Film Review

image
Son of Saul.  A haunting compelling, utterly unflinching embarkation into the Hungarian and Jewish experiences of the Holocaust told by a debut Director and profoundly affecting delivery from the collective ensemble.
image
Writer Director: László Nemes. Starring: Géza Röhrig, Levente Molnár, Urs Rechn, Sándor Zsótér. 107 mins. 15 cert.
This a bewildering audaciously confronting examination of the complex trail of events taking those involved into a zombie like zone which cannot be imagined except through desperate experience. It opens a door onto needed understanding in its intention.

It’s beyond comparison

The day I saw this film the report on Hillsborough when the Liverpool fans died of asphyxiation and crushing included a reaction from Bruce Grobbelaar. It was an FA Cup semi final against Nottingham Forest. Asked if he had seen anything like it, after witnessing the dead being brought onto the pitch and him using and directing those carrying bodies to use advertising boards he said it was probably the worst way to die. There was no blood, no shrapnel, no outward sign of death he recalled. There were around fifteen dead bodies he saw straight away being carried onto the pitch. It is as close we can get to imagining the horrific testimony of the Holocaust this film goes into in a telling, partially of the story of those conscripted to act as labourers to carry out the actions surrounding and including the extermination of many thousands in their camp.

1944 bordering on the invisible

The scale is the first striking thing you notice. The invisibility of this so far into the war is incredible.  The almost industrial organisation and manipulation through fear and merciless enforcement put to work to carry out the Holocaust within the forests of Germany and here in South West Poland.  
image
Sonnerkommando Auschwitz 

Saul is one of many Sonnerkommando whose job it is to perform the tasks of in the Auschwitz Concentration camp. He is seen firstly shepherding large numbers of people off trains rounded up by the Nazis and transported here. For this film I noticed that children were not asked to take part in these re-enactments though many thousands of children were among those who stepped of these very same trains. It was obviously too horrific a concept to inflict upon children for them to be involved.
Saul is marked by a red X on the rear of his overcoat and he continually wears a cap as it also enables him to be identified. He as a Hungarian is among many fellow men and women from that country who are ‘appropriated’ to carry out the most vile and dehumanising tasks such as disposal of the ‘pieces’ as a human body is known. They are separated in camps by gender also and he in his work is able to, or required to adapt to the work going on in different places. It may be in the gas chambers cleaning out the detritus of left over body waste. Or in the coal house where boilers are stoked to burn to ash the ‘pieces’. He is also able to visit through tasks given, the room where autopsies are performed. The living amongst the dead feel the dead speak to them somehow.
image
Intricate and intimate following Saul.

Through this film the camera, hand held and giving mostly head and upper body shots, follows Saul everywhere he goes making the story his exposure and link to all the various things that go on in this Concentration camp. To say it is replicated elsewhere is now known to magnify what we are viewing here. It is the piecing together of the pieces and those people who were alongside the destroyed people. The potency of the images are continually immersive and bring forward a view of the unimaginable. No senses except sight and sound are with us on this viewing encounter. No contact by touch, by smell, by taste is possible so the amplification through those present circumstances are portrayed through elements of imagery such as scarfs, masks in parts of the camp. By following Saul there is a contention being made of the redemptive journey of Saul to Paul in the biblical reading. How is that depicted? It is possibly through the wasteland depicted of life destroyed and treated meaning less and worthless. It is also conceivable that the redemptive journey the film takes is showing how whatever adversity faced Saul is on the journey to become Paul.
image
Sweeping along with God

Of all the prisoners in the camp around one hundred are deemed fit to carry out the arduous tasks. They have in effect a stay of execution by co-operating by carrying out assigned work. Otherwise they would be dead and join the others. What is taking place among them is the fulfillment on behalf of the many thousands that pass through this camp; there are one one day around three thousand sent to be massacred. The act is itself one of betrayal once they arrive. The fulfillment of the duties carried out is a defiance of will by the ones left to live in that they all believe in the creator and see this is the work of those who defy Gods word. The judgement on them not the prisoners sweeping up the remains and following instructions.
Despite this retention of belief which is fixed here on Saul and his journey, there come frequently others practicing in secret and discreetly their religion giving memorial those thos e just perished. There are Rabbi celebrants with distinctive appearances both Hungarian and Arabic Hebrew priests. They are a conduit through which this persevering faith is held and exemplified. It is entirely misunderstood by the German Command as baseless worthless and based on sentimental tokenistic beliefs. It is not seen as a vision or life force given and held by these disparate people whose Destiny is defined by their faith and Religion which has brought about their purge. Saul is not a Messiah but a prophet of a kind who has through one act which is central and the purpose of the journey undertaken that of giving a young boy a Jewish burial.

Boy remembered 

The young boy not yet a man, and be is the only child depicted, is the Son of Saul of the title. He has come across him in an extraordinary way as a boy left behind and dead to the world, seeing him as his own son. We learn he is the father but not from his wife who is in a separate part of the camp carrying out storage and domestic duties in the units were clothes valuables and the like are processed. 
To achieve his aim which is commenced in the earlier part of the film he has to obtain the corpse of his son and to find a Rabbi to perform the burial. Both these tasks are seemingly impossible but he puts himself in jeopardy many times to carry out his wishes.
image
Principles and hope unextinguished

I thought during the early parts of the film each act taking him away or exposing hi,self bybnot acting as expected or normally he would be spotted very easily but for reasons unclear he navigated virtually ever occasion where it seems he is about to be caught carrying out something which does not fit in with his supposed assigned tasks he escapes the moment to move onto another act of courageous and seemingly foolish risks.
image
Conclusion #####5 

This film cuts into your psyche asking phenomenally difficult and prescient questions.  Covering so many aspects of humanity we are stil struggling with the writer director, 38 year old Laszlo Nemes whose first feature film this is.  For a relatively young man he has seen the necessity of putting uncomfortable to say the least of it an on screen examination real dialogue and politically hamstrung forums cannot go or have no possible common embrace, this film gives us a fully extentialist means to embrace the problems and narratives it again unfolds.  It gives them uncompromising stature and directs the viewer into asking themselves to ask more and to confront their hidden constructs and dismantle barriers and walls they have and all have erected to keep these issues – here giving a contrasting compelling reflection on present visited miseries to the necessary wider forums we engage on.

The youth of Laszlo Nemes and his Hungarish nature have compelled him to use his inherently observation editorial and concious skills to provide this directly immersive viewpoint.  We can only thank him for his foresight and insight and hope as he undoubtedly hopes it provides shape and form to current interpretations and avoiding the perils of reductive analysis.  Such is the value of Cinema as an outlet to vent and confront unspeakable things.
John Graham

28 April 2016

Belfast

Son of Saul opens at QFT Belfast http://www.queensfilmtheatre.com on Friday 29 April until Thursday 12 May 2016.

Check above site and other information outlet’s for details of opening times.

Calvary : A Film Review

Easter reflectionDirector and Writer john Michael McDonagh. Score Patrick Cassidy, Cinematographer Larry Smith, Production Design Mark Geraghty. 100 mins.
The hill on which sacrifice is made.

But first a poem by anon.

The first Irish poem ( allegedly!)

I am the wind which breathes upon the sea,
I am the wave of the ocean,
I am the murmur of the billows –
I am the ox of the seven combats,
I am the vulture upon the rocks,
I am the beam of the sun,
I am the fairest of plants,
I am the wild boar in vapour,
I am the salmon in the water,
I am a lake in the plain,
I am a world of knowledge,
I am the point of the lance of battle,
I am the God who created the fire in the head
.
(ed. P. Murray)

It is soon to be Easter and time for reflections on the sacrifice of Gods only son on earth. This is the Earth we live on, set between heaven and earth is Jesus. Our own view is contained physically. Until we climb higher.
The Plateau of Benbulben features a great deal as a slab of biblical proportions overshadowing the tables of Sligo, small tables which we gather round, in the towns and villages beneath.

This film is another from the brother John of the McDonagh brothers and follows his The Guard also starring Brendan Glesson.

The mortal life foresaken after Jesus has revealed for mankind the powers of God, has found disciples and put forward values for them to show, to attain, teaching us to respond to evil and drive it out. His death was necessary to affirm the truth. We now the seven deadly sins, what sin is.
In this film the earth is expressed by the sea’s edge and horizon fixed in our relation to it. The sins by the journey taken in one week by the Priest among the people he leads or claims missionary over.

We occupy that place where our soul resides between the earth and the outside. As individuals the earth provides us with its time immemorial constants. This film casts its gaze upon the sea as a metaphor for life lived under the force of Gods design. The characters of the village behave in all manner of ways with each other and those that attend Father James’s Church, maybe go to confess their sins. The village in which it is set has pop culture symbols and characters of modern Ireland none of which have anything beyond stereotyping. The players are walking on fault lines in the script which is untidy. The framing jars at the very beginning after a confession when a stud is questioned about his affairs by the mainstay Father James. Odd angles enter, then leave? It settles into relative normality though the village street, something there yet absent provides no sane backdrop.
Some scenes are best forgotten but in the midst of them irritatingly the story rises on quite a few occasions only to drop the ball with incredulous words. Maybe that betokens the nature of us and the intention is to show our absurd responses to things.
Father James biggest problem becomes an act yet to occur which involves his death.
Naturally hurt at this possible outcome he consults his Bishop. Sure why wouldn’t he and then sets off after the absurd dialogue on Gods work. Don’t call the guards.
Father James faces among his parishioners no small difficulty of leadership which as a decent man in his chosen task he need now also contemplate his own demise. That radical, the truth, has on its tail repentance, the sinner has left the building, the vengeance is seen as himself, institutional good, emphasize his goodness for it shall therefore be inexplicable,representing God in confronting ungodliness. Brendan Glessons character is not seen in his Church except to show it as a sort of temporary form, that of a timber barn unlike the bells, smoke and mirror kind associated with the accepted religion. Very puritan. Very Scandinavian.
In the working of this tale of mystery; Father James it seems knows the affected, the filmmaker relies on Irish flavoured bitter humour and a screwed up parish to recall the grotesque, the embedded hatred kept in a seemingly logical and local narrative of which Father James is unsullied and innocent.
That placement of contempt of the Church seems to loom large as though everyone is affected, has been effected by it. As in the North; the vehicle being there the ‘troubles’ there is a communal bereavement, a causal change in the mindset of good and evil. All through the visceral loss of sense in Godliness. Brendan lashes out in a great scene on such a confrontation, his own faith challenged. The villagers make up their own religion in the void.

Of the person whose aim is to create another vile sin a week on Sunday he has an uncomfortable relationship as is the case on most points of the compass. None have any reverence towards him. A mere mortal though a good one. Willing and able to help with clearly the soundness in mind – judgement is a trammeled word – to administer in the doubts that this earthly conscious offers proverbially.

Performances from the uncommitted (atheist) Dr Harte, Aiden Gilen, Dylan Moran, Michael Fitzgerald Wealthy Man, Fiona, daugher of James, the beautiful red haired Kelly Reilly over from her exile and escaping to the ‘lost’ father; a key and solid piece of consistent convincing acting and the venerable Chris O’Dowd, imperious to the fact real life exists and a show is not life, stripey butchers apron, very fetching, his is a character in who you despair, at least I did because his manner was unconvincing except latterly.

In contrast the film is imperious when a scene of confrontation by a driver and his daughter represents the most vivid effect of how far we have come, that this is embedded in the everyday. The man represents most the condition alongside Fiona whose authorize connection with her dad is placed alongside her harmful loneliness. This splintering of the film in my mind at once decisive then a second later irregular. Many a slip between hand and mouth does mar the story. Perhaps it is the chattering of the seven deadly sins that mark it.

Brendan Glesson carries the central theme of forgiveness forward as a human being. It is as the Holy man he need minister to the mere mortals needs. He is Father James Lavelle, the incumbent here in the Yeats territory of Sligo. Yeats believing in eugenics at the same time advancing his own symmetry of poetry into floored and literary history. Clearly the air is affecting.
Brendan Glesson of course, given his honed gift of acting and his knowledge of the writer, directors aim gives full endeavour, thrusts centre frame in a for the most part restrained perfected act of role playing. In uniform the glory is not his, like forgiveness it’s Gods. He acts the part and if only.
The film, as its import takes us into the life’s of those in this place, in the course of the week, teases us to point to the portentous guilty sinner.
They are all sinners as us, with degrees of imperfection. This is seen to best effect in the father daughter relationship. There the writing is not a let down but superior and sustained in telling each’s story. Proper storytelling.

The sadness, grief, cruelty, anger and hurt here is Father James’s burden.
The past he cannot resolve except to use religion which his flock reject.
Whereas God gives to each of us a share of the burden of mankind; each taking as much as he can cope with, here the burden is cast out among the stereotypes. Each exemplifies Gods meaning. Each is a discovery for the viewer to relate too. Each of us will be affected by different elements making this film a highlight of cinematic achievements that Ireland lays claim to very occasionally. It follows on from recent themes of Irish cinema with Philomena having been the most recent comparator.
The sweep of the West of Ireland gives us Gods creation. That sea and land sometimes taken for granted and man demystifies with bungalows, estates, supermarkets and edge of town DIY stores. Reached by shiny motors.
Holy Motors. Now there’s a film way beyond this collection of humanity.
It has an episodic linearity which is spectacular.

Ireland’s character is visible with the ever present question – How could we have allowed this to happen? and this plaque is/was more than a burden but an altogether mortal execution without remorse. This is the whole nature of the film which only occasionally but very dramatically is realised here.

In the North similar practices took place yet the deflection the church chose to provide; as after the famine, as in civil war, was to seek restitution and forgiveness in the Holy Orders. What hope existed vanished in their sinful hands. They came thick and fast and clung as an overburden, way beyond the simple Christian message of loving thy neighbour. Vengeance is mine sayeth The Lord. Not yours or the Priests. James Lavelle knows his enemy is not the murderer but the sacrifice made missing for the perpetrator not having God in his life. He cannot offer anything to assuage the harm and carries the guilt through the week.

On these Sligo beaches where many a famine victim perished and were turned into the dust and sand of the beach, the continuum of earths reminder of the cycle of life speaks daily. Wave after wave of consciousness is brought about by recalling our history and this film while being a small element; pretends no greater part than to construct a story for us to contemplate.
We are beginning our return to Calvary and to forever face the self.

Conclusion
I don’t accept there is this degree of hypocrisy or anywhere near it, nor the extent of cynicism depicted in the Irish psyche as this film engenderers even with its black comedy stic on the seven deadly sins.
Ode to the Christian Brothers it is not but it creates a surreal picture of the life Ireland occupies as if it goes on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and sees there the divisions that still exist and the myth perpetuated of the promised land -returning with eyes wide shut. Has it the substance (topic) abuse (Eg hard-knock Irishness doled out by Dorries) a Tory with a six figure advance heart ache turns on like a dose of piles?
No we have not reached the ‘bottom’ in platitudes in Ireland or with this film being merely in the doldrums which Irish society is awakening to. For too long have the stories seemed unreal and this perpetuates that excursion. This film goes someway into trying to place self discovery on film.
As fanciful as Noah is as a biblical epic story, so the people were led onto the land, out of the hands of the Philistines, reality becomes fiction?
Partially only. No one reads reports except the Press and we have a miraculous remaining belief in mammon. Forgetting Mat. 6: 24 No one cannot serve God and riches.
Digs and dugouts are plentiful as are the (off screen) entaglements.
The bashful Publican is forgiven his bashfulness (cut to the washbasin and the show a bruise not the act, but wait, but the gory is explained how? Drama.
It lacks as despatch a homily a bit more precise than the derivative ending.

*** 3 stars

Screening
QFT Friday 11April to Thursday 24 April 2014

John Graham

Belfast

Wednesday 10th April 2014

A supplementary passage on Easter and sacrifice.

In this Film Calvary is a journey taken to uncover in the hills around Sligo the truth. A passage of forgiveness. An itinerary of reaching for the truth. Conquering the flesh against evil and replacing the belief in mortal life with a spiritual one.
Like the pain accompanying childbirth the new life overcomes the torment.
Such a blessing is reason enough to reconcile Gods healing of your spirit which is capable of being damaged as is the soul by wayward acts and dislocation in lives. The hill is the place of sacrifice. Thomas asked how will we know the path we are to follow, where will you go? What happens after death. Simply Jesus tells Thomas “I cannot show you what the will be; my teaching is the path, the truth and the life.” To the folk of the world this is all they are left with but it remains part of our daily lives.
The faiths divide up and segregate people (place chosen religion here) and further prophets emerge and are given the hope of human response that they alone are the true renewal of God. We need to live by the same God, the one that separates you from the world and worldly things. Those things of hate we are set to overcome through belief in the creation. The meaningful discovery that all life comes from the true God, that you only exist through knowledge within. The sacrifice is the meaningful act. That Jesus has gone, returning to God, leaving behind the living world, returning to God asking for us to be saved from evil through the knowledge he has shown.
That reality we are not born of ourselves but through Gods placement of us. We come from a time beyond the creation of the earth, True life exists outside of us in that time were love was born.
On Calvary the promise of the return is foremost. As Jesus invited everyone to the Lords table where there were to be no shortages of the things we need to live, the food, the shelter, the love within us so we cherish the word, his word. In his own death he asks, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthami?”. My God, My God to what have you abandoned me?. “Drink” was his request, and given vinegar, said “It is done! Father, I offer my spirit into your hands.”

Golgotha is the name given to the hill outside Jerusalem we know as Calvary.
The story of Jesus being revised and rewritten so many times still tells much the same story of this event. In his life he left behind manifestations and proclamations of true goodness with the knowledge if we accept God evil need not exist. Therefore he is asking us to unite with the one immortal being, the creator from who we gain the spirit to love. This Easter time we are offered to take the symbols of the Lords table in communion. No one is turned away. There is no credal obstacle to faith. That faith where only God exists and that we are part of, that spirit living through Christ his son until we are returned to our Father and thy Kingdom come. The return is the return of the spirit to all in the Kingdom of God.
Life itself comes from knowledge of a model proclaimed by Jesus as the basis of everything? The return is – Let his power be manifest among the people.

Under the Skin : A Film Review

Warm and Cold Blood Directed by Jonathan Glazer. Script by William Campbell.
You may have seen some strange movies and this may rate among them as one of the more challenging and difficult to get a handle on.
Jonathan Glazer, whose persona is as an affable and middle class Essex man and whose dark imaginings are homed in compartments as chapters of visionary expression of alien tales, has held onto a ten years dream in realising this film with time producing a highly developed theme.
Given this timescale there might be absences which remain in the directors reading of the story which are hard in the subsequently realised film for the viewer to tease out but ultimately it succeeds in delivering a vision in primary cold and warm blood.
It is based on the Michael Faber book of the same name.
Over this time Glazer has had lofty ambitions and collaborators working on it and overtime it has metamorpised into the pared down extremely raw culturally alien content we have revealed to us in the landscape of Scotland.
Alien Skin
The story has Scarlett Johanssen fit herself into a human creatures skin.
The real alien actor her form takes has a quest to discover the meaning of humans and the earth they exist on. To enable the story to work you need concede there is some motivation involved otherwise the actions are futile and without design. The being is what intrigues this alien. Her character, delivered with a British pre referendum English accent, is a woman whose skin she inhabits. This is delivered to her entirely lifeless by her collaborator and protector. A man.
The enabler, body guard, interpreter – who never speaks – is none other than Jeremy McWilliams, the renowned NI born World Moto GP rider, cast as a motorcycle rider following her everywhere and seemingly aware of her quest and endeavors.
They seldom meet but his background presence assists the exploration and the motorcycle races through the film on a winding, sometimes straight, wide topography on a speed fix at full throttle. The choke is out which contrasts with the seemingly sedate pace of the visitor. The malevolent controlling moving rider component is borne with the violence of speed traversing land uncompromisingly. He pushes the bike hard like a heart pushing red blood cells through a bodies veins. Having a life rush.
Jeremy McWilliams provides a harbinger portentous force not intent on any failure, controls or morality of any kind.
Alien Place
In the city the urban life confuses the Alien as she drives around observing people in their isolation as they shop, traverse the spaces between buildings talk or don’t talk to each other. Actor took control over director where they went and the randomness of real life encounters were junctions to assume a starting place for the fiction. I think this in effect makes Scarlett número uno director. It’s her path visualized by Glazer somehow. It steps up on male suburban alien fantasy somewhat and maybe taken over in the astounding performance of the created abstract.
When it is dusk she seeks out single men from the front seat of her van. The cabin and van are anonymous to the real life Glasgow which Glazer hoovers up in its city urbanism, providing the ordinary. The device of dark streets punctuated by harsh lighting provides the extremity, the Incivility of night spaces. in the urban sprawl of road and roundabouts the visitor sees no value loss, seeing only persons going from a to b and she enquiries of.
The female she is, is mirrored in odd segments of surprise in frames. She collects these part reflections of her in habitation as an accumulation. Her body seen by her in parts builds for her a perception of a human being and in one interaction with a male she touches literally on her progressively expressed emotive reactions. She has no interior self otherwise. Acting the part of a human, the alien has been equipped to converse in the language adopted. This is realised compellingly in a coupling which shifts her concepts of humans and makes contact with pain and the angst ridden private lives challenged by their surroundings and other people. Initially without a soul she is predatory for the experiences she believes is at the heart of our existence. A surface seen as skin.
The he clothes are trashy but literate. It is not a rock star guise but a use of clothes not in the literal sense, as Paloma Faiths use of image as a protection. Seeing me as not the shy or insecure person that I am.
Alien Shifting
It was as J McW accounted to me after seeing the film for his second time “Its something different”. I took this in part to be the fact he was now an actor albeit in a character part which carries naturally held skills with ease and also that the film itself was conceptually on the outside. He also said they needed .. “someone to ride a motorcycle and kill.” He filled the role as brilliantly and focused as might any accomplished actor and convincingly so which is no small achievement upside such a defining superb performance from his co-star whose talent is at the top of the acting scale and here demonstrated.
The dark laden dusk riding and night riding were links of the narrative where he is on the trail of Scarlett Johanssen who has no other name.
She in the beginning of the film arrives as a liquid form turning into an eye emerging or passing through the cinematically Kubrickesque wormhole which creates the narrative for origin and otherworld essence and planet like elements scope out the arrival.
The liquid is transposed on a white background where her new form, a woman’s body as our watery selves, is reformed in the corpse of the culled young woman whose persona she is given to enter into our world.
Alien Plains
Scotland has never been tested thus since Arthur Conan Doyle.
The film fits a Scottish mythology and though the Northern lights do not make an appearance that northernness with storm bent pines and wild breakers on a dominant defiant coastline express fear imagined and real alongside the monochromatic headlights of the motorcycles ever present trail.
Fog appears and snow crystalises as though a metamorphic presence of the other alien world and fine particles enmesh the screen making you realise these are forms of hallucinations without the methamphetamine drug of choice on many urban streets in use as an avoidance tool.
The new forms first excursion though is into a streetscape, the urban living, the communities of people together that she has seen from behind the wheel of a van which is her home for the duration. She has other dwelling places but those are outlying points for episodic interaction of which she has several. The wheels stop in the streets recognisable as Glasgow.
In a walk through a shopping centre the anonymity is intense within the crowd same place, your place and a sense of anyplace is derived. It signals a post modern abstraction we connive in.
The folk are friendly and too hospitable for their own good which she exploits to determine the way we live. She takes on the central mating urge by using her persona to entice, attract single young men and offer them their salvation sexually. This is achieved quite straightforwardly given the aforesaid captive beauty of the Scarlett lady who attracts despite her careworn clothes and unattractive wig. She has reconciled to act in what she assumes is the prolate of the times, the predatory rituals all brought front and central as our primordial selves as she sees from the alien location.
Alien Story
Through the advances of the narrative and the visitor capturing human thoughts the city becomes itself unreal and unsettling which brings into play the Scottish landscape and nature. Is this an admission of her being unprepared for this explorations outcome and realisation, literally of complexities of people?
Some extremely kind and selfless and others despicable psychotic and violent. This is a derangement which Glazer gradually and incrementally builds. At times it is too subtle and hard to make attachments too. There is also no one to empathise with except the whole of mankind as a construct not of our making and endangered by each other’s responses to their seen viewed world. The paring out and down of the elements of narrative are difficult to get right though it can said truthfully the mechanisms of film are deliberately withheld – words – set pieces explainers – special effects point making are eschewed in favour of longer takes, still framing, which allows action to pass through. Effects are used. In morphic scenes but little else.
It becomes absorbing, infuriating, compelling to watch in order to work out what is going on. It is not simple but quietly and intelligently presented.
Who is Who
What you will make of it may not be anywhere near what I have made of it but superlatives and five star ratings are ‘alien overkill’ however it is ‘extremely good and is not like many other film you are likely to see any day soon but I will refrain from comparisons a it stands strongly on its own.

Will the adventure reach a happy ending, will it reach conclusion or will it leave things hanging or will it fold in on itself all things are possible and that is the message I got from it.

Conclusion
****4
This is a cinematic oddity which may or may not become something of a cult film. The performances are brilliant and remarkable with some beautifully realised individual episodes from newcomers each Imbedding a realism of the chosen culture invaded by the explorer. There is more than ordinariness in Scotland’s identity that is an established fact. There is then an exploitation of the identity in this malicious adventure. No escape routes are shown or given, the tightness of presence with which the author, director and actors play is at times literally as drowning in oil. An altered state perfected in visual candour and without parody but exquisite carnal baggage set as the constraint on skin. Within is under the skin and Scarlett Johansson inhabits as a first class actor in this unique journey.

All journeys are unique. This no more or less so.

John Graham

12 March 2014

Belfast